Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bruno K. Öijer + avant-garde

Something that is interesting about Silliman's comentators who are so invested in a kind of "hard" avant-gardism etc is that they seem unaware of the many contradictions within the history of the avant-garde; the concept of the avant-garde is full of contradictory impulses.

One of the major contradictions is the one between the visionary notion of the poet as a kind of seer (Rimbaud, Artaud, Mayakovksy) and the constructivist notion of art as anti-individualistic and invested in "the everyday" (what Silliman calls "realism"). Obviously these oppositions blend quite a bit in various figures and movements.

[Mayakovsky is a particularly interesting instance, as his dandyistic revolutionariness was difficult for the Bolsheviks to stomach.]

A place where this contradiction is very obvious is in the early career of Bruno K. Öijer, who rejected the Marxist simplicity of the Swedish poetry establishment (which could be described as a mix between Claudia Rankine and 70s workshop poetry) in favor of a hallucinatory Surrealism.

The Marxist establishment rejected Öijer as a nihilistic wanna-be-beatnik, and Öijer said this (in in interview quoted in an article by Per Bäckström I just read):

"Behind every system, behind every rule stands a corpse and laughs. You can't tell me who I should sleep with. I don't work for wages. My life is a revolution... My life is a beautiful life... What you call freedom, I call waste... I will continue to love my own voice. If everyone becomes me, everything will collapse."

As in Mayakovsky, notions of avant-gardism, Romanticism (later in life Öijer changed the K in his name from Kenneth to Keats)and decadence mingle.

I was talking to Jesper Olsson the other day about Öijer, and he suggested that one reason nobody seems to admit to having been influenced by Öijer these days is that he became so enormously popular (his work became rock songs, he even started his own band).


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