Electronic Beat #1 Amerika Online

Mind Investigations

Mark Amerika

For the next few weeks, I will revolve my Internet column around the month-long activities being held at the Naropa Institute's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. This year marks the Twentieth Anniversary of the program and the first week is a kind of mammoth tribute to Allen Ginsberg, guru of Modern Poetry and co-founder of the school. Nestled in the foothills of Boulder, Colorado, where I also happen to make my home, this first week is being called Beats & Other Rebel Angels: A Tribute to Allen Ginsberg which is interesting to me because at the press conference that Allen held today inside the new Allen Ginsberg Library Building, he was saying:

"The Beat Movement was never meant to be a rebellion. It was meant to bring in a new consciousness. The middle-class, who were rebelling against Mother Nature by destroying her ecologically, made us out to be rebellious."
This was pure Ginsbergian wisdom dripping down the seams of the media outfit that draped the packed conference room. One of the chief lessons I have learned from Ginsberg and that I have tried to apply to my own upstart writing career is that the whole idea of being the renegade outsider, the literary outlaw, the rowdy disciple, etc., is, for the most part, a myth made up by the repressed middle-working-classes so that they can justify their own participation in the Planetary Work Machine. Ginsberg's genius, for me, is that he has always been able to transmit the kind of compassionate energy that a certain kind of media figure needs if they're going to change Consciousness (big C, meaning the whole she-bang, Everybody, the society of Potential Artists).

Ginsberg says "the first time I smoked grass, it wasn't just for kicks, it was for mind investigation. I went to the museum and watched, stoned, Cezanne paintings and Paul Klee. Eyeball kicks." What he's saying, of course, is that he was breaking down the linear, predetermined, uniform vision that's always being created for us by the multi-national corporate conglomerations that try to name us, bide our time for us, and eventually put us in our grave without the least slap on the back for all the good work we've done making them sick-rich. One possible antidote to the boredom of workaday, commodity-infested unreality, is to smoke a doob, get high, check out some art and, if you're lucky, get laid (or lay yourself!). And while you're at it, how about making some radically altered art? Some non-sensical, yet free and aware anarchic communication that challenges the corporate captians of culture! That's where it's at!

But how can we even begin to start thinking or doing these things when everything seems so chaotic and firmly in control of the neo-conservatives whose Media Oligarchy continues to rule over our minds?

Ginsberg: "Burroughs really wrote the script for what's happening now. Mind-controllers, homogenizing mentality through the media. The answer is in Gary Snyder's ecological reconstruction, sexual revolution, resistance to police state, brainwash, etc. Take the brainwash language and deconstruct it.

"The whole planet is Beat. At the bottom of the barrel, ecologically. Young people ask: what are we inheriting from them? We may lose the planet in the next hundred years. So the X-generation has questions: how do you make a living, how do you make a life, especially with our government promoting buzzwords like diminishing expectations."

The idea is not so much to overthrow those in power by killing their wives and children and tying them up to a pole and slowly burning off their genitals, although visions of Reagan or Bush squealing in tortuous agony aren't beyond us (some might even find this a kind of turn-on). But the new consciousness Ginsberg has always tried to slip into the wasteland's mainstream is one that can happen on two levels. First, the private level: love yourself. Commit auto-erotic terrorism over the deterritorialized mass of goose flesh you call Your Body and lubricate your soul with the promiscuous oil of sexual fantasy. Assist yourself in this process by smoking good grass, or reading hot fiction or poetry. Play some libidinally-charged music. Whatever. Turn yourself on!

Then, secondly, go public with it, publish your thoughts, poetry, music, film, wisdom, share Your Body with the Other, wherever the Other may be. In the Ginsberg press conference, there was this sense of being seduced, lectured, performed for, humored, contemplated and marketed to. The reporters/recorders were actualizing themselves in acts of creative consumption. The press conference was not your typical media event meant to simulate meaning while carefully avoiding any kind of commitment whatsoever. Hardly. Ginsberg was giving another seminar, a pedagogical performance for an audience who just happened to be tape-recording, videotaping, filming, and chickenscratching the text-in-flux Allen has become. He spoke on drugs ("marijuana would be an excellent cash crop for the small American farmer"), politics ("the Reagan/Bush years were full of the worst sort of mind control"), and when I asked him about the Internet and all the vaporware surrounding the info superhighway he said, with a great smile, "I don't know if Virtual Reality can make you cum," but then got serious, said he knew of writers who were using the medium for creating and communicating (including Robert Creeley who I'll try and interview later in the month) and even mentioned that the Buddhist's philosophy is all about VR which, of course, it is.

There are many interesting people floating around this scene. Hakim Bey, Ed Sanders, David Amram, Cecil Taylor, Anne Waldman, Marianne Faithful, and many, many others. Not to mention the students who, in the end, support the project with their tuition and presence. I will be actively seeking ideas, words, thoughts and responses from both the known and the unknown over the next four weeks. Stay tuned to this Alternative-X Channel.

Mark Amerika is Director of the Alt-X Publishing Network. In the last year he's published three books including Sexual Blood (Black Ice Books), Degenerative Prose: Writing Beyond Category (Black Ice Books) and In Memoriam To Postmodernism: Essays On the Avant-Pop (San Diego State University Press).