this is a recording / a record / drop your needle eye on the first side / page turns into track / text into groove / needle eye unsounds the words / the recording site-cite is playable-readable / this recording of silence is not silent / prefers to stay stuck in the empty groove / the mutic groove / an absent presence / prompted tense / skips across the surface of time / dj tacet / to turn, or even, to levitate / a nothing dot containing everything / infinite revolutions per minute / reduce, revolve, recycle, return, remember / then flip the record over / unsounds continue / shut down and up / site of conversation underpinned by a mute spindle / signing singing / verbiage ad infinitum / stare still stop / impossible tactics for immortality / locked end groove / eye needle is stuck / endless repetition of the final word /
SIDE 1/TRACK 1/ I wish I would shut up. Silence epitomizes the prescriptive. Once silence is beckoned by sound, it is deneutralized and split into the silencer and the silenced. This cleavage enables us to consider mutism as that paradoxical state where silence amplifies the volume of the relation. Shut up. Mutism speaks silence full blast; it adjoins Morton Feldman with Merzbow, Beckett with Busta Rhymes. Honk if you love silence. Mutism is silence’s honk, it tailgates silence.
I wish I would shut up—a terse and acerbic performative, a reduction, a silencing, but one which does not concern you, at least not directly. Here the silencer is also the silenced. This is certainly less brash, less oppressive and violent than the more often heard Shut up! Emphasis there is on the imperative muzzle. When I wish it upon myself as a call for self-restraint, self-censorship, I perform a voicing that seeks to shut itself. Oftentimes this self-admonishment is heard only internally, just as Shut up! is probably secretly desired infinitely more often than it is verbalized. To posit taciturnity as a tactical wedge between the silencer and the silenced is not to increase the distance between the two but to activate their entwining, to accent the turn in taciturn.
In this context, the figure of the taciturntablist that I shall depict here is of an agent who posits the taciturn in its active mode. This is a space which turns on itself, space that revolves and convolutes. A state of spin where one can turn the table and disturb, however meekly, the parameters of a given discourse, instilling epistemic shifts at the level of hairline fractures. Reticent revolutionaries, taciturntablists are more tinycore than hardcore, they make their mark by erasing themselves, they never have to tell themselves to shut up, for us to hear the merest diminutive peep, they have to tell themselves to Speak up!.
/TRACK 2/ The taciturn individual not only keeps silent but keeps silence, that is, instills the space of the relation with a silence that must be kept. Bartleby’s I would prefer not to delineates a space of repeated refusal, which, among other things, negates defining the space of work to accommodate his employer’s agenda or tune. The form of the utterance is of import in Melville’s short story, its parsimonious politeness jars by embedding the absoluteness of the refusal in a phrase that eschews confrontation. This is the mark of the taciturn: indifferent stealth counters the affront. The story concludes with an articulation about what intertwines the effaced Bartleby, former subordinate clerk at the Dead Letter Office, with the imperative faces in his face: “On errands of life these letters speed to death.” These letters are sent, but miss their mark. Their death is not on arrival, they never arrive. They communicate their failure to communicate; as Giorgio Agamben observes of Bartleby, “What hampers communication is communicability itself; humans are separated by what unites them.” Bartleby’s errand is to speed to death, both himself and any message that would slow him down in the process. Pointedly, those interruptive messages are, more often than not, the ones that speak of Bartleby’s obsession with explaining himself.
In a comparative register, Jean-Pierre’s mutism in Nathalie Sarraute’s play Le silence becomes the object of consternation for the other four characters. They cannot accommodate the contrarian, the contradictory presence that separates and unites them as exemplified by Jean-Pierre. His interventions towards the end of the play further accentuate an aspect of the laconic temperament that Bartleby exemplified: impassivity. Jean-Pierre’s only two entries in the conversation relish in the perfunctory: “By Labovic?” and shortly after “Labovic, you said? Who’s the publisher?” These retorts are witty in their insignificance and they show that the taciturn is not necessarily malicious, but simply… prefers not to. In this case, he prefers to ignore the play’s entire focus on his mutism by waiting for the final moments to nonchalantly interject a mundane question. His participation is akin to the rather impossible scene of a parked car honking at another parked car; idleness making itself known.
