Aleph Null documentation
bill bissett/Jim Andrews collaboration

This is the homepage of the bill bissett/Jim Andrews collaboration. It links to all things in the collaboration.

1. Collaborative Works

Aleph Null chewing on bill bissett's dirtee konkreet (oldest to newest)

video 1 (3:08)

video 2 (1:42)

video 3 (1:20)

video 4 (3:25)

video 5 (10:27)

video 6 (6:46)

video 7 (10:07)

35 screenshots

40 screenshots

100 screenshots

200 screenshots

35 screenshots

44 screenshots

video 8 (2:31)


video 9 (2:13)


100 screenshots

video 10 (5:31)

video 11 (5:28)

dirtee konkreet / th eye is th wind (400 screenshots)
Aleph Null chewing on bill's konkreet and paintings.

video 1 (6:02)

video 2 (4:46)

video 3 (2:08)

video 4 (0:31)

33 screenshots

110 screenshots

90 screenshots

56 screenshots
Aleph Null chewing on konkreet, paintings, photos, and a bill bissett poem displays word-by-word.
cooking carrot soup

video (3:20)
38 screenshots
i was in th bay toronto

video (2:19)
66 screenshots
hungr he sd

video (2:18)
48 screenshots
yes iuv bin
2 dimensha

video 1 (7:01)
video 2 (6:55),
142 screenshots
eeting appuls on
jarvis street

video 1 (3:13)
video 2 (3:19),
43 screenshots
ium not a raptor a
terradaktyl a tree

video 1 (4:48)
video 2 (3:25),
74 screenshots
polar bears on
yonge street

video (2:18)
57 screenshots
Links to bill bissett in Aleph Null
Links in to Aleph Null itself, my JavaScript online interactive graphic synthesizer, using bill's images. This is not a slideshow or a video. This is a never-the-same-twice dynamic generator. Once you're in, click the aleph symbol at top left to toggle display of the controls, if you want to experiment. There's a documentation page for Aleph Null 3.0 which also shows you lots of videos of art made with the program.
 dirtee konkreet nib in aleph null (450 Mb)
 bissett paintings + dirtee konkreet nib in aleph null (550 Mb)
 bissett concrete + paintings + big text filled with personal photos (750 Mb)

2. bill bissett Concrete, Paintings, Photos and Links

 Slidvid (199 images) of the bill bissett concrete poems shown Aleph Null

 Slidvid (104 images) of bill bissett personal photos shown in Aleph Null 3.0

 Slidvid (106 images) of the bill bissett paintings shown in Aleph Null

Links to other sites concerning bill bissett

3. bill bissett/jim andrews: dirtee konkreet

Jack Kerouac: "I know who the great poets are . . . William Bissette of Vancouver. An Indian boy, Bill Bissett, or Bissonette".
Margaret Atwood: "bill bissett is my astral twin."

ill bissett is, yes, a living legend. He's a poet, painter and performer. In Aleph Null, we see photos of some of his paintings, a unique and wide collection of his personal photos, the seven bissett poems listed below, and 450+ Mb of bill's astounding concrete poetry, from the 60s to the present, chewed on with near religious fervor by Aleph Null.

bill asked me to participate in a show of visual poetry in Toronto he's curating with Hart Broudy called 'concrete is porous'. I suggested we collaborate on something that could go both on my site in Aleph Null and also in the show.

I asked bill for a poemy poem, images of his concrete, images of his paintings, and personal photos. Aleph Null is an online graphic synthesizer I wrote that samples from folders of images, taking parts of the images and compositing them dynamically into real-time animations. bill sent me many newish works of concrete, ones he made with a computer that are in symbol sets such as <{O}> and [O] etc.—these work extrordinarily well with his earlier concrete done with typewriters. After lots of exchange with bill of email, which often contained lots of images, on his part, I loosed Aleph Null to chew on bill's konkreet and paintings. I then got excited and took 300+ photos of bill's concrete poetry from the 60s to the present at Simon Fraser U's Special Collections, reputed to be the best collection anywhere of bill's blewointment press, which he ran in the 60s and 70s. Danny S. Nelson also sent me 300 Mb of photos he took of bill's work at the UPenn archive. bill also sent me many photos of his paintings and, additionally, many personal photos that go back to the 1950's. All of these are chewed on, one way or another, by Aleph Null in the below links. There are also slidvids of bill's original images, not chewed on by Aleph Null.

