Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page


In Uncategorized on September 24, 2012 at 8:37 pm


seekers of lice, The Blue Notebook Journal Vol 3 No 1 (2008)



VerySmallKitchen: Several of your texts adopt the forms of play scripts. Is this best understood in relation to the category of poets theater, outlined in David Brazil and Kevin Killian’s The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater?


seekers of lice: Poets theater is not something I identify with. I use play to include the idea of a drama and of playing. Playing within the text and with conventions of the genre. Scripts, yes – because that points to something beyond the text, to a staging including other elements which aren’t specified.


VSK: When did you start using script forms? What elements of the conventional play text did you adopt?


seekers of lice: dumb show were the first scripts. I like to use the formal layout of conventional play texts. It provides a structure which is immediately recognisable so that if you write STICK: followed by some words, those words are seen as something spoken by a character who is a stick or is called Stick.


VSK: The focus on objects in your work suggests other models of theatre: Joseph Cornell’s boxes, Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise-


seekers of lice: The characters in dumb show were objects I was making at the time – wax and pigment painted balls, polyps and boxes. A version consisting of a cardboard box of wax polyps with the THEATRE OF OBJECTS scripts was exhibited and later bought by Dusseldorf Library.


VSK: What do you mean or not mean by “character.” In The Bride of L’Amor-mor-l’amor characters seem to be types. Is that always the case?


seekers of lice: Yes in The Bride there are roles rather than characters. I was interested in dumb show– and also LOUSE FACTORY – to see if the objects could become subjects. They are treading a line between subject and object.





And the idea for The Bride came from things I was making at the time. But I feel much more aligned to the aesthetic of Dubuffet and early Oldenburg than to the refinement of Duchamp and Cornell.



…whereas Claes Oldenburg sears his page with a mud-luscious Whitmanesque catalogue of the materials of art, and for Oldenburg the list is inexhaustible because he is for an art that is everything, everything that is “that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum,” and preferably everything that is not self-consciously refined, in other words that is raw, quick, smelly, holy, many small “sweet and stupid” acts of ungracious side-splitting, nose-blowing living that are supposed to be left for keeps in dirty abandoned corners.

Oldenburg’s Store has that unkempt look; the items hang in blobbish disregard for civilized order; the store articles are sculptured in relief with muslin strips dipped in plaster and placed over chicken wire, then painted with enamel to give the business a high dripping festive gloss.

These environments, situations, spaces are not going any place; they’re not on the market for immortality; they’re just not negotiable at all, except for tempting traffic with the eye and heart that is looking for more or less anything, or ready to stumble on something; and even that is saying too much, or too little, and no doubt Robert Whitman is right when he says that “this whole business has been complicated by people who say all smart things . . . “

Jill Johnston Village Voice, 6 Jul. 1961, 13.


VSK: It’s interesting to see affinities and art histories being constructed around an emotion or tone…


seekers of lice: Yes that’s a good way of putting it – the influence of a tone or sensibility. I would add Kharms to my list, and Philip Guston.


VSK: Viewed in the context of the scripts the objects propose a scenography-


seekers of lice: The physical objects from the boxes? I see them as seductive in a tactile way, but mute, dumb, unthinking.


VSK: And in relation to the words?


seekers of lice: I see the objects as haptic, visual… completely outside language. I’m interested in putting things next to each other and seeing what happens, words next to words, objects to objects and words next to objects.


VSK: The dumb plays are published by The Theatre of Objects. Is this a personal repertory company? It relates to your seekers of lice pseudonym.


seekers of lice: seekers of lice isn’t a pseudonym, it’s a space to inhabit with its own separate existence.

There was a manifesto for objects, demanding the space to speak. So Theatre of Objects was an imagined theatre not of seekers of lice but of the objects themselves. Benjamin Buchloh writes about the “object theater of fluxus”. I wondered what an object theatre was.


VSK: There is a distinctiveness to scripts –


seekers of lice: Yes, I see the scripts as different to other forms: scripts as dialogues, the spoken word interacting between separate characters, consecutive speeches are read as responses in some form to the previous speech. They point to an existence beyond the writer.



But the page presence is always important as well. I am continuing to use the play form in eg Poem to be Felt, published in VLAK 3, 2012.


VSK: Poets Theater confounds any straight forward transition/ translation of text into space. In your own work the book form itself is the primary performance –


seekers of lice: dumb show took different forms, eg the shine on the nose was published in The Blue Notebook as a tipped in A7 sheet of translucent paper with a hand-painted square of manganese blue. A note said:

The first script, the shine on the nose : dumb show is published here. Each copy of the journal contains 1 page of the 10 page script. The complete script is distributed through the different copies.

So that was a kind of performance. And the performance of LOUSE FACTORY was in its distribution.


VSK: In LOUSE FACTORY the use of the paper bag requires a brevity. It becomes an ideogram, an object, a sign for a new form of distribution that simultaneously makes the work ephemeral-


seekers of lice: The plays on paper bags were indeed exploring forms of distribution. They were used in bookshops for purchases without any explanatory comment. I wondered how a script could exist when each recipient ended up with a third or a quarter or a fifth of a play. So each page (bag) had to have an independent existence.

They were very visual texts, playing with patterns and spacings of words and letters. The space of the bag is the arena for action. The scene could be framed in any environment it reached.


