Time Undisturbed: A Quick Interview with Nico Vassilakis
Nico Vassilakis’ recent works include Concrete: Movies, a vispo dvd, Texts for Nothing, But Cut Up and StampOlogue. At the end of StampOlogue there is an afterword by Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino to which Nico wrote a brief response. When I quoted this response on fait accompli recently, I mistyped the final sentence as :”staring at vispo creates the potential for vispo.” Nico emailed a note of appreciation and corrected my typo. This led me to suggest a mini-interview because I found his actual statement not only to be interesting but to ring true.
NP: I am curious, though. How does "staring at textpo create the potential for vispo"?
NV: “I’m looking through you, you're not the same.”
The initial act of reading is staring. When you add saccades you initiate movement.
Text itself is an amalgam of units of meaning. Words, right. As you stare at text you notice the visual aspects of letters. As you stare further meaning loses its hierarchy and words discorporate and the alphabet itself begins to surface. Shapes, space relations, visual associations emerge as you delve further. Alphabetic bits or parts or snippets of letters can create an added visual vocabulary amidst the very text you're reading.
As when you are perched on a mountain’s peak though the panoramic view is fetching you tend to focus on an interesting pebble at your feet. Something quantum about it.
(In my early twenties my friend, John Ventimiglia, and I hammered out our own simple art movement. We called those involved The Starists. The idea is that a person is engaged in two ways of interacting with the world. One is action, people immersed in myriad levels of activity. The many physical attempts to manipulate time. The other is staring. That being people involved in varying degrees of focus. The constant observation of being inside or living alongside time. Action is a means to harness time. Staring as a portal, a doorknob into the larger notion of time. The immediacy and infinity of time vying for attention. The starist is drawn toward promoting “time undisturbed”)
(Mildly similar to the abstract expressionists or the Morton Feldmans of the world that offer both a snapshot and a container for time to exist unfettered. There is both a muted ego and non-aggressive intention in their work. Mildly dissimilar in that it's a less productive endeavor. There is less art product when staring is the poem & noise is the music. Living in wider time is the silence of doing, the doing of silence. Staring, etc.)
NP: Can you say more about “meaning loses its hierarchy?”
NV: Staring changes content as we think meaning is permanent. Meaning loses value, clarity, importance, its ability to generate income. Staring changes a word irrevocably, but only once and in one way only.
A moment is bundled. You see a word and it means what you recall of its definition. That happens in less than a second. As if automatic. You don't typically spend more time than that, but if you did.
The word call. Stared. Is see all or california eleven or circa 2.
It loses or sheds meaning.
You draw words. A picture of a word of what it's related to. The object’s verisimilitude in a word.
a a a
((((((((((((((( l l
I suppose meaning can shift from moment to moment, from reading to reading, from hat to that, from appetite to appetizer, from trend to bend, but the signifier, the definitional aspects of words are so deeply embedded they hardly stray.
But when you do spend time it's instantly apparent that we are not only surrounded by our writing (and what we're told the writing means), but there are fewer places to go to retreat from it. What started as cave drawings has yet to cease and we have tagged everything around us.
So visual writing is closer to it.
(Stopped in traffic, waiting for the light to change - you find a logo. These people exploit our ability to stare. They tap into our personal time, the time yre not doing anything, that special disconnected to immediacy time. Meaning loses hierarchy when what yre looking at doesn’t matter, when it begins to alter without constraint, when it enters a tunnel and exits elsewhere.)
NP: Meaning, meaning everywhere, and not a drop to think. This was the appeal of Ashbery's *Tennis Court Oath* for me at the time of its publication in the 60's, the absence or transfiguration of meaning into words to look at. I liked what you said in your MiPoesias interview about letting "time and experience accrue."
NV: Squeeze more breath out a sentence and press Ashbery’s margin return key.
Writing from back to front, from last to first, from then to now. After an allotment of time starts the culling & gleaning of texts. Longhand into tiny notebooks I carry for months. Preferring to wait, to ripen chemically. I don’t wipe down the walls to make room for more words. Approaching it as needed. A late bloomer, not till 15 yrs old did it happen that I heard voice in my head. Previous, my thoughts were in a flowing visual continuum. So writing was to document my own new sound.
The twang of inebriate accuracy. The carousel dizzy plummet devises entry. Where you want to be. Delete the bullshit to point at what remains. When is truth a mule, when is truth a chaos you carry, when is truth an obsession you wear. Approaching buttons you are ready to push. One stare is one flower only through the tethers that connect it. Made of the same ingredients we harness the same drive to continue, but it replicates naturally with no intention of worth in another's eyes. A quizzical foray into tearing this wall paper, this build-up, but I am not a wall. It is trickery this fabricating a way to absolve the veils between it and me. The closest it gets is still tucked in self-absorbed extraction. The monkey distraught at finding itself in the city. No puzzle of beer strong enough to cajole the entirety out, so it’s a snippet. And this equals the time you’re willing to spend. Written during commute. Drafts in segue. Shiny morsels. Encapsulations on the run. No disciplined scribe here. No calendar specific pen. No keyboard soldier. A mountain’s an easier target. The subtle adjustment, the oversized straw’s struggle to suck out miniature fluids. A careless minefield. Erupting in time. Throwing nets to catch the one. Attracted to misreading and the tumult of turning words. Tiny notebook. The weather’s not it, it never is. You write your way through. Glad to remove the glare, the weight, the ashtray, and the pendulum sound. Always trying to fill tiny notebooks.
The mishaps and misadventures of mishearing.
"My obsession with surface is the subject of my music. In a sense, my compositions are really not "compositions" at all. One might call them time canvases in which I more or less prime the canvas with an overall hue of the music. I have learned that the more one composes or constructs --the more one prevents Time Undisturbed from becoming the controlling metaphor of the music."
Crag Hill (Poetry Scorecard) [click here] recently posted some links to online publications of Nico Vassilakis' work.
Quoted by < Harry K. Stammer [click here](from the Nico Vassilakis interview above)"As you stare further meaning loses its hierarchy and words discorporate and the alphabet itself begins to surface. Shapes, space relations, visual associations emerge as you delve further. Alphabetic bits or parts or snippets of letters can create an added visual vocabulary amidst the very text you're reading."
(Harry K. Stammer's response): >>>the staring is key, even in textpo that becomes other textpo... not as visual vocabulary but as unintended alphabetic/word/sentence vocabulary. yeah, it branches back to visual snippets and associations... i love the mixture of both,,, Nico has it down... break it up without doing anything (it breaks itself), one word many syllables other meanings... His work is very cool!<<<<
Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino sent us this link
Eratio [click here] that includes selections from
StampOlogue and St. Thomasino's response (included
in the print version of the piece)
Note: use the horizontal scroll bar and keep scrolling to your right to view the piece and read St. Thomasino's notes to the piece.