This week, the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Reading Series welcomes artist, poet and writer Mark Amerika, author of the novels “The Kafka Chronicles” and “Sexual Blood.” Amerika has exhibited his art at the Whitney Biennial, the Walker Art Center and the Denver Art Museum, among others.
In his first novel, “The Kafka Chronicles,” Amerika tells the story of a 20-something artist caught up in a world of drugs and “mental terrorism.” Peopled with a host of angry and exciting characters, from a normal couple constantly being harassed to Gregor Samsa himself waking up to America in the 1990s, the novel gives voice to Generation X in dynamic prose while exploring themes of superficiality, an individual’s sexuality and identity.
Amerika’s second novel, “Sexual Blood,” built upon the cult-success of “The Kafka Chronicles.” The novel tells the story of Mal, an alternative rock musician, and the after-effects of his encounter with a medicine woman that caused him to hallucinate a dream world inhabited by all of his former lovers. In this world, he seeks a magical transfusion that will make him more empathetic. The Denver Post described the book as run “through a postmodern mixer and poured ... into a form that most resembles a video game junkie about to beat his high score.”
Amerika’s experimentation with form and language is not just limited to traditional forms of writing. In 1993, he founded the Alt-X Online Network, which is a platform for avant-pop novels, experimental albums, galleries of net and blog art, and interviews with innovative writers of the last 20 years. It was on this website that Amerika released his Avant Pop Manifesto that has been widely translated. Declaring that the age of the traditional writer alone at his typewriter was over, writing would now feature “more multi-media collaborative authoring that will make itself available to hundreds if not thousands of potential associates around the world who will be actively internetworking.”
Amerika lives up to his own vision in both his writing and other work. In GRAMMATRON, his most famous work of digital art, a visitor navigated through narrative by selecting various words and simultaneously viewed digital animation and collage images that complemented the text. His “Museum of Glitch Aesthetics,” featured at the Abandon Normal Devices Festival in Manchester, U.K., featured the story of the online persona The Artist 2.0 whose digital artworks were rapidly becoming classics in art history. It featured digital video art, digitally manipulated images, game design, stand-up comedy, sound art and electronic literature.
His experimentation in the digital realm came back to the printed page in 2014’s “Locus Solus.” The book is a translation of the highly influential Raymond Roussel novel, even though the author does not know French. Instead, he used auto translation tools (like Google Translate) to translate and then “remix” the translation into what Amerika calls “An Inappropriate Translation Composed in a 21st Century Manner.” The result is oddly similar to Roussel’s own experimental style of 100 years before.
Amerika will read at 11 a.m. Thursday in UHV’s Alcorn Auditorium. The reading is free and open to the public. After the reading, the author will have a question-and-answer session open to the audience.