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WOUND ROSES ROSES BLEED: A KURT SCRIPT FOR READING KURT SCHWITTERS

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

In April I will be taking part in Reading for Reading’s Sake, a four day event at the Islington Mill in Salford, exploring “reading as activity.” As part of my preparation for that event, I have been gathering together ideas, texts, quotations and notes concerning acts of reading.

One aspect of this work is finding particular performance structures for the reading of certain texts.  The structures seem to be ways of finding public modes for private acts of reading, thereby proposing a space where reading is “published.” I am interested in the transformations and translations evidenced by this act into showing and telling.  

Reading Room at Jinhua Park Pavillion, China by Herzog & de Meuron

 

The following text is a script for reading Kurt Schwitters’ poem  Wound Roses Roses Bleed (1918). Recent interest in Schwitters has often been based around the methodological implications of the Merzbau. Focussing on the poems, highlights a different set of concerns. I use them to create group structures over space and time, propose forms of (dis-)sociality, and elucidate how poems can be active plans, texts, and sources, in the same way as the notes, re-constructions, and images of the Merzbau’s various incarnations. 

(1) I am interested in vocal performances; (2) In voices working together without bodies; (3) The process of making a performance being an illustration of the process of the group; (4) Arriving somewhere, meeting people and the group formation taking place through reading; (5) Through the performance through the text; (6) Through the text through the performance; (7) No rehearsal; (8) The process of the group orienting itself to itself is foregrounded; (9) Foreground and background both; (10) Therefore I propose the following:

A SCRIPT FOR READING

I will arrive on _____/_______/______ at __ __. There will be a space available for us to work in. By “us” I mean myself and whoever is there. Each of us will be provided with a name badge labelled “KURT”.

All of us will answer to the name of “Kurt” for the duration and only speak to one another through this name. As an introduction, I – Kurt – will read the following text whilst copies of the poem are distributed:

Hallo Kurt! Kurt here. Kurt must spend an hour performing the text according to the time constraint indicated. Kurt may speak any word from the script at any time in any order within the time constraints listed. Have you got that Kurt? Kurt should focus on reading at all time and Kurt must be attentive to how reading is also a speaking and group process. Thank you Kurt. Kurt, we start now. Thank you. The text, Kurt, is: 

KURT SCHWITTERS WOUND ROSES ROSES BLEED 

Poem 23 circa 1918. Time durations have been added.

40″

Wound roses roses bleed

Wound colossus wound wound

Roses languish languish roses

Torrid wound torrid torrid

Languish roses languish languish

Wound torrid wound wound

Roses torrid torrid roses

Embers trickle trickle ember

Embers trickle trickle ember

Bleed roses wound torrid

Languish wounds rose blood

Night languish roses night

Night wound blood blood

Night bleed night

Blood night blood

Blood

15″

Silversound

Wildwoodwondrous silversound

Wildwoodsoothing silversound

5″

Silence trickle blood

Kurt Schwitters Merzbau (Teilansicht: Grosse Gruppe), um 1932 zerstört (1943) Foto (Repro): Kurt Schwitters Archiv im Sprengel Museum Hannover © Pro Litteris, Zürich

 

 NOTES

(1)Because the reading of this text constitutes an act of construction in time and space, it may be useful for readers to consider the following assessment – by Pierluigi Nicolin – of why Schwitter’s Merzbau has proved so popular amongst contemporary artists and architects:

the new and irresistible fascination of the incomplete… the act of assembling a multitude of plastic forms and materials, found objects, “spoils and relics” that were enclosed and partly walled up so that they could serve as records of previous states. Incomplete on principle, growing, changing constantly… The theme of assemblage has become a basic condition of the new globalized world… Taken as components to be assmbled rather than designed from scratch, the various frames, curtain walls,  escalators, elevators, ceilings, floors, etc. and sometimes even pre-packaged models of buildings represent an archive of solutions for the deisgner of metropolitan megacomplexes… composed of accidental patterns… Lateral motion, three-dimensionality, fortuitousness… emphasizing horizontal structures… creating symbols of centrality rather than aiming at convergence at a point, the new Merz architecture emphasizes tangents, vanishing points, twists, and crossings, without renouncing the expression of a certain Piranesian drama in the predisposition of its new figures.

