An Essay for Absence and Presence
The primary concern of this essay is to explore a new methodology of artists’ writing. It aims to unpack major forms of academic writing and set an experimental approach to the relation between text, image, and sound. While many scholarly texts within the academic context focus on how critical thinking and analyzing can foster the art-making process, the Swedish artist Jan Svenungsson emphasizes that “artistic activity’s primary product is not knowledge, but the inspiration.” This essay, therefore, looks into the meaning of texts as aesthetic concepts of representations, not as mere facts or information, seeking a profound impression of the words and sentences by linking them to visual and auditory domains. In this way, the ears and eyes are constantly in flux with respect to one another, creating metaphorical reflections in which I was able to express the very depth of what I have imagined and desired in my creative practice.
Pra Pathom Chei, someone—his name forgotten, long since dead and gone—struck the huge stone bell that now hangs silently. What is resonant is the seemingly dead words of the poet being cast into the living speech of the actors on stage. Imagine, then, a theatre of stone. Imagine that presence. The beautiful as “the sensible shining of the idea [das sinnliche Scheinen der Idee].” Show your words in the tangible light. It gleams there in the dark with its Poe-like atmospherics of linguistic threat and verbal iconoclasm. I must get a grip on myself, or at least on the label. I must squeeze it back to its true ignoble proportions. What it has in common is strictly not visible, not audible, and not representable. It is the disagreeable absence of time. Cage sat and listened for three and a half hours to the entire tape loop of “Box with the sound of its own making.”
The object takes time, certainly more time than we’ve got. Duration, a process of interpretation that leads to the hidden truth, infinity, as Kant calls it. In the mind of the one who judges, as a “disposition of the spirit [Geistesstimmung].”
Footnoting itself has been rendered dumb. I see one that has to hold it all at all arm’s length, accounting for the impulse to put an ancillary piece of information at the bottom of the page. I lack the fatal club of “education.” I would construct my narrative the way I would construct my work. I build in rickety shapes, all manner of things from my bodily memory through which I understand the present dust. My negotiation with intuition responds to textual refusals. The refusal of the name, the density of appropriation, textual determinacy, and the languages formed, named, proposed, and aimed. No bridge builders copy animal tendons in their cables. What I want is a little cosmos with its own logic. I do not take a language that can interrupt my sense.
Once these accidents are employed, the expansions are infinitely renewable. It is language itself, taken in its infinity. I leave you without something to soothe you. My silence is your comfort. I vomit and then I quite calmly create the meaning of a strange insect of which I am no longer afraid. Awful lack of technique, awful lot of paint makes a Cubist picture look like what it ain’t.
The circle of emptiness freed by the imagination permitted one to reach a state of mind which released him from having to consider someoneelse’s ideas. It allowed him to be less self-conscious, able to go with the “flow” of his creative intuitions. Everyone expected something strange to happen. However, all that graves did was eat the sandwich and pay his bill, get back in the car, roll up the carpet, and drive away. The brush is not an extension of his hand or arm. The brush is itself a brush. Served him roast lark. It crawls upon the table and rolls in the loaves. The past continually ingratiates itself by jokes, barely disguising a feeling that learning is so musty it is a wonder to find any ordinary humanity nearby. His imagined presence is more perfect than his real. “That sound you hear is the sea.”
Selassie is far away and couldn’t care less, and the promised ship is a million light years from Freeport. It is not enough to tune into the sonority, into bodily pleasure, into the song of the flesh, or into the rhythmic drivers from which a song flows. Alive and bodily, unique and unrepeatable, overcoming with her simple sonorous truth the treacherous din of the realm, a woman sings. And the king listens, distracted from his obsessive vigilance.
By ear, he said. But that which matters, that which insists, that which will last, that! o my people, where shall you find it, how, where, where shall you listen, when all is become billboards, when, all, even silence, is spray-gunned? Man standing by his word, birds flying out representing mouth speech. The voice as a “word picture” would be as immediate as a request from a lunch menu.
Now I listen to the page 88. Letting the elements be gathered around it.
Fig Tree Singing Under The Water
Billions of jellyfish are floating, they don’t sting, they have only a jelly cap and no purple filament on their extremities. Can they anticipate the weather? They gather experiences, histories, languages, and thoughts in memory of the one dead and gone. Only blocks of apartments with pastel blue balconies disturb them. I can hear crickets! .hhh audible exhalation. (hh), then, inhalation.
