Posts Tagged ‘x marks the bokship’


In Uncategorized on May 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Nick Davies, d PlsUR of d Txt

Nick Davies, d PlsUR of d Txt, collage and dummy phones, Unto This Text, Gallery333, Exteter Phoenix, 2012

A: I went to X Marks the Bökship because I was interested in the convergence of writing and art practice, both its connections to experimental poetry and fiction, but also in what was different about the writing and publications found in such a context.
B: Along with similar spaces including Banner Repeater (London), Motto (Berlin), and Section 7 (Paris), X Marks the Bökship is a venue for the distribution of this work but also where it is performed, discussed, and, sometimes, also written.
C: Pick up a book, open it, look through it, maybe read a few paragraphs, close it, put book back on the shelf, pick up another.
D: Participation in the whole life cycle of a publication informs the aesthetic of the space: between a gallery and a bookshop, a space adaptable for performances and book launches, a Riso printer by the window, a counter for publications that becomes a bar.

A display of publications by Preston is my Paris at X Marks the Bokship

E: Francis Ponge writes of “an effort against “poetry””; “We are something other than a poet and we have something else to say.” He asks himself: “Is it poetry? I don’t know, and care even less. For me it’s a need, an involvement, a rage, a matter of vanity, and that’s all.”
F: In a dialogue we conduct by email Nikolai Duffy writes:

          For me, reading, often, is a balance between glimpses and fades, connections and           gaps. Semantic fields slide and frames of reference come and go in much the same           way as my moods come and go.

G:I propose a residency to Eleanor Vonne Brown, proprietor of X Marks the Bökship, to visit a day a week, to read through and respond to the material, alone, when the space is closed.
H:On his Blutkitt blog SJ Fowler writes of when:

          genre definitions between avant garde poetry and art die away and the practice of           text becomes the join between what has been previously perceived as two wholly           different artforms.

I:Reading publications at X Marks the Bökship I find a sociable writing often taking the form of play scripts, with stage directions that make propositions about space, characters and relationships.
J: These texts might be staged on a spectrum between full theatrical production and poetry reading. Sometimes this sociability of writing is intended mostly for its shape on the page and its private reading.
K.People thought Robert Walser wrote in his own private language, on hotel notepaper, cardboard and till receipts. He wasn’t, it was Sütterlin, a particular script taught for handwritten German.


Alison Knowles, model for The Big Book installation. MAN AARG! includes a study of Knowles’ bookworks

I group together publications I read on my first day at X Marks the Bökship. A copy of Modern Art in Everyday Life has been annotated by an anonymous author. In Sara MacKillop’s re-publication only those annotations are maintained.
In Nick Thurston’s Reading the Remove of Literature, the design of the University of Nebraska Press English translation of Maurice Blanchot’s The Space of Literature is retained, although each page consists solely of Thurston’s annotations.
In RO1& BRtZ d P1sUR ov d Txt, Nick Davies (Nik DAvEz) offers a translation into textese of Roland Barthes’ The Pleasure of the Text, partly, he observes, as a way of exploring the distinction Barthes proposes in his own book between pleasure and bliss.
Davies’ process draws on textese computer programs, which don’t correspond to any individual users vocabulary. Nor do they share Barthes’ vocabulary, so Davies must invent his own textese to complete the project. The opening paragraph of Barthes text (in its original Richard Miller translation) reads:
          THE PLEASURE OF THE TEXT: like Bacon’s stimulator, it can say: never           apologize, never explain. It never denies anything: “I shall look away , that will           henceforth be my sole negation.”
In RO1& BRtZ d P1sUR ov d Txt this becomes:
          D PLSUR OV D TXT: Ike Baconz simul8R, it cn sA: nevr apolojyz, never XplAn. It           nevr denyz NEtin: “I shaL L%k awA, dat wiL hNs4th my s0l neg8shN.”
Legally, Davies suggests he may have produced a “new work,” no longer covered by the original copyright. Beyond legal criteria, his translation explores the adaptability of Barthes use of the paragraph as chapter and essay in its own right. If these micro units equate to gestures of thought, how is this also evident in the text message?
Davies tests the efficiacy and potential of all these formats. Joe Scanlan’s Red Flags arranges source texts by Joseph Schumpeter, Milton Friedman, Edward Said and Thorstein Veblen using a colour code system that indicates sections of the originals which have been added, left intact, moved, altered, and re-written.

Joe Scanlan, Red Flags, castillo/corrales

In all these examples, the reader-artist gives material form to their acts of reading, confidently altering or deleting the source text. Other times, as in the score that comprises the cover of Neil Chapman’s Glossolaris, such procedures are combined with the imaginative reverie of the reader, a sense of each individuals collaboration with a text in creating its settings and characters.

Chapman invites the reader to look through their book collections for words or phrases that instinctively connect to the planet Solaris of Stanislav Lem’s science fiction novel. Then, Chapman instructs:
          Use the words or phrases to create short scenarios. This is a meditative process.           Start with one word or phrase. Stare at it until it gives up an image. Take the time           you need.
All of these examples see reading as an engagement with space and time, with writing less to do with creating new original texts than a foregrounding of that scenography.
Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés is one continued source for a spatial arrangement of text in white space, which Marcel Broodthaers responded to by rendering each unit of text as a solid black block.
Michalis Pichler’s Un Coup de dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard (sculpture) presents Mallarme’s text as a single prefatory block of text before replacing both the original and Broodthaers’ version with cut out “voids” that shift reading and writing towards both an idea and experience of sculptural form.

L: My initial plan is to write a bibliography – thinking of Arnaud Desjardin’s The Book on Books on Artists’ Books where he quotes Simon Ford’s idea (concerning Situationism) of the “bibliographic moment” that arises at a certain point in a “subject’s living death.”

Arnaud Desjardin, spread from The Book on Books on Artists’ Books

M:Publications produced in tiny editions, without ISBN’s, sometimes without any contact information. If a copy is sold, then when I go back the next week to read it, the chance has gone.
N: This is not a bibliographic moment.
O:Cid Corman’s The Famous Blue Aerogrammes is a collection of poems scribbled on air mail envelopes, a form more suited to a poetics of breath and occasion than literary journals or paperbacks.
P:A “scene” formed by all publications at X Marks the Bökship, although that is also a gathering of singularities, whose authors may not read each other’s texts, or regard each other as colleagues.
Q:Which is again why the playscript form is a useful model, not as something staged in a particular sense of a theatrical production but a form for proposing locations, actions, and characters.
R:A space of enquiry akin to Karl Larsson’s stage directions in Consensus (The Room) indicating a room which “may be described as…”, “The building may be described as…” and “The neighborhood may be described as…”

Karl Larsson, Consensus (The Room), Paraguay Press.

