EXTRACTS FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF LILY O
I used to call myself a left Hegelian because then I could resist joining political groups or parties because no one called themselves a left-Hegelian in political circles. After all it was the thing that Marx had to overcome to become a proper revolutionary. I never objected to being called a comrade but I preferred the idea of being a lover. To be a comrade means that indirectly you are given over to the idea and no idea is good enough to be given over to even the idea of revolution. It is important to understand that the risk of dismal loss that awaits when the idea sinks into the abyss. At least being a lover means that you are in command of your own recovery. Yes, I not that abyss. Of course what I have just said contradicts the idea of being a left Hegelian but then I enjoy such a posture. The year of 1977 in Bologna means of lot to me because I had to work out if there was an in-between of being a comrade and a lover. I am not certain if idea and flesh have an in-between but the violence of those times at least presented the possibility of such a thought. I think I might write only to preserve a space that presents possibility but in my case this is purely abstract because I write without a public platform. Strange but I no longer even understand the impulse that goes with this desire for an outward facing address.
Words should mix with the vapour of bodies in order that passion becomes the juice of the mind. This is a bit like my sense about being in-between a lover and a comrade. Perhaps we might imagine that words ascend toward the idea and sink into the sentiment of the body instead of spinning within a space of difference.
What I remember about Bologna more than anything else was the experiment in language. People learned to speak and listen in new ways. The musicality of words overwhelmed the precision of economies of meaning in order that invention might open out new spaces of reception. Anyway I first became conscious of this on the streets and through the radio but later in clubs and the bedroom. I guess it can be found anywhere but it is rare, more like an eruption. A bit like freedom really, that is, an eruption. For a moment I thought it was possible to open out a new universe of sounds and cadences but it requires an extraordinary relationship to time in order to endure. I am certain that this was not the case of confusing noise with the inclination towards the profound. I think that my sound works are an attempt to sustain a relationship with this event. There is a politics to what I do but it is not obvious because I dislike staging historical passages.
The other thing that I remember about Bologna was being called a wanker by some of the comrades, as if there might be some shame attached to the realities of such an act. All I could say was that I was a wanker but one with delicious imagination. My yoni opens out to the stars. Without cosmic wonder and then the idea of infinity thought would have wandered without the force of abstraction so if I open myself to my own sex then at least allow me a space to proceed without shame.
So I dreamed of being a public figure and here I am sunk into hidden, private spaces that mark out the territory of withdrawal. All my gestures follow. Is this like a form of retreat and if so how would I know? I always disliked the rhetoric of making a stand. How can a position be located in order to make this ‘stand’. Soldiers are required to make a stand when they are about to be slaughtered. I prefer floating instead because I do not wish to become static and then rigid. My idea about being a left Hegelian is there is sense of ground is always being displaced through the restless movement of the negative.
Am I ‘O’ simply because I am empty. I think I am O because I have nothing to hide. O is simply there to indicate a passing through or a space that is perfectly formed but also vacant. O also assumes my relationship with my mother.
I think that I write notes because I do not have to concern myself too much with the reception of a reader. There is something solitary about such writing. Invariably such things are published after death so it is then the writer becomes an author, but until that point, a state of nowhere suspension. I can feel my death advancing towards me but I write in a way that it contrary to it. I have all the time in the world.
Sometimes days pass without words being spoken but not writing feels like privation. At the same time I have no sense of being a writer just as I have no sense of being an artist.
I have a strange habit of keeping books in piles around my bed. I do not have bookshelves as a way of making an order so sometimes I can spend inordinate amounts of time seeking out passages that I need to refer to. Against this tendency towards chaos I appear to indulge there is a counter tendency because opening and closing books in rapid succession might awaken unusual conjunctions of text. In the half-light of the evening I might stare at these books and imagine distant landscapes made out of different strata of time and space.
I like touching myself but I like the sensation of feeling the touch of words just as much. Writing notebooks allow this space of intimacy to occur as a regular event. Invariably I write when I am in bed. This might imply that I sink into words or require a posture related to the gesture implied within sinking.
Words can be opaque or transparent, soft or hard, moist or dry, smooth or fragile or at least this is how I imagine them.
