The start of 2015 seems to have flown past. Now we are in April, the month of fresh colours - soft pink, lemon yellow and warm scentful green. Oddly enough, these also occasionally make us miss the crisp winter mornings. April also marks the eighth month of our ongoing project A to/from B.
To broaden and deepen the understandings and interpretations of this project we are generating periodical reports, each of which is accompanied with an insight from a scholar and/or art professional. After Angela Lennon, curator at Peacock Visual Arts, and Dr Rachel Harkness, Anthropologist at University of Aberdeen, we are delighted to share the view of the London-based artist David Connearn as the third contributor.
I bring cowries, you bring a cup of blood.
I walked into a room in La Villette during the installation of Magiciens de la Terre. Old men in mud-paint and loincloths were sitting on the floor. Young men in T-shirts and shorts. No women. They were leaving to return to Australia that day. They were arguing in dialect about what you can and can't say. What I could understand was that the other extraordinary presence in the room, the sticks and leaves and things that were Yam Dreaming, was seriously distressed. It was in the wrong place. One of them smiled to me and offered an apple. The Yam was now in my care. Some of the people could now be dead. Maybe they are in the Yam's care.
I wanted to write this in January, when the most obdurate qualities of things, their sheer capacity for persistence despite the temperature, the darkness, the economy and human frailty, announce themselves as a model of torpid virtue. But there is really no stasis, and bigger things have come out of the woodwork to roll that moment into something else.
Humming, "I'm in the mood for love."
- Not necessarily an improved condition, but it is that time of year. Cock coots are screaming abuse and chinning each other at a far higher volume than the pornographically naked stretch of black dock water over which I watch them requires. The hens have their own code, but it doesn't make such ear shattering press. As birds go, they're not the brightest in any register, yet they manage to give the half-lie to Wittgenstein's frequently misunderstood remark that if a lion could talk we wouldn't understand it. They do talk, and we do understand them. Fuck Off ! Fuck On ! covers most of it. Re-phrasing the problem in the terms of his solution: giving reasons comes to an end, and its end is in our actions. We probably understand them better in our own activity than in our explanations.
Along with coots, I share general reactions with lions and zebra, for I, like you too, am an animal. I might even have a greater acuity than some regarding the immediate proximity - 2.5 shaku and less - of sharp points, but their computation of distance and acceleration to escape velocity is something that, as Nureyev once said about the activity of his own battered corpse, most people can only observe. Thus do actions sometimes speak, louder and clearer than words. The same kind of thing goes for beetles and trees. They are in communication as surely as Reuters. But trees have no brains at all. And at the level of bio-chemistry invoked, neither do our brains have brains.
Nureyev's dance, an animal's startled action, a tree's seeming inaction - images triggered by words, each worth a thousand words. But which thousand? Those I leave here attempt to tie a knot, attempt at least to leave a tangle, some turbulence to disturb the default reception of a further overarching picture, that of the degree of identity between the process of language and the processes that it describes, represents, stands in for. Language has limits, but is so closely bound into the metaphor of vision that we hardly see them. Not seeing them, we fail to recognise that from any comparative distance in the greater scheme of things, we are also an act amongst acts, a thing acting amongst things, something which language can barely describe and certainly cannot exhaust.
Aside for a moment. Wittgenstein's remark about lions is more complex than I've said. He was an engineer, an extraordinarily good engineer, and a draftsman. He was thusly an acute observer. He spent time in Dublin Zoo watching forms of life in captivity, and at Rosroe watching birds in the wild. He latterly described his own activity as a constant re-thinking, a repeated criss-crossing of the linguistic terrain, a mapping of linguistic usage. But one that avoids the confusion of the map with the territory.
/ Simply because you're near me…
I look at the moon, you seem close.
I take your hand, somehow you seem distant.
The words are wrong, but his is how I carry Gu Cheng's poem. He left China for New Zealand, but like the Yam, found himself in the wrong place.
And again, another way:
Nothing explains the look between man and bird when they meet at the corner of a field.
I don't even attempt to set this verse (Peter Jones, from the anthology Rain) straight, just leave its 'nothing' to smoulder like a fuse in response. My response to the Yam. But here, in just two steps, call and response, we're out there, way way out and over the threshold of the continental shelf of language, looking in on the deep.
Yet because I'm in a mood, Stimmung, I'm still for current purposes rather over-insulated. I'm in a Heideggerian wet-suit that will maintain my erstwhile Cartesian co-ordinates, my core counts, my vocabulary. I'm still captive in a mental multi gym and its vast. Bigger than Kantland. Walled with mirrors. Filled with smoke. Heidegger thought animals incapable of mood, things even less so. His journey a one-way dance-card without reciprocation from that on which dasein depends. Definitely not a Tango. Nor is this "an argument" - how could it be? I'm in the mood for love. I simply want you to field the edge of your intellect, your desire, on the back of its own blade, to feel language as a thing, as a form of life minus Cartesian prerogative. But for that we need some more intense exposure. Elsewhere.
I did a parachute jump - in the days when the training for such thrills was somewhat less litigation-conscious than the current culture of inculcated fear demands. The idea, as expressed by the friend I went with, was to symbolically isolate the expression of technology and leave it behind, or at least, so to speak, trade down. Privately, I had an idea that the experience might give me some tangential understanding of my father's, who also made a single jump at about the same age, but from a burning Sterling bomber on his first operational mission. By way of training we packed the next cohort of innocents' 'chutes. This had distinct benefit as a therapeutic investment because even the small canopies we used seem reassuringly big when laid out to untangle all their lines.
