June 27, 2007

Adieux to Silence

To quote On Kawara: I am still alive. Most irritatingly my net connection has been broken, but more positively I have been busy completing Reykjavik, the text-poem and book for my installation at Safn in Iceland in September and briefly writing this piece called Shut UUUUUp for a show at the Chapman Gallery in Salford curated by Ben Gwilliam and Helmut Lemke. It has been noted that I rarely mention personal things here and in the same vein some of the reviews of 50 Heads have magnified my distain for mainstream poetry (and its reliance on the personal voice of the poet). This is actually not quite accurate since many of the Heads are quite personal. I also have a reputation for not explaining the poems – this is also not true. So… As Sound Artists, Ben and Helmut’s show set out to address the question of Silence…

I have always been touched by the opening page of Simone deBeauvoir’s Adieux to Sartre in which she recounts that during some philosophical or political debate whichever one of them won the argument would cap it off with “That’s you in your little box”. She notes that Adieux to Sartre is the only one of her books that he would not be able to comment on because he was dead and literally in his box. Sue and I have an inverted version of this argument closer. The one who is losing usually resorts to the phrase “Shut UUUP” (the extended ‘up’ is conclusive). In thinking about Silence for the show, the final silence of its last utterance, similar to Adieux’s box, would give the phrase a particular poignancy – with the one in their box literally shut up.

Ben and Helmut noted that artists and writers in the show fell into either those embracing silence and those rejecting it. My text is the latter. As everyone knows I celebrate the City and that is where the text begins. Well not quite. In 50 Heads each poem begins with zero and ends with one; this is because in mathematics the probability of something happening is said to be a number between nought and one. So if the poem isn’t read – ie a reader doesn’t read passed the zero – the poem hasn’t happened; and if the reader gets to the one at the end then it has happened. With Shut UUUUP the poem begins with one and ends with zero because it progresses from noise (ie life) to silence (ie death).
One other thing, the quotation is from Pierre Boulez about Karlheinz Stockhausen (both of whom I like). It was a little joke for the German co-curator. This is followed by writing as thinking about consciousness, the difference between noise and sound, and finality.

Shut UUUUp



1. Silence is a bad thing a bad way Shut up

SAY falling descant every city still joyous
humming traffic and pneumatic humming and
uplifting sirens and retail palaver praise be
rest tested rejected

reductio ad
absurdum

“the endless chord, how typically German”
walking – at least partially in high
prevalence in functional importance
in periodic crystal-like lattice
structures with long range order in
ability to be transiently isolated from
interaction/observation functionally
coupled to events in emptiness so the foot
hitting the ground projects into amplified future
knowing cancelling out accompanied frequencies
silence is not the answer to itself
neither is an even distribution of all frequencies
without definite pitch
besieged one always dies
too soon or too yet is complete
at that moment with a line
drawn and when
examining the function
values between
the stationary points equals:
0