Andrew Levy with Thomas Fink

Andrew Levy

The following exchange is on Andrew Levy’s Nothing Is In Here (EOAGH, 2011).

Thomas Fink: Among the various chunks of texts lifted from sources in Nothing Is In Here is House Resolution 847, aiming to recognize “the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world” and to support “Christians in the United States and worldwide” (65), but including a section featuring very orthodox language about the behavior of believers that does not appear in the Congressional document online. Another fascinating passage is from a New York Times Business section article: “Some analysts are predicting that just as the Japanese popularized kanban (just in time) and kaizen (continuous improvement), Indians could export a kind of ‘Gandhian engineering,’ combining irreverence for conventional ways of thinking with a frugality born of scarcity” (68). Could you speak to the similarities and differences in what you’re doing with the collaging of found material and what various Language poets, Flarfists, and proponents of conceptual poetry have done?

Andrew Levy: Thomas, I’ve needed time to think on your question, and I admit to having felt a bit stumped by it. I hadn’t thought about what Language poets, Flarfists or conceptual poets / plagiarists had done or were doing when composing and assembling the materials in Nothing Is In Here.

Kristen Gallagher and Chris Alexander with Christopher Schmidt

Kristen Gallagher and Chris Alexander live in New York City, where they are writers, poetry curators, and co-editors of Truck Books (truckbooks.org). In 2011, they published two new books. Alexanders Panda documents the fan culture and promotional apparatus surrounding the film Kung Fu Panda; Gallaghers We Are Here is a transcription-based project compiling indexical and deictic language recorded during hikes and other outings. Both are professors at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, where they teach creative writing, English literature, and composition. This interview was conducted outdoors, in Long Island City, Queens and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, on March 15, 2012 and was transcribed by Maia Spotts.

Christopher Schmidt: We’re looking at pictures of cats on Instagram and talking about cuteness. Let’s start the interview. I was going to interview Kristen first, but maybe we should start with Chris—

Kristen Gallagher: Cuteness is Chris’ project.

Chris Alexander: Yeah, very much so.

CS: Chris, let’s begin by discussing the cuteness of your subject—the panda—and how its cuteness fits in with conceptual writing. I’m thinking of Sianne Ngai’s article, “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde.”

CA: You know, this is really funny. I had only read her essay on Stuplimity [“Stuplimity: Shock and Boredom in Twentieth-Century Aesthetics”] when I was at Buffalo, and I had not been following her subsequent work. And then recently I started reading that cuteness essay, and it’s startlingly proximate. It’s kind of disturbingly proximate to what I’ve been doing.

CS: In this essay Ngai says that we’ve looked at the aesthetic categories of the sublime, the beautiful, the ugly—

CA: The grand, canonical categories.

CS: But she asks, what about the aesthetic categories more relevant to commodity culture? Like cuteness, zaniness—I can’t remember some of the other ones.