Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page


In Uncategorized on November 19, 2011 at 11:14 am


VerySmallKitchen writes: This edition of the Demotic Archives focusses on the TROPISMS of Nathalie Sarraute, via (A) a foreword to a joint English language edition of Tropisms (originally published in French 1939) and Sarraute’s essay collection The Age of Suspicion (1956).

Sarraute’s foreword outlines her understanding of the tropism as the “inner ‘movements’… which are hidden under the commonplace, harmless appearances of every instant of our lives”.  It also serves  to correct misunderstandings about  the relation between these fiction writings (Sarraute’s first) and the theoretical ideas that unfolded from them and which were often considered in relation to the nouveau roman of the 1950s.

This foreword is supplemented here by:  (B) two tropisms from her original collection, selected partly for their engagement with relations of culture and sociality and (C) an extract from Age of Suspicion that discusses tropisms through the figure of the Partner. (D) provides an example of how Sarraute’s ideas became part of the fiction and criticism of Christine Brook-Rose.



SOURCE TEXT: Nathalie Sarraute, TROPISMS and The AGE OF SUSPICION (London, John Calder, 1963. Translated by Maria Jolas).





THE PUBLICATION in one volume of a work like Tropisms – which some considered to be a collection of prose poems – with what, quite obviously, is furthest removed from it: a series of essays on the novel, may cause legitimate surprise.

And yet this proximity is justifiable.

The great interest shown today in discussions of the novel, and especially in the theories advanced by the supporters of what, in France at present, is called ‘Nouveau Roman’, has led many to imagine that these theorising novelists are cool calculators who began by constructing their theories, which they then decided to put into practice in their books. This explains the fact that their novels have been referred to as ‘laboratory experiments.’

If this were the case, it might seem plausible that, one fine day, after having formulated certain opinions on the evolution, content and form of the present-day novel, I sat down at my table and undertook to apply them by writing Tropisms, and the books that followed.

Nothing could be more mistaken than this supposition. For no literary work can be a mere illustration of principles, however convincing. And, in fact, these articles, all of which were written in 1947, are far removed from the conception and composition of my first book.

I started to write in 1932, when I composed my first Tropism. At that time, I had no preconceived ideas on the subject of literature and this one, as were those that followed it, was written under the impact of an emotion, of a very vivid impression. What I tried to do was to show certain inner ‘movements’ by which I had long been attracted; in fact, I might even say that, ever since I was a child, these movements, which are hidden under the commonplace, harmless appearances of every instant of our lives, had struck and held my attention. In this domain, my first impressions go  back very far.

These movements, of which we are hardly cognizant, slip through us on the frontiers of consciousness in the form of undefinable, extremely rapid sensations. They hide behind our gestures, beneath the words we speak and the feelings we manifest, all of which we are aware of experiencing, and are able to define. They seemed, and still seem to me to constitute the secret source of our existence, in what might be called its nascent state.

And since, while we are performing them, no words express them, not even those of the interior monologue – for they develop and pass through us very rapidly in the form of frequently very sharp, brief sensations, without our perceiving clearly what they are – it was not possible to communicate them to the reader otherwise than by means of equivalent images  that would make him experience analogous sensations. It was also necessary to make them break up and spread out in the consciousness of the reader the way a slow-motion film does. Time was no longer the time of real life, but of a hugely amplified present.

These movements seemed to me to be veritable dramatic actions, hiding beneath the most commonplace conversations, the most everyday gestures, and constantly emerging up on the surface of the appearances that both conceal and reveal them.

The dramatic situations constituted by these invisible actions interested me as such. Nothing could distract my attention from them and nothing should distract that of the reader; neither the personality of the characters, nor the plot, by means of which, ordinarily, the characters evolve. The barely visible, anonymous character was to serve as mere prop for these movements, which are inherent in everybody and can take place in anybody, at any moment.

Thus my first book is made up of a series of moments, in which, like some precise dramatic action shown in slow motion, these movements, which I called Tropisms, come into play. I gave them this name because of their spontaneous, irresistible, instinctive nature, similar to that of the movements made by certain living organisms under the influence of outside stimuli, such as light.

This analogy, however, is limited to the instinctive, irresistible nature of the movements, which are produced in us by the presence of others, or by objects from the outside world. It obviously never occurred to me to compare human beings with insects or plants, as I have sometimes been reproached with doing.

The volume entitled Tropisms appeared in 1939, under the imprimatur of Denoël. The present edition, source of this translation, was published by the Editions de Minuit, in 1957. It is a corrected re-edition of the 1939 volume, to which have been added the six last texts, written between 1939 and 1941.

