In Uncategorized on March 10, 2010 at 12:16 am

FROM AN EMAIL: Hi Jin, here is A TIME LINE FOR A ONE MINUTE LECTURE: Introduction: 0-10  Art writing field station; 10-20 Project Poetics (after Tatlins Tower); Case Studies: 20-25 The Office for Soft Architecture; 25-30 Paul Thek’s 4-Dimensional Design; 30-40 Poet Talk Architecture: Meyerhold Lectures to Eisenstein; Methodologies: 40-45 Rothko’s studio; 45-50 Olafur Elliassons studio; Conclusions/ Possibilities: 50-55 Anti-Object; 55-60 The electromagnetic Infrared. All best, David.

THE ART WRITING FIELD STATION implies a built structure. What would that structure be, and what kind of structure (conceptual or actual) is brought into being by the discussions and ideas that occur at field station events? This set of materials by Hyun Jin Cho (images) and David Berridge (words) was first developed as a 1 minute presentation on this subject. After an initial conversation I  wrote the above outline, and text and images were then developed by each of us separately. 

NOTE: The following quotations are what I thought would make a 1 minute lecture if I talked very fast. After a run-through of this lecture was timed at 13 minutes, I read only those words in bold. 


0-10  Art writing field station

the art writing field station implies a built structure…. maybe the actual structure in which the field station events are housed… or maybe a conceptual structure implied by the nature of those events… maybe we invent a machine that translates conversation into built form

 10-20 Project Poetics (after Tatlins Tower)

instead of speculating on the technical feasibility of its construction… it is more productive to think about the tower’s actual history as a model and a project that openned up a new dimension of this intermediary and transitional architecture, which also may be called an architecture of possibility… a crucible of possibilities and inspirations, not a utilitarian blueprint. 

Case Studies

 20-25 The Office for Soft Architecture

I tried to recall spaces, and what I remembered was surfaces. Here and there money had tarried. The result seemed emotional. I wanted to document this process. I began to research the history of surfaces. I included my own desires in the research. In this way, I became multiple. I became money.

 25-30 Paul Thek’s 4-Dimensional Design 

Design a labyrinth dedicated to Freud, using his photo and his writings.

Design a Torah.

Design a monstrance.

Design an abstract monument to Uncle Tom.

Design a feminist crucifixion scene.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

30-40 Poet Talk Architecture: Meyerhold Lectures to Eisenstein

His [Meyerhold’s] lectures were mirages and dreams. The listener would jot down something feverishly. But on waking up, he would find “the devil knows what” in the notebooks. One can recall in the finest detail how brilliantly Aksyonov analyzed The Merchant of Venice, what he said about Bartholomew Fair and the triple plots of the Elizabethan dramatists. But one cannot remember what Meyerhold said. Aromas, colours, sounds. A golden haze over everything. Elusiveness, intangibility, secret upon secret, veil upon veil – not seven of them but eight, twelve, thirty, fifty! 


40-45 Rothko’s studio

 Rothko’s work in the studio revolved around processes of trial and error: testing various mixtures of paint, drying times, hanging heights, and so on, and making adjustments. And, again, looking – for hours, days, even weeks. 

 45-50 Olafur Elliassons studio

 the studio as a place where things are made as well as administered… both the romantic idea of the workplace and the administrative notion of the office. The very act of naming the studio resembles both the ‘discovery’ of a new terrain and the gesture of creating a brand…. a “dyanmic aggregate of flows and productions (informational, material, economic) (…) a four-dimensional object in space-time… it is a microcosm, a “small city,” and a “model for community.” (173)

 Conclusions/ Possibilities

 50-55 Anti-Object

We no longer need to fist freeze time into an object… Today, we do not depend on the mediation of objects to intervene directly in time. Time has become something more immediate. Space has become continuous with time.

 55-60 The electromagnetic Infrared.

 The infrared is a shape that causes and inflects other shapes. Its presence is that of a morpholgical seed growing holographically within, and leaving its characteristic distorting signature on the shapes around us, within the world of concrete appearances.