We look at words on a page or a screen, they are evenly spaced and yet they have come from places that might be remote or dark, extraordinary places in the body, the deep mine shafts of sense, energy reserves and intense feelings of an elsewhere not yet mapped. In short the spatialities and temporalities of words are transformed into a disguised equivalence, which allows the reader to think the time of the day.
Words advance on the page incessantly and yet they leave traces of other things such as gaps, interruptions, rips, and withdrawals. It is through these things that writing retains itself like a complex coil awaiting release.
I keep the ‘Notebooks” of Simone Weil next to my bed. They are filled by unexpected terms. In part they fascinate me, but I am also repelled by aspects of them. I think that she is far too willing to sacrifice herself to the directions of her intellect. I think she wished to strips herself of all the decadence of being middle class and this gave a quality to her death which we could say was severe. Deep with her imaginary was the possibility of a severe death and that holds no fascination for me.
At this moment I start to think about the body, but not the physical body but rather the subtle body with its myriad of energy centres. Each of the confluences is constituted as a centre of emotions and spatial awareness. This is an inner resource; because everything is recorded there… you could even think of the self as a vast recording machine in which not a thing is lost. The point is that this vast virtuality of sense awaiting a recoding process, but the problem is that they are whirling at speeds that make this information simply appear as sensation. “I am feeling depressed” means a slow heavy sensation that blocks the smooth passage of words and thus we withdraw or descent. Usually the desire is to escape from such sensations in order to displace it through other sensations that might be triggered by drink or drugs that also stand as a possibility as an elsewhere. What we are either not understanding, or recognising, is that there is a form of intelligence in each of these states, no matter how unwanted. Each state gives us a possibility, which we can either block or transform. On a simple level this process constitutes an economy of our energy field. Language and gesture enables us to connect or to block our economies of energy. If there is no energy connection and exchange then there is a sensation of either blockage or non-communication. If I say that a person talks as though they are filled with concrete this conveys this sense. So that words that follow have a hollow ring, they are dry and congealed in equal measure implementing a gesture of separation. Being alive to the other is simply the possibility of expanding the field of your own energy. Ultimately I have to be willing to show you my death, my sex, my sense, my rhythm, my emptiness if I want exchange because from moment to moment this is my reality. In each of these things there is nothing really of interest, but when connected in the right way they are things rich and strange. This should happen all the time, it is the only revolution but instead we withdraw into the ruin of badly conceived connection.
When I write it is as if I am also awaiting something to happen. It is certain that words will almost invariably come, and then in turn, go away, so writing is like standing at the intersection of coming and going.
Julia Kristeva talked about the way the human subject is a form of intertextual practice.
This would then be a way of seeing the body as a network of signs that expose a surface that we term subjectivity. Rather than neatly composing an order that can be read these signs become knotted or twisted and thus indicated striation or indirect signification.
First we had a sacrificial economy that appeared to turn bodies into signs and gradually this economy is subsumed into a less violent social economy achieving the same ends. Social economy never loses its relationship to a more violent sacrificial economy but instead it constructs the rhetoric of good order to mask this archaic origin.
I think that Pasolini was interested in such things or certainly a passage from the construction of history back into mystical sense or the meta-historical. It was impossible for him to make either a mannerist or formalist type of cinema because his work always appeared to stretch time in new and unexpected ways. In a way he realised the relationship of the sacrificial impulse in regard to aesthetic reality. More than anything he also understood that the subject both posits itself but also annihilates itself within the next movement. In this regard the subject is viewed as being close to the condition of cinema in that it’s flickering creates the illusion of continuity.
Poiesis might be simply be described as a coming into presence, but as something which is a bridge between seemingly contrary things such as absence and presence, matter and time or between not being with being. So poiesis is a movement but it resists any ready-made manner of indication as to what or how it is.
Poiesis is the passage between absence and present interrupted by the occurrence of truth that then runs through it as an invisible thread.
Poiesis is the vapour trail through which that which the dead communes with what is alive. It is more obscure than sense and outside of intelligibility. The work of art might be born out of it but it is not completed by it.
One day I would like to start a notebook simply related to poiesis. It is just a thought but I thought I might half entertain because of the immense energy it would draw from me.
