from "Sharp Facts" by bpNichol at Light and Dust

Sketches from

Selections from TTA 26

by bpNichol


Most poets go through a phase in which they tinker with photocopiers. bpNichol and I were fanatics in the pursuit of creative xerography. This included phoning each other to report on new things we were doing, and new machines we were working with; trying things out for each other on machines in different cities, and so forth. Sharp Facts was his only TTA related book in this mode to see print.

Print in this case meant an offset cover, introduction, and title pages -- the rest was done on photocopiers during two days in February of 1980. The machines used were in public places, and this created some confusion among people around us, though, fanatics that we, were, it was definitely a high for both of us. At one point we were working on the only photocopier in a building and had a line of maybe half a dozen people behind us. One fellow in the impatient line behind us asked "what the hell you guys doing, printing a book?" bp and I turned at precisely the same time, said "ya" in perfect synchronization, and turned back to the machine just as mechanically, though both of us laughing at how much like the machine we were working on we had become. It would have made a good video clip. Bouvard et Pacuchet in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

This part of TTA remains problematic in that it can never be reprinted, since each reprinting is a separate generation. When we did this book, we planned to do other installments; now that is plainly impossible. Given this limitation, I'm not terribly eager to sell the copies I've still got on hand, except to dedicated, un-reconstructed, un-revisionized bpNichol fans. At the same time, it would be a shame to restrict the work to them. What I've done here is take portions of the work to a different generation (the web). The pages of the book were standard 8 1/2 x 11 sheets -- just what you'd expect from a photocopier. In reproducing them on the web I'd have to drastically reduce them to make them visible all-at-once in gallery format on screen, which would have sacrificed detail for generalization's sake. This has been one of the most destructive ways of reproducing contemporary art of all sorts, one which bp had little use for, and one that I have rejected here, in favor of full size presentation. Since I'm presenting a diagram, it seemed wise not to reproduce the whole work, but rather sections of it. This is in keeping with the way bp set up part two. The work presented here does make a reasonably good sketch, and insist on a number of dimensions of bp's work that have been ignored or pushed under the rug. It's the best I can do, and in this case, the only honest way to go, and the best way to honor a great poet and a great friend.


The translative system involved here entails the use of (& at this point, despite the best efforts of a battery of high-priced copyright lawyers, my tendency is to say xerox, when of course what I mean is) copying machine disintegrative tendencies. Which is to say that an image fed through a copying machine over & over again (feeding the image of the image, & then the image of the image of the image, & so on) thru a great many generations, disintegrates. & it does this differently depending on which type of copying machine you're using.

The major example included here was generated on a Sharpfax Copier. Because of a machine error the long verticle lines were produced on the initial copy & became wedded to the text thru its various transformations. The poem was illustrated, the lines becoming variously the trees thru which the sun shone, in their drift part of the flicker on the glasses, analogous to scratch marks on film unreeling, & the frames of the window. Using the Sharpfax Copier the image begins to be pulled off the page even as it disintegrates, a double thrust of text into silence.

The second example included here is really from three different copying machines. The first sheet is a copy of the fifth generation image (making it a sixth generation image) done on an old style Xerox Copying Machine, one which Xerox has since taken off the market. The source text is reproduced from the issue of BLEW OINTMENT in which 'Translating Apollinaire' was originally published (circa 1964). The second sheet is a copy of a ninth generation image but is also the first one taken on a Canon Copier. I switched over to a Canon Copier in order to produce a fairly rapid fade-out. The Canon Copier copies get fainter with each passing generation as witness the third sheet, a copy of the 12th generation image (the fourth on the Canon Copier). The fourth sheet is a 32nd generation image produced when the earlier 8 generations on the old Xerox were extended on a Xerox 7000.

All of the sheets included in this book are Xerox 7000 copies of their stated generation which thus alters each image one generation more & in every case but one does so on a different copying system. The results are different again if you use a wet process copier as opposed to a dry one (cf Karl Young's First Book of Omens). The ultimate goal of TTA 26 is to produce generational disintegrations on all the different types of copying machines. The analogue is one of a transmission thru time, a speeding up of the breakdown process given information in a purely machine context. In this case the machine is the message. The text itself ultimately disappears.

February 23, 1980

go to selections from "Sharpfax Copier Sequence"

Go to selections from "Xerox & Canon Copier Chaining Sequence"

Go to Translating Translating Appolinaire

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