Joe Amato - Nous Refuse

[While searching for unique expressions of the Network possibilities I was referred to a group calling themselves *Nous Refuse*. I asked Joe Amato, facilitator for the collective, to describe what they were up to. His (and their) response follows. - fowler]

*Nous Refuse*

(as compiled by Joe Amato, with a little help from his friends)

Earlier this year---29 January to be exact---I contacted a number of my closest net contacts to see if they would be
interested in getting together electronically to exchange
work under the general rubric "writing." Online writing,
scholarship, manifesto, fiction, poetry, what have you.

Not discussion per se, but this too---only all to be
transmitted & received as an ongoing exchange, again, of
writing. From my original post:

My sense of it is that the writing would speak, not simply
for, but to itself. Not more textual solipsism/incest/
parasitism, but more like self-referential interactive
text---each work building off of the others, growth by
virtue of an online interchange of textuality.

The result---Nous Refuse (& take it any way you like).
The list of contributors has fluctuated somewhat, as one
might expect. Work has right along been forwarded to me, &
I've redistributed to the rest of the group, unedited (&
initially archived on my machine). Most of the work has
been poetic, has been written in lines.

What Nous Refuse *is*, however, is at any instant shaped by
what it might be. From the standpoint of writing, it might
be just about anything, depending on who contributes what.
That I think of it (& have 'advertised' it) more as an
electronic writing collective than as a publication has
something to do with its limited appeal. That is, not
everybody has the time or inclination to generate pixels
that will ultimately not be registered as tenure-track
phenomena. & in any case, a few of the folks on the list
are not academics. To my knowledge, the range of academic
contributors-lurkers includes tenured faculty & graduate
students (& undergraduates are always welcome---there may
even be a few on the list).

But it's a somewhat unorthodox band of, presently, forty or
so persistent souls, even in terms of known reputations: a
number of contributors (or lurker-contributors) are
well-known for their (print) poetry, a number for their
electronic work. & a number of the rest are from
non-writing fields per se. Nice mix.

The result is quirky, irregular, ventures into the
unfamiliar, unexpected. An online group renga. A cut-up.
A rant. As with most electronic lists, the number of actual
contributors is a relatively small percentage of the number
in the collective. (We're not doing too bad, though:
lurkers currently outnumber contributors at approx. two or
three to one.)

To give some idea of how the work posted to Nous Refuse
tends to work against the conventional grain: having posted
(to Nous Refuse) GRIST's request for a piece describing
who/what we are, here's what two contributors posted in
response (the first from Forrest Richey, the second from
Jeremy J. B. Nguyen):

     sending out (reading in)
words (arranged)
thoughts (coded in words)
expressable as ASCII only
relayed thus delayed
and (largely?) un-edited
answering others' sendings
a stately ping pong game
staid on accounta
organization/line impedance
dancing (slow and measured)
pushing toward
the day we can
jack in and FLY!
brushing neurons with the Net-ters
illusory(?) COMyounication
foundlings virtually no more
_voices in the choir_


| jeremy is a discarded toaster by the |
| side of the road. others often place |
| cold slices of bread or other edible |
| materials into the slots and after a |
| period of adjustment they pop out as |
| something different, sometimes eaten |
| up and sometimes merely licked a few |
| times but sometimes burnt to a crisp |

yet often they never come out at all

It's worth mentioning here that the editor/publisher of
GRIST, John Fowler, himself posted a note regarding his
potential contribution to *this* piece. In it, he hits on
an interesting aspect of net interaction. Here's John:

I appreciate being added to the group but I have
some hopefully unfounded fears that some members
may not appreciate having an editor/publisher lurk-
ing about. I don't have a clear understanding of
what you're all up to so maybe I'm just showing my
midwestern, semi-paranoid background. But I don't
want to be barging in or inhibiting anything that is
going on.

What John's remarks highlight is the fact that Nous Refuse
(& other such net workings) permits an online, public
exchange between both the editor/publisher function & the
contributor-author function. In this instance, the
editor/publisher's modesty(-"paranoia") precludes a
contribution per se---but the fact remains that John's
public statement of his self-perceived role in the group (&
I prompted him to allow me to repost to the group what was
originally a post solely to yours truly) situates him in a
somewhat different (non?)hierarchical relationship with
potential contributors to his publication. & it thereby
opens the door (window?) to a somewhat more relaxed
conception of what the editorial/publishing function is all
about, blurring the distinction between this latter &
potential contributors in the event John should himself
choose to contribute. If John *does* contribute---indeed,
even when he contributes as above----his contributions will
mark out his personal aesthetics (& politics etc) in the
public domain. & in terms of Nous Refuse, such a domain
consists of an online, interactive dialogue between writers.

