Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page


In Uncategorized on April 13, 2010 at 11:37 am

This is the second in  a series of notes surrounding the ART WRITING FIELD STATION in Leeds on Mar 27 2010. As I wrote in an introduction for the previous posting by Mary Paterson – which can be read here -  I am fascinated by the form of the “note” that emerges in these writings: 

The notes are not what precedes the event, nor are they what comes during or afterwards, be that a written document, a sound recording, an oral tale or private memory. Rather, the notes are writings that, taking place at a fixed moment in the process they are part of, evidence all others. 

More about Rachel Lois’ work can be seen here.

Her VSK Project THE FINGER can be seen here

An instructional score for the NOTES for the ART WRITING FIELD STATION is here.


Here are some typed, online notes that mark my thinking for NOTES at ART WRITING FEILD STATION LEEDS, or NOTES ON NOTES.

Initially, in preparing for NOTES, I started reading David Berridge’s via Clayton Eshleman’s gloss on ‘Plan for Curriculum of the Soul’ a double page text work by Charles Olson, printed in 1968 (1). This lead me somewhat indirectly – by way of another commission I was writing at the same time (2) to Olson’s longer, more oratorical, ‘Projective Verse’ from 1950. (3).

Over the course of the previous weeks I have also been talking about other (related) work with a small group of collaborators David Berridge, Emma Cocker, Mary Paterson and Alex Eisenberg (4). Many of whom will be presenting at ART WRITING FIELD STATION and in proximity to NOTES on the day I perform it.

In the process of coming to NOTES – sporadic (often cursory) reading, collating various bits of online quotes, scraps of articles and materials – I have made copious notes in my usual system (5). Meanwhile, it has become difficult to delineate which things stem from these starting points; which ideas I encountered in the original texts, and which on various commissions, trips, artworks and conversations with friends. So by way of setting out an ecology for NOTES in the context of ART WRITING FIELD STATION, or delineating a certain ‘field’ for this particular work, I have concerned myself here with what is in these notes on NOTES (5b).

I have devised a very loose index.

* Things more clearly related to the idea of FIELD – geographic (and soil based), conceptual and/or systemic (technologic))

** Things that may be me citing something in a text by Olson, or perhaps picked up in conversation with Berridge, Cocker, Eisenberg or Paterson. (6)

*** Things that are my idea but can be tangentially related to the conversations or texts stated above.(7)

Grid Lexicon

I really liked geography classes at school. Visits to rundown inner city council estates in Warrington to look at bad examples of social housing (ill advised field trips), never once looking at a map of the world (or of any country) and using wooden set squares to collect data – for example, the number of daisy’s, types of grasses, certain insects – in a meter sq of field. It was usually a scraggy school field or fell bit of land that may or may not have magic mushrooms growing in it. We would later return and analyse these field findings back in the classroom. This is the only thing I remember from High School. That and arm wrestling boys (and often winning) which does not have anything to do with the idea of a field, grid or NOTES. Until now. * I remember thinking the method of the set sq seemed a brilliantly simple and cool (impartial) way to find, gather and sort things out. As a constraint the grid made sense, it imposed order. I remember thinking at the time that this all seemed very neutral and fair. Whatever grew or fell by chance into the set square as it was lay down was given attention, pored over.


In a way that says it all, or at least enough….

But I also want to transpose some other fragments/scribblings as they appear in my notes on NOTES:

Grid form as a field of composition * / **, as something worked by infamous mid Twentieth Century American minimalists, which leads me to Micheal Fried and his equally infamous essay on theatricality and ‘literal art’ (7b) – art which radically (and for Fried pejoratively) effected a drama(tization) of its object-hood and so implicated the viewer bodily in its completion. The notes go from the body, on to site specificity, through theatricality and neatly into performance. (This journey from grid to critical writing to performance does not look so neat in my handwritten notes.)

Mathematics *. X and Y axis *. Grid as productive constraint, grid as writing technology *, working with a different syntax *.

Grid as an unnatural way of working (my notebooks speak for the fact I don’t work like this), a constraint for the notes to push through.

The syllable rules and holds together lines **
Breaking writing down into component parts.
A serial(ization) of writing. *

Expanding the constraints of the page * where all marks, left hand/right hand, beginning and endings, are distributed with equal weight. They can only be pointed to or reinforced as different by the addition of more(equal) marks on the page; such as under linings, CAPS, exclamation marks. (Thinking of Olsons ‘Plan for Curriculum of the Soul’)

Form is never more than an extension of content * / **
(A wonderfully rich, aphoristic note/NOTE) (8)


Field *

A writer in the open * / ***

Writing as +1 to the field * – as +1 to writing *, +1 to the event *

FIELD COMPOSITION/COMPOSITION OF FIELD in which movement from one perception to another….. **Writing that sticks close to its generative moment of perception/cognition. **

Page * as generative space, not receptacle for finished ideas.