bill's work is in strong relation with the shamanic. You see it in his paintings and drawings, which are often of pairs of spirit beings. The style of the paintings and drawings is strongly influenced by Indigenous traditions. It's also evident in the poetry, both concrete and other. Sometimes the poems on the page are like scores for chanted/sung sound poetry. But, also, the logic of the poetry, even when the poem isn't a score for sound poetry, can be ekstatically palimpsesty, zesty. Everything coming together. Figuratively and literally. Everything folding/unfolding together. Everything spilling into everything. ekstatic yunyun. Famously, the Canadian federal Conservatives complained about bill getting Canada Council funding, on the basis of the sexual content. The concrete and even the other poems are sometimes rather cummy, for instance. But they're positively primal, too. And, as noted, not simply literal but metaphorical. And, politically, they're strongly positive too, it seems to me. I remember bpNichol called bill Canada's best politcal poet. I can confirm bpNichol said that while sitting in my yellow Honda Civic around 1986 on the way to the radio station.

bill's life and work is in interesting relation with Indigenous peoples. And with gay and other sexualities. He will experiment in his poetry at the drop of a hat—despite having been a member of a band called The Luddites. He is not particularly defensive about remaining traditional. He's progressive as an artist and thinker, even while his performances, paintings, and books are, I would say, compellingly shamanistic—and extremely important to many people around the world, especially in Canada. He's been at it forever and has toured from coast to coast countless times, often with Adeena Karasick, selling books and paintings and doing poetry readings for a living for decades. As Jamie Reid remarked, it's impossible to know how many books of poetry he's published with blewointment press and, later, with Talonbooks in Vancouver, who have published him since sometime in the late 70s or early 80s. He has seen more of Canada than most federal politicians, I expect. His work is famous even in popular music via the samplings of his sound poetry in Chemical Brothers hit songs 'We are the Night' and 'I'll See You There'.

bill is sort of Canada's unacknowledged shaman. "the future... i'll see you there."

It's been fascinating, to me, to work with bill on this project. I so wanted to express my respect and admiration for him and his work. It is possible, of course, for Aleph Null, being a graphic synthesizer that cuts things into parts and reassembles them in unexpected ways, to do violence to somebody's work. But it can also create something that's important to bill's work and vision: a kind of ekstatic yunyun. Of form and content, of text and image, of cinema and still, of typewriter and computer, of the past and the present, and of the spirits of friends. The visual poetry resonates as contemporary visual art and as texts that are often intriguingly readable on larger monitors. The texts are sometimes bill's texts verbatim; at other times, they're palimpsesty via Aleph Null's sampling and dynamic compositing of multiple layers. Ya want layers of meaning? We got it here deep with dimensionality.

That's part of what "dirty concrete" is about, I expect. There's some history to that term. It's in one of bill's concrete poems. In part, it's a writerly/designerly thing, it seems to me. Or artist/designer thing. 'Dirty' as in messy, very messy. But messes can have at least a couple of payoffs. First, they can be semantically dense, palimpsesty, richly ambiguous and readably layered, even nested. Sufficiently complex. Second, they can be gorgeous.

From RUSH: WHAT FUCKAN THEORY: A STUDY OF LANGUAGE by bill bissett. Photo by Danny Snelson.

Writing Aleph Null so that the dynamic compositing in multiple layers is a productive mess feels a little like discovering/creating a visual language where the letters are circles, say, filled with graphics. Or the letters are the shapes other brushes make (polygons, curves, rotating lines, big texts, so far). Or the letters are like one of those circles filled with language. Never to repeat exactly the same way, given the large number of random decisions going on at any point in time, but strongly resonant with any number of other such circles. New letters that appear only once ever in existence and then flicker out. But now we're getting into what sounds like, if not the antithesis of language, then quite different from what we now call language. Which is part of the point; what we now call language is not as stable as you might think. Our very notion of what we call language is changing to include things like DNA and other codes. Language, now, isn't always simply something that humans converse in. Language animates machines/computers, including the DNA architecture of the genome. There's profoundly meaningful languages going on there, even if there is no mind guiding it whatsoever. Not just that the circles or polygons etc contain language. But that the whole architecture/grammar of the machine is set up so that interesting accidents of language and visual composition can and will happen productively even within a 'mess'.

Also, there's a sense that bill's dirty concrete has already somehow been across much of this territory. bill is not a poet-programmer, but his methods and techniques are really resonant. In the below email exchange between us, you see his perspective on changing technologies. He doesn't grapple with them. He simply moves through them.

