Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page


In Uncategorized on February 28, 2010 at 12:08 pm



A PDF version of this text is available here. The first edition of VSK Projects will comprise 5 projects by artists whose work places language within visual systems of thought and understanding.  This project by-line is itself re-improvised by the curator after each project, to try and chart how each artists’ intervention changes my sense of the unfolding whole.  See previous projects by Rachel Lois Clapham and John Pinder.



In Uncategorized on February 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm


The following essay was written in response to Gary O’Connor’s installation at Northcabin, Bristol, 22nd Nov-15 Dec  2009, as a Northcabin/ [AN] Interface critical writing commission, and was first published on both these  sites. It is reprinted here with thanks. Critical responses to other Northcabin shows, by Colin Glen, Jeremy Walton, Isabella Streffen, and Emma Cocker, can be seen here. 

A disused operating cabin on a Bridge in Bristol. The windows are covered in black cloth. Three times a week, for a few hours at dusk, two curtains are parted and from an open window comes the sound of 1940’s music. Looking inside I see a book on an upturned chair next to an old fashioned cream radio. The whole is lit from below, casting large shadows on the cabin’s back wall. 

On a hulk of old harbour machinery another pile of musty hardbacks, spines splitting, marble covers coming loose. A projector makes a white square on the wall. Has the film ended or has, for those of an art-minded nature, the 1940’s paraphernalia – from the period when the bridge was constructed – given way to an impromptu screening of Nam June Paik’s Zen for Film half way to Redcliffe?

Gary O’Connor’s installation does not intend to offer too many easy answers to these questions. It doesn’t intend to be too forthcoming about being a Gary O’Connor installation. There is no signage on the bridge or gallery – only the single label saying “Northcabin” with a website address in tiny type underneath. The installation has no invigilators either. It’s running away on its own, door locked, explainable only through the viewers imaginings, or a later web search.

Or, rather – and this is what I’d like to explore in this essay –  Inherent Sin both provides us with a fictional world and makes immersion in that world impossible. So, for example, the music, highly specific to the 1940s, gets caught in the traffic noise and becomes, at times, random noise. The apparatus of chair, book, and radio set a scene but are minimal enough to be skeletal. A non-immersive fiction.

For those of a curious frame of mind the uncertainty does not stop here. From a moss covered wooden stump in the water below, a 10 foot tree has grown. Is this part of this new network of meaning Inherent Sin is positing as encounter, halfway between art, accident and daily life? 

Cross over the road to the second control room – still involved with the bridge’s working life and not available for art installations – and find thirty black rubbish sacks, weighted down with some heavy load, on a white sheet, next to three tins of carasol petrol and a huge chest covered in white bubble wrap. Not very 1940s, but possessed of a directness and opacity echoed back across the road.

Of course, writing about the show as I am, I get to go inside, sit on the chair, pick up and read the books, as Katie Daley-Yates, curator of northcabin, gets the installation ready. She takes  black cloths off table and projector, gets the smoke machine working, finally parting the curtains so passers by can look in. As she does all this, I look through the books. 

Perhaps I shouldn’t say? The book by the radio is Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. The pile by the projector includes books by Enid Blyton, the Treasury of Knowledge, Little Women, and  a musty red hardback whose pages turn out to be entirely blank – Enid Blyton’s little known Perec precurser perhaps? This was how she wrote so many. One page torn.

Gary O’Connor writes in an email:

I have always been interested social/cultural history and how it is documented. I know from personal experience how easy it is for information to be forgotten or even exaggerated when passed down from one generation to the next, it’s this area that I’m interested in: in a very playful and at times humorous way, I subvert facts, stretch the truth.

When making work for an unusual space or situation, my first instinct is to investigate the history of the site: this early stage of research can be the most rewarding part of a project for me. As I pick my way through the facts I immediately begin to form narratives in my mind. It is hard to say which comes first: words or visual ideas, it pans out differently for each project I do.

Looking in through the window, I cannot read the book titles. If the handrail to the cabin’s staircase is a prominent part of any installation, the stairs themselves – leading down to the water level – have been boarded up. In both installation and architecture, attention encounters a limit, and comes back, without anywhere else to go, to the viewers own thoughts and the traffic on the bridge. Sin promises narrative, but gives a suspended moment, moving but frozen.

All of which may be a way of thinking through how writing figures in this. Writing has been key to O’Connor’s work, particularly since his MA in Visual Writing in Norwich. Numerous projects – such as The Field (2009) at London’s Transition gallery – have involved both published text and installation. I am wondering what word best describes the relation between the two. Is the text script, scenario, storyboard, and/or companion? O’Connor’s own comments indicate a separate role for each:

I shy away from using text within an installation, although I have made artworks that have incorporated text in the past, I prefer to produce the writing as a separate component. This approach places distance between the two, allowing the viewer to digest the work in a more traditional way: this allows me more freedom to play with the context of the work. I also like the idea that someone can take a piece of the work home with them in their pocket.