Sometimes people ask me how I mix my two sources of blood. I am part European and part Chinese. Who knows what else I might be mixing with this. All I know is that I am happy being both because then I do not have to conform to either. Although it is said that I am pretty, I can also say that I am not sweet. Nobody has ever called me either sugar or honey. I like it that way.
At the moment I am sleeping with a Chinese boy who is a lot younger than me. I like the fact that his body is smooth. He tells me that I have a fierce aspect but then refuses to elaborate what this means. He smiles a lot, instead of talking too much. His manner is delicate and I come in all kinds of intense ways when we are close together. He blows his breath over my body and then talks about the response of my body to wind. After sex there is always a strange taste in my mouth. I wonder if it is from the chemical that erupts in my body or if it is a taste at all. They say that you are attracted towards the other because of their scent but scent can barely be detected except on a subconscious level. So perhaps this is like another type of trial that leads us back into our path of desire, perhaps even to death. Sex then would be like an etheric education for our death. This is just a passing thought but one that sticks to me, even though friends have invariably responded by laughing at me when I have attempted to discuss it. Of course I have read Georges Bataille and his theories about eroticism but I believe that I the nuance contained in my perception lacks connotations of Catholicism that might be evident in Bataille.
One only has an image of the entity called the self through which to pass through this moment or that, and then, with everything stripped away by the rule of indifference this image is simply left to endure the abysmal feeling that nothing of consequence endures within any gestures that might accrue through such movement. The rule of indifference is the social law that is saturated in estrangement. I do not know the substance of this other than the sense of having to yield to transience in which something is always escaping. I think that time is like a leakage and that is why we are given over to running out of time but then I also think we are in contact with an excess of time in terms of the future. So once we attempt to assembled one stable image of time then another image appears as a contradiction to this.
Adorno once described art as a “utopian blink”, a phrase that should alert us to the difference between ideas of the long duration of history, optical scanning of reality and the blink of the eye or redemptive rupture. Much of the language of modernist art has now begun to fade, or even be replaced within critical frameworks. Ideas of an avant-garde, being ahead of the game, the zeitgeist, historical memory and cutting edge have lost much of their currency in ways that would also make us sceptical about notions such as advanced art or contemporary moments. Perhaps this is why there is a currency to ideas such as trauma, historical delay or suspension, melancholic discharge, forgetting, archival impulses, disaster, the untimely, spectrality and rupture. Is this merely the sunset of modernity itself, in all its various manifestations, or are we simply adjusting to a world in which “time is always out of joint”? Against this, is art merely strategic, a flicker of the present, opportunistic, ‘of the moment’ or economic, and as such, part of a dominant reality principle?
I might refer to Adorno but I dislike the way he writes, although I have a special affection for ‘Minima Moralia’ because it is unsettling in a philosophical sense.
I am making a series of collages that mix various fabrics, with objects, painting and images. I remember when I was a fashion student; I would always start with collages that had no literal relationship to what it was I was going to design. I was in search of both a principle and a mood. I no longer use the idea of principle and mood but I am certain that it something close to such qualities.
More than any other preoccupation the issue of memory returns in different guises. Art is simply the alchemy of memory systems and modes of translation. Syntax passes through different formations and bodies but subject to misrecognition. Memory is always linked to forgetting so history is filled with black holes.
I am not sure why I appear to work in such a fragmentary manner. Partly I want to create a poor art made out of scraps of things. My father liked guilt bronzes, whereas they made me want to look away because they seemed overfull or even excessive. Margins are not in themselves better than centres, but it is the textures discovered in margins that attract me. Having said this, I must say I have no ethical claim in this regard so I simply have to say that such predilections suit my sensibility.
The good thing about writing a notebook is that you can dispense with both a thesis and forms of narrative. I am all over the place; so writing in this way suits me. I am allowed to contradict myself, start things without finishing them, in fact do all the things that might constitute bad writing. It is writing without a proper backbone or at least that it how I imagine its judgement. I am not really sure if I wish over people to suffer all of this but it is not my concern. At the same time I cannot really claim that such an attitude is somehow more truthful, in fact I am not convinced that it is possible to be true to oneself. When I look back over what I have written I wonder why I bother but if there is a truth in all of this is that I enjoy being with the process of words following words.
