A Source of Vexation
and a source of ventriloquism. And a source of violence. And a vanishing point.
I shall put the so-called mystery aside for a moment and instead remind the reader of the desolate state in which these words deliver themselves.
I should speak, for one thing, of French Crime.
It is as usual a Sunday morning that has left me with a moment in which to write at any length. My journal has been set aside, and I begin this covert work. In all the time that I have been concealing the larger French crime my public life (which is barely public in recent times) has become rather thoroughly occupied with the subject in general. I mean, of course, crime in the orthodox sense, especially that which leads to violent death.
The case of Raymond and Marcel is not quite that sort of crime.  Its deathly work took place more slowly, and in rather less immediately tangible ways. Marcel, as I have touched upon already and as I will describe in fitting detail in due course, came to retreat in illness to a death-bed as a result of his attempt to arrest time, or at very least to slow it down and arrest a course of events that would take place later in time.
Raymond, as he perhaps deserved, died in what have come to be known as rather tragic and ambiguous circumstances. Marcel D., on the other had, appeared to reach a certain sort of serenity. He effected a ‘delay’ on a grand scale, one might say. Chess had a lot to do with this, of course, both the coded intricacies native to the game and in the simple fact of the player’s submission to a nominal system, abstract and simulative of nothing.
This account, it should be stressed, is nothing of the sort.
It is as far from fiction as it possible to be. It is not exactly fact either, nor is it conjecture. It is the the illustration and demonstration of a game and of a pattern. It is, as it were, an annotated diagram or an explanation of moves.
The Year of the Two Moons
Nineteen seventy-two was, for me and for my more official journaled legacy, a year of lunar doubling.  Or rather, as in the case of Raymond and Marcel P., the sort of doubling that folds two things already very close into one another. Collapsing the north pole into the south, as it were – something I have wished to do on many occasions when observing the state of the places of people around me and have wished it to be crushed.
But the lunar doubling of which I speak took place through a sacrificial destruction of paper.
There were words and thoughts that had no place surviving, and so they had to be vanished. This applied to [my] journals as well as texts that were quite correctly, in retrospect, called The Alibi and The Idiot Questioner.
I was both the idiot questioner and the idiot being questioned. 
The testimony of both bifurcated parties lies elsewhere, absent from this account. Bindings were ripped, pages were torn, and papers were finally burned in the garden. The sensation of weight cast aside was quite pleasant. The burning, blazing sun of the journal died away and in its dusk, its lunation of transference, Two Moons rose.
My Premature Declaration
‘The two were acquainted, though it is uncertain to what extent’
‘It may have been only some resemblance, real or imagined, in feature, build and attire, but, within the context, the suggestion rather is that their invalidism was of the same kind, so one wonders if, at the time, Raymond Roussel also suffered from nervous asthma.’ 
Normandy itself, the site of this bequest and of the young Raymond’s burglary, is itself a kind of strange double to the south of England. The sleeve between them is not so wide, and the Norman brambled lanes and farms are very nearly Kentish in character although the people seem to be of a more Northern disposition.
They are more northern in their local context despite being more southern than their English counterparts in respect to their global position. Kent and Normandy are counties and kingdoms of apples.  Michael, the German poet, knew this despite living further to the East. 
The Year of the Two Moons cont.
The power of three is not a multiple I had anticipated encountering, although it makes perfect sense in one way. The word, its double, and the commentary thereon. This is in the very nature of thought, but it is not without its difficulties. The criterion of ‘worthwhile’ inclusion is quite irrelevant to my account as the words offer no depiction (a better word than ‘rendering’, I now concede). To depict and depick. To predict and deprick.
The Surface of the Threshold
1. The Surface of Things.
The empty theatre, the emptying theatre, the emptying of the theatre, the theatre desolate. Locus Desolatus.
The threshold between the stage and the seats, between the players and the played (the play).
The threshold between the stage and the text, the text and the reader; the reader of the play is the player, who plays to the played, who read the players, who before playing the play have ceased to read in place of playing.
Interface and surface; subface. The lesser face,
2. ‘The centre is the threshold’
The centre is the threshold so it is being crossed/passed through all the time. But a threshold is both a mark (a kind of line) and a zone. (the zone is the width of the mark). The time spent crossing the line is the time spent in the threshold, and at the threshold.
Are the gallery walls precisely this sort of threshold-zone, the six sides of the cube three sets of parentheses boxing everything within them?
The ‘Tongue Age’
I note in myself a perspiring fury when I consider that my words are of the plainest and clearest expression, but that they may be read as obscure, even deliberately so.
I may, in the course of this account, become petrified.
The courses of a lute.
The causes of a loot.
The cause is awful lewd.
I once knew a manufacturer of glass who would spend the summer walking the ridgeways of Wiltshire, amongst the standing stones and burial grounds. Crushed glass, crushed sands, fired dust, burnt into transparency. Panes from the kiln.
