Posts Tagged ‘reading notes’


In Uncategorized on July 29, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Page spread from Oscar Tuazon, I CAN'T SEE (Paraguay Press, 2010).


With a “publication structure” credited to Will Holder, The Social Life of the Book describes itself as “a monthly, subscription based series of original texts by writers, artists, publishers, designers, booksellers, etc., reflecting on reading, designing, publishing, and distributing books, today.” It is edited by castillo/corrales in Paris, and published through its Paraguay Press, Imprint.

The series begins with “Making Books”, an essay by Oscar Tuazon, a founding member of the gallery. Tuazon begins and ends his short text with accounts of book making: his parents bookbindery, principally producing blank books such as photo albums and sketchbooks; his own use of traditional bookmaking skills  to produce his two artist books, Dwelling Portably, and Leave Me Be.

Tuazon elegantly describes these experiences, but it is the model of the book and distribution that he unfolds from them that is where the pamphlet becomes provocative. His particular views emerge when discussing the blank books of his parents and how they were often used for private journal keeping. Noting “a completely onanistic model of production and distribution: write a book yourself, for yourself”, Tuazon goes on to sympathetically notice:

A book for an audience of one. A blank book is an anti-book. And it is this aspect that I actually find most interesting, the idea of producing a book not as a form of distribution or communication, but as an object. (6)

Tuazon goes on to explore various ways in which the book is a failure in 2011, unable to justify if you are looking for discussion or communication. Tuazon balances this against his involvement in publication projects like The Social Life of the Book  and Section 7 bookshop in Paris. Such spaces, he declares, function like commercial galleries, purveyors of rarified objects in that:

I don’t have many illusions about the bookshop as a place for discussion or debate, as a public space. It is a curated space… for a tiny, sophisticated public with extra money to spend on rare beautifully-crafted objects. (7)

I agree about the first this sentence, but I think there are other ways of responding than this quote’s conclusion…

Oscar Tuazon, 2010. Photo by Dominique Uldry.

Tuazon’s notions of the book are usefully read as contemporary responses to two legacies of post-1960s art practices. One is the alignment of writing and sculpture, as practiced, for example, by Lawrence Weiner and Robert Smithson. Curiously, if that was about democratising the art work, through low price books and art work in magazines, Tuazon seems to share an urgency focussed upon printed matter, whilst moving – in economic and distribution terms – in the opposite direction.

This is partly due to his rejection of both writing and reading: “The craft of writing does not interest me.” (9) Tuazon says, also telling us he has recently finished writing a novel. Here, too, Tuazon enters into an historical debate where the artist relates to writing and the book by denying or destroying its function as distributed/ readable object (think, most famously, of Marcel Broodthaers and John Latham).

Oscar Tuazon, Dwelling Portably

Again key differences unfold in his/our contemporary moment. The repudiation of book as reading-writing object remains as some kind of rite of passage, but the object is not destroyed or literally digested, except in terms of distribution and through a heightened focus on the books sculptural properties. Some of Tuazon’s own comments are useful here (note how repudiating writing requires a carefully, crafted, refined prose style):

I consider the process of making a book – even writing it – like making a sculpture: I consider how it can or can’t be used, how it relates to an idea of function, what it looks like and how it feels, most of all how it gets built. And above all, making a book (like making a sculpture) is always a way of answering the question of why to make a book. Reanimating the corpse. (9)

Talking of poetry books his parents sometimes made for private clients:

This was a kind of ideal book, a book out of circulation, a useless object like a painting is useless. Painting started to get really interesting at about the time photography came along: when it was finally stripped of the last shreds of function, of any possibility of serving a public purpose, of communicating anything. Then it finally had to stand on its own, autonomous and abject, just a thing. Those volumes of poetry, unread and beautiful, narcissistic and perverse, onanistic, queer- that’s what a book wants to be. Autonomous and indifferent, an abstract book. (10)

There is an element of A Modest Proposal, or, more accurately, a desire to inhabit the perversity and paradox of this position. Of his own novel writing, for example, Tuazon comments how “The book itself needed to be invisible.” Likewise, when conceiving of a book version of Dwelling Portably, a survivalist newsletter published out of the Oregon woods by Burt and Holly Davis, and asked by its authors to make a book as lightweight and portable as possible, Tuazon instead re-publishes them as a “thick tome of a book, a bible, bound in black goatskin. It becomes funereal, finite, a kind of austere memorial to a hardcore lifestyle, somehow impenetrable… taken out of circulation.” (13)

Tuazon proposes such contradictions are how a contemporary practice of the book is achieved. Tuazon’s views on death-book and anti-book give a contemporary relevance to forms of book production that would lack that status otherwise, countering a history of artists publications unfolding out of the mimeo revolution, and inserting such styles into the discourses and markets of Tuazon’s art work and that of the castillo/ corrales gallery.

Page spreads from Oscar Tuazon, I CAN'T SEE (Paraguay Press, 2010)

This highlights  a number of tensions applying both to MAKING BOOKS and the whole field of art(ist)-led printed matter:

(1)Such an argument seeks to remove both reading and writing from the discourse of book making, and perhaps the book becomes a way of talking about graphic design and sculpture rather than writing.

(2)This position risks celebrating its failure to see publication as in anyway related to creating a public (for an alternative view see Mathew Stadtler’s talk here, from which this formulation is derived).

(3)The interest in a carefully curated space becomes a notion that the only option for printed matter is books costing upwards of 25 euros (or 5 euros for a 14 page essay, as here), and creating a culture where it feels wrong to questions such decisions about exclusive cost and distribution….

(4)I (want to) feel such texts always want a utopia by the back door, merely by the virtue of engaging in such activity. If that hope/ delusion is not present, the artist shifts from being an agent of gentrification to producing a gentrified version of the artist…

Leave Me Be No.3, 2009 Particle board Unique Artist´s book, No. 3 of 10 54 x 80 x 18 cm

If Making Books effectively raises these issues, it  leaves me uncertain about its precise position. There is also Making Books as I experience and encounter it, through a recent visit to Section 7 books in Paris, emerging with saddle stitched chapbook, ideal for transmission through gift and exchange, read in five minutes, acquiring form in conversation and in texts like this…

Section 7 was a welcoming place. We were given coffee and had a good conversation with the director about books and projects. They had some books I had been looking for for a long time, which I brought not as beautiful, luxury objects but because their contents fitted into work I am making/ thinking/ experiencing, its histories and consequences…

I’m thinking through how such desires relate to the arguments of Tuazon’s provocative text, how both positions entwine in contradiction and reciprocity through particular notions of materials and communication…


The next installment of The Social Life of the Book will be The Wet and The Dry by Moyra Davey. The colophon notes: “The series will be hand-bound annually, into a 192-page volume, whose edition is determined by demand. This currently stands at 15.” More information and orders here.

The book I found at Section 7 was the issue of the Swedish journal OEI (no 51 2010,) dedicated to Mary Ellen Solt, edited by Antonio Sergio Bessa. The book brings back into circulation Holt’s poetry and essays in a move that both gives provisional form to her own life work and opens up new materials/ ways of thinking about concrete poetry, particularly its lineage out of William Carlos Williams project of The American Idiom.



In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm
P is for Poodle, 1983


This latest VSK handbook offers an expanded PUBLICATIONS NOTED, a transcription notebook through recent readings that via extraction and sequence (may) become a form of commentary, and/or a determined neurosis of (mis-)use.

Each of the following texts could be positioned as a starting point that determines the themes of the others, with each such sequence posing different priorities and forms of travel.

MoreImmediateMotivation for such a method was Hans Dickel & Lisa Puyplat’s Reading Susanne Kriemann, for its exploration of reader/ reading involving both the practice (the reader and the art work) and the thought about it (by the artist and others. Reader as body and anthology in shifting multiplicity). As Axel John Wieder notes in “Reading Meanings”, his essay for Reading…:

“Reading” emerges here, perhaps in a more poetic understanding, as a process which itself produces meaning, which doesn’t only decipher, but constructs information in a performative sense through one’s own associations and ideas. We should start from this point, when we speak about the reading of images. (155-6)

1. Peter Friedl

“I think the more interesting part of the theater question for me is emphasizing the different between the stage and the public and how it works under perverted circumstances…”

“…. when everybody wants to be a spectator and a protagonist at the same time – certainly without any revolutionary romanticism – and even something like Pasolini’s despair looks like some role model to be picked up by any hysterical video artist (male or female); circumstances are definitely perverted. The real scandal is complicity.” (189)




(2) Susanne Kriemann



“In attempting to formulate my narratives with all the images taken from other contexts, the clear structure of the book serves as a basis for the associative relationships inherent to my work.” (190)

“there is a striking difference between the formulation of the work in book form and its realization in the exhibition context. The latter is a transcription of sorts, which is an act of transposing the book into the exhibition space.” (190-2)

“Do we bring one language into another language into another language, I wonder? Revealing a fabric woven of languages in space? Could this be transcription as performance? I have mostly been thinking of my process as series of “transformations” from image to text to image again, from painting to physical installation, to virtual space, and back to text again and into image – in a long and transformative process.” (206)


“I also dislike the word “installation” but I cannot stop using it when describing what I do. Lately I have started to embrace the old term “exhibition” instead. I make exhibitions instead of installations. Installation is for me more of a thing in a space that can be seen as a whole  body. Exhibition is like a book with a beginning and an end.” (208)


3. General Idea

General Idea
is basically this:
a framing device
within which we
inhabit the role of
the artist as we see
the living legend

Showcard 1-001, General Idea, 1975


Degraded and humiliated,
the glamorous image
is brilliant in its vacancy,
glorious in its degradation.
The image retains
signs of a former purity.
The face of reality is
still evident beneath
the thin skin of Glamour.