S:Do you have a copy of Forty Faultless Felons?
T: When forms such as notebook or journal seem more appropriate for this essay, it is as something made at the end of a process of writing and re-writing, not improvised at the beginning or during.
U: The sense of quest and search, which Rachel Blau du Plessis in The Pink Guitar, equates to “the psyche bound for glory.” Such structures of apotheosis equate more to sermon than essay, she says, are not practice.
V:Ponge writes:
          I resume my maniacal, my voluptuous snail-like wanderings… This snail, alas!           leaves no silvery trace… While I am distressed by the bad taste of this last phrase,           the clock strikes three a.m…
W: Send 1000 copies of your contribution. Richard Kostelanetz will assemble them together in 0.5″ by 11″ books. The title is Assembling.
X: The example of John Berger moving to France (although moving to France is not necessarily what this example is about).
Y: Suddenly aware of the position of my body at the table, the expression on my face, how hungry I am, how heavy is my head.
Z:These questions are those writers in any context negotiate explicitly or indirectly. For myself, I found the questions were much more open and fluid in a space such as X Marks the Bökship because-
                    I stop myself and begin reading writers whose work explicitly negotiates a                     position both towards, about, and amongst things, aware of the vast generality                     of that category, needing such expansiveness, space of/for the obvious:
Today I brought my own books to read.

Reading at X Marks the Bokship during launch of Noooo by Nathan Witt

Things by Francis Ponge is a translation of poems into English by the American poet Cid Corman. As well as its presentation of Ponge’s work, the book shows the different elements of Corman’s own practice: translating, editing his journal Origin (where some of these poems first appeared), corresponding with poets including Louis Zukofsky, Charles Olson, and also Lorine Niedecker, who writes to Corman:
          Origin 9 here – well, F.Ponge is a serious person and he’s right – there’s a sense as           well as and above precise dictionary meanings.
As Corman writes in his Preface to Things: “language in the brio of its re-lations, our delectation, gone with it.”
Beginning with short poems – The Insignificant, Young Girl, The Last Simplicity, Ponge/Corman’s Things moves into the familiar subjects of the later’s maturity: still-life of cigarette, blackberry, candle, and mollusc.
From this a shift into attempts – Flora & Fauna, The Pebble – to see both object, word and mind moving in and over time, The Notebook of the Pine Woods expanding that further into page forms of dated entries, letters, the published text a form of draft and work book.
Corman’s arrangement is not wholly chronological, but it concludes with Still Life & Chardin and Le Pré/ the meadow, sequences which read here like death-notes, attempts to sum up the writerly attention to Things as they approach both a metaphysics of self and world and what Ponge calls the “funereal,” final arrangements of typographers.
Corman’s own essays offer examples that include traditional critical prose, assemblages of quotations, and letters re-made into poems. In “The Idea of a Mandarin Orange: A Discourse” in his essay collection Where Were We Now, Corman writes:
          This not a Ponge-type/ research piece – the poem in search of a science: the words           of a thing. This is rather an effort to see what it is seen/once what is seen worms its           way into words.

Project Paper edited by Ana Schefer and Teófilo Furtado

MAN AARG:ESSAY, POETRY, ART PRACTICE by David Berridge will be published by NØ Demand, the imprint of X Marks the Bokship, in June 2013.



In Uncategorized on January 2, 2013 at 2:13 pm
seekers of lice cover draft

Theatre of Objects by seekers of lice (VerySmallKitchen, 2012) front cover.



The first in a new series of VSK Paperbacks is THEATRE OF OBJECTS by seekers of lice, collecting texts from 2008-2012, including LOUSE FACTORY, dumb show, and The Bride of L’Amor-mor-l’amor.

As seekers of lice observes in a recent dialogue with VerySmallKitchen:

seekers of lice isn’t a pseudonym, it’s a space to inhabit with its own separate existence.

There was a manifesto for objects, demanding the space to speak. So Theatre of Objects was an imagined theatre not of seekers of lice but of the objects themselves. Benjamin Buchloh writes about the “object theater of fluxus”. I wondered what an object theatre was.

I see the scripts as different to other forms: scripts as dialogues, the spoken word interacting between separate characters, consecutive speeches are read as responses in some form to the previous speech. They point to an existence beyond the writer.


THEATRE OF OBJECTS by seekers of lice, 102pp, VerySmallKitchen 2012. Available for £7 + £2 UK P&P.  Please inquire for postage to other countries.









Act 3 The Shine on The Nose by seekers of lice



seekers of lice6_Page_013seekers of lice6_Page_014seekers of lice6_Page_015


THEATRE OF OBJECTS was launched at X Marks the Bokship on December 11th 2012. Ladies of the Press, Becky Cremin and Ryan Ormonde, and David Kelly (performed by Eleanor Brown) were invited to interpret texts in the book.


1. Becky Cremin and Ryan Ormonde


2. Ladies of the Press


3. David Kelly (performed by Eleanor Brown)







seekers of lice6_Page_042seekers of lice6_Page_043seekers of lice6_Page_044seekers of lice6_Page_045


manifesto for a new ab-ab-ab-ab surdism by seekers of lice. Invitation to read aloud accompanied by David Kelly’s MANIFESTO AT NORTH POLE ROAD.






See also by seekers of lice on VerySmallKitchen the e-chapbook LILMP and the installation creamy language.


Purchase a copy of THEATRE OF OBJECTS for £7 plus £2 UK P&P here.








In Uncategorized on May 24, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Márton Koppány, Hungarian Masterpiece Summer 2011


I don’t see ANY (qualitative) difference between words, asemicity, silence, leaves, and their falling. As I told you before, when I feel easy they are all the same (invitation).

– Márton Koppány





On 14/11/11 as part of an email correspondence discussing a potential collaboration and/or publication to accompany his visit to London in March 2012, Márton Koppány sends David Berridge a jpeg entitled Evergreen.

“I’m not a photoshop user” writes Márton. “What I’m using is a basic image editor from the nineties, it knows relatively few tricks, which is in harmony with my needs.”


DAVID: I have been thinking about how nature functions in the visual images you create, also tracing the leaf as it occurs in histories of avant-garde poetry. The leaf as  the basis of a conversation between Charles Reznikoff and Lorine Niedecker,  for example, and how, going back to Goethe, the leaf proposes a morphological space connecting poetry and natural history….

MÁRTON:  It’s good to find coincidences. Leaves are an inspiring topic. Here I send you two more leaf-related pieces of mine, one of them (Cursive for Bob Grumman) was made a few weeks ago, the other one (Fall Leaves) is several years old and related to a project initiated by Dan Waber to write variations on a bpNichol theme.


Márton Koppány, Fall Leaves



I like a lot those “objectivists” whose work is more or less available for a non native speaker with a limited (broken and reduced) English like me. (Zukofsky so far has seemed to be too difficult.) Beside the works I like the characters as well. I read several essays on Oppen by Mike Heller, and found touching Oppen’s life and personality. I don’t know Reznikoff’s and Niedecker’s conversation, but love their poetry.

