Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
— Simone Weil
If suffering, which we can only loosely agree on the meaning of, ensues from a sudden encounter with, or exposure to, reality — which we can only even more loosely agree on the meaning of — perhaps it is possible for some beings, in never encountering or being exposed to reality, or by actively sidestepping it — knowing what it might bring — never to encounter suffering. They may oscillate between darkness and ever deeper darkness, never a sliver of light hitting them through a crack, exposing the blunt scales of their skin. The same formulation unfortunately applies also to joy, or whatever might be named suffering’s inverse — the difference being only a matter of response to a sliver of light.
— Celestia Chunk, untitled fragment
Daily an image comes to me: it is of two yellow lines, each about two inches in length, drawn diagonally in parallel by some hand or other in the top right hand corner of a blank a4 page. I can see the precise shade of yellow (it might be called lemon), what implement was used to draw the lines (a felt tip), its tip or nib (felt and frayed), the texture and quality of the paper (matte and poor), the intention behind the drawing hand (to not write)… even how the light streaming in through the window (the paper is on a table facing a window offering a generic view) affects how I perceive the precise shade of yellow (which might be called lemon).
Daily the image departs from me: I project my mind into a future where the light streaming in through the window, having fallen in varying intensities over some time across the page, has worked upon the two yellow lines a fading so certain that they have disappeared entirely and the page is blank again as the mind, mine, which envisioned it.
As a result of this gently imagined dissolution of an even more gently imagined image, my mind floods with a relief so sweet it feels chemical. I will never have to create time away from work to work. I will never have to say over and over again no. There will be no dumb budgets dreaming. There will be no languishing hearts slowly growing sour. There will be no shirking, no lies, no apologies, no pep talks, no mandatory belief, no compulsion, no sacrifice, no idiotic counting, no ritual, no doubt. And the two yellow lines will never have to suffer existence, commodification, failure, conversation, beatitude real or false, or even visibility. I will never have to pick a word for yellow.
There are some 35 documented names for yellow from ‘papaya whip’ to ‘goldenrod’. Each pertains to a tint or shade. Each has its own wavelength, hex code, etymology, history, association and meaning. For example, the Mayan glyph for yellow means also ‘precious’ and ‘ripe’; the Chinese term for pornographic films is ‘yellow movies’. Yellow is often associated with sunshine, hope and optimism; and somewhat conversely, weakness, cowardice and sickness. Etymologically, yellow’s English roots lie in the Indo-European base ‘gel’, which like ‘yell’, means both ‘bright and gleaming’ and ‘to cry out’.
Yellow wants attention.
So despite what I should have learned from the pleasures of relief, I now, by some perverse internal compulsion I am renaming ‘generosity’, do not stop myself drawing, in quick bold gestures, the two yellow lines.
What follows is a sensation of euphoria so intoxicating I know it could only be power in disguise. It feels collegiate.
I am not trying to capture or suggest a landscape, a figure, an apple, a cup, a feeling, a fold of fabric or flesh. I am free of arcs, descriptions, punctuation, tense.
This is not inevitable as prose. It doesn’t plod towards the money shot. It doesn’t move like meaning. It is expansive. It ranges.
I am poised. A girl. This is the puberty I always dreamed of.
But what secret nubility is implied in ‘poise’, in ‘cusp’? It is proffered from outside. A woman deemed ripe for marriage. A woman deemed ripe by men for fucking by men.
I once heard that the etymological path of the word ‘love’ winds all the way back to the Sanskrit word ‘lobha’, or ‘greed’.
I am Tex Avery’s howling wolf in Red Hot Riding Hood.
Intention, after the first gesture, becomes pallid and small. I stop at the red.
Roman slaves dying whilst mining cinnabar — mercury ore — to make vermillion. Bodies of tiny female cochineal insects crushed into carmine. The synthesization in 1868 of alizarin, the red dye present in the madder plant, leading to the virtually overnight collapse of the market for naturally grown madder.
The two yellow lines appear to me now as they really are: a most simple depiction or symbol of the sun and its rays in the top right hand corner of the drawing of a child. Soon the blue sky, soon the green triangles of grass, the pink one of mother’s skirt.
Here is a floor plan of expected behaviours, predictable feelings. Here the doors swing inwards like guilt and there is a shady patch for dreamy masturbation. Here are people in a row called family. Here kisses lead to waiting which leads to sorrow which transforms into grief and ends in boredom. Here feeling natural only exposes the lies that are nature and feeling. Here is a topography of constipation. Here are the dimensions of a cage and so what if hot pink climbing flowers scale the bars?
Here is a map of present conditions and so a map of the future. Here nuzzling against the hard edge of limitation is itself a dynamic. Here only nuzzling is the idiot guide. Here needles flail for north. Here there are infinite varieties of flailing and they are all called dancing. Here moving along most already-existing avenues is inevitable because not-already-existing avenues are unimaginable. Here any deviation becomes, if not interesting, at least reasonable because it is borne from a totally unreasonable present position. Here movement in any or no direction makes the dumb rhythm needed to divine action.
It is dark. I flail. I swing my right arm. It hits a wall. Now I know there is at least one wall. I fling my left arm. It hits a wall which may or may not be the same wall as the one my right arm hit. I still only know that there is at least one wall. But there must be more than one wall or else I would not be or feel trapped. Unless the wall is a ring and I am at its centre or madly scaling its edges? If the wall is not a ring then there must be more than two walls or else this would just be a corridor open at either end enclosing no one. Unless it is an impossibly long corridor which only through its impossible length encloses? I throw my voice and it comes back quickly. I walk down for a while and bump my head. I deduce therefore that this is at least an L shape. I jump once. I hit my head. A ceiling. I try to lie flat. I can but only diagonally. Narrowness. Now I know there are at least three walls and a ceiling and this is not a corridor. This could be a prism. There could be four or more walls and that would make other shapes. Their names are irrelevant because their function is the same. I crouch for no deductive reason. I jump from crouching like a frog or a rabbit but less lucky. I jump because it feels good to jump even though I can’t get high from it and I learn nothing. I keep jumping because it keeps feeling good and that might tell me something. I combine it with flailing and voice throwing and also incorporate stroking. Pleasure and struggle mangle crudely.
Each movement is a line and all the lines together are a record of each movement and also of something else. This thing was made in the dark, it shows only the dimensions of this particular darkness. Yes it includes the fun and sorrow of my dumb body’s leaping, but still it offers no escape. This thing was also made in the light. But it was an eviscerating light too bright to allow for shadows. It shows my leaping body’s attempt to find shadows and thereby discover its distance from the sun, what time remains and whether it will ever touch another.
It is unlikely that these things will ever be known. But the body will remain leaping in desperation and glee, darkness and light, imagining only its head bursting finally through the ceiling and the real weather coming in in two yellow lines.
This is a stupid life. I pay my full attention. Doubt is a kind of space.
More about Mira Mattar’s work here.
Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
VerySmallKitchen is delighted to announce that MENTAL FURNITURE by Claire Potter is now available.
The book is £8 plus £2 UK P&P.
To order outside the UK see here.
Read a sample PDF of the opening pages here.
The following Q&A about the book took place by email in October 2014.
VSK: My first experience of Mental Furniture was as a series of pages produced on a typewriter (and of a single section you read for a Maintenant Camarade event at the Arnolfini). How did those original pages come into being and was the idea of a whole book there from the beginning?
CP: The project began as three fragments: a Brendan Brady text, one about hitting the curb and I think the third one was about mother. The project began with thinking about the typewriter in relation to word processing: it’s forward motion and evidencing of mistakes. Writing with that apparatus produced texts that incorporated failures into the body of the work and allowed a kind of story telling ad lib.
