This is my pedagogical moment

Mark Amerika

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Mark Amerika’s artwork has been exhibited internationally at venues such as the Whitney Biennial of American Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and the Walker Art Center. In 2009-2010, The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece, hosted Amerika’s comprehensive retrospective exhibition entitled UNREALTIME. In 2009, Amerika released Immobilité, generally considered the first feature-length art film ever shot on a mobile phone. He is the author of many books including The Kafka Chronicles (FC2), Sexual Blood (FC2), remixthebook (University of Minnesota Press—, META/DATA: A Digital Poetics (The MIT Press), remixthecontext (Routledge), and Locus Solus (An Inappropriate Translation Composed in a 21st Century Manner) (Counterpath Press). His transmedia art work, Museum of Glitch Aesthetics, was commissioned by the Abandon Normal Devices Festival in conjunction with the London 2012 Olympics. Selected as a Time Magazine 100 Innovator, Amerika is a University of Colorado Professor of Distinction where he is the Founding Director of the Doctoral Program in Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance in the College of Media, Communication and Information and a Professor of Art and Art History. Amerika is also the Founding Publisher of both the Alt-X Online Publishing Network (1993-Present) and the electronic book review. More information can found at his website, and at his Twitter/Instagram feed @markamerika.

* * *

This is my pedagogical moment
Standing before thousands of fans
Inside the roaring stadium
All of my students
Throughout the decades
Sitting in the bleachers
Cheering me on 

My lecture today
Is not a lecture
In fact I have no words
Only my fear of not playing
Or being unable to step up to the task
Although what that task is
I really can’t say

I’m a Professor of Art
And moreover I am also
A Professor of Distinction
Someone who turns to instinct
When improvising an unconscious riff
On the Artist as Fictional Persona

That is today’s topic
I belch to the anxious crowd
But my instincts disappear
The moment I stand before them
And the noise is worse than deafening
It actually bursts my eardrums

As the blood runs down my neck
I see the canines of a colleague
Who has no use for me
Just as I have no use for them
And it becomes apparent to me
That they are here to evaluate me
To report back to the authorities
On the quality of my performance
And this is untenable for a number of reasons

First because this colleague
Has reached orgasm 
In my presence
Many times before 
But in a different life
Under different light
Where the soft touches 
Turned intermittent shadow
Into photosynthetic blush
As we rushed 
Toward mutual climax

Why they are evaluating me now
After all these years 
When both of us have died
And our faces are inscribed
On the walls that divide 
All of the studio areas 
Into subdisciplines
That have nothing to do
With each other
Just like we too
Had nothing to do with each other
I have no idea

But there’s no time to reflect
For now I’m ready to speak
And without even thinking about it
I say what’s on my mind
Declaring that I have no discipline
That I am only here to resist
The creative conformity 
Neoliberal institutions demand
From their subservient disciplinarians
And I know this is no way to speak
To my students but I do so anyway
Detailing the kind of hushed insider baseball
The socially mediated professoriate 
Overshares while posting their grievances
On to whatever fast disappearing platform
Happens to make itself available to them

Actually I’m not sure that I say any of this
To the students who no longer care
What I say to them
And who are really interested 
In who likes their nascent selfie
As well as what concrete results
My splendid vocalizations 
Will produce for them
As they construct their flux identities
For the all-encompassing attention economy
That their future reputations will depend on
For even barest bones sustenance

Of course none of this stops me
From telling them what I am thinking today
About what it means to be an artist
i.e. that acknowledging
An allegiance to a specific medium
Is the absolute worst way 
To identify as an artist
And that it might be best to not identify
As an artist at all

This doesn’t mean you should identify
As an anti-artist because
As Duchamp reminds us
An anti-artist is just another kind of artist

What you want to become
I bloviate to the shifting mass 
Waving their spirit fingers
At whatever avatar abstraction 
They choose to see in me
While standing in their seats—
What you want to become
Is something more precious
Than an anti-artist
Something that resists 
Categorization itself

What you want to become
Is what Duchamp referred to as
An anartist
i.e. no artist at all

An anartist

And in your case —
I say to them all
As if they were 
A Technological Singularity
Forming a Unifed Selfie
Theorizing Relativity —
Identifying as no artist at all
Will forever set you free

As I end my sermon 
From the mount of disapproval
Ceremonial bells and whistles
Start blaring through the stadium
And the animals pour out of the gates


Artist Statement

Mark Amerika’s poem, “This is my pedagogical moment,” is part of a new artwork, a 3D video animation titled Auto-Beatnik. Auto-Beatnik features a fictional ACI (artificial creative intelligence) that doubles as an avatar of the avant-garde whose infinite and generative spoken word poetry performance takes on many of the critical issues that define our current technological, social, and political moment. The 3D avatar, modeled after the artist’s own facial image, is programmed to deploy a remix and cut-up method similar to the work of William Burroughs whose work Amerika’s art is often compared to.

In 1962, R.M. Worthy created Auto-Beatnik, possibly the first computational poetry generator. Now almost 60 years later, Amerika’s latest work unveils a customized poetic language that invites the viewer to imagine the future of 21st century art and literature while operating as an homage to both Burroughs and Worthy’s historical work of machine-built literature.

In Amerika’s new work, the 3-D poet-as-imaginary-digital-object reads from a selection of poems written by Amerika, of which This is my pedagogical moment is one. There are also randomly generated poetic digressions as well as philosophical and theoretical musings about what it means to train oneself to become a spoken word poet who, once plugged in and turned on, begins to experience performance immortality.

“Mark Amerika not only plays music — the rhythm, the sound of his words and sentences,” writes literary icon and Burroughs acolyte Kathy Acker, “he plays verbal meanings as if they’re music. I’m not just talking about music. Amerika is showing us that William Burroughs came out of jazz knowledge and that now everything’s political — and everything’s coming out through the lens of sexuality.”