Four art writing projects unfold relationships and possibilities of, for and about landscape. Strategies for observing then recording the results, or maybe the other way around; scores for intervention; missives for those in the field right now or chair- bed- page confined explorers of type/ book/ screen (e)scapes. Handbooks for weaving together art as life life as art art and life, or as yet un-thought combinations of neither.
A post like this implies such a focus might be something new. In such delusion I recall the title of the Jonathan Williams essay “Some speak of a/ Return to Nature/ I Wonder Where They/ Could Have Been “. I cite as further frame and reference Leslie Scalapino’s talk-essay Eco-Logic in Writing, reprinted in the new Litmus Press edition of HOW PHENOMENA APPEAR TO UNFOLD where she writes:
Perhaps the start of a sense of ‘eco-logical writing,’ for myself, is the phrase “my mind is phenomena,” mind (as its phenomena/subjects and as its body), not the same as land but alongside it. Writing enables the making of that spatial relation (of land and mind-phenomena, the two placed beside each other). It’s a relation that’s going on in every instant but writing can also ‘make’ it (future) by altering space, allowing one to see one’s own (also) joyful movement in space (making that) as well as being one’s movement and seeing others’ movements as joyful. The text is the altered space, sometimes one’s to walk 3-D in it at jetting evening. (89)
Here are the publications:
(1)Rachel Lois Clapham and Present Attempt, A Prototype of Walking (S)miles
This text is a collaboration based on the later’s performance Walking (S)miles for the Hazard festival in Manchester. They describe it as follows:
An incomplete textual sample that comes out of Walking (S)miles by Present Attempt.
Optional Instructions for Self-Assembly
1. Print the document
2. Cut each of the pages down the centre with the exception of the last page
3. Affix the cut pages to the last page
4. (W)read the document
Patrick’s Therefore (Something To Do With Stops) is the first text of his incarnation as Akerman Daly writer in residence for 2011, a text of reciprocities between acts of looking, seeing, reading, talking, and (mis-) remembering that suggests each as a way to get to the other, and style as a set of procedures for enabling a co-existence. The distinctiveness of each formed through luxuriating in its proximities to all the others. There are structures at work, believing essaying and poetics might become road movie…
I find myself reading the text thinking of performances like Remembering Ginsberg, which posit talking as a mis-rembering, thinking as a negotiation between intention and the present,and writing as something that occupy either the before or the after, the source code or the error. Here is how the text begins:
Well erm therefore just have a look therefore the image therefore the first image is of a photo therefore the first image is a photo of therefore erm therefore a therefore bus window therefore I was looking thr- therefore I’ve been trying to write about looking through the bus window therefore and therefore then looking at the bus window at some point that I can’t really work out and then looking at the dots on the bus window which are a bit like therefore dots therefore in halftone printing therefore which means that therefore there are larger dots towards the bottom of the window therefore towards the bottom of the glass therefore erm therefore
and describing this reminds me of the performance I did a few therefore m- therefore maybe a month ago therefore at the Poetry Café in London where I attempted to recite therefore a therefore speech by Allen Ginsberg therefore where he talks about therefore I’m gonna try and remember it now where he says like therefore erm therefore something about therefore all the dots on the electric screen, he says ‘If you will keep your mind on the image in front of you which is my face in the camera therefore or in your TV tube or screen TV tube therefore and realise that I am therefore
looking from the other side of a c- therefore directly into like therefore a little black hole, imagining that you are there therefore and also imagining what would be possible to say therefore that would actually communicate therefore through all the electricity and all the glass and all the dots on the electric screen therefore so that don’t you, you’re not deceived by the image scene therefore but that we are therefore but that we are all therefore both on the same beam’ therefore or something like that so anyway he talks about that therefore and therefore that somehow was still in my head when I started looking at this window therefore on the bus in London therefore ahm therefore
and they reminded me of therefore I guess of halftone dots therefore and therefore of Lichtenstein using Ben-Day dots and therefore of Bridget Riley using similar dots therefore and therefore Sigmar Polke to some extent therefore but mainly of the printing process using halftone therefore dots therefore I therefore uhm I noticed a lot of things therefore this, this was just the beginning of erm therefore a trip therefore to Madrid therefore so therefore th- the next thing I noticed was erm therefore the therefore dots on my iPhone when my therefore
Continue reading here.
(3)Emma Cocker and Sophie Mellor
I’m still absorbed in MANUAL FOR MARGINAL PLACES, which I also presented as part of the ART CRITICISM NOW event in Dublin, and whose notion of manual has also been generative for this blog since. A source book, then, documenting (1) letters sent by Sophie Mellor to Emma Cocker whilst the former was spending a short time living without money in Cumbrian towns and countryside; (2) Cocker’s replies in the form of a series of prose texts/ poems on marginality. A dialogue, then, but one open to its breaches as much as its connections.