Someone asked me if I have ever felt at home. I wondered how it is possible to have that kind of attachment, well at least in my case. Instead of having a long-term home, I have travelled a lot, this is not in opposition to settling down, but rather it is a way of following what comes before me. I have always had the sense that I would prefer my ashes to be scattered in the wind, as opposed to being buried in one place. I do not wish to be visited after I am gone even though I would welcome passing thoughts because I think they might linger in the sky for my dust to savour.
Sometimes I feel short of breath, I think it is connected to all those dreams. They eat away at me but then there should be no shame in that. My father always said he wanted to retire and go and live in the mountains. He said his main desire was for clean air but even if I went with him to the mountains, I still think I might feel short of breath. Someone once said that culture was the air we breathe so we might be in trouble with breathing now because other forces are consuming culture leaving it like air short of oxygen.
Maurice Blanchot tells us that writing is the entry into “the unknown space”. Is this the unconscious or even more remote, beyond naming even? Blanchot was one of the first writers to open out the difference between what writing might mean and what it actually does to you. Writing in this sense is always its own event and as such never refers to a reality outside the powers that it assembles in order to be its own event.
We look at words on a page or a screen, they are evenly spaced and yet they have come from places that might be remote or dark, extraordinary places in the body: the deep mine shafts of sense, energy reserves, and intense feelings of an elsewhere not yet mapped. In short the spatialities and temporalities of words are transformed into a disguised equivalence, which allows the reader to think the time of the day. Writing weaves “the unknown space,” with the time of the day. Writing has a warp and a weft, as in a textile, but without the methodological certainties that textiles depend upon.
Words advance on the page incessantly and yet they leave traces of other things, such as gaps, interruptions, rips, and withdrawals. It is through these things that writing retains itself, like a complex coil awaiting release, a rhythm containing the yet to come.
Is writing always close to violence? Perhaps it rips into the world’s continuity, breaks into the order of things; but is this violence? Is writing, as Duras said, a translation of darkness? Darkness and violence though are not quite the same thing but a relationship between the two qualities hints at the force contained within writing. Of course when writing is evoked in such a context then properly speaking we are talking about writing with an aesthetic dimension.
Writing, to be writing, presses up against both habits and destination and this is why it is necessarily an encounter. Also to write is to open out not only the unknown, but also a sense of the world without stable references and this implies submitting to the violence that destroys stability. Writing always exceeds stability by insinuating itself within force
Does writing place me into intimate contact with a stranger that has always occupied me? Is it ultimately the stranger who writes? I am not happy with this idea of being taken over, I want this task to be my own and yet I am rendered helpless, a preparation for dying or even the means of suspending death.
If we can heat words it is because to an immanent potentiality of words and from this we can suppose words have a potency because of the way in which they hold there own reserve. “Nature means the genesis of growing things” (Aristotle) and so likewise with language we cultivate our sense, except this is not a case of nature, because we also experience words as being tool like, thus shaping the process by which growth occurred, or even cutting back all growth in order to survey ruination.
I think of Luce Irigaray when she talks about language and breathing. She is trying to break the stranglehold of metaphysical thought and with it the centrality of logos, which she envisages as thrust.
I reach a stage of exhaustion. Words are becoming slower and heavier and then another condition arrives, in which words release themselves from the weight and find a life to continue without the support of my frame. This is the strange passage in writing when all the inclinations are to stop but the words continue to come, flowing as it where toward their own demand. It is though I am being cast aside and yet this is also a promise of an enchanted realm in which words are coming all over me, abundant and splendid. I am close to this moment right now. I start to suspect that it might feel more like a love letter, intoxicated by words emitting subtle perfume, which will lead to drunken suspension of time and cut instead across space so that the object of such words might feel the widening of the nostrils as the words are consumed as breath. Against this such passage might also be chilling like a spacing of a death sentence, words like mournful procession in order that we can simply enunciate an ending. Words can expand and contract their powers in equal measure.