Ecstasy, in both the apophatic and cataphatic traditions of Medieval philosophy, is a sign for what happens as words fail but experience continues. It has a shape, an absurdly simple containment of convolute turbulence. It has trajectory, or trajectories, that feel they might be fractal, or plot-able by high degree polynomials. Its image, like a Cherry tree whose buds are all bursting, but from the inside. It happens when you find yourself looking down, spread-eagled in empty space 1500 feet above the Weald of Kent at the moment that your umbilical linkage to the previous state of affairs, snaps, as designed to, at its weakest point. The acceleration of fear is absorbed by the friction between things; your mass, the volume of air that its attraction to the ground holds trapped above you, and you are gently returned to the customary vertical where you hang windless where you should not be, but are, amazed.
This exploded vertigo, that begins with apprehension as you inch out into the place where events begin to cascade, sounds like the voice of the Yam, which I didn't hear because it had already spoken, and I was simply still alive, as it was. You come to ground slowly, but any speed from the point of view of these readjusting perspectives is pretty fast to be hit by something so big, and cope with the jolt which is the final resolution of that particular slice of the activity of fundamental forces.
The Yam was an indication to me that things have more going for them than even Judd thought. I still think about it, there, out of place, obdurate, not dreaming. This kind of experience should cause no turbulence in a culture rooted in Shinto. And the bio-chemistry of matter in which the mind of Shinto floats is no different to mine or yours.
A picture is a lie which causes all kinds of friction. Artists make and use images to escape the greater lie of language, the one that poses the challenge to literature. If there is a culprit for the origin of the technology which led me onto the wing, and has led us to the threshold of species viability, it is not in tool-use per se, but in the developmental capability that accompanies, then trumps it. Language is our fundamental technology. I hope that the artists in this project will also continue to 'trade down', and send each other not just images, but also things.
There are cowries to be found on the coast up there, trivia arctica, Groatie Buckies. I'd go and get one of these small mouths and send it over for the other's ear. In return I'd send a fruit from the Lacquer tree, toxicodendron vernicifluum. That's got a story or two.
They look like they might get on.
The argument in La Villette was about responsibility to the Yam, for its captivity, both there in the wrong place, and in their differing understandings: about how to abandon it. This can happen with fundamentals in discussion amongst men. Tangled in articulation. I've watched my wife give birth. There's another story, if you can call that kind of thing a story. I swept the space when I could, kept it together. For its part, the Yam continued to be its moody self. I'm grateful for the privilege.
There's a vixen screeching in the darkness outside.
I'm in the mood for love simply because you're near me
Funny but when you're near me, I'm in the mood for love.
Heaven is in your eyes, bright as the stars we're under,
Oh, is it any wonder, I'm in the mood for love.
Why stop to think of whether this little dream might fade,
We've put our hearts together, now we are one, I'm not afraid.
If there's a cloud above, if it should rain, we'll let it.
But for tonight forget it, I'm in the mood for love.
Eccles Pike, Derbyshire, April 2015
One of the main reasons for asking David for his insight towards A to/from B was Schema - Sukima, an exhibition he recently curated for Laure Genillard Gallery in London. In Connearn’s own words in the exhibition catalogue, “Schema - Sukima began as an invitation to each artist to correspond with a chosen partner about a particular work from each of them that I had requested. (...) Texts were commissioned from writers on the same basis as works from the artists.'' The pairs were: Tom Benson / Atsuo Hukuda, Kenneth Dingwall / Yasuko Otsuka and Gary Woodley / Yoko Terauchi for artworks; and Tomoaki Kitagawa (Toyota Municipal Museum of Art) / Dr Alistair Rider (University of St Andrews) for texts.
The resulting exhibition, including the physical publication printed on newspaper, arose from the curator’s conceptual idea and was executed beautifully as a whole despite the great cultural distance within the project. But what fascinated me most within Schema – Sukima was that, as David explains, the artists' “conversations via emails fell apart in more various ways than I had imagined possible”. Some of the correspondences or dialogues were therefore seemingly never written, spoken nor translated. Where have they gone?
Whilst Sukima (隙間) directly means 'gap' - the void space itself - in Japanese, this word silently yet firmly implies the existence of two (or more) elements placed next to each other. In other words, relations between objects are acknowledged by the voids between them. Giving a logical plot (=Schema), Schema – Sukima was a clear challenge to verbalise the gap (=Sukima) between invited artists and writers, and visualise the dialogues that, even before being written, disappeared into the empty space between the pairings.
In A to/from B on the other hand, anonymity is maintained and the invited artists are actively asked to avoid using words or verbal language in their communication. What sort of unwritten dialogue could be read within the Sukima between their interchanges? We look forward to finding out. This project will lead to a physical collaborative exhibition at Seventeen in Aberdeen from 12 September to 3 October 2015. Should you have any questions or would like more information about the project, please feel free to contact us.
Naoko Mabon will be talking in a public talk event as part of Rinko-Kaku Project 2015. She will be taking part in a wide-ranging art themed discussion with Atsuo Hukuda, director of Concept Space.