VSK: The texts are not, for example, instructional scores. They are more about their own language…


seekers of lice: The texts are things I have made and put in the world. They are presentations not explanations. I don’t conceptualise how they might be used.

The frame provides a context and a meaning. I like Weiner’s position, that art is what happens when you stop making metaphors, stop mediating the world through words which give the appearance of making sense of things, of translating reality into assimilable form.




Weiner says: “This is the reason why people like Carl Andre are such good artists. They’re not telling you what to think, they’re telling you to stand still and watch how your thoughts no longer work.”

Work which is not intrinsically metaphorical can then be used by people for their own purposes as a metaphor– as he puts it: to find your own place in the sun.


VSK: And the form of the paper bag is well suited to an enactment or performance of these ideas-


seekers of lice: The change to printed bags allowed me to design and control the layout, yes the ideogram of the text, very precisely. I hoped it would also speed production.

In fact I was using a basic computer printer and the bags were too thick to go through, so I had to open up the bottom of each bag, print it and then refold and reglue the bag. So production was very very slow!

I liked the boldness of printed text which was possible, and the factory production- line feel – closer to mechanical reproduction with me as machine.

The single gesture, the liminal, the infrathin, the peripheral – how much to move someone? Just reading an essay on Bonnard which links Duchamp’s infrathin with Bonnard. Yes I was/am interested in slightness.


VSK: How does slightness take form in your work?


seekers of lice: Slightness – the idea that art doesn’t have to be spectacular or dramatic(!) to create a profound effect. Also as a strategy, in finding ways to distribute work. Paper bags are ephemeral but function as a mode of circulation. I make the work and other people distribute it for me. So an individual bag is slight but its value to the recipient might exceed that.

Slightness. Lightness. A sliver inserted into the world. Finding a gap in which to operate. Buchloh again: “Fluxus doesn’t aspire to radical transformations of everyday life but to ludic practices which open up sudden ruptures within that system’s mesmerizing totality and numbing continuity.”

I had a short correspondence by email with a librarian at MOMA’s art library. She wrote:


Got your package today. Thanks for sending the books. They look great. I didn’t understand your name at first, but it hit me about 6 weeks ago when I was riding the subway home….


So I also regard the name as a work. This reminds me of Christian Morgenstern, “Korf erfindet eine Art von Witzen” or, according to Google Translator “Korf invents a kind of jokes”:


Korf invents a kind of jokes,

Act until many hours later.

Everyone listens to them with long while.

But as a scale if geglommen still,

will you suddenly alive at night in bed

smiling like a rich baby blessed.







VerySmallKitchen: These questions are explored differently in The Bride of L’Amor-mor-l’amor. Its length asks how your works are structured and develop, what sort of resolution they seek, if any.


seekers of lice: I see The Bride as a different sort of text, more formal and artificial. At the time I described it like this:


The Bride of L’Amor-mor-l’amor is an abstract conceptual work. It uses different vocabularies for different speakers which are married when the words of the Bride and Groom are literally combined, first word by word then with each of their words severed and rejoined to make new words.

Specific vocabularies are drawn from fairy tales such as Bluebeard and Donkey Skin, from works of philosophy and from the procedural fiction of Kafka. Simple construction using ‘as’ ‘is’ ‘and’ and ‘or’ are used to counter the forward movement of the line.

The layout reflects the initial opposition between the bride and groom; when they are married the text becomes centred. The use of bold type in the final dance is to suggest emphasis.


So for me it follows a conventional trajectory. I wanted an opposition between the bride and groom. He uses the language of romance and her speech is supposed to be overtly sexual. The action takes place in the restructuring of their language.


VSK: How does voice work in your plays? You have included CDs with books, worked with your children to record texts-


seekers of lice: I was interested in what happens when objects are given a voice. I’ve since discovered in Martin Esslin’s Theatre of the Absurd Christian Morgenstern’s sandwich paper lying lonely in a wood which


“…Commenced, from fright, there is no doubt,

To think. Commenced, began, set out


To think, just think, what here combined,

Received (by fear) – a thinking mind ….”


Das Butterbrotpapier (the sandwich paper) ends up being eaten by a bird. Reading the scripts aloud raises questions of how these texts can be read, how intonation can be used, how the characters can be presented.

The readings I made with my children (not out of sentimentality – they were available and could be bribed to participate) were of quandaries. I liked the idea of the repetition of “or” acting as a drone. I made a short recording which just had the “or”s threaded together to make or-or -noise.

At the same time I made a recording of farcical tricycle which I put on a short promo disc for William English. Listening to it 3 years later I realise the extent to which I saw them as different voices, different characters.


seekers of lice, creamy language, 2011



The reading, the sound is important to me – I like to create the desire to read aloud or mouth the words, to feel the physical shapes. When I did creamy language [an installation for I AM NOT A POET, Totalkunst Gallery, Edinburgh, 2011] I was pleased that Mirja’s son walked in to the gallery and immediately started reading aloud from the walls.



But more of an indicator for the evolution of Cointet’s practice was The Paintings of Sophie Rummel, 1974, in which Viva stood before twelve of the artist’s new paintings composed of red letters and numbers on white canvas (consisting of license plate and phone numbers found randomly, together they seem like nonsensical signage, or else eye charts).

