In the spring of 2013, poet Cathy Park Hong and video artist Mores McWreath collaborated on an e-book chapbook entitled “The Rub,” which was presented online by the New Museum. The Conversant is pleased to republish this collaborative project.
“The Rub” is an e-chapbook of GIFs and haiku that explores shame and failure in stand-up and online comedy. Poems explore the viewer’s obsession with witnessing humiliation—whether harmless bloopers, online bullying or abject sexual humiliation. The GIF, the perfect visual effect here, freezes failure into an infinite loop and captures theorist Sianne Ngai’s concept of a “noncathartic aesthetic: art that produces and foregrounds a failure of emotional release. . .and does so as a kind of politics.”
Viewers are first introduced to a main page that acts like a Boschian world of GIFs. The following slideshow series, “GIF Haiku,” cobbles together allusions and direct quotes by stand-up comedians, such as Richard Pryor, Chris Rock and George Carlin, as well as original material indirectly inspired by GIFs. The haiku appropriately captures the brevity and miniaturization of GIFs—not to mention the brevity of attention we give GIFs. In addition, the haiku’s syllable count is similar to the character count of tweets—also perfect for the short attention span. Furthermore, the haiku’s brevity coincides with stand-up comedy since humor is so much about concision and compression. At the same time, the GIF image is contained in a circular frame reminiscent of a glory hole, a navel, a punctum.
“The Rub” is also an experiment on how a book can be digitalized using animation. Oftentimes, text and moving image compete with one another and the text invariably becomes an afterthought. The GIF, since it is lo-fi, quick to load and on a repeated loop, complements the poem without overwhelming it.
View “The Rub” here. Once on the New Museum webpage, click “View Work,” which appears on the left-hand side. Then click anywhere on the screen to go to the next e-page.
Cathy Park Hong’s first book, Translating Mo’um, was published in 2002 by Hanging Loose Press. Her second collection, Dance Dance Revolution, was chosen for the Barnard Women Poets Prize and was published in 2007 by W.W. Norton and her third book of poems, Engine Empire, was published in May 2012 by W.W. Norton. Hong is also the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Her poems have been published in A Public Space, Poetry, Paris Review, Conjunctions, Lana Turner, McSweeney’s, Harvard Review, Boston Review, the Nation and other journals. She is a member of the artist/writer’s collaborative 2-UP and is an Associate Professor at Sarah Lawrence College.
Mores McWreath received a BFA from The Cooper Union and an MFA from the University of Southern California. He attended the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recent solo and two person exhibitions/commissions include the New Museum, CUE Art Foundation, M+B Gallery in Los Angeles and the Allcott Gallery UNC Chapel Hill. His work has been exhibited in group shows at the ICA Philadelphia, Walker Art Center, Art in General, International Studio and Curatorial Program NY and John Connelly Presents. His videos have been screened in festivals and exhibitions both nationally and internationally including the Taiwan International Video Exhibition, Videomedeja Serbia, 700IS Iceland and the Jakarta International Video Festival. He currently teaches at The Cooper Union.