The Operating System

4th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Day 18 :: Lauren Klotzman on bpNichol's First Screening

dear z___-
i know that we really just met and maybe things have been a little intense over that extremely short time period, but i have to say i really like spending time with you. those texts you sent me last night while i was asleep and you were partying were a little weird but i do that kind of shit too so i definitely don’t judge. *[emojis gesturing toward zen feelings]*
one of the best things that i like about hanging out and talking with you is that you are a writer. people (especially people in texas) mostly think of me as an “artist” (whatever that means) and i mostly hang out with “artists” (whatever that means). but the truth is that deep down i vibe with “writers” so much more, probably because i am secretly this writer-type-person. i didn’t take any “creative writing” classes in college but i sometimes wish i had and i think it’s why i keep going back to naropa every year. every time i end up developing these somewhat intense connections that feel more validating than most of what i have with my artist crew(s). maybe that’s kind of what is going on? or maybe i shouldn’t think about it or “judge.” that would be like going to rehab and lecturing the social worker on Kant, right? *[winking face/grinning face/ashamed face emoji]*
fyi i also like being kinda super naïve about writing in a poetry/literature milieu. btw i don’t say “creative” writing because i’m not sure i really believe in “creativity” which is another story. anyway… like, i obvi don’t have that much of a formal education in so-called “creative writing” and generally don’t really read enough anymore. therefore i have weird influences and every time i talk to someone who has a “real” education in writing i learn something new (and vice versa).
on that tip… i’m supposed to write this piece. i started writing a story about how my friend beau (who just put out that book on penny-ante editions) introducing me to bern porter’s found poems in LA with my ex and her now-lover but then i decided it was totally name-droppy and stupid (but i can already tell i will feel the same way about this too, maybe it’s just who i am?). plus bern porter is just way too dense and complicated of a human being. If you don’t know about him you should def borrow my book/google him.
so instead i’m writing this email to you about how i was introduced to bpNichol and this one piece,  First Screening. because that’s what writers do: we share what we know and experience.
((i say “experience” because i don’t think “reading” is just reading. i think it’s like, this somatic thing that is more than just scanning visual information and turning it into yr own personal meaning. maybe i can explain that more another time, but i think that First Screening is also illustrative of that thought/line of thinking.))
anyway here’s the story:

i moved to marfa 2 days after i turned 20 years old. i had gone to college at 17 so i was super confused and didn’t know what i really wanted to study/do/be. so i decided to take time off and apply for the two most interesting (paid) museum internships in texas and ended up getting both of them, mostly because i went to sarah lawrence and therefore had bougie intelli-cred/highly-developed bullshit skills. I lied about my age the whole time, too.
i always had pressure from my family about career shit. they supported my creative production but wanted me to have some sort of title/salary/security. maybe it’s because we didn’t have much money at the time. i thought maybe museum work was the right thing for me, even though it paid less than like… being an architect or a furniture designer which is what my family was more down for. but i was too intellectually-driven and into analytical thinking/critical writing for that. i thought being in museums was “it.”
but when i moved to marfa everyone loved my artwork more than my job performance (lol) and like, REALLY encouraged me to be an artist. which felt kind of insane. nevertheless I took this leap. that’s just the type of person i am, i guess?
this woman sandra invited myself and my co-intern daniel to have an art show/party the day after valentines day in her garage/gallery. we called it “post-vd kickback.” i showed some work i had made in my little donald judd-designed apartment: drawings of patsy cline lyrics “translated” into what looked like columns of pixelated text messages, prototypes for a larger project i wanted to do called “rachel whiteread is invited to my kegger,” and some videos projected into the upper corner of the garage.
the videos were of personally-inflected, tautologically-oriented texts flashing too fast to read over strobing damask patterns with scrolling banners of photoshopped tesselations of goats/karl marx/various manipulated found photos. basically it was supposed to look like quasi-psychotic, digital wallpaper. and it pretty much did.
we also made sandra (a middle-aged badass who used to squat in tribeca before it was…y’know… *TRIBECA*) read gnar excerpts from butt magazine on a ladder with this projection and videotaped it. and suddenly it somehow became this impromptu reading. tim (who runs the bookstore there) and claire (from the band YACHT) and this guy rich (who was at one point president of subpop records) all got up on the ladder and read their work.
the party ended up raging all night and it was a beautiful thing.
YACHT wrote an album out there called “see mystery lights.” the poem that subpop-guy read was transformed into a song called “psychic city” on that album. this is a fact that makes me feel good about (some of) the actions of my youth.
but while all these stupid namedrops are the reality of the situation, they are not the core of my story.
sometime during (or maybe after?) that party, tim asked me what my poetic influences were and i told him that i hated poetry. he was incredulous. i said that i hadn’t read poetry since high school and the only things i liked were sylvia plath’s melony tendrils and walt whitman’s barbaric yawps. he said that what i was doing *WAS* poetry. i was all like no way dude. he said maybe i just hadn’t read the right poets (and he was right). he told me to come by the store sometime, and thus began my adventures in(to) poetics.
what passed after that was a crash course in how cool poetry could be. i had no idea. i can’t even tell you what all tim introduced me to because it is too large in breadth and has transpired over a long course of time and space (including a brief and intense courtship).

