Below are extracts from my diary over the two weeks leading up to my What To Do talk in July. I had to write about the talk privately because I didn’t want anyone reading the blog to come to the talk equipped with too clear an understanding of my intentions.

I don’t know how interesting these extracts would be for anyone else to read, but for me they’re a useful account of all the thought and deliberation, and anguish, that went on as I was making the work. And it’s good reading over all the ideas that I never ended up using but which were present in the talk all the same, even if just by their absence.

I won’t apologize for a lot of it being horribly written. Lastly, the other talk I keep referring to is Conversation Piece, which I was working on with Alex and which we performed two days before I did mine.

Thursday 19 June 2008

This lecture I’m working on will be good. I definitely made some useful progress yesterday with the Latin dome and what’s left is to extract the essence of it and transfer it. I ought to find an equivalence in plants! Some instance of extracting the essence and transferring it. The can be talk number 2, then the 3rd and 4th will also more simply contain that essence.

Friday 20 June 2008

Alright then You Talk, you are only mine. It’s just me at this table, and I can do anything I like. Ten days, no twelve, Twelve days to make the talk do anything I want it to be. It will be beautiful. I am very, very able to do this.

I really feel sick as I prepare this. I can’t concentrate on it because I just keep trying to think of ways Just now into my head flashed an attempt to get out of it altogether. I’ll shut these blinds.

I want things to be much smaller (yes! this is better), I want things to stay quiet and on this nice wooden table. I think that they can. I think that they can. The work of my research is to be quiet, and only with me, I have to keep myself quiet, and make something that I love, and then I will keep it to myself and there will be a point when I’ll perform it, because the work is a performance, it depends on time passing and people thinking, but when I perform it it will still only be for me.

So the next thing I want to get on to is the plants part of the talk. I want it to follow the Latin part of the talk and then the propagator will be the dome, keeping in the humidity, and then I will also introduce in the propagator talk the idea, somewhere, of extracting an essential part and growing it so it becomes whole. I think the way is from taking cuttings.

It’s just occurred to me that I could do this whole talk read from books. That’d take the pressure off tenfold, and would introduce the fact that there’ll be several separate talks from the outset, and I think it’ll give each talk authority. I’ll have curated together a series of books with identical images in them. I’ll no doubt have to fake some of the texts but that’s fine, that’s not the point.

OK. I’m getting somewhere. I think I need to vary the pace, and another good idea I’ve just had this moment is to give very brief fragments, just elements of scenarios, once I’ve drawn the picture three times. Thereafter there might be 3 or 4 very brief excerpts from talks, in unexpected orders, just to draw the dome part, say, or just the arrow, and these parts can be very carefully and poetically suggested, to name the various sections of what there is. I would like there to be very long pauses. There’ll be so much of my voice. So, long pauses in the middle of talks; no pauses between talks usually; once the image has been set up by say 3 repetitions I can introduce fragments of it in small talks, a sentence each, with uncomfortably long pauses; I should conclude perhaps with a final reiteration of the image, & I’m considering faking some Austerlitz for that, maybe reading the passage and then drawing the image with dull inevitability.

I wonder how one is to walk off stage at things like this, or on stage. I should ideally be introduced at the start?

Saturday 21 June 2008

I am feeling happier about my talk, because it feels like it’s mine. I want to make the dome be a switch-point, always ready to break, a division between two separate states, on and off … But also important is that there really are links among the different talks. I have to continue to get the essences of things. Long silences. “Because the only angle the bubble walls can meet is at 120°.” Long silence.

The Latin dome really needs abridging. I need to write another full dome talk as soon as possible so I can know what to focus on for the Latin talk. Then those 3 will need to be trimmed and hedged so they make sense together, with the addition of the little poetic pieces.

Other things to prepare for the domes is the flip chart, and for both talks the clothes.

I am at home with section 2 of the Alex talk sufficiently completed, though had I more time I’d work on it more.

Now the thing is the Dome talk. So far:

  1. Plants and Propagators
  2. Latin Dome

Before 11 tomorrow:

  • finish sign language talk
  • draw dome for it
  • keep in mind how Latin will relate


  • nothing gets in & out
  • minor shocks are kept out
  • regulates & moderates

Latin Dome:

  • exerts normative pressure
  • “keeps variation in check”

Cixous etc:

  • no dome, multiple entrances & exits


  • just dome. (list of animals) (p.xvi)
  • positing the presence of operating table

Sunday 22 June 2008

This is where the talks are for now. Or rather my talk. The other one’s fine.

