Hi, I’m Mr. Random. I started making art under that name in October of 1988, the 31st to be exact. Mr. Random was a Halloween costume. I painted and glued and stapled all kinds of stuff and images and text onto a pair of jeans and a white dress shirt. I think I had a hat, too, and I carried a small boom box playing a cassette of cut-up and collaged music and random sounds from the radio. I was Mr. Random, with a random costume, playing a random tape on my random sound machine, and we drove to Portland for a Halloween Party. After that night, I decided to make Mr. Random my permanent art name and started making texts and collages and paintings plus audio and video experiments under that name. That was 1988, and now in 2017 I’m still Mr. Random and still filling blank media with random cut-up automatic collage, montage, and improv.
Mr. Random may have emerged as a name and focused art persona in 1988, but I was interested in randomness, divination, and cut-ups long before that. In 1983, after programming a Tarot shuffler and an I Ching thrower, I made a random poetry generator on my VIC-20 computer and a couple years later upgraded it to a program called “Dichter” on my Commodore-64. (Several years after that, it became Dichter II for DOS, written in Pascal.) I’d been writing in a quasi-automatic style since 1977 or so. I was influenced by Patti Smith and Jack Kerouac early on, and later by William Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson. I played dice baseball when I was 11, and D&D with friends in college. Randomness, simulations, experimental writing and art and music, all of this began to interest me when I was young. Mr. Random was a coalescing of this interest and activity under a proper name when I as 28 years old. Now it’s 28 years later! I’ve been Mr. Random for half of my human life.
I used to work a lot more with third-party material, appropriated from magazines and junk mail and books, and later the internet. I enlisted mixing and randomizing procedures to transform it syntactically, radically rearranging the order of words, or in the case of collage, shapes and images and colors. “Machine text” was something I made with a computer and the Dichter program, which was basically just a random number generator and a big list of words. I also made macros (mixit1, mixit2, mixit3, etc.) in Word Perfect that changed the line length of texts and sorted on different word-positions repeatedly to yield long arbitrary cut-ups. I sampled chunks of the resulting material (from Dichter output and mixit macro results) and created hybrid/cyborg finished pieces from this raw text spawned by computer programs. Basically I was editing computerized gibberish, airbrushing it and raising its level of grammaticality–its readability–by adding conjunctions or making verbs and adjectives from nouns or vice versa, adding punctuation and capital letters at the beginnings of “sentences” and periods at the end. I was using what was there, taking what the program and macros produced, and trying to make it “readable”–in the sense of flowing off the tongue easily if read aloud, not “this makes sense.” It’s more like editing music, maybe. Rhythm and sound are more important than what the words may mean.
At some point, after working/playing for years with so much machine-generated and cut-up text, editing and revising it in my image of what was humanly consumable (if not comprehensible), I started writing by and for myself, unaided by machine logic (except to type on), and making a style that looked and sounded a lot like edited machine text. Apparently I’d assimilated that style and could now just spit it out on my own. You could just put me in front of a keyboard and watch me go! Human powered nonsense! The machinic “style” and my early/continuing propensity for run-on and surreally changing sentence structures combined to give birth to this new Mr. Random style of writing. I suppose it’s properly a member of the “literary nonsense” genre, maybe at an extreme edge of it, I don’t know. I’m not sure that “genre” applies to the work of someone who is largely indifferent to marketing his writing. Genre deals in fulfilling expectations. My random writing is almost the opposite. My genre is “anti-genre”!