Threats & Promises

30 April 2008

Single-channel video. 58 minutes. 2008. A collaboration with Vlatka Horvat.

A man and a woman face the camera for a period of one hour and console, lure, shame, intimidate or tease each other with proposals about future things they might do. Their suggestions – playful as well as apparently sincere, either in relation to each other or in respect of the wider world – range from bringing flowers to behaving badly, from playing safe to smashing up the town.   






29 April 2008
S Hand Photo

as we stop in the shelter

of a doorway in the thunderstorm
s. holds out his hand to feel the rain

More Unimaginable

27 April 2008

Two fragments re what I wrote briefly below on things that cannot be imagined. The first from Vlatka:

"i remember coming across some guy's site – an ongoing list/catalogue he was keeping – along the lines of 'things the internet couldnt find today'. i think it started with a few things he was googling and the search came with 'sorry. no results' – type thing. and then he started trying to come up with things to type into search engines which it would produce no hits for. i dont know why this came to mind – clearly such a different universe from your 'cannot be imagined' things… but the fact that the internet cant come up with it at all, anywhere, must mean that it's somehow not imaginable…

I was also thinking about the relation of what can be imagined to what can be said – is that the same thing necessarily? as in: if you can say it, does that automatically make it imaginable… in the sense that words alone conjure it up, make it happen. or is the 'cannot be imagined' more like something that cant even be put into words… – thus your empty notebook…"

 The second from my friend A.:

Liked a lot your thoughts of the person with the two identical notebooks – especially as I am working on a book/dvd-project titled un_imaginable… I like the clarity of this from a text by Jill Bennet:

"The unimaginable materializes as a condition of shock, trauma or surprise in the face of an event that is unforeseen, hitherto unimagined. As Jacques Ranciere observes, the discourse of the unimaginable is only ever 'authorized' by the event's having happened. Paradoxically, it is named as such only once its occurrence renders it imaginable.  ….There is no recapturing a state of unimaginability; the event, once it has occurred, becomes impossible to reimagine in the terms that rendered it unimaginable.  At no point, then – before or after the fact – is unimaginability concretely knowable and representable…"

things which cannot be imagined

26 April 2008

One of those times when a thought gets into your head as you're waking and won't shake loose. Something on the edge of a dream, but in this case more a semi-conscious linguistic spiral, half-formed in the mind. The thought is of two identical notebooks, one titled/named "things that can be imagined" the other "things which cannot be imagined". As the thought (which owes some money to Borges I guess) unravels (ravels?) it's about a person with these two notebooks, constantly making notes in the former, but with the growing conviction that his best work is in the latter. I'm unclear if this second book – of "things which cannot be imagined" – is just empty or if it contains examples of in some way paradoxical or self-canceling images ("a dull light that is blindingly bright"). More likely it seems that it's empty.


Vlatka sent me a link to Wiliam Lamson's work. There's so much interesting stuff at his site I can't figure out what might be my favourite piece there – the animations/video loops are very cool – short, fragments many involving a simple action, mechanical trick or camera process that generates an enigmatic or blank event – balloons that burst each other, a foot that seems to be dragging a camera, a body that moves along the ground.


Awake for more than two hours and still wondering what I am doing exactly.

I liked the 'wrongness' of these images.

Listening to Crystal Castles, esp Alice Practice and Airwar which is helping my feeling of distraction. Also (headed in a more mellow direction) listening to Santogold.

No more shadows above, below or on either side

21 April 2008

Graham wrote, with some nice thoughts/comments following on from the stuff I posted yesterday about Sight is the Sense…

I liked your notes on the flatness of the narrative and the implications for a performer as flesh and blood archivist of that text. I read the text with a mounting hope that I wouldn't find a narrative presence in the landscape, but be trusted to be present there without signposts – and the text doesn't disappoint for that. No signs in the snow.