This first book contains in nuce all the raw material that I have continued to develop in my later works.

Tropisms are still the living substance of all my books, the only difference being that they now play a more important role, the time of the dramatic action they constitute is longer, and there is added complexity in the constant play that takes place between them and the appearances and commonplaces with which they emerge into the open: our conversations, the personality we seem to have, the person we seem to be in one another’s eyes, the stereotyped things we believe we feel, as also those we discover in others, and the superficial dramatic action constituted by plot, which is nothing but a conventional code that we apply to life.

My first books: Tropismes, which appeared in 1939, and Portrait d-un inconnu in 1948, passed practically unnoticed in the post-war literary atmosphere, which was dominated by the Behaviourist tendency and by a metaphysics of the ‘absurd.’

As a result, if for no other reason than to seek justification, reassurance or encouragement for myself, I began to reflect upon the motives that impelled me to reject certain things, to adopt certain techniques, to examine certain works of both past and present, and to anticipate those of the future, in an effort to discover an irreversible direction in literature that would permit me to see if my own quest was in line with this direction.

Thus it was that, in 1947, I was prompted to study the works of Dostoievski and Kafka from a particular angle. In the article entitled L’Ere du soupçon, which appeared in 1950, I tried to show the results of the transformations of characters in fiction since Balzac’s time,as exemplified in the contemporary novel. And in Conversation et sous-conversation,  published in 1955, I called attention to the out-moded nature of dialogue as practised in the traditional novel.

In connection with the latter article, I should like to stress the fact that when I spoke of the old-fashioned nature of the works of Joyce and Proust, or the naïveté of Virginia Woolf’s ideas on the subject of the novel, it was quite obviously to poke fun at those who had expressed themselves in this manner about these writers. Taken as a whole, it seems to me that this article is perfectly clear; I insist on this point, however, because it has been a source of occasional misunderstanding.

Lastly, in the article entitled Ce que voient les oiseaux, which appeared in 1956, I tried to show, among other things, the academic, formalist features of a certain type of ‘realism’.

Some of the ideas expressed in these articles have contributed to the essential bases for what, today, us called the ‘Nouveau Roman.’

And so, it seems to me that the present volume, to which two such dissimilar works as Tropisms and The Age of Suspicion may give an appearance of incongruity, by virtue of this very juxtaposition, gives a fair account of my endeavours, as they progressed from my first Tropisms to the theoretical viewpoints that derived from them.


Paris, 1962. (7-11)








She had understood the secret. She had scented the hiding-place of what should be the real treasure for everybody. She knew the ‘scale of values.’

No conversations about the shape of hats and Rémond fabrics for her.  She had profound contempt for square-toed shoes.

Like a wood-louse she had crawled insidiously towards them and maliciously found out about ‘the real thing’, like a cat that licks its chops and closes its eyes before a jug of cream it has discovered.

Now she knew it. She was going to stay there. They would never dislodge her from there again. She listened, she absorbed, greedy, voluptuous, rapacious. Nothing of what belonged to them was going to escape her: picture galleries, all the new books… She knew all that. She had begun with ‘Les Annales’, now she was veering towards Gide, soon she would be going to take notes, an eager, avid gleam in her eye,  at meetings of the ‘Union for Truth’.

She ranged over all that, sniffed everywhere, picked up everything with her square-nailed fingers; as soon as anyone spoke vaguely of that anywhere, her eyes lighted up, she stretched out her neck, agog.

For them this was unutterably repellent. Hide it from her – quick – before she scents it, carries it away, preserve it from her degrading contact… But she foiled them, because she knew everything. The Chartres Cathedral could not be hidden from her. She knew all about it. She had read what Péguy had thought of it.

In the most secret recesses, among the treasures that were the best hidden, she rummaged about with her avid fingers. Everything ‘intellectual’. She had to have it. For her. For her, because she knew now the real value of things. She had to have what was intellectual.

There were a great many like her, hungry, pitiless parasites, leeches, firmly settled on the articles that appeared, slugs stuck everywhere, spreading their mucus on corners of Rimbaud, sucking on Mallarmé, lending one another Ulysses or the Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge, which they slimed with their low understanding.

‘It’s so beautiful,’ she said, opening her eyes in which, with a pure, inspired expression, she kindled a ‘divine spark’. (34-5)






During his very well-attended lectures at the Collège de France, he amused himself with all that.

