Flarf, Arf, Arf, Arf! (Part 1)
Kenneth Goldsmith has argued (in his essay at Harriet) that, for the avant-garde of the new millennium, Flarf constitutes a Dionysian aesthetic, whereas Conceptualism constitutes an Apollonian aesthetic (both of which respond with urgency to the technologies of the digital economy). During the panel entitled “Flarf and Conceptual Poetry” at the AWP Conference in Denver, I have striven to discuss this contrast between the two avant-garde movements, doing so by using the aesthetic technique of Conceptualism, plagiarizing Goldsmith, reciting his essay, verbatim (because it already says almost everything that I might wish to say)—however, I have chosen to perform this act of plagiarism by using the aesthetic technique of Flarf (inputting, successively, each sentence of the essay into Google with a constraining search-string so as to limit my results, after which I record the highlighted expressions in the order of their appearance, thereafter making grammatical adjustments for the sake of coherence). Here are the first third of my results from this exercise:
We are not high on LSD anymore—so we need to start making sense. If life is fair, then Elvis must be alive—and all his impersonators must be dead. An imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity. An inventor, however, does his work, because it is natural to him, and so it has a charm. It has the charm of a child, yet it is better than the old standby of “Holy cow!” because nobody says “Holy smokes!” anymore. It is forgotten. It is undiscovered. We imagine that a bottle of cleaning fluid must be totally fucking clean on the inside. We imagine that, when a man is anxious to stick out a glad hand in kindness, he probably has something up his sleeve. It is possible that the universe exists only for me—and if so, it sure is going well, I must admit. If I jump into my time-machine, then I can easily go back to the twelfth century and ask the vampires to postpone their ancient prophecy for a few days, while I take in dinner and a movie. We know that there is a good reason why nobody studies History—it just teaches you too much. My song is copyrighted in America, under the Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singing my song without my permission is a mighty good friend of mine, because “I don’t give a darn.” If you say, “I love you,” then you have already fallen in love with language itself—which is already a form of infidelity. I scream: “It's just passion—I ain't angry at culture; I ain't angry at fashion!” I write a script, and I give it to a guy who reads scripts, and he reads it, and he says that he really likes it, but he thinks that I need to rewrite it—so I say: “Fuck you, I’ll just make a copy.” I mean, the word “pre-heated” is a meaningless fucking term!—kind of like “pre-recorded,” as in, “this program has been pre-recorded,” to which I say: “well, of course it has been pre-recorded!—because, when else are you going to record it, afterwards?” I mean: “that’s the whole purpose of recording; to do it beforehand!—otherwise, it doesn’t really work, does it?” I mean: “English is the best language of all—but in the hands of others, it becomes like the scene in Fantasia, when Mickey Mouse gets the wand." I steal the letter M, because the letter M seems like it must weigh the most—and now, I have a gold M, so I ask a guy if he wants to buy a gold M, and he says: “No, what the fuck do I want a gold M for?”—to which I ask: “Well, what about a gold W?”
Christian Bök is the author of Crystallography (Coach House Press, 1994), a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and of Eunoia (Coach House Books, 2001), a bestselling work of experimental literature, which has gone on to win the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. Bök has created artificial...