THE ARTIST AS WRITER AS ARTIST
The Basic Tools
This excerpt of The Artists Way details two essential tools: ‘the morning pages’ and ‘the artist date’
The Morning Pages are stream of consciousness’ writing, to be undertaken daily, presumably in the morning. They are the crud filter, the splatter, the space to exhaust ‘the critic’: the voice that leans into logic, and identifies the holes, the problems, the negativity, and is held in position by fear. Over time, the exercise of the morning pages dips beyond the critic to access the ‘artist brain’: the capacity for freewheeling associations, and a wholeness that includes the body, the surroundings, and the flood that lies beyond intellectual constructs. Morning pages can be useful for answering questions, sometimes ones that are not previously identified, as you can reference them as a map of your own ‘interior’. They can help shine a light of parts of you that lie dormant, familiar to your or not. I find this process similar to my improvisation practice of exhausting the familiar senses, and moving beyond the habits of perception. Its purpose is to move beyond the predetermining outcomes of the senses. Rote ways of moving and thinking can become stretched, and some other power is accessed.
If the Morning Pages are an outward projection, the Artist Date is an inward reception. It is a courtship. It is intentional time spent (weekly) with your artist self. It is nurturing your own high needs super-celebrity. There’s no space for anyone else.
The allocation of time, and repetition (structured time, or repetitive tasks). All of this rigor requires discipline to safeguard and do because it can be uncomfortable, and bring out monstrous stuff. It also requires replenishment. The author describes a ‘creative reserve’: a well that can become dry if drawn on and not replenished. Self-nourishment is difficult, but important. ‘Art is born in attention.’ For me, attention is critical, and ignites curiosity, and tracing curiosity can help fill the well.
The formality of a contract is incredible. The agreement to pampering your artistic ego is so blatantly self-important. I love it.
Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing: Cixous
We don’t know who we are. We need to traverse the bed to reach the forest of dreams. We need to be brave. Paradise is down there, deep through our own mud.
Identity is a porous construct. I acknowledge that I do not know who I am, and that gender is fluid, and as much a part of my identity construct as any other trait. Naming is political, and helps avoid confronting the unconscious. Naming is a safety net, a navigation tool, for living within a society.
Dreaming and writing are connected to the body, movement, and ‘traversing the forest’.
‘Writing is not arriving; most of the time it’s not arriving.’
Thoughts close off access to the unconscious.
What is it to escape prohibition? To evade limitations of thought, the shackles of appropriateness, identity, and the self? How can I bypass myself? I made an alter ego to help me. She’s the embodiment of unconscious data. She gives me permission. She is the ever-expanding-ever-depth that side steps this problem. She has no cemented qualities. Sometimes she is a whisper. She takes on all forms. She is the power thrust crucible. She will never manifest, even though she takes form from time to time as the shadow, the re-presentation, a physical inscription of some hard lines that never arrive. She is unfastened. She is only a ‘she’ as it delights her to tickle the stereotype.
In the Silences: Tim Etchells
This text is performative. I started out by reading the entire thing without referencing the footnotes I then re-read it with the footnotes interruptions. They are entirely disruptive, but illustrate the jumping, shifting thought process of improvisation, and the way Etchells describes rehearsing. The footnotes are the inner world of the author, and what surfaces in the silences when staring at an empty space, and attempting to construct something from nothing. Of there is no such thing as nothing, no tabula rasa, no empty room. It is full of footnotes. I’m reminded of how silence is like stillness: in the physical pause, an illumination of senses comes to the forefront. Once you notice something it becomes difficult to un-notice it.
The footnotes are also where detail live. To read the text without the footnotes is almost to not understand it. The page becomes the stage. The jumping around through the space of the page, from concept to detail, is like a lens widening and sharpening. Impersonal, to personal, and back again.
I am so distracted. The shifting is almost intolerable. This layout of language is a mental map.
The Gesture of Writing
Kafka: “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”
The materiality or interface of the writing ‘brick’ changes the emergent word. I can’t produce the same way on laptop and pen. The typewriter tracks your errors. It is inherently slower. The expressive tool can never express at the speed of thought. Speaking is closer, but differently limited.
