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Tao Lin, literal author
October 14, 2010 11:41 AM   Subscribe

We've seen literal video before. Artist/author Tao Lin (b.1983, previously) has turned literalism into performance and literary art. His Asperger style can be quickly distilled in these literally boring videos: [1],[2],[3],[4]. A video interview with Tao has more insights into his technique (and vegetable chopping). The critics don't always seem to get it, nor do I, though they pay lots of attention.
posted by stbalbach (41 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
His Asperger style? Can you expand on that, or should I just be sorta offended?
posted by troika at 11:43 AM on October 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is it just me? I actually find these highly entertaining, and I'm not even a fan of Tao Lin.

I am also pretty boring myself, though, so I guess that helps.
posted by Pants McCracky at 11:50 AM on October 14, 2010


I like Tao Lin, so I am already cringing at the prospect of another thread about him.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:59 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know if I agree with the way this post is framed, since I'm convinced that these appearances and videos are mostly just Tao Lin being his genuine self, not an attempt to do performance art.

Anyway, I was almost crying with laughter after watching the Q&A in this video in which he attempts to do a book reading while under the heavy influence of mushrooms. He's already uncomfortable with public appearances and social interaction, but the mushrooms just push it over the edge into this hilarious caricature of an author appearance.
posted by naju at 12:01 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


nor do I

Should we be concerned that you linked to something in the first person?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:07 PM on October 14, 2010


Sorry I should have removed the editorial "boring". The Asperger connection with Lin is pretty common (Google) - a condition characterized by literal interpretations, lack of emotion. I kinda of like Tao Lin and wasn't framing him is a fake. And no it's not a self line. Anything else?! Anyway, sorry this FPP has apparently become about me, was not intended, my fault.
posted by stbalbach at 12:11 PM on October 14, 2010


The "literally boring" videos made me laugh. He reminds me of some of my friends.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:26 PM on October 14, 2010


I am going to go make an enormous statue of Tao Lin, in Minecraft.
posted by everichon at 12:28 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw Tao Lin read from Richard Yates last night; it was hilarious. His affectless reading style perfectly brought out the humor of the passage he read. (Kendra Grant Malone, who also read, was a lot of fun too.)

I think Richard Yates is a pretty powerful and accomplished book that has been ill-served by critics who want it to be about something that it's not really about. (Lin's publicity stunts and hipster fan club admittedly make this more or less inevitable.) This Amazon review is probably the best thing I've read about it, not least because the reviewer doesn't try to make grand claims about, or read the novel as making grand claims about, "young people today."
posted by DaDaDaDave at 12:37 PM on October 14, 2010


Hey, Lin fans: if I read one book by the guy, which should it be? Richard Yates? Will that do?
posted by Greg Nog at 12:50 PM on October 14, 2010


I liked Eeee Eee Eeeee a lot, but had some difficulty getting into Bed (heh). I haven't read Richard Yates yet.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:51 PM on October 14, 2010


Richard Yates? Will that do?

Yes. It's really good.
posted by naju at 1:02 PM on October 14, 2010


Also, here is the funniest thing by Tao Lin that I have seen on the Internet, about his failed attempts to see Marina Abramovic's recent performance at MoMA.

The facial expression of “the staring woman,” in the same Hipster Runoff post, made me feel that if an explosion/fire destroyed MoMA layers of rubble would be removed, or a thick smoke would disperse, revealing her “still sitting there,” with the same facial expression and posture as before the explosion/fire, undamaged except for the end of her braid being slightly burnt, smoke rising from it vertically.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 1:11 PM on October 14, 2010


Tao Lin huh?

Suddenly I understand the acclaim Franzen's Freedom is getting as being THE BEST NOVEL EVER WRITTEN.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:15 PM on October 14, 2010


The mefite is commenting in yet another thread about Tao Lin.
posted by ardgedee at 1:29 PM on October 14, 2010


So he's kind of a surrealist Hemingway?
posted by oddman at 1:38 PM on October 14, 2010


I've been on an enfant terrible kick. After I finish my Houllebecq, I'll move on to Lin.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:46 PM on October 14, 2010


Yeah, those videos are literally boring. Or perhaps just not interesting? If it weren't for the frame--"This is Tao Lin, the author of Richard Yates"--I suspect they would not be considered art. What's interesting is that this isn't taking platform and doing something evocative with it, but markedly not doing anything with it, as if the intentional lack of apparent effort is somehow transformative.