Speak tongues. Sing voices. Leaves of the same tree will oscillate with the passing of time. If you don’t know where these songs come from, how can you ever believe that they are genuine?
Pipea songabout a Lamb;
So I piped with merry chear,
Pi per pipethatsong again —
So I p iped, he wept to hear.
I see an old tree, its leaves rustling. Hold me up to this tree and see the light I shed. The sound of wind; the sound of marching voices; the sound of steam escaping such as my mother’s tea kettle; the sounds of whistles from train engines; the precise state of their flock dies away and becomes something past. Is whispering nothing? Of laughter with a sigh? I put my arms around them and think, what a good character, never to have harmed anyone.
I and myself are always too deep in conversation: how could one stand that if there were no friend? For the hermit, the friend is always the third person. What is the face of your friend anyway? It is your own face in a rough and imperfect mirror. You are trying to be the sunset. You are trying to make a person out of me. A person you might know.
Know me but do not meet me. I would trust you before any man alive, ay, before myself, if I could. My inward tale being caged in my flesh goes beyond the timeworn homophonic pun. Sweepers cleaning, children lost, fond farewells, high life, low life, age, infancy, the whole journey of life convinced as a pageant, elevating spectacles. The spectacles of the true sea. I look into the deep-blue. There is a more intense expectation of finding an answer. The self-concealing answer that is to come. The sense of sense is made questionable. The sublimity of the immeasurable — the restful immensity of the heaven becomes even more questionable.
Its unfamiliar, difficult fern
Pushing and pushing red after red.
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree–hidden cliff across the lake.
𝄆 You are invisible now,
You have no secrets to conceal.
And every lovely organ of your life
Shall come appareled in more precious habit. 𝄇
Immerses And Fragments
Silence repoſed in the valley; the birds of day were heard in their neſts, ruſtling in brakes and thickets; and the owl and bat flew round the
darkening trees: all is ſilent when Nature takes her repoſe. I give my eyes sleep and my eyelids rest. “A light to my path, o voice — I will sing you in my breath that deep red, and thus the song begins. Ya yoa. It begins a spiral of two presences. Who; you; fight; we; I; steal; soon; soon. Through the gates, the mount Atlas howls. The Sea of Time & Space with thunders loud and terrible; my swift passage; one sixtieth of luminous intensity. I have landed in ill time. Of course, a lullaby I never saw was too rough. Womb of continuing light. Preexisting blood per square centimeter of a black body. The expected birth: I can speak of the ten months in another tongue, although I am not naturally honest.
The eventual shapes could not be ignored in this digital technology. It is nothing else than the subtle electric fluid. You perceive I stir. Victor jagt zwölf Boxkämpfer quer über den großen Sylter Deich. The more disorder, the better. This is a difficult task, for many reasons. Away with me, to prison! We would be better able to understand it. Then awake her; strike! The air is temperate, serene, quiet, free from bogs, ferns, mists, and noisome smells. A slow transformation and a continuation, not yet on summer’s death nor on the birth. I like your silence. Your wonder. Break your grave and come again to me. Teach me to walk through jukeboxes and shadow that broken music whose irradiant stop is light. The music in its immediate presence redeems you. The whole thing would be closed and finished off. Come, quench your blushes, and present yourself.
You should be hooted.
There is nothing more quieter, I learned, than having to face dead men. They are there and yet not there: tangible ghosts, condemned to survive in a world they no longer belong to. A part of my soul remains unawakened until a great futurist musician rubs and pinches wind instruments and plays them for 1 2 3 4 5 seconds.
There is a kind of peacefulness in that attitude that I appreciate. I owe much to Cage, his idea of letting the sounds be themselves, but specific emotions and geographies I wish cease our friendship.
I contemplate on a naked New-borne-Babe, Striding the blast, Upond the sightless Curriors of the Ayre. The work of darkness is perfect, then the world of darkness passes away in the clouds: the knocking at the gate is heard. A perfect and eternal success dwells in a speck of corruption in “embalmed” figures. I tell you, I no longer deny the perfection of those loved beings.
When horses die, they sigh
When grasses die, they shrivel
When suns die, they flare and expire
When people die, they sing songs
In seeking the absolute one loses everything.
— Antonin Artaud
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