There will be four or five talks, each with a drawing on a new page of a flip chart, and with a book. It needs to be a blackboard though, to show the traces.

I will present each talk partly from my notes and partly from books. Any things I might say wrong I’ll put into books. Any explanations & looser bits I’ll present ad lib, from the brief notes I can stick to the backs of each book. I so far have drafts of talks on the Latin dome, on Propagators and on deixis in sign language. I can do something about aphasia & string, and I think I’ll drop the soap bubble thing, though the patterns of arrows with refraction and surface pressure could be good. It’d be good if all the talks were factual as there’s no need to draw diagrams of literary descriptions – And it’d ring more true if the poetry weren’t in the words but the structure.

So to do next, and next will probably be Tuesday, if not some evening or other, is to

Now look Tamarin, things are actually fine. I am working things up too big. Now. Tonight has to have some solid clear thinking for the Alex talk.

Monday 23 June 2008

Every single other person I know reckons I’ll pull off these lectures. My mode for today, I’ve decided, will be relaxed.

I want something that means a bit more, in my Latin talk. I want something that I can really love. We’ll accept it has to stay academic, because that’s the only way the domes can come out, but I’m worried I don’t love it. Would I love it if I said it carefully, if it were all entirely choreographed? It certainly needs to be more choreographed than it is now but that’s fine, I’m got time for that certainly. My concern is that something about it repels me. I’m somehow against it. I’m not friends with it. I want to spend some of tonight on it, love it, make it lovely. What things do I love? This talk can be anything, and there’s still plenty of time.

So then, Talk, how are we to make friends? (Not least, what am I to wear?) This has to be a conversation with activities. I’ll read out some of it and see how it feels.

No. I don’t want to read it.

Now then it’s important to me that Some questions. Is it important to me that people always follow what I’m saying? I’m assuming not. I’m assuming it’s alright for people not to understand whole sections. Now on that basis how far ought I stretch that? Should I push it until it’s entirely incomprehensible, with bits in another language, or silence, or inaudible speaking, or jumbled speaking? Should it degenerate? I want to make it feel exhilarating, a treat to have watched and experienced. I think to start and stop after the beginning and end of the talks would work.

I like the idea of going through the talks in my head, and only saying parts out loud. For the rest: going through the motions.

Although will that meddle with the recurring pictures? I have an idea that it might not. Imagine I do the first whole lecture almost entirely whole. Maybe with one horrible awkward silence where everyone thinks I’m fucking up. But most of that’s whole, and certainly whole enough to follow, and certainly with all the dome pictures explained. To move on then to the next one, turn over the page on the flip chart, pick up a different book, and start up the next dome, …

Keeping some of the talk silent would make it a more comfortable performance for me. It would make the talks be unreal, but not too unreal.

Would the spaces …

The spaces would draw attention to the edges of what I’m doing. The fact that discourse is an artifact, not real, not trustable. And then for the pictures to appear on top, over and over, what does that do then? That what seems to be spontaneous isn’t,

… I’ll try this.

Everything being hearsay. “Apparently”, “the idea is” … So nothing quite reaches. Just a surface impression. All suspect.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Now. Look there’s no way this talk won’t get done and done well. There still remains time. Let me just make one firm decision and stick to it. Today I will read out all the parts I’ve got, and time it, and listen, and see where there are links, what can work, what can’t. That’ll be something definite at least.

I really, really don’t want to do this talk. Tamarin imagine you could do a talk about anything you like. You’ve still got a week. There must be something easier than this horrific Latin dome nonsense.

Am I just afraid of hard work?

Can it be more like an unfunny stand-up comedy routine. God no.

Could I use sound instead of images? If I had two texts, one recorded and one read out, and there are frequent matching words in these texts, and I have to spend the time reading out mine so that the matching words and phrases get synched up. Goodness I would be much happier with that.