Showcard 1-007, Brilliant in its Vacancy, 1975


Glamour, like myth,
miniaturizes reality,
making it visible
in a single glance.
All major characteristics
are retained.
Any “reali-life” context
may be simulated.
Glamour is the perfect
simluation technique
for on-going battles,
the perfect tool
for re-shaping history:
adding,  subtracting
indeed MAKING history.

Showcard 1-009, Battle Plans, 1975


Like all artists, s/he is
intent on the definition
of unoccupied territory.
S/he wants to describe
the background by
simplifying the foreground.
S/he wants to occupy
a central position in the
general state of affairs.

Showcard 1-071, The Artist Constructs a Model, 1977

Felix Partz models V.B. Gown #3 at City Hall, Toronto, 1975-1977

4. Paul Chan

“Reading Sade, one can’t help noticing something about the countless debaucheries: they are not real. What I mean is that they are physically impossible. There are situations that Sade depicts where bodies suck and fuck in ways that defy physics as much as morality. The world Sade portrays is even less representative of reality than pornography is of actual sex. But they are not mere fantasies. They possess the prodding movements a mind that imagines sex not merely as a pleasure, a job, or a weapon but as a form of reason. Here is where the spirit of Sade resides. If human freedom is expressed in the sovereignty of sex, then Sade is pushing to create a form of expression that can free the reason of sex from both nomos (human law) and physics (nature’s law).

In other words, the spirit of Sade is embodied in the idea of abstraction. Abstraction, as the power to create from empirical reality an essential composition outside the laws of what constitutes the real, has always been the emblem of a kind of freedom. If abstract art has any insight left beyond merely being an apologia for interior design, then it must find a new necessity to produce images and objects that follows laws unto themselves. Abstraction worthy of that word binds content to form in such a way that the process that directed its expression is indistinguishable form the idea that led it into being. In abstraction, the origin is the end.


Sex abstracts us from ourselves. In sex, the senses lose all sense and make one feel wholly other. It is a domain in which truth and rationality have no ground, a place where no one knows what to do with what is true. Sexuality, like art, makes reason unreasonable. Abstraction, as an aesthetic principle of essential separation, has the potential to redescribe sex by delinking it from the tortured legacy of a Western imaginary that ceaselessly tries to make  what we do to ourselves and to one another into a truth worth fighting and sometimes killing for. In a sense, erotica, pornography, and even secret military prisons are merely different ways we have sought to make sex truthful: by fixing its shape, determining its laws, making it useful, rendering it reasonable. They are material representations of what sex is supposed to be. But there is nothing less reasonable than sex. This unreasonableness must be given form, rhythm, movement, touch, feel, and more. In abstraction, sex reveals the intangible force of its own irreconcilability and becomes what it is in reality: a spell for togethering doubling as a boundary.” (103-4)


5. Glenn Ligon


“… one of the things about the paintings is that there’s always this question of whether I’m obscuring the text or highlighting it, whether the accumulation of material on the paintings is about actually withdrawing meaning and my ambivalence about language and its ability to communicate, or is it about this incredible faith in language which someone like Baldwin had. I feel like coming to this essay [ James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village, ” in NOTES OF A NATIVE SON (1955)] fifty years later there’s always this sense that the world has changed, but not enough, and so what can language do in some ways? What are its limits? I think that’s part of what’s going into these paintings.” (115)

“My approach to the essay of these particular works is one of questioning. The paintings are fundamentally about language and an ambivalence and pessimism about the project of communicating, of going back and forth between really wanting to communicate with the viewer and also wanting to withhold things and the aggression of that withholding. There are several ways to view the paintings, and I feel that when I started doing these paintings that people’s relationship to Baldwin’s writing was one of just celebration, that there was this uncritical relationship to him, and they weren’t looking at the essays anymore and weren’t diving into the in the way that I thought they should. I didn’t want my paintings just to be re-presenting the text, saying “Baldwin is important, here’s the text, read it again.” I wanted to explore the more abstract level of why do certain things disappear or how they have become so known that they’re not visible anymore, and pushing the viewer to think about this visual object, and in the way I’ve rendered the text in terms of these more abstract questions that the paintings ask.” (115-6)




Frédéric Bonnet, General Idea: Haute Culture A Retrospective, 1969-1994 (JRP Ringier, 2011).

Paul Chan, The essential and incomplete sade for sade’s sake (Badlands Unlimited, 2010).

Peter Friedl, Secret Modernity: Selected Writings and Interviews 1981-2009 (Sternberg Press, 2010).

Susanne Kriemann and Matts Leiderstam, “Is this what we do?” in Hans Dickel & Lisa Puyplat eds. Reading Susanne Kriemann (Sternberg Press, 2011).

Scott Rothkopf ed. Glenn Ligon, Yourself in the World: Selected Writings and Interviews (Yale University Press, 2011).


This VSK HANDBOOK (2) is part of an ongoing project exploring forms of writing and essaying that stay in proximity to acts of reading and writing. Previous projects include the recent handbook on John Berger’s Bento’s Sketchbook, and a collaboration in January with the artist Jennie Guy, performed at the Galway Arts Centre.

All these projects operate variously in a zone of transcription, passing on, (W)reading and commenting. They propose a form of theatre out of that process, where the value of reading is staged, rather than left to a process of unconscious accretion.

Transcribing this handbook prompted various questions concerning such a staging. Are the quotations in order? Is an argument unfolding? Is there anyone out there reading from the bottom up? How does a voice read all these aloud, inhabiting them both for possible through-lines and refusals? This, it seems -4/-7/11,  is less about subjectivities than imagining an endlessly refracting being who could speak everything.


IMAGE CREDITS (From top:) General Idea, P is for Poodle, 1983; Peter Friedl, Corrupting the Absolute; Susanne Kriemann, Spying invisible acts (high-rise building Alexandria), 2006, 110 x 135 cm, c-print; Susanne Kriemann, Picknick am Wegesrand, 2011; General Idea Felix Partz models V.B. Gown #3 at City Hall, Toronto, 1975-1977; Paul Chan, sade for sade’s sake, 2009, digital projection, 5 hours, 45 minutes looped; Glenn Ligon, Figure #32, 2009, Acrylic, silkscreen and coal dust on canvas 60 x 48 inches (152.4 x 121.92 cm).


In Uncategorized on July 1, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Patrick Coyle, Paul Auster Story (A2 Poster, 2011).

Four  art writing projects unfold relationships and possibilities of, for and about landscape. Strategies for observing then recording the results, or maybe the other way around; scores for intervention; missives for those in the field right now or chair- bed- page confined explorers of type/ book/ screen (e)scapes. Handbooks for weaving together art as life life as art art and life, or as yet un-thought combinations of neither.

A post like this implies such a focus might be something new. In such delusion I recall the title of the Jonathan Williams essay “Some speak of a/ Return to Nature/ I Wonder Where They/ Could Have Been “. I cite as further frame and reference  Leslie Scalapino’s talk-essay Eco-Logic in Writing, reprinted in the new Litmus Press edition of HOW PHENOMENA APPEAR TO UNFOLD where she writes:

Perhaps the start of a sense of ‘eco-logical writing,’ for myself, is the phrase “my mind is phenomena,” mind (as its phenomena/subjects and as its body), not the same as land but alongside it. Writing enables the making of that spatial relation (of land and mind-phenomena, the two placed beside each other). It’s a relation that’s going on in every instant but writing can also ‘make’ it (future) by altering space, allowing one to see one’s own (also) joyful movement in space (making that) as well as being one’s movement and seeing others’ movements as joyful. The text is the altered space, sometimes one’s to walk 3-D in it at jetting evening. (89)

Here are the publications:

(1)Rachel Lois Clapham and Present Attempt, A Prototype of Walking (S)miles

This text is  a collaboration based on the later’s performance Walking (S)miles for the Hazard festival in Manchester. They describe it as follows:

An incomplete textual sample that comes out of Walking (S)miles by Present Attempt.

