verysmallkitchen

VSK PROJECT: SUSAN THOMSON’S THE AUTHOR OF UNUSUAL PAPERS

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 at 9:54 am

Diana Caramaschi, 30 Days, Video animation, 5:50 mins.

VERYSMALLKITCHEN writes: Susan Thomson’s THE AUTHOR OF UNUSUAL PAPERS is a wall text that opens an exhibition of the same title at Dublin’s The LAB (27 May- 25 June 2011). A row of headphones extend an invitation to hear the text read aloud.

The text also appears on the handout/ brochure for the show, which also includes work from Claire Behan, Diana Caramaschi, Monica Flynn, and Colleen Lambe. This informs me that “following several months discussions amongst the artists a body of work emerged in response to this text.”

Several projects and texts on VerySmallKitchen have explored the relationship of writing and exhibition. I was interested in how this text seemed to function variously as proposal, fiction, catalogue essay, and art work. I wondered how it would function in the further context of this blog.

THE AUTHOR OF UNUSUAL PAPERS is reprinted below, followed by a short essay from Susan in response to an email from VerySmallKitchen 31/05/11 asking how she understood the functions of such a text.

Diana Caramaschi, 30 Days, grid, mixed media on paper, 224 x 160cm

Monia Flynn, Astrological Chart for 26th May, 2011, vinyl graphic, 2.5m (accompanied by live event on 24th June)

The Author of Unusual Papers

Am I the author of this text, and if not, who is? I have examined the text for evidence of my usual themes, subjects, preoccupations, sentence length, adjective use etc. I have found many key words that correspond to articles I have written in the past.  Desire, the self, blank, return of the repressed, art, Glasgow, time, lovers and many more. It seems that I may be the author of this text.

While it is perhaps a more unusual text written by me, I think that I have written it. No, more than that, I feel sure that I have written it. Then, there is the fact that it is a self-reflexive text, a text about identity, that it is a text searching for an author, and that makes me even more convinced of my own authorship. The author is in question, a kind of detective story unleashed, and forensic linguistics is the detective’s tool digging up clues, the lists of similar nouns, like echoes, a stylistic marker of my work, the self-referential, the endless mirrors, mise en abime. Forensic linguistics allows me to dig into what I think is my own writing in order to see more clearly: was it really me who wrote this? Why was it written? What are the clues and what do they point to?

Stylometry makes me cry. What if I am not the author? My sentence lengths are variable, the algorithm learns my style. There is a characterization of which papers are most and least typical for a given author; when I am most myself in my writing and when I am least. And which if either is better? Or when I am most consistently myself at any rate. The text is reduced to a bag of words. I will make it as consistent with myself as possible, in the future. Death, desire, sex, food, text. Why can I write nothing new, nothing inconsistent, nothing that a piece of software would pass over, not merely as an unusual paper for me, but instead a text that is so different that it would simply fail to recognise it as emanating from me. It must be by someone else. But why do I desire this at all? Better surely to accept the prison of my own limitations, of my personality, my style, whatever that is. It’s predicting my words…

WORD                PROB
AUTHOR            0.1965
MIRRORS          0.234
RECOGNISE     0.13
PRISON              0.02

PROB            AUTHOR
0.45               SUSAN THOMSON
0.23               DIANA CARAMASCHI
0.1                  COLLEEN LAMBE
0.3                  MONICA FLYNN

Is this an overlapping text, one in which the authors bleed into one another, or co-author? The first trope consists entirely of French words. There was an apparent peaking of French words in the mid-1990’s. The more red a word, the more likely it is to have been generated by me, the more blue by someone else, the nameless author.
The resulting author model was shown to extract significant hidden information about the author, from the set of abstracts, including all the unusual papers for specific authors. And so we may conclude with a question, is it always the same old story or is there the possibility of an author writing a text that cannot be detected as her own.

Susan Thomson, The Author of Unusual Papers; The Lost Word, installation text, books, copies of manuscripts

Post Script

The text is now a post-script I suppose. It has become audio, in a play version of itself, and is now on the blogosphere, post-play.

It has mutated and spawned versions of itself, mimicry in the text in the windows, things I never wrote but it looks like I wrote them.[1]

The text is now in multiple places; the springboard-text for the show, in the handout, on the wall, through the earphones, on the blog; it seems to be reproducing itself at an alarming rate. The text is in transit. Who knows where it will go next? And still the author has not been found, ascertained.

There is a Sherlock Holmes story, ‘The Adventure of the Reigate Squires’, where the case involves handwriting analysis. A torn piece of paper is found in the murdered man’s hand. Finally, Sherlock deduces that it was father and son who had alternately written each word of the note. Copies of Arthur Conan Doyle’s letters to Roger Casement appear in the show, as well as a copy of Casement’s Black Diaries.[2]

The Black (overtly homosexual) Diaries and White (day to day censored) Diaries is the Reigate story’s historical opposite in that it was believed the diaries were by two separate authors but handwriting analysis subsequently proved both to be authored by him. Conan Doyle and Casement step up to the task, spilling ink for one another, and they sit now in a museum, the ink dried up and their tears lying in the manuscript room.

Our childhood portraits hang in the gallery, painted or drawn from childhood photos after the fact. [3] We all become Dorians living on in youth in the gallery as our adult selves wander the streets. The artists pull facts, words, signs, insights from the text and knowledge they have about my life into their own work. They psychoanalyse and try and reveal through metaphor what lies between the lines. They convert the words into visuals, apply semiological analysis. [4]

Then they add their own personalities, their own thoughts, lives, analyses. They explore archetypes, they animate a month of unusual papers, an unusual paper for every day.[5]

The text on the wall is pinned beside the audio version; with the audio came voice, the freedom to walk around the gallery; with the text, the pleasure of reading. Many seemed to return to their childhoods and opted for both at once. Like learning a new language, in a language booth.

I know who the author is, yes; but the author, invisible, unnameable, has just left the building, escaping, minutes before the show opens, the scene of the crime.

NOTES

[1]Author Claire Behan and anonymous.
[2]Author Susan Thomson.
[3]Author Monica Flynn.
[4]Author Colleen Lambe.
[5]Author Diana Caramaschi.

More about Susan’s work is here.

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