I have approached the writing in various ways: in one case it was laid out as a stage play, with stage directions and detailed descriptions of each character, other pieces have been more fact based and presented as research or essay, but the majority of my work is written as a story in the first person, describing situations as and when they unfold.

For Inherent Sin, O’Connor wrote a story out of his research that provided the basis for the installation. The installation was made, and O’Connor went home to Cambridgeshire, to work, the northcabin website tells us, on the text. When the installation was taken down, only the promised text remains. Writing and installation seem to be in near-parallel, but out of synch worlds, each shifting from figure to ground and back and back.

Both text and installation mix grand illusion and poor theatre. There is also a sly transference between these very different media. The book readers act constructing worlds from the words alone does seem akin to what a deliberately limited installation asks of its viewers. I haven’t seen the full fiction yet, but I imagine it will enable me some gallery going pleasures the exhibition refused: going close to see what the book is made of, maybe even picking it up.

In the durational act of reading the installation’s moment gets unfolded into narrative. Of course the illusiveness of such publications, the erratics of their distribution, finds apt parallel in the occasional opening of curtains on a bridge, its undemonstrative claim on the attention of passers by.   

O’Connor has a somewhat different conception of how this limitation is operating:

I normally put myself through a rigorous reductive process when developing ideas and the work produced is fairly minimalist, but with the Cabin project I wanted to push things further. My initial response was to introduce a sense of theatre into the space, I wanted lights, movement, smoke and sound. I like the fact that there is no public access and the work can only be experienced through the windows and I wanted to play on this limitation: the division adds a voyeuristic aspect that again enforces the notion of theatrical spectacle.

 This is the fourth and final installation to occupy the northcabin site. Not surprisingly, posed out there in the middle of the harbor bridge, previous exhibits have also played with the tension of looking in and looking out. The non-art cabin across the road plays with it too, with its creepy sacks and bubble wrap chest. As O’Connor blacks out the windows, Helen de Main, the previous incumbent, filled the space with her own construction. Both seem to have found site specificity through active removal. 

The projector and its endless square of light is a focal point for many of these concerns. It suggests the narrative of a finished film, left running in the absence of audience and projectionist, whilst also pointing formalistically to the materiality of the cinematic apparatus and experience. In a variant on the (non-) immersive it evokes the grand illusion of cinema, alongside the stark, clunking, non-digital presence of the equipment itself. 

A play of film and photography is evident, too, in how the whole installation suggests a camera obscura. This was emphasised when I went back to view the installation at night. In heavy rain and darkness the white screen was a decoy. There’s no film in the projector, so its white square becomes pretend, even as it becomes the lit moment itself, not projected scratch marks off white leader.

Furthermore, the black curtains along the curving back wall become a screen for showing the continual passage of busses and people across the bridge, topped by the reversed pink neon sign of the Mercure Hotel across the harbour. It’s not really on the curtain-screen of course – it’s reflections on the window – but there’s an appropriate play between planes, between illusion, reflection and actuality, appropriate to the perceptual character of Inherent Sin.

There’s a black hole in such a dioramic swirl too: the body of the viewer-critic, obscuring this theatre of light in the keenness to see in. I stood across the road and watched how people responded to the invitation of flickering white light and muffled sound. I got most intrigued in passers by that looked in, but continued on their journey without hesitation. All these 1940’s objects, it seemed, had escaped history to become an unremarkable part of December’s Bristol rush hour.


In Uncategorized on February 26, 2010 at 2:00 pm

CURATOR’S NOTE: The following project by John Pinder (with Pablo Chemor) was first published as John’s contribution to Essaying Essays: An Assembling. The sound files of the project are published below for the first time.  The text is best viewed through a PDF  available here


The first edition of VSK PROJECT will comprise 5 online explorations of language practices as they intersect with the visual, space, sound and performance. This project by-line will itself be improvised anew after each project, to try and map how my sense of the whole is altered by each artists’ intervention on this site.  For more about John’s work see here.


In Uncategorized on February 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm


This project returns to Ivan Illich’s 1967 manifesto Celebration of Awareness, originally written after the 1967 March on the Pentagon. It reconfigures this text as a site specific response for a guerilla re-enactment on the roof top of the Welbeck Street NCP Car Park, a short distance from London’s Oxford Street.

