Chris and Gabor have offered me two evenings in the forthcoming A Stain Upon the Silence show with which to do anything I like. Brave. The exhibition is curated around “Samuel Beckett’s nihilism”, which Chris describes as a crisis between the existential position that “human meaning is layers upon the inevitable void with the purpose of avoidance”, and the postmodern position that “meanings are little more than chains of empty signifiers relating more to each other, or to habit, than to the real world”.

I don’t know how far I share these interests but I find sufficient correspondence between what he’s written and what I’ve been working on to feel I can just produce something – anything – that I’m convinced by and interested in, and the parallels will be there. This is good, and unusual.

So. I’m taking it as an opportunity to work on the lecture series I was planning last year. My interest with them was, I suppose, related to this idea that “it is not that nothing can be done but that something must be done and that we cannot be sure what to do”. It’s the idea of purposeful inaction – as I wrote in that curious manifesto text a while ago: “I am for losing my way and marching onwards purposefully towards a thing which I wish would work”. I want a sense of purpose in the talks, but purpose and direction towards something uncertain, that remains open and inconclusive.

This relates to my Afterward text, which I’ve spent the last hour trying to summarize here only to delete what I’ve written. But the main thing from Afterward is that I want to make a performance that stands in the way of its own expression so that it expresses barely anything, and because of this it can effect a switch and cease to be a textual thing at all, but rather a real thing in the extra-textual world. So it’s because of its quietness – what I call its “flatness” – that the text can “begin to shudder with bodily life as it draws itself clear of the paper”. This is what I want my performance to do. Here is the crux of the thing:

At once familiar and unknown, the floating tissue of citations for which the body of the text remains the silent placeholder closes in on itself to answer its own subdued call and, abandoning itself to its loosened edges explodes into the world and stays there soft, nothing lost and nothing gained. (Afterward again)

Tomorrow I’m meeting with Alex who has agreed to second me on this, for one of the talks. My intention for the talk I’m calling Conversation Piece is to present two simultaneous talks in voices similar enough to thread in and out of one another so it’s unclear who’s saying what, and what joins to what. I’m not sure how practically possible this will be, so tomorrow we’re going to do lots of experiments with our voices, to see what we can and can’t manage. We only have a month or so to get it right, so it’ll be best if we can start from something not too difficult.

To prepare for tomorrow I’ve been putting together lots of texts we can try reading. I’m looking at literature I like at the moment that feel is relevant (Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, Alva and Irva by Edward Carey, Le Livre des Yeux by Jean-Luc Parant) along with some Beckett books that seem suited like Ill Seen Ill Said, though I’m aware I’m reading them more for the tone than anything else. I’m also going through my own writing and my own projects to find relevant writing and thoughts.

I’ve been interested to find the form coming first. I still don’t know what the talk will be about. I know the tone (or at least I know how to consider what the tone should be), I have an idea of the structure, I know what I’m trying to put across, but these things seem not to indicate a subject matter of any kind.

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