Optional Instructions for Self-Assembly

1. Print the document

2. Cut each of the pages down the centre with the exception of the last page

3. Affix the cut pages to the last page

4. (W)read the document

(2)Patrick Coyle

Patrick’s Therefore (Something To Do With Stops) is the first text of his incarnation as Akerman Daly writer in residence for 2011, a text of reciprocities between acts of looking,  seeing, reading, talking,  and (mis-) remembering that suggests each as a way to get to the other, and style as a set of procedures for enabling a co-existence. The distinctiveness of each formed through luxuriating in its proximities to all the others. There are structures at work, believing essaying and poetics might become road movie…

I find myself reading the text thinking of performances like Remembering Ginsberg, which posit talking as  a mis-rembering, thinking as a negotiation between intention and the present,and writing as something that occupy either the before or the after, the source code or the error. Here is how the text begins:


Well erm therefore just have a look therefore the image therefore the first image is of a photo therefore the first image is a photo of therefore erm therefore a therefore bus window therefore I was looking thr- therefore I’ve been trying to write about looking through the bus window therefore and therefore then looking at the bus window at some point that I can’t really work out and then looking at the dots on the bus window which are a bit like therefore dots therefore in halftone printing therefore which means that therefore there are larger dots towards the bottom of the window therefore towards the bottom of the glass therefore erm therefore


and describing this reminds me of the performance I did a few therefore m- therefore maybe a month ago therefore at the Poetry Café in London where I attempted to recite therefore a therefore speech by Allen Ginsberg therefore where he talks about therefore I’m gonna try and remember it now where he says like therefore erm therefore something about therefore all the dots on the electric screen, he says ‘If you will keep your mind on the image in front of you which is my face in the camera therefore or in your TV tube or screen TV tube therefore and realise that I am therefore


looking from the other side of a c- therefore directly into like therefore a little black hole, imagining that you are there therefore and also imagining what would be possible to say therefore that would actually communicate therefore through all the electricity and all the glass and all the dots on the electric screen therefore so that don’t you, you’re not deceived by the image scene therefore but that we are therefore but that we are all therefore both on the same beam’ therefore or something like that so anyway he talks about that therefore and therefore that somehow was still in my head when I started looking at this window therefore on the bus in London therefore ahm therefore


and they reminded me of therefore I guess of halftone dots therefore and therefore of Lichtenstein using Ben-Day dots and therefore of Bridget Riley using similar dots therefore and therefore Sigmar Polke to some extent therefore but mainly of the printing process using halftone therefore dots therefore I therefore uhm I noticed a lot of things therefore this, this was just the beginning of erm therefore a trip therefore to Madrid therefore so therefore th- the next thing I noticed was erm therefore the therefore dots on my iPhone when my therefore

Continue reading here.

(3)Emma Cocker  and Sophie Mellor

I’m still absorbed in MANUAL FOR MARGINAL PLACES, which I also presented as part of the ART CRITICISM NOW event in Dublin, and whose notion of manual has also been generative for this blog since. A source book, then, documenting (1) letters sent by Sophie Mellor to Emma Cocker whilst the former was spending a short time living without money in Cumbrian towns and countryside; (2) Cocker’s replies in the form of a series of prose texts/ poems  on marginality. A dialogue, then, but one open to its breaches as much as its connections.

Initially, MANUAL reads as epistolary novel, with Emma and Sophie’s texts alternating, although Sophie’s soon disappear, and Emma unfolds her prose sequence solely in relation to (Sophies) images. This structure reflect’s how Sophie’s project (she was also a co-curator of the project) was itself a test to generate a set of ideas and practices for future work. It demonstrates the tricky status of such activities (briefly living rough as a funded artist), where art is both deprivation and privilege, the act itself both pretense and very real…

from Manual for Marginal Places (2011). Images Sophie Mellor and Simon Poulter

I wonder if these tensions – which are part of the project’s energy, not a critique of something it is unaware of – are also apparent in the text itself. Here is No.12 – Drift. I offer it here, out of context, as an example of a text that has drifted into this new context and location here, curious how in doing so it maintains or loses a sense of MANUAL:

Wandering operates tangentially; it detours, dallies, takes its time. To wander is to drift, becoming a little aimless or unanchored; it is a tactic for getting lost. Its disorientation subjects the commonplace or unnoticed elements of one’s familiar environment to the estrange scrutiny of a stranger’s glance. Navigational aids and maps might be misused for wilful disorientation; guidebooks becomes tools for defamiliarization and mis-direction as much for finding one’s way. Drifting is a mode of attention that lags behind the trajectory of more purposeful thought, yet other knowledge(s) become revealed in the slipstream of intention, in its shadows and asides. To catch the drift is to gauge the tenor of the subtext, to become attuned to what is left out or unspoken, to what is said in what remains unsaid. Become practiced in the art of wandering and of drifting thought. Follow in the footsteps of others who have wandered from the beaten track. Yet, remember too, that wandering necessarily wanders; its restlessness wills against the delimitation of any single genealogy or definitive theory of its dérive. To wander wills towards remaining unfixed, towards the condition of unbelonging. (40)

Sophie’s texts are reproduced handwritten notes sent from the field. Cocker’s are printed blocks of text on a white page, but their sense of removal is also evident in how their propositional nature removes particulars of person and place, even as it explores a landscape that is both a physical chronicle of nature’s edgelands and a conceptual territory indebted to certain histories of art practice and theory/ philosophy.

 Some of Emma’s texts have the feel of a list turning towards litany. The absence of gender or identity for the speaker or addressee, but their simultaneous confidence and stridency, allows a phantom “we” and “us” – maybe “I-thou” – to form alongside the text, one which may also seem absurd and with which we may disagree.

In other sections this subject is not “he” or ”she” but “one”, a subjectivity that is everyone and no one, self and other, confession and avoidance, a deliberate anachronism. Part of the texts own frame and music, it moves  uncertainly beyond it, another way these paragraphs fold back into themselves to better propose themselves as objects of use.

from Manual for Marginal Places (2011). Images Sophie Mellor and Simon Poulter

(4) Matt Dalby

Matt Dalby’s  @soundpoet  twitter project was declared at an end a few months ago, but has thankfully revived. Its temporary termination, however, raised issues about the motivation behind such a project, how and why it sustains itself, how it balances its “found” observations – dependent for their effect on a certain authentic surprise – with how their (artful/ skilled) transcription becomes a style that (it seems to me) may itself determine what later details are selected. Note that for many such details the 140 character limit of twitter is an unnecessary verbosity.

Sometimes, half seriously, I think of soundpoet as conceptual poetry for those who don’t like it. I wonder, too, about what the accumulation of these tweets (now more than 5,000) means, and how it translates into  a book form (if that is what/where it should translate itself into). There would undoubtedly be pleasure in such a compilation, but I wonder what another form would do with that sense of discovery and NOW that characterises the tweets, or how the book could live as archive and guide book for details both unique and gone but palpably knowable.

Here is @soundpoet:

Here are the last ten tweets as of today 01/07/11 18.10:

Torn-off corner from Nine of Hearts

Test tube on pavement

Wren lands on wall then flies into hedge

Red brick church being refurbished. Gates open to courtyard

Watery hiss of wind through trees

PCS picket at HSE in Trafford

Childs painting of a starry sky held to front passenger seat of car by seatbelt

Two men playing cricket in school grounds

Egerton Road North abbreviated to EDGE ROAD NORTH & ERN on addresses painted on wheeled bins


Shadow of letters from bus window across passenger’s face

Copying these out I wonder if this new post-Twitter identity (that is not necessary but may be) links to notions of PHRASE, perhaps, as Helene Cixous observes it, in proximity to aphorism and maxim through its brevity, but also doing something very different. Cixous writes:

So each one of them at once modest, urgent, respectful, unreserved. Extremely simple, the most difficult thing: a phrase that doesn’t resemble a phrase.

Sometimes @soundpoet uses twitpics as in this one linked to from the tweet “Ladybird on Pavement”:



As recently as the late eighteenth century, landscape paintings were commonly thought of as a species of journalism. Real art meant pictures of allegorical or biblical subjects. A landscape was a mere record or report. As such, it couldn’t be judged for its imaginative vision, its capacity to create and embody a world of complex meanings; instead it was measured on the rack of its “accuracy,” its dumb fidelity to the geography on which it was based. Which was ridiculous, as Turner proved, and as the nineteenth-century French painting went on to vindicate: realist painting focused on landscapes and “real” people rather than royalty. (14)

SOURCE: No.34 in David Shields, Reality Hunger (Penguin Books, 2011). The footnotes, which Shields asks readers to cut from the book without reading, identify this paragraph as Jonathan Raban in conversation.