Materials that are handled in a series of objects in a field in such a way that a sense of tensions are made to hold, and to hold exactly inside the content and context of the poem which has formed itself, through the poet, and then into being **/ *


Then there are some bits that relate more explicitly to the body in relation to FIELD, which features quite highly Olson’s thinking on the ROOM * / ** / *** of writing in both Plan for Curriculum of the Soul and Projective Verse. Also a strong fascination for me, if the notes in my folders can be judged qualitatively/quantifiably:

Percussive writing **

A physical composition **

Writing openly, presently, simultaneously

Moving index(ically)

A writing that maps lines walked * / **

One of the pressures of writing is bodily.

The FINGER and hands and pointing – diagramming physically

The breath of the author punctuating NOTES ** / ***

Breath is the speech force of language, writing is an object that the body has an impact upon. **

Amidst this I think about notes in the pejorative (8b) :

How writing notes always makes you look away from an event, the event- toward your notes/notebook (unless you write notes without looking at your page?)

Notes as unfaithful, unserious, un thought-ful.

Notes as a crutch to performance, to memory, to a practice.

Notes as unfinished, unimportant, unprepared, uncritical, un-publishable, work in progress, as private.

Notes as a learning device for a novice or anorak (Train Spotter) as opposed to notes of a scientist (an expert) – still unpublishable in a scientific / expert context?

Notes made from a performance that make a work mobile and divorce it from its site.

NOTES as pick-up sticks ** / *** ‘grabs’ from a practice – shallow grabs from something else, something deeper, something more sustained. NOTES as tips of icebergs (rather than the icebergs themselves?). (9)

Aspects of NOTES that I am currently experimenting with.

Scale- How important is it for the individual diagrams/gestures to be seen as such (by others should they wish in the moment of writing/performing?). What is the difference in scale between 3 x 3 yellow lined post its, 5 x 7 white fiches and 12 x 12 large pieces of white card? Could the elements be big things- like tablets or objects?

One element is fixed never moves – it is returned to (and marked over continually like a lexicon of the grid activity, a margin, a note of the NOTES). This could be groundwork *

Timings- I am drawn to regular moments over the course of NOTES by an external device. These moments are prompts. The prompts may or may not be marked as such in NOTES.

The hand of the author, pointing and the FINGER how it can diagram physically within the composition.

In what different ways one element that is continually returned to as blank.

How hesitancy or doubt might show itself in NOTES

How NOTES are unfathomable, and no-one can read them whole. They are fictional, unfaithful (to themselves and to the event). How they might be moved away from the event?

How the space outside the grid is important (Nb. 7b)

Underlining as pointing (Nb. FINGER)

Sound of NOTES being made (Nb. Percussive writing **)

How certain gestures will pre-scribe or anticipate the event/the conversation – and others will come during, or after. Others will not be related to the event. How to NOTE these differences.


Notes on NOTES (on NOTES)

(1) Taken from here.  

(2) (W)reading Performance Writing. A Live art Development Agency study guide. Downloadable at www.thisisliveart from April 2010. A brief introduction here.

(3) Available in full online  here.     

(4) ROOT with Mary Paterson and Re- with Emma Cocker as part of the RITE publication launch 2010 (RITE contributors are David Berridge, Alex Eisenberg, Mary Paterson, Emma Cocker, amongst others, but not Charles Olson), Writers House on the invitation of David Berridge and Pippa Koszerek (Hard copy notes only about this project at present. Dates May 29-31st ), Question Time with David Berridge, Alex Eisenberg, Mary Paterson as Open Dialogues. Nb. Pippa Koszerek is another collaborator of mine, our having worked on FREE PRESS together (with David Berridge, Karen Di Franco, Matthew MacKisack, Sophie Mellor and Ashkan Sepahvand).

(5) A modular system it could itself be a rumination on notes (although not necessarily the work NOTES I speak of here). It is a system regularly subject to change by the author, and under constant scrutiny as to regulate cost versus my needs in terms of flexibility, provisional dimensions, page capacity, efficiency of storage and ultimate archival (endpoint) quality. A5 black plain page moleskin notebooks are the most expensive experimented with so far at 13GBP for one hardback notebook. Lovely though these are they seem to be the notebook of choice amongst many of my peers. It can get confusing at meetings and seminars. An extra identical moleskin for the table, Sir? ** Cost also prohibitive for someone with potential compulsive note writing disorder. Also not flexible enough (removing pages seems wrong). Standard A4 paper in plastic wallets with homemade ‘titles’ is very flexible- notes changing sets (and so projects) on a regular basis – and is the cheapest by far (circa 1GBP per wallet note-set) but this is not very aesthetically satisfactory. Too redolent of pillaged communal stationary cupboards and WORK (not the good kind). Absolutely no precious archival qualities. The large white plain (I might go back to gridded soon)Fiches index cards I am currently using – 3.99GBP for 100 – seem to combine the optimum blend at present. Cheap, totally singular, as in modular, and pleasant to have/hold. Plenty apt for little diagrams. I wrote in them from a recent talk entitled ‘What is conversation for’ – an evening of conversation with the art writer Yve Lomax (in conversation with herself). Looking back on my Ficheborne note-cards, have a nice speculative (light) circular feel that would not have felt appropriate in any of the other note technologies discussed here.

