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Rejected from ARP!

5 Jul

ARP! (the snappy acronym of Art Review & Preview) is one of the only places in Twin Cities to get any kind of collected writing about art and art practice (mnartists’ access + ENGAGE being really the only other place to get texts from multiple authors) and the only one in print at that. So when the call went out for their summer issue, “Speak & Destroy” it was only natural to bang something together to submit. It obviously wasn’t chosen, hence the title, but here it is, in a slightly revised, but mostly complete, rejected form.


The Dead Surround The Living or Muttering Aloud at the Walker

April 25 2009 8:27pm

Something is taking shape in my mind and will sometime come to consciousness.

Something I was once conscious of but have now forgotten.

Robert Barry, 1969

Two statements, each typewritten on single sheets of fading letter paper, preserved to posterity thoughts and words on the pre- and post- conditions of articulation, bookending The Quick and the Dead at the Walker Art Center. I speak them aloud in the gallery, feeling still now transgressive, as if I am piercing the aural seclusion of others in the gallery. In this context, words are acceptable as a passive offerings but voice demands engagement, a dangerous proposition inviting chaos. I am speaking these words aloud as I type them.

I have told my girlfriend that I will be writing this, a verbal warning. “Baby,” I say, “I’m going to write this thing because there ideas flying around and there is a deadline and it may take me stomping around and smoking cigarettes and shouting and listening to Dylan to shake these thoughts out.” She smiles and understands, knowing that it is often messy and loud to make things. I write a lot of this by speaking to myself as I bike the greenway. Speaking to myself in the Walker would arouse suspicion. The white walls are intended for reliquaries and repositories, death offerings, beautiful arrangements of silent mourning demarcating the passage of time and location of humanity.

“The dead surround the living.” John Berger wrote in his 1994 essay Twelve Theses on the Economy of the Dead. “The living are the core of the dead. In this core are the dimensions of time and space. What surrounds the core is timelessness.” We are committed to this living core until we become unmoored from time by death, and in our constructs of time and space, the spoken word is the most immediate, temporal, unit of connection, that is to say, to speak is to be tied to another person by time and space. To speak aloud is to commit my time and space to your time and space.

Speech defies form, but sound is the first sculpture. Shaped out of our esophagus and existing in unmeasurable space before moving out of time, the act of creating speech is a communal, transcendental art. It is an attempt to circumscribe and elucidate the unspoken mysteries, and in that, the most fundamental religious practice. It is art practiced mostly unconsciously by the greater part of living humanity. With our speech we can address the living, the dead, whomsoever we please, and when the word passes out of time and record into timelessness, it goes to join the collective dead, touching the core still.

In those galleries at the Walker in white walls a dead horse film a dead dog stuffed a dead sparrow framed millions of dead animals compressed to a tire and burned into the air, thousands of tiny deaths floating around in that noxious incense. If the business of art is a business of objects and records then these are dead records, unspeaking. Their mystery is in their silences. I am only living to speak of seeing these things.

Speech communes with the dead, speech communes with the living. It will be before we are born and after we have passed into timelessness. If all this seems unbelievable, it is because it needs not be believed. Berger writes, “The memory of the dead existing in timelessness may be thought of as a form of imagination concerning the possible.” It is word and language, which is concerned with the imagination, the memory and the connection. While you are alive, with the possibility of that articulation of consciousness in galleries on bikes with your lover, speak. Once spoken, it will never be unspoken. Once you breach the core, the dead remember. The dead will say they told you so.

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