(I'm, I don't know, still skeptical.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:23 PM on October 14, 2010


Anyway, I was almost crying with laughter after watching the Q&A in this video in which he attempts to do a book reading while under the heavy influence of mushrooms. He's already uncomfortable with public appearances and social interaction, but the mushrooms just push it over the edge into this hilarious caricature of an author appearance.

And, boo, that's something I would have liked to watch, but it looks like the clip's been taken down.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:24 PM on October 14, 2010


it looks like the clip's been taken down.

Seems fixed now?

(PS Tao, since I know you're reading - if you want to comment, feel free to email the moderators, I'm almost positive they'd waive the $5 signup fee.)
posted by naju at 2:53 PM on October 14, 2010


If it weren't for the frame--"This is Tao Lin, the author of Richard Yates"--I suspect they would not be considered art.

Isn't a lot of art like that? Interesting because of who's doing it, rather than the thing itself? I guess if I'm really into Tao Lin, and fascinated with how his mind works, then even if he's just filming a baggage carousel I'm going to be interested just to try to figure out why he chose that particular thing and what it might say about him.

Or...it's all a load of BS. In the immortal words of David St. Hubbins, "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever."
posted by Pants McCracky at 2:56 PM on October 14, 2010


___________________________________________


The line between stupid and clever (artist's rendering)
posted by everichon at 3:03 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


That is such a fine line!
posted by shakespeherian at 3:06 PM on October 14, 2010


Speaking of Tao Lin (and, tangentially, Jonathan Franzen), The Stranger did a parody of Time Magazine's profile of Johnathan Franzen. And then somehow Gawker got themselves tangled up in it.
posted by mhum at 3:14 PM on October 14, 2010


Sorry, but I don't get it. I don't get how these are "literal" videos or how they are at all entertaining, comedic, or artistic. It's a boring guy talking deadpan about nothing. I guess it's like uber-conceptual-modern art where everybody oohs and ahhs and either appreciates it or, for the majority I would guess, pretends to get it, while I just stand there laughing my ass off as the only one who will admit that it sucks--but usually, I can get a few other people to join me after a minute.

I know, I'm "sooo uncultured".
posted by 1000monkeys at 3:44 PM on October 14, 2010


No, 1000monkeys, you're not uncultured your every bit as boorish and elitist as you think they are.
posted by oddman at 3:48 PM on October 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


uber-conceptual-modern art

Maybe if you string a few more adjectives onto it, it'll make it more abstract and impregnable! Something like 'post-polemical-ironically-juxtapositionally-formalist-based-expressionistic-uber-conceptual-modern art'.

Which, in itself, could be argued that it is artistic because of the embedded contradictions and ironies that stem from the redundancy and reductiveness that seem almost to make self-forced ignorance a point of pride.

Look, mockery aside, some people are neurotic. They like to be cerebral, to think of things in terms of language and discourse and other abstractions because it helps them to classify and define their world, because, to them, to see it in any other way is too simplistic, too easy. Some people like to think that they are more practical. To scoff at either viewpoint because you, personally, don't think in that way is selfish and dehumanizing and polemical.
posted by dubusadus at 4:33 PM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nah, I think they're kind of ridiculous, too 1000monkeys. I think they can spur an interesting conversation about art, and intention, in the same way that (say) Andy Kaufman can spur an interesting conversation about comedy, and intention. But when it comes down to it, I like Andy Kaufman's comedy (even if I acknowledge that part of my enjoyment comes from being in on the joke, and what it says about me and, I don't know, my cleverness or the sharpness of my perception). I mean, who can't get behind milk and cookies? But this isn't milk and cookies. To me, it's more like a cling-wrapped, soggy bologna sandwich.