If I was unhappy with what I had written, I would just break onto the next line and write it out again, if I misspelled a word I either moved on or rewrote it but I never crossed anything out. I wanted it all in. I was interested in the performance of writing and the text being a document of that. The book was there from the beginning in the sense that I knew there would need to be a fair few for the texts to set their own context.
VSK: We decided early on not to make a facsimile of the typed pages but to produce a manuscript that in some ways translated those pages into Garamond and the sense we had of how the (print on demand) paperback would look.
But in those typed pages the practicalities and stylistic features of the typewriter are deeply connected to the rhythm of your thought, the act of writing, the use of constraints and technology that enable some kind of channelling by and of an author. What do you feel happens in the shift from typed page to this sort of printed book?
CP: All I can say about the typewriter is that it is non-qwerty and prone to jamming (it has finally completely broken down this afternoon actually), which slows everything down and makes the transfer of information jerky and impactive, literally. The typewriter traces the body, the performance of writing, on the page: full of attempts.
Nietzsche used a ball mechanism typewriter towards the end of his life due mainly I think to failing eyesight but he considered there to be a connection between the rhythm of thought and the typewriter, bound together with the aphoristic form. I was interested in using the typewriter as a way of building resistance to, or pressure on the ability and desire to articulate.
As I say, the manuscript was a first draft if you like. The only changes made to the text was in handing it over to you for the production of the book. Generally I wasn’t concerned about the trace of the author, though I was interested in the text being a document of the writing performance. I came to see the standardising for print – the digitising and printing – as an exciting extension of the work in that it was a homogenisation or institutionalisation that could be seen as an attempt to silence the protagonist; another form of resistance (along with apparatus) placed on the ability to articulate.
With the author’s hand removed I could shift the ‘performance’ of the text from being a historical moment, to the performance of reading in the present moment. I consider writing to be a performance in the sense that it is a navigation in and around objects; linguistic, symbolic and ritual objects. Writing is a movement through something. Reading seems to be the mirror image of that, a synthesised performance. By the nature of how we come to be linguistic beings, we have a capability to internalise voices in texts.
In reading fiction there is perhaps a tendency towards unification with the protagonist (or the singularity of information, given to be a speaker) – more so with first person narrative. I hoped that the awkward mess of the text in my book would make that less smooth, and draw attention to the assumption.
VSK: Since finishing the book you’ve made a further translation into the series of sound recordings [the EP Mother to No Swimming Laughing Child, made in collaboration with Bridget Hayden]. They foreground the emotional, visceral difference between a book and a performance.
At least this is what I first think, but actually then I think that I find the book powerful in those ways too. But I guess it is always my personal inflection of it, and my constructing it to a degree in my own rhythm, whereas the sound recording is much more insistent, much more taking control of those things. How do you experience the difference?
CP: Mental Furniture and Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child are different works in my mind, with separate concerns and methodologies – though both are concerned with performance and they share content.
Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child is the product of an afternoon spent with Bridget trying to resist the text, or rather my familiarity with it. I’ve given performance readings from the manuscript so many times that a rhythm emerged and the text felt more and more like a score, generating remembrance of all past soundings. We worked to dislodge that by using redacted text, multiple digital and analogue channels, reverb and delaying effects, recording through the body of a piano even – anything that we could figure in a noise against this safe, recognisably spoken-word poetry vocal style. My familiarity with reading from the text was producing a secondary rhythm, a crappy musicality, where previously there has been a jerky tempo that was punctured and stalling.
The work is something I separate out from the form of the book or the recording. These are two particular end points that demonstrate a research concern: the performance of writing – of articulating; attempting (to speak) and everything that comes with that – mistakes, misspellings, misprouncements.
VSK: Both the book and the sound recordings feel very complete to me. I don’t really experience the typescript as error, mistake, mispro[no?]uncement because of how all these are intrinsic to the affect and message – the affective message? – of the book.
Maybe all these techniques are what in another sort of book would be description and character. It’s interesting to imagine someone picking up the book and complaining about typos and other mistakes because that would be to deny any sense that spelling and grammar are mutable to the rhythms of our bodyminds.
CP: Sometimes it is very useful to conceive of another book and I think here you mean in another discipline. I come at writing from a particular background in contemporary art. I am interested in where art, writing and performance meet and I began this project as I was researching the difficulty of articulating trauma, and how that might be understood in form. Of course it is very true that the reading of the book give you a sense of cohesion as you read generally with the assumption that you are dealing with a final article, that there is meaning behind textual, graphic, linguistic elements that are taken as decisions.
In some sense those elements in the published book are decisions. I wanted us to remain faithful to the typescript when we were making our type and spacing decisions for example. But I can tell you from writing it, the whole book is mistake after mistake after mistake, and in that way the material leads the way. As a cluster of examples, a certain style or sensibility emerges that matches up with the content. The content is then framed by a context. As a reader that’s the bit you have access to. For me the work is elsewhere, is not the book.
I’m not sure that’s interesting even; it’s so obvious to me. I never tried to write a book. I don’t know how you would write a book, or what one is in that sense either. A book, Mental Furniture, is a quantitative thing to my mind. The back cover appears at a certain point. Closure, resolve, etc. weren’t part of my considerations of articulation and trauma due to the nature of trauma. So how do you end the project? I just stopped. I suppose this means that I could carry on at some other point too. We could issue rogue chapters.
But to talk about the book and its relation to the recording with Bridget: in both renderings of the work I was interested in emotion and affect. Mental Furniture as a book does that by activating the material reading process in the body of the reader, and as a recording, Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child is about my voice as produced by my body under particular technical circumstance.
VSK: Can you say some more about the importance of voice for you, of what the voice reveals, of how your speaking voice, the voice of the text, your everyday voice(s)relate to one another?
I remember your reading at the Evergreen event at X Marks the Bökship for its assumption that a voice is an accent, that a text is a chorus of placed, inflected voices. An assumption that is also an assertion when it enters an event and a location where, although all voices are marked and accented, it often seems and feels more singular and standardised.
CP: I’ve come a long way in three years! I used to work a lot with accents. I grew up around lots of fine vocal boundaries in the north west, which had the consequences of total ridicule or suspicion based on where and to whom you were speaking. I can’t say I was fully conscious of why I used accents in writing other than this repetition of difference, except that I thought it was magic that a voice which I could not fully internalise – was not my voice – could be produced textually.
I don’t know what voice is necessarily. It’s not just language that separates it from animals’ noises. But that’s asking what it is to be human. In terms of pragmatics, voice certainly isn’t about linguistic information and it isn’t just about the production of voice, but also how it is received.
For example writing this interview is totally difficult. I don’t know how to balance how I speak with the text. I find essay writing particularly difficult too. I think it’s something to do with statements and accountability. I feel defensive and write flippant things and then edit them out and write them back in. It’s enjoyable to call form into account as effecting content like when an actor looks into the camera. I’m waffling. But I’m going to leave it actually.
VSK: I interrupted. You were talking about how you felt about these different incarnations of Mental Furniture.
CP: No it’s fine, I was basically saying something rubbishy like, they are the same but different. They are iterations. Siblings with the same blood but with different identities – both interested in the production of affect and the demonstration of articulation (the evidencing of the self) but using different methods.
VSK: But is there not a specific experience, place, idea that underpins all these versions, which the book, for example, is a token of, a container, maybe even a mnemonic for?