(5b) I’ve done this in an altogether non Harvard style, in fact in a way much more akin to an exercise in which I randomly look out of my window with a pair of cheap binoculours and try really hard to ‘accurately’ chart the stars *.

(6) Do we use last names in notes?

(7) This charting* itself of course being endemic to noting, or having a certain note like quality to it, in terms of indexing, condensing or documenting. It’s a self conscious exercise transposing these much more scrappy notes into this clean blogpost. The reasons for it are multi-fold. For the before of NOTES = a making sense in advance, an anticipatory staking out the territory*, a speculative mapping* of the area for this work to come. For the after of NOTES = for the fact that you put work out there and it rarely ever comes back ** Notes then, by way of something to come back to. Being something like the splash-back (however unfaithful, unreadable or unlikely it might be) from the act of just throwing something out there *** or pissing in the wind ** that can be the experience of making work. (Although having nothing left is better than something sometimes, especially something like inane notes.). Coming back to the BEFORE for a minute, it feels like there is something at stake in making public the BEFORE (BEFORE NOTES) given the constellation* of ideas/texts here, also because this BEFORE is the crux of my note-taking, where I think my notes might matter most. (It makes me wonder in what way the notes I make are not usually public or published?) I also just made a note on my current Fiche(the one that I always have on the go entitled GENERAL – ie not project/commission specific- that this is the most speculative text I have written for this blog in some time.

(7b) Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood, Artforum 5(10) (1967): 12-23

(8) By now I have reconciled the salient difference between notes and NOTES. There is a difference. But it is constantly on the move.

(8b) I find there’s a lot in the pejorative.

(9) A question of quantity/quality. Is this weight issue, this mobility – if this is what the issue is, which is not to simplify it at all, if it is even an issue in the proper sense – endemic to all words/writing?


In Uncategorized on April 8, 2010 at 9:30 am

This is the first  in a series of “notes”  related to the ART WRITING FIELD STATION in Leeds on March 27th 2010. The notes are not what precedes the event, nor are they what comes during or afterwards, be that a written document, a sound recording, an oral tale or private memory.

Rather, the notes are writings that, taking place at a fixed moment in the process they are part of, evidence all others. This first set of notes, by Mary Paterson , is published under a title, below, that willfully demonstrates this transgressive chronology of notes.

More information about Mary’s work can be seen here


In 2009 I began a residency at the Live Art Development Agency.


res•i•den•cy [rez-i-duh n-see] –noun,plural-cies.

1. residence (def. 3).

2. the position or tenure of a medical resident.

3. (formerly) the official residence of a representative of the British governor general at a native Indian court.

4. (formerly) an administrative division of the Dutch East Indies.

[["residency." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 31 Mar. 2010. .]

I have been looking at Unbound, which is the Agency’s online publication and distribution arm. Unbound is an online shop for books, documentation and the paraphernalia surrounding live art. It is also a commissioning platform for new works, and as such it stocks art historical text books like (for example) Body Art by Amelia Jones, as well as limited edition, commissioned artworks made to mark the Live Art Development Agency’s 10th birthday, which are exclusive to Unbound.

res•i•den•cy ['re-z&-d&n-sE] –noun, plural -cies

1. an often official place of residence

2. the condition of being a resident of a particular place

["residency." Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law. Merriam-Webster, Inc. 31 Mar. 2010. .]

At the Art Writing Field Station event in Leeds last week, I presented some notes towards the text I’m writing for the residency. I described Unbound as my field of study. “Imagine that we are looking.” I wrote, “Imagine that this is what we find – a series of resources labelled Unbound; a metaphorical sheaf of published and commissioned paraphernalia connected to the suggestion of live art. Imagine that this website Unbound is the field of study.”

But a field of study is normally a finite entity, and Unbound is not finite in two important ways. Firstly, it is effectual: unlike an archive, it does not simply claim to record a set of influences, but also to define those influences and shape the discipline. Secondly, it points to resources, but does not map their contents. You have to click on the elegant photographs, enter your credit card details, and wait for a parcel before you can access the knowledge described on Unbound.

res•i•den•cy [rez-əd-ən-sē] –n, pl -cies

: a period of advanced medical training and education that normally follows graduation from medical school and licensing to practice medicine and that consists of supervised practice of a specialty in a hospital and in its outpatient department and instruction from specialists on the hospital staff

["residency." Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc. 31 Mar. 2010. .]

But it is this oblique relationship to knowledge that interests me about Unbound.

residency: The position or term of a medical resident; The position of a musical artist who commonly performs at a particular venue; The condition of being a resident of a particular place; The home or residence of a person, especially in the colonies accessed 31st March 2010

Unbound does not represent knowledge, but it does give information about it. And information is, of course, another kind of intellectual resource; arguably, one that is more relevant to contemporary living than the weighty facts of knowledge.