Editor’s Notes (interspersed with notes by the author; notes on the notes made by the editor. These are indicated by letters rather than numbers)
 The initial possibility that suggested itself to me was Raymond Roussel and Marcel Duchamp. However, upon the appearance of Marcel D further on in the same paragraph, I revised this to Roussel and Marcel Mauss, or maybe Marcel Pagnol, before realising that Marcel was Marcel D was Marcel Duchamp.
(A) There is another Marcel though, the one who wrote a very, very long book. It’s him that Roussel made a terrible pact with, at least according to this version of events. I concede that it’s rather confusing to have multiple Marcels in operation, as there could be so many of them: Mauss and Pagnol, as you suggest, are candidates. Mauss’ conception of the ‘gift’ is particularly apt given the exchange made in the novel between Roussel and (I shall say his name) Proust. A gift really is never given for free. Marcel Pagnol is a another matter entirely, and I confess I don’t know too much about him. My father likes his books, and I know a young man who likes his translation of Hamlet. But the less said about this the better. Marcel Marceau came onto the scene a little bit later. I hadn’t really begun to think about him until all these other Marcels entered the ambit of the text.
It is something that the narrator states a little more plainly later on, but it’s worth being clear about it (as the narrator of this text will never be clear): the terrible pact involved Roussel and Proust being, at one time, the same person, who came to separate. The results of this were disastrous. As Jean Cocteau observed when Roussel died, there was something oddly twin-like about them.
According to this version of events, a part of their separation-pact was that Proust would try to write such a long book in order to slow down time, and prevent a war. There was probably mischief in Roussel’s insistence that he did so.
 In issue #21 of A Prior magazine Dieter Roelstraete (born Holland, 1972) describes how himself and artist Luis Jacob (born Canada, 1971) “are both children of what I genuinely believe will be looked back upon, in the not too distant future, as our culture’s…. finest hour.” Roelstratete goes on to describe them both as being “products of, as well as witnesses to, the twentieth century’s greatest decade – at least in artistic, cultural and socio-political terms.” As (born London, 1972) myself, I was much struck by this comment. And yourself?
(B) I don’t know too much about Roelstraete, although in response to these notes I’ve just been reading his essay The Business: On the Unbearable Lightness of Art. It’s a good essay. It’s exactly the kind of thing my colleagues and I talk about with students in the art school where I teach; questions of contemporary ‘practice’, ‘labour’, ‘work’, ‘praxis’, and ‘interaction’. What is work, and where does it happen? What are its rewards? These are very much contemporary questions; or perhaps it’s the case that the very problematization of these ideas is the contemporary question in art. I think about these things a lot, when I consider my finances and my (social) position in the part of the world of art I occupy.
I don’t think about them much when I think about my work, or when I’m making it. I prefer, possibly, naively, to find a de-problematized vacuum in which to work. In interviews about his early career Richard Hamilton talked all the time about ‘other’ kind of work (work outside of his own studio). Design work, model-making work, the assembling of displays of things other than his own paintings. Being interested in things, and allowing these interests to intersect with the canvas from time to time. This is a digression, I admit. When I’m writing these questions are probably even further from my mind. I can’t even really say that I feel like I’m writing ‘now’. I’m writing more towards a productive misunderstanding of the past. Roelstraete wonders why ‘search engines’ are not called ‘find engines’, which I think is a pertinent question when thinking about counterfactual, historical, research-led writing such as the present text. Most of Hypermodernism was written at the British Library, which is rather like a slow-moving internet of paper, with a number of books all over my desk, surrounding the computer on which I was writing. But the computer was at the centre, and almost every little hint or notion picked out from one of the many books was followed up in a number of echoing clicks and hyperlinks. But I’m still digressing! Your question was about a certain sort of generational identification. I was born 10 years later, in 1982. I’m not sure I could identify any firm sense of my own generation, or of the decade it was born in. I suppose that we remember becoming aware of the internet, and I remember moments earlier in my life (as an art student, and afterwards) when I didn’t have a computer. This would be unthinkable now.
(B2) Another thing, regarding the part of the text your footnote  actually appears in – it refers to a key element of the research the text is based upon. His name is never mentioned, but the entire project (Locus Desolatus, or Hypermodernism and The Dust of Suns) is written in the voice of the English novelist Rayner Heppenstall. His novels are not so widely known now, although they have been periodically revived and celebrated. He suffered from bad luck, as a man and as an author. The particular voice that Hypermodernism attempts to channel is the Heppenstall of his published diaries, especially those towards the end of his life. In 1972 his son was very badly hurt in an accident, and in 1977 these events produced the novel Two Moons, which comprised two parallel narratives, more or less, one on the left-hand pages of the book and one on the right-hand pages.
The ‘lunar doubling’ and ‘collapsing’ I refer to in the text is in reference to what happened to Heppenstall’s diaries of 1972 – large parts were ripped out and destroyed once the novel was written, as if only one (typographically bifurcated) textual version of these memories could survive.
 But what was your alibi?
