Implicit in the title of this collection is a ceremony of disintegration: shattering, fragmentation. A shedding of time. A shaking loose of the bonds of linearity and sequence. An immediacy of contact with the tools of construction so lucid and unsullied by the seductions of the future and the burdens of the past that the writing becomes a continuous doing and undoing, a joyful participation in the creation of a strange new alphabet of illimitable occurrence, a fetus of meaning in a placenta of ink.
The presentation is twofold: writing as writing (sentences, laminations, thought, “an undulant mind on soft display“), and concrete poetry -- letters arranged in eccentric patterns of visual energy. The writing is playful, probing, and provocative; sentences in paratactic leapfrog with their teasing proposals: “what restrains a superpower after guilt has lost its charm”; “as a windowsill is a place for elbows, so should a beach be a horizontal wonderment with the diesel fumes of military aggression”; “an unplugged brain is more dangerous than any taxpayer.” The emphasis with both strategies -- abstract and concrete, linguistic and visual -- is to advance an experience with language that becomes an ongoing textual genesis, Stein’s “continuous present.” It is also highly entertaining. Vassilakis is a funny guy, a postmodern Socrates with a quizzical cue stick.
This tendency toward showcasing the implements and machinery of language -- what Charles Bernstein calls “the desire for writing to be the end of its own activity, its very thatness” -- is most abundantly available in Vassilakis’s sections of concrete poetry. For instance, the configurations of letters displayed in the section titled “Rubber,” such as the entity on page 136 consisting of Os and Hs and Gs and Ss and Ts (which could spell the word ‘ghosts’ any number of times) (the letters are, in fact, rather pale) resembles some sort of wiggly-wobbly creature from the alphabet lagoon; Jean Tinguely’s Cyclops comes to mind, as do the Martians from War of the Worlds.
Wittgenstein wrote that “philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday.” In Text Loses Time, language is on a holiday from time: sequence, servility, routine. We enter a hall of mirrors where words refer to one another. Where words bump one another like bumper cars, lean into the dark, return us to trance, the means by which we meander. Most importantly, it provides (I am drawing this quote from the Afterword by Nick Piombino)”, “an exit from the current pervasive cultural tendency to employ meaning and visual space according to needs and desire for personal advantage, corporate profit and social control… refuge in the microscopic details of immediate, unfiltered visual and internal perception…”
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