It could be lovely. Me and a tape recording, and scissors and glue, and a print-out and a biro, stopping and starting and stopping and starting. I could tape it at Alex’s house, that’d be fine, it’s quiet there. Ok. I think I’m going to do this. Relief. Relief. It is with such light in my heart (my God!) that I just piled up my papers and put them on the other side of the table.

First I have to think this through.

Two texts, simultaneously. A performance. It might not be clear what I’m trying to cue up with what. But there’ll be something real to it, I’ll really be working it out on the spot. Live jamming we might say.

Ok. I have the tape recorder I’d need. How would this work without being contrived?

Would it be a matter of having two texts that nearly match, of which one is recorded and one is on paper? Then the nice thing would be to try to craft them together, to make them sound together. Say one of them were a shorter text but with all the words there are in the longer text, and I have to try to cue it up to make it go together.

A long stretch of noisy blank tape recording at the beginning. I say, after a while, “Or it could be a blank talk, like a blank book”. More blank noise. And then the voice on the tape recorder starts.

And I’d start to note it down, and stop it occasionally to catch up. And when it’s done, rewind the whole thing. And then try to recite it at the same time. Is that enough?

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Judging by the date, the talks are almost over. This morning I need to make some decisions about my own talk, and then this afternoon I will keep going with writing.

For now though I must get on with my talk..

Then. How can I have these thoughts?

I just want to write down, secretly, in this diary, that I hate this. I cannot believe I am putting myself through the prospect of this talk when it’s so hopelessly soon and so hopelessly risking of humiliation. I must be able to do it. Why can’t I be excited instead of frightened. It’s a week today. I haven’t had lunch yet. That will help me.

[…] I have got TIME. After Thursday there’s nothing! Nothing but talk preparation.


  • sound setup
  • get table
  • flip chart
  • find out room
  • reminder emails
  • lights
  • chase up publicity

Talk things:

  • rewrites to section 2
  • cue up section 1
  • write section 3
  • decisions for my talk
  • tape recording for my talk

The thing about the talk we’re doing together is that it seems so natural. Of course there would be us both. To do the second talk with the first talk’s material seems somehow like I’m interloping. It makes sense for 2 people to do the talk. If I do the talk with our 2-person speech but just me, it makes sense for there to be a lack. Alex’s empty chair? 2 microphones? 2 tape recorders? I want it to be a proposition that I carry out. I don’t know if I can pull this off.

tape. tapes

tape recorder. tape recorders


I want to try to be matching things up. I want to try to contrive moments of correspondence.

“If I can try to match up the words, then the rest will follow.”

Wouldn’t it make sense to have Alex’s voice on the tape not mine.

Thursday 26 June 2008

Now I’m back to the dome talk. There’s lots to do but it will just get done. After today there’s nothing but it. To calm myself: for this talk yes, I will need a flip chart. But I may not need any kind of microphone besides the clip mike. Are clip mikes ok if you’re standing up?

And then, the talks I have are:

  • surface tension & the thinning of the film
  • the Latin dome & the shattering of the dome
  • propagators & what the dome keeps in & out
  • sign language & a meeting through the dome

I think I shouldn’t make any eye contact with the audience. There needs to be distance. I must speak deliberately.

I like the idea of making eye contact first, and then not again. First catch the eyes of everyone there. Eye contact with everyone there; and then that stops. Then no contact: detachment. I need to find the right tone.


  • what room?
  • publicity – suggest send out dedicated events mail
  • table & flip chart
  • microphones (2 v. long XLR cables, amp/speakers to fit XLR cable, I have omnidirectional mike + stand if necc.
  • space for AV people
  • lighting
  • Volume
  • JJ & panel

  • you couldn’t possibly know what they mean by then. Apart from that you wanted to make them mean something.
  • all the time I was writing

Saturday 28 June 2008

Right. There aren’t several different talks there’s one talk. I need to first complete all the talks so the tone is correct, and then go back through them making equivalences, and finally overlap the dome images. Then I have to familiarize myself with the texts enough to read only certain bits from cards and certain bits from my head with bullet points.

I did the talk to Alex and she loved it, and it’s already right, perfect, and she’s going to invite Tommo, and all I have to do is make it longer by writing more sections. And work out the domes and get a flip chart. All fine. Sunday morning last workings on this talk, then home, then writing, then Monday, then Tuesday working on mine, & Wednesday me, and then. (then all the stuff I’ve been putting off for weeks.)

