San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


End of Assembly

One of the most important things an assembly provides is a supply of interchangeable parts. When you count on replacing some parts with others just as good, you can carry on assembly work in a routine way. That is why the networks and conventions that make up an assembly create opportunities as well as constraints. The boundaries of an assembly, in fact, are defined by this capacity for interchangeability (after Becker, Art Worlds).

Assembly can thus be taken seriously as both “art” and support work for some other artistic activity. Assembly poets care little whether their work goes (is recognized) by the name of art or something else. In fact, they are often told that what they are doing is not art, and so they often do the same work under a different name: school, or service or research, for example, and to the same effect. Nonetheless, while going by any of several names, assembly work is still recognizable by its readiness for interchangeability or, more broadly, for its component-status within a wider network of activities. In fact, a different “cooperative world” (Becker) is what the assembly technician needs most these days, not the staid predictability of even the more adventuresome or maverick “art worlds.”

Critics will claim that we have lionized a form of swap in/swap out lawlessness where not only anything goes but anything goes wherever it wants. But this is hardly the case: since everything must go (somewhere), it might as well go into the assembly. Critics will counter that this claim again begs the question, but the agile and attentive student of assembly will realize that, on the contrary, wherever and somewhere are not interchangeable. On this distinction assembly poetics bases a great deal of its project.

Assembly begins with the assumption that parts are in the air for the taking. Since the juggling has long since begun, one can hardly blame the assembly technician for getting in on the act. In the end, assembly stands ready for the game of recovery and redemption inherent to the game of revenge and reclamation already underway. A bumbling but loveable clown provides the content; the assembly technician just reaches in to touch form, nabbing a bit of it for good luck (and better balance).

Everywhere you look the clean sweep, the finely cut corners (and wedges) of assembly. Textured and ethereal, a management of tattered remnants, assembly goes on and on, sometimes sewn into a quilt, sometimes torn to pieces.


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