Low-Level Bureaucratic Structures
Principles of the Emeryville Shellmound
These two chapbooks, originally published by Shaw and Emilie Clark's Shark Press, can be figured at the nexus of several forces: conceptual writing like that explored by Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer in their short-lived journal 0 to 9—in which procedural processes and the very frames of the letter-size page conspires to create a visual enigma—the naive word/picture art often associated with Raymond Pettibon, and the 'pataphysical expository prose of Spiral Jetty creator Robert Smithson, which can make such subjects as the factory ruins of New Jersey seem of a piece with excavations of Neolithic artifacts (Shaw's first book, Cable Factory 20, was based on Smithson's work). Other interests peculiar to Shaw, such as Enlightenment concepts of Bildung (personal mastery), the problematics of canonical "knowledge," not to mention a trademark goofy humor, animate these two works. Shaw encouraged the degradation of the image that photocopying incurred in the original publications, a downward spiral that lends pathos to the projects and which is all the more encouraged with its translation to reduced digital images.