Expression ‘leans’. I like this idea. It is a movement that incorporates the whole body. How does physical leaning change the thought and the emergent word and the IN-scribed thought? And vice versa, how does the emergent writing change the body. I lean into my keyboard. I squint for no reason other than to speed up, although futile.
The author is limiting this text to the inscribed word and the thought that pushes it outward, towards expression. I’m interested in how words push movement, and vise versa.
What does it mean to be motivated to write? What is all that wrestling? It’s some pressure that is unnamable until it emerges. Even so, I think once it emerges, or is ‘chipped away’ from its receptive brick, I disagree that this is an act of negation. There is never only one word. Each word that is chosen, although it is one selection, does not stay immersed in its own meaning. Each word has a charge that dips back into the moment of its original expression. Each word is one representation of an influence acting on the author, who when captures it in its moment. Although captured, its configurative possibilities are not reduced, but each word is an opening towards the next thought, and the following bursts are positively perpetual. Each word is a mighty springboard into the milky atmosphere of the next. They bear a relationship to one another in time, and the immediacy of the moment of their conception. They are endlessly self-producing, following the habitual formations of learned grammar, rules, etc. They are tiny footholds of the writer – the grounding of a thought. Each word is only one representation of a multitude of the possible – an ever differing pixilation. What is carried through the word? Not always the original, intended, thought of the author? What am I picking up on?
No matter how the author constructed his/her paradigm of writing, this article was meant to be read. It is part of the necessity of motive, expression, and communication: that someone/thing will come to meet it. To use the word necessity implies a stepping out of the self, an urgency to communicate. Writers would not write if it were only for themselves. This futility would have quashed the subversive-capabilities of the writer, and his/her power to create an opening/gap/affect. We cannot accept the possibility of futility under any other condition, I don’t think. The fact that this ‘could’ be read is the motivation to act. It is enough. It is also the implied audience, even if that audience is the author, coming back to the text at a future date. I can’t separate the idea of writing and reading in this regard.
I want to acknowledge translation. I don’t see translation as a loss, but an opportunity to gain, to add to, even in the event of misunderstanding, to the overall potential of a crystalline thought. It grows, it changes, and it is therefore alive.
What was pre-linguistic thought like? I wish I could remember
Sometimes a thought does not emerge until it has been granted the external opportunity to formulate – a course, a lecture, an intention that stimulates its genesis somehow. Like this entire reading diary. How do we position ourselves in the world? This is a useful tactic.
Writing Down the Bones
Cracking open the syntax:
First thoughts on these excerpts:
I am struck by the specificity and clarity of these writing tips, the advice, the time, the time put into it is so present. I just read that last sentence back and disliked it greatly. I am trying to silence the censor. First thoughts, if they can come quickly, can bypass the ego the censor the jerk the wishful ambition of future world changing fantasies. Don’t worry about the spelling. I am also suspicious of things that discuss what they’re ‘about’ as opposed to just being. Just being in the white tartan mink stole with uncomfortable teal boots with old laces that are rough and disintegrating over the last 8 hours of dancing at all those weddings in the countryside with wet morning dew hanging from the back eyeliner smeared under my left and right eyes. The patterns are almost symmetrical. Almost as symmetrical as the blue gizzard and the moon’s reflection through the lake of black tar and midnight perils. There is a wandering moment of saturation in every encounter with symmetry. I am instantaneously reminded of something familiar like toast with butter and something less comforting but still enticing, like acorns underfoot or lymph node power. I embody the regret of looking back and again I will continue to press forward into sleep and dreamy stillness as it unfolds into action and spite and regression and weathered leather shoes and coat and a denim shirt with 4 buttons only. The breeze comes through uninvitingly and its intrusive cold is not enough to wake me from the power sleep that encumbered my day and devoured my attention and slathered all over this pillow. The pool of drool is so droll and cool that I cannot even suck my thumb for it is too narrow for this hollow tongue on the raunchy fantasy cushy pillow of honest to goodness home cooked soft and flouncy blushing babes in the meadows of hopeful fruit and a ripe crop.
Infallible Processes: What writing can learn from visual art?