/TRACK 3/ A site of predilection for these displays of laconic exchange is the table. In Beckett’s Ohio Impromptu, there is a syncope of knocks on the table, the Listener interrupts the Reader with a knock at seemingly random intervals, but the Reader continues, moving forward but also returning to the phrase “Seen the dear face and heard the unspoken words.” We could conceive of this Listener as a proto-DJ, with the rudimentary technique of knocking the needle off the record and interrupting the play of the reading (or the reading of the recording). And in this repetitive hearing of unspoken words, we can discern a turntablism avant la lettre, one that portmanteaus itself with ‘taciturn’, one that also echoes Burroughs’s proposition that the ‘cut’, the ‘edit’ has the potentiality to leak the future. A taciturntablism in which the act of taciturning turns the unspoken into heard words, though still skipping the stage of them being spoken—for presence here is not consequent of liveness, but symptomatic of deadness. Beckett’s plays often seem to be transmissions from a post-mortem space, or a space where time is at a standstill. In Ohio Impromptu, the cut is stuck, what it leaks has no tense. A recording is precisely the instantiation of this temporal quagmire—its supposed fixity is pure fabrication. In fact the recorded object, in its capacity to always become a playable object, to be played back, is continually re-quoting the past and thereby resituating it in a future that becomes present when the needle drops and finds the groove.
This potentiality, this becoming, culminates in the famous tense scrambler uttered by Poe’s M. Valdemar: “I am dead.” As Allen S. Weiss elucidates in Breathless, this enunciation’s inconceivability is double, first, simply, the dead do not speak. Secondly, it is uttered by an airless voice: it is not produced by a set of lungs. Jean-François Lyotard’s notion of a “mutic beneath music” is a useful theoretical term at this juncture. Lyotard speaks of a sonorous gesture, an unheard sound which, “having no teeth, it has neither vocal chords nor phonatory activity […] this breath does not speak, it moans […] though inaudible, this breath still makes a sound. It sounds deafly […] The breath is a wind, a flatus, of terror: one is going to be no more.” For Beckett it was the hearing of unspoken words, for Lyotard it is the unheard breath one hears within and through music, it is “the sound death makes in the living body.” In other words, a death rattle is the soundtrack, or more fittingly, the unsoundtrack; and the taciturntablist’s headphones are jacked in on this tuneless tune. I am dead is the moment where the record stays stuck and still, and the only thing alive is the machine, the turning table, electricity juicing it up, spindling its mutic rendition of a post-mortem ontology.
/TRACK 4/ In the audio piece The structural analysis or playing methods of a recording based on the difference between movement and continuation of the needle as an observation point (1993), Jio Schimizu contrives the taciturntablist act par excellence. Intervening in the manufacturing process (the cutting of the actual vinyl), he restricts the needle of the cutting machine, which usually inscribes a continuous groove from outer edge to centre, to a single point: “with this record, the cutting machine was not rotated, but rather the cutting needle was left in one place, recording for several minutes. Accordingly, the grooves of this record, making a continuous sound, exist as a point (dot).” When the resulting vinyl is played, the turntable reverts to a mere table, as if on idle, at zero RPM. On CD, the recording of the nonturningtable with the needle boring into that single recorded point, once magnified, once stretched, becomes nonetheless a line that circles—the point unfolds and acquires duration. In this instance the point extends to 4’33″; for this duration, Schimizu’s piece spins in my CD player, taciturning, and thoroughly unchallenging my speakers—they are not impressed. Nothing is heard, or almost nothing, the record player with the needle on that persistent point emits the barest presence, it is on but has nothing to say. I hear a faint hum, the feeblest rumble, my ears seem to recognize the air the turntable plate barely disturbs. The duration of four minutes and thirty-three seconds should not surprise, since Cage this has become the default duration of silence. On this recent CD collection of works in honour of Cage’s 4’33″ titled 45’18″, Schimizu de-grooves the record to further reduce Cage’s 4’33″, he manages to reduce a sideways contraction from nothing, towards further nothings.