(C) What was my alibi? Good question. I’ve been unable to find one. Despite submerging myself in research, and despite trying to write in the voice of another, and despite suffering a little under the oppression of this voice, I don’t feel I have an alibi. I am there in the text; it is written by me.
 This recalls your remark when we met briefly in Red Lion Square, which I wrote in my notebook as soon as you had cycled off:
“The present text, this account now being written (and then read, questioned and then answering) is the double doubling of the earlier doubling. It is the equatorial point between the poles of one text’s absence-by-destruction and the eclipse of two moons. I confess to and account for this for personal reasons, although I beg no indulgence, but the metaphor is quite plain to those with half a mind to notice such things.”
(D) Yes, I would have said something like that (although the version of the sentiment you remember comes from the text itself). I get a kind of vertigo reading the words back, as if the project of this book was out of control from the very beginning. I’ve never experienced such a sensation when working on something. In fact, my work is usually pretty slight, and pretty self contained. Even when I wrote another fairly ambiguous and narratively slippery novel a year or two ago it was self-contained. But everything to do with Hypermodernism is at the far reaches of reasonable writing. It’s impossible, or at least impassable.
[5) Sadly my experience of both Kent and Normandy is limited.
 This same Michael [Hamburger’s] translation of Ernst Stadler’s ‘On Crossing the Rhine Bridge at Cologne by Night’ concludes:
And then the long solitudes. Bare Banks. And Silence.
Night. Reflection. Self-questioning. Communism. And
To the end that blesses. To conception’s rite. To pleasure’s
consummation. To prayer. To the sea. To self’s undoing.
Michael Hofmann ed. The Faber Book of 20th-Century German Poems (Faber & Faber, 2005), 18.
[E] To self’s undoing, indeed. I was thinking especially of the Tacita Dean film in which Hamburger appears, inspecting apples on a long, old wooden table.
The author’s original version of Shelf Two is a PDF here.
Hypermodernism Drawer One (An Extraction) by David Price is here.
More about David’s work here.
Posts Tagged ‘VSK project’
1–22 November 2013
22–29 November 2013
(from top): (1) Gesture of Writing, stills, video 17” (2009/2010). A fragment can be viewed here; (2) Inventoried Proofs, 1–22 November 2013; (3) Checklist, 15 x 20 cm (2010), Checklist, 10 x 15 cm (2011), Checklist, 19 x 27 cm (2012); (4) Inventoried Proofs, 22–29 November 2013; (5) Concrete List I & II, both 61 x 44 cm (2010).
More about Kasper Andreasen’s work here.
Extracts from an email to David 09/12/13
A rather wonderful thing happened when i was transcribing this. The pen ran out of ink somewhere near the time i was talking about deterioration. I continued regardless, and the result is a text that i think emphasises its own visual/physical/image quality (as you put it) through the absence of readable words, as well as being seen in one go.
I do like it vertically in one column now though [an earlier idea had been to serialise the project over three or four blog posts], so as to also display the fading ink in contrast to the consistency of its labour. I also think this mirrors the physicality of both the jog and the increasingly breathless speech activity of the audio.
There is also something nice about how the two elements (text and audio) become reliant upon each other, given that we need the audio to grasp the ending of the text, but we need the text to spell out and document the audio, which is perhaps not always as easy to comprehend as the text.
More about Patrick Coyle’s work here.
I have only one objective, overarching, imperative, and unequivocal: to create a book. 
The physical book is a haptic seduction. Its material presence offers a fragile promise of a literal and psychic binding; an ordered narrative of a secure creative self.
It is (for the subject) the object that performs the act of what Lacan described in relation to the mirror phase as ‘imaginary capture’. The image I wish to capture is the image outside of myself: the image of an artist / author as an object-fetish validated by an internalized external gaze: the image that I see in the mirror of fulfillment, not that which is reflected by the mirror of lack.
Inside of myself there is an un-writable absence, but if I look at a book and see that I have created it, then I will know that I can create it, and that the words I cannot write can be, and have been, and therefore will be written. I attribute to the object – ‘Le petit objet d’autre’ – those qualities, which I imagine I desire, but which I fear to attribute to myself. The book is the fetish-commodity through which, by proxy, I relate my value as an artist to myself and to the world.
I knew what my book would be.
Everything would make sense. And all my actions would be the size of pages.
But the material will not obey, resisting linear narrative, insisting on an aberrant and scattered codex.
Both in the studio and in gallery, scraps and scrawls and fragments intrude upon considered aesthetics of drawings, essays and photographs, in a re-enactment of the unpredictable process of research.
The work that had started with a book, that was to become a book, will not be a book.
I might adopt the strategy of the boxed codex as used by B S Johnson for The Unfortunates, which, in theory, would seem to offer freedom and fluidity of content that the material requires, and a level of agency which a viewer / reader might require to experience it. The reader is instructed:
This novel has twenty-seven sections, temporarily held together by a removable wrapper. Apart from the first and last sections (which are marked as such) the other twenty-five sections are intended to be read in random order. If readers prefer not to accept the random order in which they receive the novel, then they may re-arrange the sections into any other random order before reading.
