Aphasic Letters is a kind of Internet-birthed Pallas Athena.
Few of my favorite literary works of the past year or so have not found some relation to Aphasic or its two founders, Danny Snelson and Phoebe Springstubb. Nurtured by the Internet's wealth of information and opportunities for artistic exploration, they have since subjected it – and any other media that crosses their path – to their boisterous and bellicose dismantling of its ostensibly inherent forms and capacities. The extended world of Aphasic, and of Snelson and Springstubb, is fairly large – the two founders have worked with, among other institutions, Ontological Hysteric Theater, UbuWeb, and PennSound – and I have spent many a day wending through the labyrinthine trails left by the various pursuits that mark their respective and collaborative paths. One of the most delightful works I've recently come across is my Dear CoUntess, a translation of a letter to Lord Kelvin that uses its component words to create an associative multimedia text: each word of the original translated letter corresponds to a usage of the same word in one of several texts – among them Krapp's Last Tape, 99: The New Meaning, and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the relevant passages of which are also included in the "translation" – and, when clicked upon, the word receives a video translation of its own: a rhythmic loop of the word as used in a recitation of the cited text. It's fun and unique and manages, through the unexpectedly unpretentious touch of its creators, to escape the potentially wearisome weight of its conceptual thrust, emerging ultimately as a substantive work of its own merit.
CoUntess, I believe, was created before the official founding of Aphasic Letters, but it is very much in keeping with the mission of the "publishing hub," which explores and toys with distinctions between various artistic media, particularly as related to literary sources. It is through this Aphasic haze of connections that Hebdomadal Review – a source of critical responses to works on Ubu – and Dr. Mabuse – a streaming collection of various cinematic representations of its villainous eponym – have found creative fruit; the wonderful No Input Books also arose from somewhere therein, and is certainly worth checking out. No Input's Endless Nameless in particular is quite fun and ingenious.
But it is their The Book of Ravelling Women to which I keep returning. A digital reinvention of an illegal pressing of The Book of Repulsive Women, Djuna Barnes' 1915 chapbook collection of poetry and drawings, Ravelling Women is entirely stunning. It is quite successful in its unforced and subtle examination of the discourse between discrete media; where much of Aphasic's other works' appeal rests significantly on charming ingenuity, the dominance of cleverness behind this piece all but dissipates beneath the evident carefulness and poignancy of thought that went into its making.
Excerpts from The Book of Ravelling Women.