Schimizu is one of several conceptual artists who focus on the taciturntable—the turntable at its zero degree: Christian Marclay, Joseph Beuys, Janek Schaeffer, Martin Tétreault, Raymond Gervais, Paul de Marinis, Otomo Yoshihide, Milan Knizak (several of whom participated in the ground breaking Broken Music exhibition in 1989) have all spun the table around an axis of empty. In an essay on Marclay, Douglas Khan speaks of Marclay’s objects as containing residual sounds, “a residual sound may be incredibly raucous but no actual vibrations will occur.” The taciturn’s range of reticence, from mute to sotto voce, resides in this residual. These taciturntablists amplify the idled speech of silent machines. In their hands, turntables are sorting machines for the Dead Letter Office; they circulate rather than communicate. Now as refuse, they refuse as a matter of preference, they become Bartleby turntables.
Granted, most turntablists are anything but reticent, dexterity is the skill on display. But remember musicians are not the topic of discussion here, it is muticians—to continue with Lyotard’s term: aciturntablists, not turntablists. Not the finite parameters of a DJ set, but the endless machinations of artists bent on erasure, effacement and disappearance. That being said, the taciturntablist does not eschew turntables, rather is likely to divert them from their usual usage or refer to them in oblique ways. An instance of the latter is Super Infinity (2002) by Dave Dyment and Roula Partheniou. In this short film, sideways letraset number 8s are adhered to Super 8 leader tape; leader tape is the place and moment in a film where one usually sees a countdown and by definition, a precursor to the actual content. Here the leader is an end(less) in itself. Its letraset infinity 8s are jagged, fragile, ephemeral and prone to breakage, and the countdown is a constant addition of infinities, they perform their overstatement of an infinity in excess of itself.
Now, these sideways 8s also uncannily resemble the standard DJ setup—two turntables side-by-side ready to be mixed. In essence, the additive principle of a mix is to mark an infinite set of possibilities. By mixing, the DJ can seamlessly stitch time and conceivably produce not only a continuous soundtrack, but an infinite one. In other words, it is a loop, less in the sense of repetition than of a non-teleological machine: It never began and will never end. We are stuck in a priori territory, before sound, before image, before language: inchoate, looped and immersed in the silence before words, a space that recurs and haunts once words are uttered in the gap between signs, a super space, in which emptiness is charged with the weight of its incommensurability.
To conclude side 1 of this record, another loop of note, this one more cheeky, foregrounds the epitome of what emerges in a space beyond/beneath/between words: a body. The loop is a performance by Claude Wampler, Knit Tease (1996), in which she knits a dress out of the dress she is wearing, while Danny Rose’s The Stripper plays repetitively on a turntable beside her.
The knitting results in a dress while it simultaneously performs an undress. Four hours later the new dress is ready to be worn, replacing the dress that no longer exists. And it is ready to be unknitted in turn. And so on. With this loop, the knitting needles and the hands guiding them collapse, erase, record and playback heads into one action. There is a strict economy in this seemingly purposeless copying, such is the tease of endlessness, which by definition is not linear, but moves straightforward (in all directions). The action remains subtle, understated, taciturn, but the tease is never in doubt.