Ultimately, for audience members these became paintings and texts at the same time that they were representations of paintings and texts–in short, props. Viva read aloud from sheets containing the exact same text, introducing different potential meanings by using a variety of intonations and rhythms of speech as she revisited the passages over and over. Is it praise? Adoration? Puzzlement? Depending on the intonation, “1256” could be a tragic number.

Marie de Brugerolle, “Enigma Variations” in Artforum, Summer 2007, 413.




VSK: As well as the forms of the texts themselves, it is the circumstances of how such writing is produced that offers parallels between your own work and poets theater. In To Be At Music: Essays & Talks Norma Cole writes:


The projects of Poets’ Theatre are communal. They accrete and gather momentum, a kind of critical mass, building on local relationships in time. Someone is writing – often the “someone” is a composite, a dyad, the multiple author – writing for known members of the future cast so the future is here and now. So even the primary or originary moment of writing is expansive, interactive, a function of the vitality of ongoing conversations in a community. The boundaries of the community are permeable and shifting, since it consists of singularities, to use Agamben’s term. Individuals express interest in participating. This interest is incorporated. So the dynamics of the participants, a kind of multiple person, or mega-organism live in solution in continuous flux. (54)



seekers of lice: I don’t identify with any of this at all.


VSK: Really? Why not!? If there’s not the performance context Cole talks about, your texts still seem to evidence this originary moment that is expansive, interactive –


seekers of lice: Isn’t that true of all art/writing?


VSK: You don’t want to conceptualise your work like this.


seekers of lice: I don’t conceptualise my work. I’m only interested in doing it and getting it out there. So I’m not a Conceptual writer/artist.


VSK: Cole also quotes Brecht: “One might say that everything hangs on the ‘story’ which is what happens between people.’


seekers of lice: Are you asking what happens between the text/writer and the reader?


VSK: You told me before that the plays of Gertrude Stein are not intended for performance. Why is that?


seekers of lice: I’m distinguishing between reading and theatrical performance with sets, costumes, action, conflict, resolution etc, or a theatrical performance within that context.

I think theatre requires action and the dialogue is only a part of that, not necessarily the most significant element. In Stein’s plays I feel the dialogue is the action. I think that is also true of The Bride. Giles [Goodland] said he would like to see it set to music like Edith Sitwell’s Façade – I like the idea but need a composer.


VSK: When you saw Einstein on the Beach recently did that offer any connections to thinking about staging?


seekers of lice: No. I thought the music and singing in Einstein on the Beach were fantastic, and the dancing, but was less convinced by the staged set pieces.

I wonder whether dumb show could be performed; or rather become part of a theatrical performance; perhaps in the manner of a Bauhaus / Oscar Schlemmer performance with dance and acrobatics? Perhaps LOUSE FACTORY could be performed as a cabaret. I think it’s a possibility because they are very open texts.





Fundamentally I agree with Martin Esslin: “Theatre is always more than mere language. Language alone can be read, but true theatre can become manifest only in performance.” So they – dumb show and LOUSE FACTORY – are scripts for a potential performance.


VSK: A default performance style in poets theater and also in art writing performances at venues like X Marks the Bökship is the artist and their friends in everyday clothes holding A4 typescripts or books and reading them aloud.


seekers of lice: I prefer the intimate unmediated relationship between reader and text, the scale of performance that produces.


VSK: Perhaps again, as with the bags, you need a form that reduces and restricts in order to reveal…


seekers of lice: Yes I like the scale, the smallness of the disembodied reading.


VSK: LOUSE FACTORY opens with a manifesto for the absurd. Is the absurd a category for these scripts, for theatre, the body, and your practice as a whole?


seekers of lice: dumb show and LOUSE FACTORY play with the ridiculous and absurd. The tradition of the absurd includes verbal nonsense, clowning and fooling.

Oskar Schlemmer, Triadic Ballet costumes, 1926

For me the risk in writing is being prepared to risk stupidity, dumbness and the laughable in order to write something which is not just a parody of writing, or of poetry – not something which merely looks like art.

So bolt in moebius dispute ends “no armour / be ridiculous I am rid- / / iculous.” I’m always verging on the ridiculous – or trying to.


VSK: I relate this to a forcefulness in your writing. To articulate this quality, I’m thinking of texts by Maggie O’Sullivan and Hélène Cixous, some hybrid model of poet as shaman, linguistic animism, écriture féminine…


seekers of lice: I’ve not read O’Sulllivan or Cixous and I’m resistant to écriture feminine. I believe gender is irrelevant to the way I work.

I want to be a man; as Eileen Myles wrote, why can’t we all be men? This is why I like an ungendered name – not because I’m trying to make a mystery, but because I don’t see it as relevant. But Beuys is one of my heroes.


VSK: You feel regret after a performance. Is this from the failure of the absurd to fully exist as public discourse?


seekers of lice: No, regret at my failure to do justice to the performance. Discourse after all is running hither and thither so very open to the absurd.







More about seekers of lice here. See also in the VerySmallKitchen creamy language, leaf/leaves and LILMP.

This dialogue was conducted by email July-Sep 2012. THEATRE OF OBJECTS, a collection of play scripts, will be published by VerySmallKitchen in Nov 2012.







In Uncategorized on September 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm







Stephen Emmerson writes: The Last Ward is a series of 6 A3 posters and a 6 track CD. Each track title corresponds with one of the visual poem titles. They should be considered part of the same poem, working symbiotically rather than responding to one another.

