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READING ENSEMBLE/ READING AS PUBLISHING: A SCRIPT FOR A COLLABORATION

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm

 

 

On January 22nd, at the Galway Arts Centre, my collaboration with Jennie Guy was performed as part of DAS SPLINTER, an evening of art and performance, curated by Economic Thought Projects. Jennie asked me to provide some texts for the performance, which was part of her READING ENSEMBLE project.

When we first discussed the project, Jennie gave me the image of a filing cabinet from which she would remove texts, handing them to the audience at the Galway Arts Centre to read. In response to this image I put together the following script. Jennie then worked on the details of the performance itself, such as what instructions (if any) to give the readers.

More info on the performance will be posted here soon. Below is the email in which I outlined my thoughts about the project, and the script itself.

*

Hi Jennie,

I decided to make something out of all the things I had been reading over Christmas and the New Year. I was interested in the filing cabinet as some sort of archive of reading, that each drawer contained a different set/ category of texts. I’ve also been thinking of the Reading as Publishing idea: that this is an archive of reading moments, that this performance/ reading will publish. In the filing cabinet they are sort of inbetween, in limbo, awaiting activation, uncertain…

I’ve been thinking about your role as performer/ enacter/ instigator. How do you see this? I’ve been imagining it almost as conductor – giving out texts and taking them away, listening to people, making taking sheets back, tearing off small bits of text and  giving them back to people, collaging texts, highlighting, taking sheets away from one person and giving them to another, either invitingly or tactlessly or or or – I’ve been thinking about what would be a real/ genuine/ active relationship to this filing cabinet and these texts… what you yourself might say/ read as part of the composition…

All of these texts are translations, that will be further translated by the difficulties of reading them aloud. If there are phrases which are stumbled over that, too, could be a source to work from.

At the moment I imagine three sets of texts. Three folders. One in each of the drawers of the filing cabinet. Each section of the texts printed here – separated by * – is on a separate sheet of paper. The texts are distributed to the audience in order to make the composition. Prior to opening each drawer, there is text that you read as a kind of prelude. Perhaps these texts are on a clipboard that you bring with you when you come onto the stage.

I imagine each folder being the basis of a distinct choral/ musical/ vocal composition, before the next drawer/ file is opened and the new composition begin (whether each section ends with sheets gathered back in, or is allowed to continue but hushed or not, I think depends on the moment). In the moment of performance, you might want to hand out just one or two of the quotations, or all of them, or none!

Text sources and notes are listed at the end of the script.

Jennie Guy, Reading Ensemble, Market Studios Dublin, 2010

THE SCRIPT

Before opening the filing cabinets you read the following text aloud.

JENNIE: This afternoon, I heard a lecture on “The Function of Art and the Artist” by Anais Nin: she is very startling – pixie-like, other-wordly – small, finely built, dark hair, and much make-up which made her look very pale – large, questioning eyes – a marked accent which I could not label – her speech is over-precise – she shines and polishes each syllable with the very tip of her tongue and teeth – one feels that if one were to touch her, she would crumble into silver dust.

FILE 1

Will you please read what’s written above the score?” the lady asked.

“Moderato cantabile.” said the child.

The lady punctured his reply by striking the keyboard with a pencil. The child remained motionless, his head turned towards his score.

“And what does moderato cantabile mean?”

“I don’t know.”

A woman, seated ten feet away, gave a sigh.

“Are you quite sure you don’t know what moderato cantabile means?” the lady repeated.

*

The child did not reply. The lady stifled an exasperated groan, and again struck the keyboard with her pencil. The child remained unblinking. The lady turned.

“Madame Desbaresdes, you have a very stubborn little boy.”

Anne Desbaresdes sighed again.

“You don’t have to tell me,” she said.

The child motionless, his eyes lowered, was the only one to remember that dusk had just broken out. It made him shiver.

“I told you the last time, I told you the time before that, I’ve told you a hundred times. Are you sure you don’t know what it means?”

*

The child decided not to answer. The lady looked again the object before her, her rage mounting.

“Here we go again,” said Anne Desbaresdes under her breath.

“The touble is,” the lady went on, “the trouble is you don’t want to say it.”

Anne Desbaresdes looked again at this child from head to toe, but in a different way from the lady.

*

“You’re going to say it this minute,” the lady shouted.

The child showed no surprise. He still didn’t reply. Then the lady struck the keyboard a third time, so hard that the pencil broke right next to the child’s hand. His hands were round and milky, still scarcely formed. They were clenched and unmoving.

“He’s a difficult child,” Anne Desbaresdes offered timidly.

The child turned his head towards the voice, quickly towards his mother, to make sure of her existence, then resumed his pose as an object, facing the score. His hands remained clenched.

