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David and John undertook a simultaneous reading of my Musica Practica text at Reading for Reading’s Sake in April this year. Images and an audio recording of the event are here.

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While you write, imagine a piece of writing as a sound:

a sound made by some kind of piano. The point of the piano isn’t the piano itself, but the sound it can make. Nevertheless, the shape of the piano is determined by the shape of the sound it makes, and the shape of the sound is determined by the shape of the piano that makes it. The shape of the piano causes the shape of the sound, and the shape of the sound causes the shape of the piano.

While you write, imagine a piece of writing as a sound, and imagine that the sound comes first, and the piano follows. The sound calls for every moment of the production of the piano.

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Yesterday VerySmallKitchen announced my new publication:

Tamarin Norwood’s TEXT AS TOOLKIT: A Practical Handbook is the first in a series of e-chapbooks developed from the Art Writing Field Station.

Tamarin’s text was first devised as a presentation for the field station event at Five Years Gallery on 7th February 2009.  As Tamarin observes in her introduction:

TEXT AS TOOLKIT proposes a methodology for reading and hence for writing. The purpose of this methodology is to identify and extract from texts certain metatextual tools that might be used to examine the practices and products of writing. Mining texts for their tools is a consciously interventional strategy that considers texts as provisional and active material participants in a cumulative art writing field. Read the rest of this entry »

In April Reading for Reading’s Sake is taking place at Islington Mill. It’s described as “a four-day event aimed at interrogating reading as a practice. Unlike a regular reading group, Reading for Reading’s Sake aims to explore the activity of reading, the situations in which we read, reading as a shared event, a private passion, concentration, interpretation, sound and voice, the symbolic and emotional value of the act.” Read the rest of this entry »

In John Smith’s Girl Chewing Gum (1976) a set of stage directions works as a pivot for the representation of the actions of the people, vehicles and camera operator in the film. It’s a straightforward conceit: the actions were filmed first and the descriptions were added afterwards, but because they’re announced as directions the words appear to precede and cause the actions. Read the rest of this entry »

I was the Copyist again at The Sirens’ Stage yesterday. The rules of engagement for the Copyist include no invention, no interpretation, no metaphor, so that the writing sticks as closely as possible to what’s going on in the room. But of course there can be no objective writing: it’s never without invention or interpretation, and in the transliteration of action to text every word is a metaphor.

There’s a curious balancing of authority going on: I’m the one writing, but I can only write from what’s there, and for the most part what’s there are the people. People speak and then come over to see if I’ve written it down. Who’s making the text? It falls among us somewhere between competition and symbiosis. Read the rest of this entry »

In the closing pages of Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre’s protagonist listens for the last time to a voice singing on a familiar gramophone record, and he writes:

“Couldn’t I try … Naturally, it wouldn’t be a question of a tune … But couldn’t I in another medium? … It would have to be a book: I don’t know how to do anything else. But not a history book: history talks about what has existed – an existent can never justify the existence of another existent. […] Another kind of book. I don’t quite know what kind – but you would have to guess, behind the printed words, behind the pages, something which didn’t quite exist, which was above existence. The sort of story, for example, which could never happen, an adventure. It would have to be beautiful and hard as steel and make people ashamed of their existence.” (1938; trans 1965, p. 252)

Emphasis mine. Text as machine.

A new exhibition at the David Roberts Art Foundation opened this week. The Sirens’ Stage is an exhibition by Etienne Chambaud in collaboration with critic Vincent Normand, and it runs from 19 March to 24 April.

The show is described as “a multi-layered conceptual exhibition by Etienne Chambaud in the framework of Vincent Normand’s project Permanent Exhibition, Temporary Collections. The Sirens’ Stage is developed with Kadist Art Foundation in Paris and Nomas Foundation in Rome. The exhibition, interpreted in a different language almost simultaneously in each foundation, is based on mechanisms of writings and transcriptions. Translation should be considered both the medium and the shared language of the whole project.”

I’m working as a Copyist for the duration of the exhibition along with two other writers. Our job is to transcribe whatever happens in the space, following certain instructions from the artist and curator. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s imagine a text is a machine that makes some thing.

The machine makes the thing, and the thing is different from the machine. The machine has to take certain physical forms in order to make the thing it makes, but these physical properties are not the point of the machine: its product is the point.

So we can see the machine’s product – the thing – as the producer of the machine: if the product is to have a certain quality, then the machine that makes it must have (different) qualities of its own which are capable of manufacturing that certain quality in the product. The product depends in all its qualities upon all the qualities of the machine that makes it, and yet the machine depends in all its qualities upon the qualities of the product that will result from it.

I want to try out this machine idea with some analogies to diverse actors in the process of manufacturing, playing and listening to a piano.

A short text I’m working on at the moment ends like this:

Then you can start to group the amended inhabitants into a number of parts and tell each part the names and orders of certain musical notes part by part, and you can tell them how many beats they can have in each second. Part by part you can count each group briefly and very quietly back into the general song and when you have told everyone to play there can be applause.

The text is a set of less than explicit instructions that repeatedly uses the form “you can” to explain how to commandeer the frequencies of local short-wave radio stations and then how to instruct the listeners at home to communally play a piece of polyphonic music using constructions they can make from household objects.

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