A COLLABORATIVE POETICS
‘…there are some very detailed descriptions, protocols
circulating in slow motion like a ring of flies
in the middle of an interrogation room…’
“Who but John Kinsella and Louis Armand could have invented and laid out the 21st Century protocols that govern the intriguing collaborative poems in Synopticon? Encyclopedic, witty, packed with knowledge about arcane subjects, this is a book to sample and reread with ever-increasing knowledge, pleasure, and admiration.” –Marjorie Perloff, author of Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media and Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy.
“…engaging, thought provoking, and complex. Well worth the multiple readings…” –Shauna Osborne, Poets’ Quarterly
Synopticon was composed as a collaborative project during the course of an extended email exchange between 1998 and 2008. Part poetics of collaboration, part cultural archaeology, part textual collage, this book records an investigation into authorship and authenticity in the construction of social texts and cultural artefacts. Collaborative praxis is not defined here solely as a method, but as a condition of discourse; a poiesis.
Collaboration is a word with a long political history. It defines a relationship with one’s adversaries, a befriending and a ‘working together’ for mutual advantage. It is a form of opportunism. At times, necessity informs collaboration as a strategy for survival. It defines an uneasy negotiation of terms between unequal parties. Today, in Australia and elsewhere in the world, indigenous communities are required to collaborate with the successor governments of colonial regimes, in order to reach ‘settlement’ of the indigenous problem. Issues of civil rights and native title. The institution of the law provides the necessary pretence that such things are not merely discretionary–residual forms of colonial largesse.
In one sense or another, all writing, all forms of cultural ‘production,’ is necessarily a type of collaboration. But the active solicitation of a method, even a ‘technique,’ of collaboration, remains political. The politics of proprietorship underwrites so-called Western culture from its outset. The extension and proliferation of forms of copyright today, by way of the new media, are the logical consequences of an ideology that decrees paternity–authorship–over language and meaning. Intentions, words, actions, have evolved a legal status that places collaboration, as a working method, on the side of subversion. Undisclosed or obscured authorship has political, implying also economic, consequences. In the final instance, collaboration threatens the principle of corporate ownership, through the evocation of collective custodianship–the principle of a ‘creative commons.’
Collaboration as a technique of invention and reinvention–as the detournement of the political and the politics of detournement. Collaboration as the disputation of existing hegemonies with the pragmatics of making use of current states of affairs. The paradox of working contraries.
Louis Armand‘s books include Inexorable Weather (Arc, 2001), Malice in Underland(2003) and Strange Attractors (Salt, 2003), and he is editor of Contemporary Poetics(Northwestern University Press, 2007). He is director of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Charles University, Prague.
John Kinsella‘s books include Disclosed Poetics: Beyond Landscape and Lyricism(Manchester University Press, 2007), Divine Comedy: Journeys Through a Regional Geography (WW Norton, 2008), and he is the editor of The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry (2009). He is a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia.