Cosmos has no centre. This is not my story. From this position, my eyes cannot see as your eyes do. From this position, my ears cannot hear as your ears do. I cannot put my words in your mouth, nor can I put your words down on a page. Stories—whether real or imagined—have too much ‘I’ and not enough ‘we’. We argue for the ‘I’ and sit uncomfortably with the ‘we’. The harder we talk, see and hear together without having to be quiet, without speaking over, without pointing at something else, just like this. Would you like to know more? I would like to invite each of you to join me in creating a story of a space, we will find our shared position through a triangulation of perspective, the visual through your captured image, the heard through your recorded sound and the linguistic through your written word.
Fayen d’Evie, Jessica Lehmann
+ Eva Balog
We are essaying breath as a method of writing criticism.
Eva Rothschild talked of recycling the waste of the artwork. Thinking of breath as the waste of an orated text, we recycle breath as the material of writing.
We essay breath as a performative, critical, and collaborative mode of writing:
Writing the affect of artworks on bodies,
Writing the affect of bodies on artworks,
Writing the politics of the spaces that artworks and bodies occupy.
Through breath, we co-author.
I’ve written a letter to my late husband who died earlier this year, so I’d like to share that with you and it is placed down here. I sat in Cosmos (2018) a few weeks ago, and I had the idea that I wanted to tell him about the exhibition, and the workshop, and how his colleague Lucinda from the non/fiction Lab at RMIT has done an awesome job.
My answer in response to the question ‘what is writing in the expanded field?’ begins with, `All the technologies that are so prevalent now have begun to open design up. It’s becoming an expanding field, and there’s a need to fill that expansion.’ David Shields quotes. Grimes talks about remixing genres together as we live in a post-genre world, however you don’t really get post-genre without genre to begin with. Dj Vhadim talks about creating and how it is more about being free, easy and being yourself. It’s a play on words that means something.
My essay is composed on the foundation of a series of `cut up’ texts derived from a montage of the making of a basket. This working process was based on photographic documentation of the weaving process into a slideshow played in random order, then transcribed to create a cut up of text. This cut up was then remixed to create an essay based on the sampling of both external language sources with internal language. It is a remix, a comment on the influences of multiple media channels found in the information age which stem from external worlds, and how they progress into the internal imprints of thought forms existing in fragments.
Before this workshop we were sent a reader with a list of key texts, and these formed part of the expanded materials of my experience of Kosmos. I considered them all, and then I spread my attention unevenly. I am thinking about Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, her belief that ‘we do not choose the things we love.’
I am writing away from an observation of Kosmos, using guides for my travel: Nelson’s use of blue as her constant, her anchor, a relationship, where blue is a colour, a property, determinable but not fixed so a shifting concept. I am affected by Nelson’s quote: ‘I am not interested in longing to live in a world in which I already live. I do not want to yearn for blue things.’ Her blue is also an investment in her romance of seeking. I trust Nelson’s trust in these contradictions.
I am not interested in centering the sculptures of Kosmos, but in finding an anchor that can affect them, can act within the space around and between them. ACCA is full of Kosmos, and so how can we have - and move into - so much space.
I am thinking about how to move static sculptures; without touch, without moving ourselves to affect their impression on us. I am thinking about imagination as a sight for moving, I am thinking about how the form of a score (scores as instructions for movement) can be used to prompt these conditions of movement and how the score is my form, is my position on Kosmos.
Before I studied art, I studied mime. I spent two years in a boxing arena that was built in the 1870’s dressed in a black skivvy and black leggings, moving lines and shapes made of cardboard through space. Lead by an architect, an artist, a clown and an acrobat my classmates and I were in search of les formes de burlesque, the shapes of slapstick. We wanted to delineate a science of visual physical comedy. I was very serious about it and still am. I entered an appreciation of sculpture via an obsession with a comedy of objects. To conceptualise, or intellectualise was a crime at the school that I went to, we used no text. We asked how does it move? What does it do?
When I entered this exhibition, I was struck by the scale, the softness and glossiness. I saw slapstick in the suggestion of collapse and of erection, the excellent awkwardness of artworks that could be sat on and seats that can’t be. The great drama of thresholds in the shape of jumbled obstacles outlines of doorways, hanging vales. Eva Rothschild talks about ruins, detritus, columns, pillars, festivals and refugees and architecture of hazard. The exhibition catalogue calls on us to see a space to reflect, dream and act, mise-en-scène, a family of forms, the agora, the amphitheatres of Antiquity, Ancient Roman Rostra and the democracy and the republic. Democracy got going in Athens right after the year 510. A large open-air theatre on the south slope of the Acropolis accommodated a massive audience consisting of the whole population of the city including foreigners and slaves. In view of size of this audience, and the participation of common men in it, some citizens who voted for new laws and major political decisions in the assembly of direct democracy and also served as jurors in the courts of law, the chorus became an indispensable part of dramatic performance. The chorus represented and spoke for a collective dramatic character at the level of myth. I imagined an ancient Greek chorus in this space, in acting the moment of discovery the ruins of their city. I took the text of Euripides, a text tends to depict the human ineffectiveness to avert the fall from a state of happiness to that of absolute misery and disaster. I like that as a definition of tragedy and also as a definition of slapstick. As the workshop progresses I want to write about the slapstick of this exhibition, and about the slapstick going on outside of it, in what Eva speaks as our newly anxious normality. That is my position, thank you.
