Amusements & Useful Devices from K. A. Wisniewski
Last week I was happy to report the latest issue of Textshop Experiments was released. The video essays included in this issue include new work by H. R. Buechler, Jimmy Butts, Jason Crider and Caleb Andrew Milligan, Nandita Dinesh, Johanna Drucker, Marci Mazzarotto, Sean Morey, David Prescott-Steed, and Glen Southergill.
I wanted to re-share my contribution here . . . “The Projector Finds a Hobby.”
The premise of this experiment is grounded by two manuals published by Gregory L. Ulmer: “Handbook for a Theory Hobby” (1989) and “Theory Hobby: ‘How-to Theory'” (1990). It is an exercise working towards making theory (fun) and is guided by Ulmer’s own models, although this exercise clearly diverts from Ulmer’s strategies. Like Ulmer, it demonstrates how we might construct popular theory, by functioning as craft. However, here, the allegorical components—such as his botanical rhizome—are seemingly replaced with the literal—paper—although in “Handbook” Ulmer himself notes,
Consider the fact that paper is made from trees. Note the saying: “three books are as good as a fire.”
Although GLU suggests that participants address “the problem of a writing without paper,” it is topic from which my own life and work cannot escape. In conducting this experiment, I see that, as Jacques Derrida writes in his essay “Paper or Me, You Know”,
I have the impression (the impression!—what a word already) that I have never had any other subject: basically, paper, paper, paper.
Even the most inextricably digital projects remain tied to or haunted by questions and memories of paper: the fixity of the words on the paper, the threat of its material deterioration, and the shifting rules and structures that moderate, govern, restrict and liberate . . . I approach the work via persona of the Projector, the schemer, the speculator, the innovator, the entrepreneur, the teacher, and the pseudonym donned by Samuel Johnson, Joseph Addison, Daniel Defoe, and Jonathan Swift. In the long-standing quarrels between the Ancients and Moderns, I wonder if the Futurists might be posed as a third option. Although this question might be posed in another installment, I cannot resist here to ask how this group might read this experiment. In one future, those conducting their own experiments in electrate invention will read the act of paper-making as metaphor. In another future, the process appeases our nostalgia for a print-oriented culture. In the first scene, we have redefined literature and scholarship; in the other, the genius is in the archive. Other futures are yet to unfold.
The results of this experiment expose the haunting nature of paper. The Ulmer text (which I transcribed, essentially reassembled for his 2015 collection Electracy) is (literally) recycled here: marked and torn, soaked and blended, and embedded in a new set of paper. Instead of a printed manual, the video mimics the ubiquitous online, step-by-step, DIY tutorial. The audio tracks overlaid on the video is a montage of past recordings never intended for publication. They are personal and professional clips from past lectures, conference papers, group seminars and personal memos from this past year. While parts of the introduction and many of the presented papers themselves were clearly scripted, most were plucked from their original context: my found “objects.” I replace “lessons” and “steps” with “scenes” to evoke the performative, theatrical nature of the work (ahead). Just as I am haunted by paper itself, I, too, am coming to terms with these (my) voices, ideas, working “papers”, and place these around [INTERMISSION] the aural apparitions of the scholars I am working with, on, upon, towards . . . This demonstration intends to re-imagine alternative (future) histories for writing practices. It attempts to negotiate the features associated with orality, manuscript, print, and electronic modes.
Haunted by both the powers of print and rotting of the rag. Here, the Projector Finds a Hobby.