July 29, 2005

The Tmesis of Maurizio Nannucci

Maurizio Nannucci’s recent Text Festival commission in Bury Art Gallery reads:


To transcribe it as a line would be misleading. To write it in the column above or any parsing variation like it cannot represent the experience of viewing either: the text is a circle of neon light installed in the 1901 rotunda of the main Gallery entrance space in a way that makes it impossible to read as a coherent ‘sentence’ without the effort of a circular walk or spinning on the spot below it. And where is the start? The words occur in almost all sequences.
This architectural space has always instigated a peculiar valorised opening; it is actually quite small but its classical proportions distended upwards articulate grandeur and seriousness – qualities aimed at educating the early 20th Century working class of Bury in their proper (respectful) relation to culture. Calming and restrained, the space has remarkable historical Ideal resonances but Maurizio Nannucci’s installation adds a missing layer to complete the register of its public existence. It is as if the Victorian architects designed the space in the expectation of DIFFERENT CULTURES. The text works architecturally as tmesis. It works chromatically as tmesis. It works linguistically as tmesis.
The Bury Text Festival asked the fundamental question for artists who use language as a medium: faced with a modern world where the written word and sign overlays and consumes every environment, how can poets and text artists work with language? From advertising to road signs, from logos to global branding to digital communications, the visual/virtual hegemony of packaging, identity and commodity, text is the ontological and linguistic landscape to everyone’s existence. The Festival’s methodological survey of current aesthetic response described in TEXT identified five strategies: Materiality, Spatialisation, Parataxis, Intertextuality and Restricted Languages. And in various recent installations around the world Nannucci’s works have utilised one or more of these approaches, whilst bringing a unique textual phenomenology into the world.
Everyone locates texts in their world – be it stickers on their cars, novelty mugs or shirts with slogans, designer logos on watches, cars, clothes, texts on their phones, on and on, but fundamentally our texts are simply extensions, proliferations of a textual background radiation we are given and re-apply through what Jean-Paul Sartre called the hierarchy of mediations. Nannucci’s PLACES SAME CULTURE (exemplifying all others), parts the textual curtain, inserts itself, muscles in, “confronts two prosaic edges with one another … tmesis is a seam or flaw resulting from a simple principle of functionality; it does not occur at the level of the structure of languages but only at the moment of their consumption; the author cannot predict tmesis: he cannot choose to write what will not be read. And yet, it is the very rhythm of what is read and what is not read that creates the pleasure of great narratives” (Barthes). A question to leave hanging: is Nannucci’s use of English as opposed to his native Italian part of his dislocated effect, the place from which his cleavage and his insertion comes? What Bakhtin called the chronotope, the interpenetrating insoluble space-time-art unity of the work.
Intensely horizontal, a spinning plane between the ground and first floors, its midnight blue light (blue glass with T14 powder) penetrates and merges the upper and lower spaces. "It (colour) becomes an integral element in the writing, which is not only a collection of words but the material through which I express myself...Colour remains a primary fact. It is, after all, the first thing the viewer notices."
Nannucci’s Bury Gallery rotunda words have restricted themselves to
but Escher-like its circularity changes the viewer’s relationship to its repetition, we experience a moto perpetuo; Steinian insistence replaces repetition, "like a cinema picture made up of succession and each moment having its own emphasis that is its own difference and so there was the moving and the existence of each moment as it was in me." In situ, incrementally the tmesis of SAME HORIZONS expands so each word, standing in relation to each other word, stands alone, capitalised, hand-written in a pure light, butterfly pinning the substantial ambiguity of language to twelve words. After all, what would the words “DIFFERENT LANGUAGES SAME PLACES DIFFERENT PLACES SAME CULTURES DIFFERENT CULTURES SAME HORIZONS” mean? no punctuation no beginning no end. These moments of turning repeat in the repetition of shapes, capitalised and reinforced by neon technical specification, PLACES SAME keeps a continuous line of bulb so that E F S M N seem to rhyme/chime, the mimesis of language, language imitating itself. Finally this self reflexivity of text functions on the metaphorical level, politically democratising language and location, in the words of the poet Philip Davenport, ‘challenging the Othering process’. DIFFERENT CULTURES SAME HORIZONS parts an institutional fa├žade; it welcomes the public to their culture, it celebrates interactions between people and peoples: in its light it celebrates and restates the Enlightenment against approaching darkness.

