Hey – look out the window. There’s a lot going on out there. I guess we all know that but sometimes you come up against something that jolts you out of your complacency. A while ago I caught a couple of tweets from Jefferson Hansen which led me to the Altered Scale on-line arts magazine. For an old wanderer of mellow meadows and the bargain aisle of Walmart , these pages were quite revelatory and liberating. There’s poetry, video, music and many mixes of them all and more or less anything else you can think of. I have featured there myself as pure prosaic me. There is no snobbery or agenda, no wish list or dream team. I love to look in and I love the fact that it is there.
Altered Scale and its accompanying blog are the pure labours of love of Jefferson Hansen. His work creates a marvellous platform for other artists who can be anything from photographers to cross-stitch poets. Whatever your tastes, desires or curiosities, I guarantee you will find something stimulating. The fact that he provides this platform says a lot about the guy. My impression is that he evades my attempts to label him as altruistic but I know how much work this kind of show takes.
I have always said that the greatest talent of all other writers is that they are nothing like me. Jefferson Hansen has ideas that make my synapses feel like rusty railway points (I hope that this term exists in the USA) Come to think of it, I don’t think I would have had this image without him. To me his work is risky, spontaneous and brilliant and I am delighted that he was able to contribute to Freeze Frame. As the big poetry anthology bird descends towards final approach I interviewed Jefferson about his work.
Jeff, from where I see it you are one hell of a unique guy. Certainly you have opened my eyes to many possibilities in poetry, music and art. You appear to work selflessly to promote other artists in your Altered Scale blogs and magazine. To me you are a bit of a Gertrude Cyber-Stein’s monster but without the ego. What motivates you?
I don’t know. I like art, I like artists who are nice, and I get some recognition for it, of course. And the person who posts the most on the blog is…me. So I’m not so selfless, after all.
Obviously you are fearless about what you do. Much of your work is experimental. Do you fear failure or is everything and anything moving towards ways of expression and understanding?
Failure. Hm. If something fails, I just don’t publish it. I suppose everything moves toward expression and understanding, but some of that movement is boring–I’m interested in fascinating movement.
Recently I watched you improvising a further part of your poem “and I am alone thank god” which features in Freeze Frame. Your improvisation kept a few of us astounded at your ability to take the theme on into an intellectual abstraction just off the cuff. Do you enjoy the danger of improvisation to camera?
I love improvising. Often, the images and so on that come from the pressure of improvisation are later worked into “finished” poems. Improvisation is, I think, necessary for all artists. However, much of my art is grounded in a jazz aesthetic; indeed, “altered scale” is a jazz term.
Your own work is often abstract yet can pop up with pieces like ‘Meditating Cougar’ which is linear, philosophical and naturalistic. Do you have any kind of starting point in your own writing or does the subject ambush you?
Neither. The form ambushes me, and I go with it. Sometimes I write in almost a ballad fashion. Sometimes I write Romantic. Sometimes I write visual and wild. Sometimes I write in performance forms, most recently in “Your Majesty the Motherfucker.”
If folk do not know about “Altered Scale” allow me to say here that it is a truly exciting and original arts magazine featuring almost anything from Pulitzer Prize winners to old conservative English poets via abstract dance and improvisation. Do you feel there is a mission here to discover the fundamental particles of art by collision as if in some kind of Hansen particle Accelerator?
I never thought of it that way. I don’t believe there are fundamental particles of art. I just like the colliding.
You are a poet by virtue of the fact that you write and perform poetry. What is your background as a writer? Have you tried many forms?
See above. I don’t “brand” myself as a poet. Some avant-gardists must hate some of what I do. I don’t care. I just do. However, the fact that I sometimes write avant-garde necessarily puts me in the avant-garde camp socially and institutionally. That’s just the way the world works (right now).
You do not really promote your own work but seem to slip it in among other artists who are banging their own drum. What is the vision for your own art or do you see it as part of a broader continuum?
Oh, I don’t promote my own work much on Facebook; it seems gauche. However, I would announce a new publication there. Basically, I publish my own work on my blog simply to keep it active, so that something interesting is happening most days of the week. I also find sending work out to journals and so forth kind of boring. Why do I need the go ahead from an editor to feel confident that my work is “publishable”? I already know it is. So I publish it myself, avoid the middle person, and help to keep the blog active, thereby bringing attention to the other artists on it.
You know, when I was a younger man working in London I used to hang out at galleries and poetry readings. I was a member the Institute of Contemporary Arts and went to all the shows. I’ll always remember seeing Bunuel’s L’Age D’Or – his surrealist film masterpiece. I was not part of the set there and felt very alone. I was, after all a cop – a Nazi oppressor of criminal freedom. (I learned to hide it and started wearing trainers with a suit, vest and scarf). Jeff Hansen takes the bullshit out of that high art clique. He mixes it up and spreads it on. He’s a talented poet too. I’m delighted to have him on board. I recommend checking out Altered. Scale. Here he is explaining his mission.