But I find this codex forbiddingly fixed, its impenetrability increasing with each physical encounter. Despite its intention of openness, when I hold it, I feel only a sense that it is locked.
And so I am ambivalent. I cannot bear the thought of completion. The box or indeed any material constraint (for perhaps in a Lacanian sense all books, for me, are boxes) is too much a symbol of putting a lid on things, of putting things away. A house with bricked up windows. That which I imagine I desire is that which I most fear. That which I imagine I fear is that which I most desire.
I will still make a book; or I will make work about becoming a book.
Imagine a space as a book, turning walls into indices, appendices and covers.
What is a book if it will not be a book?
 ‘The relation to the image, will be structured by the language.’ Jacques Lacan
 ‘At the level of the scopic, we are no longer at the level of demand, but of desire.’ Jacques Lacan
 A book is a sequence of spaces – Ulises Carrión
 The laws of language are not the sequential laws of books – Ulises Carrión
Photographs by Emma Bolland or Tom Rodgers for Milky Way You Will Hear Me Call.
I might begin with the children, or rather the many sets of children, that have bred in the dust that many things begin from. Raymond, Germaine, and George. Raymond, Suzanne, Gaston (Jacques, of course), Yvonne, Magdeleine, and Marcel. Marcel D. Etc. Etc. As M. Cabanne has noted, their births were ‘spaced out in a surprising regularity’, as if organization in such matters was unlikely to the point of improbability.
Or it could begin with the other Marcel, Marcel P., and his brother Robert. Or the mothers of either Marcel, indeed, whose wombs were salons and whose salons were wombs. Or, forgetting families and biological beginnings entirely, I could just as easily begin with Michel, the young man politely waiting for the bookseller and I to finish speaking. He didn’t know who I was, of course.
Any of these tidy little stories (they are not even tidy. They are filled with mess) might begin the altogether less tidy one they are part of, where puzzles within puzzles make a solution all the less likely with every passing word and line, and where lines themselves are corrupted in their mirror-images.
In dust free rooms, I am forced to concede, there is very often dust breeding; and the most perfidious form of dust at that. The dust of suns and of sons, and of the sons of suns, in ever more obscure and deformed generations.
I could, indeed, begin with myself, and with the arrival of Jonathan G., covered in another kind of dust – the charred air-born debris of a fire. Fire, fed by air, and its arial distribution of charred messages, the broadcast of ashes.
The secret is altogether more twisted than games such as these.
I need not excuse the ellipses that so quickly form in recounting even the beginnings of this greater ellipse.
I need not excuse the fact that whilst concealing certain truths so many words have been spent in misinterpretation.
I need not feel compelled to give up these secrets easily, without paying respect to the forms that grant them secrecy.
I need not fear speaking the native tongue of secrecy in revealing secrets.
The end of my account will be its end, irrefutable and terminated. I have set my claims and my intentions out quite clearly, I think. Air has seeped in. I will begin, after all, with a beginning of the usual kind.
The founding members of the coven of papers that bury the secret were contained within a box, and remained so until I opened that box. I was, I admit, surprised to discover that the box was not locked.
There is a great dishonesty in leaving things to a chosen kind of chance. It is like playing a tasteless war game whilst an actual war is taking place.
Brandeston. Kettleburgh. Framlingham. Bruisyard. Bruise-yard. The bruise yard. A yard of bruises! Peasenhall. Sibton Church. Darsham. Westleton.
And then the sea, on the site of disappeared docks. A lunar expedition such as this is an example the truly sur-real, skimming as it does across the all too real land. I cannot help but think of the vulgarity of Morris-dancers and of the grace of migrating birds as I think of this, immobile as I am.
But, to return to the barely verifiable event in question, a set of engravings were amended by the young Raymond, to be found later on by the younger Marcel.
Conjecture, it should be remembered, is no shameful practice. It is the formation of a conclusion without evidence, but in so doing it is so very close to the creative act; and therefore very close to the reader’s act. It is the perversion of thought’s raw matter into meaning, and for obvious reasons I must believe that there is honour in this, and the possibility of a final recuperation of sense.
‘Secreters’, I may call them, rather than ‘secret-bearers’. ‘Conspirators’ suggests something far too crass, and ‘secreters’ suggests the practice as well as the status of those who hold secrets. With every hour that it remains within their possession they secrete it despite their best efforts not to. ‘Out, damn scab’ the secret cries, without the anxious guilt of a human being.
The box. So material is this artefact (container of artefacts, repository, depository) that it resists digression and evasion. Its contents are quite clear in their statement and script if not their register and tone. They seem to me, who has kept them for so long, to have sharpened in their material form and become like microfilms, or even the writing on the screen of a computer-terminal.
The word ‘representation’ is very often mis-used, the user forgetting that there is meant to be a re-presentation occurring. But what if the representation in question is not only the very first presentation of that which it supposedly represents, and is furthermore a derived presentation? The matter is not merely semantic.