DAVID: The Reznikoff- Niedecker piece was not an actual conversation, but a going through each of their collected works copying  out and juxtaposing leaf references. So, for example:


LN: I’ve been away from poetry
many months

and now I must rake leaves
with nothing blowing

between your house
and mine

CR: The branches about the street-lamp
are so thick with leaves, it shines
only on a flag of pavement;
leaf behind leaf the night rings.



MÁRTON: It is cold here in more than one sense of the word. Hungarian democracy has been successfully undermined and now the game is apparently over. We’re rather helpless but still hope for the best – or at least for something better.

I’ve been lately too concerned about the situation, and haven’t produced new pieces for a while. BUT the prospect of my trip to London is something that helps me keep going in these days.  My main worry is an autocratic, proto-fascist state – but let’s hope for the best. And let’s talk poetry.


VerySmallKitchen invites Márton to  compile a 16 page A5 pamphlet, to be printed in an edition of 20 copies, on the occasion of his visit to London in March 2012. The booklet will be printed on an RZ 370 Risograph, whose available inks are green and black.


MÁRTON: Your plan helped me to put together (the first draft of) a small book, spanning thirty years in ten pages (plus notes, our potential exchange, your potential poem/essay etc.).

My idea was to write (quote from myself) a bunch of works that I consider a string of annotations, self-comments. Sometimes the commentary-piece is much older than the one commented  – but that doesn’t make any difference from the reader’s perspective, I guess. It was very helpful that leaf also means page both in English and Hungarian. The whole small thing is about leaving, falling, staying, keeping going.  (At the very same time.)



Because it is a string of annotations, it starts with a piece which is an annotation in itself: a reflection on a bpNichol theme. I tried to take into consideration the potentialities of the riso print as well when selecting the works. Ellipsis No. 15 is pale blue – but, if my understanding is correct, it will be pale grey in the print, which is perfect for my purposes. The other pieces are black and white or green and white.



Márton Koppány, Ellipsis No.15



The working title of the book is Evergreen. I’ve numbered the pages (see the file names) in the order I imagined them in the book:

Fall Leaves
I’m leaving 1-2
Colon (Eroica)
Ellipsis No. 15
I’ll Regret It





DAVID: Central to our proposition for the book and dialogue seems to be the leaf/page connection, how explicit or implied that is….

MÁRTON: The leaf/page connection is similar in Hungarian. The leaf/leaving connection doesn’t exist in Hungarian on the level of the words, it only exists on the level of the ideas.


Márton Koppány, Hungarian Vispo No.1


DAVID: I was thinking of Thomas A Clark’s chapbook After Marvell which is a series of ‘blank’ pages of different shades of green… and about identification – identifying plant varieties, but also what aspects of the poems become identified/noticed by the reader –

MÁRTON: Evergreen is a ginko. How to (not) remember a question mark and its fruit, the full stop?


Márton Koppány, Evergreen


DAVID: I’ve been making notes towards a taxonomy of where and how the connection of leaves and poetry becomes apparent. Lots of pairs: leaf/ page is one, but also seeing the analogy on different scales – leaf/ word, leaf/letter-

MÁRTON: We don’t need a rigid system. The scale is different in each case/correspondence.

DAVID: Another set of connections unfold from Goethe’s metamorphosis of the leaf, about how forms – leaf forms, letter forms – emerge and change-

MÁRTON: Leaf growing into a question mark (Evergreen) and leaves growing (multiplying)into an ellipsis (Cursive); punctuation mark botany: leaves in motion. The wind.

Did you notice that in Cursive the “direction” of the leaves is reversed in one instance? I mean the first and the second leaf are connected in a way which is not possible in nature.

Cursive is also the surmounting (or appeasing) of that impossibility. My friend, the dedicatee of the poem, didn’t notice it at first. (But he noticed other things that I hadn’t been conscious of.)


Márton Koppány, Cursive – for Bob Grumman



DAVID: In the William Carlos Williams poem An Alphabet of the Trees the leaves aren’t letters they are hiding letters –

MÁRTON Blank hides “blank” in Ellipsis No 15. Abstract botanics. In Still we only have the faint reflection of some branches in the water. It also looks like a writing (or deletion), I guess.



Márton Koppány, Still



DAVID: The leaf now and as a thing to come-

MÁRTON: The leaf is its own past and future. Endless recycling of a torn leaf (page) in I’ll Regret It. Every F is individual (Fall Leaves). There’s only one of “them”.

Colon (Eroica) is a human creature trying to keep open (the opportunity of) a meaning. If he/she collapses, the upper dot falls down and the colon (printed in Arial) disintegrates.



Márton Koppány, Colon (Eroica)


DAVID: Noticing and not noticing, the poet learning to identify plants and/or the poet engaging with natural history as a form of poetics. Language and writing as forms of compost. In The Magpie’s Bagpipe Jonathan Williams says of Charles Olson:


Olson knew there was something called “rhododendron” and something called “grass,” and he had trouble even telling those two things apart. One was bigger than the other, but that was about it. He had no eye for nature.





Throughout December 2011 and January 2012, whilst this correspondence is being conducted, Márton distributes the Hungarian Vispo series as jpegs emailed to his mailing list.


DAVID:  Do you know the work of Cia Rinne? There are two distinct aspects to her practice – one a visual/ conceptual poetry side, the other a documentary practice in collaboration with the photographer Joakim Eskildsen. In a project for VerySmallKitchen Cia writes:


I think that working with visual poetry and conceptual pieces is often like an escape, a sphere where you can neglect rules, concentrate on such – seen in a wider perspective – ridiculous things as language, meaning, and sound, so maybe they are not explicit. I feel that if I want to say something important I should rather do it in a text; although there are many pieces reflecting my other practice, working with the Roma for instance, I would not want conceptual writing to become a mere means for an agenda. It can feel like mere luxury to be working with such pieces when you have knowledge of what is happening in the world however, so I guess a balance is good and necessary both ways.


By focusing on leaf  I assume a certain resonance, that there is something here that is applicable more widely (and politically). I also agree with Rinne that if something needs saying then it is best to say it directly. Which makes poetry and writing a zone of play and escape (where we might understand what the practice of those words involves).


Márton Koppány, Hungarian Vispo No.2


Given what is happening in Hungary at the moment, this discussion and the poems you sent out, could say something about how you were thinking through all these issues and how/if/ should they be present in our dialogue and book…

MÁRTON:  Lately I’ve gotten interested in topics that have direct political consequences – mostly because it is reaching out for me, almost in a physical sense. But history (my family’s history and through it: anybody’s history) has always been in my head and always influenced my work.

I believe in directness and I don’t believe in it. It brings to my mind Dick Higgins famous bon mot: we can talk about a thing but can’t talk a thing. (Or something similar – I quote it from memory.) And as one of our common favorite writers Kafka says (this is not from memory):


The point of view of art and that of life are different even in the artist himself. Art flies around truth, but with the definite intention of not getting burnt. Its capacity lies in finding in the dark void a place where the beam of light can be intensely caught, without this having been perceptible before.


