Michael Basinski is a Western New York-based text, visual, and sound poet whose work is heavily influenced by Fluxus, the interdisciplinary avant-garde art movement that gained international attention in the 1950s and 1960s for its emphasis on chance operations, collective or anonymous authorship of artworks, and ephemeral gestures. Having worked with such legends as Jackson MacLow, Dick Higgins, Allison Knowles and John Cage, Basinski’s work evolved from a strict rhythmic performance structure, both as solo performances as well as ensemble, to a visual poem or manuscripts forming improvisational poeming without any specific starting location or ending point. Basinski calls these visual poems or performances opems.
Opems are a colorful medley of text and shapes that map out the performer’s directions in terms of routes and guidelines from whichever point of entry they so desire. They are also powerful images of mythical landscapes that can stand alone as an object that draws the viewer into his mysteries. Much in the manner of the Free Jazz movement of the 50’s and 60’s where musicians intended to extend or alter normal jazz principles, opems are unrestricted in their performance rules and structures. According to Basinski, “Opems are appropriated, original or magical writing, writing in process, and they are therefore written with markers and pens.”
“Manifested specifically for this exhibition,” Basinski explains, “these opems are improvisational verbal scores, sound poems, song, poetry, and visual poetry for solo or choral recitation and orchestration. With multiple access points, the opems are combinations of letters, colors, prepared found materials, images, and languages that may be manifested for variable durations.”