Svetlanya Boym, Architecture of the Off-Modern(FORuM Project, Princeton Architectural Press, 2008)

Paul Thek, selections from “Teaching Notes: 4-Dimensional Design”, in Harald Falckenberg & Peter Weibel, Paul Thek: Artist’s Artist (MIT Press, 2008), 393-395.

Lisa Robertson, Occasional work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (Vancouver, Clear Cut Press, 2003).

Sergei M.Eisenstein, Immoral Memories: An Autobiography (Peter Owen, 1985), 76-77, bold mine.

Morgan Thomas: “Studio Vertigo: Mark Rothko” in Wouter Davidts & Kim Paice eds. The fall of the studio: artists at work (Valiz, Amsterdam, 2009), 32-33.

Philip Ursprung, “Narcissistic Studio: Olafur Eliasson” in The fall of the studio: Artists at work, 175.

Kengo Kuma, Anti-Object (Architectural Association, London, 2008), 31-32.

Swanford Kwinter, Far From Equilibrium: Essays on Technology and Design Culture, (Actar, Barcelona), 162-3.


In Uncategorized on March 9, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Sara Lane Studios March 7th 2010

Last Sunday night the ART WRITING FIELD STATION met for a conversation about the meaning and possible applications of Marianne Holm Hansen’s lexicon of art writing. Actually, I probably shouldn’t call it a lexicon. One of the fascinating things about this project is how difficult it is to even find a short hand word for describing it in conversation. Score? List? Diagram? Drawing? Minutes? I have yet to find a word  that feels right.  

Given this difficulty it seemed useful to start with some definition. Helen Kaplinsky looked up each word in a large, hard backed dictionary. Each definition was read aloud, before being covered in glu and the page sealed. Several times we asked for clarification, to hear a definition again, but it was too late, glued and gone.  

Helen notes: “The reading process is a meeting between two bodies of knowledge, and in this meeting the pedagogical body of the book is destabilized by the subjective touch of the human body. This project allows for elaboration for further performances or to present the work in publication form. A further performance may include re-reading the pages where the definitions once were, most probably consisting of a jumbled nonsensical reading of various definitions which have coalesced.” A previous project enacted something similar upon the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Kaplinksy’s performance brought to mind a number of book-writing-art projects, where the textual encounter instigates a process of  book destruction or transformation, including John Latham’s 1966 digesting of Clement Greenburg and Marcel Broodthaers act two years earlier of embedding unsold copies of his books of poetry in plaster. 

All these works work with and against a fetishistic reverence for the book object, relating to the actual and implied content by rendering it as (devastated) form. So Latham’s act of book eating was focussed upon Clement Greenberg’s essay collection Art and Culture; whilst Broodthaers act was a personal ritual marking the shift from poet to artist.  Helen’s performance had a considered and meditative tone, but its  implications for the book itself were just as severe!  

In preparation for the evenings discussion, Marianne Holm Hansen had cut out all the words on her list from another dictionary and placed the small pieces of thin paper in a petri dish. This also balanced construction and erasure,  the small slips juxtaposed with a dictionary now composed of gaps and piecemeal pages,  where new words fitted into the skeletal gaps to create new orders. It was hard, if you needed to, to find a particular word in the petri dish, the definitions becoming lost in their new materiality. We noted the slip for POEM had the definition for PNEUMATIC fitting perfectly on its backside.  

After 15 or so minutes, Helen stopped reading and wondered what length her performance should be. It would have been good to read and paste the whole list, but it quickly felt like this would take several days! The time of listening to the definitions, made Marianne observe that only words that were emotions should be kept on the list. This was the original focus of the for the record project, but the Five Years session had expanded into more general minute taking, including phrases. This seemed now to have been a mistake, too akin to what would be Marianne’s own process of note making, and not true to  the rather different process required by for the record.

As for my own notes: I became aware of our own additions – often adding “ed” to words to shift language into a dynamic state. I noted the relation of a word to its definition seemed paralleled by the relation of the word to the whole list. I enjoyed the humor of focussing on the minutiae of language definitions (What should one do when words – mis- or alternatively spelled – are not in the dictionary?). I noted how, once the word became separated from its original context, all its other possible definitions became operative once again.  