SIDE 2/TRACK 1/ Abbé Dinouart’s 1771 treatise L’art de se taire (The Art of Shutting Up) culminates with a wish that his advice will be heeded by philosophers, for what is at stake is no less than “the glory of God, the tranquility of the State, the good of society and the purity of mores.” His principles of reticence are fueled by a deep suspicion of all forms of incontinence, “It is in silence that Man is most strongly in possession of himself. Outside of it, he seems to spread outside of himself and dissipate in discourse, so that he is less to himself than to others.” The wanton expenditure of verbiage is to be averted because it causes inconsistencies, in the somatic sense. Silence is equated with containment, restraint—leakage is to be avoided. Porosity is denied to ensure the valence of glory, tranquility, good, purity. Plutarch seems to suggest the same in his recounting of Heraclitus’s foray into performance art: when the citizens asked Heraclitus to speak on the subject of harmony, he stepped onto the podium, took a glass of cold water, sprinkled it with flour, stirred it with a mint leaf, drank it and left. Concord, it seems, is best served by silence; disagreement only arises out of attempts to agree, cohabitation is more likely to succeed when the conversation is kept to a minimum. Heraclitus deadens the addressed letter; perhaps the most apt response to the citizenry’s koan. The question, of course, is whether one can conceive of cohabitation without conversation. “Our conversations are articulated on the outside, on rupture,” Chantal Thomas states in her introduction to 18th century texts on conversation, this time those by Swift and Morellet, “they integrate the misspoken, the unsaid, the mistake, not in order to elide them but in order to mould them into springboards.” Thomas goes on to speak of the rhythm that is born out of the vertiginous leap off the springboard and into the sharing of words that “constitutes one of the strong moments of existence.” Thus the condition of possibility for this ebullience, this liveliness, is that series of disarticulations and inarticulations, which do not undermine but underpin the articulations that aggregate into conversation.
In this catapult mode where one is thrust to the outside while anticipating a recoil, we find the taciturntablist immersed in the conversation’s contraption, inducing a blockage or at least a stutter in the machine’s proper propulsive functioning. Bergman’s 1963 film The Silence can be viewed as an extended treatise on blockage of the voice apparatus. Here conversations are more than clipped by silence, they exude a mute rhythm and mutate into syncopated silences. “Esther puts her hand to her mouth as if to stifle a scream,” she is a translator, impervious to the heat, in fact, she’s cold, dying, she moans and whimpers. Her burning is inside, the bite of frost. Anna, her sister, is sweltering, she’s carnal, “she sits with sweating thighs wide apart,” she cannot bear being inside. From a stifling train compartment bringing them home, to a stopover in the hotel room of an unknown town with an unknown language (a language Esther cannot translate), the outside in the film is experienced through the intermediary of windows. The window keeps out and translates. Anna leaves the hotel for some air, and in a nearby cinema, she observes a couple having sex in a back corner, “the [man’s] throat [is] extended and the big Adam’s apple raises itself in a lump, as if it was about to burst through the thin tegument of skin.” The tension between the two sisters is deeply sexual, it remains largely unspoken, enclosed, and unresolved. They personify both ends of the taciturntablist’s palette, they are the sexualized staging of Ohio Impromptu.
Probing in the same vein, Plutarch speaks of a certain Anacharsis who would sleep with his left hand protecting his sex, and the right over his mouth, he estimated that the tongue needed a more solid censor, lock, cover. The adage to Know Thyself fails in the face of what we might do, of instances where action precedes knowledge. Words escape. They act up and out. And most often their means of escape is through the hands; as Freud’s memorable remark attests: “If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingers; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.” The fingers can hold back, hold on, hold out but they would much rather reach out, reach in, reach for. Appropriately, Esther, upon arriving in this country with a foreign language, decides the first thing she should learn is the word for ‘hand’ (Kasi). What the sisters in The Silence would probably tell Anacharsis is that one needs both hands in both places if one wishes success in continence. The impossibility of this scenario is supported by the following anecdote: Bergman had originally planned to title the film Timoka, an Estonian word he had seen in book and thought sounded good. Later he found out that the word means “slated for execution:” no doubt, in retribution for deeds committed by hands. With this we return to our funereal post office, site of all those arrested missives, dead ends and blind spots. The censoring drive is no match for the lascivious impulse. Eros and Thanatos subsume stasis at every turn.
