Artists Share Tweet

Michael Basinski

Michael Basinski

b. 1950
American
Born: Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.

Michael Basinski is a Western New York-based text, visual, and sound poet whose work is heavily influenced by Fluxus, the interdisciplinary avant-garde art movement that gained international attention in the 1950s and 1960s for its emphasis on chance operations, collective or anonymous authorship of artworks, and ephemeral gestures. Basinski performs his work both as a solo artist and in conjunction with the performance/sound ensemble Buffluxus. (In typical Fluxus fashion, the collective's name has multiple variant spellings, including "Bufffluxus," "Buff/Fluxus," and "BuffFluxus.") In an introduction to his work on the Poetry Foundation website, Geof Huth writes: "Michael Basinski creates visual poems that are colorful cacophonies of text and shape. His handwritten poems, which often serve as scores for equally exuberant sound poems, are filled to the margin with broken lines of text that curl into one another, read from different directions, and are often filled with nonsense words of his own invention." [1]

In a particularly informative 2002 interview with the poet, Donna Longenecker observes: "Basinski's poetry is visual in form--text merging with color, images, and symbols--collages that convert metaphor and myth into a landscape that begs to be touched as much as it is read. It also incorporates sound--from the familiar sound of a squeaky sneaker to glossolalia. His work is meant to be explored the way one reads maps, at times relying on a key to plot and decipher the journey. ... His tools are simple--magic markers, highlighters, colored pens, and copy machines. The work brims with color, with clippings of medical textbook drawings, newspaper ads or botanical drawings, typographical symbols and his own renderings inserted into and around the text much like breadcrumbs left for a traveler tramping his/her way through a mythological--or real--forest." [2]

Basinski's own description of his artistic method is considerably less straightforward, as this characteristically playful, willfully obtuse statement for a 2005 exhibition/performance amply demonstrates:

"Opems are my pomes, a forms of improvisational manuscript poeming with variable entry points and without time restriction or bondage that calls for a concentration of performed poetic trajectories as they originate via the keys with any opem. Make them umbleuttphabite and others." [3]

Basinski is a native of the East Side of Buffalo, N.Y. whose family has been in the area since 1879. He earned an associate's degree in Chemistry from Erie County Community College and a BA, MAH, and PhD in English from the University at Buffalo. He is the curator of the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries at the University at Buffalo. [4]

Among Basinski's many books of poetry are Poems Popeye Papyrus (Slack Buddha Press), Of Venus 93 (Little Scratch Pad), All My Eggs Are Broken (BlazeVox) and Trailers (BlazeVox). His poems and other works have appeared in many magazines including Poetry, Rampike, DandelionKenning, Lungfull, Lvng, Generator, Western Humanities Review, Vanitas, and Public Illumination. He has also released an audio CD of his collaboration with musician Don Metz, entitled Funginii.

In a preview of a 2006 live performance of the latter piece, Geoff Kelly writes: "Funginii, according to Michael Basinski, ... are part-fungus, part-genie. They are raucous, magical, woodland creatures who hide your car keys in strange places, hold incense in Mayan structures, and inspire strange and compelling verbal and musical orchestrations that manifest entirely through improvisation. If that sounds a little like elf-rock to you, you’re poking around under the wrong tree: Buffluxus is even further out than that. The Buffluxus musicians—Don Metz, Karen Yacobucci, Douglas Manson, Matt Chambers, Basinski, Leah Muir, and Chris Fritton—improvise music and sound poetry, Metz’s guitar work at turns holding earthbound or launching spaceward a choir of words, near-words and sounds. ... Funginii features music by Metz and words by Basinski, as well as improvised video and handmade film by Brian Milbrand and Tom Holt. Metz and Basinski are veteran strange agents, and Friday’s collaboration will surely, as it has in past performances over the years, yield a unique, ephemeral wonder." [5]

 For examples of Michael Basinski's poems, visual works, and other writings, visit http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/basinski/.

 

[1] Geof Huth, "Labile by Michael Basinski," Poetry Magazine/The Poetry Foundation website, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/182409. (Accessed 07/10/2013)

[2] Donna Longenecker, "Color, Images, and 'Words That Aren't Words," UB Reporter, 10/10/2002, http://www.buffalo.edu/ubreporter/archive/vol34/vol34n4/articles/Basinski.html?print=1. (Accessed 07/10/2103)

[3] Michael Basinski, Artist statement for 'soundvision/visionsound III,' a group exhibition/reading at Nave Gallery, 07/07-08/06/2005, http://www.artsomerville.org/nave/2005/soundvision.html. (Accessed 07/10/2013)

[4] For additional biographical information, see Aaron Lowinger, "Realm of Joy," Artvoice, 02/23/2012, http://artvoice.com/issues/v11n8/in_the_margins. (Accessed 07/10/2013)

[5] Geoff Kelly, "See You There: Funginii," Artvoice, 04/27/2006, http://artvoice.com/issues/v5n17/see_you_there/funginii. (Accessed 07/10/2013)