I remember sitting round the kitchen table when I was 11 or 12, helping my brother learn the capital cities of the world so that he could pass an exam. He was sliding round the kitchen in his socks and he learnt the capital cities by rote, to the rhythm of his body making laps of the table.

No-one needs this kind of knowledge anymore. It’s all available on the internet, and so accessing the internet is more important than being able to remember words or phrases. This amounts to a change in status that I think of as a change of location. The names of the capital cities of the world are no longer resident in the bodies of schoolchildren. Instead, they live in a shared, virtual system that everyone can access, but which no-one needs to possess. It is a change in status from knowledge to information.

residency: The location that a student is deemed to live for the purpose of funding. accessed 31st March 2010

What does it mean to have access to “a shared, virtual system”? Is it the same thing as “virtual memory”? Or “cultural knowledge”? Or “common sense”?

residency: Please refer to the Residency Classification Guidelines. accessed 31st March 2010

In Leeds, I asked Simon Zimmerman to read out the text I had written, which was about memory and meaning. I asked him to insert some of his memories into my text. He talked about childhood games with his sister, and about travelling on buses with his aunt. When he spoke his memories he lifted his head from the script, and the left corner of his mouth rose in a shy smile. Everyone in the room was captivated.

residency: they tax anyone who lives there, regardless of citizenship; accessed 31st March 2010

It reminded me of the time when something traumatic happened to a friend of mine. The event was so traumatic, that to describe it was to hold an audience’s attention. After I had described the event to people, they would retell the story elsewhere. Soon, people who did not know my friend would tell the story of the traumatic event. Sometimes I would find myself in a crowd of people where I was known as the person who had a friend who had been affected by this traumatic event. One or two people admitted that they were jealous of me for being so close to such a shocking incident. Nevertheless, they restyled my feelings into their own language. The event had become “common knowledge”, or “cultural memory”, or perhaps “virtual sense.”

Main Entry: domicile/ Part of Speech: noun/ Definition: human habitat/ Synonyms: abode, accommodation, apartment, castle, co-op, commorancy, condo, condominium, crash pad, dump, dwelling, habitation, home, house, joint, legal residence, mansion, pad, rack, residence, residency, roof over head, roost, settlement, accessed 31st March 2010

After Simon had finished speaking at Art Writing Field Station, we had a short discussion. Emma Cocker (who made a presentation later that morning in relation to rhizomatic diagrams on graph paper that refer, obliquely, to the knowledge and information of her studio and her practice) said that she had been thinking about ‘residency.’ She said (rhetorically): ‘What does it mean to take residency inside someone else’s text?’ Simon said that he was interested in parasitic writing – writing that lives off another source.

Main Entry: dwelling/ Part of Speech: noun/ Definition: home/ Synonyms: abode, castle, commorancy, den, digs, domicile, dump, establishment, habitat, habitation, haunt, hole in the wall, house, lodging, pad, quarters, residence, residency, accessed 31st March 2010

Aren’t we all parasites? Quotations, definitions, references, libraries, archives, styles, fashions, networks, nods, winks … the building blocks of culture are other people’s ideas. Or, as it says on the gates of the British Library, ‘An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them’ (Stephen Fry). Or to put it another way, we’re all ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ (Isaac Newton). Or, to put it another way, the moment when you know you are an adult, when you know that you are symbolically present and able to participate in your culture, is when you realise that everyone else is making it up as well (Mary Paterson). Authority is the relative value that we ascribe to cultural artefacts, which turns them into shared experience, implicit or otherwise.

par•a•site [par-uh-sahyt]–noun

1. an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutriment.

2. a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any useful or proper return, as one who lives on the hospitality of others.

3. (in ancient Greece) a person who received free meals in return for amusing or impudent conversation, flattering remarks, etc.

Perhaps the difference between being a parasite and being a resident is ‘any useful or proper return.’ While a residency is defined by its location, a parasite is defined by its (lack of) production. My work in relation to Unbound is parasitical. It uses the resources to gain nutriment, without offering any of its own. But it is also about location – the location of knowledge, the location of information, and the location of meaning.

The Parasite is the name of several fictional characters that appears in Superman comic book stories published by DC Comics. … accessed 31st March 2010


In Uncategorized on April 7, 2010 at 8:34 pm

This Saturday April 10th 10.30- 12.30pm I will be presenting READING AS PUBLISHING, a workshop and presentation as part of READING FOR READING’S SAKE at the Islington Mill Academy. The full programme of the four day event can be seen here

The following is the description of the project I wrote for the website: 

Reading as Publishing explores how acts and moments of individual reading can be published, and what shifts occur as private moments of textual absorption are translated into public performances, conversations, stories, silences, and images.

