Monday, June 15, 2009

Some Thoughts on Tan Lin's BLIPSOAK01

I've been meaning to post this since I started this blog. It was meant to be published quite some time ago, but even when it was written it was a bit late. However then I still had the excuse that BLIPSOAK01 was Lin's last full-length publication, but now there is HEATH (PLAGIARISM OUTSOURCE), which I must get a copy of.
I've mentioned Lin's work in several conversions online recently, so here's the review.

Tan Lin’s latest full-length book, BLIPSOAK01, [Ed: not any more.]like 1999’s Lotion Bullwhip Giraffe (Sun & Moon), draws on those realms opened up by practitioners such as Bruce Andrews and Steve McCaffery. However this book breaks new ground in its genre through its manifestation as what Lin describes in the preface as an “extended play (e. p.) poem” employing theory that draws not only on the work of the Toronto Research Group and ‘language oriented/centred’ poets, but also the work of Kenneth Goldsmith. Goldsmiths theory[1] is echoed in Lin’s preface: “The poem is born out of our mutual dis-interest” (15) and again “the most beautiful page makes you look away accidentally from what you were reading (13)[2]”. However Lin, rather than following Goldsmith’s mantra adapted from the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler that “the world is full of texts, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more" (“Being Boring”), Lin’s ‘boredom’ is rooted not in repetition and non-interventionism but in a-semantics and banality.

In this way one can reconcile the creative output contained in Lin’s work with a pseudo-goldsmith-esque aesthetic of boredom through a dismissal of conventional economies of interest and information in favour of production of response through the privileging of surfaces, repetition, sonority and textual slippage. Thus the poem is carried along by affect and plastic tonality in a propulsion of starts and stops, staggering passages and smooth surfaces.

The poem extends for over 300 printed pages, operating as around 150 two-page splashes, with the lines of text extending over the centrefold. This typographical twitch creates a new plane operating in a similar way to a line-break, an awkward pause of misconstruance and half meaning:

I open the vanish and try to recover the cancer[/] ‘s instructions (126-7).

(note - the gap won't appear here. it's where the [/] is)

It is this awkwardness and start-stop kinesis that informs the trancelike unthinkingness that Lin describes as boredom, the page that is to be “experienced at the synaptic level, which is the level of looking” and thus the experience of reading becomes “very very easy and relaxing”.

Thus there are 300/150 pages of extended ‘un-boring [pseudo-] boredom’, the poem flitting from the opaque plasticity of:

gon___ist ______________ me’enr

ati _____tennis 55 w;______ kio’s ____st98

so mor3#

youl essen _____ ilt ________(148-9)

into faux-lyricism reminiscent of writers such as Lyn Hejinian and Myung Mi Kim.

Here the process of reading is informed by dislocation and juxtaposition, starts and stops, the not said and the almost said. The reader’s consciousness flits across the surfaces, making connections and basking in the almost-meaning and meandering sprawl of repetitions:

Somewhere, it begins to rain, somewhere

it begins to be boring

If it is February, I wrote of your clutter

If it is February, you are listening at the door where snow is falling (104-5)

the reader is invited to read (non-) meaning or enjoy the poem’s surfaces as a field of play. The poem’s “extended” nature creates manifold openings, hollows and creases in this surface, allowing for reading/play as a series of constructions and deconstructions of conflicting (mis-)readings, interacting, contradicting and rubbing up against one another.

The poem is a constant, and a flow. The reader can step in and out at will, and re-reading/re-turning offers new experiences and (non-)meanings, as the “content” is not fixed-dogmatic-finite. This way the economy of reading exits the closed system where meaning production can exhaust itself, into new, empty openness.

[1] for example his essay “Being Boring”, available through Goldsmith’s author page on the EPC at

[2] Lin’s critical work on goldsmith can also be accessed through the EPC

Wow. when I cut and paste, footnotes come too. Good to know.


There is an interview re HEATH.... here, and a review here. Thanks to Tan for the links.


tan lin said...

Hey thanks for the review! which I enjoyed!

here's a link to the Heath book, I'm generating a second revised edition based on various imported feeds, the interview below, Twitter feeds, and other online commentary.

here are some links, please post if you feel so inclined. there's a review coming up on otoliths

Interview about Heath: Plagiarism/Outsource by Kristen Gallagher, Chris Alexander, and Gordon Tapper for Galatea Resurects:

Review of Heath: Plagiarism/Outsource by Eileen Tabios

Ross Brighton said...

Cool, glad you liked it. I'll post those links soon.
I'm looking to order a copy of Heath as soon as funding permits.
And i ordered a copy of Ambience is a novel with a logo, but it seems it was misplaced or somesuch. a pity.

Kieran Daly said...

Blipsoak01 makes beautiful bedtime reading.

If I could, contribute some of my own thoughts on this fantastic work:

• What does it mean for a work to be 'ambient'? Blipsoak01, quite a dense work (high frequency of sampling, length, continuousness, etc), which perhaps contributes to its ambient nature. This makes me wonder, is there a certain density that makes an environment or space phenomenally 'ambient'? Discotheques, malls, airports, SMS .. such beautifully ambient structures, all of which inherently contain immense multiplicites. I wonder, how does ambience function on a micro-level? Is it possible? (the non-place of ambience?) Are these multitudes of affects evoked by a certain 'recipe' or amount of gesture to constitute a discursively ambient environment?

• I was also considering the tracking system in Blipsoak. The numerical 'markers', the indications of duration, etc. I see these functioning as latent chronotopic displacements; the duration of each word, duration of negative space on the right (or left) page and entry-point within the text, the time between my closing the book and opening again (or leaving it open). This also makes me think about the trajectory/tract of other books considering a specific chrono-frame work or structure. Ulysses, Warhol's 'only novel' a: A Novel, Pepys's Diary? All very strong works of durational material. Heath deals with this as well. I have been likening Blipsoak in similarity to a CD being played in a space. I think this makes it a work of infinite playback, in a sense.