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I AM NOT A POET 10/08/11: INSTRUCTIONS/ CONSTRUCTIONS by PETER CANT & ALEX EISENBERG

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2011 at 9:51 am

“FAILING TO WORK ON SO MANY LEVELS”: GERRY SMITH at I AM NOT A POET

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2011 at 11:26 am

 

Alongside his joint show with Shandra Lamaute, Gerry Smith  is at the Totalkunst Gallery today for a conversation on reductive forms and mundane literalism, both terms he has coined for a practice whose website declares “iamatextbasedartist.com.” Following the talk Gerry will lead a Haikuisation workshop. Bring a book of short stories if you come to that one, or grab one from the bookcase in The Forest Cafe just outside.

I first came across Gerry’s work in 2010 through books  such as ESSENTIAL READING and I am a text based artist; Selected Words 1998-2008, and through The Universal History III, which Gerry contributed a selection of as a VSK Project. I enjoyed both the humor and detail of such work, its sense and mix of structure and story. It helped, too, with thinking through the legacy of, say,  Ian Hamilton Finlay and Yoko Ono’s minimal text forms, how contemporary forms of that work could be found through subtle changes of mood, tone and context.

It was Gerry’s insistence that he was NOT  a poet – and his text work was not poems – that partly  led to this exhibition’s title (along with the historical repetitions of such notions by, for example, Lawrence Weiner). Given Gerry’s texts could be fitted into a history of the minimalist poem I was interested in the space that was brought into being by that NOT A.

Also – I’m trying to articulate this more fully as I AM NOT A POET unfolds – what relationships are there between Smith and, for example, another I AM NOT A POET exhibitor nick-e melville’s  recently published STUFF (reviewed by Tom Jenks at 3AM here). Nick-e’s work is more usually framed within contexts of visual and experimental poetry, but both evidence a shared history and contemporary form of/for conceptual, concrete and fluxus writings.

Perhaps it’s a way of talking, with talking seen as intrinsic to writing and art practice (and also central to Colin Herd’s NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL, next up in the space). Gerry describes the works appearing in the gallery this week as follows:

 

Whilst Walking Past A Tall Building is a process piece in five articles and eight letters. I began the process by submitting a question to The Guardian’s Notes & Queries, and the piece consists of the answers that were published. Only structural edits were made, with no alteration to the contents. Hayley Jones, Graham Simpson, and Emily Streete provided the readings.

Breathe consists of three punctuation poems constructed from breves. The texts used are taken from Allan Kaprow’s Performing Life.

12 Haikuisations. These reductive works demonstrate the simple writing strategy of haikuisation. These texts are based upon works by the following authors:Nicolas Evans, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Samantha Harvey. William Heiensen, M.R.James, A. L. Kennedy, Heinrich Von Kliest,Robert Maugham, William McIlvanney, Georges Simenon (twice) and Emma Smith.

 

*

 

The images in this post document a number of recent projects. As Gerry writes:

… There are also photos of An Evening In Front Of The Box (2011) from the recent DOCument show (this piece brings together an instruction piece with a
punctuation poem (i.e. the white dot on the screen). The black and white photos give it a suitably retro feel. The final piece, also from DOCument, is Lost in
Translation: when re-translated – at least through Babelfish! – you end up with: What comes between fear and sex? Funf !

… I really like the last piece as it fails to work on so many levels…

 

 

Finally,  I include below the gallery information notice Gerry has provided for the piece currently on show (until 10PM August 13th) in I AM NOT POET. As Gerry observes, it is part of the work. I include it here, without the work, as an encouragement to come along, but also to give it a life of its own (not in the correct font), evidence of the particular attentions and tones informing his practice:

 

 

A gallery information label is hung alongside Two Poems in Response to François Le Lionnais. This label is part of the work, and contains the following text:

 

Two Poems in Response to François Le Lionnais

 

François Le Lionnais was a Dadaist poet and founder member of OULIPO (abbr. Fr. The Workshop for Potential Literature). In his article “Exercices de littérature potentielle” (1961), he proposed the creation of a reductive poetry, where each poem would consist of a single letter (he admitted that such a poetry “may lie on the far side of the acceptable limit”). Le Lionnais created the first of these poems, T, and left it for the rest of his colleagues in the OULIPO to complete the set of 26 Roman letters.

The Yogh (З) is a Middle Scots / Middle English letter; it is the “forgotten” 27th letter of the Scots alphabet. The yogh resembles a tailed “z” or the Arabic numeral “3”, and it’s one of those letters that tends to have a weird effect on those around it (which is why “Menzies” is pronounced ming-is or ming-iz, depending on your accent). Its most illustrious time was really in the glory days of handwriting, and its use went into sharp decline with the onset of print (there were typesets available which included the yogh, but printers tended to substitute for it the Manx cat of the letter “z”). Whilst the use of it had seriously declined by the 17th century, its cause wasn’t really helped by the Scottish intelligentsia’s headlong rush to adopt what they saw as the more “cultured” form of the new Standard English. Economic factors had nothing to do with this whatsoever.

The Scharfes s ( ß ) is a ligature of the “long s” and “s” or “z”. In the German alphabet the “sharp s” became a letter in its own right. It is also known as the “Eszett”. The letter has no upper case and, as a result, has never got above its station – and all the better for it! In the last few decades, reforms of the German language have sought to restrict the use of the Scharfes s. Furthermore, there have recently been calls from bureaucrats within the E.U. for the letter to be abandoned, as this would make easier the standardisation of computer keyboards in governmental departments across Europe. Economic factors have nothing to do with this whatsoever.

 

The Perspex label holder is the sort used by the National Galleries of Scotland. Likewise, the font used for the text.

 

*

 

More about Gerry Smith’s work is here.

