Our Front Porch: Five of Craig Dongoski's Artistic Influences

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Henri Michaux, Mescaline Drawing, 1960, ink on paper, 12 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches. Gift of Philip Johnson, © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Image courtesy moma.org.

The idea for BURNAWAY originated from a front-porch conversation about the need for more dialogue about local art. This week’s edition of Our Front Porch is a themed list by local artist Craig Dongoski describing some inspirations for his work.
After being asked to think of a theme or subject relevant to my own artistic history, medium, or subject, and to choose five noteworthy specimens to accompany it, I decided to shed some light on my general working method, which is to approach art-making as a philosophical pursuit under the scaffold of historical precedents. Specifically, I am interested in exploring the realm between the acts of drawing and writing. The historical context for my work encompasses influences by the Symbolists, including the paintings of Vincent van Gogh in nineteenth-century France, as well as the inscriptions and drawings of Henri Michaux and Arnulf Rainer in the twentieth century. My interests in pursuing this particular thread between writing and drawing has lead me to explore the aural artifact of mark-making as well, which in turn has opened up additional interests in experimental sound, writing, and poetry.
Below I’ve included a selection of base material artifacts that have varying degrees of influence on my work methods. I’ve also attempted to demonstrate, in a direct way, how some of these methods are employed to augment process and build results.
Craig Dongoski, @ Least BE, 2012. Image courtesy Craig Dongoski.

1. @ Least BE: This particular album cover, designed by Peter Blake, provided me a large enough template to present a universe made up of key luminaries that continue to feed my pursuits. My list of influences is something I like tweaking from time to time, usually in the form of a bibliography. The choice of using the album cover was done specifically as a graphic novelty for this article. I am probably like most artists in that there are many recurring, simultaneous, and converging forces that drive the work. I have attempted to offer here a group of influences that are steady forces within my practice.

Click the player above to listen to an excerpt of Craig Dongoski’s “A+B China,” or click here to download the MP3.
2. “A+B China”: In 2008, I was in China on a residency and resurrected a long lost project, in which I used to collect discarded cassette tapes that I found along the roadside. I later spliced one-to-two foot sections together and replayed them. Offered here is Side A mixed with Side B. While in other instances, I’ve pieced together parts of different cassettes, in this work, there is no manipulation other than the dubbing together of two sides of a single tape. Peculiarities occur from the degraded quality of the tape and the unexpected juxtapositions of sound sequences. The splicing is in the general spirit of Musique Concréte adhered to by such mix-artists as Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry, and Michel Chion; the project also nods to the tape experiments of Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs, John Cage, and Milan Knížák; as well as more contemporary cut-up wizards like John Oswald; People Like Us; and Stock, Hausen & Walkman. This piece occurred in another form on Atlanta sound poet James Sander’s experimental poetry site “As Long as it Takes.”
Arnulf Rainer, Untitled, 1969-74, oilstick on gelatin silver print, 23 x 19 inches. Gift of Joan and Lester Avnet (by exchange), © 2012 Arnulf Rainer. Image courtesy moma.org.

Click the player above to listen to an excerpt of Craig Dongoski’s “Homophonic Translation BEOWULF,” or click here to download the MP3.
3. “Homophonic Translation BEOWULF”: I used a vocoder in this experiment. Channel one inputs the live writing sounds while channel two receives a signal from an audio book reading of Beowulf. The spoken channel of the recording, channel two, is activated and articulated only when the inscribing implement is in contact with the surface. A scrambled, modulated, and barely intelligible ‘voice’ is transmitted. A homophonic translation occurs as the brain tries furiously to keep up with what the handwriting relentlessly reveals. The experience allows the subjects to produce writing from a quasi-automatic state. This practice I developed is in keeping with research done by Konstantīns Raudive, Raymond Cass, Friedrich Jürgenson, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, and others working in the field of electronic voice phenomena (EVP). I also view this work within the context of necromancy and other forms of automatism (akin to those of Austin Osman Spare and André Masson). NOTE: You can try this one at home: to participate, just take out a pen and begin writing what you think you are hearing from this recording.

4. Matthews’s Algorithm: This was invented by American Harry Matthews. Matthews is part of a group of experimental writers known by the acronym OuLiPo (roughly translated, Workshop for the Potential of Literature). OuLiPo was a literary movement founded in France by Raymond Queneau. He was originally a part of the Surrealist movement until he was dismissed by André Bréton in 1929. He founded OuLiPo as a reaction against Surrealism by employing constraints to writing (such as using only the left side of the typewriter or writing intelligible novels without using the letter e). This was in opposition to the pure chance operations that the Surrealists embraced. In an additional act of resistance, Queneau insisted that once one was a member of OuLiPo their membership could not be revoked (a reaction against Bréton’s own banishment of members). As a result of this lifetime membership OuLiPo still exists today and has a number of splinter groups working in painting, comic books, and detective novels.
Matthew’s Algorithm allows you to choose anything from four words to four sentences to four paragraphs to four large passages of text, split them into fourths, and then mix them by shifting the placement of the lengths of the texts. Results tend to be more interesting when the four choices are more widely varied. For this example I have chosen page 31 from four works (“Knots” by R.D. Laing, Remarks on Color by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thee Psychick Bible by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and my Chinese horoscope from January 31, 2012). I color coded the texts and provided hash marks at the divides so that the reader might follow along more clearly.

Click the player above to listen to an example of the Fugitive’s radio broadcast, or click here to download the MP3.
5. The Fugitive (The Last Voice of the Church Age): This is an excerpt from a shortwave broadcast by a provocative agent that I have collected and sampled for years. If you are a fan of Frances E. Dec’s Worldwide Mad Deadly Communist Gangster Computer God rants, then you will certainly appreciate the Fugitive. I am interested in the history of radio in all its forms. The Fugitive’s broadcasts are examples of Radio Theater in the tradition of Orson Welles and the Avant-Garde beginning with Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud. When it comes to my own work, I think of radio as an exhibition space that exists on its own terms outside of the theater, music halls, and gallery spaces.

Georgia Museum of Art

Craig Dongoski’s background is in drawing, painting, and printmaking. He also is involved with sound as a medium and sound poetry. Dongoski has been an Associate Professor at Georgia State University since 1999 and was a full-time instructor at the Museum School in Boston for ten years prior to moving to Atlanta.
Dongoski has an extensive national and international exhibition record: in 2010 Dongoski was an invited artist of the Paivascapes 1 Sound Residency in Nodar, Portugal; he had two solo exhibitions in 2011; and a performance at the High Museum in Atlanta. He also produced a sound installation this summer at the Ionion Center in Kefalonia, Greece.
He was nominated twice for a Ford/Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in New Media and received a university-wide award in Innovation in Instruction at Georgia State University. Dongoski also has two commercially released CDs one on Hydra Head Records, titled Drawing Voices and one on Aucourant Records, titled Orbital Lullaby.

Our Front Porch is a series inviting guest contributors to share thoughts on local art for open discussion with you, our readers.