Also on Sunday night I presented a text piece FROM SCORE TO HOUSE TO ISLAND TO DINNER TO STORY TO POEM. The text had been a series of writing experiments, in response to the leixcon, conducted throughout the preceding week. I’d proceeded through the experiment as they occurred to me, not sure what was taking shape, later editing the text and fragments into a new body, freely moving around and editing without fidelity to the original exercises. 

FROM SCORE… was interested in an ethics of relationship: what did it mean to write in relation to the Marianne’s list? Often I found the text itself offered the best language for its own description. For example, my own attempts to articulate the lists unfolding pattern gave way to a description drawn from the vocabulary itself:

it digests, it manifests, it misspells, it conducts

it backwards, it dreamed, it fixated, it forced

Starting from an interest in score and script I ended up trying out a number of poetic strategies – syllabics, for example – interested in the imposition of these fixed systems, perhaps an appreciate of the Oulipo strategies, but more flexible. For example, part of my text entitled  “A Short Adventure Story” corralled such words into genre, in doing so enabling them to function in multiple ways: 

 I scratched. The slippage was slippery. Suspended in reverie, relinquishing control, I rephrased. I turned into a transitional threshold. The coming together of two different things worked: Secure and writerly. Unconsciously influenced, I worked backwards. Under the weight of things, I shared and I spammed. 

Later, layer upon layer was malleable. I interrupted, patient and performative. Outside, interactioned, I needed poems. The multiplicity, incorporated, hammered on top of tools. I needed and mis-used, playful and hands on. I modeled. It was just how I liked it: practice was provisional and potential projected.

Wanting to think through the workings of constraint, I came upon this quotation by Vanessa Place: 

Because I do not believe in the parsing of condition and content, I think it is a false advantage not to reveal form, and that the more intentionally hidden the constraints, the more the work proves a coward’s coup, where the shot is not called, and responsibility dodged, but all credit taken for whatever’s dug up. I also think it equally pathetic to assume every constraint should be revealed, as many matters bubble beneath our meanings. Show all the cards you like, and then there’s the dealings of geography and psychology, matters of some fact and great fancy, there’s mutation and desecration, and the hope of better things, there’s candlesticks and sealing wax and the pink buds of a pig’s wings. 

We write now, are read then, and inbetween the writing and reading lies the incipient sublime and a future quite conditional. Whether we are reluctant gods, or those who elbow in, the consciousness of the concrete means our creations go on regardless of our intentions, willed free though wrought determinate. Rather than pretend not to be casting in clay, or trying to duck the consequences of conception, he author must lean in, attempting to force as much as possible from a form while constantly compressing its constituents. It’s candy-making and atom-splitting, fission with a toy surprise inside.

SOURCE: Vanessa Place, “Form: Revealing or Not Revealing” in Christine Wertheim and Matias Viegener eds. The Noulipian Analects (Los Angeles, Les Figues Press), 87-8.

For ten minutes I read FROM SCORE…. alongside, over the top, underneath and inbetween  Helen’s dictionary reading. Listening whilst reading turned the dictionary entries into novelistic narratives, that I couldn’t quite grasp, but which were rich in character and incident. There was a considerable energy generated by this juxtaposition of texts, each with its own mix of specificity and variation, something of which is captured in the photographs below: 


Hyun Jin Cho was interested in consequences of writing the lists twice. She discussed a proposal to cook two of the same food stuffs, as a way of highlighting the similarity, difference and impossibility of replication. But what food stuffs would best illustrate this? Jin suggested burgers. Later in the evening, Matthew Mackisack presented a series of responses to the lexicon, improvising around three words inparticular: (1) reverie, (2) control and (3) performative.  

Matthew talked around issues of the “picturable,” whether words conveyed a sense of the visual, and where and how there might be a space for thinking beyond the visual. In regards to Marianne’s list, control was a way of asking whether forms of writing were allowing some thoughts and disallowing others. One mental exercise for exploring this issue was to look at the chart without knowledge of where it came from and to ask, as Matthew did, “what situation could have given rise to these words?”