So ysee, you never know just what to expect from this crew,
whether resistance ('we refuse,' in so many words) or
compatibility ('new refuse'). & this makes the exchange,
from my pov, that much more vital, that much less hemmed in
by the conventions of conventional such 'meeting places,'
that much more attuned to the dynamics of exchange itself.
An emphasis on process, that old buzzword, but with a fairly
sophisticated, working sensibility as to more traditional
conceptions of poetic 'presence' (probably as a result of
the slippery locale of espace) & marketplace (once again,
Nous appeals to those who simply aren't satisfied with
customary consumer outlets).

Where we're headed---well, no place, exactly. There's a
Beat premise here (with its corresponding quasi-libertarian,
American mythology) in this conception of moving right
along---though I would like to think that "the road" in this
case extends outward to permit for active participation by
women (still, representing only one quarter of Nous) &
likewise partakes of potentially global traffic patterns.
(One of the contributors, Chris Bigum, resides in
Australia---a point made painfully evident to me when, upon
my posting a "summer update," Chris kindly jogged me that it
was just beginning to get cold down under!). Which is not
to gloss the underlying issue of access, the fact that only
the more industrialized nations presently allow for these
sorts of (spontaneous?) writing/virtual communities.

But the result has been, for me at least, incredibly
rewarding. My personal agenda having much to do with trying
to stay a/live in my profession (I'm one of the
academic-bound contributors)---& I'm talking equal amounts
survival & meaningfulness---I couldn't ask for a more
exciting locale. And hell---where ELSE might I go as public
as I please with my keystrokes?

I'll conclude this piece of writing with my more poetic
response to what 'we' on Nous Refuse are all about (posted,
self-indulgently, in response to my own posting!). Feel
free to write in & contribute your own noninklings (just
give me a jingle, JAMATO@UX1.CSO.UIUC.EDU):

work that continues to open out into a world
that continues to open out
into itself, and in this opening
there is a closing within the individual, the species:
can we find
within this work
the working intelligence, can we find
the opening that brings with it
its parts and wholes, that brings with it
at all times
more and less than itself
the work of closing, the work without
continuing, from individual to the individual
the work of the species
that is as well the work of a whole
of which it is itself a part?

can we find within ourselves
the opening into this work, this work
that opens into a world, continuing
at all times
to fold into itself, to give us
the work of closing, the work
that opens past?

& the current list of contributors, in abcdisorder: Marleen
Barr, Charles Bernstein, Chris Bigum, Michael Blitz, Don
Byrd, Wes Chapman, Eric Crump, Laurence Davies, Nate
Dorward, Luigi-Bob Drake, Nancy Dunlop, David Durand, John
Fowler, Chris Funkhouser, William Gardner, Loss Pequeno
Glazier, Carolyn Guyer, Pierre Joris, Michael Joyce, Robert
Kelly, Andrew Levy, Justin McHale, Jenny Miller, Stuart
Moulthrop, Jeremy Nguyen, Derek Owens, Martha Petry, David
Porush, Neil Randall, Forrest Richey, Martin Rosenberg,
Armand Schwerner, Kenneth Sherwood, Paul Southworth, Juliana
Spahr, Kali Tal, Patricia Thompson, Katie Yates ...
. . . . .

Hey, why am I still t/here?

Well, after posting the entire piece to Nous for
comments/editing etc, I rec'd the following from Robert
Kelly... As always, Robert's words pushed the envelope that
much further, and in a somewhat different direction... Here
they are, another provisional (r)end(er)ing:)

somewhere along this way to say these 2 things,
that Nous Refuse and Grist and all that we see on the
screen are (and must/shd be) strictly
beside the point,
therein their liberty (I will not say libertarian, with
the comfortable gentleman-farmer ex-hippie sense that bears)
and once they get to be the point,
then they are not to be discerpted from those means they
right now get around and past and (in general)
through to us

and, secondly, that they share with cyperprose etc the
angerous charm of being in essence virtualities, fictional
in essence, and therefore (in this kalpa, thus)
corresponding to the noumenal urge ours since Proclus,
that is, we have turned our back to the sea.
In order to speak to one another. This sorority.

From Grist On-Line #1, October, 1993. An original publication.
© copyright 1993, Joe Amato