SOURCE TEXT:  Hans Ulrich Obrist and Adrian Notz eds. Merz World: Processing the Complicated Order (JRP Ringier. 2008), 22.

(2) Because when I read this text it immediately suggested this process. Actually I didn’t read the Kurt. I just saw Kurt on the page, saw the Kurt systems of repetitions, bleedings from Kurt to Kurt. I saw this as a massive extension in Kurt folded in upon itself with a system of linear Kurt extension in time that was also simultaneously compressing and enfolding Kurt in and out of Kurt. For this reason a glimpse of Kurt torrid on the page was also to imagine an experience in its own Kurt time, dizzy, uncertain of its acoustic Kurt-space wound. In the reading aloud of the text Kurt was for the first time reading Kurt fully for the first time as Kurt reading. Prior to this I had hardly absorbed the specificities of Kurt structure, the lines before Kurt and the single space following Kurt around. 

(3) When the hour ends all Kurts share a meal together during which Kurt identity is eaten and participants return to their prior names then exit. 

(4) TRANSLATION BY JEROME ROTHERNBERG in Jerome Rothernberg and Pierre Joris eds. Kurst Schwitters pppppp poems performance pieces prose plays poetics (exact change, cambridge, 2002), 9.

(5) For information on LITTORAL’s  The Merz Barn Project, restoring  Schwitters last Merzbau at Elterwater in the Langdale Valley, Cumbria, see here.

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CELEBRATION OF AWARENESS: A CALL FOR INSTITUTIONAL REVOLUTION IN AN NCP CAR PARK

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm

 

This project returns to Ivan Illich’s 1967 manifesto Celebration of Awareness, originally written after the 1967 March on the Pentagon. It reconfigures this text as a site specific response for a guerilla re-enactment on the roof top of the Welbeck Street NCP Car Park, a short distance from London’s Oxford Street.

Upon arriving on the ninth floor of the car park, participants are greeted by one of the artists, invited to take a protest banner and proceed on to the roof. There, from an ACCIDENTAL PULPIT made from the car parks own architecture, a series of readers pronounce the following text from Celebration of Awareness. Audience members are invited to enter the pulpit and read themselves, fitting – seeing how the words do or not fit their own bodies and voices: 

We call you to join man’s race to maturity, to work with us in inventing the future. We believe that a human adventure is just beginning: that mankind has so far been restricted in developing its innovative and creative powers because it was overwhelmed by toil. Now we are free to be as human as we will. 

The celebration of man’s humanity through joining together in the healing expression of one’s relationship with others, and one’s growing acceptance of one’s own nature and needs, will clearly create major confrontations with existing values and systems. The expanding dignity of each man and each human relationship must necessarily challenge existing systems. 

The call is to live the future. Let us join together joyfully to celebrate our awareness that we can make our life today the shape of tomorrow’s future.

WHY THE WELBECK STREET NCP CAR PARK

This event comes from a perceived connection between the NCP Welbeck Car Park and a series of radical educational paperbacks, published by Penguin in the series Penguin Education Specials in the 1970’s. These included: Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Opprressed ; Paul Goodman Compulsory Miseducation; Ivan Illich De-Schooling Society; Everett Reimer School is Dead. 

The striking graphic design of these paperbacks is reflected in the modernist brutalism of the car park itself. As the paperbacks themselves feel dated, the car park has been almost empty since the introduction of London’s congestion charge scheme. If this reading seeks to re-activate such educational ideas, the car park awaits its new function.

To read the paragraphs aloud here is, we propose, to experience a vertigo of time between future, past and present akin to looking straight down from the top floor. Some readers may be immune to the emotive temporal flux of these texts, as others will look over the rooftop edge without any feelings of vertigo.  

The image of an Ivan Illich duvet cover came into my mind with a surprising frequency

 

 

GLOSSARY

ACCIDENTAL PULPIT – (1)a feature of architectural space that provides unintentional opportunities for public speaking and public address. (2) Physical or mental space  resulting in the spatial configuring of speech acts. 

