After Marshall McLuhan wrote Understanding Media, electronic media became so ubiquitous that McLuhan's critique became dated, making his a philosophy of transience rather than an understanding of a climax media community. Mark Amerika responds, "I feel very much saturated with the media presence. I was just born into it. I've accepted it. And forget the idea of recording a poem, the live event itself has already possibly evolved into a performance/ad. The book itself has become a book/ad.

"There's an impulse which differentiates one artist from another which is the decision to go public, the publishing paradigm. When you make that decision you've pretty much said that you want an audience. Do you go out there and say, 'I want an audience of 100 who are dedicated people who understand me?' Or do you want 25,000, some of whom get it and some [of whom] do it just because it's the 'cool' thing to do? That, too, is somehow connected to an idea of what a work of art is or what an ad is.

"So the artist has already gone past the point of going public and wanting a audience. They start thinking, 'But I want to have a big public. In order to have a big public, I have to do this and this and this and this in my specialization... and so I will compromise and do these things to get that audience.' Now that I don't feel comfortable with at all. That gives me the creeps.

"Now let's get to this notion of the avant-pop that I've written about ... that you feel directly connected to a lineage of avant-spirits who have created all different kinds of artwork in many different mediums in the past and present, but at the same time are open to the idea of using whatever available media are there to generate as popular an audience as you can get without having compromised the integrity of your work... because you've made the decision to go public and would like to have as large an audience as possible." To some writers, an audience's scale is a basic, practical matter. An audience can dictate economic survival. Yet, Alt-X remains a freely accessible resource on the web. Thus Amerika is in an interesting situation because he can't charge for his web publication. Will that change?

He chuckles and says, "Alt-X is not bashful about becoming a commercial site. The word 'commercial' is not negative. All I'm saying is that I don't want to compromise the editorial vision to secure different kinds of audiences. Right now Alt-X is taking 10 to 15 hours a week of my time. What will happen when it takes 20 or more hours of time each week? That's even more work. And I'm not exactly independently wealthy."

So what exactly is the reward?

"Seeing it grow so fast, and seeing contributors react, and readers respond... that's fulfillment," he concludes. "That's great. It's the same thing that drove the small magazines in the early part of the century. It's what drove me to do Black Ice Magazine [a countercultural print zine]. There's this passion to get this work out there to this audience who wants it, as large as possible. And there are in fact potentially larger audiences for this kind of material than the big publishers think, who decide not to publish it. And if we can build and network these audiences, then that's something great."


End of feature: about this article.