I AM NOT A POET: MEMORY EXCHANGE by MARY PATERSON

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2011 at 10:22 am

Mary Paterson’s MEMORY EXCHANGE was part of I AM NOT A POET on 10th Aug 2011. Numerous conversations and encounters occupied the eight hours in which Mary was in residence (when Mary left the gallery the MEMORY EXCHANGE archive remained with instructions and several further contributions were added during the evening).

Here the project becomes a sequence of six photographs that each seem to hold back from the participatory and performance aspects of the event.  If the project is an event that needs to be noticed and engaged with as a social, public activity, it is also, for both artist and participant, based on private moments of reading, writing, and remembering.

That these become public and the significance of that is what MEMORY EXCHANGE articulates through its own structure, its mix of visible and invisible, chance and program, individual and group. The result is a tentative proposition about memory itself, that collapses back into the artist herself, her own memories and what she asks of them. This is one version of MEMORY EXCHANGE that I find in six photographs.

For more about Mary’s work see here. Her VSK Chapbook WORK IN PROGRESS is here.

VSK PROJECT: The Middle Notebookes [extract] by Nathanaël

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2011 at 1:09 am

[ … ]

 

*

If by liberation you intend the emancipation from reason, sure. If it’s the thing that wracks groans and torment from the body, if at the moment of sleeping and waking it is the thing that  transforms me into a howling cemetery, a blood-soaked battlefield. I have become the war and the malady, the face of the death of a person. I have envisioned these technologies. (…) You see, if it isn’t a liberation, it is nonetheless a thing detached against the thing that lays it bare. I am the residue of a self, the absence of relation: thing and thing.

*

Your name is discarded at the side of the road. After the months of deliberations. Thrown among the gravel and algae of the pavement. This abandoned name is barely a death. It will happen to you one day in the mouth of another. That side-road name that holds the shape of your already-body. Your body in disbelief at not having that name.

*

With him, my I-him, in body, I have no further language. He grants me this reprieve.

*

My mind stops at the Bar Kokhba revolt and the collective suicide of the Guadeloupean marrons in 1802, alongside the Mulâtresse Solitude. More than ever, I understand that gesture. At the end of a battle, where nothing is ever won, the evidence of the only possible act is to set fire to oneself. The enemy is nowhere visible, and the city, as it so often is in my thinking, is empty, abandoned. What remains of it, I have ingested, in structure, in discourse, in enmity. The thing against which we fight becomes us. To obliterate it, it must surely be necessary to obliterate it in – and with – oneself. I cannot know what meaning to grant this in a present of abandon, of resentment, confusion and sorrow, of perverse euphoria. There are the cats who ask to be fed, and a love that surely doesn’t intend for me, but toward which I go.

*

The absence of a witness is the beginning of a murder. It became clear to me at the crematorium when the howl, immediately swallowed by the roar of the furnaces, was wrenched from me.

*

Eyes open or closed, it’s the same screen, the same blood, the same smell.

*

Desire’s accusations are irrefutable. I come to you with judgement and morbidity. Against a theatre of moveable parts, Genet insists “the architecture of the theatre … must be fixed, immobilized, so that it can be recognized as responsible : it will be judged on its form”. This, then, is my injunction, that I bring with me, my “irreversible” theatre. Judge me.

*

The conditional is bereaved: tense, unappeased. It carries potentiality’s breach, boring into the undetermined with disbelief. The if then of me, constructed such that uncertainty, embedded in the causal palate of language’s misdeed, is militantly rejected by a structuring of sated need. It locks into place, but this does nothing for a body that falls from a sky. The contaminant is alive, it is vital, distressed; it disregards our posturings. “Nothing is true”, contends Édouard Glissant, “everything is alive”. It is this untrue-alive, which is the end of I (je) – its everlast. The insistence of Cahun’s intransigeant interrogation, speaking, alive: what want and to what end this accusation of endings? Each thing in ending, at the very start. It is sometimes called: onset. And we are its disease.

*

The bed expulses me. My head seized by a liquid burn.

*

We are in time. That, too, is unthinkable.

*

You arrive shortly after. Days, weeks. You say: N. You rid my names of their gravity, their fatality. N., this residue of me, this scrap. You open your mouth with mine, you gorge my cries, you pull my body under the weight of you, I bite into the soil of your shoulder, you cry the continent and the passing hour. You say nothing, you sleep and give me your rest, the livid days of tomorrows. You read to me out loud. You are my passeur, laid over my disappearance.

*

Who will wash the body of my death. Who will kiss my bloody mouth. Who will swallow my cries, my pain. Who will consume my passing. Who will speak me.

*

I am bereft, and unjust. Now I can speak to you of this, now that I’ve written you I don’t know what it will be with the telephone next time or the time after that, but it is ok now that I have told you and please be secretive with this, guard it like a wingless bird with no eyes, who never saw a thing and is afraid of loud noises. Make it precious that way and irrepressibly endangered, such that you have no desire to whisper it, not even to yourself.

*

Fistfully. Mouthfully. The place you take into you is an injury and my prints are all over you. This is your city. Your tawdry. As though speaking of seeing could correct calamity. Our limbs are not limber. And geography cringes at the encroachement of further geography. Find the text that granted permission, the book that wanted burning, the mouth that needed closing, the hand held before an expressionless face. Brazen and stumbling. (2006)

*

Death is long, terribly long, notwithstanding the unbearable remainder.

