In Uncategorized on October 10, 2011 at 12:12 am

seekers of lice, creamy language, installation for I AM NOT A POET, Totalkunst Gallery, Edinburgh, 2011


VerySmallKitchen writes: Recent talks, exhibitions and workshops have lead VerySmallKitchen to consider its relationships to teaching and pedagogy, how its explorations of writing, language and art practice can create and unfold within a diverse array of learning situations…

The following document is a draft that will be revised as appropriate over the coming months, as well as supplemented with other materials (book lists, essays, notes…).

The STUDIO project is also part of VerySmallKitchen’s residency at London’s X Marks the Bokship, an outline of which is here.





VerySmallKitchen is currently exploring ways of teaching connections of writing, language, and art practice. The work emerges out of a number of projects over the last year, notably Art Criticism Now and Art/ Writing/ Talks in Ireland, as well as sessions devised for MA Dance Practice at Laban in London, A FRANCIS PONGE POETRY STUDIO for Cannon magazine, the SUMMER SCHOOL OF SILENCE at I AM NOT A POET, and Writing (The) Space at The Wild Pansy Press project space/ University of Leeds.

Ongoing involvement with Free School projects organised by Edward Dorrian/ Five Years Gallery has also been key…

Like the projects on this blog, this teaching concerns distinctions and overlaps in/ between histories of conceptual writing, experimental poetics, fiction, criticism and the essay, both the content and forms of such work, how it is distributed and published, and the practical and theoretical understanding of the practice of writing itself.

If the project has a hunch it is that this focus on writing practice – and various histories of literature –  produces something related to but different from the recent “educational turn” in art practice or the re-consideration of publishing and writing principally within frameworks of graphic design…

… A focus upon acts of reading and responding, how the individual nature of these acts can also become communal, public forms, or private, idiosyncratic forms, as necessary….




VerySmallKitchenSTUDIO has several strands. A basic outlining of bibliographies and materials, often in areas for which there are no readily available resources of materials; the development of STUDIOS’s of such materials that can be used in different teaching contexts; a practical and theoretical exploration of distinct forms of pedagogy that emerge from this work. If such forms promote particular histories, in an educational context they also  offer supports and techniques for studying and working more broadly…


nick e-melville's EDITORIAL for I AM NOT A POET invited public alteration of the day's news...


Studios have so far been developed and used for workshops in Art Writing and Criticism, focussed particularly around notions of “Essaying”; Minimal Poetries; Olson’s Projective Verse; Artist Talking/ Lecture Performance. Between now and December – as part of a residency at X Marks The Bökship I am developing a  studio around scripts, scores and the re-print in contemporary art writing…

Materials will be published on this site as the project develops. For more information contact David on Here is a brief outline of the various studios so far:





A consideration of how writing relates to/ as/ around/ on/ about/ with art practice. The studio proposes histories and practices of the “essay” as a linkage between these different practices, exploring tactics of “essaying” across criticism, performance, fiction and poetics. It explores how writing functions at different stages in the life cycle (of itself, the art work, the exhibition…).

A key source here is Richard Kostelanetz’s Essaying Essays anthology, both as an actual gathering of texts, and (given the texts unavailability) a proposition about a way of working between various writing and art practices. The introduction to the text is here.



Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez Xerox on paper, 29.7 x 42 cm for XALPHABET / 26 Xs by 26 Artists


Thomas Jeppe Xerox on paper, 29.7 x 42 cm for XALPHABET / 26 Xs by 26 Artists


As it unfolds, the studio moves towards an erratics of writing, as a way of conceptualising both acts of writing themselves and the uncertain contexts of commission and publication of a writing practice at all stages of its life cycle, informed also by a “Literature of the No” as formulated in Enrique Vila-Matas Bartleby and Co.

In this studio the prevalence of (post-) conceptual notions of site, institutional critique and document, are utilised but also placed alongside histories of New Journalism, experimental poetics and fiction, which offer different and conflicting priorities and methods. Different forms of paradox as a structural principle of the studio is articulated in the following quotation by Nathanael:


“my own need to very aggressively resist, or think through, what an essay is or might be and to find my own way to a text that isn’t one, that isn’t one that’s compliant with a particular form, right? That doesn’t interest me. I understand these forms viscerally. They’ve been inculcated right? But I don’t want that. So in a sense, the thing that’s internalized, the sense of having to be kicked out again, even though we can sort of agree that there’s no outside, but somehow there’s that tearing or rending that has to happen – or breach out of which might emerge this thing. That is this particular text.”

SOURCE: Kate Eichorn and Heather Milne, Prismatic Publics: Innovative Canadian Women’s Poetry & Poetics (Coach House Books, Toronto, 2009), 64-5.





