This Friday, Saturday and Sunday June 25-27 my script The Shadow of A Train will be installed at the Totalkunst Gallery in Edinburgh, curated by Mirja Koponen with responses from Sara Sinclair and Stephen Goodall, as part of the Suitcase Series/ Betamaps Festival. On Friday 25th at 3pm there will be a conversation with the artist Gerry Smith (details here).
The project began with two paragraphs by the Russian writer Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, which can be read here.
These were made into a script. Mirja distributed the script to a group of artists in Edinburgh and elsewhere, and in June they met to discuss the project.
MIRJA: We ( Mirja, Sara, Stephen) got together in the gallery last week to discuss the score. While we had all had different amount of time to engage with the text, we all had somewhat similar responses to the score. We all felt that it drew some kind of faint ring around us, while we could not quite grasp it. It did not yield to us something of itself that was palpable. The words were there, but were not in some sense meaningful, apart from their own very particular ring. We felt we could not iterate what we expected from the text, and how the score was meanwhile replacing these expectations yet with something else. We felt the text(s) were very evocative, physically so almost. None of us had felt compelled to read the score in linear fashion, but had rather worked through it in parts and sessions. Our thinking had started with what we know – how to think in terms of sensing/translating into visual. This included various visual interpretations of the text itself.
Discussing the score together and finding out more about how we collectively had felt about encountering it, we opened the idea of the exhibition not being not so much a visually legible space, but happening(s) in the space during the three days we had set aside to ourselves as ‘the exhibition’. We also discussed the idea of the process of transformation itself being the very subject of the exhibition, i.e. it not showing an exhibition as an ‘outcome’ but rather a solicitation for yet a next stage in the process. We run through the scenarios of working with this idea by inviting the audience to participate in some situation we would set up. We then veered towards a different kind of suggestive approach. There is an archipelago of texts set up by the score, and they all need a certain amount of adjusting from the reader, as they rub against each other during a reading. We thought to attempt three different approaches to the whole process, that would require a similar shift in ‘reading’, three entirely different (visual) syntaxes that would all flow out of the score, but settle on three altogether different planes.
The result was the following plan of action that will take place this week:
So, for the first day we want to provide a direct ‘interpretation’ of the score; a space for medi(t)ation of it. The score itself is provided in an aural form, read by multiple voices, and the viewer in the gallery is invited to experience it directly sitting in a chair while facing the street through a large picture window. The city scene provides an everchanging visual ‘score’ to accompany the aural one, while the viewer is visible through the window onto the street, in turn herself becoming the ‘content’ of the exhibition space. In this case, each experience of the score is an individual’s interpretation. The exhibition is a ‘terminal’ that lets go of the text in order for it to live on in the viewers memories of it.
The next day we want to shift the focus on the process of ‘translation’ as the mode of being for the work. We want to exhibit the rest of the various interpretations of the score in short text form, as an exhibition of multiple takes, a collective body of projections each replacing another. We have selected three of these responses that will get ‘imagined/illustrated’ in three ways, once by each of us. We will exhibit these illustrated moquettes alongside the collected textual interpretations of the score, which itself is omitted from the space. This approach produces some new materials and strategies that can be used for further work in various ways.
Finally, for the third day, we will perform the text into a (visual) form. We will focus on the refrain ‘black garden’. We will bring with us choice materials including but not limited to text/paper/paint/scissors/books/rock/various forms of ‘black’. We will proceed to grow the garden in situ, in real time, by any means that seem appropriate at that time. We will work as (visual) artists, each according to our own preferences and predilections, while also responding to the situation as a collective whole. Everything will be possible, and everything will be at risk. This approach is entirely outside what can be planned for, and therefore this is all that can be said about it.
A READING IN EDINBURGH
The performance part of the project began last weekend, with a group reading in the gallery, which Mirja described as follows:
The score of the upcoming exhibition is read in two variants for DISTANCE – from a distance, for creating a distance. The first reading forms a dialogue, the second reading a three voice choreography.
She also sent the following notes on the event:
The Shadow of a Train – reading in TotalKunst, 3 Bristo place, 20th June 2010
Brought into the space: two printed versions of the script, an ‘old one’, and a ‘new one’. Three readers, unknown to each other.
The script was read twice, first time between two people, myself and the poet John Mackie. We played the first Dragomoshchenko paragraph with a pre-recorded voice of the writer David Berridge, the author of the script, and then read in turns, sitting on the opposite sides of the room facing each other. I asked John to read until he felt it was enough, then I would pick it up and would on my turn do the same.
In this way, we would have to feel the text, and also to give in to the rhythm of the reading, our own and the other’s. What emerged, was a dialogue, where we had to subtly negotiate the turn-over point. It felt very personal, yet at the same time we both intuitively worked around the fixed structure of our given text. As the two versions were slightly different, there were also moments when the text read outloud deviated from what the other participant was following on the page, the text buckling off the page, meandering and then returning to what is fixed.
These slight vagaries in reading acted like a short recourse of thought into something private – like a momentary lapse in concentration, an intrusion of a memory – or as an erosion, or a brief collapse of the structure of the text.
The next reading was between three people, myself, John Mackie and the artist Rocio van Jungenfeldt. John had read the text before, Rocio had not. We would again read according to our own sense, taking turns. This reading formed very differently, not a dialogue but a choreography. As we had only two copies of the text between us, we ended up simply passing them around, working together. We chanced upon a common rhythm that was first tentative, punctuated with pauses as question marks, then increasingly playful, as we began spontaneously to work into the reading layers with multiple voices.
John, an experienced reader, easily memorized passages of the text and addressed other readers directly, animating the reading by imbuing his own volition into it – a kind of love affair with the text. This made the focus constantly shift between the world that the words were transporting us into and suspending us in, and the chemistry of the forming relationships between people in very close proximity.
All this reading was weaving in and out of the sounds of the street, the café, and John Mackies sound piece playing in the gallery. It’s audio track records the sounds of a sea coast, winds, sea swelling and surging and waves crashing to the shore. The words washed over us similarly, allowing the kind of relaxation of focus that makes you senses clearer and keener.
While the feel of the architectonics of the score was never lost during the reading, the contingencies presented by reading in live time with an un-fixed procedure invited us to step into the text and engage with it, visit it while inserting ourselves in it, so shifting our roles from being an observer, or a witness to the text to that of an owner and a maker of it for that short stretch of time.