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Images courtesy of Michael Basinski. Used by permission.


Michael Basinski

Mike Basinski's visual poems lead multiple lives all at once. They can work as visual poems, regular poems, doodles, graffiti, puzzles, Egyptian hieroglyphics, some undiscovered alien language...and so on. Whether one sees or doesn't see one of these possibilities in a particular Basinski piece, if one stares into them long enough it becomes apparent that there is a lot more than just one thing going on in there.

detail of basinski poem

In many pieces, words and letters and shapes are packed in so tight that they start to jostle up against each other and form eddies and currents, with some words, letters, or invented symbols crumpling into a corner and others stretching out into new formations. In yet other pieces, words begin to crowd in on top of each other, or burst out one end of the frame.

detail of basinski poem

Basinski also uses his visual works as open scores off of which to both read and improvise live performances. These scores vary in their level of complexity, though each one is organized by color, proximity, and directional flow, allowing for many potential "trajectories" during performance. Each text is also filled with "holes" or clumps of information and instructions that appear as one focuses in and follows a set of words in a particular direction. Most anything in the room can be drawn in to the poem during these live performances, just as in his visual work all manner of markers, pens, pasted-in text, and drawings contribute to the whole creation.

luxo by michael basinski

Thanks to Basinski's prolific rate of production, multiple viewings of the ever-expanding range of his visual pieces allow one to appreciate the level of variation and invention in his style. Whether one is looking at them up close, trying to make out letters and words, or looking at the composition of the whole page all at once, these visual works generate and re-generate new pathways through language and seeing with each look.

(Jump to Basinski links on the resources page.)

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