This studio explores the histories and contemporary practice of minimal writing, both as a practice in itself and as a way of thinking about writing and art practice more broadly. Starting points include the poetry of Aram Saroyan, concrete poems, scores by Yoko Ono and Alison Knowles, the small ads of Dieter Roth, and the one word poem issue of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s POTH.


Yoko Ono, Cloud Piece, 1963


Seen as historical progression, the studio moves through diverse histories of poetry, music, fluxus and conceptual work, to such current practices as (the pwoermds of) Geof Huth and Jonathan Jones, James Davies, and Márton Koppány. A preliminary consideration of some of this work is the essay SMALL AD SWEETHEARTS OF THE IMAGE VIRUS DO-POETRY which can be read here.


Márton Koppány, Csend (Silence)

The studio also explores projects such as Coracle, where minimalism can be observed not just as a page based textual form but as a wider aesthetic, a form of architectural intervention and curatorial methodology… See Thomas A.Clark’s 1989 essay “The Gallery and the Book” reprinted on VerySmallKitchen here.

…Epigram, aphorism, pun, (anti-) haiku, also become forms of compression under consideration, contributing to a constellation of concerns around thought, language, instruction, score, condensery, application…



In a teaching context, what characterises this studio is how a wide range of work can be presented to participants in a short time period. Whilst this must not oversimplify the work, it does offer a particular teaching situation regarding the relationship of material and class time, readings and responses, that should be experimented with.

… This VerySmallKitchenSTUDIO is also useful for exploring the boundaries between literary and art practices (minimal poetry. conceptual art, musical score…) particularly the notion of what is expected of texts, how they are read, published, distributed, what responses they invite or refuse…

For example, how such texts explore a relationship of writing and sculpture through their focus on materials and presence in space, is one focus that has emerged, drawing on this quotation from Ian Hamilton Finlay, talking about the relation of title and word in his formulation of the One Word Poem:


“I am a little fascinated just now by the idea of one-word poems… My idea is, that the one-word poem should be composed of a title plus  one word. All (true) poems have form, and in this case one should see the title and the word as being 2 straight lines, which come together to forming a corner: the corner is the form of this poem. Only, these corners must be so constructed as to be open (opening) in all directions. That is the paradox.”

SOURCE: Ian Hamilton Finlay, A Model of Order: Selected Letters On Poetry and Making (Glasgow: WAX366, 2009), 39.





This double VerySmallKitchenSTUDIO began with a study of Charles Olson’s manifesto-diagram A CURRICULUM FOR THE SOUL (below) and a publication project after his death that saw words from the diagram allocated to different poets who wrote a chapbook with that title. The studio is interested in exploring the model of learning, publication, and economy that can be unfolded from this.


Subsequently, the studio has explored Olson’s teaching as demonstrated in texts such as “A Bibliography on American for Ed Dorn”, as well the implied and stated methodologies of numerous correspondence and poetics essays, principally “Projective Verse” (1950), an exploration that continues in collaboration with Open Dialogues Writing (The) Space project.

This studio involves lineages of writing and thinking which can be traced from Olson to 2011, considering, for example, the notion of a research-led practice, as well as gender focussed critques and readings of Olson by Susan Howe, Kathleen Fraser and Laura Mullen. It also considers related contemporary projects such as the Olson Now documents and the CHARLES OLSON: LANGUAGE AS PHYSICAL FACT section of EOAGH.

The studio has also sought to respond to a particular aspect of Olson’s practice – as it is distilled in a lexicon of “field poetics” or “projective verse” – by exploring the notion of a PHRASE POETICS.


Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker, re-. installation view, Wild Pansy Press Project Space, Leeds, 2010


… explores such lexicons and coinages alongside, for example, Brecht’s “alienation effect” and Artaud’s theatre of cruelty” or Harald Szeemann’s “self-institutionalisation” of himself as the Institute of Spiritual Guest Work. It explores how such working phrases function for their authors, as well as the independent life they then have, where they might be constructively misunderstood and reinterpreted…

Weaving between the two different aspects of this studio, we might ask how, for example, both methods relate to, for example, Jill Magi’s recent CADASTRAL MAP, which, whilst enacting an Olson-like research of place, also seems to start investigating from a position deliberately more defined, counter to, resistant of such a self-claiming expansionist poetics:


“The cadastral map is drawn as if from an aerial view, composed by surveyors to determine land ownership for the purpose of taxation. The cadastral map does not indicate where the land is fertile, swampy, or rocky. It does not indicate knolls, forests, valleys. Nor does it express the collaboration and exchange between farmers or those who move through the land. Its lines respect one purpose, one knowledge, state sponsored commoditization.


