On Art, etc.

The **** is mute, expressionless. The **** doesn’t think because the **** knows everything.*

Radical Publishing: What Are We Struggling For?
ICA, Saturday 19th March

You have to formulate a response somehow. The absurdity of the result should be a measure of the difficulty of the task.

We have wedding panels, presented one after another. Everyone gets their water glass filled. The ceremony is in its dark theatre, the tables draped with black according to custom. There are anticipatory remarks about poorly articulated demands, but there is also an avoidance of directly discussing the role of print – it is enough to marry off those who work at publishing houses it seems. The panels are disproportionately male, not to mention white – but looking at the guests, it’s a white wedding. A first speech is made in a lilting accent, according to a lyrical pace, pressing a weirdly smothering effect into what is said. These word are the first to grace the ceremony, it is announced, before the speaker intones “rage… rage” into the microphone, claiming this as the basis for all that should follow. This is all very well, but these nuptials have been pre-announced – we all know why we are here. Our resentment sits on our stomachs like bile, ready for the moment when it will blow out of all these ceremonial blackouts. And if it the case, as one guest will later spout, that ideology dictates which of our behaviours count, we all already feel that we are here to knock it back, obsessed with but isolated from a dark, marauding cuticle of ideological vandalism, a blatant looting and profit mongering. We can hear them outside. Still there is something about this dark ceremonial chamber that also feeds the anger, which underlines the lack of any applicable vocabulary of action.

Yet, even if it is easy to agree with much of what is said early on, these general sentiments risk falling into a sentimentality that is better suited for later in the evening. The courting of applause gets us nowhere. Already there are coiled criticisms seeding in the stalls, somewhere toward the back aisles, dressing down the appeal that familial relations can act as a springing resistance to capitalism – woo yeah, we don’t buy that – we already get the picture that we’re attending a ceremony where there is going to be no effective marriage. We have been tracking this engagement for some time and we’re sceptical. It’s not likely we will witness lasting bonds this afternoon. We might secretly know that the system outside the walls is crumbling, or so it goes, from the start instituted as an unworkable slant toward the privileged, and in fact slowly consuming itself, making its way to an abyss to await the next crisis through which it will spin down, crying for a bail out. But first we must sit through a slightly soft-eyed appeal for resistance against the rule of money, good advice for any young couple, even if they are phantoms here and now, in this darkness. Bride and groom are nowhere to be seen. Yet can it be claimed that moments such as those that bring us here today, our shared concern and outrage, addressed to our spaces of personal relation – all our declarations of trust and love this seeks to protect or resemble – are instances where capitalism is abandoned according to more fundamental communistic interactions. Are we in such a state of emergency that necessity will  dictates that monetary exchange value has no place here, begone! we won’t allow those jackals here, on our wedding day…that such dictates of value and accumulation are unwelcome here, as we wait for solidarity to take its place.

But it’s not polite to discuss finances on the special day. Even if we think that the rule of money has momentarily been refused, here in the dark, so the barman (perhaps) will suggest that these instances of so-called communistic behaviour are not genuine points of resistance against capital’s relentless flow (but, he spits, lifting ice, could they not become so?) but merely surface effects of fully functioning, unchecked neo-liberalism… He takes a lime up in his fingers, describing bruises on the skin which nonetheless point to underlying, undamaged flesh. Yes, he says, these interruptions we attend, these spaces of non-capitalist modes of production, are crucial to its continuing dominance. We should recognise this, he calmly states, as he places a circular mat underneath the ordered glass. His immediate task is complete and he shuts up as he computes the done deal, wiping the bar with a towel as he retreats. He has a long night ahead of him.