I am, I must concede, perhaps guilty of having become happy in performing the role of their concealer. The keys to a crypt, after all, are not held without some degree of privilege, and their weight (far beyond material weight, and far less than it too.
And, certainly, far more poisonous) has anchored me in my decline. I feel as if I am holding back, but that I must release my knowledge slowly. Not merely to avoid error (although this is almost inevitable), but to safely balance the atmospheres of concealment and disclosure, closure and unconcealment.
The box contains, in no particular order that I can discern: the letter I have already described, the co-signed letter within it, a list of initials, some of which are circled, some of which are not, notes and diagrams pertaining to both a chess problem and a crossword puzzle, a small panel of glass both of whose sides are written on (in brown ink) in the respective hands of its two authors, a shirt-collar, and a key to what I have always supposed must be another such box.
THE LIST OF INITIALS
The initials that are uncircled, first of all, are the following:
The initials that are circled in pencil are:
One name is circled in both pencil and blue ink:
This is not a great surprise. The others circled in blue ink are:
I believe that the list in incomplete.
THE CROSSWORD AND THE CHESS NOTES
I have been unable to discern their meaning, at least until very recently.
THE GLASS PANEL
I can confidently say that one side is written by Raymond, and the other by Marcel. Not all of the text is abundantly clear, but Raymond’s side appears to describe a device that enables the user to convert light into time and time into light.
This I can only assume to be an example of the sort of collar that Raymond was known for the very frequent changing of due to what is most often thought of as a kind of hygiene-mania combined with the less attractive symptoms of excessive wealth.
I suppose that Raymond was something like a gentleman-criminal, or terrorist-riddler, or producer of rumours about people who do not exist in the first place. But I am guilty myself of spreading disinformation, or what must seem at the present time to be disinformation, by listing and beginning to describe these objects whilst suppressing their meanings. The box itself is not especially remarkable.
1 There are three titles here. Locus Desolatus, or Hypermodernism and the Dust of Suns, is overarching, whilst the second (Hypermodernism) is the first of the two books contained with Locus Desolatus.
2 The first chapter is ‘drawer one’, but subsequent chapters are not ‘drawers’. They are ‘shelves’, ‘vials’, ‘folders’, amongst other kinds of containers.
3 Who is the ‘I’? The writer, well-known amongst a certain kind of reader, whose papers these are. Who are we, whose words sit beneath the line? We act as if we were editors, proposing things like the following:
4 Here is a skeleton extraction of chapter one, a read-through that in some ways generates another box of fragments from your original chapter.
5 Jose Corti.
6 Let us know if you think this leads anywhere, if it opens back into the visual for you at all (in terms of images along with the text). I’m interested if such an approach feeds into your work on future chapters….
7 Another editor.
8 I’m extracting gestures and some kind of architecture from the text, but it’s not as separated from the narrative and autobiographical elements as I might have expected…
9 We spoke of David Markson, and now I wonder if he wrote himself into corners, or edited himself into them.
10 You’ve more or less isolated those parts of the first chapter that point outwards from the text into the world, rather than those that look back at the narrator (however fictitious he might be).
11 What I mean is, these fragments seem to refer to shapes and structures, and people, and in so doing seem to outline the cultures the whole text demarcates, if that makes sense.
12 You mentioned the possibility of another box of fragments from your original chapter. That process could be infinite, or infinitely regressive. Or infinitely progressive.
13 The reader will guess many of these, perhaps all of them.
14 I think that what I mean is that the extraction process might work very well with a counterweight; a countertext.
This extraction and commentary is a dialogue between David Price & VerySmallKitchen in response to Drawer One at /seconds.
The author’s PDF version of this project here.
More about David Price’s work here.
The latest VerySmallKitchen paperback is 2 blue cups on two different corners of the table, by Ohad Ben Shimon. It is available for £6 (plus £1 P&P) here.
In a dialogue on the book, in June 2013, VerySmallKitchen asked: where does a book begin and where does it end? Ohad replied:
i think a book begins at the point when all other plans don’t seem to work out.. funny as it is, the strongest form of self expression is actually the last one we think of…perhaps we don’t allow ourselves that freedom. once we feel entitled we create a title. a ‘book’. it ends when someone forces you to end it. and that brings on a new restriction to once again search for that freedom, perhaps in the form of a new book.
Read that dialogue here, and see the posts by Ohad Ben Shimon as part of his VSK Residency. Here is 2 blue cups in the process of being written:
For this online launch, here is a sketch of SWISS read by Mercedes Azpilicueta.
And here is a set of 5 readings by Ohad Ben Shimon, recorded at home in Rotterdam:
a milk carton
things on the table
a poster in arabic saying ‘a thousand and one nights’
the sound of the fridge
i’m putting sugar in the coffee
i’m drinking the coffee
a red chair
a beautiful autumn day
a few emails are awaiting
actually just one
i can’t open it yet
in the meantime i write
writing is a diversion
passing by something
writing hints about a situation
the contours of a reality
i’m a substitute teacher
i teach how to substitute this with that
them with us
me with you
Purchase the book for £6 plus £1 P&P here:
More about Ohad’s work is here.