Coming back again and again through this consideration to the essays of Leslie Scalapino’s HOW PHENOMENA APPEAR TO UNFOLD. Going back out from that to the work of poets that recur in many essays: Philip Whalen, Michael McClure, Robert Grenier and their practices of attention…

The texts included in Scalapino’s 2007 Green Integer book Day Ocean state of Stars’ Night: Poems & Writings 1989 and 1999-2006, are usefully read alongside all the work here. The essays in HOW unfold eco-logic’s of event, seamless antilandscape, event horizon, occurence, language as transient act. Practical urgencies, then, litanies for art writing landscapes, evidenced strongly in the curatorial form of the/ this book itself:

The intention in this book is that the unfolding structure of the book mime and demonstrate-be (and be seeing) the process and the instant of- the inside and the outside simultaneously creating each other.(1)


In Uncategorized on September 13, 2010 at 8:25 am

Reading Mark Manders Traducing Ruddle – one of a series of publications and installations by the artist involved with the idea of “fake newspapers” – got VerySmallKitchen thinking more broadly about the genre of the artists newspaper,  how it appropriates the newspaper form – its shape and paper, its implications about distribution. What happens to the form when artists use it? As Kathleen Ritter observes in an article on Ruddle for Fillip 12: 

Exactly how does one read Manders’s fake newspaper? It is not something to be read from beginning to end. It is not to be studied or cited. It is not to be gleaned for pertinent and timely information as one might normally read the daily paper. Rather, this object suggests a kind of meta-reading, that one reads while consciously critical of the act of reading itself. I would argue that Manders’s work is about the very activity of reading and, in this case, how such activities are articulated and performed in public.

For Ritter the history of the newspaper is a history of changes in reading practices: the where and how of reading.  

The performance of reading has changed over time; indeed, reading has a history. In the eighteenth century in particular, the increased consumption of reading materials was considered key to many social and political developments in Europe. Some historians have argued for the existence of a “reading revolution,” pointing out that until the mid-eighteenth century reading was performed “intensively,” in that people would own a small number of books and read them repeatedly, often for a small audience. 

After this point, people began to read “extensively,” going through as many books as possible and increasingly reading alone. During this period, Europe saw a proliferation of libraries, coffee houses, salons, and other spaces designed to accommodate the new practice of reading.

She concludes:

It was during this era that newspapers began to proliferate as well. 

Thinking of Manders’ project – both its printed form and its use to block up empty shop fronts in Window with Fake Newspapers– I think about the artists newspaper as a ghostly parallel of the original newspaper and its bold claims to public space, occupation of the everyday and all pervasive distribution. Hoping to find a new function, a new kind of news and immediacy and public space, that, as Mander’s project observes, comes from an embrace of varieties of irrelevance,redundancy, and invisibility. 

This post is a brief survey of  artists newspapers encountered through my own research. The focus of this article largely ignores artists who actually use “real” newspapers – such as Kenneth Goldsmiths transcriptions of The New York Times in Day; Dieter Roths bulk newspaper bindings in his own Collected Works; or Gustav Metzger’s pile of Evening Standards at his recent Serpentine retrospective. Although these obviously help dilineate a broader field of artist-newspaper fascination. 

One brief note: a sign at the Serpentine asked visitors to consult an invigilator if they wished to look at the newspapers.  Surely, engagement with newspapers has to embrace the brief life of the form – sitting uncomfortably with artists careers, or even the duration of an exhibition – one reason why I was so delighted that YH485’s *periphery newspaper  – to which I was a contributer – had a second life as chip paper in the fish and chip shops of Great Yarmouth. 

One other project to bring into mind: in the catalogue for Every Day is a Good Day: The Visual Art of John Cage, Cages assistant Laura Kuhn tells the story of how, when Cage was writing his Norton lectures, Merce Cunningham suggested that to make the lectures more contemporary he should take material from each days New York Times. Cage is delighted, but Kuhn arrives one day to find him in tears and pointing at an article about “crack babies.” Kuhn observes how Cage seemed to be totally thrown to discover such a thing existed and she writes:

I began to wonder whether what we might reasonably call the weights of the world ,and I would include crack babies in this category, were unusually heavy on him. That letting them in, so to speak, engaging with them, on any level, paralysed him, making him question the viability of his work as an artist, making him wonder whether his work wasn’t in some very real sense futile. 

It’s a useful story to ponder when considering artists newspapers, and how many of them relate to that tumult of experience that defines the form. 

Finally, by means of introduction, its curious to note how Ulises Carrión writes about newspapers in his 1980 essay BOOKWORKS REVISTED (recently reprinted in facsimile as part of James Langon ed. BOOK, Eastside Projects, 2010). For Carrión it is the newspaper form that moves the traditional book both towards Carrión’s notion of a time-space sequence,  the complexity of the everyday environment, and a form informed by histories of visual art, notably cubism (which, as he observes, often incorporated newspapers):

When compared to a book page, the newspaper page offers quite a contrast. More movement, more vivacity, even some messiness. You can start reading on different points of the page. Every column can be written by a different individual. Texts can be printed in a variety of types, with or without illustrations. 

All this means a more sophisticated use of the printed surface, and reflects the great complexity of the external world that the newspaper is intended to reflect as compared to the univocal point of view a book page offers. 


The difference between these two kinds of pages has been compared with that between Cubist and pre-Cubist painting… The newspaper is also apprehended sequentially, therefore it’s a spatial and temporal structure. In contrast to the book, it offers a plurality of points of view that’s expressed in  a varied, vibrating typography. 

So some projects: Eleanor Vonne Brown’s The Newpaper,  with tongue in cheek , sees the artists appropriation of the form as a shift from “news” to “new.” Or “new” is what passes for “news.”  In an interview for The Self-Publishing issue 10 of the  Korean publication GRAPHIC  Brown describes the theme as “that tradition is only repetition” and observes of the process:

The Newpaper is a newspaper about the work of artists and writers who use the language, visuals or structure of newspapers in their work….. it’s very much sitting for hours in an empty room emailing people from around the world. I spend a lot of time conceptualizing The Newpaper and because the subject matter (work about newspapers) is the same as the project (a newspaper about newspapers) I have met a lot of people through it with who I have a lot of shared interests…. I am planning to start work on a Local Newpaper in the autumn. It will use the themes of a local paper and I hope to create an open access newsroom to produce it from (to get out of the empty room!)

Brown’s remarks highlight the different varieties of the newspaper form (local/ national/ special interest) and also the particular environments of its production (the newsroom) which the artist also appropriates in new (more solitary?) ways. 

Brown has recently collaborated with Michalis Pichler  on the Newspaper Research & Reading Room. The project is described as “gathering conceptual publications and/or artpieces that use form or content of newspapers.”

Chto Delat: Newspaper at the printers in Petersburg. Photo: D. Vilensky


The Reading Room includes Chto Delat who, amongst the long list of artists involved, have made one of the most sustained engagements with the newspaper form. All their newspapers can be seen in full here  (throughout Sep-Oct Chto Delat are in residence at the ICA in London). Chto Delat define their newspaper work as follows: 

Each newspaper addresses a theme or problem central to the search for new political subjectivities, and their impact on art, activism, philosophy, and cultural theory. So far, the rubrics and sections of the paper have followed a free format, depending on theme at hand. There are no exhibition reviews. The focus is on the local Russian situation, which the newspaper tries to link to a broader international context. Contributors include artists, art theorists, philosophers, activists, and writers from Russia, Western Europe and the United States.

Dot Dot Dot 19, whilst still in the journal’s usual paperback format, is printed on newsprint paper and re-works a project of the group for Performa 9:

1 NOVEMBER 2009 — Recently described as “wheat paste,” DEXTER SINISTER are set to produce a newspaper twice a week for three weeks this fall under the umbrella of PERFORMA 09, New York’s well-regarded bi-annual festival of performance art. 

Together with a hastily assembled staff of international writers and photographers, the Lower East Side “pamphleteers” will occupy a disused, street-level space in New York’s Port Authority bus terminal on the corner of 8th Avenue and 41st Street, directly opposite the new New York Times building. According to sources close to Sinister, The First/Last Newspaper (TF/LN) will be “as much about the current state of news media as anything else.” 

…In Sinister’s own characteristically melodramatic words: “You don’t want to start quantifying things or you’re dead.” 

Dexter Sinister’s self conscious (mock-) blurb offers a useful summary of how the artists newspaper is often equated to political pamphleteering. It explains why publications such as Variant also adopt a tabloid format, distributed for free in galleries (as, too, it explains why the newspaper should be so popular in an age of Seth Price’s DISPERSION and other projects foregrounding the distribution part of the writing/ publishing process – and the PDF as the artists newspaper 2010 could be the subject of another post). 

NOTE: It’s noticeable, too, that in The Artist Publisher, Coracle Press’ 1986 exhibition/ survey catalogue for the Crafts Council Gallery, the section on “Alternative Newspapers” has a much more counter-culture, alternative lifestyle, radical politics tone than any of the other sections. Titles include the Haight-Ashbury Tribune, Free City, and The International Times.

What is also interesting about Dexter Sinister’s project is that it preserves what they call the “mosaic” quality of the newspaper format whilst several examples here – such as YH485’s *Periphery – adopt the newspapers form but in a very much ordered and tided up way, reconfiguring it as a series of artists pages. But as Dexter sinister observe:

In other words, and this amounts to an aesthetic system, the only meaningful way in which art can speak of man and his world is by organizing forms in a particular way and not by making pronouncements with them. Form must not be a vehicle of thought: it must be a way of thinking. . . . Here I must repeat that the newspaper, from its beginnings, has tended not to the book form, but to the mosaic or participational form. With the speed-up of printing and news-gathering, this mosaic form has been a dominant aspect of human association; for the mosaic form means, not a detached “point of view,” but participation in process. . . . No real news followed for 14 years.