July 09, 2005

King’s Cross suffering

“Northerner, this is your stop.” The immortal first line from Simon Armitage’s King’s Cross poem published in the Independent newspaper London Voices special reflecting on “an extraordinary week in the life of an extraordinary city”. The poem is one of Armitage’s more banal list descriptions which I forced myself to read. Given the scale of the subject, I wondered whether he had the capacity to rise the occasion. No chance. Much in the ‘spirit’ of “The Universal Home Doctor” poems, it falls into the strange disconnection from real experience. In that book, he torpidly rose to the challenge of DIY and gardening, giving the strong impression that he had run out of things to write about and, as a poet with limited innovatory language resources, moved onto novel writing. I am not saying that the poet would have to have been in the underground when the bomb went off to write but there continues to be inauthentic distance in his writing, which I think becomes particularly inappropriate with this subject matter.

“Or maybe,
Just maybe, you live. Here’s you on the News,
Shirtless, minus a limb, exiting smoke
to a backdrop of red melt…”

is a sequence of lines opening with maybe, just maybe, a fairy tale intonation as suitable for a whether Santa Claus is involved, with the absence of a limb a banal tmesis.

A found poem on the same page of the newspaper:

Faith under fire

This fella helped me

choose my new kitchen

A new blitz - a

new world view

sale now on

bombings in London?

July 06, 2005

Lawrence Weiner

After a brilliant and very long day with Lawrence Weiner on Friday we went into the Text Festival public conversation. It turns out that my anxiety about his reputation for ‘difficulty’ was based on stories from the 60’s and 70’s when he was ‘set-up’ in unsympathetic anti-conceptualist forums – so our day was much more relaxed and conducive than I had feared. He was really pleased with the WATER MADE IT WET installation, which looked fabulous in the summer light. His RADCLIFFE HORIZION piece always looks good in the sun anyway. The poster archive show at Bury Art Gallery is also an impressive installation, though he thought that more of the posters could have been fitted in. He had read the Art Monthly review and disagreed with it but was very positive about the festival achievement, which was gratifying. The conversations through the day were relaxed and free-ranging. Of particular interest was the discussion of my methodological analysis of the current text situation. Since the articulation of the 5 methodologies in the TEXT, I have considered a potentially missing element in the equation – temporality. Not in the simplistic way of this being the Sixth Element (or the even more superficial recent analysis of the longpoem by Ron Silliman which statically operates only with a traditional undifferentiated classical model), but in an analogous quantum structure: Quantum Gravity Theory/M Theory postulates the structure of reality having eleven dimension (ten plus Time), and my current work follows a thread that this is mirrored in the Glass Bead Game of Text as five methods plus Time. Lawrence engaged with this with his recent thinking on the dialogue between Simultaneity and the Parallel. Some of his thinking in this resurfaced in the public conversation which will be transcribed and available shortly.

In preparation for the conversation cris cheek joined me and despite much briefing on how to approach the situation he immediately upset the intellectual openness of the discussion by flagging up his platform plan to question Lawrence on areas of writing, line length, compositional practice - which LW would reject as irrelevant

The Met had a great atmosphere, and there was a good sized and mixed audience of festival familiars, artists, students and curators.

Overall we talked for an hour and half covering Lawrence’s artistic theory and practice and issues facing artists in the 21st Century. The prickliness engendered by cris pushed Lawrence into preparing positions giving the conversation an edge which (people report) made for a tantalising debate (one poet in the audience commented that it was fun watching cris ‘intellectually bitch-slapped’) but it was annoying for me because it drove it away from the more thought-provoking ground of the Text Festival which required more trust and openness. Maybe this was never possible anyway and that that work had happened earlier in the day and will valuably resurface in the follow-up to TEXT which I have started working on.