CP: I guess it is a conception or rather experience of the self as a shifting site. But that isn’t an object or thing or meaning to begin with in order for it to be translated from one system to the next. The project is tied up with the present, or the just-passing moment and the relentless, the forward procession. It’s about moments, performed moments, textually performed moments or aurally performed moments and how that sits with self, what it means in terms of fiction and writing.
VSK: These different versions also connect for me to Brecht’s alienation effect, where the performer is both fulfilling the role and commenting upon it, a doubleness that in theory prevents the actor and audience from being uncritically absorbed in the emotions of an action.
CP: I can’t comment directly on Brecht, but I think this dichotomy of emotional/critical can be misleading in the least and overtly oppressive in its worst activation. It also brings to mind the opposition of meaning and knowledge, the linguistic and the gestural, (writing and performance) and I guess ultimately pathos and logos. All I really care about is making spaces where they mingle and make monsters.
In Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art, Jennifer Doyle makes a necessary case for the benching of an art-historical critical distance when assessing the reach and implications of works, particularly works of performance, that are considered emotionally ‘difficult’ or ‘affecting’.
In a Frieze interview with Erik Morse, Doyle was asked how artists might renegotiate their relationship to what he called ‘the ‘heart’’, to which she cited Audre Lorde’s essay Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, to emphasise the nondivision between love and labour in the art works that her books are concerned with.
Using ‘the ‘heart’’ even in quotation marks is really funny in the context of Doyle’s book. It maintains the division and inferior positioning of something undefinable (and therefore useless) to that which has linguistic power. Naming is powerful because if you name it you can subjugate it and separate it off from other things.
If by ‘the ‘heart’’ Morse was referring to something which is not produced in the analytical mode then that’s not to say that it is abstract and esoteric, something to be grasped and guessed at. Audre Lorde uses ‘the erotic’ to describe the embodied non-analytic mode of knowledge. I’m thinking now of the somatic, the production of bodily knowledge and how Lorde’s concept of the erotic might relate to trauma.
VSK: And character? I also see Mental Furniture as a dramatic monologue, relating to what the narrator of Edna O’Brien’s Night calls “my winding dirging effluvias.”
Both O’Brien’s novel and your own text makes me think about the tangle of illusions and techniques that go into making and reading a text as “spontaneous,” “life like,” and “stream of consciousness.” Once you showed me a series of charts you were using to shape the book manuscript of Mental Furniture. Perhaps as a way to control all this?
CP: I have to laugh at my charts. On the one hand there was performance but I guess with the charts there was choreography too. I was trying to find a tragic form for the book, and much like composition aimed to lull and fracture the reading experience through both form and content, or ‘characters’ like you say: if Brendan Brady is here, then I need something about water here, if mother is here then dirty rabbit is here.
It’s musical in those terms. In Jacques Attali’s Noise: the political economy of music, music is described in relation to freedom, control and marginality. Attali frames music as a mechanism that controls the affect of noise. For example, the structure of a pop song introduces enough dissonance to set the conditions for its restoration to unity. That’s my understanding of it anyway.
Margeurite Duras’ The Lover was one book that showed me how the things I was interested in might be demonstrated in a book form or extended text: the dissolution and multiplication of the self, like waves.
VSK: Joanna Walsh wrote recently about how for Duras The Lover was “the third time she’d tried to trace this particular story on paper.” After an autobiography, a film script and a novel, in her late sixties, Walsh says, “she was still searching, still turning over the same material to see what was, what could be, there.”
I guess this puts on the scale of a lifetime – and an emotional or psychic life – what is involved in that shift from a book to a recording to another book.
CP: Duras is totally brilliant. I think the over identification with a fictional character – an other, a passed self, an ‘I’ – is a powerful thing to explore philosophically and in terms of performance, reading and writing. In Mental Furniture I found this happening in the Brendan Brady situation for the book’s narrator, in the authorial situation for myself and I believe it happens in the reading of the book too.
A hall of mirrors. Endless fun. One thing that scares me however, sort of immobilises me, is that there is an actor that plays Brendan Brady. I think that’s where thing start to become sticky in ways I can’t fully work out yet, where the author-me merges with the book’s narrator, where I imagine the reader might merge with the author.
On the one hand it’s funny because we’re talking about a character from Hollyoaks but on the other hand it’s really dark because all of these characters both exist and don’t exist, and may have actors that play them, and accessing them is ritualistic and therefore well, violent. A grim end note for you there…lol.
More about Claire’s work is here.
Claire will be reading from Mental Furniture at The Other Room in Manchester on November 27th.
Mother To No Laughing Swimming Child is produced by Bridget Hayden.
It will distributed by Fort Evil Fruit later in the year.
by Claire Potter
Published by VerySmallKitchen, Hastings, 2014.
If in fact it was born, it is not; nor can it be if it will ever be in the future.
So birth vanished and death waned.
Nor is it divisible since the whole stays identical to itself 
Fig.1. What does fig.1 represent?
It could be: the aerial view of a cup of black coffee / a cross-section of a pencil lead / a black rubber ball / a hole / an iris / a solar eclipse / a minimal beer mat / a polka dot
Or it could be the sphere of Being.
Fig. 2 looks a lot like the drawings that permeate the Japanese horror film Ringu (American version, titled The Ring, directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Naomi Watts, later made in 2002, this is the only one you saw in fact, it was so terrifying you never mustered the courage to watch the Japanese original).
But it could be the void of non-Being.
See how I have capitalised Being? This is not a mistake. Being and being are different. Fig. 3-4 represent being:
which is being as becoming.
Being that is with a capital B at all times – even when not at the start of a sentence – does not change, it is the ultimate mode of Existence, whose perfection can be likened to a sphere. There is no change, there is no temporal dimension to Being. No start or beginning.
>>The thing about the sphere is, nothing is superior or inferior, nothing is the end or the beginning, you roll it around a bit and the top becomes the bottom because it’s all the same.
It is thus complete entirety of continuity,
And again since there is an ultimate limit
it is accomplished
like a well- rounded sphere 
Here in this particular translation there is the particular nugget of joy with the use of well-rounded. This term almost entirely encompasses everything about notions of Being as round. And look, there I go again, with the use of the word encompasses: what does a compass do but draw a circle?* How lovely.
*Lacking a compass myself, fig.1-11 were in fact made by drawing around a shot glass.
-So what’s your favourite book?
-Oh God, I don’t know, this will change in three minutes, I always like what I’ve just read I guess.
Wrong answer, a lie, I have two favourite books. But I am on a first date with someone I have just met and I do not want to come across as pompous by listing two books of philosophy as my favourites. I know these are my favourites because I keep returning to them, whilst the stack of unread books grows ever taller (actually longer, they’re sectioned off from the read books on a windowsill).
Two favourite books:
1. Bubbles, by Peter Sloterdijk 
2. The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard 
Both of which explore the spherical nature of being, Being and Existence.
>>If they are my favourite books, then they will be so for a reason, and this must be the reason.
The final chapter of The Poetics of Space is titled ‘The Phenomenology of Roundness’: what a reassuringly lovely title. Bachelard agrees – to an extent – with Parmenides, stating that being is round.
I should say, therefore: das Dasein ist rund: being is round. 
Yet he believes this is a phenomenological, experiential conception of being as round,
as such immanent versus Parmenides’ metaphysical.
It might be difficult to draw the type of being that Bachelard describes, because he categorically states that it is not an IMAGE of roundness but instead an INTERIOR EXPERIENCE of roundness.