READING AS PUBLISHING begins from the following assumptions: (1) texts are mobile and easily distributed, so site specificity belongs to the moment of writing, the act of reading and commentary; (2)writing and reading are private acts, which must be made be public in order to have political efficacy.

READING AS PUBLISHING will begin with a presentation of a range of printed, visual and oral materials that unfold how reading can be published and made public, proposing a preliminary set of techniques and possibilities. The rest of the session will be for participants to read privately, then consider how to publish that experience to the group.

The session will conclude with a sharing of our “publications.”

The READING AS PUBLISHING  project is being developed on this website. The script from the weekend will be posted next week. Already online are:

WOUND ROSES ROSES BLEED: A KURT SCRIPT FOR READING KURT SCHWITTERS, exploring the development of scripts and scores for reading particular texts. 

A COMPENDIUM OF STRATEGIES: RODNEY GRAHAM AND READING AS PUBLISHING, a reading of the catalogue for his recent MACBA show, highlighting engagements with reading, writing and the book. 

The presentation will explore “reading as publishing” through texts by, amongst others, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Joubert, Hélène Cixous and St. Augustine.


READING FOR READING’S SAKE is curated by Maurice Carlin, Helen Kaplinksy and Megan Wakefield. It will also feature contributions from Aesthetics and Politics Reading Group, Ruth Beale, Rachel Lois ClaphamDavid BerridgeKatie Brandon, Patrick Coyle, Lowri Evans, Ella Finer, Royston Futter, Stephen Kingston, Fraser MuggeridgeTamarin Norwood, Sam Playford, Lucy May Schofield, and Sebastian Willan.


In Uncategorized on April 6, 2010 at 4:52 pm


Rodney Graham, catalogue for Through the Forest, MACBA, 2010


What follows is a compendium of “reading as publishing” strategies derived from the work of Rodney Graham, based on my reading of two texts in the catalogue for  Graham’s recent Through the Forest MACBA show: Grant Arnold’s “It Always Makes Me Nervous When Nature Has No Purpose: An Annotated Chronology of the Life and Work of Rodney Graham” and Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes “Rodney Graham: Literature and What an Artist Does with It.”

Lerm Hayes essay is structured around the following taxonomy, which serves as a useful taxonomy of Graham’s “reading as publishing” concerns: The Study; Writing (or Not); The Book; The Typewriter, Paper; The Bookshop; Slipcases, Architectures for Reading. “Reading as Publishing” is a term I have been exploring for my presentation and workshop as part of Reading for Reading’s Sake at Islington Mills, Salford, 9-11 April 2010. As Hayes proposes:

[Graham] approaches literature… not as an opposed pole, but with ambivalence, similar to how he engages with cinema: quoting, appropriating literature’s methods, motifs, and forms, critiquing, at times lampooning, as well as revering and even reviving its traditions. What emerges is a way of working with literature that (re)presents it in innovative ways to new (and old) audiences… It provides a current and coherent (albeit idiosyncratic) way of harking back to the times of the universal artist/ scholar, while in all its idiosyncrasies and ambivalence showing how even today a critically reflected unity of all the arts may be possible. 

Rodney Graham problematizes what it is to produce and receive literature today, to read, to interpret it visually and textually, to write, design, print and sell books, to exhibit them as well as the outcomes of his complex, visual investigation into literature. (65-6)  

Rodney Graham, Reading Machine for Lenz, 1993



Lenz (1983) is an appropriation of a short unfinished work of fiction by Georg Buchner. As Lenz journeys through a mountain landscape to find a pastor, experiencing psychological breakdown, Graham takes the first 1,434 words of C.R. Mueller’s translation, typesets them so they fall on five justified pages, and creates a narrative loop so the reader, like Lenz, continually retraces their steps. The resultant work is produced in two forms: a 16 page prospectus (in edition of 210) and cloth bound book of 336 pages (in slipcase).

Also working with the loop is Dr.No (1991), a bookmark with text by Graham ( derived in part from Alain Robbe-Grillet) that can be inserted between pages 56 and 57 of the original first edition to extend and loop a scene in which a poisonous centipede transverses Bond’s naked body.

As Hayes summarises this method:

In using selection and the loop as strategies, Graham also conveniently caters to the art context’s comparatively shorter attention span or expected reception time. Like Joyce, Graham strategically rearranges literary history, showing the disturbing, evocative, fresh and colourful nature of earlier writing, “recycling” sources, placing himself within both a nineteenth-century and a Viconian context, that of a cyclical world order, for which the book, an object that one can turn around on its spine, is certainly a good image. (70)

Graham considers inserting his own text into existing books. Finds Lacan unsuitable, but turns to Freud. Freud Citation is a photograph of the cover of The Species Cyclamen L by Friedrich Hildebrand with a text referring to the books role in Freud’s anaysis of his “Dream of the Botanical Monograph.” Freud glimpsed the book in a Viennese bookshop and then dreamed about it.  

