STORIES I STARTED BUT COULDN’T FINISH
I want to start again. I want to write a book that has nothing to do with any of the books I’ve written before. This is the kind of book you write when you think you might be dead soon. A book to make enemies, to take revenge on people who most likely don’t deserve it…
I don’t remember exactly when I started calling it The Pinocchio Syndrome, this: I want to be a real boy / I want to be a real novel thing. I don’t want to write strange, experimental, impossible to categorize, novel-like-things anymore. I don’t want to be marginalized like that. I want to write a real novel with real characters and a real story that will be taken seriously by the literary world. I think every writer of difficult-to-categorize fiction struggles to some extent with The Pinocchio Syndrome (along with the exceptions to every rule.)
I am fascinated by the novel Mount Analogue by René Daumal and, more specifically, with its ending. As is well known, Daumal died in 1948, in the middle of writing Mount Analogue, and the book ends mid-sentence. The last line is:
I have often wondered if it would be possible to end something I wrote mid-sentence, not because I had died, but for some other reason.
I have been thinking so much about solar energy, about how much of what I read, especially from a mainstream perspective, seems misplaced. When I read that we will not be able to generate enough energy using solar and wind, I feel they are completely missing the point. The points are:
1) That these new, sustainable technologies will force us to use less, will demonstrate – on a real, lived, experiential basis – that resources are renewable but not infinite.
2) That there is more autonomy, and less greedy profit, in a decentralized power grid.
3) That the many exorbitant expenses of polluting the air and water are simply not being factored into the standard calculations. Environmental devastation is expensive on every level.
But it is mainly the first point I obsess over. Let’s say you have solar panels on the roof of your house. Each day, you will use only as much energy as these panels generate. When it runs out you go to sleep and wait for the sun to come up tomorrow. The energy is not infinite, not available twenty-four hours a day. There are limits and you learn, out of necessity, how to live within them.
This, for me, is the main lesson of sustainable technologies. They would force us to live differently, to be aware of daily limits, to find solutions that acknowledge real limitations. They do not make life easier in every way. They make life harder in some ways, ways that force a fundamental shift in how we see the world and our place within it. I also suspect that working within a series of concrete, reasonable limitations would bring along with it a kind of reality and even joy.
RESISTANCE AS PARADOX
The paradox is as follows: we, as artists and viewers alike, know that art is fundamentally conservative, yet we still want to believe that it is radical and revolutionary. Within the space of this paradox there is room for a great deal to happen.
Art is conservative because the moment you call something art (or theatre, literature, etc.) it has already been contained. The things it can change, and the ways it can change our thinking, have already been limited. Art is the corner in which transgression and questioning are allowed, at times even encouraged, and making art is like being told to go stand in that corner.
The recent, romantic history of art is a history of alleged transgression. So many of today’s standard art moves began as small deviances and transgressions. And while it does seem there are now no rules left to break, more to the point is that knowing a transgression, if successful, will soon be canonized and therefore de-fanged, drains all energy from the gesture.
Politics requires efficacy. Trying to change things entails immense frustration. The tension between this lived frustration and potential for efficacy often feels absurd.
Politics as a spirit of resistance, as a desire to open up possibilities. And yet: resistance, in order to remain resistant, must always be unfinished, a work-in-progress, because if you win then you’re in power and somebody else has to resist against you. (I am wondering if this paradox might ease the inherent frustration involved in any act of sustained resistance.) Something similar might be said of opening up possibilities: once they have been opened one has to move on. There is something restless, unsustainable, about such modes of political thinking.
The 3rd text is a PDF of Like A Priest Who Has Lost Faith: Notes on Art, Meaning, Emptiness and Spirituality.
Photos: Hospitality 3: Individualism Was A Mistake by PME-ART.
More about Jacob Wren’s work here.
Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page
[I stand before a seated audience.]
There’s three things that I’ve got with me. There’s PaperWork magazine that is over there on the table; a print-out – with some notes – of the text that I have in PaperWork magazine; and also my notebook, which I might refer to at some point.
So the text that I have in PaperWork magazine is called Exercise and it operates sort of like a poem within in the book. The unique thing about PaperWork that I decided to use in my work is that it is loosely bound with an elastic band so that you’re able to pull the text out- I’ll be able to find it really easily as it’s crumpled from the last time I did this.
So yeah, it’s here. And when you release it from the book it then operates as a script for performance. But without using this one, I’ll use the one with notes on and I just want to try a few things with you first and then develop some of the ideas. So it’ll take about fifteen twenty minutes, something like that.
ME: Yeah of course the object is the thing itself…
Oh yeah the thing that I wanted to mention as well is that the text is like…when it operates as a script…is like a dialogue between three characters. So you’ve got a sculptor, an art critic and an object. And it’s kind of about the miscommunications and misunderstandings of desire those three parties can have within an art practice.
ME: Yeah of course the object is the thing itself, or it can be a fetish. Its materiality and its body are crucial. Its materiality or its body are crucial of course the object is the thing itself. All day everyday objects are asking me to be things. All day everyday objects are asking to be things.
