Monday, March 01, 2010

Nikki Reimer: on erasure and erasure and erasure

Alex Leslie and Elizabeth Bachinsky’s Blackout at the Candahar erasure project has got us all thinking about the poetics of erasure over here, so it seemed like a good time to pull Radi os off the shelf and give it a whirl.

In 1976, in the storied tradition of erasure poetics, Ronald Johnson pulled an 1892 edition of Paradise Lost off the shelf at a Seattle bookstore and began removing. In the introduction he writes “It is the book Blake gave me.” Were I so motivated I’d have also dug out some Milton to compare to Radi os, but I’m not, and in truth I’m not certain that it matters. Radi os is the Paradise Lost that the 20th century deserved. It is the Paradise Lost I’d have rather read in that first year English survey course, it is elegant and elegaic.

Erasure is an appropriate topic and method for the city of Vancouver, as others have explored. It’s a city that has been constantly/consistently under erasure: from the removal of First Peoples from their lands and the attempted erasure of their culture to the internment camps to the real estate speculation that has driven this town since the beginning.

Also at the Candahar, on February 22, Gregory Betts read from his latest Pedlar Press book, The Others Raisd in Me: 150 Readings of Sonnet 150. A project of erasure and translation and rewriting, The Others Raisd in Me misreads each of the 14 lines of Shakespeare’s sonnet 150. The work examines ideas of selfhood from the 17th century into the present, flirting with a cyborgian future; Shakespeare filtered through Haraway.

I like erasure as a project for our time. What with social media and smart phone technology, everyone has become a producer, a writer, and artist. We are overrun with text. Maybe the best poetic response right now is to delete.

(Thanks Alex Leslie for the image above)

Nikki Reimer wants to perform erasure on her biography.
(Photo: Rory Zerbe)


Lemon Hound said...

Well yes, the delete = silence. One of the west coast traits I am least enamored of is the tendency toward erasure of critical thinking with the positivity gesture.

I very, very much like positive thinking, but not when it erases everything else as it seems to.

Felt that as soon as the plane hit the ground.

nikki reimer said...

That's interesting. I've personally experienced that phenomenon much more in Calgary than in Vancouver, but the last two weeks of Olympic nuttiness has perhaps skewed things.

I'm more interested in the use of erasure to re-appropriate and re-write corporate speak, government speak, marketing language, etc. Take away in order to reveal.

VanessaP said...

The excess = erasure gesture is the motivation behind its use in conceptual poetics (see Bervin's Nets and Heart of Darkness pieces); do you think this holds for non-conceptual use of the same technique, or do you think it is prompted by other concerns? Mat Timmons uses erasure in Credit(blacking out portions of credit offers and dunning letters) though not in a revelatory sense--more overtly censorial, obliterating points of particular interest. The anti-peephole. The egs you cite are all iconic texts, however. Am curious about erasure viz the quotidian, which seems fairly obfuscated as is.

Michael Turner said...

Daniel Zomparelli said...

We used the erasure method in the class I teach in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and the ideas that came forth helped a lot of the students deal with the Olympics in ways unexpected. I will continue to teach this method in my class. Awesome.

Lemon Hound said...

Wish I would have caught that show, Michael...but this led to the Cap Review issue, right? It's great.