Matthew’s method highlighted the list as a score for a conversation, or a more formal spoken discourse. This evoked memory palaces – the list as mnemonic – as well as how talk figures as poetry in the work of, say, Steve Benson, David Antin and – on a more performative, self-styled “demotic” level – Chris Cheek.  Cheek’s description of his writing process is, like Antin and Benson, a further elucidation of a POET TALK ARCHITECTURE. I wonder, in this context, how much these words also apply to Marianne’s list:

 … models of poetic writing practice drawn out of engagement with demotic tensions between self, community, neighborhood and the public sphere. Documents in conversation with the demotics of attention, not to say at times mundane, but complex occasions of linguistic experience – open to off-the-cuff commentary and exquisite interference, uninvited intervention and reflection. Ways by which the ordinary can be rendered extraordinary. Writing thought through at every stage, full of decision and with a sense of mediated, conscious performance in every aspect of its making; a hang of interstices, jolts, between utterance and silence (given that both cod categories remain porous to the other).  

 TEXT SOURCE: Chis Cheeks preface from his recent collection part: short life housing (Toronto: The Gig, 2009), ix.

I write down another phrase from Matthew’s talk: “transfer idea across.” I unfold this into a tentative definition of  the process of for the record: to translate for and into unknown future(s).


In Uncategorized on March 4, 2010 at 9:16 am


Robert Smithson, Towards the Development of a "Cinema Cavern" (1971) Pencil, photography, tape. 12 5/8" x 15 5/8".


In thinking through connections of poetics and architecture I keep returning to the phrase POET TALK ARCHITECTURE. I remain unsure of what the phrase means, but have gathered below several statements and explorations, eager to see if they can contribute to this new quest for the built form of the ART WRITING FIELD STATION. Like the field station project, POET TALK ARCHITECTURE is interested in the structures and forms of writing and conversation, and eager, if a in rather hallucinatory manner, to see them acquiring physical form. 

My first attempt to articulate a Poet Talk Architecture, influenced by the Diller & Scofidio blur building building (see image below), begins with the following narrative:

Imagine a building of talk. As you approach you are less aware of its physical structure than of a hive of voices, words, glottal clicks, and glossolalic hyperboles. You wonder what is happening and where you are. This, you decide, must be the site of some important activism, where ideas form 24 hours a day through fine tuned verbal, non-verbal, and environmental connectivity, every writers need satisfied, a Tower of (Art) Babel reconstructed somewhere in the Essex countryside. Sheep graze among the ruins of your CV before, invisible tongues swelling to become POET TALK MONORAIL, you are shuttled inside the voices themselves. Looking around, you think that the whole space seems to be… a bar… but no..

Some texts that seem to be of relevance here: Lisa Robertson’s Office for Soft Architecture; Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta; Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities; Kurt Schwitter’s Merzbau; Bernard Tschumi’s Architecture and Disjunction; Alison Knowles’ The Book of Bean; Robert Smithson’s Cavern Cinema; Robert Filliou’s République Géniale.

Dissatisfied with the over familiar art-architecture folklore of some of these texts, POET TALK ARCHITECTURE builds to find new influences. 


POET TALK ARCHITECTURE began with the conviction that the following description – by Sergei Eisenstein of Meyerhold’s lectures – was actually a blueprint for POET TALK ARCHITECTURE:

I was unlucky with my fathers… Meyerhold’s lectures were like insidious songs: “He who these songs hears, will everything forget…” It seemed as though Sirin was on his right, Alkonst on his left.  He waved his arms. His eyes flashed. In his hands was a Javanese marionette. The master’s golden hands moved the little gilded arms of the puppet. The little white face with its slanting eyes twisted to the right and left. And now a puppet had brought to life Ida Rubinstein, whose profile we remembered from Serov’s portrait. And in Meyerhold’s hands it was not a marionette, but Ida Rubenstin in Pisanella. 

