The Rest is Noise
was an amazingly ambitious undertaking by the Southbank centre, an attempt to reflect upon the cultural force of the early 20th century in America and Europe and all that entails, spreading its roots into art, poetry, music... I was lucky enough to give a series of lectures across the whole year long festival and teach in the evening classes dedicated to the themes of the festival. http://therestisnoise.southbankcentre.co.uk
the occluded: British avant garde poetry in the era of Britten https://soundcloud.com/southbankcentre/british-avant-garde-poetry
Black Mountain college: panel with Tim Atkins, Peter Jaeger & Alyce Mahon https://soundcloud.com/southbankcentre/alyce-mahon-peter-jeager-tim
on 21st century British poetry https://soundcloud.com/stevenjfowler/sj-fowler-on-21st-british
Blog on teaching Bloc one
This really is the period that possesses my work and research most, my interests being the early avant gardes, Dada, Eastern Europe, fin de siecle culture, Austria, Judaism, Russia and so on.
The first event focused on EE Cummings and Wallace Stevens. I introduced, contextualised and led the questions - Matthew Caley was talking about Cummings’ work, and Oli Hazzard did the same relating to Wallace Stevens.The event was called Wallace Stevens and EE Cummings - America: a new world discovers its voice (1910 – 1945) held in the blue bar. I thought both Matthew and Oli spoke remarkably well, both such brilliant poets and interesting men, it was such a pleasure to be part of this event, and it had an impressive audience too.
The following day I gave a Bite lecture on Dada and ethics, talking about my research, and my theory about Dada and its ethical impetus, its drive to destroy traditional aesthetics, and how this travelled from Bukovina to Brooklyn, its beginnings in northern Romania... The focus also leaned toward New York dada, to stay on theme, for this talk. It went ok, I rambled a bit, winged a lot, spoke without notes, so it could've been better but overall flowed out alright. A tug on the thames interrupted me with its horn, which was appropriate.
The others speakers were wonderful, some interesting stuff on the Spanish civil war and the Armoury dada show in NY, and Diane Silverthorn's talk on Mondrian in New York blew me away, an amazing woman, immensely down to earth and funny. The audience was also fantastic, intimidatingly big. To be part of an undertaking, if only a small part, this sizeable and ambitious and comprehensive, and to get to speak about a subject I am so passionate about, as though I were expert, will always be a privilege.
A day of two halves. The first, a bite talk, 15 minutes on Thomas Bernhard. It was a failed experiment. I overwrote the content, wanting it to be so good because of the passion I have for Bernhard, and was far too loyal to the text. I was boring. The art of lecturing is a practice I am engaged in learning. You learn more from a 'loss' I suppose. Still annoying to speak so poorly about an author I love so much, and if anyone stayed awake through my monotone the actual content had some moments of insight I hope. / I then went on to chair a panel on the Black Mountain college with Alyce Mahon from Cambridge Uni, and my old friends Tim Atkins and Peter Jaeger. It was a brilliant hour, fluid, insightful and balanced. Each speaker brought information from differing perspectives, and were all very generous with their thoughts. Peter offered real insight into John Cage and Zen, Alyce opened up the history of the school with its creative spark offset by administrative suicide, and Tim told everyone that poets killed the college. The list of alumni or teaching staff is unbelievable - Duncan, Olsen, Williams, Cage, Cunningham, Albers, Twombly, Creeley, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Dorn. The questions were also very positive, and we ended up talking about the modern state of the education system and how restricted it is, against such a hotbed of radical innovation and collaboration as the BMC. / The rest is noise is an awesome opportunity to open up so many discussions that rarely get such a platform. Next up, Walter Abish and Jack Spicer in November
Rest is Noise festival, Britten weekend - on post-war avant-garde British poetry & BS Johnson, and witnessing Anthony Blee
I was especially frightened by these two lectures. The bites format of 15 minutes is as engaging for the audience as it is troubling for the speaker, and these talks would have a fine audience indeed being a part of the Southbank centre's remarkable recapturing of 20th century cultural history through the Rest is Noise festival. Judging how deep to go, or what to cover, becomes a serious issue, and my two talks were on things very close to my heart. I felt a responsibility to do them justice.
