Some work I produced as part of the SPILL: OVERSPILL writing project in 2009, has taken new form as part of A_ Impossible Reader, a project by Open Dialogues and Marit Muenzberg, exhibited in After Live, at the Norwich Arts Centre (4 Sep-30 Oct). As Open Dialogues describe the project:
A_ Impossible Reader is incomplete, unbound, personal and portable. It is (not) a record, (not) a document, (not) a marker of absence, (not) a work of art.
A_ Impossible Reader is a specially designed and made series of publications containing texts from SPILL: Overspill, an Open Dialogues project exploring the event of criticism in relation to performance and the SPILL Festival 2009.
Each reader is displayed in the gallery at intervals throughout After Live and contains a randomly curated variety of texts from SPILL: Overspill. If a text exceeds one page, it remains incomplete. A_ Impossible Reader is a partial document of Overspill, or a partial document of SPILL, or a work of art in its own right.
A_Impossible Reader also comes with its own assembly instructions for the curators of the exhibition:
To be printed and assembled inhouse by Norwich Arts Centre, print 3xA4 sheets, cut according to cutting lines, fold once parallel to the long side, slot into each other as on sample provided, cut A4 printed sheet with cover in half, wrap one cover/bellyband around folded assembled booklet aligned with the open edge of booklet, seal with sticker.
So far, I’ve only seen the various incarnations of A_Impossible Reader as online PDF’s. It’s a startling transformation of the generally straight reviews on the SPILL: OVERSPILL blog, opening them out both into a new found materiality of their textual existence, and into a new autonomy of presence separate – and/ or differently related – to the performances from which they originated.
A_IMPOSSIBLE READER is also a subtle and agonistic answer to some of the complexities of the SPILL:OVERSPILL project and the problems and possibilities of writing in (contractual) proximity within a performance festival. Curiously, if A_IMPOSSIBLE READER opens into the full possibility of a writing practice in proximity to performance, it also does so through illegibility and anonymity.
To this extent, A_Impossible Reader is usefully viewed alongside SPILL: ON AGENCY, the Pacitti companies publication about the festival, edited by Robert Pacitti and Sheila Ghelani. Here, alongside a spread for each of the performers, there is a gathering of essays by SPILL_OVERSPILL writers. Many of these are engaged with the same questions: what is the residue of a performance (and a performance festival)?
Should a writer in such a context be engaged with the specifics of a particular artists work, or be using it as material for their own investigations? How, even (feeling dissatisfied with this last sentence) to articulate the possibilities/ actualities of this relationship?
You can purchase a copy of SPILL: ON AGENCY for £15 +P&P here. My own essay BACK ATTHE SOUTH POLE AGAIN: CRITICAL FRAMEWORKS OUT OF PERFORMANCE begins as a postcard and, looking back at it now, it’s a curious document, turning to fiction and an almost cartoon imaginary to try and answer the disappearance of performance and the desire for it to have unfolded/ remained as memory unfolding into methodology:
I’m thinking about all the shows I saw in SPILL, six months after, on a small biplane about to land on the South Pole. I’m trying to articulate the residue of each performance, what stays in the mind, what emerges through thinking, writing, and ___________. I’m wondering if these residues, in whatever form they take, can be some sort of framework, through which I can think about the performance itself, my writing about it, performance and writing more broadly, about all that is proposed and enacted here.
Sound, talk, slogan, inscription, metaphor, critique, script, poetry, assemblage, history, polemic. It’s snowing. Through my goggles and the window of the biplane I can see physical evidence of melting ice caps, polar bears stranded on the remnants of huge ice bergs. I wonder if I’m overly preoccupied with the utility of these performances, or if the simplicity of my Antarctica could cause the plane to crash.
Both and more. An essay like this is a good opportunity to at least pretend towards such a utility and see what happens. A soft bump and we’ve landed. I hope my clothing is warm enough. I assumed a good knowledge of contemporary performance art would in itself be enough for an Antarctic winter.
A CAUTIONARY PREFACE: … It plays with its fiction and its reality both, with a script not adverse to examining its own premises even when it seems to function as a child to adult telling-it-how-it-is. On the night I saw the show, I felt as if the audience responded more to this second function, with parents audibly chuckling at some revelation of adult behaviour because “I also said (or did) that.” Such audience responses confirmed the script as truth-telling, ignoring or absorbing its self-critical aspects.
Leaving the plane I’m greeted by the Camp Entertainments Manager. She immediately warns me against whimsy and over-intellectualism, both fatal in such a landscape. I say I have three methodologies I want to use to explore the Antarctic, each one of which is devised from a performance I saw during the SPILL festival. These are:
The rest of the essay unfolds these three methodologies.