Two New Titles from Timglaset Editions (Sweden) & Faint Press (USA)

Chris - 5.2.2018 - 2Cover of  to let lack by c.r.e. wells (aka Chris Wells) published by Timglaset Editions (Sweden)

 

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Eternal Network, Asemic Front has received copies of two new asemic-visual poetry editions.

This first edition, to let lack (December 2017), is solo work by USA visual poet Chris Wells and beautifully produced by Timeglaset Editions of Malmo, Sweden. Ably edited by Joakim Norling, Timeglaset is gaining a reputation for publications of high quality and content. Asemic Front has reviewed their books before; and I plan to do more, as their editorial choices tend to complement AF project goals and illustrate my theories concerning asemics and visual poetry.

 

Chris - 5.2.2018 - 2

 

to let lack is a slim, collector’s book of four compositions (8 pages). Only 49 copies were produced for the edition, but in this case quality is far more important than quantity. Having lived with the book for awhile, I find myself returning again and again to it with fascination.

 

Chris - 5.2.2018 - 3Page from to let lack by c.r.e. wells

 

In previous reviews, I have written about (for lack of a better term) a “school” of visual poetry in the Midwest USA – a geography of cultural production that coincides, strangely, with regions of devastating post-industrial economic contraction and decline. I’ve even called this school Vis-consin out of deference to one of its centers in the state of Wisconsin, although the poets are spread beyond that state.

Anyone versed in the dispersion of U.S. culture knows that movements of significance tend to radiate outward from either the East or West coasts. An enduring avant/post-avant literary movement emanating from the continental interior is a great rarity and, for that reason alone, deserves examination. Additionally, the poets are producing tremendous work.

Members who share this aesthetic and geographic bond have done impressive and groundbreaking work, even when placed on the  competitive global stage. Some notables are Miekal And (Wisconsin), David Chirot (Wisconsin), Matthew Stolte (Wisconsin), Diane Keys (Illinois), C. Mehrl Bennett (Ohio), John M. Bennett (Ohio), Ficus strangulensis (West Virginia), among others. A newer generation is fast emerging.

Chris Wells has mastered a wide range of visual poetics, but his work frequently shows an affinity to this group I have identified. His location in Ohio qualifies him eminently. The pieces in to let lack particularly show the influence of Rust Belt vispo (see the black and white piece above).

 

Chris Wells - 5.2.2018 - 4

 

 

My purpose here is not to outline the poetics of Vis-consin, which I have done at length elsewhere. I only want to make the point that I believe Chris Wells shows the influence of this poetic in a very pronounced way in to let lack. I am referring specifically to abstraction, minimalism in terms of color, organic form (although at root I see Wells as a formalist and you can find formalism in this collection), image-text synthesis, and the presence of asemics. Much Vis-consin work uses a copyart aesthetic that is gritty (industrial), anti-art and distorted. Many of the Vis-consin poets were deeply involved in the copyart movement. In terms of comparison, I see the influence of Matthew Stolte most in to let lack, even though I doubt Wells is making a conscious homage to any of the poets mentioned in this article.

 

 

Chris Wells - 5.2.2018 - 5

 

Visit Timglaset:

https://timglaset.com/

 

Chris - 5.2.2018 - 6Cover of your world hangs by Amanda Laughtland and C.R.E. Wells published by Faint Press (2018)

 

Next is a pamphlet by Amanda Laughtland and Chris Wells, which was issued by Faint Press in Ohio, USA. Wells’ Faint Press enjoys a relatively high degree of visibility thanks to Chris Wells’ active involvement in the Eternal Network.

your world hangs contains seven visual-textual works. The pamphlet is smaller and more informal than the impressive Timglaset production. The Wells-Laughtland collabs are of great interest and complexity. (Thus the visual presentation would benefit from being larger.) They have many Vis-consin qualities; but ultimately your world hangs is more refined abstract art than to let lack.

The work is far more dependent upon formalist structures than pieces by David Chirot or Diane Keys. Let me be clear – after the reference to abstract art – that I see the collection as a fine visual poetry lyric sequence that functions in a way similar to – say – a crown of sonnets. Is there such a thing as formalist vispo? Indeed, I am convinced there is.

DVS

 

Chris - 5.2.2018 - 7

 

 

IMG_1206

 

 

Chris - 5.2.2018 - 8Pages from your world hangs by Amanda Laughtland and C.R.E. Wells (2018)

 

 

Chris Wells - 5.3.2018 - 8a

 

 

Chris - 5.3.2018 - 9b

 

 

Asemic front poster - 3.11-11

 

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“The Rebecca Type-overs” – Rebecca Resinski & De Villo Sloan Collabs

“Rebecca Type-over #1” by Rebecca Resinski (Arkansas, USA) and De Villo Sloan (New York, USA)

 

I was inspired by Rebecca Resinski’s artist’s book of type-overs using text by the Bronte sisters. So I have had a tremendous time, in turn, typing over Rebecca’s Resinki’s compositions. Much of this was typed on an electric typewriter (Brother ML100 Standard). Thus you have typewriter art by both Rebecca and me. The discerning will recognize, of course, that I used digital filtering on some pieces to heighten typewriter effects and to produce some deconstructive asemics.