*

Jennie Guy, video still, Livestock Reading, 2010

FILE 2

JENNIE: He chatted with eminent grace between takes, then went over to stretch out again (upon a tarpaulin laid down out of camera range) on the floor of the quarried-out cavern in rock, lit up eerily by the floodlights, to be the transpierced poet—a spear through his breast (actually built around his breast on an iron hoop under his jacket). The hands gripped the spear; the talc-white face from the age of Diderot became anguished. Lunch was preceded by a cocktail, mixed by the famous hands, which he had learned to make from a novel by Peter Cheyney: “white rum, curaçao, and some other things.”

TEXTS IN FILE:

The gaunt, fine hands on the thorax; evacuation of the chest; a great breathing out from himself

*

two beautiful, thin, coupled wrists

*

shrugs  a few moments later

*

He stood—rather tiredly—he was very slight, quite small…

*
… and he went with slow steps to an end table. And he took up a tube of silver cardboard or foil, which made a cylinder mirror upon its outside. And he placed it down carefully in the exact center of an indecipherable photograph which was spread flat on this table, that I would learn was Rubens’s “Crucifixion” taken with a camera that shot in round. Masses of fog blurred out in the photo; elongations without sense. Upon the tube, which corresponded in some unseen fashion with the camera, the maker, the photograph was restored —swirls became men. Nevertheless, the objective photograph remained insane.

*

his voice loses its vibrant timbre—it “bleeds out.” His voice was exceptionally young; here it becomes faded.

*

One feels sure he recognizes the imputations for the art of writing in the decision not to correct;

*

resignedly

FILE 3

JENNIE:  These things happened to me in 1938. I feel the greatest uneasiness in speaking of them. I have already tried to put them into writing many times. If I have written books, it has been in the hope that they would put an end to it all. If I have written novels, they have come into being just as the words began to shrink back from the truth. I am not frightened of the truth. I am not afraid to tell a secret. But until now, words have been frailer and more cunning than I would have liked. I know this guile is a warning: it would be nobler to leave the truth in peace. It would be in the best interests of the truth to keep it hidden. But now I hope to be done with it soon. To be done with it is also noble and important.

TEXTS IN FILE:

the tiny imperceptible interactions between people—the little games of aggression and retreat, the miniscule battles that constitute the present state of the psyche.

*

the interior movements that precede and prepare our words and actions, at the limits of our consciousness.  They happen in an instant, and apprehending them in the rush of human interactions demands painstaking attention.

*

I knew it seemed impossible to me to write in the traditional forms. They seemed to have no access to what we experienced. If we en- closed that in characters, personalities, a plot, we were overlooking everything that our senses were perceiving, which is what interested me. One had to take hold of the instant, by enlarging it, developing it.

*

I felt that a path was opening before me, a path that excited me. As if I’d found my own terrain, upon which I could move forward, where no one had gone prior to me. Where I was in charge.

*

Because it’s difficult. Because I plunge in directly, without giving any reference points. One doesn’t know where one is, or who is who. I speak right away of the essential things, and that’s very difficult. In addition, people have the habit of looking for the framework of the traditional novel—characters, plots—and they don’t find it; they’re lost.

*

No, what is difficult is being on the surface. One gets bored there. There are a lot of great and admirable models who block your way. And once I rise to the surface, to do something on the surface, it’s easy, but it’s very tedious and disappointing.

*

There are always instants. It takes place in the present finally. I’m concerned with these interior movements; I’m not concerned with time.

*

I’m immersed right inside, and I try to execute the interior movements that are produced in that consciousness.

*

Each time it didn’t interest me to continue doing the same thing. So, I would try to extend my domain to areas that were always at the same level of these interior movements, to go into regions where I hadn’t yet gone.

Jennie Guy, Questions and Answers, 2009

 

SOURCES

“This afternoon I heard a lecture…”: Susan Sontag, Reborn: Journals & Notebooks 1947-1963 (FSG, New York, 2008), 17.

Marguerite Duras, Moderato Cantabile (trs. Richard Seaver, OneWorld Classics, 2008 [1958]), 3-5. The extract here is the opening of the novel.

“He chatted with eminent grace…”: Jean Cocteau: The Art of Fiction No.34. Interviewed by William Fifield. Appeared in Paqris Review Summer-Fall 1964 no.32. Online here. I have extracted interpolations by Fifield, mostly descriptions of Cocteau’s physical deportment.

“These things happened to me…”: Maurice Blanchot., Death Sentance, in  George Quasha ed. The Station Hill Blanchot Reader: Fiction & Literary Essays (Station Hill, 1998, trans. Lydia Davis), 131.

Alain Robbe-Grillet The Art of Fiction No.91 interviewed by Shusha Guppy. Spring 1986 No.99. Online here.