But then, I'm all about the rejection of ironic distance and packaging and into instead stuff like humor, passion, good stories, quality, etc. I still suspect (as I did the last time he came up on the blue) that Tao Lin is not for me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:38 PM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's funny--my friend Hua wrote that Atlantic piece and we were talking about it the other week. It was actually one of the first articles to take Tao seriously, rather than look at him as a PR-generating provocateur. You might say that his piece and the Village Voice piece were the tipping point, so to speak. I have a lot of thoughts about how to contextualizing him that I'm saving up for an essay, but I think Tao is really compelling and in a lot of ways different than people think, including his admirers. I find that the people I know who like him tend to be students or non-readers who want to name-drop him at cocktail parties, but he is doing something really different and curious--and literary. And while people think he's too trivial and flip to be literature, I think his breeziness is fascinating because it does fit within an avant-garde tradition of denial, iconoclasm, and lightness (think of Godard, Kharms, and O'Hara) while also being a totally accurate and realist depiction of the way most people perceive reality--mediated through gchat, AIM and facebook status updates. Also, most people don't know that his first published book was from a small avant-garde poetry press that usually publishes swedish experimental verse in translation; I believe they initially described him using the tagline: what if Mayakovsky had discovered text messaging?

If you like him, you might want to check out another Asian American avant-garde poet whose name is--drum roll--Tan Lin. He's like Tao Lin taken to this anti-hipstery, exponential degree. Wesleyan used to have all of his last book on RSS feed, but it looks like they've taken it down. You might look at him as a philosopher of boredom. He states that he wants to write poetry that is as boring as a warm bath or wallpaper--a very daring goal in an age when most mainstream poetry is devoted to providing highly poignant lyric climaxes. Here's an interview with him.

Incidentally, when I started my current job, the first literary event I introduced featured Tao Lin. We're actually going to have him again our literary festival in Brooklyn on November 6. Actually, if you want me to pass on any questions to him, feel free to mefi mail me! (Wouldn't it be very Tao Lin to make that part of the event.) The festival's called PAGE TURNER and some of the other guests include Tim Wu (corner of the term "net neutrality"), Ha Jin, Hari Kondabolu, Susan Choi, and Das Racist. We'll have more info here next week. As part of the festival, we're going to have some incredible events, like drunken scrabble, a market where you can buy personalized poems, a nerd party, and a post-9/11 civil liberties reading. My apologies--I feel like I've been self-linking a lot, but it's always very topical!
posted by johnasdf at 4:57 PM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


LMAO, well I guess I "offended" the faux art-snobs who like to think they're so cultured. What a shocker!
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:04 PM on October 14, 2010


But then, I'm all about the rejection of ironic distance and packaging and into instead stuff like humor, passion, good stories, quality, etc. I still suspect (as I did the last time he came up on the blue) that Tao Lin is not for me.

The book is 208 pages and took me like 2-3 hours to read. No more suspecting allowed, just give it a try :)
posted by naju at 5:20 PM on October 14, 2010


DaDaDaDave: This Amazon review is probably the best thing I've read about it, not least because the reviewer doesn't try to make grand claims about, or read the novel as making grand claims about, "young people today."

In a way, what that reviewer is describing is a kind of realism, but a literally pointless realism. Or maybe we could call it literary behaviorism. Though perhaps we shouldn't.

Which is to say that I probably should read something by Tao Lin first.
posted by cobra libre at 5:31 PM on October 14, 2010


The book is 208 pages and took me like 2-3 hours to read. No more suspecting allowed, just give it a try :)

I was talking here about the videos and the "institution" of Tao Lin, which are the subject of the FPP.