Upon arriving on the ninth floor of the car park, participants are greeted by one of the artists, invited to take a protest banner and proceed on to the roof. There, from an ACCIDENTAL PULPIT made from the car parks own architecture, a series of readers pronounce the following text from Celebration of Awareness. Audience members are invited to enter the pulpit and read themselves, fitting – seeing how the words do or not fit their own bodies and voices: 

We call you to join man’s race to maturity, to work with us in inventing the future. We believe that a human adventure is just beginning: that mankind has so far been restricted in developing its innovative and creative powers because it was overwhelmed by toil. Now we are free to be as human as we will. 

The celebration of man’s humanity through joining together in the healing expression of one’s relationship with others, and one’s growing acceptance of one’s own nature and needs, will clearly create major confrontations with existing values and systems. The expanding dignity of each man and each human relationship must necessarily challenge existing systems. 

The call is to live the future. Let us join together joyfully to celebrate our awareness that we can make our life today the shape of tomorrow’s future.


This event comes from a perceived connection between the NCP Welbeck Car Park and a series of radical educational paperbacks, published by Penguin in the series Penguin Education Specials in the 1970’s. These included: Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Opprressed ; Paul Goodman Compulsory Miseducation; Ivan Illich De-Schooling Society; Everett Reimer School is Dead. 

The striking graphic design of these paperbacks is reflected in the modernist brutalism of the car park itself. As the paperbacks themselves feel dated, the car park has been almost empty since the introduction of London’s congestion charge scheme. If this reading seeks to re-activate such educational ideas, the car park awaits its new function.

To read the paragraphs aloud here is, we propose, to experience a vertigo of time between future, past and present akin to looking straight down from the top floor. Some readers may be immune to the emotive temporal flux of these texts, as others will look over the rooftop edge without any feelings of vertigo.  

The image of an Ivan Illich duvet cover came into my mind with a surprising frequency




ACCIDENTAL PULPIT – (1)a feature of architectural space that provides unintentional opportunities for public speaking and public address. (2) Physical or mental space  resulting in the spatial configuring of speech acts. 

LOCATING INCOMPREHENSIBILITIES – a way of reading that focusses on what becomes incomprehensible in a text through distances of geography, time, or situation. A distinction is drawn between surface practices – texts in unknown languages, for example – and more deeper engagements with the nature of incomprehensibility – texts easily read, spoken and comprehended but certain of  whose effects and intentions have become illegible. 

Welbeck Street Car Park, a model made for the study of re-use by Colin Wharry, Ben Fallows, Julian Merille and Richard Penman.



FOR READERS: Consider the phenomenology of THE ACCIDENTAL PULPIT. How do you respond to the distinct experience of the space, and how does it inform your encounter with the text now in your hand? Think of (a) the political speech; (b) a speech at a wedding; (c) an intimate conversation in a noisy bar; (d) private reading; (e) traditional Swiss yodelling. Draw and ignore from each of these in your reading as appropriate.

Many of the artists, when first reading this text from the pulpit, laughed – in response, perhaps, to the strangeness of the situation. If as readers we concentrate intently on the words do we laugh more or less? THE ACCIDENTAL PULPIT will tell you.

FOR AUDIENCE: Stand at a distance as at a conventional rally or public lecture. The acoustics are terrible, particularly if it’s windy. You will probably hear only one or two of the speakers. Move closer, onto the top of the ramp, looking up, to hear the content of the speaker’s words. Experience a false intimacy: a conversational closeness, but towards an other distanced by position, location and script. Whilst hearing and/or not hearing the words reflect on their mixture of opacity and transparency. Stand at the back and enjoy a purely inaudible, visual spectacle. Disregard these instructions.


When everyone who wishes to has read the text aloud from the pulpit, postcards are distributed containing directions to a local pub, for further discussion. The performance at the Welbeck Street car park will take place without permission of NCP Car Parks. Cards instruct audience members to leave by different routes, to avoid large groups of people being recorded on CCTV cameras, and possibly prompting a response by security officials.  


This project is a preface for larger scale projects, by ourselves and others, exploring the relevance of Call for Celebration, and, more broadly, the ideas of Illich, Freire, Reimer, Goodman and others. Future projects could move from readings into discussions and other events, or expand the number and style of readings. Like Illich’s own ideas, they could explore the applicability of these ideas to a number of different issues and areas of society. 

Template for Ivan Illich open source wallpaper


The possible range of these ideas can be mapped on to the NCP Wellbeck Street Car Park. Separate floors of the car park are dedicated to particular areas of investigation as follows: 


1a             A CALL TO CELEBRATION











6b             SCHOOL: THE SACRED COW


7b             LEARNING WEBS 



9a             PLANNED POVERTY




This piece was first written as part of a performance/event  at the NCP Welbeck Street Car Park devised by David Berridge, Hyun Jin Cho, David Johnson, and Pippa Koszerek. Celebration of Awareness was the final performance in an event that led visitors through the car park, encountering performances, curated by Birdseye Prouductions.  