To become a thing the object must transcend its corpus. It must make us sick with sadness. To transform… To transform the object… to… for the object to become things it must transform, it must transcend itself, it must transcend its corpus to become a thing so that it’s no longer and object. The thing must transcend itself, transform from its corpus and become the thing.
What the hell are you talking about? Can’t see that I’m plagued that I’m sick with nostalgia, I’m just rot and memories? Sick with nostalgia, rot and memories…
[I walk off-stage and out through the Fire Exit door.]
… Sick with nostalgia. What the hell
are you talking about? Can’t you see that I’m plagued that I’m ill with nostalgia that
everything I touch becomes a thing? Why you…What you talking about; phantasms and refrains? …
[I return to the stage, through the same Fire Exit door.]
nostalgia and rot. What you talking about? I must become a thing…
[I step over cables and crouch behind a plinth with a computer on it. I am not visible to the audience.]
… I must become a thing. Thing.
[I raise my head and address the audience.]
the object that’s talking now.
[I crouch again.]
ME: I must become a thing. I must become thing. I must become a thing. I must become
[I leave the stage and roll back a partition door that separates the performance space from a workshop. I enter and have a muffled conversation with two people who are not at the gallery for the event.]
Excuse me, erm I just wondered if you could do me a favour? I’m doing a performance next door and wanted to ask if you could read something out for me? – Yeah by all means. – It’s just that line. Yeah, yeah, three or four times. – Three or four times? Now? – Oh, whenever you’re ready.
[I return to the stage side and replace the door.]
ME: I make performative objects, y’know, the object in itself is the medium – like money – and ultimately I want to make money. Ultimately…
VOICE ONE : I must become thing.
ME: … Ultimately I want to make money. Ultimately
I want to make money.
VOICE ONE: I must become the thing.
ME: No you misunderstand me sculptor, or else you’re regurgitating, the object must undergo a transformation, it must produce its own effect.
VOICE TWO: I must become thing.
ME: It’s in the ‘the’
sculptor, do you understand me? We must find ‘the’ murder weapon, not ‘a’ murder weapon. ‘The’ murder weapon not ‘a’ murder weapon. The object here decides to become thing. Can’t you see? A thing as it so plainly desires.
Kathryn will you do something for me, if you
don’t mind? – Yeah. –Will you just come over here?
[Both KATHRYN and I walk behind and away from the audience body and the stage to the gallery window and have an inaudible conversation. Meanwhile IAIN enters the gallery late and stands behind the audience.]
Hey! Iain! Do you want to join in? – Yeah sure. –OK…
[Break in footage. All goes black for half a second though thirty seconds have actually
elapsed and I am now in a hut at the far end of the gallery space.]
KATHRYN: All day every day.
IAIN: What the hell are you talking about? Can’t I am plagued that I am ill…
KATHRYN: All day every day,
objects are asking me things.
IAIN: …with nostalgia. Everything I touch becomes a thing. What are you? Why are you talking about phantasms and refrains? I am nostalgia and rot. What the hell are you talking about? …
KATHRYN: All day every day, objects are asking me
ME: I must become
IAIN: …Can’t you see that I am plagued, that I am ill with nostalgia…
ME: I must become thing!
IAIN: … that everything I
touch becomes a thing. What are you? Why are you talking about phantasms and refrains? I am nostalgia and rot. What the hell are you…
IAIN: …talking about? Can’t you…
[I leave the hut and address IAIN.]
Iain, will you begin
with the line ‘Cease! Desist!’?
IAIN: Cease! Desist! Can you hear it? Endless demands. Cease this trickery!…
KATHRYN: All day, every day, objects are asking me things.
[KATHRYN and I have another inaudible conversation at the window.]
KATHRYN: All day, every day, objects are asking me things.
IAIN: …I am bound
to the symbolic! Desist in your demands on me.
[I return to the front of the audience to address JESSA inaudibly.]
IAIN: Cease! Desist! Can you hear it? Endless
demands. Cease this trickery. I am bound to the symbolic
KATHRYN: All day! Every day objects are asking me
things. All day! Every day objects are asking me things.
JESSA: I must become thing. I must
[JESSA moves from the audience to another window to the left of the stage.]
I must become thing!
IAIN: Cease. Desist. Can’t you hear it?
JESSA: I must become a
[I lead all participants to the far end of the gallery space, behind the large hut structure, obscuring us from the audience.]
[Two minutes pass. All participants simultaneously shout their lines twice. I lead participants back to the audience and collect my papers from the stage.]
The latest VerySmallKitchen publication is THE LITTLE SHED OF VARIOUS LAMPS by Nikolai Duffy. It begins:
It is available £8 plus £3 P&P here. For orders outside the UK go here.
A PDF sampler is available here.
Here is the Nikolai reading from The Little Shed at The Other Room:
Nikolai is also editor of the wondrous Like This Press. His Relative Strangeness: Reading Rosmarie Waldrop was published by Shearsman Books earlier this year.
the little shed of various lamps
Published by VerySmallKitchen 2013