Of course, it is a recurring theme of the ceremony – a theme which appears in a different form in every successive speech – to express the desire and necessity for transforming and rehabilitating terms in order to move forward. But there are always those who purposely start an argument, albeit not unreasonably, this time according to a pattern of provocation that many other guests won’t adhere to. A younger figure – but is he a guest of the bride or groom? – suggests that a ‘dictatorship of the people’ can be reclaimed, rescuing the unfortunate word by emphasising its role in defending the ‘outline’ of a ‘city’ (which is, we mutter, the living diagram of the coming insurrection…), and that what is needed is the force to push through revolutionary ideals, actions. Still, he appeals to violent incidents in the past, reigns of terror and blood baths, even going so far as to invoke other ceremonies conducted in Jacobin dress. The crowd smells the odour of reenactment societies. The young man has surely cracked a black joke, in all seriousness, and has almost emptied the room. In-laws might get upset. When he is out of earshot, sections of the crowd will criticise him for being backward looking, toying with dangerous ideas and failed precedents. Yet these critics themselves will almost immediately suggest their own outlines for who or what needs to be revisited and re-examined in the light of what is outside the walls of the theatre. Perhaps they silently admit, however, that something of this implied violence is always there on the edge of the tongue; that we should all acknowledge the prospect of defending revolutionary momentum in order to allow for the possibility of it being sustained. In awkward conversations in the toilets, there will be mention of category errors and the dangers of trying to secure any perseverance of what is new by unknowingly turning it into what is already old and forgotten.

But every one of the guests knows what is still going on outside the dark walls, away from all this talk. One says that the noises are those of blind, undirected attacks; but are they really without strategy? Eavesdropping for a moment, it is possible to hear a discussion of neo-liberalism as having only been ‘effective’ in its complete annihilation of the imagination of those who oppose its tenets – i.e. implicating the emptiness of ceremonies such as this, designed to articulate a secure response or alternative to it. A back row that is all too pleased with itself. Another voice pipes up, itself claiming that advanced capitalism might well be on its knees, but it has worked so effectively on snuffing out threats against it that it cannot be dealt a killer blow. Guests feel they might suddenly be in a zombie film.

Another guest, overdressed and confident, suggests that the problem is actually how to make sure that revolutionary thinking, or a believable testimony of the sicknesses currently being perpetrated, penetrates into public discourse. It is difficult to reconcile these ideas in the surreal rigmarole of the ceremony, what with everyone dressed up, on their best behaviour (at least until the evening drags on and tongues are loosened…), and when the language it is apparently acceptable to use is largely esoteric, obscure, always held at a distance to a common public. At this point a member of the band, in a ill-fitting tuxedo, suggests that considering the inhumanity of capitalism, what is needed are equally inhuman and impersonal institutions through which to combat it – he is about to explain what these would be, and how they would operate, but is forced back to the stage to play. He can be seen for the rest of the evening, blowing through a machine of burnished brass. There is usually a crank, a clever cynic, at the back of the hall – perhaps one of those figures that has escaped out the back, having a smoke sitting on a car bonnet – who points out the ‘voluntary servitude’ of the masses, explaining between puffs that domineering power relies on tacit acquiescence of the people. His is all his own ego talk. He blows a ring and smirks, saying that the revolution needs to be a physic and subjective one, triggering a form of disengagement (an indiscipline, he says) where we all must recognise and resist our complicity in our own domination. He is drunk, no doubt, having lost track of which car is his, but goes on insisting that if we work on ourselves, the domineering power that we ourselves engender will inevitably transform. As soon as he finished his cigarette, he lights another.

What else comes out of this but a sense of regret at the insignificant scale of the ceremony? One last guest, lingering in the doorway, affectionately describes another recent wedding, but that time dominated by action and dancing, enormous crowds. That occasion was apparently a mass event, pulled into focus on an Egyptian square according to rumour; it was built around a ceremony not carefully organised like this one, but was instead freewheeling, properly deadly, displaying the emergent self-organisation of the masses. Certainly a bloom was fought for, and it produced a city within a city – described by the exhausted guest, his tie now removed and his shirt open, called a “prototype commune” that embodied emergent systems of co-operation, solidarity and self-governance. This man’s face is what lingers after the event has come to an end and the evening extends for a few according to stamina and constitution. In his face is read the feeling that although there might have to be distinctions drawn between ‘revolution’ and ‘insurrection’, and that there will still be a need to gather together in these dark spaces, to talk, to force the issue – to try and marry each another off -  the real ceremony is to come without being called, without being addressed, somewhere outside in the continuing chaos.

*An aside by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, one of the speakers at the above event, concerned the lyrics to a song written for the 1993 Emir Kusturica film, Arizona Dream. All images are taken from a scene deleted from this film.

