Sharon Kivland


This is Georgia. She is double-spaced. She obeys the rules and believes in the lovely possibilities offered by constraints. She accepts double-spacing, a fixed gutter, margins (which she has changed from a default position to something more numerically satisfying), and desires the pause of page turning. Indeed, to turn the page, rather than to break it, would give her only the greatest pleasure. Georgia is torn between two concerns – should she choose discretion, elegance and restraint over a keen design, an attractive book. Georgia was designed in 1993 by Matthew Carter. She was made for Apple Computer and bundled with System 7.1. She was intended to replace New York. Along with Hoefler Text, she is one of the fonts in common usage with text figures numerals. She is created for legibility on the small screen.

This is not the first time an object might be mistaken for a woman. It is a matter of naming, and Georgia is, of course, a woman’s name. As a font, she will rewrite some phrases from Karl Marx’s Capital, sentences in which it is unclear who is speaking. She has done this before but that does not prevent her from staying with her ground, so to speak, continuing to repeat what troubles her about the slippery nature of language, tongues in mouths that are inexact, partial, and often clumsy. Georgia, then, might rewrite capital. That is a deliberate lower-case, no italics; it is not a pun or even clever or funny, but it helps her think about the confusion between an object and a woman, and moreover, as Marx says, about the material relations between persons and the social relations between things. (That was in Hoefler, but as she is constrained, she chose to slip into Times New Roman for an instant).

Georgia is speaking as an object, like the magical transformation (ladies and gentlemen) of commodities. When a thing emerges as a commodity, when she transcends sensuousness, she starts to speak. She is an external object. Georgia is a thing that through her qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind. She makes it clear: the natures of these needs, wherever they arise, from the stomach or the imagination, makes no difference and then she feels she must add a footnote, which she will paraphrase here. Quoting Nicholas Barbon, A Discourse on Coining the New Money Lighter (London 1696, pp.2, 3), she allows that desire implies want, indeed, ‘it is the appetite of the mind, and as natural as hunger to the body … The greatest number (of things) have their value from supplying the wants of the mind.’ She resumes her thread; it does not matter in what way the object fills the need. In any case, the need will arise as a demand and give way to a desire. No object has a value intrinsic to her; her value lies only in relation to other objects and their properties, just as no one word delivers its meaning without the next and no signifier can stand alone. As an object, she is herself over and above herself; she outdoes her properties of use. Georgia turns the page slowly.

Georgia says: my use-value may interest men, but it does not belong to me as an object. She continues: what does belong to me as an object, however, is my value. My own intercourse as a commodity proves it. She pauses and decides, somewhat gratuitously, to begin a new paragraph after an ellipsis…

She says: we relate to each other merely as exchange-values. She remarks, taking on - suddenly - the role of an economist, that exchange-value is the property of things and value is realized only in exchange. Georgia is talking about the fetishism of the commodity and her secret. She says: a commodity is at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing, but goes on to point out that her analysis reveals she is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. In fact, she says, it is absolutely clear that by his activity, man changes her in such a way as to make her useful to him. Georgia considers her use; she contemplates her value. Her value is not a logical possession, but one that is ascribed to her and moreover has a symbolic function. Something lies beyond her, and it is this that gives her value, she thinks. Georgia know something of herself, after all, as she is so frequently called upon to inscribe herself in value-relation , expressing herself as equivalent, her character emerging through her relation with another thing.

Georgia knows that commodities come into the world in the form of use-values or material goods. She gives some commodities their proper names, describing their homely, natural form: iron, corn, and linen. She recognises that every commodity has a dual nature, that she is simultaneously an object of use and a bearer of value. Indeed, it is only because of this dual nature, she argues, that she can appear or function as a commodity. Georgia understands the uncertainty of forms and their possession and however much she is turned and twisted, she will elude being grasped. She cannot be held still as a thing possessing value. She escapes, Georgia insists, and can only be tracked down in the relation between one thing and another, as one thing might replace another, and in replacing her, displaces her. She is designated by another term, one that does not of necessity belong to her by any connection save that of contiguity.

Something then must be allowed for substitution. One thing must take the place of another, if the first is to have any value at all. Georgia declares that she will perform a task never before performed by bourgeois economics. She will follow the barely perceptible outlines of the expression of value in the value-relation of commodities to its most dazzling form as money. If she succeeds in this, the mystery of money will disappear. She calls upon the example of a length of linen and the coat it will become, for it is not just that the coat, however fashioned, will keep its wearer warm, but also that the coat conceals a social relation in its relationship to the stuff of which it is made. The linen relates to the coat as its equivalent, and its value, expressed as the simplest of equations, presents a riddle of the equivalent form to be solved. The linen has its value as its own property; a length of linen is sold according to market prices to a tailor, the value of whose labour must then be added to the value already present and then concealed in the labour objectified as the linen’s value. The tailoring produces this as much as clothes or people. This may seem obvious, a trivial thing. It is those trifling things, those tiny, exquisite details that are of the greatest importance in the production of value, Georgia reminds her readers.

Georgia is ready to exchange body and soul with any other commodity. Very delicate things, as she points out in another footnote, often appear amongst commodities: clothing, leather, shoes, and ‘femmes folles de leur corps’. She likes the last part of the list: ‘a woman crazy about her body’. It is not for nothing, she thinks, that she has chosen to fill in her background with a solid colour, one that is as close as she can get to the packaging of ALLURE by Chanel. (She regrets that she cannot become Helvetica to write ‘allure’.) Georgia sighs and closes Capital, deciding she has completed her task. She feels that she has found her lines, and that nine are enough. In each it seems to her, there is just enough slippage (she would like to say ‘glissement’), between her and a thing, a woman and her, enough to be visible and dazzling.


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Sharon Kivland is an artist and writer, who divides her life further between France and England. Reader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University, Research Associate of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, London, she occupies herself with fine leathers, elegant embossing, improper attributes and borrowed vices. Attracted by Karl Marx, devoted to Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, she frequently withdraws from theory to the solace of Parisian department stores. Her work is represented by Domo Baal Contemporary Art, London and Galerie Bugdahn & Kaimer, Düsseldorf. From Autumn 2006 to March 2008 she will be a Visiting Fellow in the Institute of Germanic and French Studies, University of London, where she will be tracing the slippage between desire and wish in translations of Freud’s writings.

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