It began at a Joseph Beuys exhibit in Los Angeles in 2010. We had not seen other in a while—–E.J. lives in New York and Philip, in Cleveland; professional life and family had kept our energies focussed locally, inwardly. But being together, inspired by Beuys, opened this opportunity to transmit back and forth between our geographic and poetic neighbourhoods. As Beuys has written, ‘I want the work to become an energy centre… It’s the same principle again: transmitter and receiver. The receiver is the same as the transmitter, only in felt. It is a totalization.’ Beuys is the muse of this work, the joint of our join.
Whether Conditions came into being over a series of emails in which we traded lines using the surrealist game of conditionals. One person offer an ‘if’ clause and the other would end it with a ‘then’ clause, but without considering what the ‘if’ clause stated. That person would begin another sentence, and send both pieces back.
The ‘totalization’ of this poem contained many months of transmissions. In a sense, we were moving with Beuys’ notion of art as evolutionary: ‘the nature of my sculpture is not fixed and finished.’ What remains here was placed under a kind of geologic pressure in the revision process. What was transmitted and what was received, through this pressure, was hardened and loosened and wildly confused so that to claim an ‘I’ or a ‘you’—–or a ‘we’ for that matter—–is now wonderfully impossible. It is an energy centre.