Possible onomatopoeic words capturing this sense of being:
Note how all of the words rise and fall and seem to round off, closing themselves off from possible extension. It’s very difficult to drag out the word one for example, I sound slightly crazed. All of these words denote a lack of a need, a lack of a lack, a completion, a wholeness. There is no point, there is no summit, there is no beginning or end (fig. 1).
>>The thing about the sphere is, nothing is superior or inferior, nothing is the end or the beginning, you roll it around a bit and the top becomes the bottom because it’s all the same.
Yet there is something in common with Parmenides and Bachelard. Both describe a form of being that does not interact with its exterior surroundings, it is a being that does not require anything, or change anything, and as such I want to know:
Is there a way of aligning Bachelard’s being with Parmenides Being? Can Being in Permanence be experienced immanently?
Oh and also, should I locate this form of Being, where am I in relation to, or within, the sphere?
If I start with Parmenides, I hit a wall of a problem. As Parmenides says, it is without a beginning, so exists beyond temporality. Unfortunately, I can’t exist outside of temporality, so you see my problem. Now if Being exists beyond time then it doesn’t change, of course, so thus excludes physis or movement or gesture.
There is nothing gestural in the manufacture of a sphere. You can make a sphere, imperfectly, by rolling plasticine between your palms, but a near-perfect sphere* can only be achieved through mechanical means. Its creation can’t be seen through its final form, so a sphere is the antithesis of a frozen gesture.
*Note how I say near-perfect. The perfect sphere is a concept that only exists hypothetically and mathematically, so as such metaphysically. There is no Matter that is a completely perfect sphere. Electrons come very close. So too, does the sun, but both are slightly imperfect. The Earth is very wonky. As such, all spheres will contain high points and low points and dents and scratches. Therefore, I’m slightly concerned that this Being Parmenides is describing is purely metaphysical rather than concretely metaphysical.
There are few things I can think of at present that are spherical and seem particularly material. They are matter, of course, it’s ALL matter, but they don’t play up their materiality much. A sphere isn’t a very tactile thing, it’s not very grabby.
I think first of a ball, which is a woolly concept, a–shudder– metaphysical concept, so must be more particular: a golf ball, a ping pong ball? In this question there is something crucial to be defined here. Within the spherical nature of a complete being, the thing that needs to be questioned is whether the sphere is hollow, a carapace surrounding air, or solid, filled in.
Everyone wants to know what’s inside a golf ball. I perform a Google image search.
The answer appears to be: different from golf ball to golf ball (fig.7*).
(*here, as you can see, my numerical order for diagrams falls out of place due to necessary rearranging of ideas. Damn.)
I must make a table of solid versus hollow spheres. Here I run into a conundrum of sorts with the definition of hollow/solid. It happened when I looked at the insides of a golf ball (fig.7).
I now realize that a golf ball is a plastic shell containing a rubber inner. I say that a ping pong ball is hollow, but it too is a plastic shell, this time containing an air inner.
A truly hollow sphere would be entirely empty, would contain a void, a nothing. This is the type of sphere that exists geometrically, in a model on a computer, for its sphereness rests solely on its outer, an infinitely thin layer that is stretched across a skeleton of longitudinal and latitudinal lines. As such, this type of sphere can only exist hypothetically, mathematically and thus metaphysically. As with the perfect sphere, so too the truly hollow sphere exists in the realm of ideas. (fig.5)
Happily, Bachelard says the diagrammatic sphere can be discounted:
I return again to the golf ball/ping pong ball conundrum. Even though they are both plastic outers, there seems to be a vital difference between the Matter of the respective balls. The different golf balls, spliced, look like diagrams showing cross-sections of planets.
Now a planet is a sphere formed from accretion. It has a vital centre or gravitational locus that matter accumulates around. This is opposed to the formation of a sphere- shell, as with the ping pong ball. I can’t say for certain, but I imagine these are made a lot like Easter eggs: only the outer is made, and the sphere of air contained within occurs as a result: a sphere made from the outside in, much like the geometric model Bachelard so hates. A case where the sphere is wrapped (fig.4)
Whereas a planet is formed from the centre outwards (fig.3). If this planetary type of sphere is the roundness of being, then Being becomes the absolute centre, with all points outwards of equal distance (fig.6).
(Fig.6 shows a planet with a gravitational locus at its core)
So my two replacement columns for the imminent table: Spheres that are formed from the outside in (fig.4) Spheres that are formed from the inside out (fig.3)
Where does the golf ball live in the table?
The golf ball could potentially be formed by creating the outer, then injecting the inner. Or it could be made by casting the inner, then coating it with the outer, like icing a cake. I Google it, and it falls into the latter camp, happily affirming my suspicion that golf balls and ping pong balls are ontologically opposed.
However, I then start to become fixated on this rubber ball in the middle. I liken the golf ball to a planet in its formation, in which case the rubber ball, whilst providing the overwhelming majority of the ball’s diameter (fig.7), is its centre (fig.8). But I think of the ball before it has been coated. A perfect, uniform, rubber ball. And how is such a ball made? Answer: it is cast.
A ball that is the same substance throughout seems to be of an entirely different category, being formed neither from the inside out or the outside in, but all at once, every particle being made at the same time. What do you mean, you might say. It is poured into the mould, a process that takes time, and so there is a beginning, with the first bit that is poured. Ah yes, I counter, but it does not become a sphere until the last drop is poured in, before this it is a truncated sphere, until the very last drop, and at this moment the entirety of its form becomes Sphere throughout.
The centre and outer are made simultaneously.
There is no beginning and there is no end 
The sphere is of the same substance throughout, thus all points are equal.
It is thus complete entirety of continuity 
I have decided on a third column for my table:
Spheres that are formed immanently and of the same substance throughout (fig.1)
The first two columns contain spheres whose sphere-ness develops in a clear process (fig.3 & 4), and as such these spheres embody being as becoming.
Within the third column are all spheres that can be Being as Existence.
Interiority: Should I be inside the sphere or should the sphere be inside me?
Why does no one built spherical houses? Can you imagine living in a spherical house? I can think of nothing better.
Also, zorbing. A ridiculous outdoor pursuit where you go inside a large, inflatable sphere and roll down a hill. However, the problem is, the sphere is hollow, and with the self inside it, becomes of various layers of human, air, plastic sheeting, compressed air, plastic sheeting (fig.6).
>>I cannot be inside the Sphere so should perhaps be surrounded by the spheres.
Again there comes the question of where I must be in relation to these potential spheres of Being. I must acquire some or all of them in order to answer this question.
>>Perhaps being in a room with all of them, surrounded by them.
>> Save the foam stress ball, though, the lack of tactility may become an issue with somehow engaging with them.
>>I’m not sure how being in proximity to, or holding a rubber ball in my hand is going to get me any closer to an immanent Being.
>>Perhaps a ball pit, but instead of hollow plastic balls, an entire ball pit of foam stress balls. It sounds lovely, but logistically a nightmare, and I have no idea where I would host it.
>>The multiplicity seems to stand against the unity of the Sphere of Existence. I cannot be surrounded by spheres, so the spheres must be inside me.
The Interiority of Ingestion.
There are 2 ways to get a sphere inside me:
2. by ingestion
The latter is preferable.
A Spherical Dinner Party.
I am going to host a spherical dinner party.
In order to appreciate the vital difference between the ingestion of spheres of being as becoming (columns 1 and 2) versus spheres of Being as Existence I have decided I will serve food from a combination of all three columns. Plus, I can’t think of enough foods to go in the third column.
