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Sentences on Christian Bk's Eunoia: writing after language writing, Oulipo and conceptual art

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Kenneth Goldsmith's recent recasting of Sol LeWitt's 1967 article Paragraphs on Conceptual Art as Paragraphs on Conceptual Writing flags a significant tendency in contemporary poetics. For Goldsmith, as for LeWitt, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. Much like the conceptual art of the 1960s, in which all planning and decisions were made beforehand and the execution was a perfunctory affair (LeWitt 1967: 5), a number of contemporary writers have attempted to eliminate the arbitrary, the capricious and the subjective from their texts. While it is true that early conceptualists frequently used language, the turn towards a more overt conceptual poetics in the North American context has occurred in the wake of language writing; this turn means that conceptual writing draws from the insights and practices of both literary and visual art discourse. My critical essay will consider conceptual poetics, with a special focus on the Canadian writer and performer Christian Bk, whose work offers readers a useful site for questioning the interrelationships of performance, concept and writing. Since the early 1990s Bk has produced sound performances, visual texts, artist's bookworks, pataphysical literary theory and formally innovative poetry. My discussion will also address wider questions about the intersection of post-language school poetics and the visual arts. Many of the writers published in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and related journals were keenly interested in the complex relationship among reading, reference and subjectivity, a relationship which they saw as having political as well as aesthetic consequences. To what extent does conceptual poetics continue this interest? What is the relationship between sonic performance and page-based writing? And finally, to what extent do the visual aspects of this work dialogue with its conceptual and sonic dimensions?

Keywords: Christian Bk; Kenneth Goldsmith; Oulipo; conceptual art; language writing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Roehampton University.

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice is the official organ of the Writing Purposefully in Art and Design (Writing PAD) network. It offers art and design institutions an arena in which to explore and develop the notion of thinking through writing as a parallel to visual discourse in art and design practice. The journal aims to extend the debates to all national and international higher educational art and design institutions.
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