Presentation at the Never the Same: what (else) can art writing do? forum, September 15-17. Part of the Performing and Materialising Art Writing panel with Lisa Robertson, Mark Clintberg, and Amy Fung. Other forum participants included Chris Kraus, Joan Borsa, David Garneau, Maria Fusco, Jeanne Randolph, Helena Reckitt, amongst others. Curated by curated by Lisa Baldissera and Joanne Bristol. Presented by Contemporary Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.
In 2008 I attended the Banff International Curatorial Institute Symposium. Towards the end of the conference, Matthew Higgs used his presentation time to pass around the microphone to all the participants asking them to respond to the prompt of what part of the conference had impacted them most thus far. Attendees numbered close to a hundred, I was in the last row. So by the time the mic reached me a lot had been said, I felt the need to skip my turn without retreating altogether, to take the moment of speaking as a moment of listening, to unsay somehow. So I said “What has impacted most so far is everything that has been said up until now and all that will be said once I pass this mic.” This presentation will be an instructional on how to shut up productively. A consideration of the imperative to listen. A quieting aloud. A sonics of silence. An artist talk by a talk artist that would prefer not to. A reflection on erasure and effacement, negation and mutism. A reflection on how these states of willed nullification, and the bemusement they engender, might serve as some of the pre- and post- conditions of possibility for change, however minueted.
talk starts with a tongue sticking out
talk about one work while another is on view
talk where only partial views are provided
talk where only the audience talks
talk only in whispers and shouts
talk generously and genuinely
talk lying down
talk as if you didn’t know what you were talking about
talk to one audience member at a time
talk which is nothing more than this list of talk concepts
talk which stops talking about talks
A few years ago, I was in a similar gathering as the present one, and at one point the audience was asked what we had been struck by so far, So a microphone started being passed around inviting us to contribute, when the mic got to me I said: what has most interested me is everything that has been said up until now and everything that will be said once I pass the microphone…
This kind of Cagean erasure, or polite refusal à la Bartelby, in which one is removed from the equation by making a statement of effacement, could be submitted as an ingredient to an incipient theory of listening, and one that understands this act as a constitutive component of a community.
But this is not just a disabling disempowered mutism, it is offset by this simple act of sounding. Silence. Listening must be punctuated to be activated. And the properties of these markers are important, for the rhythm is where we encounter the pervasiveness, persistence and proliferation of the performative.
The rhythm is not always steady nor singular. It can develop an arrythmia, a stutter. Given this unsteadiness, in The Coming Community, Agamben, 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. It’s about the tiny displacement inscribed in the minuscule interstices between moments, between gestures—micro-changes, microphonics. Tiny revolutions. Tiny-core.
Everything as it is now, just a little different. In other words, the smallness of the gesture is not proportional to the scale of its potential consequence. Mark time. A mark, a hit, marking hits, I am a hit maker.
When Clarice Lispector writes: “This improvisation is” — that is the simplest and clearest, most unambiguous, of ontological statements—pointing to and asserting with the verb to be. It simply is. An example of the poetics of categorical statements, of manifesto-mode declarations—further amplified by the suggested redundancy of the words this and is. In the preceding entry from Agua Viva, she writes of a constant improvisation, one that is “always and always creating the present in the future.”
The present is the unstable tense most invoked in relation to improvisation, it’s the slippery time. “This improvisation is” — with this terse three word declaration she invites us to stay within the simplicity of the statement long enough to glean its complexity, to find the shades of meaning within the bluntness of the affirmative hit.
(((((( )))))) Soundfullessness
(((((( )))))) The Rise and Fall of the Sounds and Silences from Mars
In the beginning was the catastrophe. The walking Greeks had no tongues. So there’s such a single term to express what we mean by the word—“life”. Big, bold, raw word, wall, world. Let’s start with pleasure system face. What do, lack of commitment, Abstract Pop, weaving, Expressionism, observing, mild disdain, storytelling problems, early years, eyes and America have in common? A kind of faith in the rain outside, common singing symbols, and the cliché philosopher machine. Internationally internationally, paper paper, papier-machine, see see, we think—the things themselves. It was a mute time to burn. The moment he opens his this that. What it means to come to know when we express what we go to deep-seated “something.” One gravest figure of our day is well-dressed American “opinions” refer to a triumphed Art phenomenon that became current when natural. Departs from the inside of the ourselves formulae: think I would bed you. Women look implicated. The common two of a set from a drawing is our we man. The typing to the writing of they printer. An in for a long London tea thing with her, as is. Try to turn paper to room. Go at lives, patience.
The above is no more, no less than the first sentence and the last word of: Giorgio Agamben Homo Sacer, Jacques Rancière The Flesh of Words, Camilla Griggers Becoming-Woman, Tim Ingold Lines: A brief History, Mary Douglas Natural Symbols, Jacques Derrida Paper Machine, Martin Heidegger What is Called Thinking?, Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451, Marcel Proust In Search of Lost Time: Volume 1 Swann’s Way, Lucy R. Lippard Pop Art, Maurice Merleau-Ponty The Visible and the Invisible, Greil Marcus Lipstick Traces.
As close as we may be to finding the moment that constituted the break we are merely fooling ourselves for we are always in the break which is neither still nor silent but replete with the incessant scurries of too readily convinced, but steadfastly committed (though always compromised), communities.
As sure as I can be of what needs to be said I either can’t or won’t or simply haven’t yet because of the need to listen first and throughout and more, and again, and forever, and the conviction that that process will constantly shift what needs to be said into what needs to be unsaid.
As far as I know is not good enough, as far as you know isn’t either, for as long as we just stand there while everyone else is either working or thinking or making or doing or dying or at least trying something out, even though it’s just a naive attempt to understand the world that has stopped making any sense, or never did to begin with.
As low as you can go for as long as you can and as bad as it gets you are sure there are better times to come but you know it’ll take some work to get there or at least you hope so, but you are unsure of your ability or interest in making that happen.
As far as you can for as long as you can and as fast as you can, as if you could but you doubt you’ll be able to, or at least you never have and it would be a miracle if you ever did.
Taking up space. Moving off the page. Using sound to do it. Taking up space, marking time, shutting up, not really.
Lentil-sized bits of raw vinyl, not yet a recording, just petroleum-product, scurrying inside a balloon and now playing back on a surface-resonating speaker using the mass of various support materials for amplification.
Saussurian swirling cloud. Pre, post, portal. Punctuation marks attempting to land.