*

…and into your sleep, I swear it, into your death, I will follow you. (Bernard-Marie Koltès)

*

If it is true that “desire is dead, killed by an image”, it may be that this accusatively emphatic image bespeaks the murderous vigil; to watch, unbidden. To bring the body, unworn, to testify against itself, to responsibilise its enmity, build up the wall of its own figuration, severely, make what is seen visible against history’s rent screen – a black box of miserly misery. Speak into speaking, unlistened. // I go to where it happens. The door is a door that closes. A gate that scrapes shut against a forensic, vaulted compound. These are its barbed technologies, its unmitigated heat, a fire that doesn’t burn, a blood that doesn’t bleed: the smell of it. If desire is dead it is dead at the point of seeing, accused, beseeching. It dies undead, it sees unspoken, it works its asphyxiation into the endangered throat, stripped of its vital civility, mouth open on no sound, untold. The wither image may have killed desire, ineradicably. Death’s death as it were, remaindered at its skinned edge, its posthumous (re)iteration, end upon devastated end.

*

Through the window, the city demonstrates its refusal.

*

A. tells me that I am at the bottom of the pit. But it isn’t at all that. A pit wouldn’t be so bad. A bottom, an utterly agreeable thing. Even unbearably agreeable. But a bottom would be something. I wasn’t able to tell her no, there is neither a bottom, nor a pit, nor a darkness, nor anything of the nihilistic dreams of the living. It’s rather of the order of a blank. I think so. Vigilation is something like that. The attention granted to a thing to the point of the obliteration of looking and of the thing. That is where the voice is lost, touch evaporates, it burns for not being able to burn.

*

Saarbrücken: am in another language, as in a body of water that submerges me without touching me.

*

One must agree to be finished: to be here and nowhere else, to do this and no other thing, now and not never nor ever … to have this life alone. (André Gorz)

*

An overly-aggrieved body, a face that carries several deaths already, including mine, and the murder of the mother, the brother. Who will ever want this mouth?

*

Crossing the square, I feel an utter disgust toward all these humans, I tell myself that it’s everywhere the same people, that it’s no surprise we perpetuate the same violences, just look at us. It isn’t that we don’t love enough, I think perhaps it is that we don’t hate one another enough. The human being is a botched animal.

*

You dance because you are conscious of death. (Pippo Delbono)

*

I continue to scatter myself to the wind, I’m in shreds in these places that seem to come to pieces as I move through them, as though my presence alone conferred their disintegration.

*

Wien: An unthinkable world.

*

November (end). Today I would like to speak to you. I know that you would have something to say to me, to me and to all of this, and that you would take me somewhere on foot, that you would have a thing or two to show me. I can’t imagine going back, but remaining is just as improbable. As for me, I would like one day to kiss your mouth and wonder whether mine is even capable of such a thing. Love from a loveless city. N.

*

My words tonight before a Viennese public in an old hospital reconstituted as a Universität made my mouth into a crypt and purged the last vital energies from the room. Ending unspeaking unbreathing and the room unsound. It is a disconcerting shame that accompanies a death, for the person remaining, the vitally-residual, with her culpable vitality, a fistful of aschenglorie, a scattered self. And a face which must only signify this from now on.

*

Kafka: My love for you doesn’t love itself. (Gorz)

*

The body is seized, inert, beating, palpitating, an anguish in time. Is it me.

*

Deutschland: I go toward everything as though I were late, our late desires, yes. It isn’t a place I would have chosen for myself. But we don’t choose our self.

*

The narrative of the end of a certain time is told in a new time which retains that end – an end by which it presents itself as beginning. (Lyotard)

*

Between two places, in a despotic airport (Frankfurt), I write my hope for an inevitable outre mesure. Might it be, in the end, a matter of “that unforgottenness of forgetting that isn’t memory”? (Malraux).

*

Unmoorings.

*

From part to parting, to be summoned is to be attentive to the surf that founds and founders being, I mean the eventuality of one’s existere, of one’s situation.

*

Vienna is not a city.

*

RY King’s photographic dissolve marks the paper immutable. Immutable in that it is always imbricated in a mechanism of deterioration. In this improper sense, the image is not separable from its degradation. Its substances are both paper and light. Thus they are neither, as they run into each other. The bird, in this instance, which is scarcely discernible, is in a field of apparent surfaces. It comprises the surface by which it becomes visible, an irregularity on a structure of hay bales in a field of depleted colour. The photograph misdirects its intention. It intends for me to fall in. In to America.

*

It comes with a number, assigned to a calcined human body which is incommunicable:                . When it says “…I need catastrophes, coups de théâtre”, it abandons sense. The lake is up to my knees in November.

*

The time of the photograph is (always) after. This imprecision accommodates the numerous successions, the end upon seismic end. In a time without time, un(re)countable: still. In this, it is a perfect crime, “the annihilation annihilated, the end … deprived of itself.”

*

Are you the sum of your cities? What are your cities? Es-tu la somme de tes villes? Quelles sont tes villes? “Wounded mouths that gape onto the void”? (Lyotard)

*

I crossed over, I touched, I howled, I gave, I envisioned, I was afraid and I went toward everything that seemed to go against me. I said yes in spite of myself, while saying never again – not Germany, not Austria, not America, not anywhere ever, especially not me – and it’s this conjunction surely that makes that I exist in the rapacious non-existence of the delirious (mis)deed.

*

Pain and pain again. But it isn’t mine, in that it doesn’t belong.

*

This trip to Germany and Austria was by turns very exacting, and always very emotional; I learned a lot, about myself, about history, about the very violence of my hopes. Vienna especially plied me, with its architecture of pomp and excess, in that city I hardly slept. Presents and pasts combined and I was suffocating… I was suffocating and this didn’t prevent me from feeling just as intensely the warmth with which I was everywhere welcomed. I emerge from it shaken, my head shattered, my body plunged into that (for me) beginning conversation and I am moved by the openings – gentle and violent – that sought me out. There is no turning away from it. I go to that which exceeds comprehension, the furore of history, the aleatory encounters, the receptiveness of a present within voice’s reach.

