Lydia Figes piece for i-d, “Allen Ginsberg’s Vintage Portraits of The Beat Generation” vividly contextualizes and surveys the show:
“For Ginsberg, the camera was a tool for intimacy and preservation of memory – a means to promote the legacy of the intellectual counterculture to which he belonged. Through his “sacramental” approach to photography, he immortalized his friends and lovers over decades – and with that, the riotous and radical spirit of the Beats.”
The concomitant presentation, A Picture of My Mind: Poems Written by Allen Ginsberg’s Photographs continues to elicit heated response.
We have to confess a little surprise, since we hadn’t expected to be quite so thoroughly gathered up in this our first and tentative exploration into NFTs and the highly ambitious and motivated AI-art world. (Our clarification of our intentions (alongside a wider discussion of AI and poetry) may be read here).
The press and publicity regarding the current L.A. show has snowballed to the degree that perhaps further clarifications are necessary.
Sasha Stiles, one of the Verseverse collaborators, and a singular presence in the AI poetry world, writes (in response to a piece by Sander Lutz):
“..a few thoughts on this thoughtful feature – even the ever-experimental Ginsberg was aghast at his friend Burroughs’ cut-up technique at first, before experiencing its eye-opening powers for himself..”
(It seems that Lutz and Stiles have misread the historical record here. While it may valid to ponder Burroughs (and Gysin‘s) random cut-up method as a possible precursor to AI machine arranging, to suggest Allen was in some way a belated cut-up enthusiast and eager entranced practitioner, is simply not true. Perhaps the point that Lutz was trying to make was, later, particularly in The Fall of America and his famous tape-recorded “auto poesy”, Allen experimented with some of that (seemingly) random collage of information. Allen, as an experimenter, a point that Stiles is quick to note, is one of his generative qualities, but he was also, and insistently, a formalist. (Jackson MacLow was, for sure, Christian Bök, but Allen was, in no way, “an experimental poet”)
Stiles goes on – “AI language is deeply rooted in the tradition of automated writing and owes quite a lot, conceptually, to Beatnik experimentation and the kind of poetry that many would say “isn’t poetry” (is she referring to the long-healed schism between traditional forms and free verse, “Modernism” and “Postmodernism”, first enacted by Allen’s mentor, Ezra Pound, (“to break the pentameter, that was the first heave”) here?)
“Beatnik”, incidentally is a terrible word (has it been unthinkingly deposited into the Ginsberg word hoard?) standing diametrically opposed to anything and everything Allen stood for. It’s a kitsch coinage and a scornful coinage. Even the self-conscious “Beat” (from Huncke, Kerouac, Clellon Holmes) is, despite his propagandizing for it, paradoxically, not truly part of Allen’s lexicon.
Stiles’ note concludes (fervently pitching the pro-AI side):
Poet of steel and brick visiting the old haunts –
you stood beside me dead-still in a profound kind of
staring quietly at the accompaniment of lives suspended
across the backyard of America’s dream
Clotheslines strung like verse catching the wind of change,
raw words on the horizon
We were two sunflowers editing eternity,
no sunset salvation of nightfall over the restless river,
just mad gray shadows and eyes aflame with beauty.
All I wanted was to escape, run off and write a mile wide.
Ah, Jack! You own your own myth –
petals hellbent in the smoke of the ever ending sky.
Stiles spotlights the phrase “Clotheslines strung like verse”.
Cliche and clunkiness, amorphous alliteration – seems to us like AI still has a long long way to go.
“Electric Blue” by the Pioneers Go East Collective takes place tonight – if you happen to be anywhere near Troy, New York – 5 to 7. “Electric Blue: is described as “a durational performance installation” inspired by Allen. “A meditation on creative agency and censorship, it celebrates past and present LGBTQ resilience in pursuit artistic freedom”
A cross-disciplinary project, it was devised in collaboration with three solo performing artists – Daniel Diaz, Alexa Grae and Joey Kipp. Installation and concept by creative director Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte
If you miss tonight’s performance (and it is short-notice!) there’ll be a repeat on Saturday, October 7, from 2pm to 4pm. Audience members can arrive anytime during these open hours and stay as long as they like.