      1. polygun
      2. speech is written in capitals
      3. time runs backwards as well as forwards and will one day meet
      4. pylons
      5. voices in radiator falling through sink
      6. you are not a concept i am familiar with



I think instructed reading, or innovative reading, is an interesting way to frame a work that may otherwise have been freed from authorial control. i.e. the audiovisual pieces are in one way open and abstract because they do not utilise a regular written language, however, by giving an instruction or guideline on how to read the work it becomes more definite.

The choreography of the reading came about as an attempt to examine the notion of reading as creativity. I am also interested in obstructing the reading of any given work, and I think it’s interesting to see how closely someone might follow any given set of essentially arbitrary rules.

The interest in sound and visual comes from reading as well. I mean when we read a text we are taking visual cues and transforming them into sound, and I see the audio aspect of this work as being a way to cue up the visuals and hopefully open up the possibility of a different way of reading.

The starting point for The Last Ward came from a quote by Trotsky. He said: ‘England is the last ward of the European madhouse’. I began this work during the riots last year.

Yes – all of these images began as writing, if you look closely you can see letters and parts of letters, fragments of typewriter keys, and pen strokes. Yet in these images there are repetitions of glyphs and patterns within those repetitions that to me at least makes this something very close to writing.

I think you give up a certain amount of specificity of meaning when you begin creating something like this – to some extent that’s the point, but at the same time I’m creating a frame to read or examine these works within, and knowing when and why they were written makes them much more specific to a certain time and place, and even pushes it towards certain critical boundaries. But the reader will know more about that than me.


There was a lot of editing, I mean I think it took the best part of a year to create the images and the audio. There were lots of different versions. It’s funny that you talk about endless new touches of paint, because sometimes that happened and pieces were ruined and I had to start the whole process over again. I think the details are very important, just like in any other kind of writing, the whole is nothing without them.

With the audio it was much the same, some of it was recorded live, but it might have taken many takes to get just right, some of the other pieces were more programmed, and that’s a totally different way of working.

The collaboration with Lucy Harvest Clarke is a work that does reveal the process to some extent. We started by taking a notebook page and folding it down the middle. Lucy wrote half a line, (3 – 6 words) and then turned the page over so that I couldn’t see what she’d written, and then I’d finish the line. It’s kind of like an exquisite corpse.

The first part of that work, which was published on VSK, was mostly written on train journeys so there’s loads of repeated imagery and words like ‘window’ and ‘pylon’ that keep cropping up. I think we were both shocked at just how complete those pieces turned out, being that we couldn’t see what the other was writing.

Having the hand written versions alongside the printed text brings a visual aspect to the work where the urgency of the writing is revealed. It also lets the reader into our state of mind at the time of writing whilst allowing the same words to be revealed as a different version of the same poem.


Even if I’m creating audiovisual work its still centred around language, so I feel it’s more centred around poetry than visual art per se.

For instance – in August I’m exhibiting a William Blake poem-installation in Camberwell that includes audiovisual work centred around a large pentagram with a typewriter at each point.

Stephen Emmerson, Albion, 2012

People coming to see the work will be invited to sit inside the pentagram and channel Blake whilst using the typewriters to create a text. Aside from channeling Blake, which is a reference to his paranormal conversations, this method can also be seen as a way of translating audiovisual work into text, the fact that I won’t be creating any of the text doesn’t necessarily mean that I am not the author, nor does it mean that I am more interested in the audiovisual than the text, it simply means I’m more interested in how people read, because again, this work is about reading, and about translating, and I think if you’re interested in that as an author then you are better off staying away from text.






THE LAST WARD by Stephen Emmerson is available for £6 (plus £1.50 UK P&P). Please email for postage details if ordering from outside the UK.

More about Stephen’s work is here.


VSK PROJECT: SISYPHUS, OUTDONE. Theatres of the Catastrophal [EXTRACT] by Nathanaël

In Uncategorized on September 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm




§      If there were a concordance between the place of birth and the place of death,


§      The photograph makes more of disavowal. For example: “I admit to closing       more books than I open.” [51] It disavows the line and it draws a line. A face, for example. It is not that I cry, but the summary made, by the photograph, of proximities. The face, for example, driven into its pain. And the impression (sense) of leaving with one’s eyes. As though looking were a form of desistance. Mine, first, because I am the one looking.


§      Between the mailbox and the train is the attendant question: is it possible to photograph the sound of the train. To move the sound into a frame.


§      Posed differently, I might scratch with Christine Lavant at the little door, “tandis que je gratte à la petite porte, /


§      mendiant dans la ferme des souffrances.” [52] The transposition to a different key.


§      In time. [53]


§      Thus creating the following tautology: I might scratch with Christine Lavant at the little door, while I scratch at the little door. The erstwhile hinge is tandis que; it groans as does wood that is swollen.


§      Ferme, which is close, close. The close of sufferings. Misindicating the substantive in favour of other, mitigating, proximities. That ferme might also signal a trap door in a cement floor, at a particularly vexing moment of redirected intention.


§      A translation is not a tautology. It is something else.


§      Doubled (over).


§      Nor is it citation.


§      The fantasy of (this) translation is that it is repeatable.


§      For example: “Your voice lingers here in the fore-cast.”


§      No assurance is given as to the qualification of the sound as it is scratched onto the retina.