He enjoyed prying, with the dignity of professional gestures, with relentless, expert hands, into the secret places of Proust or Rimbaud, then, exposing their so-called miracles, their mysteries, to the gaze of his very attentive audience, he would explain their ‘case’.

With his sharp, mischevous little eyes, his ready-tied cravate and his square-trimmed beard, he looked enormously like the gentleman in the advertisements who, with one finger in the air, smiling recommends Saponite, the best of soap-powders, or the model Salamander: economy, security, comfort.

‘There is nothing,’ he said, ‘you see I went to look for myself, because I won’t be bluffed; nothing that I myself have not already studied clinically countless times, that I have not catalogued and explained.

‘They should not upset you. Look, in my hands they are like trembling, nude little children, and I am holding them up to you in the hollow of my hand, as though I were their creator, their father, I have emptied them for you of their power and their mystery. I have tracked down, harried what was miraculous about them.

‘Now they hardly differ from the intelligent, curious and amusing eccentrics who come and tell me their interminable stories, to get me to help them, appreciate them, and reassure them.

‘You can no more be affected than my daughters are when they entertain their girl friends in their mother’s parlour, and chatter and laugh gaily without being concerned with what I am saying to my patients in the next room.’

This was what he taught at the Collège de France. And in the entire neighbourhood, in all the nearby Faculties, in the literature, law, history and philosophy courses, at the Institute and at the Palais de Justice, in the buses, in the métros, in all the government offices, sensible men, normal men, active men, worthy, wholesome, strong men, triumphed.

Avoiding the shops filled with pretty things, the women trotting briskly along, the café waiters, the medical students, the traffic policemen, the clerks from notary offices, Rimbaud or Proust, having been torn from life, cast out from life and deprived of support, were probably wandering aimlessly through the streets, or dozing away, their heads resting on their chests, in some dusty public square. (36-7)






Those who have followed him [Gide] and have wanted to try and make these subterranean actions re-live for the reader as they unfold, have met with certain difficulties. Because these inner dramas composed of attacks, triumphs, recoils, defeats, caresses, bites, rapes, murders, generous abandons or humble submissions, all have one thing in common: they cannot do without a partner.

Often it is an imaginary partner who emerges from our past experiences or from our day-dreams, and the scenes of love or combat between us, by virtue of their wealth of adventure, the freedom with which they unfold and what they reveal concerning our least apparent inner structure, can constitute very valuable fictional material.

It remains nonetheless true that the essential feature of these dramas is constituted by an actual partner.

For this fresh and blood partner is constantly nurturing and renewing our stock of experiences. He is pre-emionently the catalyser, the stimulant, thanks to whom these movements are set in motion, the obstacle that gives them cohesion, that keeps them from growing soft from ease and gratuitousness, or from going round and round in circles in the monotonous indigence of ruminating on one thing. He is the threat, the real danger as well as the prey that brings out their alertness and their suppleness; the mysterious element whose unforeseeable reactions, by making them continually start up again and evolve towards an unknown goal, accentuate their dramatic nature.

But at the same time that, in order to attain to this partner, they rise up from our darkest recesses towards the light of day, a certain fear forces them back towards the shadow. They make us think of the little grey roaches that hide in moist holes. They are ashamed and prudent. The slightest look makes them flee. To blossom out they must have anonymity and impunity.

They consequently hardly show themselves in the form of actions. For actions do indeed develop in the open, in the garish light of day, and the tiniest of them, compared with these delicate, minute inner movements, appear to be gross and violent: they immediately attract attention. All their forms have long since been examined and classified; they are subject to strict rules, to very frequent inspection. Finally, very obvious, well-known, frank motives, thick, perfectly visible wires make all this enormous, heavy machinery work.

But lacking actions, we can use words. And words possess the qualities needed to seize upon, protect and bring out into the open these subterranean movements that are at once impatient and afraid. (106-108)





Interviewed by Lorna Sage, Christine Brooke-Rose notes “I was influenced by her [Sarraute’s] critical ideas in L’Ère  du soupçon, which attacked certain realist conventions, but not by her novels, though I admire them.” (172) Elsewhere she writes specifically of the infliuence of Sarraute’s “the age of suspicion” essay and Sarraute’s emphasis on “suspicion of fiction and the demand for “le petiti fait vrai”” (13)

