Olivia Cronk & the Work of Interro-Porn

Olivia Cronk & The Work of Interro-Porn

New work, and an interview with Brandon Lee Vear

This past year, Columbia Poetry Review came into contact with work from the artist Olivia Cronk. We became fascinated by the scope, style, and execution of her current project, Interro-Porn, and we found ourselves full of questions. We decided we just couldn’t keep those questions to ourselves. Below is an excerpt from Cronk’s ongoing project, and what follows is an interview with CPR editorial board member Brandon Lee Vear, along with snippets from Cronk’s multidimensional work as they have appeared elsewhere on the web. We conclude with original work from Cronk's Interro-Porn as well.


-from Interro-Porn:

Griselda, come to the very front of the stage for this part.
Giselle is behind, emerging from your mind
here, the curtains, the yellow satin, the stain of the falcon’s eye close at hand at
shoulder-level at the masking tape X of here here step here
                                           I was in love with that dress and when she wore it I felt
                                           jealousy
                                           and I wanted to be her.
                                           I wanted to be her.



ARE YOU MORE THAN A MINIATURIST?
ARE YOU MORE THAN AN IMITATION?
ARE YOU MORE THAN A SLOB A COWARD CONSTANTLY COMPARING YOUR
SUFFERING AND YOUR CLOTHES TO OTHERS’?
DID WE BLOCK THIS SCENE RIGHT?


CPR: Why Interro-Porn and why now?

Olivia Cronk: This kind of textual performance is pornographic in that it is about self-exposure, solicitation, gaze-playing, and cheap, image-based tricks. Actually, cheap, image-based tricks are kind of my bag, anyway.

Also, I am thirty-seven. I have given birth. I read books in my dirty sheets, where I also have sex. I write. I am a teacher. I am engulfed by my daughter. I do laundry. I dress myself. I look at how others are adorned. I am interested in women’s fashions, and in prepositions as fixtures across language and bodies. I dress myself. I try to maintain a loose constellation of women I adore. I adore most women with whom I have spent time. I read. I have sex. I perform—in the bedroom/in the classroom/in the mirror/in my daughter’s dollhouse/on a screen. I read. I write. I dress. Isn’t the textual actualizing of these tasks a kind of pornography?

Also, I love film noir.
Also, I love Surrealist question-and-answer structures/parlor games.
Also, I love doing fake voices.
I am a fake.

CPR: What is your idea behind the use of different media to promote and share the work? Does it function as you want it to? What's it like sharing the artistic process as it happens?

Cronk: As I wrapped up my second manuscript, I began writing what I called/thought of as “soap opera poems.” I wanted to achieve that heightened-for-no-good-reason drama kind of thing, close-ups of make-up-y faces, sinister leanings upon mantles, some sort of Vincent Price/Hammer films/teenager-y/Dark Shadows (original and 90s) thing, montage skimming along/over communal meanwhiles, panning across space and time and emotion, feelings generated by pure manipulation—and, I wanted to (pretend-)make “women’s texts” (things created for daytime slowness + multi-tasking around baby/laundry/dishes).

And then I started simply needing to do something (however crappy, DIY, lo-fi) with video. I needed the information to pretend to move across something.

And my collaborator, Emily Greenquist, is very interesting to look at and is secretly and deeply strange—and she understands what I “mean” with my love of the sloppy easy-ness of montage and psycho-dramatic litanies of ladies in clothing.

And then I wanted to conduct informal interviews/surveys—so I emailed a bunch of lady-friends to inquire about their memories (slippery, false, (in)accurate, I don’t care) of their mothers’ clothing choices. They sent me their reports. I use(d) that material for scenery and tone and whatever.

Gazing. Fashion. Domestic claustrophobia. Even some flaneuse behaviors. Collections. Women’s information. And a play/script.

The medium is a mirror. Or, no: it’s a reflecting pond on fire with pixels. I want the project to be ongoing and all media at once. The fashion report is the portrait           is the interrogation of the self        is the insertion of something        is the question        is the soap opera     is the diary entry on how it feels to squeeze your life into your child’s dollhouse     is the dollhouse       is the unchecked passing on of gender & race              is the friend’s face/hand/email   is the poem   is the (tran)script (of) for performance and so on . . .

That’s the mess I’m in/making: using twitter and youtube to self-publish these things seemed natural and appropriate. I kind of like that youtube is covered in ads: it’s honest, I guess. And the twitter-form is delightful to me, though I’m not particularly savvy.

I’m not sure I’m even addressing the question—but it seems useful to consider process and medium.

In terms of sharing things as they emerge, it’s a little different than submitting poems and waiting on them. Umm . . . I guess it’s an interesting experiment with time and delivery and reception, though I’m pretty sure it’s just my most intimate friends and my family members who are looking at Romero, and probably no one is looking at my twitter feed—so, I’m more or less thinking of this project as being documented online, but mostly in the form of unseen-archive.

CPR: What is your inspiration behind the project; was there a particular piece of art or an experience that jump-started the creativity?

Cronk: Like so, so many women, after having a child and allowing all of the curtains to shift and re-shape the mood/genre of my own narrative, I underwent the experience of re-negotiating my identity.