In his book “Saint Genet” Jean Paul Sartre writes how Jean Genet regarded poetry or poetic language as a form of theft, words are stolen and put to wrong uses. Sartre believes that Genet is in the same lineage of Baudelaire and Mallarme, as opposed to the surrealists and their heirs Rimbaud and Lautremont who used words as revelation. “For Genet, poetry reveals nothing; when words burn and turn to ashes, there remains only nothingness.” Genet compares himself to filth or to a waste product. As such he is condemned to dwell in silence and it is from silence that writing starts to emerge. Genet lives outside of history and the spaces that he creates are underworlds in the form of prison cells, torture chambers, and brothels. Imagination is the vehicle of transformation in these worlds in which eyes caress, but also cut, and in which every ritualised gesture can be that of a priest issuing the last funeral rites.
If I had any ideal as to what form my work might take then I have this image of a three dimensional book. Of course such a thing is an impossible image but one that still has a sense. Instead of just words there would be things, words and sounds each contesting attention. Of course I am not sure if I will ever realise such an image so instead I have piles of things such as books, notebooks, drawings, models, assemblages, paintings, film,
and sound-voice tapes. Perhaps someone will come along and edit it all for me. Perhaps I am just too chaotic ever to be properly organised into a single point. Maybe this is a sign of not knowing who I am but then I wonder what this imperative is to be someone who is definite.
Sometimes I become tired of incessant movement between countries, things and people. It is as if there is something corrosive in my life but then there is nothing that I can detect. Maybe it relates to the figures such as Pasolini and Artuad that I have come to associate myself with. In aesthetic terms it is a form of spectral poetics that appears to have infiltrated into my very tissue of my sensibility. When I was much younger I underlined a quote of Breton and it appears to return in different guises.
“Who am I? If this once I were to rely on a proverb, then perhaps everything would amount to knowing whom I “haunt.” I must admit that this last word is misleading, tending to establish between certain beings and myself relations that are stranger, more inescapable, more disturbing than I intended. Such a word means much more than it says, makes me, still alive, play a ghostly part, evidently referring to what I must have ceased to be in order to be who I am. Hardly distorted in this sense, the word suggests that what I regard as the objective, more or less deliberate manifestations of my existence are merely the premises, within the limits of this existence, of an activity whose true extent is quite unknown to me. My image of the “ghost,” including everything conventional about its appearance as well as its blind submission to certain contingencies of time and place, is particularly significant for me as the finite representation of a torment that may be eternal. Perhaps my life is nothing but an image of this kind; perhaps I am doomed to retrace my steps under the illusion that I am exploring, doomed to try and learn what I should simply recognise, learning a mere fraction of what I have forgotten. This sense of myself seems inadequate only insofar as it presupposes myself, arbitrarily preferring a completed image in my mind which need not be reconciled with time, and insofar as it implies – within this same time – an idea of irreparable loss, of punishment, of a fall whose lack of moral basis is, as I see it, indisputable.”
Andre Breton Nadja Grove Press 1960 (P11-12)
I am lying on my bed as if waiting for someone to come through the door but no one will come. At the same times I do not wish to let words function as the filling up of a void. That is like a corruption of writing.
In Chinese painting it is said that a condition of truth only emerges when it is possible to forget the brush and ink. I wonder what kind of forgetting is the founding grace of writing. I am not really certain that writing demands solitude. Yes when writing then you are purely alone but then the condition of emptiness that this might propose can equally lead to an unbounded overflowing that is quite another form of oblivion. Writing traces a pattern of desire but also yields to gesture that disrupts the power of will to control its outcome. I think that something always escapes and this means that it is difficult to know if the space of writing is either inside or outside of the entity that writes. Writing has to stay with the impossibility of bounding a space of exact authorship.
Sometimes I think that writing should be like flying a kite that simply goes with the wind whilst weaving a form in space.
I have started a new form of investigation. For various reasons I formed a relationship to collecting. I have either been denying this by throwing things away or teasing myself with the possibility that it is possible to acquire things that leads to some place that is otherwise not apparent. Most collections sooner or later are there to stand for the name of the person who assembled. I have started to collect objects that cost a mere pound. Then I go through a procedure of making stands or supports for them as if they open out the possibility of no longer being ‘mere’. But then my question is why should their nature be transformed by an act of designation. I think I wish to discover another aesthetic reality outside of that of Duchamp’s legacy.