Calle Interrupted 

There is something equally compelling and unnerving about Sophie Calle’s insistence on maintaining what seems to a partially interrupted practice. Her work has often been heavily indebted to input from others, whether this is in specific instructions given to her, such as those written by Paul Auster in his Gotham Handbook, or an address book found in the street that allows Calle to construct a cumulative portrait of a stranger (and more specifically an artwork out of, or as, that process. Wandering around her current exhibition in the Whitechapel gallery, I was trying to think about this kind of relinquishment at the heart of her work – I wondered if it could be said to belong to an admirable selflessness, a generosity of spirit, or something else. Rather than seeing her practice as being partially interrupted, might we call it simply partial? There is often a reliance on people (including the artist of course) being put in-the-service-of – as if contributing a small component of a larger machine – in order to generate unforeseen circumstances, or to force the project into a certain position, of varying degrees of fixity.

One of the pieces I spent most time with concerned a the documentation of a 15-year struggle to find a way out of a project that had already been committed to – one that had started from a series of beautiful black and white images taken by the security camera in a cash machine. A wall was covered with clusters of these images, and an accompanying film was projected in a nearby corner. Moving through various possible ‘escape routes’ – trying to make the focus of the ongoing work the idea of money, making it about faces, about solitude, creative investment, etc. – the project seemed to speak most loudly about both partiality (in the sense of not being in control of everything, or rather of this not being possible or even permitted as an option. Of course, it could be argued that this is a condition for creative work in general, but here it became something else, something more pronounced and excited – as if there were no possibility of Calle being able to impress herself on the material at hand, as if she could gain no ‘purchase’… so to speak) and exhaustion. One wonders how much of a danger, or perhaps how much a feature of Calle’s work this sense of unwieldiness is – if one is always giving up ownership in some way, this is always to promote the risk of not being allowed back into the work. This could very well be Calle’s intention of course – to not be able to find a way into the work except on others’ terms, or in a way that is not pre-determined, could be precisely the generative input she hopes for from her collaborators. By permitting the interventions of others (in another piece Calle follows directives from her astrologer, a trip organised according to the cards…) and colluding with chance in this way, Calle’s practice is a forced engagement with the conditions of fiction, even when the ‘source material’ is from the so-called real world.

The main piece on show was based on the dissection of a email received by Calle from a lover – a break up letter that is subjected to various processes by a series of women, for the most part according to their professional field. The letter is criticized, measured, refuted, translated, and so on, by fellow artists, dancers, actresses, singers, translators, criminologists, lawyers, sharpshooters, teenagers, designers, historians, etc. which amounts to an obsessive dissection that was absolutely fascinating. The installation (if that is what it could be called…) presents these ‘interpretations’ on the walls and on videos playing in random sequence. For me, the most interesting response to the task Calle had clearly given to her associates was from another writer. Her text announced that, while her first response had been to pick apart the man’s message (identifying its arrogance, its manipulativeness, etc.), she had, on reflection, chosen to warn Calle of the dangers presented by the group of women she had gathered around her – a coven of witnesses that she described as a “choir of death”. This warning seemed fascinating, both in the context of the rest of the exhibition and in relation to the nature of Calle’s working method in general. Aside from the particulars of this piece, such as the failed relationship, the complexities of gender politics, etc., I wondered if this warning about the risks of allowing others into your practice would hold for other instances – for surely what occurs here is not any straightforward collaboration. What would ‘death’ mean here though – the removal of the ‘artwork’ from Calle’s jurisdiction in some sense? The removal of the letter from her proximity, so that it no longer belongs [to anyone]? There is a form of dispersal at the heart of a practice that relinquishes something of itself – it is an approach to a dismissal of subjectivity that is, at the same time, something of a artificial heightening of that subject. Calle gives up something of her influence, her input, by asking for assistance, guidance, specific instructions from others – yet, somehow, especially in this recent piece, this serves to extract another, rarefied experience of Calle’s activity, Calle’s exercise of choice, and Calle’s claims on what emerges from the entire process.

The video that documented the 15-year search for a project’s conclusion, as well as constituting part of the resolution in itself, featured Calle’s eloquent and sonorous voiceover. The voice traced her various frustrations and false starts as the project went on. This retrospective summation, however, seemed to be too precise, too neatly reflective, to really tackle what was mentioned in the last few moments of the film: making the project be about failure, or the success of failure, or the failure of success. If the video served as Calle’s only available opportunity to reestablish the control needed to finish the work (and indeed to find the right way to present it), I wondered why it seemed that the uncertain status she that had run through the whole story – the hesitations, uncertainties, attempts to project the work onto others, to get them to assume some kind of responsibility for it – seemed absent from the final piece. I suppose that in the process of relinquishing responsibility and then reclaiming it can just as often result in staid, unconvincing work as delicately fashioned confabulations of fact and fiction.

