Mutating the Signature
qarrtsiluni print vol. 1.2 january-march 2009
Dana Guthrie Martin and Nathan Moore, editors
The Winter 2009 issue of the online literary magazine QARRTSILUNI, "Mutating the Signature," is a collection of collaborative works edited by Dana Guthrie Martin and Nathan Moore, who wrote in their call for submissions that they wanted "to emphasize the gnarly, brilliant, iterative, process-oriented mess that is the heart of any collaborative artistic endeavor." As longtime collaborators themselves, they knew what they were talking about!
The issue that resulted is exciting, unique, edgy, surprising, and one of its most fascinating aspects is the inclusion of "process notes" by each pair or group of collaborators which reveal not only the wide range of original inspirations and working methods available to writers and artists in this age of the internet, but the unpredictability of what happens between people not only in their work together, but in their chemistry.
After the online publication of the selected pieces, Dana and Nathan wrote this conclusion:
Let’s get two things straight: Collaboration isn’t incarceration or incorporation.
True, collaboration is like incarceration in that handcuffs, particularly the kind lined with faux fur, are absolutely necessary. The collaborative process works best when participants are attached but still able to reach with their free hands. Of course, by “free,” we mean within the context of their material conditions (e.g. diet, geography and astrological determiners).
Collaboration is also like a company in that profit is collected. However, paychecks come in the form of beads and trinkets. Threading these requires a keen eye and a bottle of aspirin. Sharing a set of contact lenses is not advisable, since blurred vision leads to the most desirable outcomes. This is art, after all, not a driving test. Nobody wants or needs collaborative art taking up valuable space on our already congested highways.
Like a brain in the gut, collaborative process challenges the ego. Thoughts smear like cheap mascara on an overly emotional drag queen, which is not to say the collaborative process is overly emotional. In focus groups, collaboration has been called “impersonal” and “emotionally unavailable.” That’s right: Collaboration is your father. However, collaboration has also scored high in the areas of “inappropriate staring” and “monkey business.”
We applaud those who undertook collaboration for this issue. We sympathize with your resulting identity crises and ecstatic spasms. Unfortunately, we only have poetic licenses, which means we can’t dole out any medications to help you return to your isolation chambers. Soon the word “I” will disappear from your vocabulary. You won’t notice when it goes, but might later feel mild tingling and foreign-body sensations in your ribs.
There will also be a slight awkwardness when ordering at restaurants. People will wonder why you always order for two. They will assume you are using the royal “we.” They will never understand you. You are an artist. You are not meant to be understood. Thank you.
-- Dana Guthrie Martin and Nathan Moore, issue editors
Dana and Nathan have continued to collaborate, both on their poetry and on the development of Read Write Poem, which was for a time THE happening place for poets online. Some of the contributors to this issue were also longtime collaborators, but it's been exciting to see that others who were "first-timers" for "Mutating the Signature" enjoyed the process so much that they've continued to work together, even though they may be physically separated by continents.
We think you'll find that "Mutating the Signature" is filled not only with extremely creative work, but with inspiration for using the possibilities of internet to build artistic relationships that stretch us and enlarge the way we look at writing, images, and multimedia.