Jill Magi, installation for DEPARTMENT OF MICRO-POETICS, AC Institute, New York, 2010


“I enter as a writer, one kind of mapmaker, needing to ask, is traditional nature writing in English a cadastral map?… is “nature writing” still our flawed point of origin, creating ideas of the land and nature that tend to erase people and local knowledge as we go?” (108)


Magi’s essay offers an answer as its conclusion:


“At every turn, degrees of legibility, a focus that comes in and out, position-depending. Don’t look away. Listen, there is history. Earth and bones beneath your map give weight back with each authoring step.” (110)

SOURCE: Jill Magi, Cadastral Map (Bristol, Shearsman, 2011).





Finally, this studio begins with a focus upon presence of talking among contemporary arts and writing practice. It explores the reliance upon models of stand-up and storytelling, and how these have come to replace early reliance upon the format of the academic lecture.

The studio is currently in a more embryonic form than the others and emerges as a direct response to recent events in London, including electra’s Dirty Literature festival, and Performance as Publishing at the South London Gallery.

The studio explores the interrelation of the talk and the printed text, focussing on the work of Steve Benson and David Antin, whose very different forms of “talking” attain published form as “poetry.”

How such talking poetry constitutes a particular form of talking and thinking is explored in the work of Leslie Scalapino and John Cage. As with the minimal poetry studio, this can be then related to different forms of art practice, and to talked based forms of scenography and choreography, such as in the work of Guy de Cointet and Tino Sehgal.


nick-e melville reading of collated interventions at the conclusion of EDITORIAL


… consideration of talking within the learning situation brings focus to the forms by which we engage with such material, conceptualise and enact discussion upon our own practices.

… The question of how a practice might itself explore and involve talking on many different levels is of central concern to this studio. Hence an interest in the following quotation from Chris Cheek on his own practice:


“The talks attempt(ed) to perform a variety of strategies for public-private discourse. Titles of the texts and therefore some more general enframing were announced in advance of the series. Otherwise what occurred was utterly in the moment, though each day had a provisional series of talk strategies. For example, whilst each talk was improvised and responsive to the site on each occasion, ideas of: scale, perspective, contradiction, deliberate misunderstanding, anecdote, vernacular obsession, fictive quoting, imposed character, cartoon depiction, carnivalesque interpretation, historicising, demonising, sports commentary, theoretical exposition, emergences (and emergencies) of catchprase, listening to prerecorded texts or previous talks on headphones whilst talking (thereby mobilising conflict between listening and uttering), overhearing fragements of passing conversations… and so on were mobilised. Sometimes I toyed with direct address to those I could see participating as listening watchers in the window, Sometimes I imagined that there was a friend there, when in fact there might well have been nobody present at all. Sometimes I thought I was talking to the taxi cab call operators, sometimes passers by. My guess was that this work would offer a doubting interface.” (191)

SOURCE: Chris Cheek, THE CHURCH- THE SCHOOL- THE BEER (Oxford Ohio, Critical Documents 2007).


John Cage, Lecture on Nothing(thanks to Tim Griffin for drawing this to my attention)

Opening page of John Cage, Lecture on Nothing, from SILENCE: Lectures & Writings (1961)




If the STUDIO is a gathering of books, and a gathering of ideas and methods that come out of those books…

…I have been thinking about how to translate this into teaching situations in the broadest sense, both planned and unforeseen, both to convey information about histories that inform the present, and construct teaching structures where that which is not to do with information can unfold…


Mary Paterson leads a silent memory walk of Edinburgh as part of the Summer School of Silence at I AM NOT A POET


Below, then, are a series of tests that appear at present to be useful ways of questioning this material, both the individual studios and how each reverberates through the others, towards an active pedagogy and practice of reading and (art-) writing:


how each studio can re-figure itself over varying time lengths (say, 1o minutes to 10 weeks and more) and formats (talk, lecture, seminar, workshop, event, performance, blog…).

how each studio records a particular historical and  contemporary practice, whilst providing tools for thinking about writing and artistic practice more broadly…

how each studio is a distinctive set of materials yet also open to exchange and dialogue between (the nature of its modularity)…

how the studio balances individual and chora(l),  consensual and agonistic, thematic and grammatical…  defines a moment and commits to an (open) unfolding…





Thanks to Mirja Koponen, both for co-curating I AM NOT A POET and for taking the photographs of that event here. As this project takes shape I note it as one part of a broader conversation in which other colleagues and collaborators are also engaged. See, for example, some notes on Open Dialogues critical model, NOTA Workshop.


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