Penn to Union

The recent Philippe Parreno exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Hyde Park contained four of the artist’s film works. The show was designed in such a way that the audience was led from room to room, watching one film then being given signals as to where to go in the building to catch the next screening – cues including musical ‘leaders’ fading into an adjacent space, lighting conditions changing as blinds closed automatically, etc. Given this structure and the specific manipulation of the audience, it was easy to think of the show as an ensemble piece and the separate works within it interrelated components of a whole. Yet this idea was not easy to reconcile with the experience of the show – no doubt there are interesting connections and echoes running through the pieces, but there are also vast differences between them which lead to a certain ambivalence about their relative strengths and weaknesses as self-contained works. A shorter piece from 1991, No More Reality, which was positioned closest to the gallery entrance (and which consisted of grainy digital video of schoolchildren repeatedly chanting the title) appeared irritatingly glib, even if it may have suggested a half-ironic ‘key phrase’ somehow relevant to the world of moving images you were about to be corralled through. Invisibleboy, a short film from 2001, was also strangely dissatisfying, with a series of spectral creatures etched into the film stock to illustrate an immigrant child’s fantasies and nightmares, all to a deliciously loud but nonetheless tedious soundtrack by God Speed You! Black Emperor. More interesting than either of these pieces was The Boy From Mars (2003), a beautifully photographed film documenting some kind of eco-greenhouse in Thailand, solely powered by a water buffalo. The slow pace, absence of human figures and ambiguous framing of the film set up parallel documentary and sci-fi themes, occasionally  producing a flash of otherworldly imagery that seemed closer to mythological drama or attempts at capturing an abstractly mesmeric rhythm – particularly the treatment of the buffalo, its isolation and physical suffering captured alternately in deep contrast and flashes of illumination. One particularly arresting shot captured a passing hoof pressing into the waterlogged mud, the camera holding position as the cloven impression rose back up, pushing the water back toward the moonlight.

Nonetheless, the most intriguing film in the exhibition was June 8, 1968 (2008). Taking inspiration from a series of photographs taken by Paul Fusco,a photographer who was working for Look Magazine, Parreno’s film recreates a train journey made on the title date from New York City’s Penn Station to Union Station in Washington DC. The train transported the body of the recently assassinated US senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Huge crowds lined the train tracks that Saturday, all the way along the 300-mile distance – either to pay their respects, to mourn lost hope, say goodbye or perhaps just to see. The usual four-hour journey took over eight hours to complete. Fusco’s original photographs are compelling, as is Parreno’s film in many ways, yet it is difficult not to have some reservations about the latter. [Apparently a film entitled Is Everybody Alright? - which takes its title from Kennedy’s last words before he lapsed into unconsciousness - is being made, based on Fusco’s book RFK Funeral Train. This would be an interesting point of comparison] I found myself wondering about the motivation behind the work and struggled with my response to the tone of the film. It put me in mind of some of the things I’d writtenand thought about in relation to re-enactment in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah– the ‘hallucinatory’ qualities described on by Jacques Rancière (in The Future of the Image) when a holocaust survivor is compelled to revisit places or ‘re-do’ actions that have profoundly traumatic associations for them. This is not quite what is going on in Parreno’s film, but it made me wonder about what such re-enactments can do. Parreno’s film is shot from the perspective of the train, observing the crowds of people lined up on the embankments, crossings and station platforms. Although it could be a reconstruction of the point of view of Fusco’s camera, it could also be that the film assumes the viewpoint of RFK’s body – the coffin was apparently not visible to onlookers until the pallbearers raised it by placing it on a few chairs. The ambiguity of viewpoints suggests that Parreno is at least aware of the possibility of it being understood as a retroactive, reconstructed embodiment of an impossible gesture of acknowledgment from a deceased ‘character’ to the crowds that came to watch him pass. The  reconstruction allows access to what Kennedy’s corpse might have seen, as if this might provide some kind of affirmation, or effectively tie off a loose end of patriotic emotion some 40 years later.

