Call for Papers
AMODERN 12: Body and/as Procedure
Edited by Jane Malcolm and Sarah Dowling
300-word proposals due: 1 October 2021
Drafts of 4000-8000 words due: 15 December 2021
This special issue of Amodern, tentatively titled “Body and/as Procedure,” seeks to examine the critical intersections between procedural writing, the gendered and racialized bodies such texts instruct, and the environments that both inhabit. We are interested in exploring how highly determined yet randomized artistic procedures produce distinctive forms of embodiment and (non-)subjectivity by specifying how their readers or agents must act under a particular set of conditions. Even within the corpus of a single artist, such as Yoko Ono, procedural works generate radically different texts, affects, relationalities, and environments—witness the disjunctures between the whimsy of Ono’s critically overlooked book Grapefruit (1964, 1970) and the dread of her canonical performance Cut Piece (1964). Such texts explicitly invite us to imagine how one performance will differ from the next as contingencies, including but not limited to the performer and the performance environment, shift and change with each new iteration. We are interested in how the prescriptive qualities of procedural writing—what Ono calls the “event score,” but appears in the work of other practitioners as ritual (Cecilia Vicuña), instruction (Madeline Gins), somatics (CAConrad), constraint and fetish (Dodie Bellamy), recipe (Alison Knowles), and algorithm or operation (micha cárdenas)—interact with and engage that which seems to be beyond authorial and readerly control, that is, with the environment(s) or intermedial spaces that the poet, artist, critic, or reader inhabits.
We see this as a submerged and under-examined concern within the scholarship on procedural practices. Procedural writing operates according to rules or constraints that insert randomness into the relationship between language and representation, divorcing the practice and product of writing from the dictates of authorial intention. Thus, procedural texts deemphasize writerly subjectivity in favor of spurs to inter- and intra-activities (interaction, exchange, reflection, introspection, response, and imaginative or somatic experience)—instructions that operate at the whim of unpredictable or unknowable material conditions, bodily circumstances, and environmental realities. In this way, we see procedural practices as potentially aligned with the critiques of the human developed within Black and Indigenous studies, queer of color critique, trans studies, visual studies, planetary studies, and even in some iterations of game theory and media studies. How do procedural texts, broadly conceived, imagine the entities whom they instruct, and/or the environments and materials with which these entities interact? What is the place of the human, understood as a sovereign subject, in procedural writing? We seek to understand how procedural practices—in their contemporary iterations, and across their histories—might illuminate theoretical debates about the status of the human as individual, rational, and agential. In other words, while the past two decades’ practices of conceptualism and uncreative writing have been brought into productive conversation with the mechanical and machinic versions of post-humanist critique, our special issue seeks to foster a long-overdue conversation about the multiple traditions of procedural writing that resonate with what Julietta Singh calls “dehumanism” by placing embodiment, environment, interactivity, and relationality at the center of the poetic nexus. We therefore ask to what extent, and to what ends, have procedural texts instructed us to “touch inhumanity,” to borrow the words of José Esteban Muñoz?
We hope that essays in this issue will examine the senses of emergence, presence, and unknowability in writing from the mid-century to the contemporary moment, incorporating the procedural and somatic writings of a range of poets, artists, composers, choreographers, game designers, activists, etc., whose work prescribes dynamic encounters between contingent, racialized, gendered, or otherwise (over-)determined bodies and their surrounding environments. We invite essays on forms of writing/artistic output that are animated by chance operations, rules, rituals, recipes, instructions, and so on, in which the artist/writer either purposefully engages in or asks the reader to engage in experiences beyond the page, beyond the stage, or beyond the space that is recognized as properly belonging to the medium in question. That is, we are seeking critical responses to texts that instruct their readers to go out into the world and act—to do, make, or perform in highly determined ways but with gleefully (sometimes frighteningly) indeterminate results. We are interested in the range of formal and affective outcomes these procedural practices afford or engender, from the aleatory, to the unplanned/unplannable, the unsettling, the strange, the surprising, the cathartic, the ritualistic, the magical, the political, the insurgent, the surgical, the transgressive, the playful, the perverse, the pleasurable, and the beautiful. Essays ideally will address one or more of the following topics:
-TEXTUALITY AND MEDIA: Procedural writing evokes or implies an actual or imagined performance of its instructions. What, then, is the “text” of a procedural text, or what are its texts? How does procedural writing challenge recent methodological debates in literary studies (surface reading, “just” reading, distant reading, etc.) concerning the position of the critic in relation to the text? How does a critical apparatus reliant on close reading respond to instruction-based, open-ended, or unforeseeable works? What critical postures or methods are evoked or proposed by procedural works? Is it fruitful to approach procedural works via game theory, algorithmic analysis, media studies, or other approaches? To what extent do procedural texts invite or contribute to critiques of mastery?
-PERFORMANCE: What is the relationship between procedural writing and theories of performance or performativity? In what ways can poetic procedure magnify, alter, or transform the awareness or meanings of being embodied? How is somatic experience organized, in/formed, queered, or otherwise shaped by procedural texts? How does procedural writing orient or reorient routinized, habitual, or collective behaviors? We are interested in the relationship between poetic procedure and poetic knowledge, and in how procedures, instructions, rituals, etc. make political claims, transmit memory, forge individual (lyric) or collective identities, and so on.
-ENVIRONMENTS: From Ono’s invitation to “listen to the sound of the earth turning,” to angela rawlings’s geochronological performance scores, procedural writing has sought to reattune its readers to the planetary, ecological, architectural, and environmental surround. How are shifting urban and/or ecological realities reflected in procedural writing? What is the relationship between procedural writing and any of the various theorizations of “soft architecture” (Arakawa & Gins, Lisa Robertson, etc.)? In what ways have procedural texts sought to reconfigure poets’ or readers’ orientations toward their own (or other) environments? In what ways have procedural texts sought to attune or orient readers toward the more-than-human (the planetary), and in what ways or to what ends do procedural texts situate their readers within specific sites?
-EMBODIMENT: What are the political stakes of encounters between poets and/or readers and the world-at-large imagined, described, or demanded in procedural writings? In what ways and to what ends have procedural poetics engaged with “procedure” in its medical or legal senses? How can apparently technical or mechanical procedures enhance our understanding of aesthetic perception? How do the prescriptive qualities of procedural writing intersect with the rhetorics of avowedly political genres such as the manifesto? How do situated procedural poetics interact with principles of political organizing, with the feminist politics of care, or with other imperatives to remake the world? In this vein, we are particularly interested in receiving essays discussing non-Anglophone and non-U.S. proceduralisms.
Please forward abstracts of 300 words by October 1, 2021. Completed essays will be due by December 15, 2021 and submitted for peer review with a view to publication in September 2022. Abstracts as well as any queries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ongoing Call for Papers
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