DVS

“Rebecca Type-over #2”

“Rebecca Type-over #3”

“Rebecca Type-over #4” by Rebecca Resinski and De Villo Sloan

“Rebecca Type-over #5”

“Rebecca Type-over #6”

“Rebecca Type-over #7”

“Rebecca Type-over #8” by Rebecca Resinki & De Villo Sloan

 

Asemic Front Review: “Too Much To Bear” by Robin Tomens (Timglaset – Sweden)

Cover of Too Much To Bear by Robin Tomens (London, UK)

 

I believe Robin Tomens is among a group of poets and artists working today who are placing British visual poetry in the vanguard of global visual poetry. I am thrilled to have an edition of Tomens’ Too Much To Bear as part of the Asemic Front effort.

Too Much To Bear is a beautifully produced collection of 24 compositions that have depth and resonance. They are not quickly disposable (then discard) visual-verbal gimmicks nor are they the motel-room-abstract-paintings which asemic-vispo is listing towards. These are pieces you will return to again and again, each time finding more.

Because Tomens’ work emphasizes the materiality of images and language, the printed book format is especially illuminating and effective. Too Much To Bear shows the power that art can achieve beyond the limitations (yes limitations!) of the digital realm. In short, and not trying to sound too Fluxus, you can best experience Too Much To Bear by being in its physical presence and touching it.

Too Much To Bear is published by Timglaset: A Swedish/English endeavor that, humbly, refers to itself as a “fanzine.” (Timglaset appears to be much more than a fanzine.) My research indicates Timglaset is the creation of Joakim Norling in Sweden. Norling deserves applause on several fronts including his choice of poets/artists and his unique distribution system that involves the international mail art network:

About Timglaset

In reviews, I often navigate a narrow line between trying to – visually – give a sense of what a book is like and – going too far – inadvertently publishing a digital edition. So I will provide some shots of personally favorite pages from Too Much To Bear. Keep in mind the collection contains much more.

“Status Symbol” by Robin Tomens from Too Much To Bear

The methods of collage are now firmly available to the visual poet without contest. In the case of Robin Tomens, I do not believe genre analysis alone yields insights. He is an excellent collage artist and some would leave it there; however, I believe his great strength is as a visual poet adept at the use of language. This is how we can best understand and appreciate him.

Tomens’ compositions explore – even relentlessly at times – the shifting and complex relationships between image and text. He explores the process of signification and the processes of both creating and obliterating meaning, which is of central interest to asemic writers. “Status Symbol” provides a perfect example for my contentions. The piece exhibits Tomens’ use of the Punk (anti-aesthetic) – probably generational symptom – which serves as a deconstructive filter. Perhaps Joakim Norling’s “fanzine” concept has a greater aesthetic depth than at first appears. “Status Symbol” has a street art quality as well.

Thus I believe Robin Tomens is at his best in pieces that combine image and text. Some Tomens pieces do (see above) rely on the prominence of image and visual syntax and are successful. But, in fact, what I like best about contemporary British visual poetry (if I may generalize) is that it uses visual-verbal constructs that draw from concrete poetry, text collage and that are – then – “postavant” – suggesting connection to a tradition. (Rarely do I have much praise for tradition!)

Many visual poets have abandoned text altogether in favor of image constructs. Some of this work is extraordinary and groundbreaking, but I find more energy and interest in visual-textual work. The British visual poets currently working whom I have encountered are well-grounded in concrete poetry and the cut-up work of Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs. (Clearly Burroughs made a BIG impact during his London years that still resonates.) I hope this explains my enthusiasm for the work of Robin Tomens and British visual poetry. This “tradition” bodes well for a British visual poetry of the future.

“It’s You” by Robin Tomens in Too Much to Bear (Timglaset)

In closing, I want to identify another source that I believes inspires Robin Tomens’ work. That is his knowledge of jazz:

https://www.amazon.com/Points-Departure-Essays-Modern-Jazz/dp/1900152797

As a longtime student of postmodernism (pomo), I am very aware of the important impact jazz has had on Modernism and – more important – American Postmodernism of the second half of the 20th century. The work of the Beats, Black Mountain, and much of the New York School, for example, is derived from a “jazz poetics” grounded in spontaneity, improvisations, quoting and fragmentation. Charles Olson’s historic and influential “Projective Verse” is essentially a handbook of jazz poetics. With this “tradition” comes – philosophically – the huge, rugged and bleak continent of Existentialism. That is likely where we should look to locate Tomens in terms of a worldview. It’s easy to forget about the centrality of jazz in current art, lit and music.

While Robin Tomens’ nods to Punk and street art make his work engaging and provide a textured aesthetic, I believe it his jazz sensibility that accounts for the brilliance of the pieces in Too Much To Bear (and elsewhere). In other words, Tomens brings jazz poetics to vispo. Hoping not to make a comparison too grandiose, the Abstract Expressionist painters (Pollock) brought a jazz sensibility to painting which was revolutionary in the West. I have always expressed disdain for “middle of the road.” Yet in the case of Robin Tomens I make an exception or at least a qualification. Visual poets capable of innovation (rather than regurgitating the achievements of the past) but who are also aware of and drawing from tradition (such as concrete poetry and the cut-up) are in an advantageous position to produce work of note and value. Robin Tomens opens new ground and continues the enterprise. It will be interesting to see where he takes us next.

– DVS

“American Face” by Robin Tomens in Too Much To Bear