Celebration of Awareness is presented here as a script for events that may or not involve any of the original artists, explicitly mention Ivan Illich, take part in or otherwise reference any NCP car park.


In Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

The above video is FINGER by Rachel Lois Clapham, made for The Diagram at London’s FormContent project space. See  images of the day and the full program  here.  

RL describes THE FINGER as “focussed on non verbal physical gestures as writing… made in response to a continued dialogue with David Berridge and Alex Eisenberg regarding writing on and as performance.”

We discussed the video via SKYPE and the following words and phrases, written in my notebook at the time, are a preliminary frame for thinking through and out and into the ways of The Finger:

How can it mean as writing. Diagrammatic. Doing what we were talking about. Pointing. Connecting. Liveness. Task. It has to respond. Hand work. Lowly. PLOUGHING. Hand. Base. Ground.  Finger. Action/Text. RL’s having fun. Bataille’s BIG toe. 

A summary of my presentation – which this video concluded – is here.

Go here for more on Rachel Lois’ work.  

Her video essay THE SCORE  – part of our Question Time project (also with Mary Paterson and Alex Eisenberg)  here.


In Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 at 2:02 am

Please join us for the next incarnation of the ART WRITING FIELD STATION on Mar 7th 2010 at:

Unit 9, Sara Lane Studios
60 Stanway Street 
London, N1 6RE

from 5.30- 8.00pm. A map is here

The Story so far: During our event at the Five Years Gallery, Marianne Holm Hansen created a lexicon of art writing  (see images above) out of performances/ lectures/ screenings by David Berridge, Tamarin Norwood, COMPULSIVE HOLDING (Hyun Jin Cho and David Johnson) and Matthew MacKisack.  For our discussion on the 7th we will return to these lists, to see what can be proposed and unfolded from them.

The lexicons are part of Marianne’s  For The Record (A written conversation) project. The evening on the 7th will be an informal series of readings, interventions, performances, that use these images and their vocabulary as the starting point for a conversation. Proposals for presentations are invited. These may as simple as selecting a particular word for our consideration, replacing a word, suggesting ways of grouping words, and/or offering a short commentary.

Or they may be as complicated as no-budget, a studio space,  and up to 15 minutes allows.  Throughout the evening we will compile the final pamphlet in the first ART WRITING FIELD STATION chapbook project.

Please email if you would like to attend and/or present. Please note that it is not necessary to have attended the original Five Years event as we will be working solely from Marianne’s lexicon. Please bring a bottle.

The night will also feature the grand(-ish) launch of the ART WRITING FIELD STATION ARCHITECTURAL OPPORTUNITY COMPETITION.  

ALSO COMING SOON: ART WRITING FIELD STATION goes to Leeds, MAR 27th 2010, 10.30 -1.30pm (in collaboration with OPEN DIALOGUES & Writing Encounters). More details to follow.


In Uncategorized on February 22, 2010 at 8:01 pm


Rachel Lois Clapham, Notes with Finger, Copenhagen, Dec 2009.


I gave a presentation on artists’ use of diagrams, as part of Diagram Day, organised by Ante Press in residence at London’s FormContent (Feb 13th 2010). My presentation began from a collaborative article on diagrams (with Rachel Lois Clapham and Alex Eisenberg) that will be published in the next issue of Dance Theatre Journal. The presentation was a chance to return to some of the diverse range of materials that I collected for that article, as well as considering the diagram as it has appeared in the projects – by myself and others  – documented on this site.

I began by comparing two images – Claude E.Shannon’s drawing of a General Communication System from 1948 and one of Joseph Beuys Blackboard Drawings. The differences and connections of  those two models underpinned a lot of what I wanted to explore: the diagram as systematic and linear condensery, and the diagram as spontaneous and gestural  drawing-writing-thought. My hunch was that when it comes to contemporary practices, the attraction to diagrams – evidenced by the day itself – seems to be how it enables both of these possibilities. To support this I referenced much of the work contained in two recent publications on this site, including The Secretary is Fired, a minute taking project of Pippa Koszerek, and the various drawing-reading projects of Alex Eisenberg and Pete McPartlan. 

The collaboration for DTJ began with Richard Kostelanetz’s celebration of the chart in the introduction to his anthology Essaying Essays. This reads:

One kind of innovation is the conceptually resonant chart, which ideally reveals the essayistic function of compressing a large body of perceptions and/or connections into remarkably little space. Though necessarily simplifying, a chart offers the compensating advantage of vividly documenting the entire picture – a concise image of the whole that reveals contrasts and connections that would not be so apparent if spread over many pages of prose.