LOCATING INCOMPREHENSIBILITIES – a way of reading that focusses on what becomes incomprehensible in a text through distances of geography, time, or situation. A distinction is drawn between surface practices – texts in unknown languages, for example – and more deeper engagements with the nature of incomprehensibility – texts easily read, spoken and comprehended but certain of  whose effects and intentions have become illegible. 

Welbeck Street Car Park, a model made for the study of re-use by Colin Wharry, Ben Fallows, Julian Merille and Richard Penman.

 

SOME NOTES ON READING ILLICH ALOUD IN 2009

FOR READERS: Consider the phenomenology of THE ACCIDENTAL PULPIT. How do you respond to the distinct experience of the space, and how does it inform your encounter with the text now in your hand? Think of (a) the political speech; (b) a speech at a wedding; (c) an intimate conversation in a noisy bar; (d) private reading; (e) traditional Swiss yodelling. Draw and ignore from each of these in your reading as appropriate.

Many of the artists, when first reading this text from the pulpit, laughed – in response, perhaps, to the strangeness of the situation. If as readers we concentrate intently on the words do we laugh more or less? THE ACCIDENTAL PULPIT will tell you.

FOR AUDIENCE: Stand at a distance as at a conventional rally or public lecture. The acoustics are terrible, particularly if it’s windy. You will probably hear only one or two of the speakers. Move closer, onto the top of the ramp, looking up, to hear the content of the speaker’s words. Experience a false intimacy: a conversational closeness, but towards an other distanced by position, location and script. Whilst hearing and/or not hearing the words reflect on their mixture of opacity and transparency. Stand at the back and enjoy a purely inaudible, visual spectacle. Disregard these instructions.

WHEN DOES THE PERFORMANCE END?

When everyone who wishes to has read the text aloud from the pulpit, postcards are distributed containing directions to a local pub, for further discussion. The performance at the Welbeck Street car park will take place without permission of NCP Car Parks. Cards instruct audience members to leave by different routes, to avoid large groups of people being recorded on CCTV cameras, and possibly prompting a response by security officials.  

 CODA: THE FUTURE IS NOT ONLY 2009

This project is a preface for larger scale projects, by ourselves and others, exploring the relevance of Call for Celebration, and, more broadly, the ideas of Illich, Freire, Reimer, Goodman and others. Future projects could move from readings into discussions and other events, or expand the number and style of readings. Like Illich’s own ideas, they could explore the applicability of these ideas to a number of different issues and areas of society. 

Template for Ivan Illich open source wallpaper

 

The possible range of these ideas can be mapped on to the NCP Wellbeck Street Car Park. Separate floors of the car park are dedicated to particular areas of investigation as follows: 

FLOOR   AREA OF STUDY

1a             A CALL TO CELEBRATION

1b             WHY WE MUST DISESTABLISH SCHOOL

2a             VIOLENCE: A MIRROR FOR THE AMERICANS 

2b             NOT FOREIGNERS, YET FOREIGN

3a             PHENOMENOLOGY OF SCHOOL

3b             THE ELOQUENCE OF SILENCE

4a             THE VANISHING CLERGYMAN

4b             RITUALIZATION OF PROGRESS

5a             THE POWERLESS CHURCH

5b             THE FUTILITY OF SCHOOLING

6a             INSTITUTIONAL SPECTRUM 

6b             SCHOOL: THE SACRED COW

7a             IRRATIONAL CONSISTENCES

7b             LEARNING WEBS 

8a             RE-BIRTH OF EPIMETHEAN MAN

8b             SEUXAL POWER AND POLITICAL POTENCY

9a             PLANNED POVERTY

9b             A CONSTITUTION FOR CULTURAL REVOLUTION 

ROOF     FUTURE

 ____________

This piece was first written as part of a performance/event  at the NCP Welbeck Street Car Park devised by David Berridge, Hyun Jin Cho, David Johnson, and Pippa Koszerek. Celebration of Awareness was the final performance in an event that led visitors through the car park, encountering performances, curated by Birdseye Prouductions.  

Celebration of Awareness is presented here as a script for events that may or not involve any of the original artists, explicitly mention Ivan Illich, take part in or otherwise reference any NCP car park.