After moving to Montreal at the beginning of April, I commenced work on a small, independent publishing project that would aim for free distribution of poetry, essays, and experimental prose. The project is called The Green Violin | La Violon Vert. The Green Violin is inspired by a 1969 collaboration between Fluxus artists Joseph Beuys and Henning Christiansen. The artists staged a ‘concert’ uniting two distinct moments in time, and with that entanglement, ritualizing the bond with one another. Henning played a violin that was painted green in two separate performances, after which the instrument has never been played since and now remains confined to the sarcophagi of art galleries.
This concert laces together the significance of two otherwise disparate moments, in a way where one can no longer be grasped without the other. To echo this way of connection, The Green Violin is intended to reflect facets of language as it embodies the struggle against capitalism (as against all violence derived from ideology) which is shared despite geopolitical and linguistic boundaries. The realization of language in this form can be traced across the historical narratives of documentary poetry, through formal experimentation that places challenging demands on time and the act of reading, in the decolonial practices of interchanging language and recovering the mother-tongue, and in the reclamation of silence and erasure.
But with this broad scope, The Green Violin remains humble in materials. It is self-funded, it operates with unglamorous materials for small booklets, tabloid-sized sheets of newsprint, and the occasional simple broadside. An untrained ‘publication povera’, unfunded by government-sanctioned arts grants or universities. This form is meant for the caprice of flight, which is less ornamented, and more concerned with its corpus and destination.
Publications are printed indefinitely, but general numbers for a first printing are around 120-150. Subsequent editions are reprinted as materials permit, with the intention for the work published by the press to continue as living works (also enabling authors to interpret the process of revisions or adjustments, directly or through an annotated version of their original work). The first few ‘test’ publications have already found their way into public distribution in Montreal and Ottawa, with broader distribution slated for future publications. The press is welcoming its first authors this winter (2017).
The Green Violin is a free-distribution project, motivated by anti-capitalist principles, meaning the works are not for sale. There is no copyright taken by the press. The Green Violin intends to target a readership that is outside of academic and institutional spaces where such literature is normally distributed. These spaces are places of community and discussion that are often subsumed under capitalist relationships of exchange: they are cafes and bars, community centres, bookstores, grocery stores, newsstands, and corporate-funded ‘public’ events. The free distribution model is intended to make accessible the writing and thought that is often isolated within academic spheres, but with the call to live up to the principles of sharing knowledge and disrupting silos of expertise.
The Green Violin in part responds to the prevalence of anarchism, and the revolutionary image, as good business for commercial publishers. The accessibility of ‘radical’ literature remains in the realm of commodity, as a collector’s item, as part of a buy-in culture. It has never been more profitable for academies and publishing institutions, including those who self-present as radical or anarchist presses, to publish ‘incendiary’ literature, often replicating the exclusive cult of personality that draws sales. There are unprecedented profits for contemporary publishing of guides, how-to’s, and manuals for convenient revolutions. Molotovs are fashion statements! If the academy has also joined the necropolis of cultural detritus, then let the inquisition carry on outside of its state-funded muzzle!