Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ngai/Aase Berg/Öyvind Fahlström

I was issued this link in a comment field below: www-english.tamu.edu/pers/fac/eide/files/ngai.pdf

It's for Sianne Ngai's article "The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde." It's very insightful. Incredibly interesting. Points out the violence inherent in "cuteness" and whos how cuteness has functioned in avant-garde art and poetry - not just the physical violence but the violence done to language when you enter the realm of cuteness (words become all gooey and y-y).

I basically taught this essay yesterday discussing Kim Hyesoon and Aase Berg. It seems like the article should have been about Aase's Uppland.

Here is a great little poem from that collection in my translation:

Creep under the skin
Hold on to one's skin
mutual pupa

And when I was reading Ngai's article I was reminded of how many Swedish critics - who had not trouble with all kinds of violence and obscenity - seemed deeply troubled/frustrated by the cuteness of Uppland.

Importantly: one guy who went out on a limb to praise it (he wrote at least two reviews of it!) was Bengt Emil Johnson, the legendary concretist and Öyvind Fahlström's trusted colleague.

This seems significant to me because I think of Berg as in large part a descendent of Fahlström's childish art.

Also significant: Fahlström's concretism was not like Swiss or Brazilian concretism, but much much more like Stein. In fact he mentions the childish prattle of Stein and Lewis Carrol as predecessors in his famous first concretist manifesto.

Also significant: Both Fahlstrom and Berg were mentored by Lithuanian exile sound poet and avant-garde babbler Ilmar Laaban (though Laaban was much much older when he mentored and championed Berg!).

Of course by far Fahlström's biggest influence was Artaud, and he shares that influence with Berg.

And he "re-wrote" Sylvia Plath in one of his last art pieces (Berg rewrites "Lady Lazarus" as obscene sci-fi fantasia in "Dark Matter," her second book).


Blogger AG said...

Thanks for the link to this paper, Johannes.

The "pop surrealists" use a lot of cuteness mixed with violence also.


8:44 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Thanks for this link, Angela!

6:32 AM  

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