I was struck by Andrew Levy's substantial talk about biotopology at last week's ON Launch. Andrew used several sources to triangulate poignant ideas which have been difficult to talk about until now: Arakawa + Gins' concept in conjunction with a quote from Epictetus (on a box of Celestial Seasonings Tea) and a NY Times story about army recruiters' use of video games and full-scale simulators in neighborhood mall spaces. Between these he starts to sketch out a way that the biotopologist can perform a kind of radical documentary function through "recycling," the selection and collage or assemblage of news from various sources, including "snatches from tabloid headlines, popular song lyrics, weather reports, financial predictions, and ephemeral scandals; biographies of typical or important personalities of the time; straight narrative and 'camera eyes,' or autobiographical reflections." What holds this process together is a strong sense that these fragments came from somewhere and the way in which they persistently refuse complete absorption or recontextualization reminds us that "Poetry is the discourse of intimacy -- we are walking through pieces of people."
However, there is something ominous about this situation of reading and writing in an online context:
Therefore it's not surprising that the army recruitment lounge area in the mall features "a soundtrack of Jane's Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers," acting as a reminder that poets are not the only ones doing this kind of cultural recontextualizing. The discourse of war that "aims at the end of society in order to emancipate society" potentially flows through the same space. How and where can we tell if a given intervention in this space is a productive or a progressive one? We can have gut feelings, flickerings of awareness, moody moments of outrage or agreement, but that's a pretty vivid image of the earplugs and the glued together lips. Thanks to Andrew for offering a fresh perspective on some of these questions.