The Concept of Writing: The Unthought
by Christian Bök and Kalen Iwamoto
Published in the Poème Objkt Sbjkt exhibitions catalogue (June 2023)
Conceptualism constitutes a global school of avant-garde poetry whose practitioners explore the “limit-cases” of writing, troubling our preconceptions about creativity and authorship. Conceptualism takes its inspiration from the work of such artists as Sol LeWitt, Joseph Kosuth, Yoko Ono and Sophie Calle (among others) who have striven to reduce creativity itself to an array of “rules,” whose logic culminates not in the mandatory creation of a concrete, artistic artifact, but in the potential argument for some abstract, artistic exercise.
Conceptualism in poetry often resorts to the use of stolen words, forced rules, asemic forms and even cyborg tools to mobilize a diverse variety of anti-expressive, anti-discursive techniques – taking an interest in texts that critics might dismiss as too readymade, too formalist, too illegible, too digitized, to be considered lyrical writing. Conceptualism on the blockchain continues to challenge romantic notions of poetry and test the concept of writing itself against the duresses of both the artistic establishment and the literary establishment.
The crypto milieu blurs the line between artwork and writing, offering a new way to play with the material of language. Not only can the poet work with computerized technologies (like GANs and NFTs) to create a diverse variety of artworks, thereby expanding the practice of poetry itself — but the poet can also interrogate the sociological implications of this crypto milieu (with all its social manias), doing so in order to showcase some of the many risks that might await us in such an exciting frontier.
The poets of crypto can mine the processes, protocols, and functions of the blockchain to create newer “rules” for writing, introducing glitches into their texts, scraping data and stealing info from feeds filled with a lexicon of crypto idioms. The poets of crypto can now experiment with the constraints imposed by NFTs: be these limits on file sizes, on grid views, on scales of thumbnails, on brands of currencies — all of which become “forms” for poetry. The exhibition shows how avant-garde poets have always bent technology to their will.