Ohad Ben Shimon
2 blue cups on two different corners of the table
STORIES I STARTED BUT COULDN’T FINISH
I want to start again. I want to write a book that has nothing to do with any of the books I’ve written before. This is the kind of book you write when you think you might be dead soon. A book to make enemies, to take revenge on people who most likely don’t deserve it…
I don’t remember exactly when I started calling it The Pinocchio Syndrome, this: I want to be a real boy / I want to be a real novel thing. I don’t want to write strange, experimental, impossible to categorize, novel-like-things anymore. I don’t want to be marginalized like that. I want to write a real novel with real characters and a real story that will be taken seriously by the literary world. I think every writer of difficult-to-categorize fiction struggles to some extent with The Pinocchio Syndrome (along with the exceptions to every rule.)
I am fascinated by the novel Mount Analogue by René Daumal and, more specifically, with its ending. As is well known, Daumal died in 1948, in the middle of writing Mount Analogue, and the book ends mid-sentence. The last line is:
I have often wondered if it would be possible to end something I wrote mid-sentence, not because I had died, but for some other reason.
I have been thinking so much about solar energy, about how much of what I read, especially from a mainstream perspective, seems misplaced. When I read that we will not be able to generate enough energy using solar and wind, I feel they are completely missing the point. The points are:
1) That these new, sustainable technologies will force us to use less, will demonstrate – on a real, lived, experiential basis – that resources are renewable but not infinite.
2) That there is more autonomy, and less greedy profit, in a decentralized power grid.
3) That the many exorbitant expenses of polluting the air and water are simply not being factored into the standard calculations. Environmental devastation is expensive on every level.
But it is mainly the first point I obsess over. Let’s say you have solar panels on the roof of your house. Each day, you will use only as much energy as these panels generate. When it runs out you go to sleep and wait for the sun to come up tomorrow. The energy is not infinite, not available twenty-four hours a day. There are limits and you learn, out of necessity, how to live within them.
This, for me, is the main lesson of sustainable technologies. They would force us to live differently, to be aware of daily limits, to find solutions that acknowledge real limitations. They do not make life easier in every way. They make life harder in some ways, ways that force a fundamental shift in how we see the world and our place within it. I also suspect that working within a series of concrete, reasonable limitations would bring along with it a kind of reality and even joy.
RESISTANCE AS PARADOX
The paradox is as follows: we, as artists and viewers alike, know that art is fundamentally conservative, yet we still want to believe that it is radical and revolutionary. Within the space of this paradox there is room for a great deal to happen.
Art is conservative because the moment you call something art (or theatre, literature, etc.) it has already been contained. The things it can change, and the ways it can change our thinking, have already been limited. Art is the corner in which transgression and questioning are allowed, at times even encouraged, and making art is like being told to go stand in that corner.
The recent, romantic history of art is a history of alleged transgression. So many of today’s standard art moves began as small deviances and transgressions. And while it does seem there are now no rules left to break, more to the point is that knowing a transgression, if successful, will soon be canonized and therefore de-fanged, drains all energy from the gesture.
Politics requires efficacy. Trying to change things entails immense frustration. The tension between this lived frustration and potential for efficacy often feels absurd.
Politics as a spirit of resistance, as a desire to open up possibilities. And yet: resistance, in order to remain resistant, must always be unfinished, a work-in-progress, because if you win then you’re in power and somebody else has to resist against you. (I am wondering if this paradox might ease the inherent frustration involved in any act of sustained resistance.) Something similar might be said of opening up possibilities: once they have been opened one has to move on. There is something restless, unsustainable, about such modes of political thinking.
The 3rd text is a PDF of Like A Priest Who Has Lost Faith: Notes on Art, Meaning, Emptiness and Spirituality.
Photos: Hospitality 3: Individualism Was A Mistake by PME-ART.
More about Jacob Wren’s work here.
[I stand before a seated audience.]
There’s three things that I’ve got with me. There’s PaperWork magazine that is over there on the table; a print-out – with some notes – of the text that I have in PaperWork magazine; and also my notebook, which I might refer to at some point.
So the text that I have in PaperWork magazine is called Exercise and it operates sort of like a poem within in the book. The unique thing about PaperWork that I decided to use in my work is that it is loosely bound with an elastic band so that you’re able to pull the text out- I’ll be able to find it really easily as it’s crumpled from the last time I did this.
So yeah, it’s here. And when you release it from the book it then operates as a script for performance. But without using this one, I’ll use the one with notes on and I just want to try a few things with you first and then develop some of the ideas. So it’ll take about fifteen twenty minutes, something like that.
