Two Junes ago I painted in big letters on the back of my door this sentence*:


Something must be done, but we can’t be sure what. Be tentative. Write notebooks not masterpieces. Be wary of jumping to distinctions between things. Be troubled by the difference between the object and what’s around it. Seamlessly join things.

The work I make wades through these imperatives, merging art objects with life objects, text with paper, language with stuff and stuff with language… generally denying the difference between the object and what’s around it.

But recently I’ve been considering painting over the quote on the door. Perhaps it’s the stage I’m at with my work, or how comfortably easy it is to set out the beginnings of ideas and then leave them abandoned but still hanging open (as published but inconclusive posts on this blog, for instance). Or maybe it’s seeing too many bad examples lately of inadequate research being presented as experimental, subversive, or, yes, féminine.

Whatever the reason, lately I’ve been concerned that the stance epitomized by the quote on my door gives too clean an excuse for giving up agency and denying responsibility for my own ideas. I’m no longer happy stamping my foot and shouting “I AM FOR LOSING MY WAY AND MARCHING ONWARDS PURPOSEFULLY TOWARDS A THING WHICH I WISH WOULD WORK“.

It’s irresponsible to wish a thing would work. It isn’t enough. It’s alright as a place to start, but if something looks like it might work then surely the thing to do is to test it, and see if it might really work. And even if you can never be sure, at least you can try to be as sure as it’s possible to be. And that means testing this something against similar things and dissimilar things. If you can’t invest in the thing you’re making, and if you refuse to argue your/its case, then what kind of a thing are you claiming to make? And why should anybody else care?

A work must be able to stand up and (try to) stake its position. If the position is a non-position – the non-staking of a position – then the work, must be able to stand up and (try to) stake that. It has to play along. A work has be engaged in the economy of other works or it slips through without registering, without making a sound, without really being a work at all. A work can only stand up in distinction to other works – just as an object is itself by not being the other objects around it, and a word is defined by its borders onto other words.

So I have in mind that there’s a problem with my writing notebooks that never finish, writing blog posts with ideas hanging off the ends, and living with objects that might or might not be framed as artworks. Maria told me yesterday that sometimes a problem can be a problemATIC. ProblemATICs, she said, are productive.

And again, for now, because it’s late, this idea will have to hang off the edge.

* Moran, D. (2000) Introduction to Phenomenology, London: Routledge, p444, referring to Derrida’s refutal that the undecidability characteristic of deconstruction makes ‘the taking of any definite moral stance either arbitrary or impossible’.