Throwing his hands up sharply, Meyerhold conjures up cascades of sparkling cloth in the seaside market scene on the boards of the Opéra in Paris. The hands freeze in the air… And the imagination conjures up the final “Waxworks” scene from The Inspector-General. There stand the waxwork dolls, and those who sparkled the whole evening in their images on the stage whirl past them in a wild dance. The inimitable master stands there like Gogol in silhouette. Now his hands have dropped… and we sense the very faintest applause from kid-gloved hands, signifying the approval of the guests after Nina’s song in Masquerade, on the Alexandrinksy stage on the eve of the February revolution in 1917.

Suddenly the sorcerer breaks the thread of enchantment! In his hands are sticks of gilded wood and a piece of colored cloth. The king of the elves has vanished, and at the desk sits the lifeless archivist Lindhorst.

Poet Talk Architecture: Meyerhold's production of The Bathhouse by Mayakovsky, March 16 1930


His [Meyerhold’s] lectures were mirages and dreams. The listener would jot down something feverishly. But on waking up, he would find “the devil knows what” in the notebooks. One can recall in the finest detail how brilliantly Aksyonov analyzed The Merchant of Venice, what he said about Bartholomew Fair and the triple plots of the Elizabethan dramatists. But one cannot remember what Meyerhold said. Aromas, colours, sounds. A golden haze over everything. Elusiveness, intangibility, secret upon secret, veil upon veil – not seven of them but eight, twelve, thirty, fifty!

With their various nuances they flutter around the secrets in the magicians hands, but strangely. It still seems as if the wizard has been filmed in reverse motion… the subconscious waits, languishing somewhere, while the romantic “I” gets drunk on the lectures, and the rational “I” grumbles acidly – the one educated at the Institute of Civil Engineers in differential calculus and the integration of differential equations.

“When are the secrets going to be revealed? When shall we get on to the methods? And when will this strip tease à l’envers cease?“

SOURCE: Sergei M.Eisenstein, Immoral Memories: An Autobiography (Peter Owen, 1985), 76-77.

In trying to articulate something about the excitement this text prompted in me I arrived at the following:


Poets are our buildings of talk, small microcosms where language uses the page as a first step towards full spatiality, less useful as poems per se than as sources  of architectural forms in the manner of Vitruvius or Owen Jones’ The Grammar of Ornament (1856). 

Owen Jones, Decorations for the Alhambra Court, South Kensington Museum, 1863


Jones moved into the Alhambra Palace in order to sketch the ornament within, and Poet Talk Architecture adopts a similar strategy, close to the contours of the Essex countryside, if also informed by JK Huysmans’ À Rebours (1884), its fantasy geography asserting supremacy over physical travel through fetishistic concoctions of domestic space. 

 Poet talk-space, then, with words and page woven into a blur building of Meyerhold talk, veil upon veil method of post contemporary never-shamanic building construction… 


AS OF 04/03/10. thinking through the possibilities for  POET TALK ARCHITECTURE in relation to the ART WRITING FIELD STATION, a new set of source texts have presented themselves:

Harald Szeemann, Tessin, Switzerland; Renee Gladman The Activist; the “snowflake” form of Dick Higgins; art strikes of Gustav Metzger; Matt Mullican’s codes, systems and cosmological architectures out of drawings; Falke Pissano A Lecture Turning Into A Conversation; drawing installations of Dan Perjovschi; Barbara Guest’s Rocks on a Platter; Mike Kelley’s Educational Complex (above); Céline Condorelli, Support Structures; Sabine Bitter, Helmut Weber and Jeff Derkson.


In Uncategorized on March 3, 2010 at 5:28 pm


Paul Thek, installation view "Ark, Pyramid, Easter - a visiting group show", Museum of Art Lucerne, 1973 © Museum of Art Lucerne


Ahead of this weekend’s ART WRITING FIELD STATION I have been thinking about architecture. The title of this project implies some kind of purpose built structure, and although in practice the field station has so far been a nomadic affair, hosted by a number of gallery and studio spaces, the question of what kind of architecture the project implies, requires and brings into being remains for me a potent one. 

