Metalogos isn’t such a scream

Dear Scream Literary Festival,

Thank you for wasting my time. I know artsy types are usually late and start times are flexible. That’s why I arrived at the Metalogos reading half an hour after the posted start time of 5pm. The nice lady at the door then said that the performances by Paul Dutton, Nobuo Kubota, W. Mark Sutherland and Darren Wershler-Henry wouldn’t be for another hour and a half. Since some homeless dude was hogging the wine, I vowed to be as cavalier about the works of textual art as you were with my time.

Also, I am providing a handy ratio for the works of art reviewed. The ratio shows how well a piece works without the help of its write-up in the nice little Metalogos pamphlet. For example, if a work gets a 10:0 that’s good because it’s all about art and not about the ideas behind the work (hence the zero part). I’d say anything from the 10:1 to 10:6 is good. From 10:7 to 10:10 the artist is starting to bug me because I don’t care that he’s read Derrida, Barthes, Lacan or Heidegger and that one/all these thinkers continue to give the artist nightmares/hard-ons. Once we get to 10:11 or 10:12, the write-up means more than the art does. The artist might as well just tell me about her idea over drinks with the homeless dude.

Let’s start with Christian Bök’s Bibliomechanics, a bunch of Rubik’s cubes with words on each cube. When stacked they make sentences, but only when read from left to right. The write-up says that the “reader can, theoretically, scramble each cube in order to produce an alternative permutation.” Whether the permutation reads as cogently as the one on display is a mystery. Maybe Bök will roll the cubes as part of his performance. I’ll never know. I was excited about this piece as I usually am with the schemas Bök cooks up for his literary explorations, like his very successful Eunoia. Bök may not be playing with the metaphorical tennis net that Frost was referring to, but the parameters that the Toronto writer sets for his works are impressive. The content of Bibliomechanics—in today’s permutation at least—left me cold. It seemed like your regular Dada/Futurist/Po-Mo stuff about violence, freedom and possibility. Rating 10:6.

Paul Dutton’s The Plastic Typewriter looks like something from the 70’s. Rating 10:9.

When I saw Nobuo Kubota’s piece with the phrases “being Being,” “I AM” and “IT IS” repeated, I was put right off. The title, which is God, Zen and Heidegger, clinched it. Oh, please! Rating 10:10.

Timeslide by Beth Learn is the first eight lines of Yeats’ “The Second Coming” translated into blocks. How one part of poem merits a block taller than another part is explained in the write-up. The “height variable” is determined by “the mean or average syllabic values per measure.” Since this cleared up nothing, I tried to puzzle out what was really going on with another gallery-goer. The man was more ambitious than I.

“Maybe we have to look at it phonetically,” he said.

“Sure,” I said. I understood the words he used but had no idea what he was talking about.

“Or maybe the tamberal,” he said losing me completely.

Rating 10:11. (I hope Beth Learn digs my rating ratios as I tried to make them as useful as her height variables.)

Sylvia Ptak offers Cypher Part 1 and Cypher Part 2, which could also be called, Honey, I blew up the letter and Honey, I shrunk the letter, respectively. Cypher Part 1 looks like a letter written in the most illegible cursive. Metallic filaments represent the “words.” Cypher Part 2 is where Cypher Part 1 got its start. Part 2 is a letter shrunk to the size of a business card; its writing is illegible cursive. These two pieces work. Hell, they work well. Don’t read the write-up. Rating 10:2.

Oh, look at the time. The reading has probably started by now. Hope it goes well.

Sincerely,

Matthew

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