“Directness” brings to my mind social realism as well and the good advice in my teens about how to write. On the other hand visual poets are also famous for “going beyond”. Beyond language, beyond the usual forms of reflexivity…

I’m a born sceptic and have always had some reservations. And although I’m suspicious about language (that is why I tried to get rid of lexical poetry in the late seventies) (beside the practical advantage of getting rid of my mother tongue and reaching out) (the two things went together), when some of my friends (whose work I love and admire! that’s a different matter!) optimistically state that asemic is more direct, and closer to….


Márton Koppány, Hungarian Vispo No.3


I politely disagree. I don’t see ANY (qualitative) difference between words, asemicity, silence, leaves, and their falling. As I told you before, when I feel easy they are all the same (invitation). But I believe in directness too because we always try our best to “tell the thing” and “show it”. That’s always the case! Getting (or remaining) “closer” – that’s a different thing, which implies indirectness.

It would be great to say/do the “how” when we say/do the “what”. That would be the utmost concreteness in the right sense of the word. “Concrete” poetry frequently brings to my mind Pascal: “Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, few doubtingly of scepticism.” And the Brechtian “alienation effect” is a struggle with/ solution to the same dilemma. And in my youth I had to learn to read between the lines in the press. (As I see those times are coming back now.)

In Hungarian Vispo (I’ve sent you two so far and there’s a third one which I’ve put aside and will show a little bit later) I react to my situation. Hungarian democracy is collapsing and a new (proto) fascist state is in the making. I was depressed for months, left facebook partly because I couldn’t catch up partly because I felt I couldn’t share my new experiences.


Márton Koppány, Appassionato


We don’t understand it first. It is different from our expectations. It can’t happen today etc. Plus everybody has his/her problem. Life is not easy either in Hungary, the UK or anywhere else. Anyway, I went to the demonstrations and felt less isolated for a moment. (See: directness.) But after a while the whole mess started inspiring me. (So I must be grateful.) I felt more energetic and conceived several projects. (Your invitation certainly had a positive effect too.)

The majority of my fellow citizens are still inert, even applauding, they tolerate or like the new regime – beautiful. Let’s talk “their” language (which is mine!) the language of naivety. Naivety is the new style: we don’t see, don’t hear. We accept their (changing, self-contradictory) arguments. We approve. Of course my poems are meant to be critical, but the direct form of criticism is self-criticism. Naivety is the peak of dialectical thinking.

I wonder how we could relate these matters to our book. Do you have any idea? This hypocrite version of naivety (the contagious illness in my country) is the very opposite of being close to the “thing”, the very opposite of being direct. We could get from one point (the leaf) to the farthest opposite (naivety) (which is very different from alienation as well), and back again. Writes Kafka:


Hiding places there are innumerable, escape is only one, but possibilities of escape, again, are as many as hiding places.


And as you probably noticed Hungarian Vispo No. 1 paraphrases Gomringer’s famous Silencio.


Márton Koppány, Hungarian Vispo No.4 (Curiosity)


DAVID:  Yesterday I came across a letter from John Ruskin where he talks about being given a book as a gift and finding a leaf has been placed between two pages. I like to think of that gesture as another bringing together of leaf and book – the book “pressing” the leaf, the book also giving the leaf the feel of a secret. Secrets, though, that possess a directness (there’s a leaf in the book!)

MÁRTON: The idea of inserting the Hungarian Vispo in a small black, white and green book sounds very good to me! It would be just the opposite of the situation that John Ruskin comments on in his letter. I mean: we would insert pages (dealing with political surrealities and abstractions) between leaves (or at least between pages dealing with leaves, with singularities, and with the unique process of leaving).

Yes, perhaps we could emphasize the difference between attention (even if it is only peripheral because it cannot be anything more) (even if it is a failure) and the bad faith of naivety (in the above sense). Attention to the (one) leaf, to the process of leaving etc. on one hand. Turning away from our situation and from the “elements”, on the other hand.


One can disintegrate the world by means of very strong light. For weak eyes the world becomes solid, for still weaker eyes it seems to develop fists, for eyes weaker still it becomes shamefaced and smashes anyone who dares to gaze upon it.


DAVID: I’m reading Lee Rourke’s book on fables, moving from Aesop to Kafka, Walser, Borges and on to contemporary flash fiction. I realise some sense of “Fable” has been one frame for how I have tried to think about writing and poetry, the cluster of meanings and images in your poems…

MÁRTON: Yes, fables is an interesting cluster. I loved them in my youth – and I’ve already realized that my Hungarian Vispo was a reaching back to them – although it wasn’t conscious. And it also might be a more general pattern that I used earlier as well.





MÁRTON: Nothing is urgent about the book, but today I had a “vision” about it, which is perhaps more elaborated than the previous ones. The basic idea came from your last message, your reference to the Ruskin letter, and what I wrote in my response, that we could/should change the situation into its opposite, inserting “pages” between “leaves”.


Márton Koppány, I’ll Regret It


That would be an interesting situation, and in harmony with my recent interest. And our correspondence can be quite well grouped around it! The last impulse came yesterday from my recent piece, Hungarian Passport (From Exile To Emigration), and from realizing how close its structure is to Cursive – for Bob Grumman. And we could count on the different connotations of Exile and how they are related to “falling” and “leaving”.


Márton Koppány, Hungarian Passport (From Exile to Emigration)


Here I send you the nine jpegs that I’d like to include. We could add the notes, I mean the edited version of our correspondence. I imagine a simple color publication – xerox would be fine with me. The A5 size would be fine, BUT landscape format instead of portrait.


Fall Leaves
Hungarian Masterpiece Summer 2011
Hungarian Vispo No.1
Hungarian Vispo No.2
Hungarian Vispo No.3
Curiosity (Hungarian Vispo No.4)
Hungarian Passport (From Exile to Emigration)
Cursive – for Bob Grumann


MÁRTON: My basic idea about the Ruskin paraphrase is that by wrapping pages in “leaves” (instead of finding leaves between the pages of a book), I would emphasize that all those “political” messages are informed by my basic (but also unfathomable) experience about the “fall of leaves”, which is a natural process, although humans can spoil it, and add to it unnecessary (extra) suffering.



MÁRTON:  Maybe Cursive should be left out completely. Cursive has its own irony (the changing “direction” of the leaves, which makes cursive, paradoxically, cursive), but most people would miss that effect (especially if the size of the motif is reduced), and would associate it with a different irony, related to the leaves themselves (framing a book of politically motivated poems), which would be against my wish!

DAVID: I’ve been going through our correspondence putting together a draft of the book.  It seems from our emails that we have a three part structure to what we have been doing:  (1) the original Evergreen draft manuscript; (2)  the debates around poetry unfolding from your Hungarian Vispo series, which also found gestural focus in Ruskin’s act of locating a leaf in the pages of his book; (3) the formulation of a second Evergreen.