In conversation, Rothschild discusses the notion that not everything has to relate in an exhibition context. Conversations between artworks can be dissonant and tense. For this project, I have worked on a series of short ekphrastic poems whose only direct thematic correlation comes from their birth in the Kosmos exhibition. I am using the personal and the imaginary to document my interaction with this work.
I include the imaginary to nod to Rothschild’s understanding of the magic and surrealism that underpins formalist traditions. I use this to create abstractions in my work, which is deeply personal. Often, when writing about art, I tend to neglect my first instincts for fear of them being ‘too’ personal. I seek to overcome this fear and reframe what I consider ‘appropriate’ to make work about.
In this way, I seek to expand my practice within the art-writing field.
‘Poems are events of poetry, of our consciousness, of making a universe of feeling in language.’ Robert Duncan, The H.D. Book, 1959.
To take a palimpsestic position in which what is written is written over. To embrace the overwhelm of geologic time. Employing a diffractive methodology. See Haraway, see Barad. Where waves combine, where they overlap. It is quantum physics, and also a weary commune. In diffractive methodology we read slowly. In diffractive methodology we read endlessly; we read ourselves through the text of others. We are made and re-made, we become textual beings. I read the mosaic, the torus-shape, as a scientific signifier, a quantum event. I read the memory of my mother as a fractured Klein bottle, emptied out into a universe of feeling.
My work for this program follows two modes, negation and exaltation. Negation of representation, but also of psychological depth and linear time; and the exaltation of all the surfaces, superficial and sentimental. Surface means outside of an animal or plant body. The outer boundary of the Earth. The corresponding part of any planet. Or the outermost part of a solid object, with respect to its form, texture or extent.
My position is as someone who comes to art as a conservator, trained to focus on materials, their condition and decay. My position is also as a daughter of Irish-Catholic, white settlers on Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung Land. The power of objects might be transcendental, sacred or supernatural. All objects hold this power, but given the context of white art institutions, there is much more to say. How can I create art about - and in response to - the power vested in objects when museums and galleries continue to deny requests by Indigenous and colonised peoples for the repatriation of their objects? Material can also mean: what allows you the time and space to write? From whom are these material conditions extracted?
Hello, I’m doing a performance, or a dimensional essay, which is a code-based séance, which opens up a worm-hole, to summon transcendental space. Through the magic, or the deep magic of the computer terminal - a space of abstraction, in order to collapse time and reanimate text.
I’d like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land we meet on; Elders past and present, and all Elders here.
I wrote about Kosmos using Jungian dream analysis because I felt that I didn’t really connect with the work on more than a superficial, objectifying level. As tactile objects made from industrial strength materials that could be lifted up and moved, I was surprised to be told: ‘Do Not Touch’. So instead of pushing and pulling, and feeling my heart sing with childhood joy, I walked through ACCA’s echo chambers looking at shape and colour and the workmanship of Australian art technicians through the mind of an Irish expat living in London, the greyest city I’ve ever lived. Jungian dream analysis worked well to take me beyond the experiential and into a critical mindset. In the same way he follows the six significant markers of a dream, I followed six significant aspects of Kosmos: me, ACCA, Rothschild, Cosmos, this work Border, and these windows that I stand next to. I liked crouching down and looking through this window, and I ask you all to take a moment to look through it later. Looking through it from that side and seeing the colourful centre structure presents a life with the promise of fun. But when you’re standing on this side, and you’re looking through it towards that structure, there’s a tangible emptiness - a world devoid.
I’m taking a position of curiosity and imagination. I’m imagining the permanence of solid objects in three-dimensional space, and our constant movement through, around and past them. And how I can’t talk about our movement around and through space and life, without incorporating the fourth dimension of time. And I’m thinking of me, as writer, sitting in the centre of my own little universe and trying to pin down or resist time and turn it into something else, and take that into the future. That is my position.
Writing is a process of figuring out what you think. An expanded field of writing, writes towards, away from, alongside, tangential to an artwork, in order to come back around to it. It considers the political currents in which it was made, the social context, who it is for, the systems of power that have given rise to it. An expanded field of writing understands that writing is a craft that can be wielded and moulded and broken. Different forms of writing have different building blocks. Expanded writing gives you permission to bring them together, or discard them. In the space of this three and a half week writing program, I gave two public talks on diversity, and am preparing for another this week, and I was approached to write two articles on inclusion. The expanded field of writing is me never having to write about diversity again.
A position I sometimes adopt is one of ‘persona’.
‘Persona’ emerged from my practice of choreography and performance, from years of moving and speaking, and speaking while moving. ‘Persona’ is also deeply entangled with my art/ life relations. As a female, immigrant, independent dance artist, and experimental expanded cosmic entity I feel allegiance to more than one place, more than one ‘home’, more than one identity. My sense of belonging - social, and cultural, and disciplinary - is multiple. My main materials are movement and words. As a choreographer, performer, researcher and writer I work alot with autobiography; my position is that ‘I’ is not singular, or fixed, rather it’s continually produced through its relations in the world.
By produced, I mean made and unmade.
By the world, I mean forces both seen and unseen.