Nathalie Sarraute, The Art of Fiction, No.115. interviewed by Shusha Guppy and Jason Weiss. Spring 1990, No. 114. Online here.  I have extracted texts unfolding Sarraute’s notion of “tropisms”, but excluded reference to the word itself.

READING NOTES: FOUR AFTER-QUOTATIONS AND SAMUEL BECKETT ON HOLIDAY

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 at 6:41 am

 

Reading as Publishing: Samuel Beckett on Holiday

 

In the week after READING FOR READING’S SAKE I came across a number of quotations that developed and nuanced the space of “reading as activity” opened up by that event. 

(1) “the artist, the work of art, and its viewers are connected through an intricate web of correspondences, and if one if really inside of that relation, everything corresponds. And one cannot really deal with a work of art without dealing with its correspondences, including one’s own life and its relation to others. It is a simple truth, but one that is so regularly obscured in practice that it has become a kind of mystery to us. ”  

David Levi Strauss, From Head to Hand: Art and the Manual (Oxford University Press, 2010), 165.  Read in Gordon Square WC1London, 12 April, 2010, instantaneously applying quotation to a networked “everything corresponds” model of reading. 

(2)”There is something about the way you put together – compose – your sentences, a deliberate effort to create moments of silence, of stillness, full stops, as though there would be rest marks in a musical score, or an end of bar that forces the reader to go back and start from the beginning.”

Joan Richardson, question to Stanley Cavell, “The Transcendental Strain: Stanley Cavell Talks with Bookforum”, Bookforum, April-May 2010, 5-6. Read on 15.55 train from Leeds to London, 11 April, 2010. 

Thinking here about the musical spaces between books, also how books could resist a linear read-through and consumption, shifting attention into a broader engagement with all levels of their material architecture. 

(3) “Surrealism is an honest, beautiful resilient tonic fermented into a delicately volatile mixture of liberty, sensuous play, psychic automatism, chance, humor and a biting critique of corrupt power in all its manifestations, from bourgeois miserablism to fascism.”

Jesse Gentes, quote from “Impossible Emancipation” (2009), cited in Patricide: Issue One: Documentary Surrealism , purchased and read at Cornerhouse, Manchester, 9th May 2010. 

Patricide posits continued presence of surrealism as grass roots, non-institutional praxis. Issue Two will be on “seaside surrealism.”

I made some notes for a possible contribution, but they lacked the sense of project I remembered from Paul Nash’s writings on the subject (first published in the 1938 issue of Architectural Review).   PROJECT: read widely in surrealist literature, but without concept of unconscious. 

 (4)”Reading is a favorite activity, and I often ponder its phenomenology. As I write this essay, the reading I do for it is a mitigated pleasure. Sometimes it feels like a literal ingestion, a bulimic gobbling up of words as thought they were fast food. At other times I read and take notes in a desultory, halting, profoundly unsatisfying way. And my eyes hurt.” 

Moyra Davey, Long Life Cool White: Photographs and Essays by Moyra Davey, (Yale University Press, 2008), 85. At home, evening, Whitechapel, London 12 April 2010. 

Photo: Moyra Davey

 

Davey talks of the flanerie of reading - a concept which captures the entwining intention between reading as WORK and as indulgence, and what circumstances determine the readers self-positioning on this spectrum of value.

For Davey herself the (w)readerly result is an associative, diaristic, unfolding essaying, and a photograph practice where a formal materiality of reading (and other activities – see image below) acquires its own (irr-)resonant psychology. 

Photo: Moyra Davey

 

SAMUEL BECKETT ON HOLIDAY: Walking into the Cornerhouse bookshop on 9th May 2010 I immediately noticed the photo of Samuel Beckett. It’s from Beckett: Photographs by François-Marie Baniera , including several, like those here,  of SB on holiday in Tangiers. I liked how this liberated Beckett’s texts from the moody black and white images that often appear on his books. 

In the context of “reading as publishing” I also liked how this photo appeared to published the emotion of my own experience of reading Beckett, finding a certain reassuring joy in the certain ontological ground (or non-ontological non-ground ground) that Beckett seemed to write. 

The photo also loosens up the relationship between Beckett’s life and work, suggesting a possibly more paradoxical and tangential relationship than the black and white icons which attempt to map Beckett’s physical image onto his writings and vice versa, like some primitive neo-Victorian science of physiognomy.

Thinking of the materiality of a book and its reading, that’s what I don’t want “reading as publishing” to be.

ANNOUNCEMENT: READING AS PUBLISHING WORKSHOP IN SALFORD APRIL 10th 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.

A COMPENDIUM OF STRATEGIES: RODNEY GRAHAM AND READING AS PUBLISHING

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

 

A COMPENDIUM OF READING STRATEGIES

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.

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