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THE SHADOW OF A TRAIN: AN EXHIBITION AND A READING IN EDINBURGH

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 6:59 am

 

Mirja Koponen, The Shadow of a Train, 2010

 

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday June 25-27 my script The Shadow of A Train will be installed at the Totalkunst Gallery in Edinburgh, curated by Mirja Koponen with responses from Sara Sinclair and Stephen Goodall, as part of the Suitcase Series/ Betamaps Festival. On Friday 25th at 3pm there will be a conversation with the artist Gerry Smith (details here).

The project began with two paragraphs by the Russian writer Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, which can be read here

These were made into a script. Mirja distributed the script to a group of artists in Edinburgh and elsewhere, and in June they met to discuss the project.

MIRJA: We ( Mirja, Sara, Stephen) got together in the gallery last week to discuss the score.  While we had all had different amount of time to engage with the text, we all had somewhat similar responses to the score. We all felt that it drew some kind of faint ring around us, while we could not quite grasp it. It did not yield to us something of itself that was palpable. The words were there, but were not in some sense meaningful, apart from their own very particular ring. We felt we could not iterate what we expected from the text, and how the score was meanwhile replacing these expectations yet with something else. We felt the text(s) were very evocative, physically so almost. None of us had felt compelled to read the score in linear fashion, but had rather worked through it in parts and sessions.  Our thinking had started with what we know – how to think in terms of sensing/translating into visual. This included various visual  interpretations of the text itself. 

Discussing the score together and finding out more about how we collectively had felt about encountering it,  we opened the idea of the exhibition not being not so much a visually legible space, but happening(s) in the space during the three days we had set aside to ourselves as ‘the exhibition’. We also discussed the idea of the process of transformation itself  being the very subject of the exhibition, i.e. it not showing an exhibition as an ‘outcome’ but rather a solicitation for yet a next stage in the process. We run through the scenarios of working with this idea by inviting the audience to participate in some situation we would set up.  We then veered towards a different kind of suggestive approach. There is an archipelago of texts set up by the score, and they all need a certain amount  of adjusting from the reader, as they rub against each other during a reading. We thought to attempt three different approaches to the whole process, that would require a similar shift in ‘reading’, three entirely different (visual) syntaxes that would all flow out of the score, but settle on three altogether different planes.   

The result was the following plan of action that will take place this week:

 DAY ONE

So, for the first day we want to provide a direct ‘interpretation’ of the score; a space for medi(t)ation of it.   The score itself is provided in an aural form, read by multiple voices, and the viewer in the gallery is invited to experience it directly sitting in a chair while facing the street through a large picture window. The city scene provides an everchanging visual ‘score’ to accompany the aural one, while the viewer is visible through the window onto the street, in turn  herself becoming the ‘content’ of the exhibition space.  In this case, each experience of the score is an individual’s interpretation. The exhibition is a ‘terminal’ that lets go of the text in order for it to live on in the viewers memories of it. 

Mirja Koponen, The Shadow of a Train, 2010

 

DAY TWO

The next day we want to shift the focus on the process of ‘translation’ as the mode of being for the work. We want to exhibit the rest of the various interpretations of the score in short text form, as an exhibition of multiple takes, a collective body of projections each replacing another. We have selected three of these responses that will get ‘imagined/illustrated’ in three ways, once by each of us. We will exhibit these illustrated moquettes alongside the collected textual interpretations of the score, which itself is omitted from the space.  This approach produces some new materials and strategies that can be used for further work in various ways.

DAY THREE

Finally, for the third day, we will perform the text into a (visual) form. We will focus on the refrain ‘black garden’. We will bring with us choice materials including but not limited to text/paper/paint/scissors/books/rock/various forms of ‘black’. We will proceed to grow the garden in situ, in real time, by any means that seem appropriate at that time. We will work as (visual) artists, each according to our own preferences and predilections, while also responding to the situation as a collective whole. Everything will be possible, and everything will be at risk. This approach is entirely outside what can be planned for, and therefore this is all that can be said about it.

 

The Shadow of a Train – reading in TotalKunst, 3 Bristo place, 20th June 2010

 

 

A READING IN EDINBURGH

The performance part of the project began last weekend, with a group reading in the gallery, which Mirja described as follows: 

The score of the upcoming exhibition is read in two variants for DISTANCE – from a distance, for creating a distance. The first reading forms a dialogue, the second reading a three voice choreography.

She also sent the following notes on the event: 

The Shadow of a Train – reading in TotalKunst, 3 Bristo place, 20th June 2010

Brought into the space: two printed versions of the script, an ‘old one’, and a ‘new one’. Three readers, unknown to each other. 

The script was read twice, first time between two people, myself and the poet John Mackie. We played the first Dragomoshchenko paragraph with a pre-recorded voice of the writer David Berridge, the author of the script, and then read in turns, sitting on the opposite sides of the room facing each other. I asked John to read until he felt it was enough, then I would pick it up and would on my turn do the same. 

In this way, we would have to feel the text, and also to give in to the rhythm of the reading, our own and the other’s. What emerged, was a dialogue, where we had to subtly negotiate the turn-over point. It felt very personal, yet at the same time we both intuitively worked around the fixed structure of our given text. As the two versions were slightly different, there were also moments when the text read outloud deviated from what the other participant was following on the page, the text buckling off the page, meandering and then returning to what is fixed. 

These slight vagaries in reading acted like  a short recourse of thought into something private – like a momentary lapse in concentration, an intrusion of a memory – or as an erosion, or a brief collapse of the structure of the text.

The next reading was between three people, myself, John Mackie and the artist Rocio van Jungenfeldt. John had read the text before, Rocio had not. We would again read according to our own sense, taking turns. This reading formed very differently, not a dialogue but a choreography. As we had only two copies of the text between us, we ended up  simply passing them around, working together. We chanced upon a common rhythm  that was first tentative, punctuated with pauses as question marks, then increasingly playful, as we began spontaneously  to work into the reading layers with multiple voices. 

John, an experienced reader, easily memorized passages of the text and addressed other readers directly, animating the reading by imbuing his own volition into it – a kind of love affair with the text. This made the focus constantly shift between the world that the words were transporting us into and suspending us in, and the chemistry of the  forming relationships between people in very close proximity. 

All this reading was weaving in and out of  the sounds of the street, the café, and John Mackies sound piece playing in the gallery. It’s audio track records the sounds of  a sea coast, winds, sea swelling and surging and waves crashing to the shore. The words washed over us similarly, allowing the kind of relaxation of focus that makes you senses clearer and keener. 

While the feel of the architectonics of the score was never lost during the reading, the contingencies presented by reading in live time with an un-fixed procedure invited us to step into the text and engage with it, visit it while inserting ourselves in it, so shifting our roles from being an observer, or a witness to the text to that of an owner and  a maker of it for that short stretch of time.  


EVENT: THE SHADOW OF A TRAIN at DISTANCE/ STOKE NEWINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ON SUNDAY 20th JUNE

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

 

Photo: Mirja Koponen

 

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.” 

For the full programme of events on the 19th and 20th see here. Tickets are available here

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.

Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Dust (Dalkey Archive Press, 2008), front cover.

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

SOURCE TEXTS: Arakadii Dragomoshchenko, DUST (Dalkey Archive Press, 2008); Nicole Brossard, Selections (University of California, Press, 2010), 193.