For financial and aesthetic reasons, newspapers seem to be finding much popularity in exhibition contexts.  The New Museum in New York are just about to launch their exhibition The Last Newspaper. If the title suggests a sense of requiem, then its press release reconstitutes the newspaper as the site where Borges’ Library of Babel meets Relational Aesthetics, and the newspaper acquires status as potent cultural figure: 

Conceived in response to pronouncements of the daily newspaper’s demise as a tangible record of events, “The Last Newspaper” investigates what is possibly lost and what might be gained in a world where an avalanche of interpretation compromises the increasingly vulnerable privileging of facts. 

“The Last Newspaper” is a multi-platform, multimedia laboratory inhabiting an art-filled landscape surrounding an architecturally innovative office… These research and reportage-based activities will be surrounded by artworks including photography, collage, sculpture, and installation. These works reflect newspapers’ infinite permutations and possibilities while critiquing their complicity with dominant ideologies. 

The catalogue full the show will the collated weekly newspapers, produced by Latitudes under the title THE LAST POST/ THE LAST GAZETTE/ THE LAST REGISTER…

Reading all this can also give VerySmallKitchen a desire to reclaim something of the printed newspapers anachronistic awkwardness, the unwieldy as opposed to its now usually tabloid-shrunken format, its refusal to be neatly page turned, to stay confined to a single persons space on a train or bus… artists newspapers like the London Metro and Lite that now seem like a gone tabloid blizzard blowing through the London underground…

It also makes me wonder about the newspaper as methodology, as practice, whether there is some other way of unfolding it as spatial practice?

Nelson Guzmán, Cilla Black, Liverpool walk of fame, 2008


Coming closer to home, my own engagement with artists newspapers began with an article I wrote for FUTURE VISIONS OF HISTORY, an artists’ newspaper curated by Daniel Simpkins and Penny Whitehead/ OPEN EYE PROJECTS. 

As the editors observe:

On the Long Night of the Liverpool Biennial a group of artists and art students assisted me in gate-crashing the Capital of Culture party, disseminating alternative view points to the hegemonic art and literature so profuse on the streets of the city throughout Liverpool08. This one-off, free publication explores some of the issues, themes and locations that do not feature in the official 2008 programme. The hidden, the neglected, the absurd, the contentious.

I recently met Penny and Daniel as part of Reading for Reading Sake at Islington Mill in Salford, where they discussed the Politics and Aesthetics Reading Group and its spontaneous field trip to Lincoln to distribute copies of The Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee. In this context it’s useful to think of this project as characterised by a certain tactics of the artists’ newspaper- following some of the particularities of the newspaper form into social relations and action that aren’t confined to tabloid or broadside. 

Other discoveries: the excellent Mono whose description reads as follows:

Mono is a free quarterly paper dedicated to publishing image based essays. Each issue is selected by invited artists and curators. Mono aims to provide a unique platform for the exploration of ideas through images.  

Mono adopts the often fraught format of the freely distributed newspaper (often moved out of the way by gallery bookstores…) but it makes this a definite project space,eager to engage with the newspaper as a place of sequencing akin to exhibition making. I haven’t yet spotted a copy of issue three lurking anywhere. 


Dieter Roth’s The Sea of Tears was a collection of aphorisms published on the small ad pages of the newspaper Anzeiger Stadt Luern und Umgebung, between 17 March 1971 and 15 September 1972. After 114 ads the newspaper terminated the contract ( having earlier refused to print 3 of the ads). 

Dieter Roth, Das Tränenmeer, installed at Kunsthalle Luzern, 21 Aug 2010- 20 Oct 2010


At the same time as The Sea of Tears was published in 1973, Roth published The Lake of Tears, comprising 1200 original pages of the newspaper.  

Roths own comment on The Sea of Tears project, and its choice of the small ad pages: 

Those pages are so brutal, they’re like a gigantic junkyard. So I thought I’d just stick a little tear in them.

News Animation. Photo © Carol Petersen.


Secondly, Simone Forti describes her NEWS ANIMATIONS project as follows:

When I’m in motion I can more easily access the raw store of fragmentary thoughts, feelings, and speculations out of which I build my understanding of the world. A News Animation performance involves improvising with movement and spoken language, taking off form the fluid, flickering, dream like image of the world brought to us by the news media…

My father used to read a couple of news papers each day and I always felt protected by that… When he died in 1985, I began to read the news myself. It wasn’t coming easily to me. I did start to experience a sense of familiarity with

the stories, with the personages, but most of all, as a dancer, I started to have kinesthetic impressions of pressures, currents, accumulations and pending collapses. 

I was noticing terminology like ‘the dollar in free fall’, and Lebanon being called ‘a slippery slope.’ Soon I was dancing the news, talking an dancing, being all the parts of the news; tankers moving up the Persian Gulf, ‘human waves’ of Iranian youths crashing into the Iraqi forces invading from across the Shat al Arab estuary. 

The movement included the kind of gestures one makes when explaining and describing, but here the gestures were taking on the whole body.     

SOURCE TEXTS: Dieter Roth, Inserate/ Advertisements 1971-2 (Edizioni Periferia, Luzern, 2009); Simone Forti, “About the News Animations” in   Simone Forti/ Jeremiah Day (Project Press, Dublin, 2009), 92-93.


In Uncategorized on June 19, 2010 at 8:00 am


Albena Yaneva, Made by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture: An Ethnography of Design (010 Publishers, Rotterdam, 2009). ISBN 978 90 6450 7144.

Something about this book has seeped into thought and work. It’s gone viral within the confines of VerySmallKitchen, appearing in conversation, articles, talks, both directly and indirectly. Its specifics have become absorbed into VSK assumptions, changed and modified, no doubt misremembered and falsified, deleted, transformed, reified… 

So for this response-review it seems useful to impose the limitation of not looking back at the book itself, but trying to sketch out some of this both marked and illusive presence it has attained for me.

Albena Yaneva has written a participant observer study of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in the Netherlands. Yaneva observed and interviewed architects in the office, which quickly challenged the dominant ways in which architectural practice is represented: the images of finished buildings; the representations of process around the visions of star names (in this case, Rem Koolhas); an inferred model of creativity in which the star architect’s vision is made into drawings, then models, then  built, in a straight forward, linear process.

Koolhas himself is relatively absent from Yaneva’s study. His starring role in this narrative of architecture is filled by blue foam. Blue foam is the material that is cut and made into models in the OMA office (see image above). Yaneva cites a Koolhas edict that no pieces of blue foam must ever be thrown away. Yaneva cites the failure of a Koolhas plan to have a no-foam month, because OMA architects can’t think and work without it.

Blue foam moves around the office, is moved from office to office, model to model. Old models are taken out and re-worked, re-scaled, applied to new problems and new contexts.

What first attracted me to this book was its use of storytelling. Yaneva presents the book as a short story collection. By “story” she means a narrative of blue foam, how it is used (and how its use is talked about) in a particular OMA episode. Story as a way of connecting incidents, story as a way of paying attention within trajectories of space and time, story giving form to the uncertain (anti-) narrative of process. 

Story as commentary in itself.  A meeting point of experience and narration, where each can be held in balance. 

Nothing in Yaneva’s story-practice is fiction – is “made-up” – or  fantasy. The “story” frame allows a muted sense of these other story possibilities to enter into the method – part of the inevitable fiction of narration, the shifting (in-) fidelities of description. Fiction hovers here as an implied criticality in each word, phrase, idea…

I don’t remember the stories. I’m tempted to look up an example and copy it out here. But first I want to try and  sketch out more clearly the way this book has been working for me. This, I think, is principally to do with the sense of process it unfolds ( I know, I know, my engagement of this book is looping, repeating, circling). A sense of emergent practices, emergent from working with material, a non-verbal method in what elsewhere seems a highly articulated OMA practice. A vocabulary for this is tricky. 

I break my rule. Not to look at the Yaneva book, but to google search the recent OMA book show at the AA  in London, much of which focusses on this 40,000 page compendium of OMA publications at the exhibitions centre. It’s an ungainly beast. Books, I decide, are  NO BLUE FOAM: 

Actually, I don’t think the process Yaneva depicts replaces the notion of architecture as star based and vision-drawing-model-building, but it suggests a possibly infuriating combination of the two, how such ego- strategies are themselves, strategic, improvisational, messy, blue foam-ed….

For a non-architect trying to abstract some lessons from the OMA practice revealed here I think the attraction is about the mixture offered: of improvisation and utility, working on multiple scales (blue foam – China TV HQ or Seattle Public Library), of an image of the shift between studio and world, and an organic, unfolding from project to project, issues arising and problems solved. 