Brooke-Rose discusses Sarraute as part of her own interest in the precise nature of speech and authorial voice in the novel. Of “tropisms” and “sub-conversation” Brooke-Rose writes:  “Clearly these are not dialogue, yet they are in speech form; as conversation, however “sub,” they do seem to be “inner speech,” and they did lead Sarraute to the theater, and not necessarily inner theater.” (149) Brooke-Rose tells Sage:

She explores what she calls sous-conversations, which grow and shrink like tropisms in biology. So we’re closes to interior monologue, though she would have hated to hear that, and it’s much more finely modulated. (172)

In discussing the essays of L’Ère  du soupçon (1956) Brooke-Rose expresses a frustration that Sarraute’s discussions never focus on the “how” but remain wedded to the same content summary to be found in traditional criticism of the novel:

In practice, despite Sarraute’s claimed interest in technique, which she prefers to call method, and her superb reversal of the Formalist/ Realist opposition, [1] she discusses every problem she mentions, and every author, purely in terms of content. That may result from her curious way of exposing the problems as summary of critical thought, as if she were inside another, more traditional critic’s mind… (11)

But even when this kind of critical summary is disentangled from her own more direct views in the critical present tense Sarraute never seems to pass from abstract feelings to what I call the how… In a later chapter on conversation and subconversation (the technique she made so very much her own), Sarraute can only talk of “subtle, barely perceptible, fleeting, contradictory, evanescent movements… timid appeals,” and so on, without once analyzing how in fact she creates,  or as she would prefer to say, captures these. That was “not done.”  (12)

Brook-Rose focusses on the how of Sarraute by considering usage of the present tense in Le Planétarium (1959) alongside examples by Beckett, Duras and Robbe-Grillet that all contribute to ridding the novel of the dominant past tense “which has always been used as a reassuring guarantor of real events.” (132).  Analysing the opening of Le Planétarium Brooke-Rose observes:

With Sarraute, we are plunged into speech forms (various tenses), but inside the consciousness of someone… As in Robbe-Grillet we do not know whose mind we’re in, there is no “je” (in the opening), but (as in James or Woolf) that mind is represented by the third person… getting more and more excited, gushing internally, but not narrating. (137)



SOURCE TEXT: Christine Brooke-Rose, Invisible Author: Last Essays (Columbus, The Ohio State University Press,  2002).





[1] Brooke-Rose writes: “Sarraute in a way goes back to Hegel, though without the decorative implication, by brilliantly reversing his opposition, insisting that the true realists are those who look so hard at a changing reality that they have to invent new forms to capture it, whereas the formalists are the epigones who come afterwards, taking over these once unfamiliar but now ready-made forms  and pouring them into a perfectly familiar reality anyone can see… When Sarraute said this, she was in a sense still part of an old dispensation that regarded reality as pre-existent and merely to be “captured” by art rather than as a new reality created by the artist (or anyone) through language. (40-41).





An essay on Sarraute’s The Age of Suspicion – that also highlights a disjunction of theory and practice – is Susan Sontag’s “Nathalie Sarraute and the Novel” included in Against Interpretation (1966).  See also an interview in The Paris Review here.

Some aspects and locations of Sarraute’s contemporary influence is suggested by a 2010 reprint of her The Use of Speech by Counterpath Press.





In Uncategorized on November 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm



-You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

-I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

-These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they
are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.

(Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself, 1855)



I am at a park.
I am at the queen’s park.
I am at the park of the queen,
but I don’t see the queen.
I am told she is in the palace.
I see the palace.
I see the palace garden.
I see the guards of the palace.
I see the gardeners of the palace


I see the birds in the park.
I see the flowers in the park.
I see the winter trees in the
I even see the mist in the
queen’s park.


But I don’t see the queen.




The Queen’s Painter Prize is about obscurity.
It is about the obscurity of the queen and the obscurity of the painting, {and the relation (indexical)
between the queen and the painter}.




Am I the obscured writer?
Am I a Camera Obscura?
Am I in the obscured kamer?
Is the kamer obscured from the rest of the world?
Is it a hidden room?
It is.
And from the darkness of the room comes light.
And the light is right.
And ‘the right’ writes.
And ‘the wrong’ remains obscure.
The obscured writer is ‘the wrong’ writer.
And ‘the wrong’ writer is always right. Always.
The obscured writer writes
with an obscured pen.
The pen is obscure.
The whole trick of writing is how to obscure the pen.
The whole ____ of _____ is how to obscure the ___.





VerySmallKitchen writes:  The following notes are edited from emails between Ohad and VerySmallKitchen in November 2011.