On Sunday we will launch the ART WRITING FIELD STATION ARCHITECTURAL OPPORTUNITY COMPETITION as a way of thinking through these issues over the coming months, gathering proposals and ideas that explore the conceptual, actual, fantastical, virtual, conversational and other architectures of the field station. Come along on the night to find out more. More details will be posted here next week.

Right now Hyun Jin Cho is making a 1 minute sequence of images, and I am making a 1 minute text that will introduce the project. We will put them together for the first time on Sunday night and see what happens. My own thinking has started from the possibilities opened up by the following three quotations:

(1)For many of Tatlin’s contemporaries, fellow avant-garde artists and writers, his tower exemplified the work of estrangement. The very fact that it was known primarily as a model or a project rather than a realized building reflected the possibilities and contradictions of the time. Thus, instead of speculating on the technical feasibility of its construction, a subject that has preoccupied many architects and others over the years, it is more productive to think about the tower’s actual history as a model and a project that opened up a new dimension of this intermediary and transitional architecture, which also may be called an architecture of possibility. 

“Project,” in the case of the tower, was not an end in itself, but neither was it an impasse. It was a crucible of possibilities and inspirations, not a utilitarian blueprint. Projects and models play a key part in the alternative history of the “off-modern.” In the context of the Russian avant-garde, artists and architects were frequently also writers. Their multifaceted production, often made “for the drawers” at a time when it was becoming increasingly difficult to build and publish, amounted to a different kind of a “total work,” one that was necessarily fragmented and came to constitute an avant-garde of dissent.

(2)Redesign a rainbow.
Design a labyrinth dedicated to Freud, using his photo and his writings. 
Design a Torah. 
Design a monstrance.
Design an abstract monument to Uncle Tom. 
Design a feminist crucifixion scene.
Design something to sell on the street corner.
Design something to sell to the government.
Design something to put on an altar.
Design something to put over a child’s bed. 
Design something to put over your bed when you make love.
Design a flying saucer as if it were The Ark. 
Design a black mass out of any materials you can find.
Design a work of art that fits in a matchbox, a shoebox.
Design a new clock face.
Design a box within a box to illustrate selfishness.
Design a throne.


(3)The Office for Soft Architecture came into being as I watched the city of Vancouver dissolve in the fluid called money. Buildings disappeared into newness. I tried to recall spaces, and what I remembered was surfaces. Here and there money had tarried. The result seemed emotional. I wanted to document this process. I began to research the history of surfaces. I included my own desires in the research. In this way, I became multiple. I became money.

…Soft Architecture will reverse the wrongheaded story of structural deepness. That institution is all doors but no entrances. The work of the SA paradoxically recompiles the metaphysics of surface, performing an horizontal research which greets shreds of fibre, pigment flakes, the bleaching of light, proofs of lint, ink, spore, liquid and pixilation, the strange, frail, leaky cloths and sketchings and gestures which we are.  The work of the SA, simultaneously strong and weak, makes new descriptions on the warp of former events. By descriptions, we mean mostly critical dreams, morphological thefts, authentic registers of pleasant customs, accidents posing as intentions. SA makes  up face-practices.

What if there is no “space”, only a permanent, slow-motion mystic takeover, an implausibly careening awning? Nothing is utopian. Everything wants to be, Soft Architects face the reaching middle.



(1) Svetlanya Boym, Architecture of the Off-Modern(FORuM Project, Princeton Architectural Press, 2008)

(2) Paul Thek, selections from “Teaching Notes: 4-Dimensional Design”, in Harald Falckenberg & Peter Weibel, Paul Thek: Artist’s Artist (MIT Press, 2008), 393-395.

(3) Lisa Robertson, Occasional work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (Vancouver, Clear Cut Press, 2003).


In Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 at 2:02 am

Please join us for the next incarnation of the ART WRITING FIELD STATION on Mar 7th 2010 at:

Unit 9, Sara Lane Studios
60 Stanway Street 
London, N1 6RE

from 5.30- 8.00pm. A map is here

The Story so far: During our event at the Five Years Gallery, Marianne Holm Hansen created a lexicon of art writing  (see images above) out of performances/ lectures/ screenings by David Berridge, Tamarin Norwood, COMPULSIVE HOLDING (Hyun Jin Cho and David Johnson) and Matthew MacKisack.  For our discussion on the 7th we will return to these lists, to see what can be proposed and unfolded from them.

