29 August 2012

Reflection - erasure updated

Being "public" about the thinking behind the work I've been making  causes me to think and write about it more clearly. Sometimes "I know what I think when I hear myself talk" - and usually my initial thoughts are left to mellow, and rigorously edited, before being posted. Another consideration is that it forms part of the "reflective writing" for our final assessment. 

[I found this post, written at least two months ago, while going through drafts - it's too late to be part of the assessment ... more of a historical document now. I'm intrigued to read a piece of writing that I've entirely forgotten about, and had saved with the intention of reconsidering and editing it.]
My work on erasure goes back to a comment, years ago, that a friend liked to go through her old notebooks and cross things out because they're finished with. At the time I was incredulous at this destruction of evidence of the past - this was an entirely new idea to me. I was stuck in the groove of "all writing is sacred and must be kept; anything that has had time and effort put into it must be kept" and also "you never know when something will come in handy" or indeed, when you might have to make-do because the money has run out. (Well, after those affluent times years ago, we're getting dangerously close to that money-running-out scenario, so those of use who spent a lifetime making-do are ahead of the game!)

The struggle with letting-go is probably familiar to a lot of people - part of our "personal journey". Through a set of chronological coincidences, I get to rationalise this letting-go as part of my art project, so that should make it easier, right? Or at least, it makes it justifiable, or worth spending time on. However, at this point "letting go" is tangential to the revised project, even though that revision is a revision - from "journey as line" to "line as text" (and possible, line as text-without-language). 

Before the complete erasure - before the inky books and the filletage - was the over-writing. From this I wanted illegibility of the text and "just the look of the thing", and also to spend time doing something that is pure enjoyment for me, ie engaging with the (polished, crafted) thoughts of good writers, and through developing the format of these works, improving my own crafting and polishing skills. I was aiming, in the aesthetic, for something not obviously mysterious. A clarity of what the work is -- how it can be "read" -- and a, what, an intriguing ambiguity behind that, so the reader doesn't have to "understand" the text and yet doesn't feel it's a "foreign language". [It will communicate through the feeling it evokes.]

Feeding into this also is my own frustration with what I think of as "complicated artists books" which have been so overworked that their richness has become a daunting series of codes, hurdles, traps, puzzles -- and the reader loses interest because they are deterred from trying to make sense of it all. Perhaps it's the reader's own "fault" that they don't see this work as intriguing? Is it about the artist showing how clever they are?  These complicated books hardly seem to be about communication. Maybe the lack of communication is due to impatience on the part of the reader, not taking enough time to really get into the book. Why would a reader want to, though ... there has to be some perception of connection, some arousal of curiosity - or perhaps these books only work if the reader knows of their background, eg the reputation of their author.

The work using erasure started [in January  2011] with an obliteration of the words in daily journals written more than a decade ago, done as a supplementary project because I had the books to hand, needed something for an exhibition, tried to carry the "journey lines" further, and liked the look of the results.

The over-writing probably goes back to the over-printing I was doing [more than] a year ago, using the "journey lines". At the same time I was starting to think of how line itself could be text, that is, how it could be "read" on a page. So the over-writing became a conflation of line and text - "line as text" becoming "text as line". It became a meditative practice, and in a small way an exploration of materiality. When I get back to "a quiet space" (after the [Wilson's Road] show) I'll do more of this. [Yup, did that!]

An offshoot is the over-written sonnets (which led to flirtations with punctuation and stitched syllables). I started memorising them as a way of generating the dense lines, and found that keeping 10 sonnets in mind at once needed a lot of revision. This has lapsed rather, and in that fact lie possibilities for follow-up work, along the lines of tests of memory. You really notice when you lose a section of sonnet - the lines don't add up to 14 - and you notice when you get the words wrong - the syllables don't add up to 10. As for getting the words right....

Perhaps the current manifestation of my project - loss of language - sprang from this close work with the sonnets. [And isn't loss of language - loss of memory - the biggest erasure of all?]


Sandra Wyman said...

I am familiar with writing down and losing (or destroying what I have written) - something my mother advised me to do if I felt really depressed or angry - write it down and then burn it. I think maybe it was more to avoid the risk of anyone else seeing it, but I found it a very therapeutic exercise - for example I felt very angry with a group of friends once when they treatede me (I thought) as if I were totally naive and stupid and wrote down my anger letting myself respond with my inner child (lots of "so there"s!); the result was the anger got out of my system through writing, then I could symbolically dispose of that anger by shredding it into tiny pieces and throwing it away. It did wonders to keep the friendship going, and to enable me to deal with the comments in a more considered way. Sort of sending the negative thoughts to the recycling bin (and like deleted items on the computer, the memory of the experience is still there but I can now laugh at it)

Sandra Wyman said...

A further thought (you really are connecting today!): I've had ME/CFS for about twenty years now - mild recently but in the early days when it was really bad I "lost" many of the poems I had accumulated in my head - I've always loved poetry and this was distressing to me: I did overcome this by trying to memorise some of my favourites but for the first time in my life I had to really work at it. My memory of the poems has since recovered fully, but at the time it was scary. I also had an interesting conversation about this with an older friend (former headteacher) who told me about the time his late wife had suffered with depression and had suffered electric shock treatment as a result which had the effect of deleting from her brain all the poetry she had remembered.