Garden Peas, Scotch Egg Bites ~
Caviar, Labneh Balls
Spheres of Melon
Meatballs, Acini di Pepe, Cherry Tomatoes ~
Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella Pearls,
Redcurrant and Green Peppercorn Sauce ~
Soup of Grapefruit and Bubble Tea
Hundreds and Thousands
Flowering Tea Spheres
Sweetened Coconut Milk
Ferrero Rocher, Lindor Truffles
Some of these food objects formed through a complex process of combination of inside out and outside in that is nonetheless a process of becoming, lead me to believe that a fourth column may need to be added.
Spheres whose process of becoming is a combination of inside out and outside in:
A conundrum of biological growth with regard the forthcoming dinner party
There are, rather, several near-spherical, organic objects whose becoming disturbs me. These spheres come into being, then rot away into non-being, and as such could never be considered in the third column of immanent, permanent spheres. I could maybe ignore them, pretend they are not spheres, but the issue here is that a lot of them would be very good things to serve at the spherical dinner party.
The way that plant-based spheres grow is not so much a case of inside out or outside in, but top-down (fig.9). But then animal spheres, for each individual type of sphere the initial development may differ, although most hold in common that at some stage they develop into a smaller version of their eventual form that they grow into. A new column:
Near-spheres that grow through organic process
Navel Oranges Coconuts Redcurrants Peppercorns Peas
Eyeballs (fig.10) (can be eaten, but won’t be eaten at the dinner party)
In answer to the question you are thinking but trying to suppress, testicles are edible, but more ovoid.
As there is NO SUCH THING as a perfect sphere save for within the realm of metaphysics, it is difficult to apply a yardstick to at what point a near-sphere ceases to become a sphere at all.
Fig.10 demonstrates that extraction of the eyeball from the socket will undoubtedly be an imperfect procedure leaving traces of socket and other viscera attached. All of the above biological near-spheres are, actually, far too imperfect to be considered spheres at all: they might be ball-shaped, a more general term, but indentations or extrusions interfere far too much to allow potential application of the term spherical.
Meatballs, too: more balls than spheres.
Mozzarella pearls are not formed in the same way as pearls, contrary to their name. A small line around their circumference suggests they are formed through a mould. The line is quite thick, it interrupts their sphere-ness.
The organic near-spheres, the meatballs, the mozzarella pearls: these are all ball- shaped, but not spheres at all.
>>Should I serve them at the dinner party?
I am torn between conceptual ideology and the desire to provide a nice meal.
If I return to my onomatopoeic words that capture a sense of completion. I will repeat it: Completion / Alone / One / Round / Complete / Whole.
2 points about the above sentence:
1. The spherical dinner party will be an excursus into different sphere formation, yet it will not be an experience of Being. The collectivity of experience necessarily dictates that it cannot ever be the Sphere of Being.
2. Bachelard’s statement further underlines the fundamental necessity of a substance being the same matter throughout. It is a sense that all molecules bind each other together and the gesture of formation is one of collective concentration. Not projection outwards, or wrapping inwards. The molecules hold each other in balance, in stasis, in Existence, in Being. I already know this, I have already argued this, but it is nice to be agreed with.
I am haunted, here, by an image of a pool of water on a leaf. Due to the slight polarity of water molecules, the liquid forms a skein on its surface. So you picture a leaf, with a pool of water on it, a stock image that looks like a screensaver, and the weight of the water gradually drags down enough that a drop begins to form, begins to pull away, and eventually the membrane of the surface breaks and plop, a perfectly spherical drop falls in slow motion through the air.
It is alone.
The Cake Pop.
I have come to the realization that my pursuit of the Sphere of Being may reside in the cake pop. It is the closest foodstuff in my column to a perfect sphere (fig.8).
The sphere is of the same substance throughout, thus all points are equal
It is thus complete entirety of continuity 
I have never been a fan of the whole ridiculous cupcake-then-cake pop phenomenon; in fact I’ve always hated it. I’m pleased that the ridiculous cupcake trend seems to be dying a death now. Yet cake pops are more of a strange phenomenon. They just arrived, one day, a fully-formed stealth trend. They never seem to have reached mainstream popularity, but neither has their presence diminished. They just are, and exist–or persist–in continuity.
There is no beginning and there is no end 
Both the physical object and the concept of the cake pop may embody Being.
Yet Bachelard’s Poetics of Space was first published (in French) in 1958. He was, alas, almost 60 years too early for the phenomenology of the cake pop. And so I wonder if the following chapter in his album of concrete metaphysics could indeed involve the ingestion of this perfect sphere of baked goods.
>>The experience must be done in private, in isolation, without the distraction of conversation.
>>The engagement with the food sphere must not be a series of bites but ingestion whole.
As the cake sphere is crushed in the mouth, whole, the crust breaking first under the pressure from the roof of the mouth, the initial act of ingestion is at once the beginning of absorption of the sphere and also an act of destruction of the sphere as image, becoming an entirely experiential, interior sphere.
And so I conclude the following:
 Parmenides (2007) On the Order of Nature. Translation: Asram Visra. New York: Aurea Vidya.
 Bachelard, G. (1964) The Poetics of Space. Translation. Massachusetts: Beacon Press.
 Sloterdijk, Peter (2011) Spheres Volume 1: Bubbles. Translation: Wieland Hoban. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).
More about Rebecca Jagoe’s work here.
A Source of Vexation
and a source of ventriloquism. And a source of violence. And a vanishing point.
I shall put the so-called mystery aside for a moment and instead remind the reader of the desolate state in which these words deliver themselves.
I should speak, for one thing, of French Crime.
It is as usual a Sunday morning that has left me with a moment in which to write at any length. My journal has been set aside, and I begin this covert work. In all the time that I have been concealing the larger French crime my public life (which is barely public in recent times) has become rather thoroughly occupied with the subject in general. I mean, of course, crime in the orthodox sense, especially that which leads to violent death.
The case of Raymond and Marcel is not quite that sort of crime.  Its deathly work took place more slowly, and in rather less immediately tangible ways. Marcel, as I have touched upon already and as I will describe in fitting detail in due course, came to retreat in illness to a death-bed as a result of his attempt to arrest time, or at very least to slow it down and arrest a course of events that would take place later in time.
Raymond, as he perhaps deserved, died in what have come to be known as rather tragic and ambiguous circumstances. Marcel D., on the other had, appeared to reach a certain sort of serenity. He effected a ‘delay’ on a grand scale, one might say. Chess had a lot to do with this, of course, both the coded intricacies native to the game and in the simple fact of the player’s submission to a nominal system, abstract and simulative of nothing.
This account, it should be stressed, is nothing of the sort.
It is as far from fiction as it possible to be. It is not exactly fact either, nor is it conjecture. It is the the illustration and demonstration of a game and of a pattern. It is, as it were, an annotated diagram or an explanation of moves.
The Year of the Two Moons
Nineteen seventy-two was, for me and for my more official journaled legacy, a year of lunar doubling.  Or rather, as in the case of Raymond and Marcel P., the sort of doubling that folds two things already very close into one another. Collapsing the north pole into the south, as it were – something I have wished to do on many occasions when observing the state of the places of people around me and have wished it to be crushed.
But the lunar doubling of which I speak took place through a sacrificial destruction of paper.
There were words and thoughts that had no place surviving, and so they had to be vanished. This applied to [my] journals as well as texts that were quite correctly, in retrospect, called The Alibi and The Idiot Questioner.
I was both the idiot questioner and the idiot being questioned. 