The lexicons are part of Marianne’s  For The Record (A written conversation) project. The evening on the 7th will be an informal series of readings, interventions, performances, that use these images and their vocabulary as the starting point for a conversation. Proposals for presentations are invited. These may as simple as selecting a particular word for our consideration, replacing a word, suggesting ways of grouping words, and/or offering a short commentary.

Or they may be as complicated as no-budget, a studio space,  and up to 15 minutes allows.  Throughout the evening we will compile the final pamphlet in the first ART WRITING FIELD STATION chapbook project.

Please email if you would like to attend and/or present. Please note that it is not necessary to have attended the original Five Years event as we will be working solely from Marianne’s lexicon. Please bring a bottle.

The night will also feature the grand(-ish) launch of the ART WRITING FIELD STATION ARCHITECTURAL OPPORTUNITY COMPETITION.  

ALSO COMING SOON: ART WRITING FIELD STATION goes to Leeds, MAR 27th 2010, 10.30 -1.30pm (in collaboration with OPEN DIALOGUES & Writing Encounters). More details to follow.


In Uncategorized on February 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm

A STARTING POINT FOR THE ART WRITING FIELD STATION: CHARLES OLSON’S “Plan for Curriculum of the Soul” (1968). Reprinted in Rothenberg & Joris, Poems for Millenium Vol.2 (University of California Press), 410-11.

 CLAYTON ESHLEMAN: On February 9, 1968, Olson sent his student George Butterick, a two-page “outline”  that on the one hand was probably spontaneous (reflecting current preoccupations) and on the other the result of twenty years of research and writing. Such a “Plan” suggests a mysterious correspondence between terrestrial labyrinths, star maps, and the human mind. 

Not only does this “Plan” fail to follow the steps of most outlines, it treats its “subjects” as if they were pick-up sticks that had suddenly been loosed from the poet’s grip, falling everywhichway on the page. The only “direction” is that indicated by the fact that the title, one third of the way down on the right-hand page, is under a phrase ending in the word “completion,” suggesting that the “Plan” is to be read as a kind of assymetrical swirl, working down from the title on the right-hand page, crossing over to the left-hand page and following it upward, then crossing back to the right-hand page and ending with “completion”… 

Another reading possibility is to disperse with direction entirely, and take the subjects and suggestions as “free bodies” brought together in a single double-page arena. If they are taken as a set of leads, the novice can follow them out himself. By coming to terms with “Alchemy – rather by plates [as connected to dreams]” or with what Olson might mean by “Bach’s belief,” he can  (often by arguing with Olson) start to develop his own assembly of intersecting subjects or directions….. 

 … [this was] not a set of proposals or even an argument, but a tilting assembly of names, subjects and ideas that evokes the accesses and restrictions of the labyrinth itself.

SOURCE: The above quotation, and all  information in this post, is from Clayton Eshleman’s marvelous Novices: A Study of Poetic Apprenticeship, reprinted in  Companion Spider: Essays (Wesleyan University Press, 2002).


Olson’s text was first published in Magazine of Further Studies #5. Its editor, Jack Clarke selected 28 words from the total of 223. In consultation with two other students, Albert Glover and Fred Wah, one of those words were assigned to a member of the Olson community, with the invitation to write a 20-50 page “fascicle” taking off of that word. The word(s) selected were: The Mushroom; Dream; Woman; Mind; Language; Earth; Blake; Dante; Homer’s Art; Bach’s Belief; Novalis’ “Subjects”; The Norse; The Arabs; American Indians; Jazz Playing; Dance; Egyptian Hieroglyphs; Ismaeli Muslimism; Alchemy; Perspective; Vision; Messages; Analytic Psychology; Organism; Matter; Phenomenological; Sensation; Attention. 

