Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

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An Interview with Talan Memmott
by Jeremy Hight

Jeremy Hight: What is the UnderAcademy College? What is it commenting on conceptually and in function(ality)?

Talan Memmott: UnderAcademy College is, at its deepest level, a pedagogical sandbox, a place for scholars and artists to experiment conceptually and practically with ideas, how to communicate them pedagogically, how to turn what might be marginal research interests into curriculum of a sort. It bills itself as an "unaccredited undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate anti-degree institution" with the mission "to remain open, marginal, and unaccredited." UAC has offered courses ranging from "Advanced Macaronics: Neology, Subjectivity And The Problem Of Persuasion" to "You Can Say That Again: Mass Culture Tautologies Today & Tomorrow-Today," from "Dogmatic Realism For Beginners" to "The Inadequacies Of Language." In most cases the courses are practice driven—students participate in the development of the course through their participation. In this regard there is very little separation between the instructor and the student, and I feel a little apprehensive even calling the people who enroll in the courses students.

The concept actually occurred to me in the early 1990s but was put on the back burner for a number of years. The advent of Web 2.0, online courses and distance learning concepts, and the rise of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) made the project more feasible, practical, and relevant. Though some have made the comparison between UAC and MOOCs, I think this might be a bit unfair to both. UAC is not really concerned with mass enrollment, and we do not promote a particular platform. So, although at some level we may be producing commentary on the MOOC formula, we are not engaged in a critique—we are not an anti-MOOC. At the same time UnderAcademy College is not a direct critique of traditional institutions of higher learning... As our charter claims, "UnderAcademy is not anti-academic, it is under—like under the influence of the academy. And, we are not a university; we are called a college because of its phonological proximity to collage."

JH: Who and what are some of your influences?

TM: That is tough to say... There are a lot. And they all get molded into some amorphous idea of "influence"... If I said Sol LeWitt and Jonathan Swift, or Billy the Kid and Gilles Deleuze, or Kathy Acker and Jean-Luc Godard, or Groucho Marx and Zizek, or Stan Getz and cheezburger.com one might be hard-pressed to see how any of these influence my work. And, together they might seem incompatible influences. But for me, that's the way it works. Sometimes I find myself latching upon a tiny aspect of one particular work from one particular artist, or writer, or theorist, and running with that... I am not sure that qualifies as influence in any holistic way. Maybe a spark that causes a reaction. So there is my way of not answering the question.

JH: What cross pollination do you see between critical theory, research, and your e-lit work?

TM: Well, on occasion I have called myself a research artist. In most cases I have some idea I am working with that is outside the artifact. This leads to a consideration of the material form the idea will take. I see this as a way of actually embedding critical or theoretical concerns within the artifact, the software, the artwork, what have you... I don't think that is necessarily unique with in digital media creative practice. I mean, pretty much all digital art has embedded critique within it just by its mere being art applied through digital technology. There is a level of misuse, or counter-usage of production software through this sort of application. As such, this speaks to the ideologies of technology in general ... to the aesthetics of technological expectation.

JH: What you do find most interesting about databases and more generative and interface/interactive works?

TM: Malleability, potentiality, assemblage, emergence. Data is softer than Silly Putty; the combinatory preforms and performs mutation; this, that, and everything else you can imagine, mixed together to make a monstrous omelet; all accidents are happy because accidents do not exist... Bugs are another matter, but even they can be delicious.

JH: You have a fascinating blog analyzing the deeper layers and semiotics of memes. What are some of the larger contexts and resonances we are beginning to see in memes and their contexts, life spans and larger socio-cultural reference points?

TM: I am really interested in how banality has sort of replaced the uncanny. And, I think meme culture; along with a number of other network cultures is where this is most evident. Take image-macro memes. The rhetoric of these memes is completely formal, and the repetition of the rhetorical qualities is what qualifies them, allows them to be recognized as memes. Although it is an iterative process in which small variations are made one to the next, the rhetorical qualities remain the same, and don't really rise to the level of a separate utterance. Of course, for a meme to become a meme the repetition and variation are a necessity.

I think there are two dominant areas in meme culture—iterative processes, and performative actions. Though these overlap, as iterative processes are performative actions, and performative actions are iterative processes, the differences are in the artifacts. Returning to image-macros, let's take the Condescending Wonka meme. We can see this as an iterative process—the image remains the same, the rhetorical qualities of the captions remain the same, but the actual content of the text varies. On the other side of this are things like Planking, which is related to Owling, Teapotting, Horsemanning, Batmanning, and many other photo fad memes. These are performative actions in which the performance is an iterative process and the artifact is its documentation. That said, in both cases the artifact is more about the social relations than the artifact in and of itself.

The lifespan of a meme is just about a year to a year and a half, and really only peaks for about a month. Of course, by the time any given meme begins to fade it is being replaced, or already has been replaced by a new meme that will go through the same iterative, performative transitions, peak and fade away. I mean, have you ever seen video of a hotdog factory?

JH: Nonce.executor is a very interesting work. What is disposable language? What tropes and expectations are most being played with in this work?

TM: Ha ha. Disposable language. From one point of view I suppose this piece could be seen as video poetry, pure and simple. Thinking back to when I made the work, I recall being interested in producing a sort of reflexive language that operates across, or between semiotic systems. There really isn't a consistent model for the language transformations in the work, and the associations between image and text modulate throughout. I suppose the piece plays with expectations of coherence, at the level of poetics. Even the title reflects on this. Nonce.executor is derived from the execution of nonsense, pretending at an unstable formula for the construction of nonsense. When I say the model isn't consistent, I am not saying it isn't considered. It is perhaps considered too much, but allowed to modulate through chance operations. Sorry to say, but the matrix for the construction of the piece is lost and long forgotten now... So, perhaps, there is the disposability. But, what I was getting at in regard to disposable language, was exactly this sort of unstable over-formulation of a model for nonsense. The language doesn't have a posture, it is contorted rather than posed aesthetically.

JH: What are the primary elements that most interest you in terms of research, process and the resonant collisions and juxtapositions in much of your body of work?

TM: I think the harmonics between research and creative practice are compelling, and I don't really know how else to work. I see them operating in the same general area. Or maybe it is the collisions I enjoy, which return this sort of signifying harmonics conceptually. I think, at some level, there are potentialities in media practices for critical address that are yet to be fully explored. At the same time, I think one should select the medium they feel best suits the intent of a project; be that an essay, an infographic, an interactive work, what have you. I don't think the essay is the domain of the scholar and digital work the domain of the artist. That has seemed bunk to me forever.

JH: What are you working on lately?

TM: Various top-secret projects that have nothing to do with each other. No, actually researching memes, and plotting out a new video project. Also doing some early experiments for a combinatory project, and refining some of the aspects of Huckleberry Finnegans Wake—a combinatory performance piece developed in collaborations with Eric Snodgrass, Michael Maguire, and Sonny Rae Tempest.

Check out a selection of films by Talan Memmott in this issue of Unlikely Stories: Episode IV!

Jeremy Hight is the Art Director at Unlikely Stories: Episode IV. You can learn more about him at his bio page.

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