*

Time goes on, how curious, one doesn’t imagine that it could at such an hour.

*

“for we say here: the time before the fire and time after it.” (in Senocak)

*

To bring a life into the world is to bring that world to its death.

*

…a stable, several rooms, bicycle rides in the countryside, a terrible parking lot, people coming and going, a threat, unnamed, an eventual art show, and the rapid deterioration of my body in the face of everyone. Lying down or standing, the liquefaction of my joints, my bones floating in my remains, gaping holes at my knees, waxen skin, saying to R. who is watching television with several others, kill me, have mercy, why won’t you kill me. A boy beneath a blanket, but nothing was fixed, it must have been the residual death imprinted in the body, my installation in that savagery, its imprint of undesirability, tear me from this sleep.

*

As for this end, attached to a death, I am the one now who is changed by it, and who rejects certain narratives which make me into something I don’t want to be.

*

I make the connection between these texts and the sprig of creosote in the mail, your wanderments and a detailed attention granted to the unsuspected details of a fragile narrative of seasons and their material. The documentation of this – burst and furling. A magistral museum, the one that isn’t edified. I admire your eye and that which is emptied from it, the residue of a gaze is a form of (formless) archive.

*

We could think of the sense of touch as the unconscious of vision. (Pallasmaa)

*

It’s 3:30pm, time for me to sleep. I’ve already had one nap, twice gone round the neighbourhood, made and unmade the bed, adored the cats, prepared inedible foods, drunk the remaining tea, written several letters, taken some notes and checked the mail that doesn’t come. It’s impossible to make these tasks into a day, the day being obstinately out of reach, the door being unrecognisable, one walks into it, face first, still there is some relief in the sensation.

*

The next text is a kind of suppuration. It must be the equivalent of rubbing gravel and glass into a wound, but I must do this violence to myself now. Press my whole face into the ambient abjection, hatred, rage. Perhaps remove a blistered skin, rendering myself raw and possibly more humane.

*

[ … ]

 

 

 

More about Nathanaël’s work is here.  Nathanaël  writes: “The extract I’m sending you is from The Middle Notebookes, —  the consolidation in English of three Carnets written in French from 2007-2010, and published by Le Quartanier in 2009 (Carnet de désaccords) and 2011 (Carnet de délibérations) with the last one (Carnet de Somme) due in spring 2012. This information is superfluous to this publication, but it gives you a Very Small Sense of the context for the work.”

I AM NOT A POET: EMMA COCKER’S CLOSE READING (C.O.P.V, 1950)

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2011 at 8:37 pm

 

As part of I AM NOT A POET, VerySmallKitchen will feature online a number of films from its screening programme. The full festival of films is here.  This first online screening presents work by Emma Cocker. Emma writes:

Close Reading (C.O.P.V, 1950) is part of an ongoing series which investigates the practice of close reading or of an ‘explication de texte’. Here, close reading is not understood as the critical attention paid to the meaning of words themselves as signs, but is instead interested in those meanings produced by looking at words ‘close up’, through a process of visual magnification or close visual attention. Drawing on the Latin origins of the word explicare (as in explication de texte) which means to unfold, to fold out or set forth, within Cocker’s close reading words appear shifting and unstable, restless and unwilling to be stilled. The work looks towards the threshold where writing or text collapses into its component parts (ink and page); the point where the sense or legibility of a word is rendered illegible or nonsensical the closer it is attended to, as writing slips towards image.

 

 

I saw an early part of the work presented as part of Emma’s Close Reading/ Open Reading, a contribution to Writing (the) Space, at The Wild Pansy Press Project Space, Leeds on May 19th.

On that occasion Emma observed how a  “starting point or point of provocation” had been the following sentence from Olson’s 1950 poetics Projective Verse: “If I hammer, if I recall in, and keep calling in, the breath, the breathing as distinguished from the hearing, it is for cause, it is to insist upon a part that breath plays in verse.” She continued:

Close Reading / Open Reading investigates the capacity of methods of close attention for producing uncertainty, indeterminacy and formlessness rather than fixing or clarifying any single, stable meaning, where paradoxically perhaps, the more something becomes scrutinized the less it becomes known. Within my practice, processes of extraction, fragmentation, listing, footnoting and cross-referencing become used for generating ‘openings’ rather than conclusions, for appearing purposeful whilst remaining without clear or discernible intent…

 

 

… I envisage future experiments emerging from this presentations exploring the relationship between the practices of flitting and lingering (over a text)…

More of Emma’s work is here. Notes on Emma’s FIELD PROPOSALS for the  ART WRITING FIELD STATION are here.

I AM NOT A POET AUGUST 8TH: CREAMY LANGUAGE BY SEEKERS OF LICE

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2011 at 10:14 pm

VSK PROJECT: TAMARIN NORWOOD’S THE LOCATIONS OF SIX DOMESTIC FIGURES

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Figure 1. Cup

Figure 2. Felt-tips

Figure 3. Hole punch

Figure 4. Miscellaneous

Figure 5. Pot plants

Figure 6. Tubes

 

Figures 1–6 are excerpted from What The Matter Is (2009) by Tamarin Norwood, first broadcast March 2009 on Resonance 104.4FM.

 

 

Figure A.

A utensil, once it has been damaged, becomes its own image (and sometimes an esthetic object: ‘those outmoded, fragmented, unusable, almost incomprehensible, perverse objects’ that Andre Breton loved). In this case, the utensil, no longer disappearing in its use, appears. This appearance of the object is that of resemblance and reflection: one might say it is its double. The category of art is linked to this possibility objects have of ‘appearing,’ that is, of abandoning themselves to pure and simple resemblance behind which there is nothing – except being. Only what has surrendered itself to the image appears, and everything that appears is, in this sense, imaginary.