§      The eye itself is not sound. [54]


§      A complete set of small green encyclopædia. Each of the XXV volumes is green and each spine has gilt lettering and is imprinted with the outline of the Empire State Building. All XXV Empire State buildings fit into a small box, which is carried comfortably under the arm for several blocks. Published in 1931 [55], they occupy approximately two linear feet of floor space, and are each four inches tall.


§      Tautology: the Empire State Building is inaugurated in 1931. The encyclopædia account for this. Which is to say that I invent it.


§      I invent the concordance in and of the present.


§      “And here the time of memory is precisely the time I am describing.” [56]


§      Gunpowder green tea in this America.


§      It is the concordance which invents [57] the present.


§      The sound and the rail line. The low wall and the fence, clipped in places, allowing for unauthorized foot traffic. Covered over and clipped again, such that the fence bears visible stitchings replenishing holes which are less visible and apt to disappear. The distances are altered precisely by these alterations. It is then possible to posit the disappearances of the walkers who walk in anticipation of these breaches. The removal of foothold and course.


§      Over three kilometres of undocumented passage multiplied by the number of traversals.


§      Thus: “I know what I am looking for without […] having to exist.”


§      Wittgenstein’s injunction – the having to – corroborates his certainty. What is obliterated with the knowledge of what is sought is the self-seeking. To my unsound eye, the repeated phrase, “what I am looking for” is excised from the page as I tender it to myself, removing ontology from view leaving certainty (alone). The reinstated text translated by Raymond Hargreaves and Roger White renders: “I know what I am looking for without what I am looking for having to exist.” In the time lapse, delay, the corrected version reads wrong, and it is the negative which remains: “without what I am looking for.”


§      The concordance is in: without.


§      Then what is the relationship between obsolescence and the negative?


§      “When other socialist countries discarded Marxism-Leninism as a way of life, the GDR ceased to exist altogether.” [58]


§      In a falsely posed problem of improbability, two people carry one body through two doors. Understood thus, one body is transported with difficulty by two people. The body is the body of a person, carried first through one door, then another. They disappear with the body, past the turnstile. After, they are there again; it is the same body. The person is not dead to begin with. First, there is a person, then there is a person, dead; the bearers of the dead do not know it. Neither at the beginning nor at the end. They are carrying a person. I watch as they do this. They enter, go out, the body is so big, bigger than itself, so heavy, heavier than itself, a leg drags, the bearers falter. Back and then forth. They go through the swinging door, the pair of glasses on the face, knocked askew.


§      A door open in two directions at once.


§      I made wishes for each of the horses, and drank green tea, and wrote you ardently.


§      The body functions as its own anachronism. To posit a temporality is a way of overlooking time.







[51] Absence Where As, 13.

[52] Christine Lavant, Un art comme le mien n’est que vie mutilée, 208.

[53] I have just this instant come upon the most wonderful concordance; the unwitting compression of the English phrase “in time”, yields the French: intime, which means intimate – adjectivally and substantively. That intimacy could be – is – substantive – // self-existent – // there is tea now in the unbroken pot; (From a letter, sent. Henceforth, unattributed quotations are indicative of such letters.)

[54] “não compreendo o olho, e tento chegar perto.” Hilda Hilst, A obscena Senhora D, 21.

[55] The same year that Geli Raubal, Hitler’s niece, committed suicide. Wittgenstein, 18.

[56] Wittgenstein, 18.

[57] –contrives.

[58] Karl Gernot Kuehn, Caught, ix.


This is an extract from SISYPHUS, OUTDONE. Theatres of the Catastrophal by Nathanaël, to be published in October 2012 by Nightboat Books.

More about Nathanaël’s work here. An extract from The Middle Notebookes is on VerySmallKitchen here.



In Uncategorized on September 11, 2012 at 11:34 am



CARDBOARD PASTORAL: A journey into the countryside of Northern Kent interpreted through improvisation on cardboard and vocals/casio. In Spring 2012 Daniel Lehan and Jude Cowan visited Higham. The resulting collaborations were recorded on Flip video.


1. He Was Only an Acting Lieutenant





2. Danger Falling Blossom!





3. Under Here a Slow Worm





4. Rufus Runs Underneath the Pylons Rewiring a Rusty Crane Man





5. The Clouds Will Pass Over, the Raindrops Will Stop





6. Man In a Crane On the Water







More about Jude Cowan’s work  here and here. More about Daniel Lehan’s here.






In Uncategorized on September 7, 2012 at 10:42 pm



You can say anything… what will you say? Repeat lines of the offender? There is no off switch, no thumbs down. Celebrate, appreciate our period? Realize some potential in our now incredibly vast capacity, opportunity for freedom of expression? How?

My proposal, one attempt: reflexive, interpretive art writing with an ethnographic bent (critical appreciation), seeks to promote a theoretical model countering negative diagnoses of the modern metropolis―a strategy that might be described as aiming to reflect a period of so incredible the capacities of expression. What gives.

Ethnography, a non-method method, as Jamin’s “L’ethnographie, mode d’inemploi”, akin also to the intentions of some downtown New York artists of the 70s and 80s―art in the everyday―writing, as a way of Being meditative, observant (observational), quiet, not meaningless.  Also following Williams on the relationship between newspapers and advertizing, how advertizing ingested in our news stories now. [1] A desire to screen false fears, to lead healthy, helpful, immediate lives. The prose I hope for, yearn for, is in a calmness, observation, yet, honestly, what here in New York must be exasperatively auditory―sonic, energetic.

