This Sunday at 3pm I will present THE SHADOW OF A TRAIN as part of DISTANCE at the Stoke Newington International Airport. Co-curated by Third Party and the airport, the event offers “a weekend of performance, talks and walks around the central theme of distance.”
THE SHADOW OF A TRAIN is a script for an exhibition developed from two paragraphs by the Russian writer Arkadii Dragomoshchenko. These will be presented as part of an exhibition at the Totalkunst Gallery in Edinburgh June 25-27, curated by Mirja Koponen.
In Edinburgh, the original script has been interpreted by three artists as a series of events and happenings over the three days. For DISTANCE we wanted to explore how distance worked in this project, and how that could be represented to an audience at the Stoke Newington International Airport.
Originally, it seemed like that might involve a live SKPE link between myself in London and Mirja in Edinburgh and/or performance of the original script. But actually, as we explored this further, distance appeared to be not so literal. Relations of distance and proximity, representation and participation, required different solutions.
Asked for a short description of the project for the programme I wrote:
A resting space for distance. Between script and exhibition, word and writer, writer and reader, word and word, London and Edinburgh, David Berridge and Mirja Kopenen.
As Mirja wrote very early on in our dialogue about the exhibition:
… it is a very open situation and the description of the project present several very concise entities that are very distant from each other, but I can manipulate them in my mind like a jigsaw puzzle to see how they build a kind of immaterial architecture that has to do with my sensing and thinking…
And as I wrote the other day, working on my text for Sunday:
I am re-writing the story of the hedgehog and the fox. I am looking for two contemporary characters. Maybe more.
This quote, too, from Nicole Brossard which entered into my thinking about the piece, about the relation of process and histories encountered in the language moment:
I imagine the passion of the language that is allowed escape from this. The turbulence that cracks open history. The desire that consumes the common places. I imagine the interior urgency that forces the liquidation of an era’s truisms. Literature is the fruit of a displacement of belonging into a belonging that invents its own horizon. I always displace myself starting from the words of my belonging.
Here are the two paragraphs by Arakadii Dragomoshchenko’s DUST from which the whole project began:
Evenings, as usual, seemed endless to him. Time passed, even though he never quite understood the meaning of that phrase. Take a couple of objects, for instance: are they immersed in time, or does each one of them actually reflect time? In the first case, the picture is reminiscent of a stream (a ritual scene: obsidian knives, an old cupboard, a rock flying through a web of glass, etc.) filled with stones/objects that form eddies, become compressed: preserved. In the second, everything is much more complicated. I know what tomorrow will bring. This is a story about a man who once got really frightened. He was walking down the street and suddenly felt fear entering into him through his diaphragm, a sensation that reminded him of how he would have felt if he was falling in love. The meaning of the phrase “time passed” was gone, though its “disappearance” was itself beyond his perception. He had started doubting his premises, the numerous shells that were lying around him – particularly their “appearances,” the expansion of their radiant moiré into the air around them. As in Trakl’s black gardens.
Before, when he’d repeated some habitual phrase with a carefree regularity, he used to think of something (that now, in retrospect, seems) completely different. We are moving around an axis of assumptions. Gesticulations. The “eternal” turned out to be a single evening, its increasingly tattered threads of light dangling from the corner of his eye, or else a sentence without a subject. A destruction or restoration of balance – nothing more: when a period of non-writing begins, it’s necessarily followed by a period of non-speech, because the intent to create has been deliberately constrained. Past this point we use different systems of measurement to sound reality’s depths, despite the fact that this demarcation is nothing more than an auxiliary device. Length is measured by the speed of a moving shadow. Is seaweed beautiful? A change in a narrative’s temporal modality rids us of our Cartesian arrogance – it’s autumn now, but back then it was spring. Is it possible to say that seaweed is much more beautiful than the dryness in your mouth? She walks under the shadow of a red, brick wall. Warm dust seeps through the cracks; small, dry acacia leaves; the shadow of a train lies behind or on top of all this.
More information about the project in Edinburgh will be available here next week. The project at Totalkunst Gallery includes a conversation with Gerry Smith on the 25th June at 3pm. Details of that event are available here.