The testimony of both bifurcated parties lies elsewhere, absent from this account. Bindings were ripped, pages were torn, and papers were finally burned in the garden. The sensation of weight cast aside was quite pleasant. The burning, blazing sun of the journal died away and in its dusk, its lunation of transference, Two Moons rose.
My Premature Declaration
‘The two were acquainted, though it is uncertain to what extent’
‘It may have been only some resemblance, real or imagined, in feature, build and attire, but, within the context, the suggestion rather is that their invalidism was of the same kind, so one wonders if, at the time, Raymond Roussel also suffered from nervous asthma.’ 
Normandy itself, the site of this bequest and of the young Raymond’s burglary, is itself a kind of strange double to the south of England. The sleeve between them is not so wide, and the Norman brambled lanes and farms are very nearly Kentish in character although the people seem to be of a more Northern disposition.
They are more northern in their local context despite being more southern than their English counterparts in respect to their global position. Kent and Normandy are counties and kingdoms of apples.  Michael, the German poet, knew this despite living further to the East. 
The Year of the Two Moons cont.
The power of three is not a multiple I had anticipated encountering, although it makes perfect sense in one way. The word, its double, and the commentary thereon. This is in the very nature of thought, but it is not without its difficulties. The criterion of ‘worthwhile’ inclusion is quite irrelevant to my account as the words offer no depiction (a better word than ‘rendering’, I now concede). To depict and depick. To predict and deprick.
The Surface of the Threshold
1. The Surface of Things.
The empty theatre, the emptying theatre, the emptying of the theatre, the theatre desolate. Locus Desolatus.
The threshold between the stage and the seats, between the players and the played (the play).
The threshold between the stage and the text, the text and the reader; the reader of the play is the player, who plays to the played, who read the players, who before playing the play have ceased to read in place of playing.
Interface and surface; subface. The lesser face,
2. ‘The centre is the threshold’
The centre is the threshold so it is being crossed/passed through all the time. But a threshold is both a mark (a kind of line) and a zone. (the zone is the width of the mark). The time spent crossing the line is the time spent in the threshold, and at the threshold.
Are the gallery walls precisely this sort of threshold-zone, the six sides of the cube three sets of parentheses boxing everything within them?
The ‘Tongue Age’
I note in myself a perspiring fury when I consider that my words are of the plainest and clearest expression, but that they may be read as obscure, even deliberately so.
I may, in the course of this account, become petrified.
The courses of a lute.
The causes of a loot.
The cause is awful lewd.
I once knew a manufacturer of glass who would spend the summer walking the ridgeways of Wiltshire, amongst the standing stones and burial grounds. Crushed glass, crushed sands, fired dust, burnt into transparency. Panes from the kiln.
Editor’s Notes (interspersed with notes by the author; notes on the notes made by the editor. These are indicated by letters rather than numbers)
 The initial possibility that suggested itself to me was Raymond Roussel and Marcel Duchamp. However, upon the appearance of Marcel D further on in the same paragraph, I revised this to Roussel and Marcel Mauss, or maybe Marcel Pagnol, before realising that Marcel was Marcel D was Marcel Duchamp.
(A) There is another Marcel though, the one who wrote a very, very long book. It’s him that Roussel made a terrible pact with, at least according to this version of events. I concede that it’s rather confusing to have multiple Marcels in operation, as there could be so many of them: Mauss and Pagnol, as you suggest, are candidates. Mauss’ conception of the ‘gift’ is particularly apt given the exchange made in the novel between Roussel and (I shall say his name) Proust. A gift really is never given for free. Marcel Pagnol is a another matter entirely, and I confess I don’t know too much about him. My father likes his books, and I know a young man who likes his translation of Hamlet. But the less said about this the better. Marcel Marceau came onto the scene a little bit later. I hadn’t really begun to think about him until all these other Marcels entered the ambit of the text.
It is something that the narrator states a little more plainly later on, but it’s worth being clear about it (as the narrator of this text will never be clear): the terrible pact involved Roussel and Proust being, at one time, the same person, who came to separate. The results of this were disastrous. As Jean Cocteau observed when Roussel died, there was something oddly twin-like about them.
According to this version of events, a part of their separation-pact was that Proust would try to write such a long book in order to slow down time, and prevent a war. There was probably mischief in Roussel’s insistence that he did so.
 In issue #21 of A Prior magazine Dieter Roelstraete (born Holland, 1972) describes how himself and artist Luis Jacob (born Canada, 1971) “are both children of what I genuinely believe will be looked back upon, in the not too distant future, as our culture’s…. finest hour.” Roelstratete goes on to describe them both as being “products of, as well as witnesses to, the twentieth century’s greatest decade – at least in artistic, cultural and socio-political terms.” As (born London, 1972) myself, I was much struck by this comment. And yourself?
(B) I don’t know too much about Roelstraete, although in response to these notes I’ve just been reading his essay The Business: On the Unbearable Lightness of Art. It’s a good essay. It’s exactly the kind of thing my colleagues and I talk about with students in the art school where I teach; questions of contemporary ‘practice’, ‘labour’, ‘work’, ‘praxis’, and ‘interaction’. What is work, and where does it happen? What are its rewards? These are very much contemporary questions; or perhaps it’s the case that the very problematization of these ideas is the contemporary question in art. I think about these things a lot, when I consider my finances and my (social) position in the part of the world of art I occupy.
I don’t think about them much when I think about my work, or when I’m making it. I prefer, possibly, naively, to find a de-problematized vacuum in which to work. In interviews about his early career Richard Hamilton talked all the time about ‘other’ kind of work (work outside of his own studio). Design work, model-making work, the assembling of displays of things other than his own paintings. Being interested in things, and allowing these interests to intersect with the canvas from time to time. This is a digression, I admit. When I’m writing these questions are probably even further from my mind. I can’t even really say that I feel like I’m writing ‘now’. I’m writing more towards a productive misunderstanding of the past. Roelstraete wonders why ‘search engines’ are not called ‘find engines’, which I think is a pertinent question when thinking about counterfactual, historical, research-led writing such as the present text. Most of Hypermodernism was written at the British Library, which is rather like a slow-moving internet of paper, with a number of books all over my desk, surrounding the computer on which I was writing. But the computer was at the centre, and almost every little hint or notion picked out from one of the many books was followed up in a number of echoing clicks and hyperlinks. But I’m still digressing! Your question was about a certain sort of generational identification. I was born 10 years later, in 1982. I’m not sure I could identify any firm sense of my own generation, or of the decade it was born in. I suppose that we remember becoming aware of the internet, and I remember moments earlier in my life (as an art student, and afterwards) when I didn’t have a computer. This would be unthinkable now.
(B2) Another thing, regarding the part of the text your footnote  actually appears in – it refers to a key element of the research the text is based upon. His name is never mentioned, but the entire project (Locus Desolatus, or Hypermodernism and The Dust of Suns) is written in the voice of the English novelist Rayner Heppenstall. His novels are not so widely known now, although they have been periodically revived and celebrated. He suffered from bad luck, as a man and as an author. The particular voice that Hypermodernism attempts to channel is the Heppenstall of his published diaries, especially those towards the end of his life. In 1972 his son was very badly hurt in an accident, and in 1977 these events produced the novel Two Moons, which comprised two parallel narratives, more or less, one on the left-hand pages of the book and one on the right-hand pages.
The ‘lunar doubling’ and ‘collapsing’ I refer to in the text is in reference to what happened to Heppenstall’s diaries of 1972 – large parts were ripped out and destroyed once the novel was written, as if only one (typographically bifurcated) textual version of these memories could survive.
 But what was your alibi?