A chart is particularly useful in documenting multiple relations among several discontinuous elements. Since charts tend to lack explicit beginnings or definite ends, they cannot be read in the conventional way – steadily, in one predetermined direction, at an even speed. Instead, charts must be read around and about, indeterminately, much like geography maps which are, after all, visual essays of a different sort; for a rich chart offers many levels of meaning, generalization and relatedness… 

A further starting point was the isotype of Otto and Marie Neurath:

I was drawn to the Neurath’s diagrams by their sense of the diagram as comparative, for their social and geographical reach, and their sense of measure  – where each mark in the diagram represented a definite quantity (of people or goods). I have also been trying to think of my own work in relation to Marie Neurath’s definition of “The Transformer”:

From the data given in words and figures a way has to be found to extract the essential facts and put them into picture form. It is the responsibility of the ‘transformer’ to understand the data, to get all necessary information from the expert, to decide what is worth transmitting to the public, how to make it understandable, how to link it with general knowledge or with information already given in other charts. In this sense, the transformer is the trustee of the public. He has to remember the rules and to keep them, adding new variations where advisable, at the same time avoiding unnecessary deviations which would only confuse. He has to produce a rough of the chart in which many details have been decided: title; arrangement, type, number and colour of symbols; caption, etc. It is a blueprint from which the artist works. (77-8)

Thereafter I told of the tragedy of George Macunias. In diagrams such as Expanded Arts Diagram (1966), Macunias represented the diagram at its most condensed and ideographic, but Macunias’ obsession lead him to make charts of ever greater size and complication. His handwritten diagrams –  such as Chronology of Russian History (1953-4) –  involved handwritten sheets, glued together into fragile agglomerations, to which were added further sheets and lift up flaps. The appeals of the chart as an instant form of communication became negated in a product ever more gnomic and unreadable.   

Following the Claude E.Shannon image I looked at George Brecht, who notebooks reveal how he re-worked Shannon’s diagram as part of John Cages night class at the New School. I juxtaposed Shannon’s image with some of Brecht’s scores to highlight similarities and differences of the model of communication implied and activated by each: 

Following Beuys I looked at some of the blackborard drawings of Rudolf Steiner. Although the specificity of these images –  their “diagram-ness” – is lost without having Steiner himself to explain them (as he draws them), I’m fascinated that the form of the blackboard – and its often mechanistic implications of knowledge transfer – should be used to express Steiner’s sense of other worlds and spiritual kingdoms. 

Regarding the long history of diagrams in relation to systems of movement notation, I showed Warhol’s Dance Diagrams – appropriating diagrams of foot movement for particular dances – and Julia Borns poster work, shown as part of the AA’s Forms of Inquiry show. 

Wanting to move beyond diagrams themselves towards the stance of the diagrammatic in an artistic practice,  I then showed two images by Alex Eisenberg, taken as part of the project QUESTION TIME  which happened in Copenhagen during the COP15 climate change talks in December 2009. These show the empty spaces of an auditorium set up to provide a place for UN delegates excluded from the official comference centre, following drastic reductions in the building capacity as security was heightened during the second week of the talks.

We found the space, near midnight on the final night of COP15, as the moment of Obama’s press conference was awaited. Presented in the context of a talk on diagrams, these images seem to become about how we might diagram an event, a place, an issue, taking account of the voids and absences that might be involved.   

One artist who might be interested in documenting such complexity, is Ricardo Basbaum, whose project  would you like to participate in an artistic experience?  begins as a diagram, takes other forms as event and installatrion, and then returns, after each stage of the project, into a new diagram of increasing size and complexity. I love the fact that, reproduced in the format of this blog, they almost seem to be shrinking towards invisibility as the complexity increases! 

I was first drawn, however, to more playful and informal aspects of Basbaum’s diagram practice, which – in the excellent CASCO publication THE GREAT METHOD, talking of his Diagram [love Songs] series – he described as follows:

Always composed by words and lines, the diagram is a sort of drawing (or visual poem) that mediates the dynamic flow between words and images – discursive and non-discursive spaces – or literary and plastic spaces, etc… Many times I have taken the diagrams as a tool to connect my practice as an artist to other roles in the art system – writer, critic, curator, agent – departing from the visual/verbal monochromatic composition for establishing dialogues with the other… it is always interesting to look through the diagrams searching for the potentially implied fiction layers – then, each diagram points to different plots, as screenplays for movies yet-to-be-done.

