Mark Amerika has exhibited his artwork in many venues including the Whitney Biennial, the Walker Art Center, the Denver Art Museum, and the American Museum of the Moving Image. He has had four early career retrospectives including the first-ever net art retrospective in the summer of 2001 at the ACA Media Arts Plaza in Tokyo, Japan, and later that year at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. A cult novelist, media theorist, web publisher, and VJ artist who has performed internationally, Amerika is the author of many books including his recently published collection of artist writings entitled META/DATA: A Digital Poetics (The MIT Press) and a new novel 29 Inches (Chiasmus Press). He is currently writing and directing a series of feature length “foreign films” scheduled to be released in various formats as part of a new body of work entitled the Foreign Film Series. Amerika is a Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Colorado at Boulder. More information can be found at his website, www.markamerika.com
DH: What projects are you currently working on?
MA: Last summer I was an artist-in-residence in the Cornwall region of England. I decided that I wanted to create a “feature-length” film shot entirely on mobile phone and that I would create it in the tradition of the art-house cinema of the past. I put together a small cast and crew, began experimenting with a Nokia N95, and soon we were in production developing what will soon be released as a 75 minute digital film that philosophically explores the aesthetic interests of the two central characters (who I dub “Etc.” and “…”).
I am also working on a new book of artist poetics I am titling “Remixology” and that I occasionally publish excerpts from on my Professor VJ blog (found at http://professorvj.blogspot.com)
DH: Can you tell us a bit more about your blog?
MA: I started the blog in January 2006. At first, I was just going to link to some interesting new work I found on the web, but soon I was using the blog medium as an arbitrary constraint to trigger x amount of writing on a weekly basis. As it grew, various notes, ideas, phrasings, and responses to cultural events were starting to cohere into a kind of philosophy or artist theory focused on remixology, i.e. the study of remix culture and the tendency of cultural producers of all backgrounds to become postproduction artists. My next book will essentially be a remix of my blog.
DH: When and why did you begin writing?
MA: As a kid, I was always reading and writing. My love of language and the creative process is deeply embedded. I don’t know why that is. Why does someone get into acting? There must be some kind of will-to-aestheticize, to hack into the abstract culture one inherits. Bataille wrote that the reason he writes is simple, i.e. “not to be mad” (as in “going mad”) and Cocteau referred to writing as a “sickness”. I prefer a healthier connotation: I write to keep in shape. To stay aesthetically fit.
DH: What inspired you to write your first book?
MA: Whereas it’s true that most published writers conceive of their writing as prose, poetry, creative non-fiction, memoir, novel, short story, etc., and then produce work that can result in a specific book context, when I was first writing, I was approaching language as source material to experiment with as a kind of performance. There was no inspiration in the traditional sense of that word and containing these genre-busting writing performances in a book was not a projected outcome. I was “playing to play,” as Ornette Coleman once said in relation to his jazz sounds. The fact that a book would eventually emerge was beside the point. In fact, my first book, The Kafka Chronicles, was referred to in the mainstream press as an anti-novel. And yet on the cover, it said “a novel.” Well, which one was it? Probably neither. In today’s parlance, we could call it an extended remix.
DH: Who or what has influenced your writing?
MA: Too many to name, but in the remixology book, I am presently focusing on writers and artists whose own postproduction practice was front and center, provocateurs such as Kathy Acker, Ron Sukenick, William Burroughs, and the 19th century proto-plagiarist and writerly-DJ Isadore Ducasse aka Count Lautreamont. With those four writers alone, you get appropriation, sampling/remixing, metafiction, and pla(y)giarism.
DH: What book are you reading now?
MA: Vilem Flusser’s “Toward A Philosophy of Photography” (for the fourth time). It’s a pre-Internet inquiry into the way humans are turning to “ritual magic” in a post-historical context. According to Flusser, images are taking over the world and are controlled by apparatuses that challenge humans to remain human. He envisions a world where writing disappears and the robots take over. At first, the robots are external to human experience. Even though we are the ones responsible for creating them, it’s as if we don’t see them coming. Slowly but surely, things “progress.” Humans program the robots to do things. The robots get better and better at doing them and soon are able to begin programming the humans. The humans start losing their will-to-aestheticize, their innate need to do things intentionally, and eventually become robots themselves. Apparently, Flusser considered his speculations a kind of anti-philosophy and privately referred to them as science-fiction.
About the author:
David F. Hoenigman is the author of Burn Your Belongings.