Anyway, maybe I will at some point, but since the last post I've teased out what Richard Yates is about from reviews (basically, Tao Lin and his teenage girlfriend, renamed after child stars, being unlikeable and dysfunctional and abusive) and I really doubt it's to my tastes. These days I'm really busy reading fast-paced goofy stories about teenage aliens, but it might make an interesting palate cleanser at some point. I find these threads about him interesting, though, because they tend to be about him, and his art, and art generally, in a weird metatextual way, and that's kind of cool. I guess I just wish that the art at its core were more for me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:56 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


"LMAO, well I guess I "offended" the faux art-snobs who like to think they're so cultured. What a shocker!"

You should LYAO, because it is funny! You can't tell the difference between being derisive and being offended.
posted by oddman at 7:57 PM on October 14, 2010


Ah, Professor of Philosophy...it all makes sense now.
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:13 PM on October 14, 2010


You are coming across as a little desperate to be acknowledged, dude.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:17 PM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like Tao Lin a lot. He's not brilliant, but I can't think of many writers under 30 who are anywhere close so that's alright; being good in your twenties is a start, and being simultaneously good and somehow unique is as much as you can ask for. I hope that seven years from now I'm as certain of myself artistically as he is, and he's managed to really knock something or other out of the park.

That said, when people my age bring him up casually in conversation I usually take it to be a bad sign. He's a Gawker fad and Gawker people like him. He's being interviewed up there by Emily Gould formerly of Gawker.

I haven't read any of his longer form work, but his poetry really impresses me. Poetry's a Dead Man's Land for younger writers, but he manages to tie in a lot of emotions into his poems at the same time. I love that gimmicky poem where he repeats the last line a thousand time, and I like the one written from the perspective of the angsty bear. I find that I find it about as funny or sad as I'm feeling at the moment, and that talent — to make writing somehow reflect its reader — is a lot harder than would-be poets think it'll be the first time they write.

Hell, I'm happy with any poet that finds himself famous for fifteen minutes. I'm happy that he's a cultural icon. On my list of things about youth culture I really like he's up there with Pitchfork — annoying sometimes, but also earnest and really quite bright.

(What's up with the idea that ironic detachment stops you from being earnest? The most ironic people I know are frequently also the ones most willing to say painful honest things about themselves. And seeing as how frequently straightforward sincerity is used to manipulate and sell and distort, I wouldn't trust that instantaneously either.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:20 PM on October 14, 2010


What's up with the idea that ironic detachment stops you from being earnest? The most ironic people I know are frequently also the ones most willing to say painful honest things about themselves.

I don't know what to say to that except that it hasn't been my experience, but also that it seems that "ironic detachment" is, by definition, opposed to earnestness. But maybe you just mean sarcasm or sardonic . . . ness? Anyway, distance is distance, and I'm happy to trade in unbridled enthusiasm for ennui any day.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:39 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


God, this whole escapade is like the everyday discourse of reddit. Bored people trade their empathy in for getting a rise out of others, for someone, anyone, to give them the recognition that they deserve for their service of being just so contrarily pithy.

I almost feel as if Lin's ironic detachment, whatever it is, has an example in the emotionally dead act of trolling. That the act of trolling gives the author of the comment an out, like the dumb subversion of the intentional fallacy because, hell, it's just a joke people, don't get your panties in a bunch, your ideas are stupid anyway, that's what I meant by my vague generalizations, couldn't you see?

So it's like the ironic detachment is ironic because the author doesn't realize the association of the embedded irony. Or it's like sleep deprivation and having to read Foucault and how now I can't think about or talk about anything else even though I know, I just know it's going to annoy the hell out of everybody.
posted by dubusadus at 2:08 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


When people talk about Tao Lin they seem to take it as a given that he's this ironically detached, emotionally dead soul. Why is that? Anyone care to explain? He's been nothing but sincere and honest about himself in his interviews and books. As for these 1 minute videos, this FPP is the only place I've seen that's trying to elevate them to some new form of art (or even linking to them at all). Maybe the creator of this post can elaborate on his/her thought process?
posted by naju at 7:40 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I bought Richard Yates and Shoplifting FAA. Certainly didnt break the spine on those, the return department at Amazon will never know. I would love to meet him in a boxing ring and pay him back for wasting my time.
posted by bboyberlin at 10:31 AM on October 15, 2010


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