In considering Duchamp’s employment of found objects and the reduction of this gesture to the notion that objects of the world might be deemed works of art if both designated as such and placed within the context, namely the gallery, which would affirm the status of being art. The question might be posited on many levels, for instance do we now simply take this as a fact of modern art, does it keep alive the border region between art or non-art within the framework of modernity or is the gesture a serious error, which instead of demarking the border between art and non-art, demarks philosophy (propositions) with non-philosophy (commands). On a more fundamental level Duchamp indicates a slippage – and we can understand from Duchamp that he was interested in the idea of slippage (and stoppage) – not only between art and non-art, philosophy and non-philosophy – but also between the being and the knowing of a thing or entity.
The word ontology originates from Parmenides positing “on” (being) as the arche (the origin of nature or first cause of things). “On” is also translated as “what is” which also leads to the word “einai” that is translated as “that it is.” Both the Chinese word for being, “sonzai” and the Japanese word “aru,” carry both meanings. In the modern context Heidegger called “what is” an entity (Seinedes) and contrasted this with “that it is” as Sein (being). Aristotle develops his theory of ontology in order to classify all that exists in the world as well as conceiving of their ways of being. What is at stake here is the state in which the thing-event exists (the mode of being of “what is”). Heidegger simply shifts the “what is” (the meaning of being) into “that it is” (the event of living). In Plato there is a distinction between “being” as copula and “being” as designating reality, “it is” is connected to the logic of linguistic expression while “there is” designates the judgement of being in regard to an object that really exists (this is in part the distinction between epistemology and ontology).
Returning here to the case of the found object, we are confronted with what might be viewed as a conflation of both cases, the “what is” with the “that it is.” This in turn might be seen as a conflation of epistemology and ontology in regard to the work of art. We have the case the objects of the world might under certain conditions become works of art (base material transposed into gold) alongside the condition of something being a work of art open to judgement as such. Let us say for the moment that Duchamp was concerned with opening out the gap between the material case (the object of exception) with the speculative case of the work. If the speculative case is over-determined and the material case to some degree marginalised, then under what conditions might this case qualify as a work of art because most conditions of aesthetical judgement have best been relegated. If the speculative condition of the work becomes the solely determining factor then we are left with a proposition of a case. “That it is” a work of art, or the event of it being so, overrides the case of “what is” the work of art.
The alchemical case for the found object can be placed within the search for lost element that governs the four primary elements. If the movements of the heavenly bodies are without physical characteristics, without gravity for instance, then the element of ether, or prime matter, can be understood as intersecting and uniting the metaphysical and the physical. Perhaps Duchamp’s objection to painting purely related to the idea that it was concerned with the mixing of all the elements of matter and as such was a turning away from the discovery of the mysterious element of prime matter. The abandonment of first painting and then art (for chess) was the means of gesturing toward the intersection, not only of the esoteric and exoteric (metaphysics and physics), but also between philosophy and art. Curiously what we are left with is the demise of both cases, a form of non-art and non-thought that keeps its case open by an insistence upon either will or command. The philosophical case for the found object can at best be reduced to a logical proposition, and within this as a sidestepping as aesthetics or with art itself as an aesthetic law that introduces the general case or condition of non-art being art (an exceptional case of objects). In so doing it introduces the empty time of non-causality in which it is possible to drift without consequence. This is a curious outcome of an artist who was paradigmatically deemed as introducing thought (intelligibility over sensibility) into modernity.
Anyway I think that I am interested in joining the intellectual case and linking it with a sensuous presentation of the case. I might have given up fashion because I had a relationship to a sensuous presentation of a case but it was bereft of any substantial intellectual case. Fashion simply washes away its own foundation in anything other than transience and that is why it is a source of pleasure because it functions as a release of time or its pure expenditure. This is why fashion has a double relationship to extravagance, it requires the excess provided by money but also provides for an extravagant image of time.
Why should I know what it is that I am doing? I simply make a case and that is what I am left with.