kickstart my chapbook : no experiences

You’ve heard of kickstarter, right? It is popularly known as a funding source for films, for software development, for funding gadgets. Erin Watson used it to fund something different. She used Kickstarter to publish a poetry chapbook.

The work arrived in response to her experience reading @Horse_ebooks on twitter. Jotting down favored sentence fragments from the twitter feed, she built poems around them line by line, “allowing the @Horse_ebooks style of uncanny abstraction to creep into these poems”, as she wrote in the author’s note.

Words splayed
Like sick things, yawning in disregard
along a chasm

I’m no stranger to the @Horse_ebooks twitter phenomenon; several of my friends on twitter are enamored of it. The lovely fragments of language-idea floats past as retweets every few days. Of course she wrote poems from this oracle, as she calls it. The best kind of tweets are potent seeds for the others reading that content. Twitter is the medium for poets, the best way to dispose of unused lines of poetry in public.

She named the chapbook “no experiences”. For me, this is clear. The poems are created via slow accumulation of language, testing one word after another. Ms Watson’s poems become word mobiles to read, consider, read again. The shorter poems dense with reference become rich toffees to chew and savor.

That fatal flaw,
the earnest flame
that’s blistering my feet.

The language-aggregates consciously created from the experience of other language, the tweets Ms Watson collected from twitter. These are not the plainsong of story, the authentic voice emerging to manage the deep emotion provoked by the harder expereinces made by living (though at least one poem points to the capacaty for poetry to perform that function). These woody little structures are the joy of a tasteable, touchable language, a writer making for the joy of making in response to some abstract synchronicity of language-based experience.

Sized to fit your hand with ASCII art re-making the @Horse_ebooks twitter avatar. Buy in person for $10 at Uncharted Books, Logan Square, Chicago IL. Also see  Book designed and typeset by Nick Disabato in Chicago, IL. Printed by Scout Books in Portland, OR. Funded by you on Kickstarter.

homicide watch: journalism from the poetics of annihilation

A website documenting every homicide in Washington D.C.

Simple, direct reporting that could not happen without the ‘net. Innovative – the content works outside the ‘newspaper’ model. The site removes the narrator from story, which suits the content, a social trauma almost too difficult to narrate.

The site uniquely provides a wailing wall, or public emotional container for those affected by the crimes profiled. The click-response, the intimacy of the internet allows for this kind of virtual community around grief. Something like Facebook or Twitter simply capitalizes on the ‘net’s illusion of immediate connection. In this context, something else can play out, answering a social need [providing a container for grief] in a unique way.

Documentation of the mechanisms of justice applied to each particular situation, simple witnessing without the intervention of the narrative voice of the reporter. Presentation of court documents in each case, instead of a narrator telling us about what was filed, who was charged in each case.

Happily, their Kickstarter fundraiser to continue publication recently met its goal. Check that project description for Laura Amico and Chris Amico’s bios and more information surrounding the project.

Thanks to @aaronsw for the link to this in-depth supportive post from Clay Shirky. That discussion fascinates me from the practical standpoint of managing an internet startup company, which the Kickstarter fundraiser was, in part, built to address.


where I explain how chuck close is a painter

@golan @cynthialawson chuck close: a painter with a recognizable aesthetic now living its own life in his viewers’ experiences #letgo

* * * * *

Chuck Close makes paintings with a particular visual vocabulary. They play with the viewer’s faculty of sight, that tricky biology of perception thresholds. They happened in part as a consequence of biology, perhaps in response to his own experience of face-blindness, but also in consequence of a seizure-stroke that changed the way he could use his body to paint. Although I expect those who read this blog to already know this, Chuck Close’s career and health issues are summarized succinctly on wikipedia.

Digital artist Scott Blake created the Chuck Close filter. A free, web-based tool transformed a still image into the close cousin of a Chuck Close image. Note that I did not use the word ‘painting’ – the output from Scott Blake’s program isn’t a painting, its an image made using the visual conventions of a Chuck Close painting.