Maurice Blanchot, “Two Versions of the Imaginary,” in The Gaze of Orpheus, ed. P. Adams Sitney, trans. Lydia Davis. New York: Station Hill Press, 1981 (original French 1943), pp.79-89: p.84

 

Figure B.

My life day to day was lived through ordinary actions and powerful emotions. But the more ordinary a day I lived, the more I lifted a child, conscious of nothing but the sweetness of a child’s skin, or the light behind an apple tree, or rain on slates, the more language and poetry came to my assistance. The words that had felt stilted, dutiful and decorative while I was a young and anxious poet, now sang and flew. Finally, I had joined together my life as a woman and a poet. And on the best days I lived as a poet. The language at the end of my day, when the children were asleep and the curtains drawn, was the language all through my day. It had waited for me. What that meant was crucial. For the first time as a poet I could believe in my life as the source of the language I used, and not the other way round. At last, I had the means to challenge what I believed had distorted the idea of the poet. The belief that poetry had the power to dignify and select a life, instead of the reverse. That a life, in other words, became important only because it was the subject matter for a poem.

Eavan Boland, A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet. New York: WW Norton & Co, 2011

 

Figure C.

As they circulate through our lives, we look through objects (to see what they disclose about history, society, nature, or culture – above all, what they disclose about us), but we only catch a glimpse of the things. We look through objects because they are codes by which our interpretative attention makes them meaningful, because there is a discourse of objectivity that allows us to use them as facts. A thing, in contrast, can hardly function as a window. We begin to confront the thingness of objects when they stop working for us: when the drill breaks, when the car stalls, when the windows get filthy, when their flow within the circuits of production and distribution, consumption and exhibition, has been arrested, however momentarily. The story of objects asserting themselves as things, then, is the story of a changed relation to the human subject and thus the story of how the thing really names less an object than a particular subject-object relation.

Bill Brown, “Thing Theory,” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No.1, special issue: Things. Autumn 2001, pp.1-22: p.4

 

Figure D.

What Twain helps us to recognize is how the accumulation of objects (and not the desire for the object) might be considered the (futile) effort to materialize that abstraction – to fill up that abstraction, as it were, with particular contents. ‘The House Beautiful’ chapter of Life on the Mississippi registers that effort with a five-page catalogue of objects: ‘ingrain carpet; mahogany centre-table; lamp on it, with green-paper shade. […] Other bric-a-brac […] quartz, with gold ward adhering; old Guinea-gold locket, with circlet of ancestral hair in it; Indian arrow-heads, of flint.’ Despite the hyperspecificity of the catalogue, these are simply the generic contents of the generic ‘residence of the principal citizen, all the way from the suburbs of New Orleans to the edge of St. Louis.’ However passionate the particularity, it has no particularizing point.

Bill Brown, “The Tyranny of Things,” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 2. Winter 2002, pp.442-469

 

Figure E.

It is rare that a being who is not totally engrossed in his action is not mannered. Every personage who seems to tell you: ‘Look how well I cry, how well I become angry, how well I implore,’ is false and mannered. […] If you lose your feeling for the difference between the man who presents himself in society and the man engaged in action, between the man who is alone and the man who is looked at, throw your brushes into the fire. […] Whether you compose or act, think no more of the beholder than if he did not exist. Imagine, at the edge of the stage, a high wall that separates you from the orchestra. Act as if the curtain never rose.

Denis Diderot cited in Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 1988, pp.82-132

 

Figure F.

I’m put off by museums in general; they reek of a holy death which offends my sense of reality. […] Moreover […] most advanced art of the last half-dozen years is, in my view, inappropriate for Museum display. […] Museums do more than isolate such work from life, they subtly sanctify it and thus kill it.

Allan Kaprow 1967, cited in Allan Kaprow: Art as Life, eds Eva Meyer-Hermann et al. London: Thames & Hudson, 2008, p.70

 

Figure G.

[…] here is the ball park I perceive: an artist can

work within recognizable art modes and present the work in recognizable art contexts (e.g., paintings in galleries; poetry in poetry books; music in concert halls, etc.)

work in unrecognizable, i.e., nonart, modes but present the work in recognizable art contexts (e.g., pizza parlour in a gallery; a telephone book sold as poetry, etc.)

work in recognizable art modes but present the work in nonart contexts (eg., a “Rembrandt as an ironing board”; a fugue in an air-conditioning duct; a sonnet as a want ad, etc.)

work in nonart modes but present the work as art in nonart contexts (e.g., perception tests in a psychology lab; anti-erosion terracing in the hills; typewriter repairing; garbage collecting, etc. (with the proviso that the art world knows about it))

work in nonart modes and nonart contexts but cease to call the work art, retaining instead the private consciousness that sometimes it may be art, too (e.g., systems analysis; social work in a ghetto’ hitchhiking; thinking, etc.)

Allan Kaprow, “Nontheatrical Performance” (1976), in Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2003, pp.175-176

 

Figure H.

Masahiro Mori, “The Uncanny Valley,” trans.  K. F. MacDorman & T. Minato (original Japanese “Bukimi No Tani.”) Energy, Vol. 7, No. 4. 1970, pp.33-35

 

Figure I.

Oscar Wilde’s unsettling epigram that being natural is a post isn’t too far away. Consciousness makes artifacts of us all. And so does the gallery, the transforming powers of which increase as modernism declines. The spectators in the late-modernist gallery are somehow artificial, aware of being aware – consciousness quoting itself. Though time in the white cube is always changing, the space gives the illusion that time is standing still, as if on a pedestal.

Brian O’Doherty, Studio and Cube: On the Relationship between where Art is Made and where Art is Displayed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007, p.5

 

Figure J.

