John Holten (IE/GER): Are you still human?!

The climatic change is unarguable taking place and sets in motion dire consequences. The present-day anthropocene – an age in which humans are no longer an independent species from  others, are no longer the sole creators of their means and images but have a severe and irreversible impact on the conditions of living, it is a worthwhile to think about a kind of literature that can face the demands of nowaday issues and developments. In this age, John Holten says, it is necessary to think beyond humans. There is a “more-than-human world”, he states, and facing recent developments he offers to rethink common boundaries by conceptual literature. Parapoetics is how he calls his project as a publisher.

A cold autumn evening. 6 pm, running late for the interview with John. Eyelids open to the sky, balls of eyes that hurt and sparkling convenience store billboards on my way paved with the great yellow and red autumn color of Berlin. Way too late, I think, looking at my smart phone, shouting the moist fog out of my mouth, again, and I hurry to meet John Holten of Broken Dimanche Press. Tearing off my gloves, off my fingers go, googling the place. I zoom out and in the map of Neukölln to make out the right route.

John collaborated with the artist Richard Mosse for a pharmacy of language and more.

John opens the door and I enter the cosy, warm and Berlin styled shabby bureau and exhibition space. “The next step from translations and other literary forms ist non-human” he answers to my question about his Parapoetics project. “Take for example Morten Søndegaard, whom I worked with, who composes non-mentally literature based on a line. The work is called suture “. John gets up to show me a copy of the book.

Parapoetics you could think is strongly connected to eco-poetry. Eco-political literature has its roots especially in America. It is not about literature that is mainly concerned with themes from nature or the realm of animals. By literary means that is poetical it tries to open up pores for environmental issues and probes to be a new contemporary poetry that reflects climatic change.

John on the other hand emphasizes conceptual writing and the possibility of approbation of literature – may it be via select-all-copy-paste which actually derives from a literary movement that is concerned with new developments in technology and the possiblity of authorship: posthuman poetry. In the anthropocene in which we now live in – that is that humans are factors in a global perspective that influence nature in biological, geological and atmospheric terms – and no longer the sovereign individual in the paradigm of object-subject – there are parallels in the notion of the “human”. The author becomes a factor(y) of literature. Examplanatory stand in Johns publications with Søndegaard “suture” and one with his sister Katie Holten and her irony through simplicity  “About trees” (probably you don´t know but there was a German band called Blumfeld who did quite the same; they counted names of varieties of apples in their song “Der Apfelmann”).

Johns own new book "Oslo. Norway". He also emphasizes the materiality of a book.
Johns own new book “Oslo. Norway”. He also emphasizes the materiality of a book.

John applies a “radical natural perspective” as a publisher. Broken Dimanche The tree font consists of sorts of trees. Each tree’s initial letter is the corresponding letter in the alphabet, maple for “M”. Hence one only sees trees when one uses this font. If you read the posters it looks somewhat like a neatly conducted forest with scratched out parts. On his website he also says, that “we wish to challenge the humanistic narrative of Man as the sole animal who has language“.

“But com´on, that´s kinda silly, don´t you think? That is goofy! You wanna make me learn tree names to face climatic change?!”, you say and I have to strongly support and encourage your feelings. It is goofy, but if you look closer, you will notice that it is a kind of depth in here if you know a little bit about the movement.

DownloadOne of the movements groundings is, that it has become impossible to interpret poetry or literature – and I will not speak of a possible intention of a creator that is called an author. In the assemblage of contemporary posthuman literature without a fixated entity who is creating it, language does not belong to any one individual, so perhaps it is language that writes itself here. And without the possibility of interpretation you stumble at the superficial surface. Just look at the scripture by Marten Søndegaard.

Asking for the political agency followed by BDP and by John as a publisher he acknowledges that his approach is more of a tongue-in-cheek treat than a serious concern.  John wants to reintroduce the constructive potentials of (poetic) language.

But John dared anyway to be a creator or a so-called “author”. His second novel “Oslo, Noway” has been published this year. The first one “The Readymades“, both published by himself, is sold out. John is also supporting self-publishing with an extra corner in his bureau and is publishing wonderful books of other authors like Ann Cotton, and artists like Hanne Lippard.

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