ME: Yeah of course the object is the thing itself…
Oh yeah the thing that I wanted to mention as well is that the text is like…when it operates as a script…is like a dialogue between three characters. So you’ve got a sculptor, an art critic and an object. And it’s kind of about the miscommunications and misunderstandings of desire those three parties can have within an art practice.
ME: Yeah of course the object is the thing itself, or it can be a fetish. Its materiality and its body are crucial. Its materiality or its body are crucial of course the object is the thing itself. All day everyday objects are asking me to be things. All day everyday objects are asking to be things.
To become a thing the object must transcend its corpus. It must make us sick with sadness. To transform… To transform the object… to… for the object to become things it must transform, it must transcend itself, it must transcend its corpus to become a thing so that it’s no longer and object. The thing must transcend itself, transform from its corpus and become the thing.
What the hell are you talking about? Can’t see that I’m plagued that I’m sick with nostalgia, I’m just rot and memories? Sick with nostalgia, rot and memories…
[I walk off-stage and out through the Fire Exit door.]
… Sick with nostalgia. What the hell
are you talking about? Can’t you see that I’m plagued that I’m ill with nostalgia that
everything I touch becomes a thing? Why you…What you talking about; phantasms and refrains? …
[I return to the stage, through the same Fire Exit door.]
nostalgia and rot. What you talking about? I must become a thing…
[I step over cables and crouch behind a plinth with a computer on it. I am not visible to the audience.]
… I must become a thing. Thing.
[I raise my head and address the audience.]
the object that’s talking now.
[I crouch again.]
ME: I must become a thing. I must become thing. I must become a thing. I must become
[I leave the stage and roll back a partition door that separates the performance space from a workshop. I enter and have a muffled conversation with two people who are not at the gallery for the event.]
Excuse me, erm I just wondered if you could do me a favour? I’m doing a performance next door and wanted to ask if you could read something out for me? – Yeah by all means. – It’s just that line. Yeah, yeah, three or four times. – Three or four times? Now? – Oh, whenever you’re ready.
[I return to the stage side and replace the door.]
ME: I make performative objects, y’know, the object in itself is the medium – like money – and ultimately I want to make money. Ultimately…
VOICE ONE : I must become thing.
ME: … Ultimately I want to make money. Ultimately
I want to make money.
VOICE ONE: I must become the thing.
ME: No you misunderstand me sculptor, or else you’re regurgitating, the object must undergo a transformation, it must produce its own effect.
VOICE TWO: I must become thing.
ME: It’s in the ‘the’
sculptor, do you understand me? We must find ‘the’ murder weapon, not ‘a’ murder weapon. ‘The’ murder weapon not ‘a’ murder weapon. The object here decides to become thing. Can’t you see? A thing as it so plainly desires.
Kathryn will you do something for me, if you
don’t mind? – Yeah. –Will you just come over here?
[Both KATHRYN and I walk behind and away from the audience body and the stage to the gallery window and have an inaudible conversation. Meanwhile IAIN enters the gallery late and stands behind the audience.]
Hey! Iain! Do you want to join in? – Yeah sure. –OK…
[Break in footage. All goes black for half a second though thirty seconds have actually
elapsed and I am now in a hut at the far end of the gallery space.]
KATHRYN: All day every day.
IAIN: What the hell are you talking about? Can’t I am plagued that I am ill…
KATHRYN: All day every day,
objects are asking me things.
IAIN: …with nostalgia. Everything I touch becomes a thing. What are you? Why are you talking about phantasms and refrains? I am nostalgia and rot. What the hell are you talking about? …
KATHRYN: All day every day, objects are asking me
ME: I must become
IAIN: …Can’t you see that I am plagued, that I am ill with nostalgia…
ME: I must become thing!
IAIN: … that everything I
touch becomes a thing. What are you? Why are you talking about phantasms and refrains? I am nostalgia and rot. What the hell are you…
IAIN: …talking about? Can’t you…
[I leave the hut and address IAIN.]
Iain, will you begin
with the line ‘Cease! Desist!’?
IAIN: Cease! Desist! Can you hear it? Endless demands. Cease this trickery!…
KATHRYN: All day, every day, objects are asking me things.
[KATHRYN and I have another inaudible conversation at the window.]
KATHRYN: All day, every day, objects are asking me things.
IAIN: …I am bound
to the symbolic! Desist in your demands on me.
[I return to the front of the audience to address JESSA inaudibly.]
IAIN: Cease! Desist! Can you hear it? Endless
demands. Cease this trickery. I am bound to the symbolic
KATHRYN: All day! Every day objects are asking me
things. All day! Every day objects are asking me things.
JESSA: I must become thing. I must
[JESSA moves from the audience to another window to the left of the stage.]
I must become thing!
IAIN: Cease. Desist. Can’t you hear it?
JESSA: I must become a
[I lead all participants to the far end of the gallery space, behind the large hut structure, obscuring us from the audience.]
[Two minutes pass. All participants simultaneously shout their lines twice. I lead participants back to the audience and collect my papers from the stage.]
