story by Portia Choi
November 7, 2016 was the opening of The Bakersfield Fan Forum at the Todd Madigan Gallery at California State University Bakersfield. It is being presented by The Poetic Research Bureau through the visiting artist, Joseph Mosconi. The Bakersfield Fan Forum (BFF) was made possible by Jedediah Caesar, the curator of the Todd Madigan Gallery (TMG) and Joseph Mosconi.
The BFF was a class with a goal of producing books by the students and the visiting artist. The art being exhibited were books that had poetry which were artistically presented. There were five books produced were by Joseph Mosconi, and the four students: Maryah Paige Chester, Barry Michael, Viridiana Pena Tapia and Marco Silva. These books were available for purchase and could be viewed freely in a downloadable version at http://thebakersfieldfanforum.tumblr.com/.
The display of the books as art work was evidenced by a large book with the look and feel of a magazine that was on a pedestal that had a sculpture. Another wall had white lights in kinetic motion. There was another wall with display of front of poetry books produced by The Poetic Research Bureau. The books were presented differently. They were placed the bookshelf to show the front of the books rather than the spine. It was the design and creativity of the front of the books which was the art to entice the viewer to look further inside the book.
The Bakersfield Fan Forum is based on the premise that “Everyone is a fan of Something.”
According to the artist statement of the forum, “poets, artists and scholars discussed the politics of fandom, appropriation and the concepts of the amateur and the enthusiast.”
THE POETIC RESEARCH BUREAU attempts to cultivate composition, publication and distribution strategies that enlarge the public domain. It favors appropriations, impersonations, ‘compost’ poetries, belated conversations, unprintable jokes and doodles, historical thefts and pastiche. The publication emphasis is on ephemeral works, short-run magazines and folios, short-lived reprints and excerpts in print-on-demand formats. The Bureau advocates for intellectual resource sharing, material re-use and the “creative commons.” It values artistic experiment and archival research equally, as well as translation and cultural encounter, pluralism and intellectual debate. The Bureau’s activities include, but are not limited to: readings and presentations, screenings and exhibitions, courses and lectures, as well as the production and distribution of art and literature.
The Poetic Research Bureau (PRB) is currently located in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles. PRB began in the 1990’s with a journal in Santa Cruz, California. The journal was called The Germ, and was started by Andrew Maxwell. Mosconi explained that it reflected back to the 30’s that had surrealistic journals with research. He explained that the title PRB “is a play on words. . .In the 19th century, there was a poetry and artistic movement, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.” Then Mosconi got involved with PRB in 2006-2007 with poetry meetings and reading series. Mosconi has roots in the Central Valley. He grew up in Visalia when there was not much opportunity for poetic and artistic events. His grandparents currently live in Bakersfield.
Joseph Mosconi’s book is BFF/PRB #1 which has drawings, photographs and words. The book is filled with the serious and the fantastic fantasy. The words are in various fonts giving another method to convey context and feeling. There are words on different colored pages. Mosconi expressed that “color is emotion.” The pages evoke emotion from the images, the colors and the words. One of the creations had words in black on orange paper. This creation is innovative in the juxtaposition of unlikely topics. The business-like, impartial questions on a job application are intermixed with fantasy words of the poet. An excerpt from the creation is: “Please furnish copies of all resumes and/biographical statements issued by you or any other/ entity at your discretion or with your consent within the past ten years./ I AM ASMODEUS CONSORT OF ERRA/ RAIDER OF CATTLE AND FATHER OF/RAPTORS, CHAMPION WITHOUT PEER./BE YE READY TO FLY ORTOSMITE. TO/MEDO YE REVERENCE.” Mosconi is the visiting artist for BFF.
Marco Silva’s book is BFF/PRB #2 with words in white on various colors or black words on white paper. There is a playful feel overall. It starts with a cutout photo of Silva on the cover of the book. There is what seems to be a child’s attempt at printing with misspellings like “imagination/ Curating thoughts for the future…” There is seriousness in his words of “Becoming a GREAT Artist” with “Be interesting” repeated with various spacing, which is also fun. He had repeat of “Focus”, the one word on a page in various fonts. There were insights such as “Transhumanism”, “Noise = No Bueno”, and “ALWAYS progress”. In his work Sliva writes foods listed with “Nourishment/Feels good/The mind is somehow connected to our gut/Hence gut feeling/Intuition.” Silva is majoring in Business Administration concentrating on Marketing with a minor in Studio Art.
Viridiana Pena Tapia’s book is BFF/PRB #3 with a photograph of a lotus flower partially in opened and partially closed. The first page has one letter: a large, capital “L”; then photographic images of a lotus. The beginning words are “The Lotus, is a flower that grows in the mud. The deeper and thicker the mud, the more beautiful the lotus blooms.” There is an original poem by Tapia, “I call upon you, pleading you to restore my/ soul to see the light brighter than/ before./ To give me strength when I need it/ the most…..We are fragile creatures easily lost and confused.” Most of the words in the book are from other great persons, Aristotle, Buddha, Dalai Lama, Elizabeth Gilbert, Matthew (of the New Testament), Kurt Vonnegut, Albus Dumbledore, and Greg S. Reid. There are photographs and mandalas. The book has an overall meditative feel. Tapia is a psychology major with a minor in graphic design.
