Bernadette Mayer’s “Experiments” from the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine was my very first taste of experimental writing, 10 years ago. When I encountered it, it was exciting and liberating to approach writing in ways that welcomed external influence, elements of chance and friction, and that involved play with language.
I decided to use this “guide” as source material for a project which attempted to enact
one or more of her ideas, reconsidered in a digital writing context, as a way of thinking
about how digitally enacting such processes might alter the reading and transformative
experience. Most immediate to this piece were the following:
Rewrite someone else’s writing. Maybe someone formidable.
Eliminate material systematically from a piece of your own writing until it’s ‘ultimately’ reduced, or, read or write it backwards (line by line or word by word). Read a novel backwards.
Experiment with theft & plagiarism in any form that occurs to you.
Subjecting the text to an editorial process using only erasure meant deliberately having
limited textual resources available, and only in certain orders. It soon became clear that
I was engaging in the language in other, unexpected ways:
Take an idea, anything that interests you, even an object: then spend a few days looking & noticing (making notes, etc.?) what comes up about that idea, or, try to create a surrounding, an atmosphere, where everything that comes up is “in relation.”
Erasing portions of text to produce new texts had a knock-on, relational effect, providing a new context for further editing with each text's iteration. In working through Mayer’s language, I found myself considering the economy of the words I was editing—both literally and contextually. Process and meaning became a reflexive process, each informing the other with each iteration of editing, and I hope that this is also experienced in the reading of the piece.