Working through this material has led me to conceive of a publication composed solely of our dialogue, without images. There are practical reasons for this, about the ability to reproduce your colour images and how, perhaps, their best mode of distribution is the internet.

Our print publication emerges for me as a response to your question: ”I wonder how we could relate these matters to our book. Do you have any idea?” It tests and models and makes space for the after effects of (your) poems, the space they create when they themselves are not present in their original form, but have become talk, rumour, argument, story, fable…

Such a decision also picks up on the refusal that recurs in the text – your writer’s block in response to  events in Hungary, also the “refusal to write” in response to political situations as we might understand it in the career of George Oppen. It felt right to give space to this condition, not as an absolute, but something variable and ever present within a writing practice.


Márton Koppány, Csend (Silence) – for Geof Huth


I looked up Norma Cole’s To Be At Music: Essays & Talks, remembering something she wrote about George Oppen’s years of refusing to write. Instead, I found this:


That’s not memory it’s a picture as though it is still a possible action shaking like the idea of a leaf.





A print edition of this exchange was produced by VerySmallKitchen at X Marks the Bökship as part of Evergreen, March 30th, 2012. Thanks to Eleanor Brown for her assistance, hospitality and printer. See also texts of work from the night by SJ Fowler, seekers of lice, Claire Potter and nick-e melville. A set of “visual translations” by David Kelly is here.

Images in this post were previously published in Otoliths, Eratio, experiment-o, and On Barcelona, as well as in the following collections:


To Be Or To Be; the Runaway Spoon Press, 1997
Endgames, Otoliths, 2008
Modulations, Otoliths, 2010
A Motion (e-book), cPress, 2011


See a previous VerySmallKitchen exchange with Márton Koppány here.




In Uncategorized on May 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm


A. Márton Koppány



VerySmallKitchen writes: Following last months Evergreen event at X Marks the Bökship, David Kelly AKA “not just another saint” Erkembode began a series of visual translations of the evenings talks and performances. Collected here are the full set of responses, based on the events video archive.

Looking at Erkembode’s images connected to a number of other projects on VerySmallKitchen and elsewhere, including Mary Yacoob’s time-based letter drawings, and Claire Potter’s reading for Maintenant Croatia, itself unfolding from repeated Youtube viewings of another Maintenant reading.

A thinking through of these impulses is interspersed here with Erkembode’s images as a further layer of response, sociality and transposition…



B. SJ Fowler




This work extends an interest in/with response, expanded notions of reading, translations and continuations between artists, mediums, and occasions. In this relation – and in the act of its own making – such work evidences a deliberate awareness of (a moment in) time, as constraint and form giver…

Work is made conversational. This is a particular take on conceptual writing’s engagement with the appropriation of existing texts. By taking other artists’ work as source – an artist one knows or is in proximity to through a somehow local network of practitioners – there is less sense of an “other” discourse brought into poetry – The New York Times or traffic reports in two of Kenneth Goldsmith’s signature outputs – and more a participation in a shared, self-aware, unfolding process…

If this is evident, say, in the pair form of the Camerade events curated by SJ Fowler, it is also proposed in the textures and strokes of each of Erkembode’s images, in the spoken time codes of Claire Potter’s Maintenant performance, and in Norma Cole’s consideration of Poets’ Theatre, where she writes:


The projects of Poets’ Theatre are communal. They accrete and gather momentum, a kind of critical mass, building on local relationships in time. Someone is writing – often the “someone” is a composite, a dyad, the multiple author – writing for known members of the future cast so the future is here and now. So even the primary or originary moment of writing is expansive, interactive, a function of the vitality of ongoing conversations in a community. The boundaries of the community are permeable and shifting, since it consists of singularities, to use Agamben’s term. Individuals express interest in participating. This interest is incorporated. So the dynamics of the participants, a kind of multiple person, or mega-organism live in solution in continuous flux.


SOURCE: Norma Cole, To Be At Music: Essays & Talks (Omnidawn, 2010), 54.




C. nick-e melville





David Kelly writes in an email 19/05/12:


My interest in visual translations probably stems from a period of producing what I call speed-paintings, usually giving myself 60 minutes to create 60 paintings – building a momentum, allowing a freedom from prudence – and then to ‘read’ through the finished collection. Of late my attention has been drawn to the spoken performances (manifestations) of concrete/visual poetry and how my own art practice relates and responds.

The process of creating these visual translations is primordially instinctive, in terms of compulsion and the materials put to use – the nearest to hand, not out of laziness but so as not to lose the moment in which makes the process. Often whilst creating visual art I am simultaneously writing, stream of consciousness, memories/fears, and exclamations/interjections. It is from this same place that I wish to produce an entirely visual language.

In listening to the poetry readings from the evergreen event at X Marks the Bökship – these translations are a visual outcome (I was not present at this event; my translations are made from recordings taken of each reading). It is an attempt to join the rhythm of how someone speaks, the rhythm of what they are reading – a digestion of words, the breaking down and rearrangement of grapheme into gestural form and of sounds to pigmentation, colour.

Language is of course not just the written or spoken word. It is, or perhaps can be (amongst so many other things) shapes, colour, impressions of thought. These are just some of the entities I wish to dig up, communicate and read within my process of visual translation.

p.s on this search results page each description for the readings at X Marks the Bökship has a button which asks TRANSLATE. Once clicked however it answers TRANSLATION UNAVAILABLE.



D. seekers of lice

One of the pleasures of Kelly’s project here- and many others presented/ enacted/ documented on the Erkembode blog – is that alongside this exploratory poetics of compulsion and community, they encourage this viewer to more basic question making. Why this colour, this kind and speed of gesture, mark-making, type of paper? A has become B and it’s worth pretending for a moment it is a straightforward transaction, even if both quickly refract and multiply, maybe don’t even exist so distinctly.

What about a voice and reading necessitates the use of collage for Márton Koppány and seekers of lice, this entry of the photographic into a realm of (scanned) hand and paper? I sense an instinctual process but ponder its more concrete eventualities….  How much is the texture, speed, colour of these images informed by the frame of the video recorder, the faces excluded or gathered around, room and street sounds, the camera passed to another when operator becomes performer…

Erkembode notes how this project of “visual translations” is informed by his own reading and writing practices, making him both anthropologist and informant between overlapping zones of text and image. Likewise, many of the authors here see their writing related to, as part of, and/or in cohorts with, a visual practice.

So I am left with some kind of translation amongst and within, layered, across, that seems close to how Christian Hawkey’s describes his Ventrakl collaboration with George Trakl. Hawkey is formulating his relationship to a poet who died in Krakow in 1914, but these ideas of “ghost” as co-author are usefully fed into notions like Norma Cole’s above, articulations of absence-presence within the textual-social formulations proposed and evidenced here:


Books – of the living or the dead – are the truest ghosts among us, the immaterial made material… a collaboration between the living and the dead is the meeting of ghosts because writing is, in the purest sense, an act that sets the fiction of one’s self aside. It is also a form of friendship. Agamben: “Friendship is this desubjectivication at the very heart of the most intimate sensation of the self.” And in taking up multiple procedures of writing and translation – transwriting, transrelating – one aim was to prolong the friendship of our ghosts as long as possible.