OHAD: I have been playing with a few ideas in my head about my possible contribution to VerySmallKitchen..they center around my desire to figure out/’re’-search (even though I am a bit skeptical of the term ‘research’) the space between writing and contemporary art practice (including mainly performance and photography).

(Thinking out loud)

As a starting point I would situate the discourse involving writing and art practice, on the issue of Categorization at large..I mean to say..I think both writing and art practice as fields of interest, have a kind of dialectical character which begs the question of the attraction between them. Writing as a category may refer to 2 main ‘things’ – Writing as a noun, the ‘thing’ that is written, and Writing as a verb, which designates the ‘activity’ of writing…and of course the ongoing debate regarding genres, cross-genres, etc.

Contemporary art practices are also obsessed with categorization, with art historical references, art movements, mapping-outs, delineating, etc…and also in the more traditional artistic practices the obsession with object oriented art production…hence the connection I would speculate between thing (writing) – object (art practice).

A question to myself – Is writing really a medium or is it an inscription onto a medium?



I’m not exactly sure I understand what it means to be an artist in residency on a website…but I could tackle that question in my writing in a kind of self reflexive manner..For each post I would write a diary entry from a very specific and limited time/space…it would then be a kind of performance which I’m writing from… image and text as two separate and yet parallel language systems…

another more interesting option I’m thinking of now is to limit the space even more.. down to the level of an object… investigating how my presence on the object influences my writing..suggesting a diffusion of the subject-object my physical contact with the object influences my writing… You could see it as a taxonomy of a sort.



I see these texts as drafts in the sense that they are instantaneous, like a sketch, of the moment. Usually drafts would mean something on the way to somewhere else, but for me this kind of drafting is more of the present, its not leading anywhere, only to its own reason to be.



More about Ohad’s work is here.


In Uncategorized on November 4, 2011 at 9:32 pm


“He has yet to complete a single pushup, though he has been attempting for a while without interruption to perform one from start to finish. Embarrassingly, his arms seem content to maintain an involuntary shuddering motion that only affects the rest of his body along a horizontal plane, rather than aid in accomplishing the task at hand. Is this uncontrollable vibration in fact a perpetual motion, or is it a friction? It resists progression, yet remains ceaselessly frenetic (or so it seems to Nathaniel, who cannot currently conceive of a conclusion to his discomfort and toil).”

2011. Ink on paper. 3.75 x 3.5 in.





“All the while his pet project (still a work in progress) is playing through the terminal’s speakers. The sounds of double bass, trumpet, and xylophone are completely unrecognizable as they play overlaid but artificially extended chords. The track reaches the point that exceeds the portion Nathaniel has been manipulating, and immediately the playback returns to its native and unaltered tempo. This sudden change of melodic flow steals Nathaniel’s focus from the perceived almost-eternity of wobbly exertion, and he drops limp-armed a few inches down to the ground (his body would have given up right about now even if he hadn’t been distracted by the music).”

2011. Ink on paper. 3.75 x 7 in.





“He is lying on his stomach again for the second time this evening. To the left of his head is a glob of saliva half-absorbed into the carpet. It fell there from his mouth while his efforts were absorbed in defying the gravity tugging at his entire body – under the circumstances, oral spillage was a necessary concession. Once he stops feeling so weak in the arms, he will get up, find his shit sponge, and clean up the little, watery mess on the floor.”

2011. Ink on paper. 3.5 x 3.75 in.




This is the fourth and final post of Paul Antony Carr’s 3-month residency in the VerySmallKitchen. This followed on from Paul’s VSK Project here, which presented one aspect of the ongoing  EXCERPTS.

Nathaniel’s Perpetual Motion was a new strand of this project, and a series of image-text pairs have appeared on VerySmallKitchen since August. See part one here, part two here, and part three here.



In Uncategorized on November 2, 2011 at 9:33 am

How looking at atomics informs the celestial is how parts of letters construct a word. The keyboard as periodic table, as stillness and value assigned to each button. Accelerated molecules go streaming out the mouth. Elements are floating everywhere. A sub-atomic splice of Q caught in an asterisk. The mega volume of billboard words being staved with a diligent stare. To confound the dictionary by purposefully eroding cohesion between the letters that form a word. Like a word, like biscotti snapped in two, in four parts, into crumbs. Then there are aspects of an erupted B dangling off a row of commas.

Morton Feldman said of Philip Guston’s abstract expressions that he was taking snapshots of Time Undisturbed. What is staring but that, Time Undisturbed, until the fidgeting subsides, until the pace is realized, until thought is cleared out enough to allow the material to enter. A repurposing of the given till new possibilities emerge.