Clayton Eshleman later wrote to Clarke asking what use had been made of the “Plan” and the fascicles. Clarke replied: “Actually there has been no thought of “use” of it, only a place to be together, the O-community i.e., those living in his “world,” his “soul.” After his death in 1970, we all needed something to survive the boredom of what was to follow…”


In using this text as a source for the ART WRITING FIELD STATION I do not intend to follow the content of Olson’s curriculum. In trying to articulate the excitement I get from looking – looking rather than reading? – at Olson’s text, I compose the following statement: 

The plan is specific, but its specificity, rather than offering a transfer of information, sets up opacities, resistances, a non-absorptive space for the viewer. 

The tendency is to see the field it depicts as a gesture apart from its content,  as energy, arrangement and gesture. The plan is prescriptive not through content but in how it attempts to hold itself and us within a mutual tactics of expansion and condensing. But does abstracting from Olson’s intention in this way mean at some point “his” content will return?

This field form is now as codified as a sonnet. As the author of the sonnet knows there are 16 lines, an awareness of the field works into the stuff of thought itself, even before it is thought, altering its expectations and pathways. Perhaps the field form allows a more direct equation of space and thought, but the etymology of stanza in “room” shows that this has prevoiously been the case.  

The selection of 23 words and their allocation as fascicle commissions for particular writers, makes actual how the Plan both demonstrates and is a proposal for a particular (problematic) form of sociality. It is, then, this combination of thought, space, and a contradictory sociality, that makes me turn to Olson’s text as one source for the ART WRITING FIELD STATION. 

NOTE: This statement originally written on a Hammersmith and City Line train, Aldgate East to Ladbroke Grove, 5 February 2010, 7.30-8.10AM. Later revised. 



In Uncategorized on February 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm

The first ART WRITING FIELD STATION took place at Five Years Gallery on 7 Feb 2010 2-4pm. It featured presentations from David Berridge, COMPULSIVE HOLDING (Hyun Jin Cho and David Johnson), Tamarin Norwood and Matthew MacKissack. Marianne Holm Hansen responded to the presentations and discussion, creating a lexicon of Art Writing as part of her FOR THE RECORD (A Written Conversation) project.   

The following is the proposal that I sent Edward Dorrian, in response to his Open Call for contributions to the FIELD RECORDINGS season:


Histories of experimental poetics and writing are often related to practices and metaphors of “the field” – from Charles Olson’s “open field” poetics to engagements with anthropological field trips and field notes as models for situational and performative writing.  The aim of this discussion for FIELD RECORDINGS is to try and explore how such ideas can inform current writing practices by offering an event that models the idea of ” a writer in the field” and also offers a “field recording” of such practices in poetic operation. 

 ART WRITING FIELD STATION began as a fictionalising of my work as a writer interested in connections between writing and contemporary arts practice. I gathered together a variety of texts from different virtual and physical locations (galleries, bookstores, events, websites) that together constitute part of the ever shifting “field” of my writing practice. I find conceiving of this practice as “field” helps foreground such texts not as finished, consumable products but as active EVIDENCE and MATERIAL, something malleable to be worked with, examined, taken apart, noted, and annotated, and also part of a broader cultural (eco-) system.   

I invited COMPULSIVE HOLDING, Matthew MacKisack and Tamarin Norwood to present their own response to this theme of “field.” The precise structure and nature of this event has unfolded from discussions between us. Each of us will present for 20 minutes. Marianne Holm Hansen will compile from all of our talks a lexicon of words and phrases.  This “field” of words and emotions will be seen as the field that has emerged from the bringing together of our individual practices within this event at the FIVE YEARS gallery. The final part of our event will be an open discussion of this emergent field.     

 ART WRITING FIELD STATION will also test the validity,  ourselves, of discussing and presenting work within a concept of the “field” and a “field recording.”

Each of the presentations will be published by VSK in March as a 20 page e-book. The second ART WRITING FIELD STATION will take place in Leeds on March 27th, with presentations from David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Emma Cocker, and Mary Paterson. Please email if you would like to attend.

As part of our preparations for the FIVE YEARS event Hyun Jin Cho sent us the following drawing of the space: