"To move the work is to destroy the work." ~ Richard Serra

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maximus, Ezra Pound & Envelopes

It bears mentioning that situation is a loose term. It's easy to call whatever you want a situation. I suppose when I write about it, it means a great deal more than just the elementary diagram I drew on the board (external forces->neutral stimulus->result), but it is also fairly subjective. To artists, it remains a medium through which they can make points. Avant garde art in particular utilizes the situation to express their beliefs and opinions. I see it as the point in which you cannot discern any more from the physical entity and its naked information.
Today I am going to mention some things about Charles Olson's "Maximus Poems" (which will surely have more written about it in weeks to come).
Ezra Pound's poem "The Cantos" shows its influence a great deal in Olson's work. "The Cantos" is noted to be written in dissections, making it difficult for the reader to discern some information. That is largely situational, being that once you can no longer derive information from the words themselves, the situation at hand becomes largely where we draw conclusions from.
That being noted, one of the dissimilarities that we note between Pound and Olson is Olson's production of his own poem. Both are largely concerned with geographic locality, but Olson produced much of his work in various places. For instance, he wrote poems sporadically and on the spot, maybe on an envelope or whatever was at hand at that particular moment in time, that situation. That fact right there shows how Olson's work uses situation as crux. Without it, his work would hardly be as profound as it is said to be.
It also adds to the sense of discontinuity that is so obvious in both Pound and Olson's work.
I'd like to take a look at some even more recent examples of this discontinuity that is so present in both their work, another work in which situation and historical situation both have an impact on the works overall meaning.
The portrait of "Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis" shown at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art provides (not purposely) one of the best examples of art that relies heavily on situation. It appears to be normal at first, but look closely and notice the child in the backdrop that was painted over during its production. After years and years, the child has shown through phantom-like and it brings almost all the allure to the painting. In fact, without it, it is a very boring portrait. Who knows why the child was painted over. All we know is that this painting's success lies heavily in situation, much as Olson's poem does.
The image of the painting is at the top if there's any interest.

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