When you are among the Ones Who Have Been Erased, “knowing” is insisting that we exist. The artist Cauleen Smith said recently that we know that when we look, we have to know what we’re looking for: the knowing precedes the finding. She was talking about research, about looking into the past, making acts of discovery that are actually recovery.
Continuing on as if we exist. Knowing that we are and we are not as we’ve been described. And so we are looking for what we already know
Within the language there was a silence
What is kept folded in*
A crease is a mark of assurance that the creased thing has touched itself. The felt facts felt facts. A debt that should never be paid because it is the gap that reminds us of our interdependence, our unforgiving context.
Example: What happens when you come to the word man in a sentence you were really feeling? You’re ripped out, you’re called out, you are excluded. Forced to translate to make excuses, to say you “know what they mean”
Within the language there was a violence
The language I am called when summoned to their symmetry is describing itself, a rip, a gash, a lack.
I am a fold. The choice was one or none, I am neither, I am a fold. Insisting.
Getting at the monster in demonstrable.
[is a demonstration an exorcism?]
The red and blue, demonstrably the flowing in/out of blood. The diagrammatic code for circulation, the sides of a heart.
A(nother) visual false cognate.
looking at a
To take them one at a time.
1. The graves are the entry point. Grey graphite rubbings that look like graves enact a proposed symmetry across a line that denotes a fold, but the graves are not all alike. Looking at them, one’s eyes go blurry, one’s mind gets caught. A line of symmetry with minor violations. The outgrowths and bends in the drawings, the curves and wiggles conspire to suggest something else. What you expect to see and what you see have been separated. Optic tricks- turning death into sex as the gravestones morph into dildos and then instantly regain their somber pose. Images that move. Images doing all they can.
2. The tables teach us the language. Laid out below the rubbings are two tables of seemingly incongruous objects: medical antiques, diagrams, essays, hand-made pellets, twigs, ordinary tools, implacable instruments and wire drawings…together making an index. If | than \ when / then ___. The rules laid out beside their limits. The brain is on the table. Associations made literal, made formal. How things work, not how they look. Indexicality is a trace of a thing, but for once it’s a trace of the whole thing, the real thing. For example: BRAIN not the organ but the function. The table is not a demonstration, but an action unclothed. And then for wink’s sake, the brain is also on the table. ( Yellowing old Rorschach tests and prints of bifurcated clay molds in variations of grey). But even these slide away, point instead to the expectation: to get inside your own (brain) so it touches itself, makes a joke twice removed. Filthy mind. I know you know I know. Here we can safely say we and the wink is complete. (a wink is the eyelid, touching itself. But I could go on forever…)
3. The ropes. Three long ropes of heavy black felt hang gracefully and foreboding down the wall. One makes a hook shape on the floor. A hook like the end of a cane. Burned into my memory, the image of Joseph Beuys, covered in felt, hook of a cane protruding from the blanket, coyote looking on. Beuys used felt as a symbol for healing. Felt. How it is made, how it is touched, it becomes heavy and dark: saturated with what it was made to carry. The weight of associations, these associations. Hair. Whip. Noose. And I wonder if it made her lighter? Are her hands freer/to touch her loved ones/having spun out the poison?
4. An essay is an open heart.
a speech of another and more particular order*
Judith Leemann’s essay in the exhibition companion text, Imperfect Symmetry: A Compendium is an act of modern-day parrhesia. We can say that parrhesia is defined by a statement uttered when the speaker is putting herself at risk for the sake of truth-telling. Parrhesia is characterized by its directness, clarity and criticism. One who uses parrhesia speaks because of a specific relationship to herself: a fold. She forfeits the security ensured by silence to answer her own pleas because she cannot abide the asymmetry of her held belief against the code or the tyrant, the interlocutor or herself – any target of her criticism. Parrhesia is therefore an act of self-care.
Imperfect Symmetry: A Compendium
Curated by Sara Black and Karsten Lund
The ideas on parrhesia are paraphrased from Michel Foucault’s 1983 seminar, Fearless Speech.
Luce Irigiray introduces the idea that a woman is always already touching herself in This Sex Which Is Not One, 1977.
I am indebted to the writings of Monique Wittig, who split all her pronouns as a reminder of woman’s alienation in language.
*Quotes from Leemann’s essay, “What for is a better question than why.” in Imperfect Symmetry: A Compendium exhibition companion texts, 2013.