Second Wave Works of ‘Blank Generation’
Displayed for All to Ponder
(July 25, 2002)
to Aldus Society In the News
Bill Eichenberger, Dispatch Book Critic
copy of Lost & Found Times -- titled that summer 33 -- is featured in
‘‘An American Avant Garde: Second Wave Exhibition’’ at Ohio State
magazine opens with:
floated past the peas and corn, / the leader says, his voice turning / her
cheek. Then she smiled and mouthed / for me for gas money or burned hoses, / of
idea is to distract the reader from his or her preconceptions about what is
supposed to be there,’’ writer John M. Bennett explained, ‘‘so that the
reader can see something new.’’
likely is that most of the writers included in the exhibit -- on display in the
Main Library -- first distracted themselves.
are many ways,’’ he said: ‘‘You can write when you’re exhausted. You
can write in a noisy environment. . . . Some writers take drugs.’’
the creator of Lost & Found Times and the content provider for a Web site of
‘‘visual poems,’’ curated the ‘‘Second Wave’’ exhibit and
organized a two-day ‘‘Avant Garde Symposium’’ on the OSU campus.
suggestion for the uninitiated: Don’t bother to look for ‘‘meaning’’
-- at least not in the traditional sense.
of the cleverest stuff looks like it has meaning,’’ he said, ‘‘but
that’s only an illusion. They (avant-garde writers) are playing a trick on
you. The surface meaning may be there, but that’s not what the piece is really
‘‘first wave’’ included William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen
Ginsberg and other so-called beat writers; and was featured last year in an OSU
exhibition called ‘‘An American Avant Garde: First Wave.’’
has dubbed the second wave ‘‘the blank generation,’’ in part because of
the relative anonymity of its members.
even the biggest names -- Richard Kostelanetz, say, or Jim Leftwich or Sheila E.
Murphy -- are as well-known as any of the most famous beats.
Ginsberg was a remarkable hustler and promoter of his friends,’’ Bennett
said. ‘‘So the beats were more well-known. Jack Kerouac was accessible in a
way that most avant-garde writers today aren’t. And the culture was ready in
the 1950s and 1960s for the beats.’’
writers in the second wave have shunned mass appeal and avoided academia. Many
have day jobs, in areas ranging from chemistry to pizza delivery.
was happening in universities, what was going on in the culture at large, simply
didn’t interest the second wave,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘So individual
artists went off and did it themselves, entirely on their own, making what they
couldn’t find anywhere else.’’
its nature, the avant-garde operates largely, if not exclusively, outside the
it has a traceable history, according to Bennett.
usually happens is, mainstream artists become aware of the avant- garde and
begin to incorporate avant-garde ideas into their own work. Mainstream artists
dilute, adapt, modify and commodify ideas that originated with the
writers such as Rimbaud and James Joyce enjoy mainstream popularity, Bennett
said, the ‘‘continuous history of the avant-garde’’ is found in the
works of lesser-known proponents of experimentalism, including 19th-century
French poet Compte de Lautreamont or 20th-century Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro.
‘‘Second Wave’’ exhibit features mail art (works sent through the mail),
e-mail art, visual poetry (combinations of words and images), concrete poetry
(words as images) and other forms.
will be made by PowerPoint, on CD-ROM, in music and through images accompanied
by spoken text -- what Dick Higgins, a primary figure in the avant-garde Fluxus
movement, would have called ‘‘intermedia.’’
second wave refers to a loose assembly, hardly an organized movement, of
to call it the second wave or the blank generation is to take liberties with the
the writers in the exhibit might have at least one thing in common:
the conception of language as a part of the human body and a part of the
complete human experience,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘It’s a belief that
language is a part of the hard wiring of the human mind and the view that
language is not separate from the body.’’
to Aldus Society In the News