SOURCE: Christian Hawkey, Ventrakl (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010), 6.


E. Claire Potter



Other frames for these images take them beyond a local network of artists and occasions. The frame for  EVERGREEN was leaves, emergent from discussions with Márton Koppány, picking up on the leaf in his own visual work to explore poets’ relationships to natural history, from Goethe’s studies of leaf metamorphosis to the objectivist leaf of Lorine Niedecker and Charles Reznikoff.

Erkembode’s project also offers a productive way to read around illustration and book design, as discussed by  Matt Jakubowski (in a recent article for Hyperallergic on “Sunandini Banerjee and the Book artist”).

Through its difference, Jakubowski’s discussion clarifies how, in the work discussed here, movement between YouTube, blogs, live events and different artists can be understood as repeated acts of publication (and transformation) that de-emphasise the single book object (that may or may not exist at some point in this ongoing cycle). Banerjee also highlights the paradox of making evident a process and a source whilst simultaneously erasing those fidelities:


It is not just a question of assembling images. One is reading, remembering, recalling, reinventing, rediscovering, associating — all at once. One is picking up on certain words or motifs and then chasing them down the alleyways of representation to see what they finally look like when you stand face to face. … After it is over, I can never remember how it was that it came to be done.


F. David Berridge








Two of these “Visual Translations” – by nick-e melville and SJ Fowler –  previously appeared on the Erkembode blog alongside embedded video of the readings/performances. For this new consideration, I wanted to foreground the translations themselves, but each image links to that source reading.

Texts from EVERGREEN are available elsewhere on VerySmallKitchen. See work by SJ Fowler, seekers of lice, Claire Potter and nick-e melville. A dialogue with Márton Koppány is coming soon.






In Uncategorized on May 9, 2012 at 10:49 am



VerySmallKitchen is part of eShelf, a new project curated by Rahel Zoller and X Marks the Bökship which describes itself as follows:



eShelf is a collection of artists’ online publishing activities and a series of events introducing digital publishing projects, initiatives and resources.

At eShelf, online publishing activities will be collected and compiled into an A – Z online index. There will also be a series of live events hosted at X Marks the Bökship, where publishers can introduce their projects to other publishers and individuals working across similar platforms.

The aims are to:

Introduce a selection of online independent publishing activities

Show examples of creative and experimental uses of online publishing

Bring together publishers working across similar digital platforms

Offer advice and resources available to artists and independent publishers



The project’s first live component has been two nights at the Bökship, one on May 2nd for the publications A-N, and the rest of the alphabet  on 9th May 2012.



Tine Melzer, Language Games, project for VerySmallKitchen, 2011

Tine Melzer, Language Games, project for VerySmallKitchen, 2011



For this event eShelf circulated the following set of questions, that also serve as a useful primer for interrogating a broad range of online projects:


What is the name of your online publication / activity? Can you give a brief description of it? How long has it been going for? How long are you planning to continue for? Why did you decide to go online? Did your project previously exist in another format or is it intended to in another format in the future? How often do you publish? Is it easier or harder than having a print based publication? Do you use eShops to help with your distribution? Do people want to pay for what you are doing? Who is your audience? Are you more aware of them being online? Is there an audience for print on demand publications? How do you promote yourself? Were you influenced by a similar publishing activity and who else is working in a similar way to you? What software / hardware do you use? Do you work with designers / programmers / tech kids to develop the project? What are the costs involved? What things need to be developed to make what you are doing easier? Do you look at other online publications? Can you suggest other projects for the eShelf?





In thinking through VerySmallKitchen in the context of eShelf I present four separate takes:


(1) a scrolling talk-back through recent posts; (2) a non-mesostic nonetheless; (3) a bibliography; (4) VerySmallKitchen as (fictional) character and container.






…  the most straightforward way to get a sense of VerySmallKitchen – one consistent with its blog format – is to scroll back through its archives. So we start with this post from Ohad Ben Shimon, the last of a six month residency on the blog which has involved a series of writings, dialogues, images, and video works. Then we have this review of The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard. This new publication from the Library of America is the first time Brainard’s work has been easily available, and I wanted to insert this book into the kinds of contemporary practice on VerySmallKitchen. As well as a review making some of those connections explicit, I also re-printed Brainard’s  Wednesday, July 7th 1971 (A Greyhound Bus Trip)…

…Then we get a series of posts which present texts written and first performed for the VerySmallKitchen Evergreen night here at X Marks the Bökship: Leaves, a chapbook by SJ Fowler, as well as texts by Claire Potter and seekers of lice, followed by some new writing by Cia Rinne, a Berlin based writer and artist. I originally contacted Cia after reading her interview with Steven Fowler in 3AM magazine, interested in her separate practices as a minimalist, visual, conceptual poet and as a campaigning documentary maker working with Roma gypsies. So these pieces, whilst belonging to the first practice, were selected after that editorial dialogue, thinking how those two practices connect as well as differ…



Márton Koppány, Hungarian Vispo, 2012



…After this we have some projects by Ariel Goldberg, a writer and performance artist in San Francisco, and EDITORIAL, a PDF chapbook by nick-e melville. This was another part of the Evergreen night, and also began as an installation for I AM NOT A POET, an event co-curated by VerySmallKitchen and Mirja Koponen in Edinburgh in August 2011. This is followed by a week long correspondence between Ariel Goldberg and Ohad Ben Shimon, which was published as another one of Ohad’s residency posts. So I think what emerges here is this sense of unfolding dialogues, connections, seeing where projects and discussions go, in different locations, media and over time…



Ariel Goldberg, Part of the epistolary novel, and performance “The Photographer,” March, 2012

Photo: Ohad Ben Shimon




… If we scroll down further we have a preview of an article by Roger Luckhurst from the new issue of Corridor8, which is now published in print. One of the key historical inspirations for VerySmallKitchen has been the editorial work of Richard Kostelanetz in anthologies such as Essaying Essays and Scenarios. So when the UK art periodicals Corridor8 and both published special issues showcasing current artists in relation to RK’s work, I wanted to distribute and promote that on VerySmallKitchen, as well as organise a discussion that took place on March 10 2012 at The Wild Pansy Press Portable Reading Room at the Leeds City Art Gallery, which this post was also an announcement for…

… then going back into March 2011 we have more of Ohad’s residency, which inparticular explored the diary form, self-images and representation of the artist’s lifestyle,
often writing as a further part of other exhibitions and residencies themselves concerned with a live recording of thought and response…



Neil Chapman, from Memo Seven, project for VerySmallKitchen, 2011



… moving on, here, is a gathering of materials around the typewriter in art practice . One of the forms of research the blog has encouraged has been these gatherings of sources, notes, and quotations. Alongside this project was a post on Marianne Holm Hansen’s FOR THE RECORD, a series of images and a dialogue that came out of a conversation in a coffee shop…



Marianne Holm Hansen, typings from FOR THE RECORD



Finally, for this sampling, we have a set of materials around  A PIGEON, A KITCHEN AND AN ANNEXE: SITES OF ALTERNATIVE PUBLISHING, a show VerySmallKitchen took part in at Five Years gallery curated by Ladies of the Press, which explored past, current and future VerySmallKitchen projects within the present of the exhibition.