In this condition, the taciturntablist would seem to fall on the side of the censor, the silencer. But the taciturntablist is primarily an agent who operates in that undertow of the relation, who converses through silence as opposed to against it. That is to say, the taciturntablist dwells in that dead zone where we are separated by what unites us. This dead zone functions like a blind spot, l’angle mort. The blind spot, punctum caesura, is the point where the retina does not transmit any sensation, the point where the optic nerve enters the eyeball. One could thus posit that seeing through the blind spot bypasses the eye, immerses seeing within a spatio-temporal relationship. In other words, the pointing that the point performs responds to an ontological matter, to a desire to see beyond, or in spite of it.
/TRACK 2/ When Tom Friedman embarked upon signing his name with a pen until the ink ran out in Untitled(1990), he could have opted to follow any form or direction, but he went in circles, thereby effectively inscribing his name as a record, as grooves that eventually fade as the pen dries out and the recording of his name approaches the centre. Tom Friedman is less and less Tom Friedman as the grooves of signatures fade, as his volume depletes, as his meticulous perseverance is confronted by the finitude of his recording device. In other words, Tom Friedman dies out. A certain morbidity, I am dead, returns and is now a matter of record. By way of this inscription, the signatory paradoxically achieves immortality.
Another trait of the taciturntablist manifests itself in Friedman’s act: patience. Or what I would call, a certain weight of presence. A weight, a wait, await. Not for Godot, merely for the passing of the needle, in other words, the passing of the present.
Sharing this track with Friedman is another instance of heightened patience, Abramovic and Ulay’s Nightsea Crossing, which they performed for sixtynine days over the course of six years (1981-1987). Each of those days consisted in sitting motionless and mute for seven hours, facing each other at either end of a rectangular table. Here the taciturn table is still, imperturbable, the circulation occurs in a different register, as they articulate in the following statement:
Being present, over long stretches of time,
Until presence rises and falls, from
Material to immaterial, from
Form to formless, from
Instrumental to mental, from
Time to timeless.
The taciturntablist’s tactic that emerges here is a fade from known to unknown, a slippage to the outside, which is focused yet remains indiscernible, a sketch of infinitesimal infinity.
/TRACK 3/ The attempt to memorize and recite the entire Iliad, the peculiar exploit of a ‘retired businessman’ featured in Gregory Whitehead’s radio piece Dead Letters (1985) is pertinent here. The work does not refer to Bartleby explicitly, although Whitehead is an avowed Melville aficionado, but the absolutist engagement with quotation at play in the ‘retired businessman’ resembles Bartleby’s steadfast renditions of what Deleuze dubs ‘the formula’. The scrivener reduces himself to his own quote, I prefer not to, and for Deleuze, Bartleby’s otherwise silent demeanor is “as if he said everything and exhausted language at the same time.” This paradoxical state of excess is echoed by the project of the ‘retired businessman’: “That’s my means of achieving immortality: attaching myself to a vehicle which is in itself immortal.” The immortality of Homer’s text rubs off on the one who quotes it; and this taciturntablist undertakes—literally, ‘takes under’—an endeavour that consists in letting himself be swallowed up by the Illiad’s current. This is a project of transgressive circulation not of communication (unless communication with death, with the dead is to be included), an attempt to reach immortality by way of rote. In the case of the ‘retired businessman,’ the arduousness of the task causes him to falter not only during the enterprise itself (understandably) but it also seems that his capacity to speak at all is being eroded and subsumed into this mnemonics of immortality:
Well, the Iliad has twenty-four books. And memorizing them is like filling twenty-four buckets with water. Buckets which have many holes in the bottom, like a strainer or a colander. You fill book bucket number one, then you go to book bucket number two, and the water starts flowing out a little more slowly than you put it in out of book bucket one. You finish bucket two and you go on to bucket three, then you look back and bucket one is almost empty, so you have to go back and fill it up again. Then the same with book bucket two, and, and, and then you go on to three and four. Now each time you go back and fill up a bucket, you plug one of the holes, in effect. So that thereafter the water flows out a little more slowly. Finally when you’ve been back many, many times, you’ve plugged up all the holes, but there’s still a little seepage, and you will constantly have to repair that, repair those plugged holes to prevent seepage.