On Jul 4, 2018, at 9:46 AM, Jim Andrews (Vancouver) wrote:
an audio artist friend of mine made amazing work in the 80s and 90s. he was such an artist with a razor blade. splicing tape. he was an incredible artist of the cut. "the wound", as he called it. and he wrote beautifully, poetically, about the poetics of radio art and recorded sound. about the poetics of the wound, the cut. i learned from him, more than from mcluhan, the value of understanding media.
but when reel-to-reel tape disappeared, his work changed. he wasn't interested in editing in the digital realm as he was in analog. he lost interest in that sort of technique/poetics. his work moved toward a more traditional radio artful art documentary.
is the transition, for you as a concrete poet, from the typewriter to the computer a thing you still grapple with?
your typewriter concrete is pretty great in its visuality. the way the ink spreads, for instance. blewointment is presumably in reference to ink? ink as ointment. healing. blue healing ink ointment. the healing power of poetry. transmitted through ink. the cumminess of your concrete is also involved in the sensuality of the poetry, physically and as 'subject matter'.
creating the sort of concrete you do with a computer is different. how have you found that transition?
your newer work, the stuff produced with a computer, is different from your earlier work not only in that it is produced with a computer, but the symbol set is different and the look is different cuz of these two things.
i like the way the older work and the newer stuff work together in aleph null. bertrand said "btw, those images are very beautiful and so contemporary!" i think that has a lot to do with the way your new work combines with your old work. the way the cum mixes with the <{O}>.
you have adapted to working with a computer. all sorts of artists never really did. it was like it destroyed their territory.
On 7/4/2018 7:07 AM, bill bissett (Toronto) wrote:
dere jim hi what an an amayzing n beautiful n mooving statement yu make heer
4 me iuv nevr had 2 grapple with th transisyun from typwritr 2 compewtr I moovd thru it seeing what it cud n cudint dew similarlee in a previous time zone mooving from gestetner 2 offset n most prob a nu tecknolojee byond software is cumming I did love quark xpress n talonbooks moovd from that 2 word sew changes adaptaysyun yes alwayze yes
blewointment was orig an ointment prescribd 4 crabs in my parents generaysyun
we had kwellada I lovd sew much what yu sd abt blewointment sew much abt ink th gestetnr producksyun evn offset both based on silk skreen ink medieval times yes
we ar a long way from that now fr sure
how blewointment came abt Robbie Sutherland may he b alwayze lovd put his fingr at random in a dicsyunaree n his fingr fell on blue ointment n thats how blewointment was named whn robbie lance Farrell n me wer looking 4 a magazeen we wantid 2 start back in 60 dus aneewun undrstand abt time
lots uv love
n thanks
yr work is amayzing n sew beautiful

The way blewointment got named surprised me, but it also struck me that bill's modus operandi has been modern for a very long time.

In a more recent email from bill, as we were nearing completion of the collaboration, he said

iuv bin proof reeding a lot latelee n thrs constant drilling outside my window 4 ovr a yeer now
sew its wundrful 2 c yr work i bathe in it repleet with relees

At the outset of the collaboration, I'd asked bill for the graphics I mentioned earlier—but I also asked him for a poem cuz the idea was i'd mix all the graphics in with the poem. He chose stars. I rejected it—hardly a good thing to do at the start of a collaboration—because it was cummy. It took me a while to get with the program, at least in that regard. It's actually kind of a sweetly romantic poem, and not without humour—if you can see beyond all that cosmic cum.

When I'd told him I didn't want that poem cuz it is cummy, he'd said don't worry about it. It's about how everything is spilling into everything. He also said that, luckily, he has more poems. He hung in there. It took me a while to see that he chose that poem because of how he sees Aleph Null as spilling everything into everything. Which is a deeper way of viewing Aleph Null than I manage myself most days. A strongly poetical way to view it. I find myself learning even about my own program from bill. It's not a techy point of view. It's bill the poet/shaman finding the primal and cosmic thing about a piece of software. I couldn't ask for (and would hardly ever get) more insight about the program than that.

bill's (and my) favorite part of the collaboration is the last part to be created. dirtee konkreet / th eye is th wind is a sequence of 400 screenshots of Aleph Null chewing on bill's dirtee konkreet poetree with Orphic religious fervor. Think Maenads tearing Orpheus limb from limb. Chewing. Digesting. Hallucinating.