This project develops into Installation for Münster, a 1987 installation for Skulptur Projekte Münster in which 24 dummy books – their cover a replica of Hildebrand’s texts, their pages blank, if you could open them to see – are installed in windows of Münster’s bookshops. As Max Wechsler observes the book:

has become an object,  a symbol of its content rather than an actual container for them, and the starting point for an autonomous chain of associations… this is an art that wants to retreat under the hood of the everyday, to withdraw, if not into invisibility, at least into a discreet reserve. (100)


The System of Landor’s Cottage: A Pendant to Poe’s Last Story (1984) is a book based on and encompassing Edgar Allan Poe’s Landor’s Cottage: A Pendant to “The Domain of Arnheim.” Poe describes a small cottage set in an idyllic valley. Graham makes  the story into a novel by adding an extensive description of an annex to the cottage. The project becomes an architectural model, drawings, a dummy book, and a 312 page novel (in edition of 250).  A leather bound deluxe edition of 4 is also produced. 

Rodney Graham, Standard Edition, 1988


Graham also produces book sculptures. Die Traumdeutung, (1986) inserts books into replicas of minimalist sculptures by Donald Judd. Sculptures are also produced including works by Raymond Roussell(Nouvelles impressions d’Afrique), as well as La Séminaire (Lacan), Cours de Linquistique générale (Ferdinand de Saussure) and Jokes/Case Studies and Standard Editions (Freud). 

Casino Royale (Sculpture de Voyage) (1990), another project derived from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, is installed in a hotel room so you could lie in bed and read above you a section where Bond, tied to a chair  from which the seat caning has been removed, is thrashed on buttocks and genitals. As Hayes observes of Graham’s focus on slip-cases and “mini-architectures” for books, they make reading impossible but, through echoing the books subject matter, provide “associative and interpretive companionship.” (80-82)

Rodney Graham, White Shirt (for Mallarmé), Spring 1993


In White Shirt (for Mallarmé), Spring 1993. A black cardboard box contains a white men’s dress shirt folded as if on display in a clothing shop. Inside the shirt is a sheet of white paper with with the text of Stéphane Mallarmés poem “The Demon of Analogy.” Through the fabric of the shirt can be seen a sheet of tissue paper with the poem title, the phrase “La Pénultième est morte” and Mallarme’s signaure. The shirt fits Graham. It is intended to be exhibited simultaneously in gallery and shop front.

Irradiation (1993) is a boxed set of 8x 10 inch glass negatives of the first forty-four pages of section four of Bibliographie analytique des principaux phénomènes subjectifs de la vision by Joseph Plateau, which describes optical effects caused by the observation of stars at night. 

Graham’s confinement of the book to the luxury edition enables a foregrounding of the book as both impossible and ideal. Illustrating the former, a project on Czerny’s piano exercises links them to Galileo’s fomulation of the law of free fall, to produce a text variously exhibited as a 1,443 page wall text, and 24 volumes (one hour of music).

Projects (1988) begins from a glimpse – like that which leads Freud to his dream of the botanical monograph – that mistakes a cardboard box for a book “such as I myself should someday like to write” Graham observes:

This later idea set off a new speculation – a daydream in which I found myself mentally assembling a whole series or recent thoughts about books into a more or less coherent form, into a prescription for my ideal, future book. I should most certainly (I recall telling myself) have the work’s title and my name composed in the romantic-style topography I love (in black, red, green and gold ink – I had recently seen an example of this, the engraved title page of an old architectural pattern book, at the home of my brussels friend) the paper of the book should be soft and supple ( I like a book that yields to the hands and drapes when opened) its pages of a creamy white etc. etc. 

In Five Interior Design Proposals for the Grimm Brothers’ Studies in Berlin (1992), CAD drawings of the brothers matching studies were manipulated and moved around creating a series of varying doubles, then rendered as nineteenth century interior design illustrations. 

Rodney Graham, Rheinmetall / Victoria 8, 2003


In the film Rheinmetall/ Victoria 8, the typewriter becomes covered in filmic snow/ flour, which Hayes interprets as an end to optimistic views of technological progress. It offers an image of “reading as publishing” that both reveals and conceals. In Hayes useful phrase Graham practices “a conceptualism that overdoes it” (78)

Graham’s more recent work has moved away from a focus on the book and reading, although Allegory of Folly: Study for an Equestrian Monument in the Form of a Wind Vane (2005), a pair of black and white light boxes, features Graham as Erasmus, reading a phone book whilst seated backwards on a model horse used to train jockeys.


In Uncategorized on April 4, 2010 at 9:29 am

Sara De Bondt and Fraser Muggeridge eds. The Form of the Book Book (Occasional Papers, London, 2009).

Two essays in particular have been preoccupying me here. The first is Catherine de Smet’s “Le Corbusier as Book Designer: Semi Modernity à la française” which explores Le Corbusier’s own assertion – in an autobiography written in the third person – that ‘A large part of LC’s creative work took place in his books.’ 