Paolo Javier and Alex Tarampi, from OBB (forthcoming,VerySmallKitchen, 2012)



This project by Lisa Jeschke and Lucy Beynon was part of the exhibition and is very conscious of its movement between installation, performance and web forms… and here, finally finally for now, is a dialogue with Marit Muenzberg on publishing, which we conducted alongside our jointly published  hard copy book Uh Duh by Sarah Jacobs….

For an overview of projects in 2011 see here. See publications here.






V:Finding it long and incomprehensible I delete an About statement on the VerySmallKitchen blog and replace it with “connections of reading, writing, language and art practice, inside and outside the VerySmallKitchen.”

E:This foregrounds senses of container and character, being both specific and open-ended, proposing a space whilst not fully aware of either its contents or its architecture.

R:The blog emerges through invitation and its consequences: (1) To people I have worked with, sometimes related to a previous event, and/or sustaining a dialogue begun elsewhere; (2) the invitation itself is the introduction.

Y:Or someone sends me work, and I am the respondent to an invitation. All this mediated through the limitations and possibilities of a wordpress template.

S:There’s something about art and writing, its display and publication, that I seem to find obfuscating. My notes for what I want VerySmallKitchen to do are full of phrases like “presents the work itself.”



Sandra Huber, Sleep/ Writing/ Rooms, VSK Project, 2011



M:The right relationship – delete “balance” – of work, ideas, process, context, scene, project, theory, conversation, space, again and again, away from noun in the direction of noun, then away…

A:Who doesn’t want to read work in this way. Who doesn’t want to show work in this way. Presenting avant-garde writing as web norm, like porn or trolls. An old friend gets back in touch and asks in an email:


Are you VerySmallKitchen? No idea what you’re talking about but it looks great.


L:VerySmallKitchen operates on my reading habits. It successfully cultivates a practice of reading widely and closely in specific fields, whilst removing the need to consume others cultural agendas as primary. Or: I read less mainstream art magazines lately.

L:VerySmallKitchen becomes a way of cultivating affinity, articulating specific models of practice that underly and connect related projects, such as AND Publishing, X Marks the Bökship, Intercapillary Space, and the  Maintenant reading series and interview project…

K:In the VerySmallKitchen I understand why Ian Hamilton Finlay called his garden Little Sparta, barricaded himself in, and declared war on the Scottish arts council…

I:Which (K) is an attempt to articulate how personal and emotional are our individual definitions and activities of “publishing.”

T:That, really, I am saying “football” and you are saying “oxyrynchus.” Although there are other times when I am saying “oxyrynchus” and you are saying “football.”

C:I’ve been excited to read a study of expanded paperbacks that, in The Medium is the Massage and I Seem To Be A Verb,  found a dynamic, text-image, film inspired form for the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller. I think a VerySmallKitchen should work in this way…

H:VerySmallKichen is also non-virtual exhibitions, readings, and discussions but the blog is where its mix of work and idea, of individual writer in relation to contemporary and historical contexts (including the blogs own resources and structures), can be most effectively attained.

E:For each short lived magazine or blog, there are others – such as Coracle – that become life long projects. To commit to a project is to move away from other models of doing things, towards a clearer sense of yourself as model and critique.

N:The VerySmallKitchen begins when a space of practice is sensed. This can be understood as a landscape or an architecture, but the only guide to that larger structure is individual writings and art works that demonstrate and propose.






An Endless Supply, Curwen Sans type specimen (An Endless Supply, 2012).

Paul Buck, a public intimacy (a life through scrapbooks) (Book Works, 2011)

Bulletins of The Serving Library #2 (Dexter Sinister, Fall 2011).

Jeffrey T.Schnapp and Adam Michaels, The Electric Information Age Book: McLuhan/ Agel/ Fiore and the Experimental Paperback (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012).





Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age (Columbia University Press, 2011).

Christian Hawkey, Ventrakl (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010). See also the wider editorial project of the DOSSIER series in which this title appears.

Pierre Joris ed and trans. Exile Is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader  (Black Widow Press, 2012).





A number of writings, by myself and others, offer further perspective on VerySmallKitchen as (fictional) character and container, how this might unfold editorial method and the workings of invitation:



(1)SOME OF THE HARDEST PLACES TO MAKE BOTH EFFICIENT AND BEAUTIFUL, a project for the Swedish webzine Valeveil, which includes:


…talk about a traffic flow nightmare!
The fridge is big
and the stove is in the wrong place so you have …

…talk about a traffic flow nightmare!


Most of these kitchens
are not really small. … Ahh….. in my area,
these are

really small kitchens!


my kitchen is very small, but that doesn’t mean …

very little kitchen best small kitchen very small
ants kitchen
                very small kitchen ideas


(B)A text by Ladies of the Press on the figural (jam-) notion of a Very Small Kitchen:


Necessity for selection, cannot have 100s of jars of jam if you have one shelf and one table, one chair one spoon, plate, cup and so on.  This is what you might end up with if you use Haiku as inspiration for interior design. Economy of means. And intimacy. How many of us can actually fit into a very small kitchen at any one time? It says something about the type of relations that contingently have to happen in a very small kitchen. And activities. Like cooking, eating, and talking.






So far the eShelf alphabet is:







Ghost Knigi

How to Sleep Faster

if:book uk

Je Suis une Bande de Jeunes


Lozen up

The Metapress

New Models for Publishing


Preston is my Paris

Publication Studio


A new project is added each day.




Tamarin Norwood, These Are Not Poems, installed at I AM NOT A POET, 2011



NOTE: This post was written as an announcement for the night at X Marks the Bökship on 9th May 2012. It is also VerySmallKitchen’s preparation and script/score for the presentation itself, where, as with other eShelf projects, a talk is accompanied by the websites projection on the wall of the Bökship…




Now visit the eShelf.






In Uncategorized on September 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm



Long hand Sue Tompkins

LemonMelon 2011 \ £25 \ Softback \ 74pp \ 29.7 x 42 cm \ ISBN 978 1 908260 00 0 \ Limited edition of 250 copies



Involving music, performance, the typed, handwritten and exhibited word, Sue Tompkins practice has nonetheless remained resistant to the book. Although individual performances are formed from thick folders of loose pages, none of these have so far been bound and published in their entirety. If Tompkins gallery work can involve careful sequences of typed sheets, these too haven’t made the transition to chapbook or monograph.

