Plummeting Appliances, Dying Verbs, Enslaved Automatons, and Other Objects: Writers Talk

Participants: Louis Chude-Sokei, Joshua Cohen, Matthew Derby, Jim Krusoe, Joanna Ruocco, Sarah McDermott
Sunday, January 20, 6–8 pm

601Artspace is pleased to present a fiction forum in conjunction with the exhibition The Unspecific Index—five brilliant writers in dialogue with post-human ontology, non-symbolic language, and the materiality of thinking. Co-organized by Ben Bush and 601Artspace.

Louis Chude-Sokei is the award-winning author of books including The Last Darky: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (Duke University, 2006), which examines the life of Bert Williams, a top vaudeville performer and one of the most famous entertainers of his era. Chude-Sokei’s recent writing has explored the interconnections between race, technology and music behind Nigeria’s Yahozee internet scams. He has written on dub reggae, his own immigrant experience in Los Angeles’ Inglewood neighborhood, and the way blackface performance is perceived outside the U.S. He serves as a senior editor of The Black Scholar and teaches at the University of Washington in Seattle. Chude-Sokei’s forthcoming works include The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics (Wesleyan University) and Our Infinite Arrival, a work of creative nonfiction.

Brookyn-based writer Joshua Cohen is acutely aware of print in decline. Stories like “Emission” and “Sent” from his recent collection Four New Messages (Graywolf, 2012), could be construed as the wails of a mourner at the death of print or the fighting words of a medium. Taking Walter Benjamin’s claim that “All great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one,” Cohen seems intent on doing both. At thirty-two, Cohen is the author of six books, including the 800-page epic Witz (Dalkey Archive, 2010), which tells the story of the last remaining survivor of a plague that kills Jews and, in turn, inspires a trend for Jewless Judaism where customs like sidelocks and matzo ball soup become runaway fads. Cohen is currently a contributing editor and book critic for Harper’s and is working on a non-fiction work titled Attention! A (Short) History.

Matthew Derby is the author of Super Flat Times (Back Bay, 2003), a series of haunting short stories set in the final years of a future genocide. According to the book’s introduction, the narratives are the historical fragments unearthed by jamming a tube into the mouths of the dead to extract their final stories. Derby has continued his exploration of the future in the app-based e-book The Silent History (2012), which issues its narrative as serialized daily installments as well as GPS-tagged text available in particular physical locations. Derby is a Senior Interface Designer at Harmonix game development studio and a founding editor of McSweeney’s The Believer. He lives in Pawtucket, RI.

In Jim Krusoe’s Girl Factory (Tin House, 2008), an employee of a frozen yogurt shop finds vats full of acidophilus and naked women in the shop basement after the owner's death and undertakes numerous attempts to bring the women back to life. Krusoe’s novels frequently feature protagonists untroubled by their own—often good-hearted—idiocy and the damage that it does. Krusoe is the author of several novels including Parsifal (2012), Toward You (2011), and Erased (2009), all by Tin House, and several books of poems and short stories, such as Abductions (Nothing Moments, 2007). He is a founder of The Santa Monica Review magazine. He lives in Los Angeles and has influenced a generation of L.A. writers while teaching at Santa Monica College and Antioch University.

Joanna Ruocco’s recent works Another Governess/The Least Blacksmith: A Diptych (University of Alabama, 2012) and A Compendium of Domestic Incidents (Noemi, 2011) use staccato sentences and stripped-down words to create industrial horror narratives based on physical details. In The Mothering Coven (Ellipsis, 2009), she describes every aspect of the preparations for a 100th birthday party by the daughters of a witch matriarch. Under the pen name Alessandra Shahbaz, Ruocco is the author of Ghazal in the Moonlight (2009) for Random House India’s popular Kama Kahani series of “sari-ripping” historical romances. She has published several novels including Man's Companions (Tarpaulin Sky, 2010) and was winner of the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize for Another Governess/The Least Blacksmith: A Diptych. She co-edits Birkensnake, an annual fiction journal, with Brian Conn, and lives and works in Denver.

Sarah McDermott produces artist books as The Kidney Press. Her interest lies in the book arts in the context of small-press publishing, and her work focuses on the interaction between image, text, type, and object. McDermott maintains a long-distance collaboration with the writer Joanna Ruocco. She designs covers for Birkensnake, available for free online or $4 for print copies. Her books can be found in various collections, including the Yale Arts Library, the Center for Book Arts, and the University of Florida Library. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she teaches at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in the M.A. Art and the Book program, and holds workshops at book arts centers throughout the East Coast.

Ben Bush is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. His fiction and essays have appeared in The Believer, Yeti, Bitch, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Whatcha Mean, Whats a Zine? Bush has worked as managing editor of The Fanzine.

Photography Diego Sierralta

Erin Sickler (601Artspace) opens the evening

Ben Bush

Writer Louis Chude-Sokei

Writer Matthew Derby

Writer Joshua Cohen

Writer Joanna Ruocco, projected artwork by Sarah McDermott

Audience at Joanna Ruocco's reading

Writer Jim Krusoe

Artist Sarah McDermott with writer Jim Krusoe

Writer Louis Chude-Sokei with Ben Bush and a guest

Writers Jim Krusoe and Matthew Derby

Writer Joshua Cohen with a guest

Writers Louis Chude-Sokei and Ben Bush discussing Cartographie de la mélancholie de Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
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