Think of this as an alternative realitee to th book. Additionally, think of it as a book, 400 pages long. Two different things at once. As a kind of vispo comic book. I subscribe to a group that shares experimental comics among the members. That's been useful during the creation of 'th eye is th wind'.

Now, don't think of it as a book. Think of it as an alternative realitee to a book. It's an online experience through my Slidvid program (slideshow software i wrote). It's an amazing reading experience. Truly. This is one of the most spine-tingling reading experiences on the planet. You need a biggish monitor for it, though. The bigger the better. And you need to use the space key to toggle play/pause so you can actually stop it to do some reading. You might want to also use the arrow keys to advance/go back. And you'll definitely want to go fullscreen. You can watch it without pausing to read, but that is not the deep experience of this piece.

A couple of the 400 screenshots contain the sentence "th eye is th wind", such as screenshot/page 338, part of which is shown below.

Detail of screen 338 (of 400) in 'dirtee konkreet / th eye is th wind'

Here is bill's text:

th weave is th eye
is speaking speaking th
evening talks th eye
is speaking speaking
speaking th weave is
th eagle speaking th
sounds of stones
talking th eye is
singing th stones is
speaking th hair is
living th voice is
touching th stones is
touching th sweat is speaking
thru th eye is looking to speak
th eye is th wind is sweat is th
speaking th string is speaking is
speaking speaking speaking speaking
hi u lee speaking hi u lee speaking is
a speaking hay th lieeeeeja haaleeeii is
a tha a yeee yeeeeeeeoeeee a ja haaaahaaoo
uuuuuuuuuuuuunnnna aaiiiiaaaayeeehiiiyah
hiyah hiyah...

bill named this series 'dirtee konkreet / th eye is th wind', noting that both phrases occur in the series. 'dirtee konkreet' is the name i had in mind for the entire collaboration. Dirtee in the sense of messiness, mixedness, visual density, painterly intensity. But, also 'dirtee' in the sense of the eroticism of this piece. Which is the eroticism of bill's 'dirtee konkreet'. The passion of it.

bill chose the title 'th eye is th wind' interestingly, I feel. In the above poem, from which the title is drawn, we read of an experience of sweeping motion, of weaving, of visual storytelling, of poetic and visible speaking, talking, of animation but also of painterly motion through still composition. In his remarks about the collaboration, bill says " words lines n images infinitlee representing byond representing all th colliding cascading palimsesting ovr n thru time n space images n line n cells tissu brain stuff mooving thru n part uv evreething showing evreething..."

Animation, motion of the wind, the energy of becoming and being...

This collaboration with bill has been strongly energizing, for me. I hope that you find it that way as well, for you.

4. bill bissett — th eye is th wind

ts wundrful 2 c jim andrews work n i bathe in it n his collaboraysyun with my work 2gethr a nu animating literalee realitee repleet with relees its wun uv th best 2 enjoy n dive in2 n relees from cum out dripping with n enjoy collaboraysyun evr in ths field n thers work uv mine n photos n colours uv paintings n pomes from th 60s 2 th present n byond all animating n enhansing in theyr own world outside uv temporal animating flux slowlee undulatinglee sew changing th jestyurs n tropes n 4grounding a line say th eye is th wind from speeking a chant sound pome writtn in th mid bcumming late 60s showing thru dirtee konkreet n vizual poetree writtn in word in th book 2016 sew th barriers 2 n uv chronos dissolv bcoz fr sure th assembling uv evreething is not abt thos kinda not useful parametrs but jim andrews strong n awsum sweep uv his aleph null n his its th work speeding fastr n thn slowing n picking up n alwayze showing n being his brillyant conveying uv all th words lines n images infinitlee representing byond representing all th colliding cascading palimsesting ovr n thru time n space images n line n cells tissu brain stuff mooving thru n part uv evreething showing evreething jim andrews rhythmik artistree th mouth heart wings arms ears hair th fingrs hands touching evreething we ar all part uv th eye is th wind

5. Thanks

Thanks to bill and to the Contemporary Literature Collection, Special Collections and Rare Books, Bennett Library, SFU, Vancouver for letting me photograph and use bill's work. And to Adeena Karasick for suggesting directions of inquiry with the images and for generous feedback. Thanks also to Natalie Funk for design feedback. And to Danny Snelson for the images he photographed of bill's work from UPenn.