Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Aase Berg

fascinates me in large part because she is not academicky "avant-garde"; rather she forges an aesthetic out of Surrealism/surrealism, B-movies, various traditions of grotesquerie and a very much feminist awareness. This totally does not jive with the now academic American notions of "avant-garde".

It does jive quite well with a lot of the energies of the historical avant-garde, something that is made stronger by the fact that she was indeed for a long time part of a non-academic, political avant-garde group (the Surrealist Group of Stockholm - though importantly left in large part because of the rising militancy of the group, which I think she sees as macho) and, perhaps, by the fact that a couple of seminal members of the Scandinavian historical avant-garde (the Estonian refugee Ilmar Laaban, who introduced Fahlstrom to Artaud and Michaux in the early 1950s, and Rut Hillarp) took personal interest in Berg early in her career (extremely late in their careers). And in the case of Hillarp made several cool portraits of Berg (some of which can be found on Berg's books).

I say this not to establish Berg as "the true avant-garde", but to show how narrow our sense of it has become in, say, Perloff's definition of it (which, as I stated a while back, in many ways is the academization of the term, of turning avant-garde into yet another "indeterminacy"/New Critical ambiguity). One large move in contemporary a-g-discussions (evidence: that cfp I cited below) is to make it a contemporary american phenomena and more or less to ignore the historical avant-garde with its pop-culture-interest, its iconophilia-at-the-movies, its excitment/plesure, its grotesqueries etc. For me most importantly: Its heteroglossia, minorness, translatese, "language-grotesque".

That is why - as I stated in the comment field below - i don't want Berg or Reines to be "avant-garde." What they are doing seems to me so much more exciting than such now-academic labels. (I'm also opposed to sex ed).

I am reading Berg's Mork Materia (Dark Matter) closely and it's an amazing book. It ends in a place that seems like a totally blown up version of Plath's "Lady Lazarus" with its shells, echoes and snail like pearls - and use of montage to the point of metamorphosis. For one thign the speaker in Berg is a kind of snail! But importantly, she doesn't comit suicide, she ends with hermaphroditic self-mating.

Here is one of the last poems of the book, "Selfdead":

Small hole in black shell
stick in the thin antennae
suck the snail-flesh out
suck the snail-flesh out of me

Swallows the snail-intestine glistens
sucks the juice out of the polyp
puke up flesh pale and breathes
the flesh is pale and breathes

Slowly the pulse beats in the marrow
Zachris, the fetus-snail breathes
the snail-fetus is born and bleeds,
lies dead and dies and is born

Bend myself a membrane into bow
the nutritional circle is a circle
the mouth-muscle closes around the tip
sucks the last sap, fluid

out of my abandoned self-body


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