Maryah Paige Chester’s book is BFF/PRB #4 with paintings of images primarily women, and those of Georgia O’Keefe. The cover has pink to red images of oval shapes. Chester’s original poetry are interspersed among the paintings and poems by Alfred Bryan, Emily Dickinson, rupi kaur, Ann Sexton, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Frost, Lucille Swenson, Adrienne Rich, William Dunbar, Lucille Clifton, Marina Tsvetaeva, Lora Mathis, Yayoi Kusama, Luoise Gluck, Sylvia Plath and others. Chester has a poem that she read at one of the First Friday Open Mic, (from Circles Encircles): “Speak out of circles./In whole truths not white lies-/Plainly without regret and self-loathing.” An excerpt from another poem of Chester is “There’s emptiness in the air-The spaces between you/ and me no longer meets with God-We are not the/children in light anymore.” Chester’s major is English with a minor in studio arts.
Barry Michael’s book is BFF/PRB #5 which is about fandom looking “specifically at the TV shows (he) watched and been a fan of throughout (his) life.” He said he “deliberately formatted (his) text into blocks which break up the flow of the lines and obscure the rhyme and rhythm of the poetry. Michael said, “To make my book stand out, and also make it an interactive experience, I created and placed a QR code on every facing page. The reader, using their smart phone, can access a link to a video that plays the opening credits of the matching “poem” so if they cannot identify the show they can still experience the full effect.” Michael found it an “interesting opportunity to work with an established artist.” Michael’s book takes words from popular TV series and makes them his creation. He said, “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. . . .This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call. . .the Twilight Zone.” Then there is the fun TV show, “Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You? . . .You’re ready and you’re willing.” Michael is finishing his Bachelor’s of Art degree in studio art.
The Bakersfield Fan Forum also had guest poets reading at the Todd Madigan Gallery. The most recent poets performing were Ben Fama and Monica McClure on October 24, 2016. Both of the poets are from New York.
Ben Fama was influenced by Monica de la Torre who is an artist and a poet. Fama expressed that de la Torre’s “form was very exciting to me; (an) academic outline, like 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b.” Fama read the poem “Fantasy” which emphasizes the “conflicted consumer.” The poem is about how he does not want to do it but he does it anyway. For Fama, “going to work [is fine], but [he would] rather be writing poetry. . . be authentic.” He works as an administrator at a non-profit art organization. “Fantasy” is on the Poetry Foundation website and the following is excerpts from the poem: “Forever is the saddest word/The poem’s not worth it. . .I hate the George V hotel/But I would take you there/ Then walk to the open market/ Some thoughts are not that great/ The Internet is my home.” Fama has three other poems on the Poetry Foundation website. In one of these poems, “Los Angeles”, an excerpt states “Negation is part of the positive identity of an object.” Fama is the author of several chapbooks and pamplets, MALL WITCH, Cool Memories, Odalisque, and FANTASY.
Monica McClure started reading poetry when she was 14 years, and also writing poetry. McClure likes Edna St. Vincent Millay who wrote about loss. This happened at a time when McClure lost a boyfriend. Millay’s poem helped McClure to grieve. She also likes ee cummings, and how he used words to create mood. McClure recently published Concomitance, in which she writes of all that is involved in grooming and hygiene. According to McClure Concomitance “began as documentary and aimed to catalogue the infinitesimal yet burdensome acts of labor. behind routine grooming, to examine the daily self reform implied by cosmetic and clothing, Because self maintenance eats up time, the book chews through memory with digressive narratives and swallows the present with real time thought progression.” In the poem, “House of Joyce Leslie”, which is on Poetry Foundation website, McClure writes “I’m living in this logocentrism. . . So much splendor is owed to dysmorphia . . . like those Gothic spires poking the heavens/that someone just thought up like/ can we tap this broomstick/ on ethereal marble floors or what/can we really do” There are two more of McClure’s poems on Poetry Foundation. She is also the author of Tender Data, Mala, Mood Swings, and Boss Part 1.
Jedediah Caesar, the curator of CSUB Todd Madigan Gallery was asked what his vision was for the gallery. He wanted “a place where students can see contemporary art in all its strange forms.” These forms were poetry and art together; a research space. He wanted to challenge what constituted art; that which was created across medium and in open space. He wanted a place for the community to come to see innovative art. With The Bakersfield Fan Forum, Caesar is fulfilling his vision for the Todd Madigan Gallery.
The exhibition will continue to December 3, 2016 at the TMG, which is next door to the Dore Theatre. (The books by BFF will be available for purchase and they can also be viewed freely in a downloadadable version at http://thebakersfieldfanforum.tumblr.com/.) The gallery hours are Wednesday to Friday from 1-6 pm, and Saturday 12-5pm. For more information contact Jedediah Caesar at Caesar@csub.edu.
There is a reading by another invited poet, Ara Shirinyan from Los Angeles. He will be performing his poetry on Wednesday November 30 at 4:00 pm at the Todd Madigan Gallery.
The BFF group will be performing their poetry at First Friday Open Mic on January 6, 2017 at Dagny’s Coffee located at 1600 20th Street (Corner of 20th and Eye St) Bakersfield, CA 93301.