But what about the way Parreno’s film was shot? For one thing, the location has been transferred from the East coast to the West (why not the same route?) – introducing sun-drenched landscapes, perfect blue skies,and a dreamlike solidity to the light. The trackside figures, all actors and extras decked out in suitable period costume and authentic accessories (bikes, cameras), are almost all stock-still, occasionally zoomed into, and revisited at different speeds. Does Parreno’s film camera attempt to move with a still photographer’s eye? As if looking for a suitable shot (an encapsulation of the mood, just oneiconic image?) in the face of an excess of figures, faces, gestures – there is something of the saccadic selection of the eye, as well as indecision, in the camera’s movements, all the while bolstered by the sound of the engine and the relentless percussion of the tracks. There is an implied stillness to the images too, as if there was a desire to move through a precisely  preservedmoment in time (i.e. a film winding through Fusco’s images, stretching out and filling the gaps between frames) – the result being that it resembles an orchestrated diorama in which figures have become oddly mortified. More disturbingly, however, certain set pieces – especially when photographed in incongruous, pseudo-nostalgic California weather – had the appearance of adverts: commercials for an historically acknowledged loss, accepted configurations of national grief, all bundled in with an affirmation of liberal American values that take little account of political realities – the moment when the dirty world of workaday politics becomes a ceremony that stands outside that discourse. In many places this technique was affecting, but it afterward it seemed dubious, as if it were as manipulative as the way the audience was directed around the gallery space.

Still, the strange melancholy disembodiment of the film, no doubt emphasised by Parreno’s choices, is accompanied by a stilted or deferred dramatic quality. Just as Fusco’s photographs contain almost surreal juxtapositions of odd figures – like troupes of archetypes often in abstract compositions, with costume sets and ‘back stories’ that could be filled in – Parreno’s images became emblematic of a wealth of unspoken material. The whole film is an address to silence in many ways – the idea that there is nothing to be said (or done) in the face of momentous events or the presence of emergent community; these figures see the train go by, not knowing what to do next, watching an recognisable character from the largely alien and impossibly corrupted political system ride by in a box, on a train. He has gone back to being inaccessible and is passing them by. But is Parreno’s film a reformatted paean to apathy or disillusionment? Why does he want to tap into June 8, 1968?

It’s also important to note that, whereas Fusco’s photos capture fleeting groups and constellations of people, he cannot purposely manufacture his focus like Parreno can. Through his reconstruction, Parreno’s is able to zero in on individuals he has specifically isolated from the crowd – an attention to the details of individuality and character that might have parallels with his feature film (co-directed with Douglas Gordon) following the minute details of Zinedine Zidane’s performance in a single football match. Yet for all the deliberately faked and dreamlike qualities in Parreno’s film (some of the camera movements reminded me of the odd Steadicam weave in Sokurov’s Russian Ark), the indications of drama just out of shot also suggest links to more conventional cinema. The first shot, as I recall, is of a view over a landscape of scrubby hills, dotted with electricity pylons. The camera surveys the scene patiently before switching to focus on waves of dust being moved about by the wind. The atmosphere is one of abandonment, but is loaded with genre-film significance in the police car sitting empty at the side of the track, its lights still on and the driver’s door left open. The scene could have been lifted from a Coen Brother’s film, with its effortless insinuation that something has just happened or was just about to. The sequence succeeded in immediately setting up the idea that a ‘halt’ had been called – one that affected a pause in public services, institutional hierarchies, routine protections, having affected an interruption of stories, etc.

But what Parreno’s staged re-enactment lacks is the ramshackle, improvised nature of the crowds in Fusco’s images – the unaffected way people are climbing onto objects to get a better view, the way they hold their bodies. As James Stevenson suggests, it is not only the faces and the clothes that catch the eye, it is the hands: “Reaching out, holding babies. Praying, biting nails, waving, covering mouths, holding hands, holding flags and flowers, clutching throat, folding arms.” Fusco’s images also gain power from their narrow depth of field – the people caught in a narrow band between blurred fore- and backgrounds. It is possible that Parreno is taking existing details from the photographic archive and ‘re-listing’ them according to a different register, yet it seemed that he was willing to intervene in the images, creating scenes of his own, even if they seemed incongruous. This seemed to be encapsulated by the appearance, some way into the middle of the film, of a long static shot of a young girl sat in a small boat, floating on still water, closely cropped to give no indication as to location and no obvious connection to the train that has been running through the images thus far. All there is is a atmosphere of being un-moored, abandoned, in a picture postcard world that does not exist now and surely did not then.