What can you say about seeing? It’s wonderful, well, that’s not nearly enough. Try as you might, and thousands have, to describe the joyous nature of seeing. Some of it romantic, some of it informative, but all of it detached. It’s removed, if you will, from the very moment of sight. An image getting, not so much lost in the translation parts of the vision system, but diluted through distance. That distance or measurement where content is vulnerable to corruption. It’s a passage from the thing through the eye into the brain. Seems like a fantastically long journey where anything can happen. And it does. And no one ever seems to really be there. No one ever gets it right, so we continue to look, to stare.



a)there is nothing to cut loose from

b)the goal is ecstasy

c)now is supreme, break the stiff neck of habit

d)the constant baptism of newly created things

e)the white fertilizing ray

f)motion leaks everywhere

g)the god is inside the statue

h)the rest is ease, pause, grace

i)between above and below can be no mirrored reflection

j)i am talking from a new double axis

k)the mystery remains – an open reality and each reality is endlessly
            multifaceted and polyhedral

l)i am to build a house of ice/because it is more liquid

m)I was visited nearly every day by the Superior of the birds named
Loplop, my private phantom, attached to my person. He presented me with
a heart in a cage, the sea in a cage, two petals, three leaves, a flower
and a young girl. Also, the man of the black eggs and the man with the
red cape. On a beautiful autumn afternoon he told me that one day he had
invited a Lacedemonian to come and listen to a man who imitated the
nightingale quite perfectly. The Lacedemonian replied: “I have often
heard the nightingale herself.”  One evening he told me some jokes which
didn’t make me laugh: “Joke: it would be better not to reward a
beautiful deed at all than to reward it badly. A soldier had lost both
arms in a battle. His colonel offered him a five dollar bill. The
soldier responded: “No doubt you think, sir, that I have lost only a
pair of gloves.”

n)Book I.



1.    A point is that which has no part.

2.    A line is breadthless length.

3.    The extremities of a line are points.

4.    A straight line is a line which lies evenly with the points on itself.

5.    A surface is that which has length and breadth only.

6.    The extremities of a surface are lines.


13.  A boundary is that which is an extremity of anything.

14.  A figure is that which is contained by any boundary or boundaries.



c)dh lawerence

These pieces were created using the TypeDrawing app for iPod.




VerySmallKitchen writes: Nico Vassilakis’ staring@poetics began as a presentation at the Avant Writing Symposium 2010 in Colmbus, Ohio, comprising a written text and a series of images (the later created whilst in attendance at the conference).

Images and essay intertwine in the book published by XeXoXial EdiTions in 2011, in which Nico observes:


“The initial act of reading is staring. When you add saccades you initiate movement. Text itself is an amalgam of units of meaning. Words, right. As you stare at text you notice the visual aspects of letters. As you stare further meaning loses its hierarchy and words discorporate and the alphabet itself begins to surface. Shapes, space relations, visual associations emerge as you delve further. Alphabetic bits or parts or snippets of letters can create an added visual vocabulary amidst the very text you’re reading.”


which I relate to Susan Sontag’s observation in “The Aesthetics of Silence” (from Styles of Radical Will, 1969):


“Consider the difference between “looking” and “staring.” A look is (at least, in part) voluntary; it is also mobile, rising and falling in intensity as its foci of interest are taken up and then exhausted. A stare has, essentially, the character of a compulsion; it is steady, unmodulated, “fixed.”

Traditional art invites a look. Art that’s silent engenders a stare. In silent art, there is (at least in principle) no release from attention, because there has never, in principle, been any soliciting of it. A stare is perhaps as far from history, as close to eternity, as contemporary art can get.”




Nico’s “silent art” is vispo and his text unfolds staring as the strategy for both its practice and its discussion:


“How to speak about vispo? For one, the relatable denominator is how we see. How language affects us visually, how staring at language is essential to reaping functionality out of vispo. In this case, we’d consider a stare to be an elongated gaze, and staring the hyper-focused verb from which we gain further insight.”

Also, this text/talk tells: “When staring bores an opening it defines the border where breathable atmosphere and relentless space meet.” “Staring at textpo creates the potential for vispo.” On several occasions such considerations become list and litany, document and invocation:


Staring at simple shapes
Staring at alphabetic division
Staring at new logic
Staring at elegant contraption
Staring at destruction
Staring at evasive composition
Staring at annihilation of word
Staring at newer logic
Staring at the seed of looking


For more information on STARING POETICS see here.