And includes object lessons; addresses multiplying spheres, contexts, environments. Social of course also architectural; technological, and natural. The streets here for example: gilded with barbed wire, the lights on all night, the perpetual alternating sirens and alarms signaling nothing but echoing complicated brief histories of immigration, economic disparity. The influx of new students always.



Today a man came to my door to ask how long I thought the injustices will continue. No, he said: “Do you think there’ll be an end to injustices?” I assumed it was a prank and returned to my desk but, then, I got up and returned to the tiny monitor showing me the street three floors and half a block away. I said, “How can I help you?”

He repeated himself, then said: “There’ve been a lot of injustices going on.” The camera switched to Arial view enhancing the reminiscence of the experience to a graphic novel I know, and then died. We were cut off and I stood there incredulous, my jaw gaped, until I’d stabbed the talk/hear button enough I was convinced the interaction must be complete.

I turned and sat at my desk again.  In my mind I ran down to meet the stranger. We walked down Wyckoff discussing the state of art. We thought of failing nutrition; diabetic campaigning, home land insecurity. We joked and laughed a bit, then promised to write.




Sensate intervals in the city have always been mediated. Yet, there are so many new versions. I feel slow. So slow in a world changing, travel, necessarily, Baroque Silences full of clacking keyboards, announcements, alerts, noise. Bass streams, foreclosures, permanent residences―what symbols emerge from some appreciation. Here’s the fear: that people are writing about the things they are seeing, reading, hearing, feeling, never in so many words. The responsibility! Ethics in an economy of clicks. Do pollsters qualify your reposted rapes, abortions? Like! And a terrific paradox: if you don’t have anything nice to say… The pantomime of cosmopolitan freedoms. It is difficult to be optimistic.

And this has already been written. One more: A sound check for monks, all monks all at once. Nature in machines, the slow breathlessness of nature in eternal machines―with a Black Sabbath riff off a haunted house.



Sarah Butler, What Writing, 2011



The Cost of Entry to Museums

In 1980 Geertz wrote “the instruments of reasoning are changing and society is less and less represented as an elaborate machine or a quasi-organism than as a serious game, a sidewalk drama, or a behavioural text.” [2]
What are the new instruments of reasoning, the tomorrow metaphors for society? INTERACTION, NETWORK, COMMUNICATION? That last not like two decades past terminology the paths of canals, railways, steamships, cars, and aero craft communication, but “straight to your skull” brand identity without the hyphen, relationalisms and trans intra supra nationalisms. Humanity forgets itself. What are the norms we today take for granted? …I’d like to think first about exhibitions.

In Exhibiting Contradiction Wallach discusses there was a lack of decorum for private collections made public. “Audiences were demonstrative, tastes eclectic.” [3] Inappropriate exuberance, voiced shock reaction. Where is your decorum? And now, artwork for contemplation or for entertainment. What is entertaining? Active construction of meaning? Is it so very much like an Opera then?




We walked down the street talking about gentrification; rent, student debt, health care and war, when it came up that we are the “first generation to have less than its parents”. Where did that information come from? Certainly at least this, is a localized concept. And, what does less mean? How do we quantify less. My grandmother, for example, is always scheming to “make less,” in the basement, in the garage, in the barn. She nearly escaped death in WWII. How do we qualify? What are the new new instruments of reasoning, the new metaphors for citizens. “Users?” Surely not all and in varying intensities.



Sarah Butler, Anthology Art Space: Chapter One (Botanic and Famous Accountants, Photographs) #1, 2010-2012



Our work will be co-edited, in the sense that we write things together, at times, not exclusively, but it’s been so delightful to exchange letters with you. [4]  “All my outpourings of words are just one long defense of a world to which words have no right of entrance…To discover intimations of a space and time outside the division of labor.” [5]

Patron/Artist. I wanted to suggest that the social ROLE of the artist is determined by the PATRON. As well as of course the VALUE of the PATRON is created by the artist. The responsibility of patron? The patron should be regarded as an artist, a maker of cultural significance―at anticipated and direct global effect. Where do these generalizations come from? Institutional critique, media, ideology, art. Who is the audience for arts in Bushwick? Artists. The social responsibility of the artist. We celebrate artist-run-centers. We make taste…but, we also make food. [6]




Ethnographic art appreciation that includes some measure of a person taking photographs; observing new work on line, in the street, and at school, the museum, and gallery. In department stores and in prisons—a relational, thick description. When will I read you again?




My project is about writing as something to be doing―may be in the way a painter paints. Not necessarily to create something pre-figured. But as a discovery, as a very physical mode of engagement with the world, extending also Sontag’s thinking on photography — that sometimes to say something, is just to own it. [7] I call what I do art writing, to mean writing that is art. However my writing is also sometimes about art, and so I’m told that is confusing. Am I a writer who writes about art? Or an artist who arts about writing? Do these need be mutually exclusive? Maybe that’s just writing. Here we have non-poet poets, futurist ilk, active, aware identity fabricators, psychological pro-sumers, Kline-ian bothness.




