I’m thrilled to have Shonni Enelow and Steve Reinke here. Reading through their work this week, I got more and more excited by the ways in which it overlaps and differs and how interestingly it might resonate in this room tonight. Both Enelow and Reinke are artist-writers, whose particular forms of engagement with the work and lives of others constantly grapple with the fact that there are aspects of art (and people) that remain forever insoluble, but also, that there are aspects that come to perception ONLY by employing more imaginative strategies like drama, poetry, or fiction to create, as Reinke writes, “parallel dialogues.”
It’s the concept of parallel dialogues that, for me, brings their work into relation, though their approaches differ drastically. Shonni, who’ll be reading first tonight, satirically dramatizes intellectual culture and its channels of discourse, while carving out a space of real appreciation for particular figures and their contribution not only to literary and philosophical history, but also to our personal lives. Her work exposes and literally plays with/within the insanely complicated territory that the representation of living or once living people, herself included, dictates. It inhabits and enlivens the space between fiction and fact.
“When you have a lover, you don’t want to understand him or her completely. You want there to be a centimeter of the unknowable. In that empty space you draw portraits of the two of you together. These portraits are not collages. You are not you plus the other person but rather this third, strange thing. Without the empty centimeter that third thing would be impossible. This is also the reason that no translation should attempt perfect fidelity to the original. And why studying things does not mean unmasking them as if to lay them bare, but rather opening a space for the revelation of that centimeter of inscrutable emptiness, which is the possibility of love.”
(from “My Dinner with Bernard Frechtman” by Shonni Enelow)
Shonni Enelow is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Her play Carla and Lewis, developed with The Ecocide Project, premiered at the Incubator Arts Project in New York in March, 2011. Her solo performance piece, My Dinner with Bernard Frechtman, premiered at The Invisible Dog art center in April, 2010, and was the keynote performance at the American Literary Translators Association conference; she is currently completing a companion piece, Otto Fenichel Presents. She is currently the theater curator of Brooklyn’s Invisible Dog Art Center, and a Visiting Artist in the Theater department at Carnegie Mellon University.
Please welcome Shonni Enelow.
The first video of Steve Reinke’s that I ever saw, is a piece called “Andy.” In “Andy,” a man, whose name I assume is Andy, begins to masturbate in front of the camera. Moving around throughout his clean, well-decorated living room, he continues until climax. All the while, this activity is juxtaposed with a voice-over that elaborately describes the detailed thought and strategy given to the living room’s interior design. This, like much of Steve’s video work and writing, complicates the representation of an individual through limiting (rather than expanding) the amount of information available. This economy of presentation is one reason that I wasn’t surprised to learn that Steve was a poet at one time. What’s present in all of Steve’s work, even, or especially, in the most irreverent, or violent, or banal pieces, is the feeling that there is something hermetically sealed just beyond reach, some liminal idea or experience that art embodies and that we’ll always be reaching for and failing to grasp.
“Behind everything that is named, beneath the name of everything, lies an older, truer name that can never be known.”
(from “Incidents of Travel” by Steve Reinke)
Steve Reinke has co-edited several anthologies, most recently The Sharpest Point: Animation at the End of Cinema (w/ Chris Gehman, YYZ Books) and the forthcoming Blast Counterblast (w/ Anthony Elms, Mercer Union). He has published two books EverybodyLoves Nothing (Coach House) and The Shimmering Beast (Coach House/Gallery 400/whitewalls). From Canada, he currently lives in Chicago and is associate professor of Art Theory & Practice at Northwestern. www.myrectumisnotagrave.com