in Progress: About Face (Goan Atom, 2)
Preface: The presentation I did for Romana Huk's conference was speedy, messy, and resonant with the impact of the visual works displayed, of the quotes read. It used unfinished thoughts for prompts. It promoted the experience of other art projects and other practitioners as models for thinking about writing and the project to hand. It set itself out to be a reflection on the processes that had been animating my own thoughts at the initial stages of the second part of my ongoing project Goan Atom. In fact, as it turned out, it seemed to play a part in announcing this barely existing work.
A presentation of research as brainstorming favours the kind of associative clarity and memory jolts which much experience of art rests on. At an emotive level, it breeds an excitement and enjoyment which does not know how to think. At an intellectual level, it needs for questions to stand and for thinking to become thoughts, before any focussed or exterior involvement or commitment can actually take place.
As I again battle with the contradictions and preoccupations at the root of much of my presentation (how deep is the bride? how does one do art today? why should one? what is writing’s impact beyond the literary? how do I respond ? how do I think to respond with my work? with my life?), I know I haven’t come much “further”. Any sense of cohesion is embattled. Action or activity is semi-paralysed. I am half-asleep. Or so it feels. In this sense, there is something vaguely humiliating and challenging in releasing these presentation notes. Yet it is also the only exciting proposition. What you have here is a synopsis, as much a panoply of methods detected as a record of things read. The bibliography has been added for ease of access.
Piece in Progress: About Face (Goan Atom, 2)
The physicalisation and dispersal of writing through live readings, spoken recordings, text environments reflects in this respect a link between writing and physical construction/intervention in the public sphere.
Denaturalise social identities and politicise a heterogeneity of means while not sacrificing neither critical experimentalism nor the crucial politics of participation.
opening project: 3 performance occurrences so far: “About Face”
Liminal Institute Festival, 2000 (translation tapes, live, constricted
audience movement: murmuring the live txt + displayed of reader in the
room: delay: lack of coincidence speaking and seeing)
Image 1 . Citationality of the face: Ceci nest un pas une bride
This drawing similar methodologies as Doll: deductive application. Also emphasis multiple aspects of process of writing contra its more coherent end-production.
Magritte. Jeux de representation. De mediations, de delais, de non-reciprocity
of text and visual.
Simplification of Duchamp’s LHOOQ: here Mona Lisa removed. Histoire de l’art comme citation et appropriation + gender games (primary male transvestisism). Mona Lisa: most used face of Western art/portraiture.
(female) transgendering models/games: the moustache externalises the juxtapositions
of genres of bodies. Particularly strong in queer aesthetics. Denaturalisation
of gender and of sexual apparatus which runs gender and sexual difference.
Masquerade along binary/polarity routes. See Della Grace to Del LaGrace
Volcano and her photography. Anatomy as working-model. Body: locus of
ideological codes.: exposes them.
Removal of the face for its sign: writing trace of the ritualised body (Bourdieu’s l’habite, le ritualise).
bride/bride. Translatabilities and additions. Translative homophonies.
bride helped by this early drawing.
la visageite de Deleuze. In Dialogues. Readibility as visual marker (optical/scopophic)
Image 2. Face and the viewer: Boltanski: Le Lycée Chases (photographic installation)
as memory retribution, impossible restitution.
See in this
respect: defacement, evacuation of personal history is replaced/emphasised
by approach to the viewer’s own processing: through the lights (interrogation
lights) glaring on the photo of frame.
light thrown back at the viewer. Comment viewer/viewed + interpretation
of archives + location of photo in museum (display) frame.
– experience lived time and place.
Is there here a sense of the aura that Benjamin was longing for? Aura as assimilable to what defines presence. In the performed aspect of the viewing experience. In the unique fragility of these found pics.
to the recorded as the only trace of live, meaning having been, having
“Art is always a witness
Spahr “Witness” in Response. Or “Testimony.”
on Susan Howe in rel. construction of history narratives.
Image 3. Speaking and the face: Wodiczko’s Mouthpiece.
speech is a mouth: sound/breath correlation, embodiment. In Wodizcko’s
work this idea facilitates apprehension and critique of imposed identity
like his Alien Staff or Mouthpiece function both as processors
of identity and facilitators of interaction. They are instrumental in
questioning what speaks, what listens. They provide social access to speech
and figuration through an interconnected and improvisatory way of manifesting
the untranslatable individual, the socially opaque.
+ “she mimicks the speaking” Cha.
Sets up a discussion around speaking/orality as part of the prostheticised voice/ventriloquist image. No pure voice. “orality insinuates itself into the network of scriptural economy” de Certeau
Language/Voice/Accent addressed as performance of the Mouthpiece. Ventriloquism of the live image. Confirms social displacement + issues of post-literacy (or complex literacy/multiple literacy).
Inevitably at work in mixed media, new communications. Ideas of what literacy needs. See Hayles in rel. to new corporealities in relation to communication. When changes in incorporating practices, embodiment mediates between new techno and discourse. New experiential frameworks. Hayles, 205-207.
See Stewart for the inscription of the trajectory between the productive presence of the reader and the potential presence of an articulating voice in the work of enunciation, whether spoken out or not. Non-presence in reading but reembodied nature of textual inscription 105. Basically, “someone else’s text and one’s own voice”.
To use artist
method of intervention and design-led engineering to investigate the position
occupied and occupiable for foreigners, migrants etc.
Pitching beyond Identity Politics: “only recently have postcolonial artists and critics pushed practice and theory from binary structures of otherness to relational models of difference”. Hal Foster, “Artist as Ethnographer,” 178. Also Nealon (for philosophical background).