After Binatone Galaxy

Stephen Cornford at Campbell Works, London

1B 1200/PBTQ – Accordingly, the galaxy is constituted on a numerical base of two rather than ten. You switch this as you see fit.

2B 8600/WP2Q – The gallery room is soon to close. The last flick of a galaxy arm: a side street in Stoke Newington.

3G 7608/PG2Q – This part of the cosmos assumes the nomination of a company brand, but does not anticipate any binary flutter to come.

4B 7610/PB1QY – It seems the galaxy is drawn through an arrangement of angular machines, strung across two perpendicular surfaces. Certain stars drift toward the ceiling, some becoming more isolated than others. Shelf brackets support the casings.

5B 6000/PA2Q – This array is sprayed each side of a corner – a fold in the universe. The deliberate placement could reveal it as a segment sourced from a larger spiral, perhaps from another galaxy leaking in from the window.

6B 6026/A1QC – The constellations are linked by cables. For this is a galaxy map, with wormholes caught in the lock of male-female connectors. Inverted parabolas link everything up, all part of a power-sharing system that darts through asteroid fields and magnetic straits.

7SE 1400/SSEQ – Still everything must contend with the electric fizz of the nervous system and the heave of the diaphragm. The always-gloopy blood. It’s likely that last listeners have entered the space.

8LE 1400L/LSEQ – As soon as movement is registered the motions begin. The first sounds are not dual but multiple, starting off with a soft dragging chirrup then, after some hidden pinpoint, unloading encoded stops and pauses, small and big bangs.

9B 8701/B2EQ – Already the stars are talking to themselves. All things are given to introspection it seems.

10B 8640/PRB2EQ – Individual points of light are prattling, pressuring the collective. Ignoring the vacuum.

11B 5700/PB3Q – Like the ears, the pupils widen, slowly recognising the galaxy for what it is.

12B 5600/BQQ – It is a series of intermittent blue lights – satellite signals, the last dots of space debris.

13B 5630/B4Q – Or an arrangement of named planetary systems, each a description of worlds light years distant. Titles could indicate atmospheric conditions, report the absence of life, or catalogue alien flora and fauna.

14B 8801/PCB4EQ – All this information is relayed by a collection of recording and playback machines. The units vary in dimensions and orientation. Some have built-in speakers and holes over condenser microphones. Each has an oblong tray designed to hold removable cassettes.

15B 7414/B1HC – Still the sound builds. Variations of dust can be picked out in the texture. For every world has its idiosyncrasies and variable speeds. Every star has its metabolism.

16B 8401/PB1HY – These variances might have fed into pure pitch in other circumstances; or must have indicated the flaws in every mechanism. Yet here, in this alternative galaxy, they become the tenor of each system. The grain of the differential accompanies variations in brightness of each of the star-points as they move in the watery wow and flutter of immense distance.

17B 8400/WPB1HY – The sound is both insistent and porous, like that bowed by a windy field of crickets. Every now and then a blurt of feedback is strung out as some star bound component grates and slips, sounding an altogether clearer tone than before, fully resonating through the speaker cones.

18G 3200/PG1H – It’s too easy to hear the industry of an early-morning dock or even the lonely squeaks of a buoy.

The general percussion builds and rotates, with creaking rafters that do not sound plastic-bound – only wood seems

to be audible, wood fattened by electric current.

19G 3100/G1HY – This is a choir too, not just a galaxy pinned up on the wall. It is a bank of voiceless singers – teethgrinders

– letting the clicks and wheezes of their vocal apparatuses rise to the surface.

20B 2000/PB2H – Moving closer you can watch the details of each world. Inserted into all machines are the identical lenses of transparent cassettes, like layers of spittle covering mouth apertures. These are tracheal implants, somehow integral to the partial revival of a lost voice, amplifying the speech mechanism once all sonic content has gone silent.

21B 8200/WPB2H – Yet these transparent components are self-similar and factory-calibrated. They have become echo chambers for every mechanism that holds them, like parasites tolerated in the mouth. But what exact differential is imparted between the cassettes and the host units?

22B 9200/PRB2H – This is a technological symbiosis that has been gutted and stripped, refitted with new components. The exchange has demanded that all relations be redefined and that the crucial point of contact be exploded outward.

