This evening I’m going to describe to some friends the following work, which is the same work that appears in the diagram I drew last week. We won’t be able to put the work into practice because we’ll be at someone’s home and we won’t be able to draw lines all over its walls, and so once I’ve described the work as it should be, we’re going to try to find ways of replicating its effect but within the constraints of the domestic space: no lines on the walls, no lines on the floors.

Genuine Smiles uses a faint pencil line in place of writing – an attenuated, quietened form of language drawn between signified and signifier: between the thing described and the description of it. But once the line is drawn, the thing it started from isn’t there any more.

A sheet of paper of any size is attached to one internal wall of the cube, and attached just above it is a long piece of string with a sharpened pencil fixed to the other end. The length of the string will depend on the size of the cube: it must be long enough to reach to the furthest corners. Visitors are invited to hold the pencil and do whatever they need to do to muster a genuine smile. As soon as the smile is on their lips and before it vanishes, they should begin to draw a line from the smile to the piece of paper, without ever allowing the pencil leave the surface. This will probably mean drawing a line down their chin, perhaps down some clothing, down an arm, at some point onto the nearest wall or floor, and so on along the surface until the line from the smile reaches the most convenient edge of the paper.

The resulting line will attempt capture on paper a smile that might have vanished as soon as pencil left lips, and was long gone by the time it reached the page. Afterwards, the line will reach down from the page to a position the drawer no longer occupies, having travelled with the line to its ending place. And the smile, after all, might never have been genuine at all.

The residue of the Genuine Smiles event will be the faint pencil lines on the walls and floor of the space and on the skin and clothing of participants, as well as the ends of the lines caught within the frame of the paper.

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