The following are three sections of Ohad Ben Shimon’s 2 blue cups on two different corners of the table, forthcoming from VerySmallKitchen Books in June 2013.
the morning is an event
my narrative capabilities are destroyed
all I can do is describe what I see
making connections is hard these days
nothing seems to fit into one coherent whole
fragments of a reality
and you are in the middle
you move around
close and far
you are the writer
attaching your words to objects
in hope that one day it will make sense to someone
and the ends come closer
they arrive faster
once you used to start something
and it took you a while to get there
nowadays you start
and it ends
many people running
they seem like they can steal my laptop
rain on the ground
some guy is smoking a big joint
the tram lines run
we just finished our performance
it was nice
elegance says one street sign
r&b says another
an orange umbrella
a strong smell of weed coming out of a coffeeshop
a burger king
someone says ‘money’
more plastic bags
a guy with a coat looking at my laptop and bags
2 guys laughing
a few girls throw some redbull cans into a garbage can
a guy in a rickshaw
a theater building with the sign ‘macbeth’ on it
below it another sign says ‘to see or not to see’
2 spanish guys with cotton hats saying ‘amsterdam’
with a black coat on a brown bench
another rickshaw guy passes
some guy says bye to a girl
to work around things
to shift them
to replace one with another
to exchange values
re re re
to rest some place
to let it rest
to change your ways
to come back to them
to change again
to create sockets
pockets of air
reaches a high point and a low point
somehow somewhere sometime
you always find yourself back on the saddle
it’s never really gone
what has gone are layers of times
somehow somewhat peeled off by their own movement
and you imagine a place
where all these changes take place
whilst at the same time not really taking place
the internet and the computer
are helpful for that illusionary space
it’s there and not there
it allows you to dream
it harbors your imaginary right and wrong doings
by presenting an ordered software and hardware
to renegotiate your own order
your own mechanism
the state of your affairs
the never ending
yet always already ending
life that you are living today
and the next day
and the next
whatever energy is left in you
make it happen
reach that land
it is there waiting for you
you called for it to appear
you will become
you will become
The following dialogue was conducted between VerySmallKitchen and Ohad Ben Shimon during the writing of the book:
VSK: I wrote some questions for you today – about the book, the book to be, the book as it is, the book as it is being imagined, will be and won’t…. where does a book begin and where does it end?
OHAD: i think a book begins at the point when all other plans don’t seem to work out.. funny as it is, the strongest form of self expression is actually the last one we think of…perhaps we don’t allow ourselves that freedom. once we feel entitled we create a title. a ‘book’. it ends when someone forces you to end it. and that brings on a new restriction to once again search for that freedom, perhaps in the form of a new book.
VSK: Do some experiences look wrong on the page or perhaps “too right”?
OHAD: i try to see all experiences as part of this thing we call life and in that sense always ‘right’. what’s in the book is not the experience. it’s just the transformation of that experience into an artistic form, in this case text. so in a way all the experiences look wrong on the page as they don’t represent exactly the experience. the only true or ‘right’ experience in the book and on the page is the one the reader is having, because for him or her it is the first time they have the experience of reading such things.
VSK: What else does a list do?
OHAD: i’m thinking here actually of a list as a registration of desire. of things you want. so a list can create desire in the mind of the reader. now the question is a desire for what.
VSK: Does writing encourage fidelity or fiction?
OHAD: i believe you can’t run away from your own writing. in that sense it has always been a form of fidelity for me, even when it’s introduced as fiction. the reader will always find your blind spot whilst reading or you will eventually find it given sufficient time.
VSK: Is a notated day different to a not notated day?
OHAD: not really. i see breathing, walking, swimming, eating, basically many everyday actions as forms of writing if they’re on some page or not.
VSK: When do you read this in the future?
OHAD: in mornings.
VSK: When do details affirm and when do they erase?
OHAD: it’s an exchange. they affirm their own presence. the presence of the detail. but at that same very moment they erase the whole. that’s why i can’t really get my head around them. they are slippery creatures.
VSK: How does the text function as gift?
OHAD: it’s wrapped. in the same unexplainable material that life itself is wrapped in. it requires the reader to unwrap it.
VSK: How does the text function as instruction?
OHAD: maybe it’s an instruction to keep my eyes open. perhaps in the form of note to self.
VSK: Is it some sort of record that is breaking?
OHAD: yes it’s a record that is breaking but the record itself remains intact. what is being broken is language. it’s in a constant state of self annihilation. the text is at once a living organism in the sense that it has a breaking force and at the same time it is a residue or cinder.
VSK: Aren’t you really just trying out a form of magic?
OHAD: only if this form of magic has some kind of thera-poetic power like the word abracadabra.
VSK: Does the writing imagine you or someone else?
OHAD: of course. the image-nation.
Ohad Ben Shimon’s 2 Blue Cups on 2 Different Corners of the Table is forthcoming from VerySmallKitchen in June 2013.
For more about Ohad’s work see here. His VSK Residency posts are here.