Sarah Butler, Water Sample, 2011



A dangerous dream: “if social conditions allow advertising to serve images that are justified in the deepest and broadest social sense, advertising art could contribute effectively in preparing the way for a positive popular art, an art reaching everybody and understood by everybody.” [8]

And finally, a response to previous critiques: I don’t write to be popular or accessible. I seek to address an audience who I imagine will have some previous knowledge of my subject, some resonance with my context.  But, for a popular, unspecialized audience, I hope my writing might come off as poetic reverie. You don’t have to understand the mechanics of e. e. cummings in order to “get” it, just like you don’t need to know the details behind a (bird) song to be captivated by it. Not that my work is anything close to par with cummings, bird songs. But, here’s a normative reliquary for some new beginning: life’s work.






[1] Williams, Communications (London: Chatto & Windus, 1966).

[2] Geertz, “Blurred Genres,” The American Scholar, 49 (Spring 1980).

[3] Wallach, Exhibiting contradiction : essays on the art museum in the United States (Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 1998).

[4] A brief note about different forms of address within my texts, sudden inferences about relationships and contexts never made explicit―I mean you, now (a reader if on an autumn’s night, a stranger at the door): on line and in the street; the gallery and salon, the classroom, studio, lab, and kitchen.

[5] Jorn in Wark, The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International (New York: Verso, 2011), 120.

[6] See The Patron’s Value.

[7] Sontag, On Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Girous, 1989).

[8] Kepes in Richardson Modern Art and Scientific Thought (Champaign, University of Illinois Press, 1971), 156.



More about Sarah’s work is here. She edits word servents.





In Uncategorized on September 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm





RACHEL LOIS CLAPHAM writes: A Writing Station is used to produce short texts live and in public. The WRITING STATION includes: Two typewriters, pebbles, white A4 80gsm and black carbon copy paper (it generally keeps things close to the ground).

The invitation is to type, punch-in and publish. There and then. The texts act variously as gift, context, conversation slip or document/ation at the discretion of the typist.



VSK: Can you say more about “close-to-the-ground”…

RLC: Close to the ground- for me, this is non networked, literally buried in its moment, in the soil. Also, with regards to the materials present- metal, ink, paper, carbon paper. There is something quite rooted about these materials coming from the ground. Save for the plastic covers on the machines that is!





TEXT:  By Rachel Lois Clapham. “For Charles Olson” and “For Alan Turing” from an email exchange with Alex Eisenberg.






Marianne Holm Hansen, For the Record, ongoing



Type (typos) was recognized as individual. (Some of us sixties poets were trying to find our own voices as opposed, that is, to what seemed an expected and traditional meditational and cryptic “English” inner voice.) That sense of the individual imprint, outside of tradition, outside of an inherited world of form, became immediate.

We used the Gestetner, the letterpress, the typewriter. Type became letter as literal and letter as object.



Elisabeth Mann Borgese… had trained a dog in the 1940s to type answers to questions on a special machine that fitted its paws. The success of this undertaking is still dubious in scientific circles, but the spectacle it made at the keyboard of its machine stuck in Joseph Cornell’s mind as one of the events of the century, and he supposed that all well-informed people were familiar with it. La Borgese’s accomplished beast’s habit of typing BAD DOG when it had flubbed a right answer had brought tears to his eyes. He… had no qualms about dismissing people tediously ignorant of such wonderful things.




For Open Dialogues, SOB BASIC  is part of NOTA: NOTES, which they describe as:


NOTA: NOT, NOTES, NOTER (NOTA), NOT/A, pressing on the time, place and quality of notes in relation to performance…. towards a sometime set of performance writing tools.


As part of our collaboration in Leeds, a gathering of materials on typewriter as art-writing practice by VerySmallKitchen can be seen here


Rachel Lois Clapham and typewriter at InXclusion, Leeds, 2012



… whilst a conversation on the typewriter with artist Marianne Holm Hansen in a coffee shop on Brick Lane became TYPE TYING TYPINGS TYPIST TYBE.






TEXTS: Collected from Writing Station at the conclusion of InXclusion, East Street  Arts, Leeds,  6pm 24th March to 6pm 25 March 2012.






The Olympia 66 splendid typewriter



VerySmallKitchen writes: …DocU, morphing into SOB BASIC after a deliberately erratum transcription of a skype conversation…  different aspects of the typewriter and how it might bbbbbe…  gathering sources from various histories and art and poetry, colleagues and contemporaries, towards new acts of individual imprint..

… actually, this dominates over any desire to actually type myself!… Where do I put the paper? people (under, say, 25) asked in Leeds. Can I do capital letters?…



(1)Simon Cutts’ poem “An ode for the recovery of an olympia splendid 66 typewriter originally designed by max bill in 1939….”  This is in Jerome Rothenberg’s A Book of the Book anthology and Cutts’ own A Smell of Printing: Poems 1988-1998. Just the title for now.


(2)The projects on Colin Sackett’s website under the heading Typewriting. As well as the specifics of each project, the suggestion of “Typewriting” as a distinct writing category, transferring and multiplying agency, breaking away from the machine itself, whilst confirming its materiality and history, ghosting into laptop and InDesign…



Colin Sackett, ‘A Sort of a Song’, 2011





KNEAD the linguistic material; this is what justifies the label concrete.

Don’t just manipulate the whole structure; begin rather with the smallest elements—letters, words.  Recast the letters as anagrams.  Repeat letters within words; throw in alien words, peavroog-se do; interpose letters that don’t belong, aacatioaanniya for action; explore children’s secret code languages and other private languages; vocal glides gliaouedly.  And, of course, newly coined lettristic words.




