There’s Nothing Worth Saying About [Flarf]’: Evaluating the Success of Stupidity as an Anti-System Gesture
In this essay I aim to evaluate the effectiveness of stupidity as an anti-system gesture. All movements in the art world begin as a rebellion against an idea of an entrenched manner of thinking, generally characterised as belonging to an Institution. In the Reith lectures, artist Grayson Perry says that rebellions are now actively encouraged by the art world and so rebellion has become a part of the established art community. The only stable currency of the art world, Perry goes on to say, is seriousness. By reveling in its own stupidity, I suggest in the course of this essay that writing Flarfist poetry is a one effective way to rebel against Institutionalism. I evaluate Flarf’s success and the success of stupidity as a means of undermining current ideas about art and about poetry in particular. In this, Avital Ronell’s Stupidity has been an invaluable source of philosophical theories about the workings of stupidity and the manner in which it effects literature. Flarf is generally regarded as a waste of time. It is not serious enough to warrant the consideration of most academics, or the time of most critics. It does what it is not supposed to do as a poetic act and this is what makes it particularly fascinating and worth our consideration as it not only presents a challenge to what we consider to be poetry but an insight into the lengths to which art must now go to enact a rebellion.