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James Sanders & John Selvidge

first performed June 29, 2012
Walmart, Atlanta, GA / Wal Mart, Oklahoma City, OK
performed three times in 2012


Atlanta, GA / Oklahoma City, OK


“Walmart Entanglements”—part of our ongoing series of Entanglements—entanglement borrowed loosely from the concept of quantum entanglement—spooky action at a distance—here, action = language—entanglement as semi-closed, verbal, coupled system.

We did three one-hour sessions in which we trapped ourselves simultaneously in Walmarts (one in ATL, one in OKC)—before each session, parameters were established for interactions between us, and between the person and his Walmart—during the session we communicated by phone, email and text—e.g., each person sent the other an email that named the department the sender was in, a color and a direction (e.g., turn right), and contained additional verbal material for the receiver to use (e.g., “I’m such thumb glitter / That leather the / Center at trim music / Or people at apparel”)—each also made calls to the other, which interrupted the other’s activity and provided him additional material to react to and use—not all session parameters were symmetrical, e.g., in the second session, we agreed that Selvidge would record audio monologues and Sanders would compose written pieces, neither of which was to be shared with the other in real-time.

What we want through entanglement is a system of composition that is sited, improvisatory, and transindividual—one that displaces the still all-too-prevalent mode of poetry created by the lone, inspired individual, instead using a mode that is quasi-determined (focused) but also complex enough to embrace real-time (a rejection of the algorithmic asceticism of much conceptual poetry).

Properties of entanglement we have uncovered:

  1. Entanglement as a nonlinear, dynamic feedback loop: not simply dialog or dialectic.

  2. Entanglement as knotting—connection but also constriction—blockages by sensory overload—miscommunication (dropped calls, mishearing).

  3. Entanglement as interpolation, refiguring—here a literalized “allegory” (allo = other) + (agora = marketplace), an alternative to the verbal behavior encouraged by the site.

  4. Entanglement between process and product—a verbal analog to Smithson’s site-nonsite: sited composition (Walmart doesn’t stock poetry so you have to bring poetry’s “low ghost” to Walmart) and extraction to non-site (remnants of “Walmart language” reassembled and recontextualized).

  5. Entanglement as intimacy by distance—not the arm’s length intimacy of consumer exchange that Walmart wants (that conceals the knots of other social relations)—a 90° tilt, an exchange in part produced by the problematics described above to modify Hejinian’s exhortation: “entangle with the occasion.”