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Studying the Poetry of Ryan Trecartin
Rhizome has an awesome essay about Ryan Trecartin’s use of text and language in his work, even placing the artist close to realms inhabited by the likes of Kenny Goldsmith and Sharon Mesmer. However aligned with conceptual or flarf techniques and ideas, writes Brian Droitcour, Trecartin is different:
Trecartin keeps everything. His flamboyant use of the patterns of chat and ads and other types of cliché isn’t a direct form of copying, but a concentration of a normal condition of language use: A speaker is obliged to use words that come from outside her—and can be understood by others—while making them her own at the moment of the utterance, in order to make it seem like the utterance comes from inside her.
Droitcour took it upon himself to study Trecartin’s language by reading the script for the 2009 video piece K-CoreaINC.K (Section A), freely available thanks to ubuweb’s “Publishing the Unpublishable” series. He looks at character, punctuation, pronouns, style, “language’s status as the zone for creating and confronting problems of positioning,” repetition, and the materiality of both the video sets and the words layered upon the dramatization.
I’ve called the Koreas “characters” but the script say they’re “Attendees,” a designation that subordinates individual identity to temporary presence. The space-time properties of attending suit the names. These are not distinct individuals, but inflections—or international branches—of Global Korea, the star player listed at the top of the page as “Global Korea (GK): (potential Merge):”. Punctuation was invented to represent the pauses and pitches of speech; long after it moved beyond this purpose to become a set of standards for clarifying the meaning of written language, punctuation marks were remixed as emoticons when writing began to take on the phatic functions of speech. Trecartin’s unruly use of punctuation draws on all stages of its history. When, in the script’s first lines, Mexico Korea says “Yaw,,,,,,”, the comma does more than make a pause. It’s a winking eye torn from a smiling face, repeated until it’s a nervous tic. Colons join, parentheses cut, and in the designation of Global Korea’s role—before the dialogue even starts—those marks are staggered to herald K-CoreaINC.K (Section A) as a drama of belonging and difference, of where the self stands with regards to others.
Pronouns are a battlefield. “IT is not |You|,,, IT IS WE!” NAK announces. “IT is not |em| and>/ Will not matter as Such.” On the next page she says: “The New Look for This Company, IS re-Thinking the Word |Humanity| as an Object with a (Goal).” Trecartin’s use of corporate jargon brings the concrete back to “corporation,” a word that abstracts the corporeal. Dialogue is propelled by confrontations between voices of a single entity (i.e., the Koreas) and others, whose names convey difference in terms of human-resource hierarchies. A Driver—listed in the dramatis personae as “Pay Role: (2): Driver, Wait”—offers unsolicited business advice: “[…] Focus on finding REAL Consumer Demand,,/ For Cross-Over-Culture,,,,,, ?/ And Time-Shared-Ideologies ?” The suggestion is soundly rejected by Global Korea and her affiliates. He’s just a hireling, and his vision of crossovers and time-shares is too generous, too loose. There’s also an intern–“illegal outsider re-useable friend (prop)”—who goes by Jessica until USA Korea decides she’s Cindy. Either way, she’s no K. Interns are promiscuous, commingling with the corporate body for a limited time, unpaid. “Contemporary Slut!” Mexico Korea rages at Jessica/Cindy. “Every Body’s’ Got the Agenda!”
Enjoy the entire piece here.