(C) What was my alibi? Good question. I’ve been unable to find one. Despite submerging myself in research, and despite trying to write in the voice of another, and despite suffering a little under the oppression of this voice, I don’t feel I have an alibi. I am there in the text; it is written by me.
 This recalls your remark when we met briefly in Red Lion Square, which I wrote in my notebook as soon as you had cycled off:
“The present text, this account now being written (and then read, questioned and then answering) is the double doubling of the earlier doubling. It is the equatorial point between the poles of one text’s absence-by-destruction and the eclipse of two moons. I confess to and account for this for personal reasons, although I beg no indulgence, but the metaphor is quite plain to those with half a mind to notice such things.”
(D) Yes, I would have said something like that (although the version of the sentiment you remember comes from the text itself). I get a kind of vertigo reading the words back, as if the project of this book was out of control from the very beginning. I’ve never experienced such a sensation when working on something. In fact, my work is usually pretty slight, and pretty self contained. Even when I wrote another fairly ambiguous and narratively slippery novel a year or two ago it was self-contained. But everything to do with Hypermodernism is at the far reaches of reasonable writing. It’s impossible, or at least impassable.
[5) Sadly my experience of both Kent and Normandy is limited.
 This same Michael [Hamburger’s] translation of Ernst Stadler’s ‘On Crossing the Rhine Bridge at Cologne by Night’ concludes:
And then the long solitudes. Bare Banks. And Silence.
Night. Reflection. Self-questioning. Communism. And
To the end that blesses. To conception’s rite. To pleasure’s
consummation. To prayer. To the sea. To self’s undoing.
Michael Hofmann ed. The Faber Book of 20th-Century German Poems (Faber & Faber, 2005), 18.
[E] To self’s undoing, indeed. I was thinking especially of the Tacita Dean film in which Hamburger appears, inspecting apples on a long, old wooden table.
The author’s original version of Shelf Two is a PDF here.
Hypermodernism Drawer One (An Extraction) by David Price is here.
More about David’s work here.
1–22 November 2013
22–29 November 2013
(from top): (1) Gesture of Writing, stills, video 17” (2009/2010). A fragment can be viewed here; (2) Inventoried Proofs, 1–22 November 2013; (3) Checklist, 15 x 20 cm (2010), Checklist, 10 x 15 cm (2011), Checklist, 19 x 27 cm (2012); (4) Inventoried Proofs, 22–29 November 2013; (5) Concrete List I & II, both 61 x 44 cm (2010).
More about Kasper Andreasen’s work here.
Extracts from an email to David 09/12/13
A rather wonderful thing happened when i was transcribing this. The pen ran out of ink somewhere near the time i was talking about deterioration. I continued regardless, and the result is a text that i think emphasises its own visual/physical/image quality (as you put it) through the absence of readable words, as well as being seen in one go.
I do like it vertically in one column now though [an earlier idea had been to serialise the project over three or four blog posts], so as to also display the fading ink in contrast to the consistency of its labour. I also think this mirrors the physicality of both the jog and the increasingly breathless speech activity of the audio.
There is also something nice about how the two elements (text and audio) become reliant upon each other, given that we need the audio to grasp the ending of the text, but we need the text to spell out and document the audio, which is perhaps not always as easy to comprehend as the text.
More about Patrick Coyle’s work here.
I have only one objective, overarching, imperative, and unequivocal: to create a book. 
The physical book is a haptic seduction. Its material presence offers a fragile promise of a literal and psychic binding; an ordered narrative of a secure creative self.
It is (for the subject) the object that performs the act of what Lacan described in relation to the mirror phase as ‘imaginary capture’. The image I wish to capture is the image outside of myself: the image of an artist / author as an object-fetish validated by an internalized external gaze: the image that I see in the mirror of fulfillment, not that which is reflected by the mirror of lack.
Inside of myself there is an un-writable absence, but if I look at a book and see that I have created it, then I will know that I can create it, and that the words I cannot write can be, and have been, and therefore will be written. I attribute to the object – ‘Le petit objet d’autre’ – those qualities, which I imagine I desire, but which I fear to attribute to myself. The book is the fetish-commodity through which, by proxy, I relate my value as an artist to myself and to the world.
I knew what my book would be.
Everything would make sense. And all my actions would be the size of pages.
But the material will not obey, resisting linear narrative, insisting on an aberrant and scattered codex.
Both in the studio and in gallery, scraps and scrawls and fragments intrude upon considered aesthetics of drawings, essays and photographs, in a re-enactment of the unpredictable process of research.
The work that had started with a book, that was to become a book, will not be a book.
I might adopt the strategy of the boxed codex as used by B S Johnson for The Unfortunates, which, in theory, would seem to offer freedom and fluidity of content that the material requires, and a level of agency which a viewer / reader might require to experience it. The reader is instructed:
This novel has twenty-seven sections, temporarily held together by a removable wrapper. Apart from the first and last sections (which are marked as such) the other twenty-five sections are intended to be read in random order. If readers prefer not to accept the random order in which they receive the novel, then they may re-arrange the sections into any other random order before reading.
But I find this codex forbiddingly fixed, its impenetrability increasing with each physical encounter. Despite its intention of openness, when I hold it, I feel only a sense that it is locked.
And so I am ambivalent. I cannot bear the thought of completion. The box or indeed any material constraint (for perhaps in a Lacanian sense all books, for me, are boxes) is too much a symbol of putting a lid on things, of putting things away. A house with bricked up windows. That which I imagine I desire is that which I most fear. That which I imagine I fear is that which I most desire.
I will still make a book; or I will make work about becoming a book.
Imagine a space as a book, turning walls into indices, appendices and covers.
What is a book if it will not be a book?
 ‘The relation to the image, will be structured by the language.’ Jacques Lacan
 ‘At the level of the scopic, we are no longer at the level of demand, but of desire.’ Jacques Lacan
 A book is a sequence of spaces – Ulises Carrión
 The laws of language are not the sequential laws of books – Ulises Carrión
Photographs by Emma Bolland or Tom Rodgers for Milky Way You Will Hear Me Call.
I might begin with the children, or rather the many sets of children, that have bred in the dust that many things begin from. Raymond, Germaine, and George. Raymond, Suzanne, Gaston (Jacques, of course), Yvonne, Magdeleine, and Marcel. Marcel D. Etc. Etc. As M. Cabanne has noted, their births were ‘spaced out in a surprising regularity’, as if organization in such matters was unlikely to the point of improbability.
Or it could begin with the other Marcel, Marcel P., and his brother Robert. Or the mothers of either Marcel, indeed, whose wombs were salons and whose salons were wombs. Or, forgetting families and biological beginnings entirely, I could just as easily begin with Michel, the young man politely waiting for the bookseller and I to finish speaking. He didn’t know who I was, of course.
Any of these tidy little stories (they are not even tidy. They are filled with mess) might begin the altogether less tidy one they are part of, where puzzles within puzzles make a solution all the less likely with every passing word and line, and where lines themselves are corrupted in their mirror-images.
In dust free rooms, I am forced to concede, there is very often dust breeding; and the most perfidious form of dust at that. The dust of suns and of sons, and of the sons of suns, in ever more obscure and deformed generations.
I could, indeed, begin with myself, and with the arrival of Jonathan G., covered in another kind of dust – the charred air-born debris of a fire. Fire, fed by air, and its arial distribution of charred messages, the broadcast of ashes.
The secret is altogether more twisted than games such as these.
I need not excuse the ellipses that so quickly form in recounting even the beginnings of this greater ellipse.
