I’ve been editing the notes I made before my What To Do talk because I want to make them stand on their own, independent of the talk itself. The reason I like the notes is that they send off shoots and promises in disparate directions as the talk takes shape, and by doing this they bring out the concerns of the talk in a series of near misses.

Most of the ideas in the plans ended up being rejected as I reduced them down into to a single work, so in some respects the plans say more than the talk: they contain the crossings-out and mistakes and the process of making, which perhaps means they demonstrate more explicitly what my intentions were. They identify the shape of the space around the talk. They roughly block in my areas of interest, and also block out the things that might have been appropriate but aren’t quite. Once this gap (this ‘negative space’?) is identified*, the stuff that comes along to fill it – the talk itself – has already ceased to be the only way of articulating that gap.

What I like about the plans is that they keep open and present all the other possible versions of the talk. Formally they are diary entries that chronologically approach a deadline, and because they were all written down at the time, all the various strata of possibilities remain real for the time of the writing. There are also obvious absences, because of all the thoughts that went on outside of the writing, and of course the talk itself isn’t in there either because it’s off the scale, out of the plans and into the world.

And the formal openness of the plans reflects not only the final shape of the talk but also the narrative matter it deals with: the pauses, the repeated shapes of the pictures, the unclear but tight relationship between the narratives, the voice and its tone.

In another way, though, the talk says more about my intentions than the plans do. Trying to make the talk internal formally and conceptually cohesive was a real test for each individual element, which is why so many ideas that weren’t quite right didn’t survive. More interestingly, a lot of the ideas that I think were right also had to be scrapped, because the cohesion of the work had to come first. Everything else in subservience to the unity of the work. This is the thing that makes the talk more than the sum of the plans that went into it: it is the plans plus the talk itself.

This is what I want to do with the plans. I want to make them into a piece of work: I want to make them into a singular, united thing, which is more than the sum of its parts. This is an odd thing to do given that I’m specifically interested in the fact that the plans are parts. But I want to try this in order to address what I see as a problem in the way I made the talk: the way I kept the elements of the work subservient to its overall unity. I want to find a way to make a partner work for the talk which keeps the integrity and autonomy of its constituent parts.

*Making notes and plans doesn’t create the gap, it just identifies it. It would be impossible to isolate and name whatever fluxes of experience have a hand in creating the gap, although perhaps the process of beginning to think about making a work is an attempt to turn experience in on itself and play it backwards or inside out, as research. Once the work has begun to be present as a gap (or you might say, once the work has begun to be absent), then the work of articulating it can begin, and this is a filtering process that gets increasingly strict as the gap tightens, and the gap tightens as it is articulated, as the inside-out experience/research draws closer to the core the finished work will eventually circle around. It sounds like making this talk involved several spinning circles all of which contain and depend on and tighten and inform one another, and none of which can exist independently of, or before, one another.


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