In some ways, far from removing the myth of architecture, Yaneva reinscribes it on a more pervasive level – its own private world of methods and techniques as well as the public scale world of huge building sites and the buildings and monographs that arise from them…an arcane world of blue foam operations….

All things which I find tantilisingly absorbable into a writing practice, in ways imaginable and impossible.

I won’t look up the book. Instead, I’ll end up with some fantasy quotations with writer, X – who really reminds me of myself – on how their writing practice has been transformed by the use of blue foam. 

VSK: Blue foam. It changed everything, for you. Tell me about that.

X: I love blue foam. Poets and Blue foam. Working with it, moving it, seeing it in different parts of the city-stanza. Seeing the text which came from the blue foam on the cutting machine. Before another text, no text, only the rhythm of working, producing, progressing. Blue foam thirst on page and screen. A  formality, a certain codification and system, emergent from working with a material. So although it is actually improvised, mute, there is actually a framework in operation, a system of limitations, but its one whose boundaries can only be sensed, existing, once and only, anew each time, in the moment of working. I like to think so anyway. Such foaming amnesia is strategically useful. Blue foam thinking.

And this, too, leading back to an earlier quote above about an implicit cultural assumption about architecture as representing:

an inferred model of creativity in which the star architects vision is made into drawings, then models, then  built, in a relatively straight forward, linear process.

what it means to move away from this, around and towards, under and and, sounding, in words, needing that linear model to be able to take its designated parts, arrange them in new chronologies, multiply them, re-scale, blue foam them, always hopefully keeping the freshness of that, not falling into stale repetition, 

still circling, repeating, thoughts on this book, its becoming utility in my own work, opaque, still unfolding, workings and adaptations of model…  


For further thoughts on intersections of poetry and architecture, see POETRY AND ARCHITECTURE, hosted and curated by Tim Peterson at the Bowery Poetry Club, New York City, April 25  2009. Full sound files of presentations by Robert Kocik, Benjamin Aranda and Vito Acconci can be found here

Image: Acconci Studio


In Uncategorized on April 26, 2010 at 8:01 am

As part of putting together the VSK project for The Reading Room, I have been thinking about the folio as a form of publication, attracted by its sense of a gathering of materials, its openness to re-arrangement, how it could propose/be some new event, rather than/ as well as chronicling something that has already happened. 

I also like how the folio format fits with the shifts of activity that come from thinking about editorial work (and writing) as “assembling” rather than “editing.”

Some of these thoughts came from A Folio for Secession, by Marc Camille Chaimowicz, produced for his recent exhibition at the Vienna Secession (Nov 20 2009-Jan 24 2010) and which contains, as the folder flap announces:  

 a letter

some patterns

a text and

exhibition views

This text is alone on the cream card, haiku-redolent, the folio dependent on this careful juxtaposition, rhythm and shift of materials.  

Actually, the order of materials was somewhat different in my copy, as if someone had already re-arranged the materials into a – for them- more workable arrangement. In order there were: six patterns, printed on card; a facsimile handwritten letter on different sized headed notepaper,  from hotels from Los Angeles and Baden Baden; a brochure containing “exhibition views” and an essay by Silvia Eiblmayr. 

I wanted more but perhaps the folio is best conceived as a minimal juxtaposition and agglomerating. Something light, but also an amassing and clotting.  

The letters on their cream paper invite us to view the artist through his handwriting, the facsimile headed notepaper seeking a re-creation of an idea of luxury, alongside evidencing the often traveling contemporary artist.  

Letter begins with MC emerging from his LA hotel to scene of apocalypse which, after a moment of adjustment, he identifies as a film crew shooting a scene from Alien. The mix is one of a number of differences and connections that unfold in the letters chatty but formal informality, including, most principally, the relations of Vienna and LA. 

I felt the conceptual nub of this folio and Chaimowicz’s work was to be found in the following quotation:

It is given that as we focus on any particular subject, so that subject is liable to appear and reappear – in myriad form or as chimera- to haunt and envelope us (the conceptual distance between Wittgenstein’s Vienna and, say, the death of Michael Jackson is daunting – yet today’s cultural overload purports to such mental juggling…)

A favourite restaurant here is Ammo, which is run by Benedikt who is from Vienna… I am therefore sensitised to Vienna’s after image… there are connections beyond the anecdotal and it may seem an exagerration to suggest that pckets of L.A. were once more Viennese than Vienna… yet such was the exodus of radical thinkers, and such were the opportunities, that this equation is surely plausible… 

What I am proposing is that the fractured continuum of history was such that the true spirit of Viennese Radicalism was, in the 1920’s and 30’s largely transposed to California. 

Here then is a statement of the network that informs Chaimowicz’s work, both of his time in Vienna, his relationship to Vienna, Vienna itself, his own broader practice and the relations it involves and imbricates between high and low culture; art, design and furniture.  

Such concerns are central to Silvia Eiblmayr’s “Marc Chamille Chaimowicz Vienna Revisted…?”, which I read as organised around two quotations. The first, by MC himself, is at the beginning: “All one can do in 1983 is attempt to make art rather than make art.” The second, by Hermann Czech, concerns the notion of Mannerism:

Mannerism is an attitude of intellectualism, of awareness; and also a sense of the irregular ,the absurd, which in each case breaks the established rules. Mannerism is the conceptual approach to accepting reality at whichever level may be necessary. It enables the openness and the imagination to put into motion, and sustain, unexpected outside processes, too. An architecture of participation is possible only on the basis of Mannerism.” (13)

I imagine a methodology composed of a conceptual choreography between these two quotations. 

Writing of  Chaimowicz’s Vienna Triptych – a series of tall panels aligned along the wall, some patterned and some arrangements of photographs – Eiblemayr seeks to clarify this position. In the context of VerySmallKitchen – but also informed by Chaimowicz’s own writing practice – I found this to be outlining a form of writing. 

A writing. A folio. A writing (folio) studio. The strategy of the assembler encounters the folio. A writing assembling salon turns itself into a folio: 

Once again he [Chaimowicz] raises questions about public/ private dichotomies, and relates the intimate, personal interior that also incorporates the artist’s physical presence with the particular location and its visitor, the city, its history and the specific memories associated with it. 

In formal terms this means that in his work… he again maintains the status of his materials and resources open and moveable, refusing to categorise, preferring instead to sustain the tension of ambivalent determination between the everyday object and the objet d’art, the piece of furniture and the sculpture, the décor and the painting. 

In doing so he creates a performative space that draws the viewer in to form part of a theatrical experience, i.e. an experience that is real in terms of both space and time.


A good model for writing this, based on one piece in the Secession show: a wonky table that convinces you the floor itself is uneven.

A gathering of other themes speak urgently to contemporary practice via this cluster of materials: of theatricality, and of  – Chaimowicz’s phrase for his installations such  as Celebration? Real life (1972) – scatter environments.” 

I construct my own folio featuring this text and others by Chaimowicz: the appropriation of The World of Interiors magazine (for a book work accompanying show at Migros, Zurich 2006); the revealing interview in the recent FIELD WORK publication (a brief citation from which is  here).

A collected writings to come, hopefully, later this year.


All, as in the panels of Vienna Triptych, offer a certain space for folio-thought, a space also formed and forming in the parasol “scattered” in the installation at Secession, the appropriations of rug (on plinth), appropriated and re-configured  ( I wanted to say “sensibilised”) chairs and tables.    

JEAN FISHER: less concerned with the specificity of place than with the evocation of an abstract mental space in a visual structure that is equivalent to a musical score, in which quietude is orchestrated with crescendo, harmony with rhythm.


In Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 at 6:41 am


Reading as Publishing: Samuel Beckett on Holiday


In the week after READING FOR READING’S SAKE I came across a number of quotations that developed and nuanced the space of “reading as activity” opened up by that event. 

(1) “the artist, the work of art, and its viewers are connected through an intricate web of correspondences, and if one if really inside of that relation, everything corresponds. And one cannot really deal with a work of art without dealing with its correspondences, including one’s own life and its relation to others. It is a simple truth, but one that is so regularly obscured in practice that it has become a kind of mystery to us. ”  

David Levi Strauss, From Head to Hand: Art and the Manual (Oxford University Press, 2010), 165.  Read in Gordon Square WC1London, 12 April, 2010, instantaneously applying quotation to a networked “everything corresponds” model of reading. 

(2)”There is something about the way you put together – compose – your sentences, a deliberate effort to create moments of silence, of stillness, full stops, as though there would be rest marks in a musical score, or an end of bar that forces the reader to go back and start from the beginning.”

Joan Richardson, question to Stanley Cavell, “The Transcendental Strain: Stanley Cavell Talks with Bookforum”, Bookforum, April-May 2010, 5-6. Read on 15.55 train from Leeds to London, 11 April, 2010. 

Thinking here about the musical spaces between books, also how books could resist a linear read-through and consumption, shifting attention into a broader engagement with all levels of their material architecture. 