De Smet explores some of unexpected characteristics of LC’s book life: his rejection of the modernism of Swiss book design for French traditionalism and the resultant choice of handwritten and collaged texts over a clean, grid based modernist design. She concludes by wondering whether we should understand Le Corbusier’s book life as curiously anti-modern – particularly in relation to the architecture such books explored – or whether such combinations of book styles is best seen as some kind of proto- post- modernism.

This dilemma raises questions about how any practice, conceptually and practically, becomes mediated through the form of the book, and whether a book about that practice supports, extends, or counters the work it contains (also the conversation taking place in and around it).  This, in turn, asks how an idea of the book as the place where ideas are presented influences the ideas themselves, even if those are not – as in LC’s architecture – writerly or book based projects.

How pervasive is the metaphor of the book in a particular artists/ architects/ writers conception of their work and how it is distributed?   How is this image/ metaphor/ ideal book  modeled/ negotiated with/ rebuffed/ relished?

When texts become distributed through the internet, or through exhibition, or dissolve completely into events and curatorial processes, then what happens to this book archetype, what replaces it as an ideal container for thought in words? Le Corbusier conducts architectural practice in books, so, too, I’m thinking about a book practice conducted by writers-artists in speech, exhibition, and curatorial idea-storms. 

The second essay I’ve been returning to is James Goggins “The Matta-Clark Complex: Materials, Interpretation and the Designer.” Goggins offers a brief survey of monographs of Matta-Clark, and how designers have felt a need to approximate in their book designs the artists own strategies of slicing and cut through, removing a chunk of the book’s spine or making cut-out squares in its cover through which the Matta Clark eye peers. 

Goggins’ appreciates how such designs seek an engagement with the practice of the artist, but wonders where the boundary is between intelligent response and an object that becomes a parody. Similarly, when does the designer start competing with the artist, rather than seeking the best way to present their work? He concludes: 

When content and materials are interpreted and combined in a balanced way, the result can be greater than the sum of its parts. A transformation of the given matter through a kind of elegant alchemy, rather than cut-and-paste pastiche. (31) 

AN ELABORATION: I’ve had the idea of  adopting The Matta-Clark Complex, but embracing rather than rejecting the more excessive, parodic elements of its design conversation. It suggests that artists relate to each others work on a very physical and cumbersome architectural level, ever prone – particularly when the artists are historical-dead-canonized like Matta Clark – to parody-inflation-imbalance. 

I propose: writing that emerges out of The Matta Clark Complex will find itself abandoning the essay and the book as containers for its thought, finding those objects too cut through and sliced to be useful, but finding a landscape rich with the possibilities of  a new Cardboard Language.

This Cardboard Language would engage with the book in the terms suggested by another contributor to this volume – Bob Stein of The Institute for the Future of the Book, interviewed by Sarah Gottlieb – who talks about the “social aspects” of the book form. Everyone recognizes cardboard. As Stein says:

…a book is a place where readers and authors can congregate. Reading and writing have always been social experiences, but when frozen into print these relations tend to be omitted. A significant book gets people talking in society, but this is not seen or incorporated in the paper-based object. What we’ve been working on is expanding the boundaries of the page , to consider its social aspects, which are so fundamental to it. We are re-defining content to include the conversation that it engenders. (64)

NOTE: Several aspects of Cardboard Language may require elaboration at the future moment when Cardboard Language has come to be.


In Uncategorized on April 3, 2010 at 7:51 pm

The above text is Rachel Lois Clapham’s score for her project of writing live throughout  ART WRITING FIELD STATION in Leeds on March 27 2010 (see a set of preparatory notes by RL on this project here  and a report after the event here).

Marianne Holm Hansen, Pneumatic Poem (thoughts on Art Writing Field Station), 2010


A DESCRIPTION: During presentations by myself, Mary Paterson (performed and interpreted by Simon Zimmerman) and Emma Cocker, Rachel Lois wrote in black marker pen on square pieces of paper, constructing a 3 x 3 grid of these squares. Sometimes new blank squares were placed on top of old, or squares were removed, placed on the floor, and replaced.  

As the last presentation ended, RL removed her last piece of paper from the wall, as if our discussion had returned us to a white wall from which we began, and announced she had finished.

A CONTEXT: This was the second attempt to write live during an ART WRITING FIELD STATION, following on from Marianne Holm Hansen’s work in London. Like Marianne’s project – more information about which is here – the actual act of writing live is a performance both visible and invisible.

Absorbed in discussions, I looked up every so often to see what was happening (as well as the activity on the wall, the grid was filmed and projected). Whilst all of Marianne’s writing figured on a single sheet of piece of paper that was on the wall throughout, RL’s adding and removal of sheets made the whole more illusive. I only ever got a snapshot at different times of what was an ongoing flow, and the processes of editing and decision making remained inaccessible to my piecemeal attention.