There is so much material what nothing needs invention. Listening. Observing. Documenting. The position of the artist is something to consider…
Writing and Sol LeWitt and Andy Warhol. The word is the frame, the word is the catapult, and art is a currency of ideas. How a work is made takes precedence over its outcome, most of the time. The author is present, but less directly present in controlling elements of the production. The works become porous, and combines the opposing forces of resistance and surrender. I lift my hands and defy ‘creativity’ as a characteristic, a closed trait. However, I am still making choices, but they are subjected to biases. I lean into abandoning my signature, but these are the conditions of this abandonment. I refuse to edit hours of video footage, but I still choose where to position the camera, who the subjects are, and what to call the piece. I still produce an aesthetic that I may call mine – something that tips towards representation, or repetition.
If one were to only make instructions on how to write a text, who would write it, and how would his/her subjectivity change its design?
The balance of control and agency is very compelling. LeWitt and Warhol, and Cage, propose a tertiary element to their work: what does the body need? What does the exhaustion of the draftsman do to the wall drawing? How does his hand change? Why does he only make $3 per hour and who is he?
I think when dealing with how work is made, it’s politics jump to the forefront. Who benefits from the work? Why? I wonder what dialogue was captured by Warhol in those surveillance party-tapes that could be subjected to libel lawsuits…
What are you challenging? Is it creativity, or who owns creativity? Is it authorship, or
When challenging the HOW of making art, that artist is challenging a convention, or some historic organization of being.
There are so many fragments, truthful, and truthful to memory. Lacan is present and delivers his research on the mirror. The mirror is the beginning of a new sight, the confrontation between self and its fractured image in an eternal moment of witnessing that verifies both the existence of the subject, and its endlessness. The cinematic notes ask me to stop piecing this text together, but accept its fragmentation as its atmosphere. This text is an image. It does not function as a text might typically function. It has its own inner logic of noisily traversing voices, details, timelines, and history. It is possessed by the affects of the mirror.
Dancing to the Tune of the Infinitive
‘Becoming’ infers an elided present – the lines of Aion go infinitely in two directions: that which has happened, and that which is yet to happen.
To land on the present is to arrest becoming, to arrest life, and to arrest infinite change.
The logic of sense and nonsense is the logic of AND. It is not a negation, like true or false. Sense exists independently of nonsense. Each are full and infinitely elongating.
The event of the event: it is incorporeal. It is an in-folding, and has an independence. It is WILD. Its unpredictability must be accepted with COURAGE. To surrender to the affects of the pure event is to surrender to your incapacity to foresee it, control it, harness it, and predict its timing. It is a sadistic monster and a whimsical rainbow. Its rhythms are only predicable in their irregularity.
Right after an event’s event, there is a moment of inscription into meaning, into language, into actualization, and embodiment. When the fissure opens up I do not know it is a fissure at first. I do not know I am standing on a rock. I am possessed by something that materializes in language. It is grabbed by identifiers in an effort to command its upheaving force can be embodied and known.
Only known ingredients can participate in mixing.
Nothing happens in the present moment of the event. It is the ontology of the void, the elided present. Can this elided present borrw from the future? That other side of the Aion line? Like in quantum physics (Zizek on Event) how can the past borrow energy from the future to produce a mini blip into a future existence?
‘…it is the immaterial world of incorporeal effects that makes language possible.’
I reach backwards into the experience of the experience and a word surfaces. These are the words of a monstrous writer with a diabetic leg ready for amputation, but the will to swim and frolic. The monster is full of urgency and aptitude but without the flesh of action. The monster risks its own existence by sucking on your sugar, and poisoning its system with a deepening irreversible contagion. More more more more. The monster is you, and not you. It defies oppositions. Together you forge an event, where your oppositions are absent of meaning. The neutrality of the event creates an impasse of indifference and ‘neutral splendor’. It is a blissful coma.
Memoirs for the Earth
How can human consciousness conceive of other agents, subjectivities, ontologies beyond our senses? I like to think about the relationship between empathy and evolution. What if I could stretch my senses beyond the constraints of my own subjectivity? Perhaps the earth could feel me, and I could feel it. There might be a future gill for that, or another eye I development.