You can see how Chuck Close responded to Scott Blake’s work here, at the page where the project used to live. The placeholder page representing the former project includes a quote from Mr. Close: “it may be an amusing project and many people might like it, but it is MY art that is trivialized, MY career you are jeopardizing, MY legacy, which i have to think about for my children, and MY livelihood. i must fight to protect it.” Chuck Close, November 2010

* * * * *

During my undergrad, one of the ongoing discussions I had with a collaborator was the seeming strategy of those attempting to conquer the art world with a ‘clear vision’. We called this a ‘schtick’. We had to memorize and regurgitate the ‘schtick’ of these artists to pass art history classes on our way to that little piece of paper, the BFA. Oh, yeah, Chuck Close was fragmenting the image in a way that played with how we read the image; there’s a perception threshold the viewer can play with by spending time far away or coming up close and watching the image dissolve. Cool. Next.

When I was in grad school in Boston, I’d visit the MFA just about every day. I’d touch base with a particular Chuck Close painting, when it was up, because I liked it, and because repeated viewings of a single work of art over a long period of time provide me with a different kind of insight into that work and what it is doing. I remember seeing postcards of that painting in the museum gift shop.

I understand museum gift shops, with their postcards and books. I’ve always preferred to see art in person. Not everyone has that privilege.

* * * * *

Scott Blake had his own experience of Chuck Close’s work. He translated the aesthetic he associated with that work into another medium. This point is particularly important to me – Mr. Blake did not take a patentable process (the mechanics of painting the image); he did not take a copyrighted image of a painting, he took an experienced aesthetic and created with it.

Close told him to knock it off, and Blake did.

Close had the balls to claim he “makes digital art“. No, Sir, you do not. You make paintings with a particular aesthetic that can be more easily associated with color separation technology used to print newspapers. Digital art uses computers as the primary method of production. While your photographs may be digitally enlarged as part of the production process, the computer is not essential to the mode of production. Your paintings can be made without the use of a computer. (Additional media-metaphor description of digital art in the last section of this post as well).

As an artist who has staked her claim to a digital platform, whose work cannot exist without digital technology to store, exhibit, share, or produce it, I’m going to ask Mr. Chuck Close to go back to what he knows how to do much better than me – move a paintbrush on a canvas. Mr. Close’s paintings can exist in a future without computers. Mine can’t. Is this better or worse? I’m not interested in a ‘whose medium is better/cooler/etc’ conversation right now – I’ll leave that for those who like to play king of the mountain. Computers are, for better or worse, deeply embedded in ordinary human life, at least for 80% of humans (those who have access to the technology and use it daily to achieve a variety of tasks). I’m interested in how information moves there, lives there, and how the way we use our technology is changing our way of interacting with everything else. Chuck Close makes excellent paintings.

* * * * *

While I think that Hyperallergic’s My Chuck Close Problem article gets at many of Scott Blake’s struggles with Chuck Close, I’d like magnify something I see underneath the discussion.
The audience has its own experience of the work. No artist can control what the audience does with that experience. Scott Blake had a really inspiring experience of Chuck Close. He took his experience of Chuck Close’s aesthetic to a different medium. He used that experience to create artwork that does something entirely different from what Chuck Close does. This is not about first-second, derivation, or anything else. Its about translation.

Computers translate. As a machine, the computer translates information coming in via the user interface (designed with human logic) through the operating system to the firmware. The firmware simplifies and translates that input to the hardware, which then does what the user asks of the hardware with the information the user refers to along with the command information. As a digital work of art, Scott Blake’s translation of Chuck Close’s aesthetic into a user-friendly image-translater is, in my humble opinion, quite beautiful and, in its form and expression, truly excellent digital artwork.

It is also art of a different class than Mr. Close’s painting. Chuck Close needs to ‘protect his legacy’ because he works in the world of things. He’s making trophies to be purchased by museums and collectors in the closed economy of the art world. He has to protect the aesthetic stuck on the physical surface of the canvas.

Here we go again, the gift economy of the object providing an experience to the viewer interfering with the object economy of the ‘art world’. Why are we comparing pomegranates and seashells? They have different functions.

