Invited to Oslo by Anne Szefer Karlsen, Associate Professor of the MA CURATORIAL PRACTICE, Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design, University of Bergen, I presented this writing workshop as part of Anne’s ‘HOW TO DEAL WITH TEXT AS A CURATOR’ workshop with Federica Bueti, Karen Grønneberg, and Gerrie van Noord (in picture).
Urban dictionary – top rated definition:
“there’s no there there”
A descriptive phrase (originally coined by Gertrude Stein) now used to convey an utter lack of substance or veracity as it pertains to the subject under discussion. Alternatively, the phrase can be used as a literal absence of a physical location. Bush and Cheney keep screaming about a link between Iraq and al Queda, but there’s no there there. I went searching for Atlantis, but there’s no there there.
Language, literature, thought and knowledge are part of the world. There are no pure styles or neutral signs; to use words assuming their ready-made, global purchase on things, or to deny the technical role of projection in meaning’s transfer, is to be bound for failure.
To acknowledge in this way theory and culture as ever, some-how, situated and practiced is also to acknowledge that it reads/writes differently by ‘travelling’ (Edward Said) and that this excursion of meaning involves its own travails for practitioners. Following Spivak then, in this particular conception of contemporary production that works against the neoliberalised, single-timed concept of the art work or curatorial proposition as always-already secured potential ‘knowledge’, it is in fact the poetic aspect of every artistic/curatorial expression that performs the risking of knowability itself. This is not to doubly aestheticise artistic or curatorial writing (aesthetics are always intractably t/here) but to emphasise writing’s stakes and its reflexive potentiality for thinking further—through the response-ability and speculative/fictive aspect of literary and discursive making.
This seminar is an experiment in coming to terms with writing’s ‘situation’ in participants’ own practices through the use of an exemplary text of post-language lyric writing by Juliana Spahr. We will consider modes of response-ability within the frame-based negotiations of specific projects, and the manifold rewards of poetic writing’s political and aesthetic modes of inquiry.
Preparatory reading for the seminar:
Isabelle Stengers, ‘Who is the Author’, in Power and Invention: Situating Science, pp 153-176.
Juliana Spahr, The Transformations. (As much as students prefer to dive in – we will also read this text in class but some familiarity would be good).
Class reference texts:
Edward Said, ‘Travelling Theory’, from The World, The Text, The Critic.
Dominique Paini, ‘Should we Put an End to Projection?’, October, Fall 2004, No. 110, Pages: 23-48.