Collaborators! Carlos M. Luis & Derek White

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 loggernaut Working internationally, across generations, and in various media and genres, Carlos M. Luis and Derek White fuse visual and verbal texts into singular yet multifarious collage languages. They are co-authors of O Vozque Pulp and ma(I)ze Tassel Retrazos, a pair of volumes that hybridize the chap-book and art book formats, both published by White's Calamari Press.

Writer, artist, and curator Carlos M. Luis was born in Havana in 1932 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1962 after becoming disillusioned with the revolution. Among other curatorial and professorial duties, Luis directed the Cuban Museum of Art and Culture in Miami from 1979 through 1990, during which period the museum was bombed by anti-Castro militants for displaying the work of non-émigré Cubans (in a more deskbound act of censorship, the City of Miami refused to renew to the museum's lease in 1991, prompting a lawsuit won by the museum). Luis's own work, usually categorized as visual poetry or collage, has been displayed around the world and has appeared in numerous journals including Word for Word, SleepingFish, Zunai (Brazil), TSE TSE (Argentina), and Manglar (France). Recent publications include Walls for Finnegans & Palimpsests for Beckett (Anabasis Press) and Dysfunctional Texts (Luna Bisonte Press), as well as his two titles with Calamari.

Writer, scientist, and publisher Derek White was raised in Oregon, Mexico, and California. He studied math until he "realized it was a useless language without something to ground it to." He traveled widely, earned degrees in physics and philosophy, and finally settled in New York City where he works for Comedy Central by day and publishes books, chapbooks, and the journal SleepingFish under the Calamari imprint by night. His own writing has been published in Denver Quarterly, Double Room, elimae, and many other venues. -Joyelle McSweeney

Joyelle McSweeney: Thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview! Let's begin with a simple question: Where are you right now?

Derek White Right now I am on the 7th floor of a building in the Lower East Side of Manhattan that used to be the building that housed Guss' Pickles. I am standing at my desk half-answering my email and half-watching college basketball (my team, Arizona, just lost).

Carlos M. Luis: Right now I am sitting in front of my computer trying to answer your questions. I live in Miami (a city I don't particularly like) in a townhouse with my wife Martha.

White: And can you give us a visual as to where you are?

McSweeney: I am writing from a little house in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on the edge of the student (i.e., football, beer, and SUV) district. You can see the stadium from here. We are in our second flowering and well into spring. Hopefully the ants that live in my study won't resurface for another few weeks, however. My study is a wood-paneled converted porch that looks like it should have taxidermied fish on the walls. Instead, it has the following images printed off the Internet: St. Therese dressed as Joan of Arc; Picasso's costumes from "Parade"; and a frontispiece to Blaise Cendrars's "End of the World as Filmed by the Angel of Notre Dame." Also a seismographic printout from the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Second question: How did you two come to collaborate?

White: Carlos might remember better than me, but I think he had submitted some work for the very first SleepingFish. I liked it and asked for more, and he sent me an envelope with some 30 or 40 of his images. They inspired me to write the short texts that became O, Vozque Pulp. That was so much fun that we did it again with the more recent ma(I)ze Tassel Retrazos. We've only met once in person, and that was when I went down to Miami for a visual poetry show that he was curating.

Luis: I don't recall how we began our collab. Probably it had to do with the Spidertangle net [a website and listserv for visual poetics—ed.]. I sent him a collaboration for his magazine SleepingFish and we have been exchanging collaborations ever since. The first were a few drawings I made in Aix en Provence that Derek liked and included in our first book. And the second with a number of collages that he used for our second collab: Tazel. . . .etc. (I haven't been able to memorize the titles well). I met Derek and Jessica in carlos m. luis Miami during their visit for a Vizpo show I curated at the Durban Segnini Gallery here in Miami, and liked them not only as artists but also as wonderful human beings.

McSweeney: What genres does each of you work in? Do you think of collaboration as a kind of genre? Does it require a different action of mind, or different technique? What defines a genre? Does genre exist?

White: If somebody out there believes genres exist, then genres exist (to those people anyway). There's no arguing that. I myself don't like to think about genre but more about process or realization. If you work specifically towards a genre, to me that is not really creating art but craft. Each time I create a new piece, I like to think of it as a unique object or meme that could be fulfilled using fiction or visual constructs, or whatever visual, textual, aural, tactile, or other sensory elements you wish to incorporate. Collaborating takes this further by further isolating the object from the creators. It seems to me only Americans or maybe Europeans have such an engrained concept of art needing to belong to an artist. In other places I have been, like Indonesia or Peru, I have noticed that artists will often collaborate on a work, casually picking up where someone left off, and not feeling a need to sign one's name to it (granted in many cases these types of art can usually be qualified as crafts). In an ideal world, these objects exist on their own and just happen to be created or morphed by so-and-so, or so-and-so and so-and-so (whether they know it or not). And these objects become "art" upon perception. We as "artists," or writers, whether we collaborate or not, or whether we are fulfilling a specific genre, are here merely to realize these objects to their full true potential. We are merely transitory slaves to these objects or "selfish memes."

Luis: Genre is one of those catchwords that postmodern critics love to use and doesn't really mean much to me. Therefore I have no idea (or for that matter care) in what genre I work. Insofar as working in collaboration: Lautréamont used to say that poetry should be made by all and not by one. I believe in the interaction


Palimpsest for Beckett, Carlos M. Luis






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ma(I)ze Tassel Retrazos

O Vozque Pulp

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