To bring down a military plane over Afghanistan. To welcome the sun. To water the plants. To roll back the hose. To unroll it again. To go on watering. To place the hose next to the wall. To displace shadows while displacing oneself. To go back to the typewriter. To worry about the ribbon, to wonder if it needs to be replaced by a new one. To control the desire for sherbets. To breathe painfully. To keep one’s anger low key, sweep away one’s worries. To take off the shoes and wear other ones, and enjoy the result. To see what time it is. To uncork the inkpots. To read “Mont Blanc” on the label. To glance at the watch and realize that it’s time  for the (bad) news. To put up with it.




A scaphocephalic X-ray: top-heavy. The bloodshot reels are tin eyes. Pince-nez of ribbon, legion of dishonour. Rictal mouth in mash of metallic teeth, German dentistry. Or: stand the thing on its head and the keys become strokes of electrified hair. Shock therapy. One scarlet lip, bitten and bloody. And the other? Black as human ignorance. Bridled, the scold who has swallowed her own children. The typewriter, long out of service, dictates the screenplay: Bring Me the Head of Emanuel Swedenborg. Stripped of flesh, this instrument is our first skull. It vibrates like a skin drum. An empty cranium filled with wormcasts. It writes the long house into being, as a form of apology; architect of its own ruin. Fingered to erotic frenzy, it talks code. The truths of the sense of the letter of the Word… are found in dump receptacles.


Provenance unknown. Thought to be in use for matters of business until the coming of the word-processor. In essence a memory-device waiting to be activated; to reveal, without human intervention, all the secrets of its infinite interior.




The other night out at the bars, I learned that Nietzsche wrote on a typewriter. It is unbelievable to me, and I no longer feel that his philosophy has the same validity or aura of truth that it formerly did. No other detail of his life situating him so squarely in the modern age could have affected me as much as learning this. He typed Zarathustra? Goddamnit, the man had no more connection to the truth than a stenographer!













NOTES: A & B (above) are from (A) Fred Wah, Faking It: Poetics & Hybridity Critical Writing 1984-1999 (NeWest Press, 2000) 246 and  (B) Guy Davenport,  Every Force Evolves A Form (North Point Press, 1987), 146.

(3) Oyvind Fahlstrom  Hipy Papy Bthuthdth Thuthda Bthuthdy: Manifesto for Concrete Poetry (1953) in Antonio Sergio Bessa ed. Mary Ellen Solt: Toward a Theory of Concrete Poetry, OEI No.51/ 2010, 257-260;  (4) Etel Adnan,  In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country (City Lights Books, 2005), 104; (5) Iain Sinclair, from “Commentaries: The Typewriter”  in Sinclair and Brian Catling, Several Clouds Colliding (Bookworks, 2012),  15; (6) Sheila Heti, How Should A Person Be? (Henry Holt & Co., 2012).



NOTA was recently part of SHOWTIME. More about that is here.






In Uncategorized on September 3, 2012 at 9:16 am









[Inhabitants of the structure have been moving up and up, navigating girders, racking and broken furniture for a period of time so long and unmeasured that it has become indeterminable and taken on a physical quality, a line that extends behind and in front of them, as though the structure has made manifest the duration of its ascent. They refer to themselves now as climbers, keepers of an unraveled clock.

At one station, their climbing slows as they stand in formation one behind the other, rows of hands holding onto cold poles like rehearsal room dancers. Where their elevation is automated, they clutch hand rests that chug slightly slower than their feet are carried, their bodies bending into choreographed contortions.

Beyond its intersecting tubes and almost vertical tunnels, the structure unfolds as a vast auditorium of steps. Built at a gradient not so steep as to loom, mentally exhausting in the suggestion of physical strain, the steps appear rather as geological features, rough grey hills of old road interrupted by stacked pavements.

The climbers stop for long periods and disperse, at times lying down or drifting up, along and back down the graduated bank of their arena. In a basin emptied of time they dwell on an ersatz ground, surrounded from all aspects and temporarily attached to a feeling of absent contentedness.]




Corridors of blue and grey, powder and charcoal.










[At times climbers feel restless and try to bisect certain levels. Scrolling through flicked and torn pages, they push away timber obstacles and turn leaves. At first, some considered descending and even tried, but found themselves on levels and platforms they had already crossed. Others began to recognise within themselves a feeling of reassurance, caused by their place within a construction of uncertain scale and on a journey of uncertain duration.

At various points the structure flattens out ahead, giving the impression that the ascent might be nearing its finish. During these times, the surroundings calm into settled washes of illusory blue-green.]




Red bricks enclose a space, out of which exits a tube of red and yellow plastic. A palm tree bends through primary coloured concentric circles.










[The distance of their journey shrinks and stretches. On walkways between scaffolds and shelves, climbers pace back and forth sketching scenery that lies beyond planed wood and welded sheets, closing their eyes to draft the contours of foliage and architecture. Rocky, cut glass and flagged surfaces, oddly shaped leaves, inhabitants engaged in unfamiliar cycles of activity and a tartan of materials and patterns appear to some in all their detail and nuanced difference; for others they expand far enough to retreat into anonymous unity, swallowed by their own sprawling mass. The site remains obscured by coloured tints and bleached out patches.]




Toes dipped, swirling water.









More about Charlotte’s work is here. As part of COPY she is in residence at Site Gallery, Sheffield as part of print it, 11 Aug-8 Sep 2012.