(3) “Surrealism is an honest, beautiful resilient tonic fermented into a delicately volatile mixture of liberty, sensuous play, psychic automatism, chance, humor and a biting critique of corrupt power in all its manifestations, from bourgeois miserablism to fascism.”

Jesse Gentes, quote from “Impossible Emancipation” (2009), cited in Patricide: Issue One: Documentary Surrealism , purchased and read at Cornerhouse, Manchester, 9th May 2010. 

Patricide posits continued presence of surrealism as grass roots, non-institutional praxis. Issue Two will be on “seaside surrealism.”

I made some notes for a possible contribution, but they lacked the sense of project I remembered from Paul Nash’s writings on the subject (first published in the 1938 issue of Architectural Review).   PROJECT: read widely in surrealist literature, but without concept of unconscious. 

 (4)”Reading is a favorite activity, and I often ponder its phenomenology. As I write this essay, the reading I do for it is a mitigated pleasure. Sometimes it feels like a literal ingestion, a bulimic gobbling up of words as thought they were fast food. At other times I read and take notes in a desultory, halting, profoundly unsatisfying way. And my eyes hurt.” 

Moyra Davey, Long Life Cool White: Photographs and Essays by Moyra Davey, (Yale University Press, 2008), 85. At home, evening, Whitechapel, London 12 April 2010. 

Photo: Moyra Davey


Davey talks of the flanerie of reading – a concept which captures the entwining intention between reading as WORK and as indulgence, and what circumstances determine the readers self-positioning on this spectrum of value.

For Davey herself the (w)readerly result is an associative, diaristic, unfolding essaying, and a photograph practice where a formal materiality of reading (and other activities – see image below) acquires its own (irr-)resonant psychology. 

Photo: Moyra Davey


SAMUEL BECKETT ON HOLIDAY: Walking into the Cornerhouse bookshop on 9th May 2010 I immediately noticed the photo of Samuel Beckett. It’s from Beckett: Photographs by François-Marie Baniera , including several, like those here,  of SB on holiday in Tangiers. I liked how this liberated Beckett’s texts from the moody black and white images that often appear on his books. 

In the context of “reading as publishing” I also liked how this photo appeared to published the emotion of my own experience of reading Beckett, finding a certain reassuring joy in the certain ontological ground (or non-ontological non-ground ground) that Beckett seemed to write. 

The photo also loosens up the relationship between Beckett’s life and work, suggesting a possibly more paradoxical and tangential relationship than the black and white icons which attempt to map Beckett’s physical image onto his writings and vice versa, like some primitive neo-Victorian science of physiognomy.

Thinking of the materiality of a book and its reading, that’s what I don’t want “reading as publishing” to be.


In Uncategorized on April 6, 2010 at 4:52 pm


Rodney Graham, catalogue for Through the Forest, MACBA, 2010


What follows is a compendium of “reading as publishing” strategies derived from the work of Rodney Graham, based on my reading of two texts in the catalogue for  Graham’s recent Through the Forest MACBA show: Grant Arnold’s “It Always Makes Me Nervous When Nature Has No Purpose: An Annotated Chronology of the Life and Work of Rodney Graham” and Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes “Rodney Graham: Literature and What an Artist Does with It.”

Lerm Hayes essay is structured around the following taxonomy, which serves as a useful taxonomy of Graham’s “reading as publishing” concerns: The Study; Writing (or Not); The Book; The Typewriter, Paper; The Bookshop; Slipcases, Architectures for Reading. “Reading as Publishing” is a term I have been exploring for my presentation and workshop as part of Reading for Reading’s Sake at Islington Mills, Salford, 9-11 April 2010. As Hayes proposes:

[Graham] approaches literature… not as an opposed pole, but with ambivalence, similar to how he engages with cinema: quoting, appropriating literature’s methods, motifs, and forms, critiquing, at times lampooning, as well as revering and even reviving its traditions. What emerges is a way of working with literature that (re)presents it in innovative ways to new (and old) audiences… It provides a current and coherent (albeit idiosyncratic) way of harking back to the times of the universal artist/ scholar, while in all its idiosyncrasies and ambivalence showing how even today a critically reflected unity of all the arts may be possible. 

Rodney Graham problematizes what it is to produce and receive literature today, to read, to interpret it visually and textually, to write, design, print and sell books, to exhibit them as well as the outcomes of his complex, visual investigation into literature. (65-6)  

Rodney Graham, Reading Machine for Lenz, 1993



Lenz (1983) is an appropriation of a short unfinished work of fiction by Georg Buchner. As Lenz journeys through a mountain landscape to find a pastor, experiencing psychological breakdown, Graham takes the first 1,434 words of C.R. Mueller’s translation, typesets them so they fall on five justified pages, and creates a narrative loop so the reader, like Lenz, continually retraces their steps. The resultant work is produced in two forms: a 16 page prospectus (in edition of 210) and cloth bound book of 336 pages (in slipcase).

Also working with the loop is Dr.No (1991), a bookmark with text by Graham ( derived in part from Alain Robbe-Grillet) that can be inserted between pages 56 and 57 of the original first edition to extend and loop a scene in which a poisonous centipede transverses Bond’s naked body.

As Hayes summarises this method:

In using selection and the loop as strategies, Graham also conveniently caters to the art context’s comparatively shorter attention span or expected reception time. Like Joyce, Graham strategically rearranges literary history, showing the disturbing, evocative, fresh and colourful nature of earlier writing, “recycling” sources, placing himself within both a nineteenth-century and a Viconian context, that of a cyclical world order, for which the book, an object that one can turn around on its spine, is certainly a good image. (70)

Graham considers inserting his own text into existing books. Finds Lacan unsuitable, but turns to Freud. Freud Citation is a photograph of the cover of The Species Cyclamen L by Friedrich Hildebrand with a text referring to the books role in Freud’s anaysis of his “Dream of the Botanical Monograph.” Freud glimpsed the book in a Viennese bookshop and then dreamed about it.  

This project develops into Installation for Münster, a 1987 installation for Skulptur Projekte Münster in which 24 dummy books – their cover a replica of Hildebrand’s texts, their pages blank, if you could open them to see – are installed in windows of Münster’s bookshops. As Max Wechsler observes the book:

has become an object,  a symbol of its content rather than an actual container for them, and the starting point for an autonomous chain of associations… this is an art that wants to retreat under the hood of the everyday, to withdraw, if not into invisibility, at least into a discreet reserve. (100)


The System of Landor’s Cottage: A Pendant to Poe’s Last Story (1984) is a book based on and encompassing Edgar Allan Poe’s Landor’s Cottage: A Pendant to “The Domain of Arnheim.” Poe describes a small cottage set in an idyllic valley. Graham makes  the story into a novel by adding an extensive description of an annex to the cottage. The project becomes an architectural model, drawings, a dummy book, and a 312 page novel (in edition of 250).  A leather bound deluxe edition of 4 is also produced. 

Rodney Graham, Standard Edition, 1988


Graham also produces book sculptures. Die Traumdeutung, (1986) inserts books into replicas of minimalist sculptures by Donald Judd. Sculptures are also produced including works by Raymond Roussell(Nouvelles impressions d’Afrique), as well as La Séminaire (Lacan), Cours de Linquistique générale (Ferdinand de Saussure) and Jokes/Case Studies and Standard Editions (Freud). 

Casino Royale (Sculpture de Voyage) (1990), another project derived from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, is installed in a hotel room so you could lie in bed and read above you a section where Bond, tied to a chair  from which the seat caning has been removed, is thrashed on buttocks and genitals. As Hayes observes of Graham’s focus on slip-cases and “mini-architectures” for books, they make reading impossible but, through echoing the books subject matter, provide “associative and interpretive companionship.” (80-82)

Rodney Graham, White Shirt (for Mallarmé), Spring 1993


In White Shirt (for Mallarmé), Spring 1993. A black cardboard box contains a white men’s dress shirt folded as if on display in a clothing shop. Inside the shirt is a sheet of white paper with with the text of Stéphane Mallarmés poem “The Demon of Analogy.” Through the fabric of the shirt can be seen a sheet of tissue paper with the poem title, the phrase “La Pénultième est morte” and Mallarme’s signaure. The shirt fits Graham. It is intended to be exhibited simultaneously in gallery and shop front.

Irradiation (1993) is a boxed set of 8x 10 inch glass negatives of the first forty-four pages of section four of Bibliographie analytique des principaux phénomènes subjectifs de la vision by Joseph Plateau, which describes optical effects caused by the observation of stars at night. 

Graham’s confinement of the book to the luxury edition enables a foregrounding of the book as both impossible and ideal. Illustrating the former, a project on Czerny’s piano exercises links them to Galileo’s fomulation of the law of free fall, to produce a text variously exhibited as a 1,443 page wall text, and 24 volumes (one hour of music).

