JUNCTION BOX ISSUE 11: Black Mountain Special Edition

Welcome to issue 11 of Junction Box, a very special edition, featuring a number of papers delivered at the Black Mountain College symposium, which took place in Crickhowell, Wales, over a weekend in May 2018.

Black Mountain College, USA, which functioned with varying degrees of cogency from 1933 right through to 1957, was an educational experiment which, on the whole put the arts at the centre of its curriculum, and allowed students to create their own schemes of study across many disciplines. Whether as faculty or as visiting teachers/performers in the legendary summer festivals, Black Mountain attracted some of the most progressive thinkers, craftspeople and artists of the age, many of which were highly influential at the time, or became so later, as did a number of its students.

In spite of its idyllic setting in the Black Mountains of North Carolina, the college itself was no idyll; it was a place of wrangling and struggle, where enormous personalities clashed enormously. It was a laboratory for new ideas, new ways of looking at the world, education and the arts, and, like many laboratories there were occasional explosions, spillages and bad smells. Nevertheless, its legacy has been considerable, its effect on the development of the arts in particular, both as practice and subject of study, incalculable, and the Welsh Black Mountains Black Mountain symposium was intended to explore and celebrate something of the range and spirit of the college’s achievements and of the teachers and ex-students who took something of it out into the world and built on it.

For various reasons, not all of the papers and presentations given at the weekend can be included here. Tim Atkins gave a fine reading from Hilda Morley; Paige Mitchell introduced a beguiling set of short films on Merce Cunningham, which required the special (and very generous) permission of the Merce Cunningham Trust; Camilla Nelson performed her own piece for voice, film and movement, inspired by Cornelia Parker; Peter Hughes’ paper was on the subject of abstract art and writing taking off from the work of Cy Twombly; Ian Brinton spoke about ex-student Mike Rumaker, who wrote the memoir about the college - Black Mountain Days; Redell Olson, Drew Milne and their children performed a piece for words, music and film; Gillian Hipp made a lot of poets and academics flex (perilously) whilst helping them to reflect on Merce Cunningham’s practice; John Goodby talked about Ed Dorn and Michael Kindellan about Charles Olson’s poetic and educational procedures; Wanda O’Connor discussed poetic life leading out beyond the Projective moment. All these contributed immensely to the energy and richness of the weekend.

Junction Box is grateful to all the contributors to edition 11, not only for allowing us to publish their papers, but also, of course, for the extra work they’ve had to put into preparing them for publication. We also owe profound thanks to Basil King for allowing us to feature the whole of Nicole Peyrafitte and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte’s film about him here (this is an exciting exclusive for us); and to the Ray Johnson Estate for their equally generous permission for the use of images in Jeff Hilson’s article.

As there are two papers out there, still being worked on, we’re hoping to include them in the next edition. Meanwhile, you can find information about the Black Mountain programme here: https://glasfrynproject.org.uk/w/wp-admin/post.php?post=5086&action=edit

This edition features a bonus, unrelated to the Black Mountain weekend: a selection of new poems from Stephen Emmerson written from the Kent and East Sussex coast. We’re very delighted to have these.

And now: Onward, Readers!

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