One must soberly ask, in light of the enthusiastic rhetoric that surrounds new forms of postmodern audience participation: are these forms of “agency” designed to empower the listener, creatively or critically, or merely offer the simulated (“technical”) illusion thereof? The mimetic replication of urban and post-industrial noises reinscribes the very determinisms that all art forms both inherit and strive to overcome, and while on a neurological level the ear enjoys assimilating unfamiliar sounds, and harsh noises generated from dissonance, punk, heavy metal or electronic music, can induce an “unpleasing” cerebral pleasure, the sustained withholding of aural pleasure from the listener may be the last insidiously lingering form of 21st century authoritarian “control” of all.
“Urban poetics” takes place at the ripped seam of these intersecting discourses of inside/outside, self/other, “objective”/”subjective” realities, which adhere on the level of individual cognition, spatial orientation, sensation, and judgment, and therefore can’t be codified or defined. It can, however, be reintroduced into poetic discourse, as a bridge to begin the work of looking “outward,” in terms of praxis or politics, rather than just “inward,” in terms of theory and aesthetics, again.
The assemblage of the following thirteen texts, poems, and videos was inspired by Paul Gauguin’s painting in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts entitled “D’ou Venons Nous/Que Sommes Nous/Ou Allons Nous” (“Where Do We Come From/ What Are We/ Where Are We Going?”), and also by Brigitte Schuster’s photo-documentary project objet d’ailleurs.
“The world is often not what it seems, and so a poem that indexes the seeming world is bound to be mistaken. That’s great. Our perceptual limitations are, I think, fascinating and moving. Moving in both senses: they stir up emotion, and also are in the process of changing.”