But anyway. Tonight’s at Alex’s house.

Sunday 29 June 2008

At home. I can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this and […]. And I have to write so much more of this […] talk and it’s awful, it’s just awful. […]

Monday 30 June 2008

[The day of the Conversation Piece talk with Alex] We did it and everyone clapped and clapped and and afterwards such warm, excited, honest comments and congratulations and […] it all went just as we’d hoped, and better, and […], and Jana filmed brilliantly and we’ll have a wonderful wonderful video.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

I have to think through this talk of mine. What I have is a series of unconnected talks that each share some aspects and that each involve similar drawings.

At the moment I am reading out the talk from the page word for word in a sort of emphatic way that suggests I’m barely listening to the information. What this does, if I can get the tone right, is to demonstrate the provisionality of what I’m saying, and the artifice of presenting the information as fact. Other ways I’ve been demonstrating this are by having sentences that don’t make sense, and by introducing long pauses that draw attention to the … to what …? What do the long pauses actually do? They brig things up to the surface. They keep the listener on the level of the performance without going further into the actual words, since after all the words are only CONTENT. OK I think this is good.

So the surface of my talk equates to the dome itself. I want to keep the performance on the surface. I think sucking a throat sweet does this really well because it keeps in mind me, and it keeps in mind that I’m a person and that the words are all secondary because the sweet makes the sounds distorted. And in the pauses I can suck it. The aim then is to have the text itself so that it doesn’t invite the viewer in.

Then together with the repetition of one of the sections, and the merging of one section into another, that’s clear.

I would like to tweek the content so it’s about CONTAINING THINGS UNDER THE SURFACE and things not penetrating it.

And it’s important all the diagrams show things trying to penetrate the surface of the dome and failing. So there’s more writing to do here. That’s good I’ll do it now.

How about this with the drawings. Each are starts with one element that’s relevant to it, and I draw that, but then the other elements I just add on, pensively, separately, without explanation, just to make them all match.

But wouldn’t it be better to contrive a picture they can all really be?

More about the writing … I want there to be the theme of containing things under a surface, and also drawing attention to the possibility of rupturing the surface.

I’m making things stay on the page. I have to spend my pauses looking between my page and the flip chart page, and nowhere else.

Fuck. There are too many elements to this. I’m just adding more and more bits. It needs to be absolutely simple. It’s going to be so boring for people too! It’s 6.20pm and the talk is in ten minutes this time tomorrow.

The features of this talk are:

  • lots of stories that are interesting in themselves
  • pictures that are the same for each story
  • long pauses
  • reading out as though I don’t understand
  • pedantic definitions
  • stories bleeding into one another

Wednesday 2 July 2008

I’m calm this morning, and looking forward to the talk. It seems I was only going to let it get done when it was the last possible minute. Then when it was, it just got finished. People who’ll come tonight:

A, A, T (3)

T, N, B (3)

C, C, G, J … (4ish)

V, GE (2)

Now then let’s get these pauses right. The purpose of them is to interrupt the flow of what I’m saying to draw attention to the surface of it, so that the narrative level isn’t accessible. The options are:

  1. Keep reading but silently. This won’t do because I need the audience to know that they’re getting the complete text not just extracts, partly because only then can it be clear what I’ve done, and partly because it needs to be clear that the text I’m presenting is whole. This is the whole thing.
  2. I can stop abruptly and freeze. I don’t want to actually freeze as that introduces a new level of artifice that I’m not interested in.
  3. I can stop abruptly as though I’ve just been struck by another thought that then occupies me.
  4. I can stop abruptly in open acknowledgement of the falsity of it all.

I think 4 is best, most honest, and that’s the point of it. Almost as though I’m getting bored with it. Yes. No I’ve just tried the boredness thing and I don’t think it’s as good, it comes over as moody. What I want to say to people, maybe, in these pauses is … what.

I’m not sure making eye contact works. I wish I had anyone else’s opinion!

It’s half past one. I have five whole hours to do nothing but perfect this. It’s got to the stage where I’m embarrassed and want to cross bits out and make it shorter. Very unpleasant again now.

Is it honestly possible that the talk begins in 75 minutes and I am still desperately amending the words and hoping the diagrams will be ok? Oh it isn’t such a big deal.