In Uncategorized on January 10, 2011 at 11:30 am

On Jan 27-29th 2011 I am taking part in Beyond Text: Making and Unmaking Text across performance practices and theories, curated by Becky Cremin and Ryan Ormonde. They describe the event as follows:

Beyond Text: Making and unmaking text across performance practices and theories is a three day participatory event which looks to expand the notion of the academic conference, by asking participants to present and respond. We hope this direct and primary response-led work will open up discussion and offer productive cross-discipline exchange. We will be providing a performative academic forum: to explore the place of text in practice; the making and unmaking of the text; and the questioning of academic protocols by this destabilising of the text. We hope participants will see how text functions in different practice-based disciplines and how to contextualise different notions of textuality.

I am currently working on a presentation entitled THE CHARACTER OF A PROPOSITION. I sent the following description in response to the open call for participants:

My proposal unfolds from the following quotation by Norma Cole:

Characters are propositions of a new knowledge which constructs feelings and imaginings as characters.(Norma Cole, To Be At Music, 144).

I will use this quotation to think through “character” in relation to an ongoing process of making and unmaking text. There are several processes here which interest me:

(1) The development of ideas into a condition we might call a “character” ; (2) The use of a “character” – or “figure” – to research and explore ideas, make and un-make text; (3) The inevitable failure of that “character” and how its partiality, incompleteness and embarrassment figures in its use.

Two personal projects inform this investigation: (1) Dog Man: a character that, throughout 2010, appeared in installation, short fiction talk, poems, and essay; and (2) Writing/ Exhibition/ Publication: an exhibition I curated at The Pigeon Wing in London, exploring how writing moves (or not) between different spaces/ communities/ forms.

Rather than focussing on these projects, I would like to make a 15-20 minute performance lecture exploring character in relation to the themes of the conference.

How does character figure (!) in these translations and negotiations? How can it be a way of negotiating acts of textual making and unmaking? Here my thoughts are informed by Ann Lauterbach’s comments on Joe Brainard’s figure of Nancy, and how it enabled Brainard to negotiate/ perform his presence as an artist in New York:

The sense of crisis was everywhere, and yet Brainard seems to have been almost inured to it, as if for him a world might be made that was free from these currents of political and social unrest. That he might have found a kind of refuge in a fictive character, one who lived in a world of cheerful buoyancy and ingenuity, such as that inhabited by Nancy, seems plausible.

Nancy could travel with Joe from his humble roots in Tulsa to the bright complexity of New York City; she could be his virtual companion and side-kick as he negotiated the sophisticated, charged world of such figures as Warhol and O’Hara. Nancy could be inserted into this world, instantly stripping it of its formidable aura, transforming it into an accessible, intimate realm. Nancy could be the agent of an accommodating, domestic nearness and hereness. Both the troubled, earnest pathos of the times and the overwhelming grandeur of “high art” might be resisted, or converted, by Nancy’s ubiquitous  smile. The monumental scale of events could be kept in check by  a handheld postcard, a line drawn around an image. (Joe Brainard, The Nancy Book, 13)

Joe Brainard, If Nancy Was An Ashtray, mixed media, 1972


I’m currently working on the presentation, thinking also through The Fluxus President, a project first published as part of the publication for Pursuit: Failure symposium in Berlin.

I’ve also been reading Heriberto Yépez’s essay “On Character” in which he writes:

whose character? Always some ❘ body else, character is always ‘us’ – in a way it’s never just us. character can be identified (partially) with the writer, each character has some characteristics (secret or announced) that the writer has – i.e., characteristics s❘he supposes are hers or his. but are not. characters are part of the writer’s life, but are never him or her, nor any person in particular; they cannot be separated, nor are they fantasy. characters are the author’s psychical family, society’s trail of doppelgängers in its course through time. imagination cannot happen. fantasy is impossible. reality pollutes everything. imagination cannot escape completely from the here and now of material/ historical/bodily circumstance. ‘fiction’ wanted to escape from history – the possibility of a realm made exclusively of fantasy – a critical illusion it has always pursued, only to leave evidence of failed fugitives. who’s the character? no one, but many. anyone’s double. including, of course, the other side, the so-called readers, somebody else (too) many. characters operate in the field of indeterminacy, of multiplicity. (i hate names. names are in favour of being-just-one.) writing a character (packages) we do not respond to the question who am i? but to this the interrogation who else am I? a question that cannot be responded to. a character, a failed attempt to know ourselves. (159-60)

SOURCE: Heriberto Yépez “on character” in Mary Burger et al eds. Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative (Coach House Books, 2004), 158-168. Full text online here.

More to follow.


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