Also unlike Marianne’s, RL’s work was principally non-verbal – her grid of squares contained a series of graphic, gestural markings, and if there was an alphabet or lexicon it was one of signs, boxes, brackets, and lines, with arrows indicating movement into and out of both drawn spaces and those of paper, wall and room.

Talks and discussions at the table – one end of which openned onto to RL’s workspace – were being translated into markings, both representing it and working it into something else, accepting its informational quality and its opacity.  When I looked across, the process seemed to be a thoughtful, meditative one, rather than a Jackson Pollock like storm of marker pen scratchings. A lot of time, too, of looking and considering, of (re-)moving the paper, and these as much part of the writing as the writing. 

A PROBLEM OF DEFINITION: As with Marianne’s work, the question of what to call this activity was  problematic. Because of RL’s previous work, I tended to settle on the phrase “writing live.” Because of the gestural quality, I was less prone to use the  phrase “minute taking” – “emotional minute taking” in Marianne’s phrase. 

The frame of camera and careful choreography suggested it was a “performance” but this was definition was slightly challenged by the private nature of the work. Maybe it was better to think of this – to pick up on some topics in Emma Cocker’s presentation – as a “writer’s studio” negotiating a new position of exposure.

Both images: Art Writing Field Station, Patrick Lane Studio's, Leeds, 27 March 2010. Photo: Emma Cocker


CONCERNING AFTER (TEXT &) IMAGE:  My own understanding of what it meant to have someone writing live throughout the ART WRITING FIELD STATION events was originally that  it would offer a summation of each field station as a whole.

Whilst discussions would focus on a series of individual presentations, the live writing would capture a version of what emerged from all those discussions. A field recording. How did this relate to what has actually happened? 

Once again, as soon as the discussions in Leeds finished, RL’s texts demonstrated a tension between their own materiality – a new found set of resonances and associations within the system of these texts as an art work in their own right  - and any relation to the event within which it  had been (was still) occurring.

RL offered spoken commentary on a number of images, connecting back to specific talks and moments, and revealing the close connection of gesture to idea. I wondered how such processes were one way, the resultant markings unlikely to lead back to the original ideas without a guide. 

I also want to think of these live writings as generative, as scripts and scores for future events.  RL’s drawings seemed to function as a series of maps of rooms, conceptual and actual, proposals for actual and ideational movements within those spaces. Sometimes the spaces themselves were defined: four solid black marker pen walls surrounding. Sometime the movement itself had a quality of absorption which meant there was no immediate awareness of frame or container. This could be the starting point for an exhibition or for a kind of art writing field station architecture

A BROADER RESONANCE: The gestural nature of RL’s response suggested several connections. I saw Matt Mullican lecture at the ICA earlier this year. Mullican talked of scrawls and drawings, and how, through meditation techniques, he inhabited and journeyed into his drawings, exploring the landscapes they contained.

Matt Mullican, Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerpen, 13 Mar -3 May 2008


For Mullican this inhabitation was the only way to understand the true dimensions of what he had drawn – a small dot on the page might  turn out, through imaginative journeying-dreaming, to be a gaping chasm hundreds of miles wide that was the entrance to hell.

Mullican also demonstrated how he had stayed with such images and scrawls over long periods of time, developing them into fleshed out cosmologies, architectural models, and installations. 

WE ARE ALL WRITING LIVE: Of course,it would be wrong to think of RL’s as the only “live writing” going on, in the same way as all texts are “visual” orchestrations, not just those we might choose to label “visual poetry.”

Emma Cocker’s field maps – diagrams on large sheets on graph paper of her writing practice – gave way to a participatory scripting where Simon pointed out particular words, prompting Emma to read particular texts (see Emma’s notes for this project here).

Although Emma read from a set of footnotes devised alongside the diagram, the process revealed how “live footnoting” might work well as a place where different texts were brought alongside the map, with each live reading being a chance to set out a new set of relations of word and map to footnote. 

Mary Paterson’s text – which was read by Simon Zimmerman – explored the workings of memory, particularly as it relates to her work writing about performance (and as writer in residence for the Live Art Development Agency) . Her text left spaces for Simon to introduce his own thought and memories into the text.

This adding of a “live” layer to the text seemed to scramble the text:  upsetting any linear flow and argument. The “live” presence – as  Simon considered what stories to tell when prompted by the script – contrasted with the reflective tone of Mary’s own words, and when Simon went back to the script it was hard to shift back to the argument he had been unfolding before his invited interruption.

This suggested how live writing could involve a number of forms of presence, shifting between and around these different emotional and textual registers in ways both scripted and beyond anticipation.

FIVE WRITE LIVE AT THE PIGEON WING: Finally, I was thinking about all these spaces in regard to The Pigeon Wing space, where VerySmallKitchen will be in residence throughout September. I imagined what it meant for five writers to be writing live, each with their own methods and tools, not in relation to an art work, but as a performance as itself, in relation to the space and each other, as a starting point towards an exhibition.

More on how this particular project unfolds will be on this site in the coming months. For the moment I am imagining how five people could write live here: 


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