Art that’s infectious

Mount Tremper Arts grounds (photo by Julie O’Connor]

Mount Tremper Arts (MTA) highlights contemporary arts in a thoroughly upstate, rurally enhanced way. Consider the Art-B-Q event that it’s hosting next Friday evening, July 27, when MTA will be presenting an evening with experimental poet and conceptual artist Christian Bök, who will showcase excerpts from his current project The Xenotext, along with a full shared meal featuring the bounty from MTA’s own remarkable on-site garden.

Who is Bök? Canadian-born, with the original last name of “Book” that he changed to avoid confusion with another entity, he rose to the forefront of new poetics while in his 20s, releasing a book of works that he described as, “a pataphysical encyclopaedia that misreads the language of poetics through the conceits of geology,” shifting the way in which we play with simile and metaphor along the way. Later, in his 30s, he shifted to sound poetry, conceptual art involving Rubik’s Cubes and Lego, among other materials, and experimented with the creation of artistic languages for several modern sci-fi classics by the likes of Gene Roddenberry and Peter Benchley. Most famously (within his world of modern poetry and art), Bök published Eunoia: a book of five chapters, each of which uses only one vowel in its sentences. He later claimed to have read the dictionary five times in preparation for the densely fun work.

Currently, Bök is completing work on “the engineering of an unkillable bacterium, so that it becomes not only a durable archive for storing a poem encoded in its genome, but also an operant machine for writing a poem in response – a living poem that can literally survive forever.” That’s while also teaching English at the University of Calgary.


“Received confirmation from the laboratory at the University of Calgary that my poetic cipher, gene X-P13, has in fact caused E. coli to fluoresce red in our test runs,” Bök wrote a little over a year ago of the new work that he’ll be presenting at Mt. Tremper Arts next Friday. “Meaning that, when implanted in the genome of this bacterium, my poem (which begins ‘any style of life/ is prim…’) does in fact cause the bacterium to write, in response, its own poem (which begins ‘the faery is rosy/ of glow…’).” Talk about art on another spectrum – in about as pleasant a setting as the Catskills can provide!

Mount Tremper Arts Art-B-Q featuring sound poet and conceptual artist Christian Bök takes place on Friday, July 27 at 7 p.m. at the Mount Tremper Arts center on Old Route 28, Old Plank Road, between Phoenicia and Mount Tremper. Tickets cost $15 for meal and performance. For reservations and information contact Mount Tremper Arts at (845) 688-9893 or visit