Gag and Clog

I thought I’d share a post about Gag and Clog, two books that were published by Inside the Castle, one (Gag) featuring collaged images by John Trefry, the other, (Clog) featuring images by New Juche, and editorial cutups by Sean Kilpatrick. These books are odd, and I’ll be the first to tell you that there are things within both of them that I don’t really understand. I was thinking about that lately, after going over some notes for a powerpoint presentation for a class I’m teaching, and I figured it might be fleshed out a bit here. Basically, the idea is that in writing, or any artform, the creator of the work is navigating this balance of control, and a lack of control, or a “zone of anarchy,” (I believe this is in an essay by Lazar, from the book Bending Genre) and it’s something that came up a lot in creating both of these books. Gag began as a cutup and rearrangement of some deadend stories I had, and I basically kept cutting and adding things about ritual and this sort of insane sadistic basement in a house owned by a sort of psychopath/pervert, and kept digging away at that until I had something sort of in the shape of a book. There are a lot of blacked out sections because a lot of the book made me very uncomfortable to write. I’d seen Gary Lutz use strikethrough on a story in Partial List of People to Bleach, and I thought why not push that farther? Thus Gag was born. Clog had a stranger history. I’d worked with the musician Lorn for awhile on what was to be a collaborative effort. He was releasing a series of albums called The Maze to Nowhere, and I was writing something to accompany the release. What I came up with was a user’s manual for a saw that couldn’t exist. It was a perfect saw, made in the future, and the manual had gone out to one user who became obsessed with the saw and began fusing his body with the machine and cutting off parts of himself and burying them in the woods surrounding this shed he lived in. It was based on the idea of Robert Kusmirowski’s Unacabine, to an extent, which is a recreation of the Unabomber’s cabin put in the middle of a gallery. I thought it would be interested if somebody went into isolation like that, but their only violence was directed at themselves, but they saw it as just as potentially revolutionary as how the Unabomber saw what he did. It’s a strange line of thinking, but again with reference back to that idea of a “zone of anarchy” in art I thought I could just pursue it and trust that something new might result. John Trefry, the publisher of Inside the Castle, was also very helpful in letting me pursue whatever avenue seemed appropriate. I cut things up, then, and translated things, and added and subtracted and appropriated and tried new things. The things scared me. Gag and Clog both scare me a little bit because I gave up control during parts of their composition and didn’t attempt to get it back. That’s what I mean by a zone of anarchy. I think it’s important for art to try scary things and to possibly fail along the way to get something new. I think of the Lil Ugly Mane line “a lot of rappers put their work in so you could be clever,” like all the weird books put out by FC2, and the fact that they basically established the possibility so that bad writers like George Saunders could take that precedent and write Lincoln in the Bardo. I’m interested in trying things that make me uncomfortable, then, in the hope that a fuller art can result down the road, whether I write it or not. These books, then, thanks to John Trefry, are an attempt to embrace scary things and publish them anyway. There are things I’d probably change if I were to look at them with a critical eye, but I don’t want to because they weren’t based on the desire to create a product. They were based on the desire to follow a feeling all the way through. I think I did that. I think Gag is an interesting-looking book, at the very least, and I think that Clog features some of the most beautiful photographs I’ve ever seen, by New Juche, and I guess that’s all that matters. If you want to read either book, I would appreciate it. GAG CLOG

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