When it came to consider recent projects, the talk offered a chance to think through again the Toothbrush Project by Compulsive Holding. I curated this project last November as part of the Guess Work Guest Work project, and I’ m not sure any of us ever used the word “diagram” in relation to this work. The project documented all of the toothbrushes in the artists’ local branch of Boots, representing that as a two sided poster, one side of which was given over to drawings of the brushes, the other to the text taken verbatim from its packaging.

It was how that poster was presented (see image below) that was my reason for including it in this talk. The act required to see the back of the poster via the mirror  models what is involved in perceiving and understanding a diagram, where an apparently 2-D schematic identity is actually a front for a complex, 3-D, moving entity, rife with partiality, mirrors and other perceptual challenges ( consider how, to be read in the mirror, the text on the drawings has to be written backwards). 

Finally, I presented a video by Rachel Lois Clapham. This will be available on this site later this week . I think it was in Copenhagen during Question Time that RL first began exploring what we might want to call the methodology of the finger. It, too – “it” being “the finger” – seems to have some very diagrammatic traits – a need to point, to connect from somewhere to something else, to draw lines. But it is also somewhat removed from the diagram, both schematic and the gestural varieties.

When I first saw this video I thought the finger was somewhat reptilian, a later day art-writing incarnation of Durer’s rhinoceros. I wanted to show Durer’s rhinoceros in my talk to make this point but each time I re-opened my Power Point the image had vanished to be replaced by a question mark! This video, then,  seemed to me to demonstrate a practice of the diagram moving beyond the word “diagram” into more animal modes of art writing. 

Don’t forget Rodchenko: “Drawing as it was conceived in the past loses its value and is transformed into diagram or geometric projection.” For further materials, including diagrams by Alex and a written/ spoken dialogue between the three of us, see the next issue of Dance Theatre Journal.  


I also brought along the following books which were available throughout the afternoon:

Yve-Alain Bois ed. Gabriel Orozco (The MIT Press, 2009).

Richard Kostelanetz, Essaying Essays: Alternative Forms of Exposition (Out of London Press, 1975).

Zak Kyes and Mark Owens eds. Forms of Inquiry: The Architecture of Critical Graphic Design (Architectural Association, 2007).

Marie Neurath and Robin Kinross, The transformer: principles of making Isotype charts (Hyphen Press, 2009).

Astrit Schmidt-Burkhardt, Macunias’ LEARNING MACHINES: From Art History to a Chronology of Fluxus (Vice Versa Verlag, 2003).


In Uncategorized on February 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm


Activist No.1, Monday 13th December, Demonstration, Copenhagen (photo: Alex Eisenberg)


As part of  Question Time, which took place in Copenhagen during the COP15 Climate Change negotiations in December 2009, I took part in the writing project STATEMENTS OF INTENT with Rachel Lois Clapham, Alex Eisenberg, and Mary Paterson. We described this project as follows: 

Each day Question Time hold a summit somewhere in Copenhagen- in cafes, street corners, domestic apartments, and train stations – after which a new statement of intent is produced towards an alternative declaration of the way forward on climate change. 

Statements were written by the person taking minutes during the daily meetings, and would have to be completed and published the same day . They were initially published on the project blog. My own first statement read as follows: 

Summit Date: 8 December 2009
Attending: David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Alex Eisenberg 
Location: Red Cross Cafe Zusammen
Minute Taker: David Berridge

Tuesday 8th December 2009

We chance encounter. We design. We subject to change. We smallness and the individual voice. We social. We ambition. We abandon. We aim for higher emission targets. We post-global meltdown universe. We writing machine.

We embrace the uncertainty of our position – participate or die – within a community of hosts and guests in Copenhagen, within economies and governments and global climate systems. We collective voice. We minute. We proliferate.

We never ask a question we know the answer to. We work as artists, reclaiming the interview as about more than information or jobs, politicians or celebrities. The interview is about encounter and conversation as ecological systems on the edge of collapse, but full of suggestions towards prosperity.

We social sculpture. We propose categories holding clusters of related ideas, ever adaptable to any particular situation. These categories are: (1) START; (2) COP15; (3) SOCIAL SCULPTURE; (4) HOSPITALITY; (5) ACTION; (6) PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE; (7) HOME; (8) ENDING; (9) CHANCE AND FUTURE; (10) WILD CARD.

We graphic continuity. We draft. We disaster. We turn thought into manifesto. We New Life. We globe. We guilt. We science fiction. We don’t know. We host. We tone. We light up through pedal power. We wild card. We deal with urban development. We preparatory.