The idea of working in a ‘studio’ makes me uncomfortable, always has, as has thinking of myself as an ‘artist.’ Both terms presume that my motive is ‘to make art’ […] I don’t like to know where I’m going to end up before I begin. […] I tried having a studio only once, in 1985, when a sculptor friend and I rented an additional apartment in the Hell’s Kitchen building where we lived. For me, the experiment lasted just two weeks. I didn’t understand maintaining a separate room to which I was to ‘go and make my art.’ I hadn’t gone to art school and never got into the studio habit. Having a studio made my mind feel boxed-in.

David Robbins in The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists, eds. Mary Jane Jacob and Michelle Grabner. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2010, p.261

 

Figure K.

Lucas Samaras,‘Room #1’ (1964)

 

Figure L.

This is what I have been thinking: for the most commonplace event to become an adventure, you must – and this is all that is necessary – start recounting it. This is what fools people: a man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his life as though he were recounting it.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea, trans. Robert Baldick. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965 (original French 1938), p.61

 

Figure M.

He began, very cautiously, to open his eyes, to see whether a gramophone was really there. But real things – real things were too exciting. He must be cautious. He would not go mad. First he looked at the fashion papers on the lower shelf, then gradually at the gramophone with the green trumpet. Nothing could be more exact. And so, gathering courage, he looked at the sideboard; the plate of bananas; the engraving of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, at the mantelpiece, with the jar of roses. None of these things moved. All were still; all were real.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998 (first published 1925)

 

 

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More about about Tamarin’s work can be found here. Her VSK Chapook TEXT AS TOOLKIT: A Practical Handbook is here. Her exhibition THESE ARE NOT POEMS will be at the Totalkunst Gallery, Edinburgh August 17-19 2011 as part of I AM NOT A POET.

VSK RESIDENCY PAUL ANTONY CARR: NATHANIEL’S PERPETUAL MOTION (1)

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2011 at 10:48 am

“Nathaniel awakes early this morning. He sits up on the edge of the bed and looks around his minuscule broom closet of a bedroom. Today he finds himself paying close attention to the unoccupied space of the room’s carpeted floor. Nathaniel recalls once telling a friend that he didn’t need much more living space than the minimum area required for him to do a pushup on the ground. This morning he gets down on all fours beside his bed to test if his current digs meet the criteria set forth by a younger, different Nathaniel. He finds it so happens there is exactly enough space for him to do pushups comfortably. But Nathaniel has never done a pushup in his entire life.”

2011. Ink on paper. 9.5 x 6.25 in.

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“Each additional pushup will expend energy and cause damage to muscle fibre, but will also make Nathaniel a little bit stronger at the same time. If he could endure the fatigue and pain, the accumulation of strength would eventually nullify the unpleasantness of exertion – the more pushups he does, the easier they will become. He could do pushups all night, on his first try, without stopping for a single break. Piece of cake.”

2011. Ink on paper. 6 x 4.25 in.

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“He has been lying on his stomach for the past ten minutes. Feeling dejected, he lifts himself up from floor, and powers up the computer terminal in the wall. He swiftly navigates through a tree of subdirectories and starts up a hidden rudimentary sound editing program that he had discovered just last week. Once the software is running, he opens one of the three sound files contained on the hard drive – this one is a nondescript piece of soft jazz, most likely preloaded for demonstration purposes. Nathaniel begins to edit the timeline of the tune, attempting to slow it down gradually so that it will never play through to its end.”

2011. Ink on paper. 9.5 x 6.75 in.

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This is the first post of Paul Antony Carr’s 3-month residency in the VerySmallKitchen. It follows Paul’s recent VSK Project here, which presented an aspect of his EXCERPTS project.  Nathaniel’s Perpetual Motion is a new strand of this project, and a series of image-text pairs will appear on VerySmallKitchen between now and October.

More about Paul’s work is here.

I AM HIDING IN A ROSE: SWEENEY REED & CONCRETE POETRY by LINDA SHORT

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2011 at 9:43 am

Born to Concrete Installation Heide II Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Born to Concrete: The Heide Collection showcases the museum’s significant holdings of Concrete Poetry acquired over a period of thirty years, through the generosity of individual gifts and two important donations from the estates of editor and author Barrett Reid and concrete poet Sweeney Reed.

Sweeney Reed (1945–1979) is well-known as the son of celebrated modernist artists Joy Hester and Albert Tucker who was adopted as a child by art patrons and Heide founders, John and Sunday Reed. Born to Concrete explores the important contribution Reed himself made to the development of Australian art, as a practitioner, supporter and promoter of Concrete Poetry in the 1960s and 70s. The exhibition presents his work alongside that of his Australian contemporaries, while also considering the influence of international peers.

Alex Selenitsch monoton eeeeeee 1969 acrylic letters on enamel on composition board 71 x 69 x 4 cm Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Gift of Alex Selenitsch 2011 © the artist

Aleks Danko Poetic Suicide engraving on gravoply 59 x 42 cm Courtesy of the artist and Sutton Gallery, Melbourne © the artist

Reed’s interest in art and poetry, preoccupations from  an early age, came together  in his practice as a concrete poet. A year spent in London from 1964–65 exposed him to the Concrete Poetry movement flourishing in Britain. He worked briefly at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, where he saw the influential ‘Between Poetry and Painting’ exhibition,[1] and established contact with a number of poets, notably Bob Cobbing, Bill Butler and Ian Hamilton Finlay. These experiences were significant for Reed’s future practice once back in Australia, and were imparted to other concrete poets whose engagement with international developments had been limited to imported books and journals. [2]

On his return to Melbourne, Reed fulfilled his aspiration to establish a gallery to promote the work of younger artists and poets. From 1966–69 he was the director of Strines Gallery in Carlton and from 1972–75 he operated the Sweeney Reed Gallery in Fitzroy. As well as holding exhibitions, Reed organised poetry readings and published prints, catalogues and books under his own publishing imprints. [3] In 1969, Reed invited Alex Selenitsch to present the first individual exhibition of Concrete Poetry in Australia at Strines, and a number of the works originally shown feature in Born to Concrete.