Maybe its not about the content of Hawkes’ writing, but about the energy. The earth gave her an abundance, and ignited her propensity for heavily saturated material. What is it to really master HEAVILY SATURATED MATERIAL?
Hawkes’ speculation: “the textures of experience apprehended by the human psyche and intellect in the present moment were the result of biological consciousness reaching all the way back to primitive life-forms existing in deep time. By this reasoning, she could write a memoir for the earth.”
Can we imagine our way OUT of consciousness? How? It seems that we must use conscious thinking to think our way out of conscious thinking. (I think of this moment of losing ‘consciousness’ as the event’s event from the previous reading: Dancing to the Tune of the Infinitive).
Maybe consciousness is dependent on time, and the construct of time as accumulative.
John William Dunne: “…in reality all time is present, such that past, present and future actually happen contemporaneously. Human consciousness, he contended, created the illusion of linearity in our perception of time.”
How does Hawkes poke at the structures of consciousness? Words can pierce, disable, and disorient.
I can’t think my way out of experience. It has to come from some other hard labour. Pass the hacksaw, I’m going to free the salmon and unbridle the harness of time. In a little while.
‘For Hawkes the psychic unconscious remained relatively benign, a space of refuge and adult adventure…. Out of former experience might be levered new sorts of artistic expression and creative force.’
I disagree. I believe the psychic unconscious is dangerous. If you really go there, be prepared for dissociation, chaos, and accepting the wildness of impulse.
Maybe nature provides a containment field for this kind of willy nilly.
If you’re going to lose your shit, do it in a field, a valley, a mountain top, a thunderstorm, or a cold winter night. Bring your best monologue.
Master Rock by Maria Fusco (radio play)
I like hearing the actors’ voices as conduits, or portals. I thought about how a body is a portal for energy to flow through. The voice is some extension of this exit.
I thought about the pacing and rhythm of delivery throughout this play. It was regular, and like small continuous unsmooth ripples. The words fell out almost too slowly. They fell against the timing of familiar speech. I thought about how the author might write this piece with the intention of it being spoken, and communicated aurally. I thought about the saturation of an accent, and how it creates a small pocket around the sound of each word. A pocket that has its own frequency-shape.
I couldn’t concentrate on the content for very long. I couldn’t process the meaning of the words the entire time. My attention faded out and dialed in. It undulated.
I thought about the old stereotypes of the female rock/symbol of nature, penetrated by the male auger-style, excavating laborer.
What is it to witness your own work? What is it to dig endlessly and remove debris but feel little progress? I have the urge to dig a very deep hole and watch the sediment colours change as I go down. I think about the measure of time through the materials of nature. Sometimes water cuts away and leaves a trail, sometimes a crustation fossilizes, but I will never experience this measure of time in my life. I can only guess at its undulations and thickly viscous rate of change.
This ridge felt the ice age, and that one enveloped a dinosaur.
The marks on, and in, the rock are natural, necessary, man-made, and artist usurped. The voice of the rock itself was the most coherent to me as a sound. The deep guts of time rumbling and shifting and pushing horizontality until a verticality takes form in the actor’s gargle. The rocks are masterful listeners.
Reflections on Writing
‘…what one has to tell is not nearly so important as the telling itself. It is this quality about all art which gives it a metaphysical hue, which lifts it out of time and space and centers or integrates it to the while cosmic process. It is this about art which is “therapeutic”: significance, purposelessness, infinitude.’
Richard Forman in an interview: “I guess I try to read everything to I can forget it all and move on.”
Language is something beyond words.
Decay as rich an expression as growth.
Spend enough time writing until you know it is yours.
Have one conscious thought.
Have courage, failure is an abundance.
Remove purpose from art.
There is no such thing as progress. There is only perpetual movement (forward, sideways, backwards).
Remember to spend time unlearning.
And BTW I love these photocopied body traces. WHO ARE YOU?
The Writing Artist
“An endless generation of interpretive activity is the wished for outcome of an art work, not explanation. Truth in art is by definition unstable.”
Burrowing furrowing burrowing furrowing… this dark compulsion answers to no one! Bwahahahahahaha!
An artist’s text will be judged in consideration of his/her work. Full Stop. There are so many liberties all of a sudden…