Activist No.2, Saturday 12th December, 2009, Demonstration march to the Bella Centre, Copenhagen (photo: Alex Eisenberg)


When it was my turn to be minute taker again my sense of the Question Time project, COP15, and being in Copenhagen, seemed to be finely balance between presence and negation:

DATE: 11/12/09


PRESENT: David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Alex Eisenberg, Sara Seerup Laursen, Sarah Wingate.

MINUTE TAKERS: David Berridge and Sarah Wingate.

STATEMENT 4: “Boring Rhetoric Your Question”

Boring rhetoric destroying the house of cards. Destroys questions. Destroys the room of space. Destroys music.

Boring rhetoric binds non-verbal actions. Boring rhetoric the action of now. Boring rhetoric not lived out yet.

Boring rhetoric can get weird. Boring rhetoric “with my mind.” Boring rhetoric pledge mimics boring rhetoric.

Boring rhetoric magic of choice. Boring rhetoric utopia becomes two statements: “Boring and “Rhetoric.” Begins with ending. Refuses to answer question. Boring rhetoric turn over. Let’s all jump up and down at the same time.

Boring rhetoric meets one person and everything changes. Boring rhetoric self publishing. Boring rhetoric more important than the interviewee. Boring rhetoric New York.







The statements were later re-formatted as a set of downloadable press releases. A sample of the project is below. You can read the full set of Statements of Intent here

Statement o.o

Statement 2.3

Statement 2.4


In Uncategorized on February 20, 2010 at 7:24 pm

The above image and the two below are taken from the blog of the artist Anna Francis. Anna is chronicling the exciting arrival via the post of The Wild Pansy Press Book of Rainy Day Activities.  As well as Anna’s DIY Fridge gallery manual pages, the publication also, amongst its 19 contributers, includes my own essay YOUR GAMES ARE IDEAS THAT HAVEN’T THOUGHT THROUGH WHAT PLAYING AND PARTICIPATION INVOLVE.  My own tube containing a copy of the book is also currently awaiting assembly!

YOUR GAMES ARE IDEAS… is a collection of games, strategies, philosophies and quotations that in some way unfold from the following statement: 

Because a new economic situation and a new kind of game is necessary. 

Because I don’t want to be overly pessimistic but in this post-economic age we might not be competitive like we used to but also we aren’t that green = ecological either…. 

Because we’re seeking a kind of conceptual poetic gamesmanship that is not just an activity, a form of relationship or a type of improvised thinking but a variety of poetry for insects that only humans can access.

Because paper models of buildings are all we can afford, so better get smaller and get inside…. a credit crunch olympics… a without noun now….

And this quotation from Ian Hamilton Finlay seems particularly generative:

.. I don’t usually play games but it seems to me that most games are like many poems, in that they are so complex that luck (randomness) re-enters by the complexity – and that it is better, therefore, to have a kind of ‘concrete’ game, where the basic moves are very simple, but can result in a kind of measured complexity which one can see.

The Wild Pansy Press themselves describe the book as follows:

As our contribution to the exhibition CRUNCHTIME! Artists’ responses to the global credit crisis and its timetable of associated events, The Wild Pansy Press has produced a publication in which a range of contributors make concrete suggestions for new cultural activities in a Post-Crunch society, with an emphasis on the practical, the cheap and the sustainable.

The Wild Pansy Book of Rainy Day Activities will be available to all visitors free of charge during the exhibition.

The Wild Pansy Press put out a call for contributions last year and we’ve tried to include everything that came in as long as it seemed in some way to respond to what we’d asked for. The contributors are mostly artists of some sort but we hope that “some sort” stretches the definition pretty widely.

In essence, The Wild Pansy Book of Rainy Day Activities is an exhibition in book form. You, the spectator, are offered a range of ways to respond; you can curate your own show by making and doing the things we have included (and adding your own) or you can just enjoy the book as a documentation of possibilities. The first thing to do, though, is to assemble the book from the four sheets that can be collected by visiting both of the two CRUNCHTIME exhibition venues (you can make your own cover, too, if you like). Think of it as a warm-up exercise – once you’ve done it, making boots to walk on water or a bike out of a shopping cart will seem just that little bit less daunting. It also means that each person who folds and sews up their own copy can rightfully add their name to the list of contributors.

Just as the making process continues after we pass the book’s constituent parts on to you, the audience, so we hope you will respond by sending us new projects that we can archive on our website including your own responses to and modifications of the ones in the book.

The Wild Pansy Book of Rainy Day Activities is the first of what we hope will be a series of publications that bring together work from a wide range of contributors around different shared themes, all of them exploring (and expanding) the idea of publication as a medium, not just for the distribution of art, but for its making.