The talk on the Avant garde poetry of Britain around the Era of Britten was one of my most gratifying public speaking performances. Not because it was good, but because everyone was saying afterward how the information was new to them and it was easily accessed and understood. And it is important information, to me, that can't be spread wide enough. You can hear it here:
The real highlight of the day was the other speakers though, all genuinely more powerful and clever than I. Diane Silverthorne has inspired me since the first time I saw her speak, I even dedicated a poem to her about Mondrian, and Sophie Mayer is a peer I really admire as a poet and an intellectual. But thank god I asked to switch the original running order just moments before the events began, which I initially was supposed to conclude, because if I hadn't I would've followed the absolutely remarkable Anthony Blee, and fallen quite flat upon myself.
He is an architect, one of the finest our country has produced, and he was speaking about his work on Coventry Cathedral, a world renowned project he began working on at 24 years of age in 1956. I can't express the brilliance, humility and grace of his account of this time in his life. It was genuinely emotional to watch him recount stories of Sir Basil Spence and Yehudi Menuhin, and breathtaking to see this building, this cultural hub, this national pride, grow from his personal slides and memories. To watch a man who has spent a lifetime at the service of a professional artform, and shone so brightly through that life, reduced me to feeling like a very fortunate, very embryonic and very humbled, witness. I had the chance to meet his whole family afterward, who were as gracious and warm as he was, who were unduly kind about my piffling talk, and the experience left me feeling struck in the most organic and valuable of ways. They seemed people truly open, collaborative, kind and able to navigate these very real qualities through their art / practise. This article reflects some of the man, and I'm definitely visiting Coventry cathedral soon. http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/feb/27/anthony-blee-geoffrey-clarke-coventry-cathedral
For the earlier session, I spoke on BS Johnson, and I refused the lecture format, as he would've liked, I think, and cut up quotes that were relevant and let people pick the order from a box. A lecture in a box.
Teaching Beckett is frightening. Teaching Beckett at the Southbank centre, in the QEH hall, as part of the groundbreaking Rest is Noise festival, at a free evening study course open to the general public for free is even more so. Teaching alongside Tom Service and Charlottle de Ville, even more so yet again. But it went proper well, a small generous group of people, amazing support staff at the Southbank, and my focus on the ethical engagement /disengagement of Beckett through paradox and disjunction in language was well received, not having the skill or expertise to make a proper ham of historical fact or textual analysis. I just waffled with purpose and read excerpts from Worstward ho! It could hardly go wrong. Charlotte and Tom were both inspiring to hear, I genuinely spent hours after the evening, which felt an easy 150 minutes (!) researching what they were speaking about. I hadn’t come across Tom Service before, but his work is really amazing with the BBC radio and the guardian, and I was at Wigmore hall just a few days later, rediscovering my discovery of classical music.
The rest is noise festival is over. I've been pretty lucky to be involved, considering my lack of erudition and learnedness next to those who have also been teaching and lecturing and so forth. Im not being overmodest either, events with Tom Service, Gillian Moore, Diane Silverthorne, Sophie Mayer, Tony Benn, Harvey Cohen, world renowned educators have been punctuated with discussions with artists like Steve Reich and John Adams etc... This last event I was involved in, this past thursday, was a study evening, and I was alongside Mark Titchner, the remarkable artist and Gillian Moore, who is the head of music at the Southbank. It was, like all the study evenings, really mesmerising listening to others speak, as the environment is unique, they are allowed to speak to what they truly find engaging and tend to be very passionate and original. I waffled about 21st British poetry and stealing huge swathes from others ideas, talked about capitalism and the internet. I took a shit recording of it below. A lovely way to end a great year of lecturing and teaching in a really amazing program, Ive cut my teeth on it. http://therestisnoise.southbankcentre.co.uk/#1