February 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
David Lynch, “David Lynch Presents: Ruth, Roses and Revolver,” Arena (BBC), 1987
I think films should have a surface story, but underneath it there should be things happening that are abstract; there are things that resonate in areas that words can’t help you find out about [via].
February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
William H. Gass, “The Hovering Life,” The New York Review of Books 11 January 1996
…But this book was created to be incomplete, and if it had an end it would not be finished. …For a time, in Musil’s youth, he had been a librarian, and soon he needed his knowledge of indexes and files in order to remember what he’d done, to find where he was, and keep track of all the creatures of his invention. The risk of conclusion increased in company with his desire to call it quits, since the novel was for Musil life itself by this time, and pulled on weary acceptance like a pair of familiar trousers and wore fastidious revulsion for its party shirt. …Postponement was the plan; so, in addition to his additions, he revised, held portions back, wrote over proofs until every unprinted space was also dark, made alternative drafts of scenes and chapters, mourned whatever bit of text he had let escape from his fanatical concern for exact analysis to reach the embarrassment of print; because Musil polished not to achieve a finish or a shine, but (like every perfectionist) to accomplish the inconclusive — caught, as he was, in a race which only Zeno of Elea could have charted — edging closer and closer to assassination time, that other August, near enough perhaps to feel the first guns go off, but not close enough to hear in them the clap of doom.
February 4, 2014 § 1 Comment
Ujana Wolf, “Whiting Out, Writing In, Or a Technique for Recording the Migratory Orientation of Captive Texts,” Asymptote October 2013
… Erasure, the reworking of found or selected texts by erasing most of the words, be it with the aid of correction fluid, ink, painting over or leaving out, oscillates between sabotage and homage, vandalism and reanimation. In Jen Bervin’s Nets, for example, all the words of the original text — Shakespeare’s sonnets — are still legible, yet most of them are printed in grey, almost faded away. They form a net, a shadow text, which can support the remaining words or at any moment lay itself protectively over them, as if they wanted to emerge briefly or themselves join in the disappearance. This curious tension is common to all erasures, the appearance of disappearance; they foreground — like concrete, experimental, lyrical, or language poetry — the materiality of language, of every single letter. They know that the space on the page is party to a text’s writing, a valve to let off steam, a white that structures silence, physically tangible,
notationen, reproduktionen von schnee
January 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
Music is the space between the notes.
[Quoted in Jonathan G. Koomey's Turning Numbers into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving, 2001]
January 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or
If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!
January 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
Brian Dillon, “A Poet of Cloth,” Objects in this Mirror: Essays 2014
Beau Brummell is a direct precursor of the dandy Marcel Duchamp. The dandy’s intention is in fact to make the garment — like the artwork — evanesce into pure gesture, to institute something like the “threadbare look” described by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly in his essay on Brummell and dandyism. In a brief craze, says d’Aurevilly, dandies took to rubbing their clothes with broken glass, till they took on the appearance of lace, became “a mist of cloth,” scarcely existing as clothes.
January 25, 2014 § Leave a comment
Ben Lerner, “The Actual World,” Frieze 156 (June-August 2013)
… Instead of talking myself out of this (largely indefensible) distinction between the actuality of visual art and the virtuality of the literary, I’ve come to embrace it; I’ve come to think that one of the powers of literature is precisely how it can describe and stage encounters with works of art that can’t or don’t exist, or how it can resituate actual works of art in virtual conditions. Literature can function as a laboratory in which we test responses to unrealized or unrealizable art works, or in which we embed real works in imagined conditions in order to track their effects.
The traditional literary response to a nonverbal work of art is the ekphrastic poem — a poem that uses verbal art to engage a visual one. While the ekphrastic poem is in part judged by its powers of description, the thing it describes can be fiction. The classic example of ekphrasis, for instance — the description of Achilles’s shield in Homer’s The Iliad — is so elaborate as to cease to be realistic; no actual shield could contain all that detail. (This makes sense, since the shield was made by a god.) The verbal, while pretending to give life to the visual, often transcends it: words can describe a shield we can’t actually make, can’t even paint. (Just don’t take a shield made out of words into battle.) Or consider another canonical example of ekphrasis, John Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ (1820), wherein we encounter a description of an impossible music prompted by a meditation on a plastic form: ‘Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on: / Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d / Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.’ My point is that ekphrastic literature is often a virtual form: it describes something that can’t be made given the limitations of the actual world.
For me, at least at the moment, the novel, not the poem, is the privileged form for the kind of virtuality I’m describing. I think of the novel as a fundamentally curatorial form, as a genre that assimilates and arranges and dramatizes encounters with other genres: poetry, criticism and so on….
[T. J.] Clark is rigorously involved with two real canvases, of course, but the novel is a space wherein such an experiment in art writing can take place before the existence of the art itself, where an encounter can be staged between individuals and/or art works that are not or cannot be made actual. Fiction that describes encounters with artificial objects that don’t yet or can’t yet exist is usually called ‘science fiction’ — a prose that attempts to make discernable the shape of an unrealizable technological culture. But we could also organize a genre of ‘speculative fiction’ around virtual arts: Keatsian music; a painting that never dries. Writing is particularly suited to figuring what we can desire or fear but can’t (now) make, especially relative to those arts that depend on seeing.