Following the closure of his galleries, in 1977 Reed enrolled at Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts to study printmaking, enabling him to realise many of his own poems in a concrete, material form. It was a prolific period for Reed during which he mastered complex experimental techniques and processes which he applied to prints and three-dimensional constructions. Many of these feature in Born to Concrete, a highlight being the artist’s most ambitious work, Impounded Illusion (Horizon) (1977), where large steel letters are set directly upon the wall. Represented by only the top half of each letter, the word ‘horizon’ appears to emerge from the cut of an horizon line.

In a 1977 press interview Reed revealed that the poem was inspired by the view from his Aspendale studio. His aim was to ‘capture the horizon … I wanted to remind people it’s here … We take this sort of thing too much for granted, you know.’ [4]

Sweeney Reed Rose I 1977 embossed etching 16.5 x 16.3 cm Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Gift of Pamela, Mishka and Danila McIntosh 1990 © Pamela McIntosh

The lyrical and expressive tendencies in Reed’s poetry  are also apparent in Rose I (1977), which is widely regarded as the artist’s signature work. Like many of Reed’s poems, it had been in gestation since early childhood, the subject of continued notation and distillation  in personal journals and sketchbooks. The arrangement of the words ‘I am hiding in a Rose’ visually reinforces the idea of concealment and enclosure expressed in the poem; the letters cascade down the page as if they  are folding in on themselves.

This poem also features at the centre of Reed’s Rosepoema (1975), embedded in a portrait of the modernist writer, Gertrude Stein. Stein’s often- quoted line, ‘a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose …’ [5] would have resonated with Reed, who placed great significance on the symbolism of the rose in his own work: ‘The Rose is as much a homageto E.E. Cummings as a personal statement. For me (and perhaps Gertrude Stein) the Rose is the centre of the universe—that is, taking the view that life is part of an on- going process of which birth and death are only part of the cycle, not the beginning and the end.’ [6]

For Reed, the rose represented many personal and philosophical associations: from the rose garden at Heide to his interest in the Buddhist belief of reincarnation. The motif is also explored inthe work of Ian Hamilton Finlay, who is regarded as Britain’s foremost concrete poet. Born to Concrete presents a key selection of Finlay’s early concrete poems, including a new acquisition for the Heide Collection: A Rock Rose (1971). In this and many of his works, Finlay makes links between flowers and the sea and in particular the rose as a common name for boats. Reed had a profound admiration for Finlay and sought to publish his work in Australia, a collaboration that is explored for the first time in the exhibition.

Alan Riddell Eclipse I 1969 screenprint 15/20 73.7 x 99 cm Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Gift of Ann Lewis 1989 © The Estate of Alan Riddell

NOTES

[1] The exhibition, curated by concrete poet (and Benedictine monk) Dom Sylvester Houédard, had a seminal influence on contemporary art in Australia and internationally.

[2] As a result of his travels, Sunday Reed’s Eastend Booksellers in Melbourne stocked recent publications of  international Concrete Poetry which were available to local artists and poets.

[3] Reed’s four publishing imprints were: Strines Publications; Still Earth Publications; Sweeney Reed Publications; and Overland Press  (the later by arrangement with Overland magazine).

[4] Sweeney Reed quoted in Barry MacFadyen, ‘A Place in the Sun’,  The Sun, 24 May 1977.

[5] The meaning most often attributed to Stein’s line is the notion that when   all is said and done, a thing is what it is.

[6] Sweeney Reed in ‘A-RANGE of Moments: notes on the years 1960–66’, in Missing Forms: Concrete, Visual and Experimental Poems, Collective Effort,  Melbourne, 1981, not paginated.

Curated by Katarina Paseta and Linda Short,  BORN TO CONCRETE: THE HEIDE COLLECTION is at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melborne 16 April-25 September 2011.  A commentary on the show by Michael Farrell appears in Jacket2 here.

READING NOTES: THE SOCIAL LIFE OF THE BOOK (1): OSCAR TUAZON MAKING BOOKS

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Page spread from Oscar Tuazon, I CAN'T SEE (Paraguay Press, 2010).

 

With a “publication structure” credited to Will Holder, The Social Life of the Book describes itself as “a monthly, subscription based series of original texts by writers, artists, publishers, designers, booksellers, etc., reflecting on reading, designing, publishing, and distributing books, today.” It is edited by castillo/corrales in Paris, and published through its Paraguay Press, Imprint.

The series begins with “Making Books”, an essay by Oscar Tuazon, a founding member of the gallery. Tuazon begins and ends his short text with accounts of book making: his parents bookbindery, principally producing blank books such as photo albums and sketchbooks; his own use of traditional bookmaking skills  to produce his two artist books, Dwelling Portably, and Leave Me Be.

Tuazon elegantly describes these experiences, but it is the model of the book and distribution that he unfolds from them that is where the pamphlet becomes provocative. His particular views emerge when discussing the blank books of his parents and how they were often used for private journal keeping. Noting “a completely onanistic model of production and distribution: write a book yourself, for yourself”, Tuazon goes on to sympathetically notice:

A book for an audience of one. A blank book is an anti-book. And it is this aspect that I actually find most interesting, the idea of producing a book not as a form of distribution or communication, but as an object. (6)

Tuazon goes on to explore various ways in which the book is a failure in 2011, unable to justify if you are looking for discussion or communication. Tuazon balances this against his involvement in publication projects like The Social Life of the Book  and Section 7 bookshop in Paris. Such spaces, he declares, function like commercial galleries, purveyors of rarified objects in that:

I don’t have many illusions about the bookshop as a place for discussion or debate, as a public space. It is a curated space… for a tiny, sophisticated public with extra money to spend on rare beautifully-crafted objects. (7)

I agree about the first this sentence, but I think there are other ways of responding than this quote’s conclusion…

Oscar Tuazon, 2010. Photo by Dominique Uldry.