When sequences have made it into print, they are often viewed in relation to performance. [1] The editors of F.R.David preface an extract from “Elephants Galore” by noting “the problematic nature of representing uttered words in space on a two dimensional page”, particularly when the page-stage relationship is “transitory” and any single  inflection is “instructed, or a matter of whim or chance.” Which asks whether Tompkins work – involving various stages of language on a page – can find a book form that doesn’t point forward and back, illustrative of both past and future vocalisations.

Such questions can now be explored through Long hand, the 76 page A3 publication published by LemonMelon, whose structure and contents were determined through a collaboration of the artist and LemonMelon publisher Marit Muenzberg, who together refined a fixed, bound sequence of pages out of an initial blue Blantex ring binder full of loose, handwritten notes. These “prototype” pages (typed up for gallery works or the folders used in performance) here become the end product.

Open Long hand’s large pages and words appear on the recto only, excepting one appropriately turned around page on which is written “Reverse the System.” Green lined paper with a margin, although Tompkin always writes across lines. Scrawled texts, giving the impression of a swift, one take composition (actually some pages were re-written for legibility). Sometimes dense word patternings that, like the unwieldy book object and having to decipher handwriting, delay and uphold.




Whilst thinking about Long hand, I go and see Tompkins perform Hallo Welcome To Keith Street at the Hayward Gallery as part of the British Art Show, then later at the National Portrait Gallery for Electra’s Dirty Literature festival. The “same” piece in that the folder of sheets is the same, but each time a different set of decisions about what and how to read.




On a white plinth is a folder of pages each (it seems, we can’t see it) containing some written mark. Both performances see Tompkins work through the pages via an up-down bobbing rhythm of her body, forwards and away from/to plinth and text. At the Hayward inparticular, Tompkins is absorbed into her rhythm, but also open to the room, smiling at people she knows in the audience, checking who is coming in and moving around the busy space.

The spoken language unfolds out of the body, produced by its rhythms, but also having its own rhythm, which has to be mediated by the body. Maybe that tension explains the jerkiness of her physical movement. Language that, in the blurb for Long hand, Tompkins describes as “thoughts, statements, views, descriptions, feelings, emotions and things that are triggered by actual events.” In performance that also becomes a matter of timing, speech to song, formed thought and flickering synapses, mother and child…

Then Tompkins doesn’t move up and down, stands at the plinth, reads a few sentences for maybe 20 seconds. It would be a big surprise if such moments continued. Too fixed, too wholly written language, too Poetry, unmoving, which this has no desire to be, for long, if at all.




Long hand, then, elucidates Tompkins practice of the page by fixing it, closing it, however temporarily, for (her and our) consideration, doing this by not being a text that is comparable to a performance, so that language can itself be the focus (although if you go to a gig afterwards you will recognise a few pages, and there is an aspect of this book that is sampler, selected or reader).

I tried copying out texts as I read, but quickly wondered what exactly am I copying out? Each word and page is inseparable from its hand written shape, gesture, and rhythm, from its collaboration with that (long) hand (and there is a definite liking of lo———–ng letter strokes). Take two succeeding pages, both with the words Go and On, their written difference akin to two variant speakings.

Written in one take or not, the text as read asserts a present. It feels against this to go searching for art historical sources, seeing here the automatic, ascemic, found or spell (Hiller, Michaux, Porter, Artaud…), but I find them all inhabiting the space of these large pages (that perform for the reader idea of a notebook). Long hand as inhabiting Caroline Bergvall’s notion of “the midden, the middling, the middle, the meddle” of language. [2] Or, as on one page here would prefer to put it: “I know that sound/ HIYA.”




I’m listening to an online recording of a concert by Life Without Buildings, the Glasgow band for which Tompkins provided vocals. It is hard to make out the words of the vocals, but the tone seems clear. It sounds angrier, edgier than the two Tomkins performances I’ve seen, which have been friendly and open, the performer evidently pleased when the audience laughs, appealing to the audience through self-absorption not direct challenge.

This may be age (LWB folded in 2002) but it is also partly the band and the different dynamics of music gigs. Instead of the band there is now a lot of people in the National Portrait Gallery, uniformly sober, quiet, polite, and seated. Maybe the book is inbetween rock gig and NPG. Without an immediate audience to worry about texts can explore an unsociableness. There’s a life of this book, too, as object, sealed in its plastic wallet…




In an article on Karl Homlqvist, Melissa Gronlund argues the charisma of Homlqvist’s performances give his texts a coherence, whilst books and exhibitions reveal their fragmentary nature. [3]  In contrast, Tompkins performance style dissolves the text into an entwining of everyday discourses – overheard comments, half formed thoughts, lists, instructions, talking to oneself, questions – never settling at or allowing one page to overly determine the next, breaking off the sonic flow at points where Holmqvist continues.

In the less fleeting book, Tompkins gives up her control of what we encounter and at what rhythm and speed (such statements about the book immediately make me think if the opposite is also possible!). I am left to interpret the written marks themselves, which stresses a consistency of form, opens up an array of more literary interpretive procedures, although hand-ness cautions against this…



Long hand’s language includes: a celebration of a misalignment with the wor(l)d “pespi pespi pespi”; a working out -“BEAR HUG,” centred page bottom- of how the non-verbal moves into letter form and page space; repetition as  nervous tic, stop-start, careful working out of languages permutational possibilities “picking first/ stopping to pick first/ pick/ pick first.”




I took Long hand out of its plastic wallet, then stood trying to read it like a broadsheet newspaper. That scale is important – the size of the sheets would make them unwieldy and somewhat parodic in Tompkins usual performance style, page size and two staples deny such  return. (Large) Page as obstructive membrane, where sound and movement break apart “ha       aaa”.

The title explores this on the level of word and phrase, a familiarity whose weight and emphasis begins to be twisted (that capital L, both word forms rising), then encountering each reader’s varying assumptions about the meaning of capitals, line or placement. A totem of this new space declares, denies, celebrates, erases, sulks, escapes, clarifies, insists, protests, stops:


I wasn’t anywhere
I wasn’t being anywhere
I wasn’t





[1]  See for example, Sue Tompkins, “Elephants Galore (extract)” in F.R.David, The ”Stuff and Nonsense” Issue, Winter 2008, 204-213, and “The London Section was in stereo” in Cathy Lane ed. Playing with words: The spoken word in artistic practice CR1SAP/ RGAP, 2008), 120-124.

[2] Caroline Bergvall, Meddle English: New and Selected Texts (Nightboat Books, 2011), 5.

[3] Melissa Gronlund, “Karl Holmqvist: Making Space” in Afterall 25, Autumn 2010,91-97.


This is the first of a series of essays written as part of VerySmallKitchen’s residency at X Marks the Bökship from Sep to Dec 2011.