23C 7521/PC2H – Looking through the cassettes, rigid in their loading bays, you see that they still each contain two spools, this time wrapped with a single loop of tape. This is not inscribable celluloid but a ring of impervious leader, tinted blue, with an unstable grip on the cogwheels. The movement of the loop is disrupted, each skid or hiatus contributing to the complexity of massing rhythmic patterns being transferred from those dozens of closed, singular cavities.

24B 6100/PA2H – The leader is not anchored into the spool. It is looped loosely around it, non-penetrative and selfcontained. There is no necessity to splice onto recordable matter.

25B 6126/PA1HC – Instead of a window looking onto a cleavage of tape reels, whose asymmetry would indicate position or remaining duration, there is nothing but a blank, symmetrical stare. And visible innards.

26SE 3600/SMEH – Tight curls of circuitry appear like topographical marks, the wires like gaseous veins. You notice a few resistors and capacitors, an integrated circuit laid on its side. A small monitoring disc, partially coated with translucent gel, lies in a shallow crater.

27SE 2200/SSEH – Two LED bulbs illuminate landing areas each side of the cassette. Every star must possess twin light sources.

28LE 2200L/LSEH – A perforated strip of plastic is suspended between springs, each hooked over the vacant axles once used by tape guides. A metallic head reader is set upon this neck. Here and there, a few beads of solder. A white cable line exiting a corner, passing through write-protect notches. All these entrails must convey the resonance of these cassettes, but must also diminish it.

29B 8301/B2EH –The design has always had a pleasing symmetry to it: those precisely raised surfaces, from the extended rhomboid at the base to the sleek protuberances on both sides, screws fitted into each corner. This is a recognisable format after all. You remember feeling the slight looseness of the plastic spools and the tiny square of foam against which the tape would brace. That odd series of holes that must have fitted into to the corresponding master unit.

30B 9222/PRB2EH – Here the point of contact is made all the more brutal in being visible. Mirrored metal heads butt together like a ring on a fist of capstan fingers and pinch-roller thumbs. All former delicacies are lost when the join no longer need be read through a magnetic ribbon.

31B 9102/PRB1F – But what is it that governs the influence between the larger mechanism and the plastic pillows of air gripped in their teeth? The peculiarities of that relation continue to sound out in the unique discrepancies between mass-produced commodities.

COIL TO UPPER PINS – Remember that the stars are portable, on the verge of being forgotten.

32B 9125/PRB1EF – You have always had your own cast of those shells in mind. You consider the architecture constructed around that internal volume, a space intended to allow transit but now a braced, resonant cavern. The tongue is still clacking inside the skull.

33B 8101/B1EF – Your perspective passes through shared nostalgia and into something else. Moving onto thoughts about the specific configurations of faces on ‘reading’ heads – some kind of machinic equivalent to the contortions of human flesh. What changing grimace would it take to playback, to record or to erase?

34SE 4400/SMEF – And what form of obsolescence would apply to the stars? Even constellations can be collected, made to discuss themselves. If only they were to be filled with resin and turned out.

35B 5800/B2L – These swallowed trays become resonators for the insertions of space that listen to themselves.

36B 5830/BQL – And for a device to listen to itself, when all that remains of its mode of being is the faint trace of transit, it must be left to its own thoughts.

P-BQL – The instruments reveal their hidden music. All such noises run underneath, tapped into here intermittently, scored out at random or adhering to astrological charts.

COILS – Whatever is lost through the cavity walls, bleeding past the guard band, the galaxy continues to mouth, chewing on the future.

PC-BQL – And to exit the room is to allow the galaxy to extinguish itself.

Tie Lost Glean Short

1. Why start here? Any beginning is a consideration of invulnerability.

2. There is something mulish about this dog.

3. Being terribly moved. Moving terribly.

4. Coated in oil. Digital fits.

5. Death involves processions of dying.

6. Dying inhabites every possible space of death.

7. Disaffected parts.

8. Everyone’s a groaner.

9. Territories claimed then usurped.

10. At the heart of the swerve.

11. Skidding takes place elsewhere.

12. “You write like you drive.”