“suddenly it becomes possible that there are just others, that we ourselves are an other among others” Ricoeur qu. by Craig Owens, 57. check xerox.
exists by virtue not of being recognised but by being recognisable” 5
More closely, Foucault on body structures.
Also habitus, ritual/repetitive body knowledge – embodied practices. “converted through orientation and movement of the body as it traverses cultural spaces” Hayles, 203
Jabes, 11: He said to me: You see I have no face. The one I am showing is a face of the mpment. The writer is a foreigner precisely because to reveal himself he must borrow a face from language.
a relation to the recorded as the guarantee of being seen live, of cohabiting,
of borrowing one’s “own” face. Also a diffused relation to presence as
immediate, unrecordable, hence also unwitnessable etc
of magnetic recorder during postwar transformed voice from something heard
to something overheard” Michael Davidson.
Image 4. Face to Face? : Roni Horn, You are the Weather
by the fact that the “speaking body” is a series of close-ups of one face
over a period of time and in similar settings: Icelandic hotsprings. Makes
reading of context impossible (locations simply announced as part of the
structure of the project). See difference with Sugimoto’s Seascapes
where each is documented accurately (place, date) is part of the photo.
Andy Warhol: reproducibility of face through photography + print
GILBERT & GEORGE : grids + reflections on the monumental
Discursive and documentary aspects of the grid. Text-image/faces: devisager. By contrast Lorna Simpson shows the back of the neck and wonders what the face is: haircuts + captions.
Repetition as “discursive performativity, a ritual chain of resignifications” Judith Butler, 14
is a questioning of the Face-to-face: dialogue. Spatiality.
Relationality: recognizing contingent elements in formation of identity
through non repeating repetition.
Paradoxes of recognisability
(Yet for Levinas (et plus profondement) the relation to the face is indicative of exposition to “other”, rather than in constant interrelated making: “Le visage n’est il pas donne a la vision?” some fixity in this)
Performative identities + questions of representation
to delay and understanding of figuration and “presence” which is punctuated
as a recording of time-space.
not transgression: rethinking of public space/use. See all examples above
prompting reflections on the artist’s work and role. As explicitely based
on an openness in relation to strategies used that also favour the question
of art’s relation to social mechanisms (what kind of involvement?). And
the implications of the kind of work ultimately created.
Goan Atom 1 (in bookform):
Goan Atom: Jets-Poupee (Cambridge: rempress, 1999)
Goan Atom: 1. Doll (San Francisco: Kruspkaya, 2001)
Images used during the presentation (documentation of work):
1. Caroline Bergvall: Ceci n’est pas une bride (miscopied drawing).
2. Christian Boltanski: Le Lycée Chases (photographic installation) in Lynn Gumpert Christian Boltanski (Flammarion: Paris, 1994), 108-109.
3. Krystof Wodizcko: Mouthpiece (prosthetic object and performance) in K. Wodizcko Critical Vehicles: Writings, Projects, Interviews (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1999), 100-101 and 125.
4. Roni Horn: You are the Weather (photographic installation and book) (Zurich: Scalo, 1997).
Pierre Bourdieu, “The Field of Cultural Production or, The Economic World Reversed” in The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, ed. Randal Johnson (Cambridge: Polity, 1993).
Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997) 14.
cris cheek & Sinaed Jones, Songs from Navigation (book w/CD) (Lowestoft: Sound & Language, 1997).
Michel de Certeau, “Uses of Language” in The Practice of Everyday Life, vol. 1 (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988).
Gilles Deleuze & Claire Parnet, Dialogues (Paris: Flammarion, 1996).
Hal Foster, “The Artist as Ethnographer” in The return of the real: the avant-garde at the end of the century (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1996).
Michel Foucault, “Introduction” L’archéologie du Savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1969).
Gilbert & George, The Complete Pictures 1971-1985 (no publ., international catalogue, Hayward Gallery, 1987).
N. Katherine Hayles, How we Became Post-Human: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature and informatics (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999).
Edmond Jabès, A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Book, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop (Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 1993).
Donald Kuspit, ”In the Cathedral/Dungeon of Childhood: C.Boltanski’s Monument: The Children of Dijon” in Christian Boltanski (New York: Phaidon Press, 1997).
Emmanuel Levinas, “Le visage et l’extériorité” in Totalité et Infini ( Paris: Biblio, 1987).
Samir Naïr, “Les Identités Aléatoires” in Imported: A Reading Seminar ed. Rainer Ganahl (New York: Semiotext(e), 1998).
Jeffrey Nealon, Alterity Politics: Ethics and Performative Subjectivity (Durham: Duke UP, 1998).
Juliana Spahr, Response (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon, 1996).
Garrett Stewart, Reading Voices: Literature and the Phonotext (Berkeley: U of California P, 1990).
Aaron Williamson, Hearing Things (London: Book Works, 2001).
Catherine De Zegher, curator and editor, Inside the Visible, an elliptical traverse of 20th century art: in, of, from the feminine (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1996).
Bio: Caroline Bergvall, born in 1962, lives and works in England. She has had texts featured in a number of magazines in England and North America. Her work also appears in the anthologies Out of Everywhere & Foil: Defining Poetry 1985-2000. Recent texts include Eclat (Sound & Language, 1996), Goan Atom: jets poupee (rempress, 1999), and Goan Atom: 1. Doll (San Francisco: Kruspkaya, 2001). Work also includes collaborations on performances and text-based installations. She is Associate Fellow in Performance Writing at Dartington College of Arts.