CONTRIBUTERS: David Berridge, Kate Brundrett, Wayne Clements, Tom Cookson, Jorn Ebner, Anna Francis, Alex Hamilton, Barry Hughes, Daniel Lehan, Simon Lewandowski, Harry Malkin, Graham Martin, Phil McCollam, Ellen Mueller, Chris Taylor & Craig Woods, Eric Wilhelm, Lynne Williams, and Zieak.


In Uncategorized on February 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm

A STARTING POINT FOR THE ART WRITING FIELD STATION: CHARLES OLSON’S “Plan for Curriculum of the Soul” (1968). Reprinted in Rothenberg & Joris, Poems for Millenium Vol.2 (University of California Press), 410-11.

 CLAYTON ESHLEMAN: On February 9, 1968, Olson sent his student George Butterick, a two-page “outline”  that on the one hand was probably spontaneous (reflecting current preoccupations) and on the other the result of twenty years of research and writing. Such a “Plan” suggests a mysterious correspondence between terrestrial labyrinths, star maps, and the human mind. 

Not only does this “Plan” fail to follow the steps of most outlines, it treats its “subjects” as if they were pick-up sticks that had suddenly been loosed from the poet’s grip, falling everywhichway on the page. The only “direction” is that indicated by the fact that the title, one third of the way down on the right-hand page, is under a phrase ending in the word “completion,” suggesting that the “Plan” is to be read as a kind of assymetrical swirl, working down from the title on the right-hand page, crossing over to the left-hand page and following it upward, then crossing back to the right-hand page and ending with “completion”… 

Another reading possibility is to disperse with direction entirely, and take the subjects and suggestions as “free bodies” brought together in a single double-page arena. If they are taken as a set of leads, the novice can follow them out himself. By coming to terms with “Alchemy – rather by plates [as connected to dreams]” or with what Olson might mean by “Bach’s belief,” he can  (often by arguing with Olson) start to develop his own assembly of intersecting subjects or directions….. 

 … [this was] not a set of proposals or even an argument, but a tilting assembly of names, subjects and ideas that evokes the accesses and restrictions of the labyrinth itself.

SOURCE: The above quotation, and all  information in this post, is from Clayton Eshleman’s marvelous Novices: A Study of Poetic Apprenticeship, reprinted in  Companion Spider: Essays (Wesleyan University Press, 2002).


Olson’s text was first published in Magazine of Further Studies #5. Its editor, Jack Clarke selected 28 words from the total of 223. In consultation with two other students, Albert Glover and Fred Wah, one of those words were assigned to a member of the Olson community, with the invitation to write a 20-50 page “fascicle” taking off of that word. The word(s) selected were: The Mushroom; Dream; Woman; Mind; Language; Earth; Blake; Dante; Homer’s Art; Bach’s Belief; Novalis’ “Subjects”; The Norse; The Arabs; American Indians; Jazz Playing; Dance; Egyptian Hieroglyphs; Ismaeli Muslimism; Alchemy; Perspective; Vision; Messages; Analytic Psychology; Organism; Matter; Phenomenological; Sensation; Attention. 

Clayton Eshleman later wrote to Clarke asking what use had been made of the “Plan” and the fascicles. Clarke replied: “Actually there has been no thought of “use” of it, only a place to be together, the O-community i.e., those living in his “world,” his “soul.” After his death in 1970, we all needed something to survive the boredom of what was to follow…”


In using this text as a source for the ART WRITING FIELD STATION I do not intend to follow the content of Olson’s curriculum. In trying to articulate the excitement I get from looking – looking rather than reading? – at Olson’s text, I compose the following statement: 

The plan is specific, but its specificity, rather than offering a transfer of information, sets up opacities, resistances, a non-absorptive space for the viewer. 

The tendency is to see the field it depicts as a gesture apart from its content,  as energy, arrangement and gesture. The plan is prescriptive not through content but in how it attempts to hold itself and us within a mutual tactics of expansion and condensing. But does abstracting from Olson’s intention in this way mean at some point “his” content will return?

This field form is now as codified as a sonnet. As the author of the sonnet knows there are 16 lines, an awareness of the field works into the stuff of thought itself, even before it is thought, altering its expectations and pathways. Perhaps the field form allows a more direct equation of space and thought, but the etymology of stanza in “room” shows that this has prevoiously been the case.  

The selection of 23 words and their allocation as fascicle commissions for particular writers, makes actual how the Plan both demonstrates and is a proposal for a particular (problematic) form of sociality. It is, then, this combination of thought, space, and a contradictory sociality, that makes me turn to Olson’s text as one source for the ART WRITING FIELD STATION. 

NOTE: This statement originally written on a Hammersmith and City Line train, Aldgate East to Ladbroke Grove, 5 February 2010, 7.30-8.10AM. Later revised.