Initially, MANUAL reads as epistolary novel, with Emma and Sophie’s texts alternating, although Sophie’s soon disappear, and Emma unfolds her prose sequence solely in relation to (Sophies) images. This structure reflect’s how Sophie’s project (she was also a co-curator of the project) was itself a test to generate a set of ideas and practices for future work. It demonstrates the tricky status of such activities (briefly living rough as a funded artist), where art is both deprivation and privilege, the act itself both pretense and very real…
I wonder if these tensions – which are part of the project’s energy, not a critique of something it is unaware of – are also apparent in the text itself. Here is No.12 – Drift. I offer it here, out of context, as an example of a text that has drifted into this new context and location here, curious how in doing so it maintains or loses a sense of MANUAL:
Wandering operates tangentially; it detours, dallies, takes its time. To wander is to drift, becoming a little aimless or unanchored; it is a tactic for getting lost. Its disorientation subjects the commonplace or unnoticed elements of one’s familiar environment to the estrange scrutiny of a stranger’s glance. Navigational aids and maps might be misused for wilful disorientation; guidebooks becomes tools for defamiliarization and mis-direction as much for finding one’s way. Drifting is a mode of attention that lags behind the trajectory of more purposeful thought, yet other knowledge(s) become revealed in the slipstream of intention, in its shadows and asides. To catch the drift is to gauge the tenor of the subtext, to become attuned to what is left out or unspoken, to what is said in what remains unsaid. Become practiced in the art of wandering and of drifting thought. Follow in the footsteps of others who have wandered from the beaten track. Yet, remember too, that wandering necessarily wanders; its restlessness wills against the delimitation of any single genealogy or definitive theory of its dérive. To wander wills towards remaining unfixed, towards the condition of unbelonging. (40)
Sophie’s texts are reproduced handwritten notes sent from the field. Cocker’s are printed blocks of text on a white page, but their sense of removal is also evident in how their propositional nature removes particulars of person and place, even as it explores a landscape that is both a physical chronicle of nature’s edgelands and a conceptual territory indebted to certain histories of art practice and theory/ philosophy.
Some of Emma’s texts have the feel of a list turning towards litany. The absence of gender or identity for the speaker or addressee, but their simultaneous confidence and stridency, allows a phantom “we” and “us” – maybe “I-thou” – to form alongside the text, one which may also seem absurd and with which we may disagree.
In other sections this subject is not “he” or ”she” but “one”, a subjectivity that is everyone and no one, self and other, confession and avoidance, a deliberate anachronism. Part of the texts own frame and music, it moves uncertainly beyond it, another way these paragraphs fold back into themselves to better propose themselves as objects of use.
(4) Matt Dalby
Matt Dalby’s @soundpoet twitter project was declared at an end a few months ago, but has thankfully revived. Its temporary termination, however, raised issues about the motivation behind such a project, how and why it sustains itself, how it balances its “found” observations – dependent for their effect on a certain authentic surprise – with how their (artful/ skilled) transcription becomes a style that (it seems to me) may itself determine what later details are selected. Note that for many such details the 140 character limit of twitter is an unnecessary verbosity.
Sometimes, half seriously, I think of soundpoet as conceptual poetry for those who don’t like it. I wonder, too, about what the accumulation of these tweets (now more than 5,000) means, and how it translates into a book form (if that is what/where it should translate itself into). There would undoubtedly be pleasure in such a compilation, but I wonder what another form would do with that sense of discovery and NOW that characterises the tweets, or how the book could live as archive and guide book for details both unique and gone but palpably knowable.
Here is @soundpoet:
Here are the last ten tweets as of today 01/07/11 18.10:
Torn-off corner from Nine of Hearts
Test tube on pavement
Wren lands on wall then flies into hedge
Red brick church being refurbished. Gates open to courtyard
Watery hiss of wind through trees
PCS picket at HSE in Trafford
Childs painting of a starry sky held to front passenger seat of car by seatbelt
Two men playing cricket in school grounds
Egerton Road North abbreviated to EDGE ROAD NORTH & ERN on addresses painted on wheeled bins
Shadow of letters from bus window across passenger’s face
Copying these out I wonder if this new post-Twitter identity (that is not necessary but may be) links to notions of PHRASE, perhaps, as Helene Cixous observes it, in proximity to aphorism and maxim through its brevity, but also doing something very different. Cixous writes:
So each one of them at once modest, urgent, respectful, unreserved. Extremely simple, the most difficult thing: a phrase that doesn’t resemble a phrase.
Sometimes @soundpoet uses twitpics as in this one linked to from the tweet “Ladybird on Pavement”:
As recently as the late eighteenth century, landscape paintings were commonly thought of as a species of journalism. Real art meant pictures of allegorical or biblical subjects. A landscape was a mere record or report. As such, it couldn’t be judged for its imaginative vision, its capacity to create and embody a world of complex meanings; instead it was measured on the rack of its “accuracy,” its dumb fidelity to the geography on which it was based. Which was ridiculous, as Turner proved, and as the nineteenth-century French painting went on to vindicate: realist painting focused on landscapes and “real” people rather than royalty. (14)
SOURCE: No.34 in David Shields, Reality Hunger (Penguin Books, 2011). The footnotes, which Shields asks readers to cut from the book without reading, identify this paragraph as Jonathan Raban in conversation.
Coming back again and again through this consideration to the essays of Leslie Scalapino’s HOW PHENOMENA APPEAR TO UNFOLD. Going back out from that to the work of poets that recur in many essays: Philip Whalen, Michael McClure, Robert Grenier and their practices of attention…
The texts included in Scalapino’s 2007 Green Integer book Day Ocean state of Stars’ Night: Poems & Writings 1989 and 1999-2006, are usefully read alongside all the work here. The essays in HOW unfold eco-logic’s of event, seamless antilandscape, event horizon, occurence, language as transient act. Practical urgencies, then, litanies for art writing landscapes, evidenced strongly in the curatorial form of the/ this book itself:
The intention in this book is that the unfolding structure of the book mime and demonstrate-be (and be seeing) the process and the instant of- the inside and the outside simultaneously creating each other.(1)