Continuously disoriented, endlessly remixed; myriad passages leak out of the buckets back onto the page. As Benjamin comments on the subject of citations: they contain not “the strength to preserve but to cleanse, to tear out of context, to destroy.” A violent cleansing; one predicated by destruction, in constant need of repair, irreparable. Always taking in water, always sinking and swimming. Such an immortal tome, as arguably one of those strong moments of existence, is able to produce an undertow that not only drives existence, but also arrests it, crashes down on it.
The formidable verbiage that these recordings produce would seem antithetical to the sensibility of the taciturn: however, we are referring neither to sensibility nor symptomatology, but rather to a technique, a tactic, a subterfuge.
/TRACK 4/ The turntable spins forward, the needle reads I wish I would shut up, then the record is spun backwards and Shut up! is heard. The reverse is not quite faithful, it cheats and inserts the imperative muzzle. At least now on this table that turns, we have our mix, a deceptively simple one, a mix of singularity. That single moment in which silence is beckoned by sound, in which the silencer and the silenced are thrust into conversation—an impossible scene, enabling us to consider mutism for its lowercase power. Agamben, in true taciturntablist form, quoting from Bloch who transcribed it from Benjamin who heard it from Scholem, speaks of the “tiny displacement” that is going to be the marker of the world to come in comparison to the present one. If the shift occurs not in things but in “their sense and their limits” as he states, then we may think of the taciturntablist as the agent that inches inside the tinniness of a displacement and lays it bare, barely there, but inevitable and, once spinning, is unstoppable.
Herman Melville, Billy Budd and Other Stories, New York: Penguin, 1986, p, 46. A pertinent work that does not refer to Bartleby explicitly, although created by an avowed Melville aficionado, is Gregory Whitehead’s audio pieceDead Letters (1985). This will be discussed later in the text.
Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993, 82. The almost identical formulation also can be found in Agamben, Means Without End: Notes on Politics, trans. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino, Minneapolis: Uiniversity of Minnesota Press, 2000, p, 84. It also is useful to think of the double-sidedness of the word ‘we’ in Spanish, it can be read as ‘nosotros’ (we) or, once split, as ‘nos otros’ (our others).
Nathalie Sarraute, “The Silence” in Collected Plays, trans. Maria Jolas and Barbara Wright, New York: George Braziller, 1981, p, 106-107.
Samuel Beckett, Ohio Impromptu in The Collected Shorter Plays, New York: Grove Press, 1984.
From William Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded, New York: Grove Press, 1962. “[…] listen to your present time tapes and you will begin to see who you are and what you are doing here mix yesterday in with today and hear tomorrow your future rising out of old recording you are a programmed tape recorder set to record and play back” (213). Earlier in the same volume, Burroughs also famously stated: “Modern man has lost the option of silence. Try halting your sub-vocal speech. Try to achieve even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk” (49).
Edgar Allan Poe, The facts in the case of M. Valdemar in The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, New York: Vintage 1975, p. 101.
Allen S. Weiss, Breathless : Sound Recording, Disembodiment, and The Transformation of Lyrical Nostalgia, Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2002, p. 42-43 and passim throughout the chapter “Death’s Murmur.”
Jean-François Lyotard, Postmodern Fables, trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997, p. 226. Lyotard comes to this term through a close reading of Pascal Quignard’s concept of a ‘language beneath languages’, which Quignard develops in the Petits traités I(vol. IV, XXe traité), Paris: Gallimard, 1998.
Lyotard, p. 224-226.
Lyotard, p. 231.
See my essay “Volume (of confinement and infinity) A History of Unsound Art” in S:ON Sound in Contemporary Art, Nicole Gingras, ed. Montréal: Artexte, 2003. There I develop (albeit only in a preliminary way) the concept of an unsound art.