And of course pretty much ALL of my reading is somehow research for whatever I am working on. Here is an absolutely incomplete list:

Lana Del Rey—the entity/business, the oeuvre, the specific pieces
Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo—twitter feed and supplementary texts
Jennifer Tamayo’s You Da One
Johannes Goransson’s Haute Surveillance
Suzanne Scanlon—both of her novels & her way of reading aloud one summer in my creative writing class
Andrea Rexilius—all three books & her fashions
Philip Sorenson—everything, but especially Men’s Fashions
Maggie Nelson—all of it, but especially her formal choices
Cassandra Troyan’s Kill Manual
Trisha Low’s The Compleat Purge
Dario Argento’s movies
Dark Shadows (1969)
Witches of East End
everything on the CW
http://montevidayo.com/
ideas about “scripts” as suggested by Plays Inverse Press
this stuff about genre leakage: http://ghostproposal.com/
the twitter feed @Soniasuponia
Nikki Wallschlaeger –twitter feed and Houses
Anne Boyer—twitter feed and Garments against Women
Don Mee Choi—translations of Kim Hyesoon and original poems
Sofia Samatar’s essay “Skin Feeling”—http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/skin-feeling/
(recently) the Ferrante novels

CPR: Is there a particular audience you are writing for or perhaps has the work come from a particular place? (Be it a small community or a whole nation?)

Cronk: I think I’m almost always writing for my husband, with whom I am completely intellectually bound, but also—in this project, which is so tangled up with “women’s concerns”—for my ladies, my friends, my poetry-friends-whose-work-I-like, my mom, maybe my daughter when she is older/something else, my sister-in-law, some of my lady students with whom I’m slowly becoming friends—and of course anyone who has ever expressed affection for my writing because I’m dripping with need, of course.

CPR: In a world where the lines between what is and what is not a poem are being continually blurred and pushed to the limits, do you think poetry as an art form is really progressing or are people just running out of ideas? To make sense of this—for you, what is an “experimental” piece of writing, (does it even exist, is all writing experimental?) but more importantly, what makes an “experimental” piece meaningful and good as opposed to nonsense? Or, isn't nonsense the point sometimes?

Cronk: Yes, I assume, by my own delicious reading, that poetry is progressing—but I reject the notion of a progressive kind of history (I favor recursivity and also oppose phallogocentric notions of a timeline), so, if by “progressing,” you mean “changing/evolving,” YES. And also I hope that the endeavor to dismantle oppressive systems keeps up—and, obviously, that will mean that poetry/art/everything will “progress.”

There is no way that people are running out of ideas.

I want to say that all writing is experimental, of course. And then I want to note that “Experimental Poetry” (at least in my tiny known web of information) has a problem: the Avant Garde is racist & classist and suppresses many voices.

Like many poets, many parents of young children, and many citizens (“documented” here in the U.S. or not), I am earnestly, self-consciously, and somewhat failingly enmeshed in the “woke”-ness of our times; I am confused by/disgusted with myself and others as I consider my (un)willing participation in the racist, misogynistic, homo-/trans-phobic, classist, invisibility-generating machine.

  1. I am trying to self-interrogate.
  2. I am writing inside of it.
  3. This is my “experiment.”


By “nonsense,” do you mean: Gertrude Stein-ish stuff? (I don’t, by the way, mark Stein or anything with any kind of legibility as “nonsense.”)

Everything seems to mean, whether it intends to do so or not. Yes?

CPR: Do you think poets today are continuing to progress at the same rate as other artists using the modern technologies and media available to us? (I.e. Banksy's October, 2015 residency in New York where he would secretly create works on the streets and then share hints and clues of where they were located in the city via instagram and twitter for people to find.)

Cronk: Yes, I do.

See: MCAG, Gnoetry, Sandra Doller’s live tweeting of her revision process in Leave Your Body Behind, http://www.a-b-r-a.com/, all the things we (I mean: writers/readers) look at all day (delivery now made smoother, quicker, and slicker thanks to the Internet) and which contribute to more production.

But also: I know that I only know a sliver of information. And: genre constraints are constraints.

CPR: In light of this project, as an artist, what is your relationship to pornography?

Cronk: Like just regular “porn”? Like on the Internet? VHS stashes in the curtained room of the video store?

I have hardly any relationship with that kind of pornography.
I’m not very interested in it, aesthetically. But I’m also pretty un-schooled.
I’m more drawn to things like Suzanne Scanlon’s narrator (in Her 37th Year), who goes to teach a class with panties wet from reading some Edna St. Vincent Millay, or the girls who are inexplicably lured from decency in Picnic at Hanging Rock or Laura Palmer . . .

CPR: Why is poetry relevant and important for people living today in 2016?

Cronk: Because it might be one force, sometimes, for reconsidering systemic evils.
Because reading it can be a kind of healthy hedonism.
Because most of it, although often received by means of a currency-based transaction, exceeds the toxic body of capitalism.

 


-and more from Interro-Porn:

Griselda and Giselle run to Drusilla’s open bloody arms.
The stage is set as a charming garden.
The cartoon-character bed sheets blow on the line.

GET IN YOUR CAGE BABY.

I wanted to be her.
This is PRECISELY how I have always operated.
Come on now a confession.
I like empty public spaces on holiday mornings.
I like pawnshops and poorly kept offices.
I like pop culture representations of Happenings.
I am a slob.
What I do is miniatures.
I have wanted to be every single girl ever.
I consume everything so awfully so ruthlessly so routinely.
I don’t even know what else there is.
He says please come to see me I say no you come home.
It’s a movie a play it’s my bed.

Ma, baby, Baby, Daddy:
I cannot afford to lick my stories off some dead mountain.
You can reach me here in the back bedroom. Telephone cord anklets.
A rueful rashy twisting of the lips. I say DARLING and I say a malady of daisies.
I say it sleeping coughing coughing on a dick I say it all morning on coffee cups.





Here’s the thing:
The theater must get very hot here.
The place has got to simply rot.


-4/15/16