Tuazon’s notions of the book are usefully read as contemporary responses to two legacies of post-1960s art practices. One is the alignment of writing and sculpture, as practiced, for example, by Lawrence Weiner and Robert Smithson. Curiously, if that was about democratising the art work, through low price books and art work in magazines, Tuazon seems to share an urgency focussed upon printed matter, whilst moving – in economic and distribution terms – in the opposite direction.

This is partly due to his rejection of both writing and reading: “The craft of writing does not interest me.” (9) Tuazon says, also telling us he has recently finished writing a novel. Here, too, Tuazon enters into an historical debate where the artist relates to writing and the book by denying or destroying its function as distributed/ readable object (think, most famously, of Marcel Broodthaers and John Latham).

Oscar Tuazon, Dwelling Portably

Again key differences unfold in his/our contemporary moment. The repudiation of book as reading-writing object remains as some kind of rite of passage, but the object is not destroyed or literally digested, except in terms of distribution and through a heightened focus on the books sculptural properties. Some of Tuazon’s own comments are useful here (note how repudiating writing requires a carefully, crafted, refined prose style):

I consider the process of making a book – even writing it – like making a sculpture: I consider how it can or can’t be used, how it relates to an idea of function, what it looks like and how it feels, most of all how it gets built. And above all, making a book (like making a sculpture) is always a way of answering the question of why to make a book. Reanimating the corpse. (9)

Talking of poetry books his parents sometimes made for private clients:

This was a kind of ideal book, a book out of circulation, a useless object like a painting is useless. Painting started to get really interesting at about the time photography came along: when it was finally stripped of the last shreds of function, of any possibility of serving a public purpose, of communicating anything. Then it finally had to stand on its own, autonomous and abject, just a thing. Those volumes of poetry, unread and beautiful, narcissistic and perverse, onanistic, queer- that’s what a book wants to be. Autonomous and indifferent, an abstract book. (10)

There is an element of A Modest Proposal, or, more accurately, a desire to inhabit the perversity and paradox of this position. Of his own novel writing, for example, Tuazon comments how “The book itself needed to be invisible.” Likewise, when conceiving of a book version of Dwelling Portably, a survivalist newsletter published out of the Oregon woods by Burt and Holly Davis, and asked by its authors to make a book as lightweight and portable as possible, Tuazon instead re-publishes them as a “thick tome of a book, a bible, bound in black goatskin. It becomes funereal, finite, a kind of austere memorial to a hardcore lifestyle, somehow impenetrable… taken out of circulation.” (13)

Tuazon proposes such contradictions are how a contemporary practice of the book is achieved. Tuazon’s views on death-book and anti-book give a contemporary relevance to forms of book production that would lack that status otherwise, countering a history of artists publications unfolding out of the mimeo revolution, and inserting such styles into the discourses and markets of Tuazon’s art work and that of the castillo/ corrales gallery.

Page spreads from Oscar Tuazon, I CAN'T SEE (Paraguay Press, 2010)

This highlights  a number of tensions applying both to MAKING BOOKS and the whole field of art(ist)-led printed matter:

(1)Such an argument seeks to remove both reading and writing from the discourse of book making, and perhaps the book becomes a way of talking about graphic design and sculpture rather than writing.

(2)This position risks celebrating its failure to see publication as in anyway related to creating a public (for an alternative view see Mathew Stadtler’s talk here, from which this formulation is derived).

(3)The interest in a carefully curated space becomes a notion that the only option for printed matter is books costing upwards of 25 euros (or 5 euros for a 14 page essay, as here), and creating a culture where it feels wrong to questions such decisions about exclusive cost and distribution….

(4)I (want to) feel such texts always want a utopia by the back door, merely by the virtue of engaging in such activity. If that hope/ delusion is not present, the artist shifts from being an agent of gentrification to producing a gentrified version of the artist…

Leave Me Be No.3, 2009 Particle board Unique Artist´s book, No. 3 of 10 54 x 80 x 18 cm

If Making Books effectively raises these issues, it  leaves me uncertain about its precise position. There is also Making Books as I experience and encounter it, through a recent visit to Section 7 books in Paris, emerging with saddle stitched chapbook, ideal for transmission through gift and exchange, read in five minutes, acquiring form in conversation and in texts like this…

Section 7 was a welcoming place. We were given coffee and had a good conversation with the director about books and projects. They had some books I had been looking for for a long time, which I brought not as beautiful, luxury objects but because their contents fitted into work I am making/ thinking/ experiencing, its histories and consequences…

I’m thinking through how such desires relate to the arguments of Tuazon’s provocative text, how both positions entwine in contradiction and reciprocity through particular notions of materials and communication…

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The next installment of The Social Life of the Book will be The Wet and The Dry by Moyra Davey. The colophon notes: “The series will be hand-bound annually, into a 192-page volume, whose edition is determined by demand. This currently stands at 15.” More information and orders here.

The book I found at Section 7 was the issue of the Swedish journal OEI (no 51 2010,) dedicated to Mary Ellen Solt, edited by Antonio Sergio Bessa. The book brings back into circulation Holt’s poetry and essays in a move that both gives provisional form to her own life work and opens up new materials/ ways of thinking about concrete poetry, particularly its lineage out of William Carlos Williams project of The American Idiom.