Oh, and, one more time – Mr. Close – you are a painter.


Matte Braidic’s Faceburgh

“The face is what one goes by, generally.” ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


untitled (faceburgh photo) - matte braidic 2012


Matte sits at sidewalk coffee shop tables with his dog and takes pictures of people. Later he crops them, adds a watermark, and uploads them to Facebook. To a portfolio page he’s created.

He lives in Pittsburgh. The name Faceburgh made sense. A friend of his designed the logo using Facebook’s font and Steeler’s colors. He watermarks each photo with it.

Matte used to just people watch. Then he got a DSLR camera. He challenged himself to take a thousand pictures, to get better at taking pictures. He took pictures of what he liked looking at. People.



untitled (faceburgh photo) - matte braidic 2012


If you haven’t spent time in Pittsburgh, its a peculiar small-town city made of neighborhoods. Each its own little world. Oakland, college & frat kids & sometimes hippies; Squirrel Hill is jewish with good middle class families, the kids busy not getting into trouble; East Liberty’s working class black vitality; Shadyside is kinda gay and has had a little work done; Bloomfield, mixes Italian with southeast Asian immigrants and yinzers; you can buy Pierogies from the Russian Orthodox church in the South Side flats and Polish Hill is, well, Polish old ladies and also hipsters drinking their favorite cheap beer at Gooski’s, etcetera, etcetera.

I lived in Pittsburgh for eight years. Now I watch that city’s days pass from my perch in Chicago. Facebook sends me invites for nights at the Shadow Lounge and Brillobox. Twitter snapshots the gorgeous profile those hills and rivers give as friends head to and from work, or go out on the town.

Matte’s Faceburgh project windows me into the places where I used to wait, write, read, think, do laundry, coffee, live. I play detective games in my head. Here’s the South Side, that must be in front of the Beehive, check out the cobblestones behind that guy. Ah, that’s where all the buses line up in Oakland, that’s a lot of students. This feels like Bloomfield’s afternoon light, in front of the Crazy Mocha. The same Crazy Mocha where Melissa posted that someone collapsed from a heroin OD out front yesterday. Yeah, that’s my small town concern showing. That’s how place weaves itself into you even though you’re half asleep, chasing ideas boys the next cup of coffee poem performance or opportunity to show your work.



untitled (faceburgh photo) - matte braidic 2012


“He could almost hear these faces telling them why the existed, why they’d been saved. Can there be anything more profound, more satisfying, more curious, Galip thought, than a photograph that captures the expression on a person’s face?” ~ Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book

When browsing through the photo galleries on Facebook, I read expressions. How do his subjects connect to him through the lens? What argument, if any, do they make with being photographed?

Every time I consider Matte’s photos, I think about our society and the culture of surveillance. Perhaps we don’t get pissed at surveillance because we have already consented to it, or because we can’t see the cameras. Or because the public behavior of photographing strangers is ‘for our own good’, ‘for our safety’.

Some of Matte’s subjects flip him off, make some other gesture of ‘opting out’. He takes the picture anyway. Legally, he’s permitted. We don’t own the rights to our own faces. We don’t own the rights to other people’s point of view, of us. Perhaps that’s the button Matte hits with some of his subjects, when they react by confronting him. He reminds them of what they are vulnerable to – the unknown vision of themselves had by the Other behind the camera.



untitled (faceburgh photo) - matte braidic 2012


His tagline is “Our history of Pittsburgh, one face at a time.” Place as setting for all the stories written in the hearts of those who live there. Place as third character in any paired relationship.

The interactivity of his process, inviting audience through the social media portal, invites a cynical yawn but is, simultaneously, effective. Matte needed to select a small group of photos for possible print publication. He did so by inviting Facebook friends to vote. As I browsed through, making my picks, I got to see who amongst my peers shared my likes. Curiously, I shared the most likes with another woman who had left Pittsburgh a few years ago (shout out to Mo Modono).

I’ll leave you with the Facebook album view of Matte’s most recent photographs. And, of course, the link.



untitled (faceburgh gallery - Facebook view)


Matte Braidic’s Faceburgh :