but my favorite at that time was bpNichol. this was probably because – being so interested in minimalism and conceptual art – i was into tautologies and (visually-oriented) punnage. so naturally i had a predilection toward concrete poetry, especially that which incorporated humor (duh). i was also giving museum tours which included peeks into carl andre’s typewriter-written visual poems about materiality. I liked them more and more as the days went by.
i can’t remember which of bpNichols’ text(s) he showed me, but i’ll always remember how my mind was blown when Tim showed me First Screening.
there are a lot of things which are cool about First Screening. first of all being that it’s not a “book” (but also totally is). in it’s original form it was distributed in an edition of 100 5.25″ floppies for the Apple IIe computer. super ahead of it’s time (srslyyyy).
so what’s especially cool about this is that – while the poems in the suite that comprise First Screening are definitely concrete poems – they are also *kinetic* poems which operate via code. They are incredibly simple yet multilayered works, some of the first poems i know of to be written both as legible text and as (literal, programmed) code. “double poetry,” in a way.
so basically in 1983/4 this guy was like “you know what would be dope? like, if i made poems which one ‘read’ on a computer, were ‘written’ both in code and as page-like forms (on a screen), but essentially ‘played’ like a movie.”
so it’s not interactive (which is kind of a bummer but whatever) …instead it’s more like animated poetry, a movie in code. he used BASIC to program it and that’s just what it is: basic in the best possible way that the word can mean.
what i *also* find fascinating about First Screening is the way in which it has evolved in light of digital forms of entropy, obsolescence, conservation, and distribution. the best way to view First Screening today is online via quasi-bootleg video or emulated versions, but i have always wanted to watch it “for real” on one of the original disks. this is all part of why i almost applied to that program at MIT, and was thinking for a while about becoming a digital art conservator like my friend brian.
but First Screening has influenced me in myriad other ways. i think a lot about how i was/am part of the first generation of internetbabies: i grew up never knowing what life was like without a computer, and most of my pre-adolescent/teen social life was conducted online. i was always super interested in systems-based writing, which in undergrad turned into stoned library research sessions into hypertext, early net art, algorithmic poetry, cyberfeminism, etc.
First Screening – in conjunction with deep web explorations from a young age – makes me think about the power of code. in the age of the internet, what interests me are the things which are “accidentally” poetic and how net-based words/text lead intensely complex, vastly multilayered, incomprehensibly rhizomatic lives in a different sort of time/space continuum than IRL existence. so from there, my writing and art started to incorporate poetics, but from a distinctly internetbaby position. i dredged the web for fodder, which usually came from youtube comments, yelp reviews, dating websites, craigslist, google translate, etc. i went and studied briefly with kenneth goldsmith and that was fun. in class i “translated” this one girl’s persistent okcupid messaging into a 26-note musical scale and made “music” out of it. i would show you but i took it off the internet because it seemed indiscreet as it clearly states her screenname.
i also bought a typewriter.
i dunno. i could say more but this email got way longer than I ever intended it to be. the point is: you should check out First Screening. i think it’s pretty sick.
the end.
[textwrap_image align=”left”][/textwrap_image]LAUREN KLOTZMAN was trained in Studio Practices, Art History, Performance Studies and Poetics at Sarah Lawrence College, Naropa University, and Rhode Island School of Design. She works in diverse forms: painting, video, new media, writing, choreography, sculpture, and social practice. Refusing categorical distinction or genre, Klotzman utilizes whatever media or techniques are necessary to communicate the ideas at hand, with an emphasis on conceptualism, historical commentary, social critique, and theoretical engagement. The artist presently lives and works in Austin, Texas. We found her at Naropa’s Summer Writing Program a few years back, but you can find her here: and here.
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