Patrick Herron

p r o x i m a t e

A few minutes ago, just before I started writing this note about my website, p r o x i m a t e, I was listening to a Robert Creeley reading. Creeley said that the big challenge for a writer is keeping fresh.

He also mentions that it can be unfair to generalize the artwork of some people.

And then I was reading the first chapter of Marjorie Perloff’s Radical Artifice that says things like,

What is a "natural" as opposed to a "puffed up" way of singing to an audience accustomed to VCRs, FAX machines, Walkmans, laser printers, cellular phones, answering machines, computer games, and video terminals?


sexual punning and double entendre


dialogue is to suppose a third man and seek to exclude him.

What if writing supposes only a second person, you, and the writing apparently seeks to converse with you, while at the same time tries to exclude you? What if this supposition is already being employed? What if dialogue were forced to assume only one person, and seek to exclude them while seeming to include them? Perhaps this apparent dialogue then is not dialogue at the same time.

Machine work, the appearance of machines you can never get close to. Your life is filled with such experiences, even if you are Amish. You may never enter the space of this absent speaker. Machines, writing, web pages. Technologies all. The produce of the union of humans and tools, the work of the fully opposable thumb attached to a lump of grey matter.

What is writing? Is it so different than that which often supposes only the second person who is then measured for exclusion? Writing supposes an audience and invites it (if it is judged worthy of reading). Or, at the very least, I've been instructed via words that writing is supposed to adhere to this supposition.

Does writing need to adhere to this? Sometimes it just automatically adheres to the supposition of a second person, without anyone trying to make such an effort. But sometimes, no, writing does not make such an effort, and it may not even need to. Perhaps the very effort would eliminate the communication of such a point of view altogether. One can try to do something outside what the elimination of the second person does or even tries to do. (Here is a tension, a story of seemingly opposed forces.) Or the writer can make the supposition and exclusion of anyone other than the writer seem offensive, seem like he or she is just making too many assumptions about you from the start.

What if you were to encounter writing that mocks the mode of supposing engagement, the sort of textual engagement that discourages engagement as it engages you? Is not the Internet steeped in this tension itself, or even the explosion of such a tension? Can the reader of material that mocks this tension get a better view of the internet world of distant absent database developers and designers making a more personalized version of the most extreme form of impersonal? Yes, I think the view of the cold distance is somewhat improved, the remoteness and the low temperatures can be felt or witnessed on the internet, in the writing, recording, and images of p r o x i m a t e. Or at least this is my hope.

When you encounter the technologies of the Internet and even text itself, there is no one there. Or is there someone there? Can you not believe that the very person(s) who created the work still endures in the artifact in some fashion or other? (Another tension).

Tensions multiply. Tensions, artifacts of writing itself.

Isn't narrative supposed to depend upon conflict? What is a story without two or more forces that encounter each other? Written ideological and emotional conflicts alone can provide narrative, despite possible unusual appearances. When a focus of a written work is the enveloping and seemingly inescapable conflict, the confounding machine that runs the technology of the written word can explode, and you might then be able to rub the belly of the cat that escapes.

Within the technology of writing and the technology of the Internet there is a tension. What is a word if it does not cross time, does not cross to a person? The notion of communication, of bridging a little understood space seems to be one challenge of writing. Perhaps in some sense each reading is a remembrance and each writing is a prayer to be remembered in some other place, in some other time. Perhaps they are for endurance. Perhaps they are all narratives of something or other.

Reducing the Internet to metaphor with the Internet, with writing seems a worthy cause. The Internet doesn’t quite match up to the myth most people seem to accept almost blindly – the myth that the Internet is setting us free, making our world a better place to live in. So in reducing the Internet to a metaphor of itself, technology is encouraged to eat itself. Oddly enough, something might endure.

With p r o x i m a t e, I attempted to create something fresh, that speaks through the digital age and the computer as metaphor, something that uses double entendre, sexual punning, and confrontationalism, to point to the alienated status of the second person produced not only by personalized websites but also by writing itself. I try to point to this not only by deriding such problems but also by seeking to escape them, through trying to depend on rudimentary elements of narrative produced by tension.

In the end was the flesh, and the flesh was made word.

This sounds perhaps vague or maybe even from another planet. If you would like perhaps another excuse for the creation of this anti-augury gallery hallway website, please take a moment or two to read more about p r o x i m a t e.

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