One of my favourite, favourite descriptions is from a letter Rimbaud wrote about crossing the Alps on foot:

"No more shadows above, below or on either side, despite the enormous objects all about. No more road, precipices, gorge or sky: nothing but white to dream, to touch, to see or not to see, since it's impossible to look up from the white botheration that one supposes to be the middle of the path….Without the shadow that one is oneself, and without the telegraph poles that mark the hypothetical road, one would be as confused as a sparrow in an oven."

I don't know whether that's more apt for performer or viewer here. Both, hopefully. Fellow travellers.

Time Based

I was excited to read about this project – TBT [Time Based Text] made by the free software programmer, media artist and activist Jaromil and conceived by Jaromil and the artists group JoDi.

"The emphasis of the software is on the process of writing/typing. TBT is a tool for time-based recording and playback of the process of typing a message, with the accuracy of milliseconds. The basic interface for typing records all typing and plays it back exactly the way the text was typed the first time, including all hesitations and misspellings. It reveals additional information on digital poetry, because the speed of typing and reading it, are visualised… The software has been kept as basic as possible, is free to use and users are encouraged to add functionalities."

In the Nettime list archive there's a short interview with Jaromil about the software which for points the way to a dynamic exploration of writing processes, especially those of editing and rewriting which I've been pursuing to a certain extent, and by other (much less technical) means in projects like Long Relay and City Changes. TBT [Time Based Text] (open source and licensed GNU GPL) can be downloaded from the TBT project page. I'll be curious to give it a go.


Meanwhile a week or two back Junot Diaz won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I was enthusing about greatly back here in January. There's a short interview with him at the Amazon blog plus an excerpt from the sci-fi novel he's now writing titled Dark America.


Loops and Ruptures

19 April 2008
Cable Loops

Watching Jim do the performance of Sight is the Sense… last night, really loving to see him there, feeling his way, negotiating the space between himself and the audience, through the eddies, flows, loops and spirals of the text.

I even liked (in a certain way!) watching him blank and seem to lose his lines a few times, which he never once did in rehearsals. On these occaisions the longer he stood there in silence the more I began to think he was in trouble. So tricky with this kind of performance text (a  long list – associative, non-narrative, slightly and confusingly repetitive) when oftentimes your ability to get from line to line rests on the place each has in the flow, and where once the flow gets broken you’re left stranded. Having some kind of intellectual/anecdotal link – a word association or stupid story to summon one line from the ending of the previous is about the best (and only) insurance policy against these stuckness situations – allowing as they do a kind of retrieval that should be possible from cold, outside the rhythmic flow of the text. In the event of the performance, even this method failed Jim at two points and he had to fish the text from his back pocket, consult it, then continue. What was very beautiful to me was seeing how well he kept his cool with this – keeping contact with the audience, taking time – pulling even the almost-rupture into a place inside the economy of his performance, making it part (somehow) of the line he was drawing in time before the spectators. No denial I guess. What is happening is what is happening.

Speaking to people about the performance I realised something I’d only half clocked before – that I really gave myself permission in this piece not to build an explicit dramaturgy in the writing. At a local level (sentence by sentence, clump of lines by clump of lines) it certainly switches things around, swapping, shifting, changing, redrawing it’s parameters. But on a broader level there are no sections, no chapters to it, no revelations of new attitude or approach, not much you could call development at all, beyond a deliberate tightening around certain topics and rhythms in the last page. (I guess there is a dramaturgy in there of course… but what there is is very flat and very fluid at the same time, a dramaturgy that arose by accident (or intuition, or habit, or process) of the writing rather than by some grand design or intention.

Insomniac Light

15 April 2008

J. describing learning lines for the Sight is the Sense… monologue, during a camping trip in Mexico. Lain sleepless in the desert, in the pitch darkness of a tent next to his daughter, using his cell phone to highlight the text – each brief illumination of the phone's screen enough time for him to read just one line, after which he'd lie there and repeat the phrase again and again, before pressing the keypad once more to find the next part. Piece by piece, the whole emerging, in green insomniac light, and silent repetition.