13. Why was it difficult to answer the question about “writing with a forked tongue”?

14. I feel it’s preferable to be “unconnected” rather than “disconnected”.

15. Textual Wealing.

16. Don’t confuse proximity with connection.

17. Linguistic buffeting.

18. Language Buffet.


A desire to find a piece of writing somehow; to find something to work on. To allow it to become those moments just ahead of him, now that the eyes had begun to feel pinched at the edges of the covering lids, now that the darkness of the room had burnished itself back into shapes, his pupils naively slackening. Sight beginning to foam. Not the middle of the night – he doesn’t belong to tiredness just yet, in fact he knows that he is trying to sleep at a moment not quite fit for it, as if always lying in an alien position. He knows there is the little notebook, so searches this out, slips off its elasticated band, hooked over the opening side of the cover, flipping it over the edges of the pages like the first steps of seduction. Old handwriting, a pencil that seemed to have an imperfection in its diamond stylus. Dragging a stone in the words. He begins to read, rewrite. These are the same thing perhaps, held each side of the mirror.

On a slight downward incline, a couple are pulling the car up, small hiccups of the engine as it disengages. The handbrake jolts, becoming only a length of rope bridging the length of the vehicle – a sinew between both bumpers. Previous to this, in the hotel room, his stomach had developed an odd string strain across it, like a cord of incongruous muscle, the twine of glue across egg albumen. His belly space dissected by a hairline wrench, something like a absent hernia; nothing but a twinge, except that the indiscernible line of discomfort sought its way through the abdomen with a kind of load, a sense of implied volume and potential (plans for expansion). Twined; the curious encampment of near-pain; its accommodation.

This seems incongruous, unremembered; some kind of business-speak from the newspaper: “pre-preparation.” What is this clinamen…? Another section then:

He reared, powered by an emerging thought, but collapsed in the orbit of the same movement. A tumbler. Without the anchor of gravity or the spurs of his own insistence.

Anything seems permissible in this distended area. He wanted to write something about the opening shot of a film he had seen a few days ago, but there seemed no opening in his life where he might even consider the task. It was not something that made itself available. Yet the darkness had begun to lighten in the room – the electric lamp, the small notebook. Stupidly, he noticed his room had half an arch in one corner, the curve of the alcove disappearing into the wall. The writing is going to come out wrong.

It was the opening sequence, after the opening credits had appeared, white texts on black screens – suddenly a shot of the sky. At first it seemed overly complicated, as if there were too much going on for this to be a sky not beset by disasters, not recording some kind of catastrophe in its airborne surfaces. A mixture of smokes, vapours, clouds running close to the ground (near to, like objects held close to the eye) and distant at the very edges of the atmosphere – different textures each, dream quilts, the dirt of rain making some drifts seem like the excuses of forest fires, the declarations of exhaust fumes. The camera fidgeted strangely, a movement that seemed inhuman – though still absolutely performed by a human. This is what he was thinking as the sky panned awkwardly. This is not a mechanism seeing this, this is the movement of a stiff neck – the jostling movements of the head, neck (the body trunk off below too) together with the eyes themselves, all stacked up in a tower of looking – vertically looking up into the sky, wavering and taking it in. The vapour trail line of the plane linking one cloudbank and another, gilded by sunlight – some shift of backdrop. But it wasn’t being caught by a camera, this is what he was convinced of when he was watching it – the camera had disappeared for him – it was a special case of looking, as if he recognised somehow the stacking of the body in the upward gaze, looking up toward the light, the sun, and the terrible confluence of clouds drifting into and over one another.

Revolutions per Minute

1. The light stands in the lorry park.

2. A bubble of plastic extrudes from the base of the building.

3. Writing as hernia.

4. To address its conditions – some kind of imperative.

5. Hands cannot be washed.

6. It is not clear how best to expose the apparatus.

7. He began thinking about sap and how he was always fascinated by the idea of trees bleeding.

8. ‘Sap’ as a noun and as a verb.

9. A trail of flames amongst the black. Suddenly a vision of an assumed totality.

10. A point of turnaround; seriousness coughs up farce, then sobers on a swallow.

11. A barrel of apples, each one a grenade of coherence.

12. Submit an extract.

13. Any empty claims as to what this is doing.

14. There can be no comeback.
15. Combination engine.

16. Spill it.

17. Writing as tar baby.

18. Get set. Lay up.

19. This is entirely serious.

20. Having cut across the chambers.

21. Forestall its own progress.

22. A stewball.

23. Stumbling block.


25. A theory peel-off.

26. Writing as hypochondriac.

27. A folded piece of paper, having been unfolded.

28. Permit construction.

29. Difficult persuasive positions.

30. Writing as revolving door.

31. Writing as jigsaw puzzle.

32. Failure becomes sustainable.

33. A sponsoring thought.