Notes on Incidentalism

Brussels reading (at Super Dakota opening), May 31, 2018

M. Broodthaers | My Two Dreams etching from Clay Street Press

Fluxus, concrete poetry, L’Art Brut, word art, for a while I thought I practiced social realism or Radical Reconstructivism while writing romantic poetry. It’s all good - but I’m really more of an incidentalist. I’m not sure I know what that is—and it has no manifesto - but I know what it isn’t and it isn’t:

  • Situationism
  • Futurism
  • Absolutism
  • Albrecht Durer-ism
  • Imi Knoebel-ism
  • Louise Bourgeois-ism
  • Chinese capitalism
  • Rationalism or nationalism
  • Back-to-naturism
  • Putinism or FIFA-ism
  • Dodoism or even Laxism- the belief that an unlikely idea can be followed through to a logical conclusion.

But you see I love lists! – the form, taxonomy and nomenclature found in science - in a post-political, post-truth, hyper-normalised world, incidentalism means an observant eye, an attentive ear, a full heart, taking things as they come, randomly, locally, as unexpected gifts or offerings.

I say there are good fish and bad fish. Good eggs and bad eggs. The willing and the terrified, the inspired, the anguished, the hopeful and the poor.

What if my brain was a poetry machine or I could program my catalogue of thoughts and the ongoing cadence of a poem that never ends?

Forget about Artificial Intelligence, embrace Incidental Intelligence.

The digital age must not tamper with the primacy of cows and graveyards (a nod to Dubuffet).

My favorite museums:

  • Nek Chand’s Rock Gardens of Chandigarh in India (bottles, glass, bangles, tiles, ceramic pots, sinks, electrical waste, bicycles and broken pipes)
  • The Lion’s Mound at Waterloo
  • Any planetarium across the globe.

My influences:

  • Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer, the South African writer J. M. Coetzee
  • Broodthaers, Bowie, Beastie Boys, Bebop, Bernie Sanders and Blinky Palermo’s To the People of New York City
  • Haikus from Basho, Jack Kerouac and Langston Hughes
  • Reverend Howard Finster’s Noah’s Ark – tiny animal figurines tiddling out past their bedtime in pajamas.

My work in human rights is to perfect the structure of happiness and to prevent an end to augury (or prophecy).

One day 29 years ago, a TV announcer in East Berlin reported that the wall was falling down - and people flooded across to the West to start new lives. Can we expect the same of the De-Militarised Zone of the hermit kingdom of Korea, with starving middle schoolers, their garden hoes in hand, streaming towards the blossoming skies of the South? (this is a prophecy)

One day 299,000 years ago our Neanderthal sisters looked up to the stars to articulate a map of the human spirit. My friend Birgit and I walk to where the bones were found in the Neander Valley, where she works on her map of the stars through printed landscapes, trying to evoke the mystery of a simpler age. (this is also a prophecy)

I want to show my Trump Poem (here in the video room) on a long wall at some Dia Art Foundation - 501 colorful ‘No Trespassing’ signs with nicknames for our snake-oil salesman orange ogre President who said, remember, “only I can fix it.’ Curses and nicknames tend to stick - I tried to stay away from the subject but once I got going I couldn’t quit.

Trump Puppet, Trump Muppet, Trump Safari, Trump Granola, Trump Chimp, Trump Pimp, Oily Oligarch, Donny Despot, Tiny Tycoon, Ricky Raccoon, Doo Wop Mop, Swirly Doo, Trash Panda, Grave Robber, Cradle Thief, Trump Scum, Trump Swamp, Trump Scorpion, Pest Repellent, Orange Ogler, Orange Mope, Orange Weenie, Orange Dope, maybe our Great White Hope. Ginger Trump, Dijon Trump, Bronze Donald, Humpty Dumpty and the Hippocratic Oath. MISTER MACHO, CRY-BABY DONALD, PIT MINE BOSS, LAKE OF ICE.

Two dreams of Chairman Mao – a giant etching published by Clay Street Press, not unrelated to the poem on the wall. Mao is often in my dreams, because: Poetry – Politics – Visual Art – The Music of the Spheres.

My dream was about fishing off Chelsea Piers. It was then blue-lit dense fog, a cold bordello, one lamp off ice storm, Aleutian archipelago, a pocketful of bloody eyes, the stench was all elephant. Entrance to underworld-Persephone -is a quarry full of snow.

I meet Mao’s Mom at a farm full of Hong Kong bird flu. For there isn’t any fodder for the fire, and flood plains of the Yangtse are teeming orange poppies. A magpie shrills in an oak tree. Seeds spill to a gulley where I find my brother’s hat.

---------- and here’s the end to my anti-manifesto on incidentalism:

I look out my bedroom window into the green garden: this morning two five-year olds, probably born in Dhaka, Bangladesh or Lahore in Pakistan, sport red lace dresses for Ramadan, and they wheel a barrowful of bright pink cherry blossoms towards a little oak tree hill, where their work will begin.