A friend wrote:

The meeting was a little strange, they all seemed to be really tired and half ill from all the work..

(The idea of traveling far to a meeting and on arrival finding the place very odd – the people pale, listless, the windows shut. The managing director comes out briefly but the light seems to hurt his eyes. The presentations by his underlings are nervous, distracted, unfocused. On leaving the traveller sees that the secretary has fallen asleep at her typewriter table.)

(Thinking for some reason of Herzog's Heart of Glass with all the hypnotized performers.)


Excerpt from forthcoming M.E. Smith autobiography Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E Smith at The Guardian. No doubt The Fall are the greatest band since war-time living memory etc, and as lyricist/all round difficult bastard Smith has few rivals. Perhaps because he long ago applied the cut-up technique to his own brain means that as an interview subject – or here as supposedly relaible/ 'realistic' self-portrait artist – he's not always as sharp or as insightful as his persona/s. Might trust Roman Totale's version more than this one. Some great touches though, esp Smith's childhood game 'Japanese Prisoner of War Camp'.


To Bring Down

14 April 2008
To Bring Down A House - Build Around - Tim Etchells

To Bring Down A House - Gas - Tim Etchells

Vlatka and I are showing our collaboration To Bring Down a House at Sfeir-Semler Gallery in Beirut, from April 12th – May 31st. It’s a part HOME WORKS IV: A FORUM ON CULTURAL PRACTICES which includes exhibitions, lectures, panels, dance, performances, film and video screenings, and publications. Sfeir-Semler is open 11am – 7pm. Closes on Sundays and Mondays.

Starting as an almost bare space, the room for To Bring Down a House is slowly growing into an unruly archive of proposals – some simple and enactable; others more far-fetched, absurd and playful – all suggesting different ways to destroy, attack, or otherwise ‘bring down’ a house; ways of destroying it, hauting it, making it unhomely. As an installation the piece is ‘performed’ or animated from a distance, as Vlatka (from New York) and me (from Sheffield, Vienna, Essen etc according to my ludicrous travel schedule) continually send new material by fax and email to be added to the work. The installation changes daily as more than a hundred collages, drawings, instructions and texts are added over the course of the exhibition, pinned to the walls by gallery staff. A couple of the new collages I’ve done are included above. I’m really liking a certain scrappy devil-may-care photoshop approach – more an attitude than a techique! I love the scraps of random background/noise copy-pasted by accident and repeated/left in place in the second image for example.

To Bring Down a House in Beirut is a new incarnation of the project originally created for the Protections exhibition in Kunsthaus Graz, fall 2006.


Coming soon. Jim Fletcher and I are heading to Vienna on Saturday where we present the work-in-progress/monologue piece Sight is the Sense that Dying People Tend to Lose First. Performance is at TQW/Halle G on Saturday night at 20.30. The performance is preceded by a video screening I’ve organised including great work from Vlatka, Jakup Ferri, Neil Goldberg, Mladen Stilinovic, Ivan Moudov and Anna Witt.

The Activity of Sound

4 April 2008

Somewhere back at the start of this notebook I wrote about a youTube clip of John Cage in action on some TV 1950's gameshow talking about and then performing a composition called Water Walk.

A few days ago I came across another amazing youTube clip of Cage, this one from an interview in a 1992 documentary by Miroslav Sebestik. It works best when you hear and see him – he has such warmth and delight when speaking about sound, but the start of the clip I really loved and wanted to transcribe.

 "When I hear what we call music it seems to me that someone is talking and talking about his feelings or about his ideas or his relationships. But when I hear traffic, the sound of traffic here on 6th Avenue for instance, I don't have the feeling that anyone is talking. I have the feeling that sound is acting. And I Iove the activity of sound. What is does is it gets louder and quieter and it gets higher and lower and it gets longer and shorter. It does all those things which I've.. I'm completely satisfied with that – I don't need sound to talk to me."