Interestingly, a lathe comprises a part that rotates called the live spindle, and one that does not rotate, the dead spindle.
Jio Schimizu, “The structural analysis or playing methods of a recording…” on 45’18” CD, Amsterdam: Korm Plastics, 2002.
Schimizu’s piece may also be said to be a sideways contraction from Christian Marclay’s Untitled (record without a groove), Geneva: Écart Editions LP 1987.
Block, Ursula and Michael Glasmeier, eds., Broken Music: Artists’ Recordworks, Berlin: DAAD, 1989.
Douglas Kahn, “Marclay’s Lucretian Acoustics”, Parachute 74, 1994, p. 19.
Abbé Dinouart, L’art de se taire, Paris: Jérôme Millon, 1987 , p. 94 (my translation).
Dinouart, p. 40.
Plutarch, Bavards et curieux, Paris: L’Arche, 2001, p. 29 (my translation).
Chantal Thomas, in preface to André Morellet, De la conversation, Payot & Rivages, 1995 , p. 21 (my translation).
Ingmar Bergman, “The Silence” in A Film Trilogy, trans. Paul Britten Austin, New York: Marion Boyars, 1989, p. 117.
Bergman, p. 107.
Bergman, p. 122.
Sigmund Freud, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, New York: Collier, 1963, p. 69.
A complementary discussion of mutism and tactility is developed in my essay “The Prestidigitator: A Manual” published in Flemish in the journal AS, no. 169, Antwerp, Belgium: MuKHA, 2004. It will be published in French in the next issue of the revue Le Quartanier, Montreal, no. 3,2005.
In fact, punctum is replete with evocative meanings in the Trésor de la langue française (Tome XIV, CNRS/Gallimard, 1990). In addition, there is a punctum métaphysique which is illustrated with the following extraordinary literary reference: “From this nothing, from this rudimentary embryo that is the first idea of a book, extract the punctum saliens, life from the egg, pull out from its head, one by one, the limbs of a phrase, the outline of the characters, the plot, the knot, all this animated little world out from you, sprung up from your insides, a novel—what a feat!” [De ce rien, de cet embryon rudimentaire qui est la première idée d’un livre, faire sortir le punctum saliens, la vie de l’oeuf, tirer un à un de sa tête les membres d’une phrase, les lignes des caractères, l’intrigue, le noeud, tout ce petit monde animé de vous-mêmes et jailli de vos entrailles, qui est un roman, —quel travail!] Goncourt, Journal, 1862, p.1100, (my translation). By contrast in the Littré, punctum does not merit its own entry, it is merely listed in the entry for puncticulaire, from Latin puncticulum, diminutive of punctum: point.
Tom Friedman, Tom Friedman, New York: Phaidon, 2001, p. 15.
Marina Abramovic and Ulay, “Nightsea Crossing” in Marina Abramovic, Artist Body: Performances 1969-1998, Milano: Charta, 1998, p. 258.
Gilles Deleuze, “Bartelby; or, The Formula” in Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997, p. 70.
A “retired businessman” featured in Gregory Whitehead’s audio work, Dead Letters, 1985, re-released on CD, Amsterdam: Staalplaat, 1994.
The second case of faltering, of stuttering, is particularly noticeable in the section of the piece that precedes the one quoted in the body of the text:
I have to keep in the – in my, uh, my mind those thirty-three names [of the sea nymphs who accompany Thetis, the mother of Achilles], all the time. This I do by, uh, by notice – noticing the relationships, uh, buh, be between the names, uh, noticing – noticing various peculiarities that they have, and I – I attach the names to those pec – pecu – peculiarities.
A “retired businessman” in Dead Letters.
Walter Benjamin in Hannah Arendt, “Introduction: Walter Benjamin: 1892-1940” in Illuminations, p. 39.
Agamben, The Coming Community, p. 53.
Agamben, p. 54.