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On the train yesterday I was reading the London Review of Books (having unrelatedly had a pot of tea with four words in its name at the LRB Cake Shop the very same day) (and cake).
One of the articles is Do Not Scribble, Amanda Vickery’s review of two new books on letter writing: The Pen and the People: English Letter-Writers 1660-1800 (Susan Whyman) and Becoming a Woman in the Age of Letters (Dena Goodman). Vickery writes:
“No lady’s desk was complete without a secret drawer in which to hide valuables and letters. A place of privacy is central to Goodman’s conception of the autonomy of the letter-writer. The secrétaire guarded a lady’s secrets and advertised her claim to thoughts of her own.” (LRB Nov 2010: Vol. 32 No. 21, p.36)
Advertising one’s secrecy is contradictory. (We can talk about gender or colonialism here if we like, or about artist statements.) Keeping things in a known secret place makes the secrecy a public practice, and only the detail of the secret remains private. If the compartment weren’t generally known about, it follows, then the secrets would only be half valid, the private mind being significant only in relation to the public perception of that mind. (The artist’s anguish.) There is still plenty of space for secrecy within the detail of a secret, but its nature changes somewhat when its form is prepared for in the carpentry of a desk.
Instead one might choose to keep a secret compartment with, secretly, no secrets in it at all, or to hide secret things in another truly secret compartment while leaving nothing of particular interest under lock and key in the known hiding place – or to just leave secrets lying around indifferently, disguised as everyday things.
[I've been reading Raymond Roussel's Locus Solus lately, and the other day I started wondering how my forks would appear if they turned up in Professor Canterel's garden. Below is a treatment of my forks in light-hearted homage to the novel, to see how they might look from a distance. This text is one of several I've been experimenting with over the summer as a way of replacing objects with descriptions. The work is developing towards my contribution to Locus Solus by Out of the Box Intermedia. For more about the project, click here.]
This irregular clicking gained clarity as we approached a wide doorway cut into the right-hand wall of the inner corridor. At the professor’s instruction we passed through the doorway and formed a small congregation immediately inside a darkened rectangular room the diminutive proportions of which, on account of the low ceiling and flickering candlelight, lent a domestic air to the tableau set before us.
A slim wooden table occupied the central section of the room before a wooden chair of similar design. The chair accommodated a young woman absorbed in the unsystematic maintenance of several intersecting clockwork machines spread about the tabletop in front of her. Read the rest of this entry »
There is also this now.
Conversation Piece is a ‘blank’ or ‘crossed out’ talk, collaboratively written to negotiate possibilities for live speech to exist under erasure. Passages of simultaneous speech interrupt the communicative potential of the individual texts while opening new interpretive possibilities between theory and practice; research and everyday life.
This is a 7:30 minute edit of the half-hour talk, performed on July 30th as part of the Stain Upon the Silence exhibition. Apologies for the poor resolution of the video – the audio remains unscathed.
Conversation Piece was written and performed by Tamarin Norwood and Alexandra Hyde.
Anton sent me a link to a post on Infinite Thought. Of interest, he thought, given our talks.
“I perched in discomfort on the end of my bed and announced ‘I think if there’s a woman with nothing on appearing on the screen no one’s going to listen to the words’, suggesting perhaps he could film our ‘This Exploits Women’ stickers on the tube. Godard gave me a baleful look, his lip curled. ‘Don’t you think I am able to make a c*** boring?’, he exclaimed. We were locked in a conflict over a fleeting ethnographic moment. Read the rest of this entry »
This very good lecture is Torl Moi on “I am not a woman writer”, which I missed at the time because I was panicking over two overlapping applications with deadlines that week. It’s better as a podcast because I can pause her to take notes. Now I’m going to read over a stack of notebooks from reading I’ve done, so I have my context in mind before making a proper impression on her book Sexual/Textual Politics that I’ve been hovering around since before I missed her talk.