Banishing the ‘literary’ — the temporal, the representational — from visual art was a major (if unsuccessful) 20th-century critical project. And those artists — like Judd — who moved away from traditional media altogether to real objects and real space further made the kind of virtuality I’m describing the domain of the literary. We’re often told that the figure within the work was replaced with the viewer standing before it. Ejecting the virtual from the object increased the former’s power: now it could reabsorb the object along with is viewer. Literary virtuality became the ghost of the actual, driving certain artists crazy, driving them conceptual. Perhaps we can think of contemporary artists’ increasing interest in literary techniques in part as a desire to reincorporate the power of the virtual back into their work.
So what is the power of the virtual? Michael Clune, a brilliant young literary critic, argues in his book, Writing Against Time (2013), that certain writers ‘invent virtual techniques, imaginary forms for arresting neurobiological time by overcoming the brain’s stubborn boundaries’. This isn’t something literary form can actually accomplish — Keats’s imaginary music can’t be played. Instead, Clune writes, ‘the mode is ekphrastic. These writers create images of more powerful images; they fashion techniques for imagining better techniques.’ ‘Like an airplane designer examining a bird’s wing’, the writer of the virtual ‘studies life to overcome its limits’. Clune is particularly focused on representations of works that defeat time, but we can say more generally that the virtuality of literature allows it to produce images of impracticable techniques — to open a space where the visual artist can desire and think beyond the stubborn boundaries of her materials. Instead of grounding the (often competitive) relationship of verbal and visual art in their similarity — Ut pictura poesis — I think the relationship is most fecund when writers concede the actual to artists.
January 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
John Cage, “Indeterminacy,” Silence: Lectures and Writings: 270
One day when I was studying with Schoenberg, he pointed out the eraser on his pencil and said, “This end is more important than the other.”
January 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
Brian Dillon, “The Revelation of Erasure,” Objects in this Mirror: Essays 2014
… Erasure is never merely a matter of making things disappear: there is always some detritus strewn about in the aftermath, some bruising to the surface from which word or image has been removed, some reminder of the violence done to make the world look new again. Whether rubbed away, crossed out or reinscribed, the disappeared entity has a habit of returning, ghostlike: if only in the marks that usurp its place and attest to its passing. But writing, for example, is already, long before lead hits pulp, a question of erasure, an art of leaving out. Every painting, said Picasso, is a sum of destructions: the artist builds and demolishes in the same instant. Which is perhaps what Jasper Johns had in mind when he said of Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953) that it embodied an “additive subtraction”: after a month’s sporadic destruction, and forty spent erasers, what is left is a surface startlingly alive, active, palimpsestic (pp. 307-308).
… A painting — at least a figurative painting — which is, as it were, too deep, risks becoming a glutinous mess, erasing itself by its very urge to completion. In Honoré de Balzac’s story “The Unknown Masterpiece,” the great painter Frenhofer labors for years at a picture of a young woman, until she disappears, leaving only a tiny, perfect foot looming out of the surrounding chaos: “colors daubed one on top of the other and contained by a mass of strange lines forming a wall of paint.” By unintentionally erasing his painting, Frenhofer has in effect produced the first modernist monochrome, but he has done it by larding his canvas with too much significance, not too little: excess is a form of erasure too (p. 310).
… If the erased face always conjures the image of some primal violence, the expunged word inevitably attests to a repression of some kind, whether psychological or political. In the coy ellipses with which, in the novels of the eighteenth century, readers were invited to imagine undescribed erotic adventures, on the blacked-out pages of classified documents, or in the cancelled lines of a prisoner’s censored letter, the lost word denotes the intercession of authority (p. 311).
… Two works by Joseph Kosuth, entitled Zero & Not and One (1985, 1986) point out both the psychoanalytic attitude to language and the tendency of Freud’s words to assert their authority despite our efforts to wipe them out. A Freudian text is printed on the gallery wall, then struck through with black tape, so that it is erased but still insists, remains more or less readable: its lesson — the lesson of psychoanalysis — a lesson, after all, about the impossibility of erasure — simply won’t go away (p. 312).
The fondest, least plausible dream of modernist art and literature was of a world without memory: a cultural tabula rasa from which all trace of the styles of the past had been erased. The arts of evacuation imagined by the likes of Samuel Beckett, Yves Klein, and John Cage aspired to a deliberate vacuity: a vacant stage, an empty gallery, a silent orchestra. But in each case the project is impossible: some sound, image or word will intervene to recall the world left behind.
“What we require is silence, but what silence requires is that I go on talking,” declared Cage in his “Lecture on Nothing”: the silence dreamed of by the art of the last century is always expectant, about to be spoken into. In 1996, the artist, writer, and curator Jeremy Millar interviewed the novelist J. G. Ballard, set to duplicating the tape before getting it transcribed, and accidentally erased hours of the great man’s thoughts. The ruined cassette, one long pregnant pause, could only become an artwork: Erased Ballard Interview (1996–2001). You listen, heart in mouth, just as Millar must have done, hoping that Ballard’s cultivated tones will, any second now, interrupt the hiss. And at the same time, you hear everything in this piece: the whole history of the avant-garde affair with emptiness, the dematerialization of the work of art, its evanescence into pure idea or gesture, up to an including Rauschenberg’s erasure of de Kooning’s drawing: all of it, suggests Millar’s blank tape, merely an absurd error (pp. 313-314).
Maybe the total erasure of a work of art, or the making of a work that had an utter absence at its heart, was never possible to begin with, or maybe it’s simply a fantasy to which contemporary art is no longer willing to give itself over, except playfully (p. 314). …