Projects (1988) begins from a glimpse – like that which leads Freud to his dream of the botanical monograph – that mistakes a cardboard box for a book “such as I myself should someday like to write” Graham observes:

This later idea set off a new speculation – a daydream in which I found myself mentally assembling a whole series or recent thoughts about books into a more or less coherent form, into a prescription for my ideal, future book. I should most certainly (I recall telling myself) have the work’s title and my name composed in the romantic-style topography I love (in black, red, green and gold ink – I had recently seen an example of this, the engraved title page of an old architectural pattern book, at the home of my brussels friend) the paper of the book should be soft and supple ( I like a book that yields to the hands and drapes when opened) its pages of a creamy white etc. etc. 

In Five Interior Design Proposals for the Grimm Brothers’ Studies in Berlin (1992), CAD drawings of the brothers matching studies were manipulated and moved around creating a series of varying doubles, then rendered as nineteenth century interior design illustrations. 

Rodney Graham, Rheinmetall / Victoria 8, 2003


In the film Rheinmetall/ Victoria 8, the typewriter becomes covered in filmic snow/ flour, which Hayes interprets as an end to optimistic views of technological progress. It offers an image of “reading as publishing” that both reveals and conceals. In Hayes useful phrase Graham practices “a conceptualism that overdoes it” (78)

Graham’s more recent work has moved away from a focus on the book and reading, although Allegory of Folly: Study for an Equestrian Monument in the Form of a Wind Vane (2005), a pair of black and white light boxes, features Graham as Erasmus, reading a phone book whilst seated backwards on a model horse used to train jockeys.


In Uncategorized on April 4, 2010 at 9:29 am

Sara De Bondt and Fraser Muggeridge eds. The Form of the Book Book (Occasional Papers, London, 2009).

Two essays in particular have been preoccupying me here. The first is Catherine de Smet’s “Le Corbusier as Book Designer: Semi Modernity à la française” which explores Le Corbusier’s own assertion – in an autobiography written in the third person – that ‘A large part of LC’s creative work took place in his books.’ 

De Smet explores some of unexpected characteristics of LC’s book life: his rejection of the modernism of Swiss book design for French traditionalism and the resultant choice of handwritten and collaged texts over a clean, grid based modernist design. She concludes by wondering whether we should understand Le Corbusier’s book life as curiously anti-modern – particularly in relation to the architecture such books explored – or whether such combinations of book styles is best seen as some kind of proto- post- modernism.

This dilemma raises questions about how any practice, conceptually and practically, becomes mediated through the form of the book, and whether a book about that practice supports, extends, or counters the work it contains (also the conversation taking place in and around it).  This, in turn, asks how an idea of the book as the place where ideas are presented influences the ideas themselves, even if those are not – as in LC’s architecture – writerly or book based projects.

How pervasive is the metaphor of the book in a particular artists/ architects/ writers conception of their work and how it is distributed?   How is this image/ metaphor/ ideal book  modeled/ negotiated with/ rebuffed/ relished?

When texts become distributed through the internet, or through exhibition, or dissolve completely into events and curatorial processes, then what happens to this book archetype, what replaces it as an ideal container for thought in words? Le Corbusier conducts architectural practice in books, so, too, I’m thinking about a book practice conducted by writers-artists in speech, exhibition, and curatorial idea-storms. 

The second essay I’ve been returning to is James Goggins “The Matta-Clark Complex: Materials, Interpretation and the Designer.” Goggins offers a brief survey of monographs of Matta-Clark, and how designers have felt a need to approximate in their book designs the artists own strategies of slicing and cut through, removing a chunk of the book’s spine or making cut-out squares in its cover through which the Matta Clark eye peers. 

Goggins’ appreciates how such designs seek an engagement with the practice of the artist, but wonders where the boundary is between intelligent response and an object that becomes a parody. Similarly, when does the designer start competing with the artist, rather than seeking the best way to present their work? He concludes: 

When content and materials are interpreted and combined in a balanced way, the result can be greater than the sum of its parts. A transformation of the given matter through a kind of elegant alchemy, rather than cut-and-paste pastiche. (31) 

AN ELABORATION: I’ve had the idea of  adopting The Matta-Clark Complex, but embracing rather than rejecting the more excessive, parodic elements of its design conversation. It suggests that artists relate to each others work on a very physical and cumbersome architectural level, ever prone – particularly when the artists are historical-dead-canonized like Matta Clark – to parody-inflation-imbalance. 

I propose: writing that emerges out of The Matta Clark Complex will find itself abandoning the essay and the book as containers for its thought, finding those objects too cut through and sliced to be useful, but finding a landscape rich with the possibilities of  a new Cardboard Language.

This Cardboard Language would engage with the book in the terms suggested by another contributor to this volume – Bob Stein of The Institute for the Future of the Book, interviewed by Sarah Gottlieb – who talks about the “social aspects” of the book form. Everyone recognizes cardboard. As Stein says:

…a book is a place where readers and authors can congregate. Reading and writing have always been social experiences, but when frozen into print these relations tend to be omitted. A significant book gets people talking in society, but this is not seen or incorporated in the paper-based object. What we’ve been working on is expanding the boundaries of the page , to consider its social aspects, which are so fundamental to it. We are re-defining content to include the conversation that it engenders. (64)

NOTE: Several aspects of Cardboard Language may require elaboration at the future moment when Cardboard Language has come to be.


In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Much of the work on VerySmallKitchen attempts a territory between language and the visual, expressing that in a mix of concept and idea, drawn and typed and texted, past and future, art and the everyday. It’s as if there might be a kind of writing that makes such simultaneity possible.

One place I recognised such a project, was in the above image – which was Stefan Themerson’s cover image for his book Kurt Schwitters in England: 1940-1948, published by the Themerson’s Gaberbocchus Press.  I reproduce it here as a tentative emblem for this kind of writing practice. 

As the helpful note on the Themerson Archive  quotes from ‘The Connoisseur’:

The first publication of Schwitters’ English poems and prose written during the last 8 years of his life… Themerson’s perceptive text is based on a talk originally given to the Gaberbocchus Common Room. ‘…one of the most lively examples of book design produced in England recently. The book is published in celloglassed paper boards, with a binding design of outrageous ingenuity. The inside is as unorthodox and ingenious as befits its subject and the whole effect is most refreshing.’

Themerson’s insertion into current experimental writing practices occured most recently through Phil Baber’s excellent Cannon journal. Baber was particularly interested in the Themerson’s publication of Barabara Wrights translation of Raymond Queneus’s Exercises in Style. He cites Wright’s own comment on her translation of Queneau’s French text, itself a series of stories telling the same mundane story in a variety of styles:

Queneau told me that the Exercises was one of his books which he would like to be translated – (he didn’t suggest by whom). At one time I thought he was crazy. I thought that the book was an experiment with the French language as such, and therefore as untranslatable as the small of garlic in the Paris metro. But I was wrong. In the same way as the story as such doesn’t matter, the particular language it is written in doesn’t matter as such. Perhaps the book is an exercise in communication patterns, whatever their linguistic sounds. And it seems to me that Queneau’s attitude of enquiry and examination can, and perhaps should? – be applied to every language, and that is what I have tried to achieve with the English version.

The cover for this book is below, with quote and book design both unfolding a writing and thinking that is moving, translating, breaking, superimposing and scrawling between languages and styles: 

Something of this practice of language is also expressed by Dorothea Von Hantelmann in How to Do Things with Art, an excellent series of essays on James Coleman, Daniel Buren, Jeff Koons and Tino Seghal. What von Hantelmann outlines as one of the starting points of her book, is also true of the writing practice these Gaberbocchus covers make a possibility:

Singular expressive  acts that completely withdraw from discourse are not only irrelevant; they are not even thinkable. The idea of efficacy produced by  a rupture from conventions is replaced by the use of conventions – a use that also contains a transforming potential. With this notion of performativity we can, for example, concretize how every art work, not in spite of but by virtue of its integration in certain conventions, “acts”: how, for example, via the museum it sustains or co-produces a certain notion of history, progress and development.

The model of performativity points toward these fundamental levels of meaning production. It puts the conventions of arts production, presentation and historical persistence into focus, shows how these conventions are co-produced by any artwork – independent of its respective content – and argues that it is precisely this dependency on conventions that opens up the possibility of changing them. (19-20) 



Blazon for Manifesta 6 School Badge, 2005, Corner of Pentadaktilou and Tempon Streets, Nicosia, Cyprus.


For more information on the possibilities of emblems, meanwhile, see Dexter Sinister’s recent Portable Document Formatitself on boundaries of print and web, monograph and catalogue and primer, artists book and library copy – in which they propose an emblem for a (possibly) temporary art school:

Heraldry is a graphic language evolved from around 1130AD to identify families, states, and other social groups. Specific visual forms yield specific meanings, and these forms may be combined in an intricate syntax of meaning and representation. Any heraldic device is described by both a written description and its corresponding graphic form. The set of a priori written instructions is called a blazon – to give it form is to emblazon

… The badge we would like to wear is two-faced – both founded on ,and breaking from, established guidelines. Stripped to its fundamentals, and described in heraldic vocabulary, it is uncharged. It is a schizophrenic frame, a paradox, a forward slash making a temporary alliance between categories, simultaneously generic and/or specific.