I need not excuse the fact that whilst concealing certain truths so many words have been spent in misinterpretation.
I need not feel compelled to give up these secrets easily, without paying respect to the forms that grant them secrecy.
I need not fear speaking the native tongue of secrecy in revealing secrets.
The end of my account will be its end, irrefutable and terminated. I have set my claims and my intentions out quite clearly, I think. Air has seeped in. I will begin, after all, with a beginning of the usual kind.
The founding members of the coven of papers that bury the secret were contained within a box, and remained so until I opened that box. I was, I admit, surprised to discover that the box was not locked.
There is a great dishonesty in leaving things to a chosen kind of chance. It is like playing a tasteless war game whilst an actual war is taking place.
Brandeston. Kettleburgh. Framlingham. Bruisyard. Bruise-yard. The bruise yard. A yard of bruises! Peasenhall. Sibton Church. Darsham. Westleton.
And then the sea, on the site of disappeared docks. A lunar expedition such as this is an example the truly sur-real, skimming as it does across the all too real land. I cannot help but think of the vulgarity of Morris-dancers and of the grace of migrating birds as I think of this, immobile as I am.
But, to return to the barely verifiable event in question, a set of engravings were amended by the young Raymond, to be found later on by the younger Marcel.
Conjecture, it should be remembered, is no shameful practice. It is the formation of a conclusion without evidence, but in so doing it is so very close to the creative act; and therefore very close to the reader’s act. It is the perversion of thought’s raw matter into meaning, and for obvious reasons I must believe that there is honour in this, and the possibility of a final recuperation of sense.
‘Secreters’, I may call them, rather than ‘secret-bearers’. ‘Conspirators’ suggests something far too crass, and ‘secreters’ suggests the practice as well as the status of those who hold secrets. With every hour that it remains within their possession they secrete it despite their best efforts not to. ‘Out, damn scab’ the secret cries, without the anxious guilt of a human being.
The box. So material is this artefact (container of artefacts, repository, depository) that it resists digression and evasion. Its contents are quite clear in their statement and script if not their register and tone. They seem to me, who has kept them for so long, to have sharpened in their material form and become like microfilms, or even the writing on the screen of a computer-terminal.
The word ‘representation’ is very often mis-used, the user forgetting that there is meant to be a re-presentation occurring. But what if the representation in question is not only the very first presentation of that which it supposedly represents, and is furthermore a derived presentation? The matter is not merely semantic.
I am, I must concede, perhaps guilty of having become happy in performing the role of their concealer. The keys to a crypt, after all, are not held without some degree of privilege, and their weight (far beyond material weight, and far less than it too.
And, certainly, far more poisonous) has anchored me in my decline. I feel as if I am holding back, but that I must release my knowledge slowly. Not merely to avoid error (although this is almost inevitable), but to safely balance the atmospheres of concealment and disclosure, closure and unconcealment.
The box contains, in no particular order that I can discern: the letter I have already described, the co-signed letter within it, a list of initials, some of which are circled, some of which are not, notes and diagrams pertaining to both a chess problem and a crossword puzzle, a small panel of glass both of whose sides are written on (in brown ink) in the respective hands of its two authors, a shirt-collar, and a key to what I have always supposed must be another such box.
THE LIST OF INITIALS
The initials that are uncircled, first of all, are the following:
The initials that are circled in pencil are:
One name is circled in both pencil and blue ink:
This is not a great surprise. The others circled in blue ink are:
I believe that the list in incomplete.
THE CROSSWORD AND THE CHESS NOTES
I have been unable to discern their meaning, at least until very recently.
THE GLASS PANEL
I can confidently say that one side is written by Raymond, and the other by Marcel. Not all of the text is abundantly clear, but Raymond’s side appears to describe a device that enables the user to convert light into time and time into light.
This I can only assume to be an example of the sort of collar that Raymond was known for the very frequent changing of due to what is most often thought of as a kind of hygiene-mania combined with the less attractive symptoms of excessive wealth.
I suppose that Raymond was something like a gentleman-criminal, or terrorist-riddler, or producer of rumours about people who do not exist in the first place. But I am guilty myself of spreading disinformation, or what must seem at the present time to be disinformation, by listing and beginning to describe these objects whilst suppressing their meanings. The box itself is not especially remarkable.
1 There are three titles here. Locus Desolatus, or Hypermodernism and the Dust of Suns, is overarching, whilst the second (Hypermodernism) is the first of the two books contained with Locus Desolatus.
2 The first chapter is ‘drawer one’, but subsequent chapters are not ‘drawers’. They are ‘shelves’, ‘vials’, ‘folders’, amongst other kinds of containers.
3 Who is the ‘I’? The writer, well-known amongst a certain kind of reader, whose papers these are. Who are we, whose words sit beneath the line? We act as if we were editors, proposing things like the following:
4 Here is a skeleton extraction of chapter one, a read-through that in some ways generates another box of fragments from your original chapter.
5 Jose Corti.
6 Let us know if you think this leads anywhere, if it opens back into the visual for you at all (in terms of images along with the text). I’m interested if such an approach feeds into your work on future chapters….
7 Another editor.
8 I’m extracting gestures and some kind of architecture from the text, but it’s not as separated from the narrative and autobiographical elements as I might have expected…
9 We spoke of David Markson, and now I wonder if he wrote himself into corners, or edited himself into them.
10 You’ve more or less isolated those parts of the first chapter that point outwards from the text into the world, rather than those that look back at the narrator (however fictitious he might be).
11 What I mean is, these fragments seem to refer to shapes and structures, and people, and in so doing seem to outline the cultures the whole text demarcates, if that makes sense.
12 You mentioned the possibility of another box of fragments from your original chapter. That process could be infinite, or infinitely regressive. Or infinitely progressive.
13 The reader will guess many of these, perhaps all of them.
14 I think that what I mean is that the extraction process might work very well with a counterweight; a countertext.
This extraction and commentary is a dialogue between David Price & VerySmallKitchen in response to Drawer One at /seconds.
The author’s PDF version of this project here.
More about David Price’s work here.
The latest VerySmallKitchen paperback is 2 blue cups on two different corners of the table, by Ohad Ben Shimon. It is available for £6 (plus £1 P&P) here.
In a dialogue on the book, in June 2013, VerySmallKitchen asked: where does a book begin and where does it end? Ohad replied:
i think a book begins at the point when all other plans don’t seem to work out.. funny as it is, the strongest form of self expression is actually the last one we think of…perhaps we don’t allow ourselves that freedom. once we feel entitled we create a title. a ‘book’. it ends when someone forces you to end it. and that brings on a new restriction to once again search for that freedom, perhaps in the form of a new book.
Read that dialogue here, and see the posts by Ohad Ben Shimon as part of his VSK Residency. Here is 2 blue cups in the process of being written:
For this online launch, here is a sketch of SWISS read by Mercedes Azpilicueta.
And here is a set of 5 readings by Ohad Ben Shimon, recorded at home in Rotterdam:
a milk carton
things on the table
a poster in arabic saying ‘a thousand and one nights’
the sound of the fridge
i’m putting sugar in the coffee
i’m drinking the coffee
a red chair
a beautiful autumn day
a few emails are awaiting
actually just one
i can’t open it yet
in the meantime i write
writing is a diversion
passing by something
writing hints about a situation
the contours of a reality
i’m a substitute teacher
i teach how to substitute this with that
them with us
me with you
Purchase the book for £6 plus £1 P&P here:
More about Ohad’s work is here.
Ohad Ben Shimon
2 blue cups on two different corners of the table
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.