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

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

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

More about Rachel Lois’ work can be seen here.

Her VSK Project THE FINGER can be seen here

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


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

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

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

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

I have devised a very loose index.

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

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

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

Grid Lexicon

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Field *

A writer in the open * / ***

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

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

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

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


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

Percussive writing **

A physical composition **

Writing openly, presently, simultaneously

Moving index(ically)

A writing that maps lines walked * / **

One of the pressures of writing is bodily.

The FINGER and hands and pointing – diagramming physically

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

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

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

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

Notes as unfaithful, unserious, un thought-ful.

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

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

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

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

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

Aspects of NOTES that I am currently experimenting with.

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

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

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

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

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

How hesitancy or doubt might show itself in NOTES

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

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

Underlining as pointing (Nb. FINGER)

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

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


Notes on NOTES (on NOTES)

(1) Taken from here.  

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

(3) Available in full online  here.     

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

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

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

(6) Do we use last names in notes?

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

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

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

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

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

  1. […] field notes are below. Notes by Rachel Lois Clapham and Mary Paterson are here and […]

  2. […] can read about that performance here. A set of RL’s notes on the project are here. The original instructional score for the performance is […]

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