Thursday 27 July 2017

animal acts 2: dogs

‘All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers, is contained in the dog’ (Kafka, 'Investigations of a Dog', 1922)

‘[A]nyone who likes cats or dogs is a fool’ (Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 1987)

Odysseus & Argus. Alexander the Great & Peritas. Sir Isaac Newton & Diamond. Descartes & Monsieur Grat. George Washington & Sweet Lips. George Armstrong Custer & Tuck (who also died at Little Big Horn). Napoleon Bonaparte & Fortuné, Josephine’s pug (whom he hated). Richard Wagner & Pepsel, Fipsel, Russumuck and Marke. Byron & Boatswain. Maurice Maeterlinck & Pelléas. Sigmund Freud & Wolf, Lun, Tattoun and Jofi. Abraham Lincoln & Honey, Jip and Fido. Herbert Hoover & King Tut. Emily Dickinson & Carlo. Thomas Mann & Bashan. Gertrude Stein & Basket. Dorothy Parker & Cliché. Eugene O’Neill & Blemie. Baron Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (‘the Red Baron’) & Moritz. Theodore Roosevelt & Skip and Pete. Franklin Delano Roosevelt & Fala. Adolf Hitler (codename ‘Wolf’) & Blondi. Tintin & Milou. Dwight Eisenhower & Caacie. Calvin Coolidge & Peter Pan. Alfred Hitchcock & Sarah. JF Kennedy & Charlie. Lyndon Baines Johnson & Him, Her, Blanco and Yuki. Queen Elizabeth II & the corgis Buzz, Foxy, Heather and Tiny. Helen Keller & Kenzan-Go. Richard M Nixon & Checkers. Gerald Ford & Liberty. Ronald Regan & Lucky. George Bush Snr. & C. Fred and Millie. Bill Clinton & Buddie. William Wegman & Man Ray. Madonna & Chihuahua Chiquita. Nicole Brown Simpson & Akita.

Wolf. Coyote. Dingo. Tasmanian tiger. Fox. Domestic dog. Bow-wow. Woof-woof. Arf-arf (English/American). Wau-wau (German). Wung-wung (Chinese). Jau-jau (Spanish). Ouah-ouah (French). Hav-hav (Israeli).

The approximately 200 million sense receptors in a dog’s nasal folds. The British phenomenon of ‘black dog’ apparitions, large shapeshifting creatures variously named in different regions the ‘Barguest’, ‘Shuck’, ‘Black Shag’ ‘Trash’, ‘Skriker’ or ‘Padfoot’. The Brown Dog Riots in London’s Battersea in 1906. Pavlov’s dogs. The real wolf (and eagle) the Fascists installed at the top of the Capitoline Hill in Rome in the early 1930s. Dogs used as suicide bombers by the Russians in World War II. The ‘Parapups’, British canine paratroopers in World War II. Churchill’s ‘black dogs’ of depression. Seeing-eye guide dogs. Seizure alert dogs. Sniffer dogs. Dogs trained to detect the early stages of cancer cells in human urine. Draught and carting dogs. Sled dogs. Hunting dogs. Guard dogs. Performing dogs. Police dogs. Dog baiting. Attack dogs. Dogs as experimental laboratory research ‘subjects’. Vivisection dogs. Ventriculochordectomy, an operation to remove the vocal chords of laboratory animals. Laika, the understudy Soviet astronaut. The successful sequencing of the canine genome, using a poodle called Shadow. The dingo that killed Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru in Australia. Pet cemeteries. Labradoodles. Dog biscuit. Dog chocolates. Dog shit. Dog tired. The hair of the dog that bit you.

Cerberus, the three-headed dragon-tailed dog of the Greek underworld Hades. Anubis, the jackal-headed Egyptian god. The monstrous cynocephalic Aztec god Xolótl, and Greek Orthodox representations of the dog-headed St. Christopher. The holy greyhound St. Guinefort. Kitmir in The Koran, the only animal allowed to enter paradise. Syrius and Procyon, the Dog-stars. Goya’s painting Perro enterrado en arena (‘Dog buried in sand’), only the dog’s head visible, its eyes raised towards a desolate sky. JMW Turner’s Dawn after the Wreck, with its lone dog barking out to sea. In the Tarot pack, the animated dog at the feet of the Fool, as he steps off a cliff while staring at the sky. The HMV trademark fox terrier, the inquisitive Nipper listening to ‘his master’s voice’ from beyond the grave, on a gramophone. Scraps in Chaplin’s A Dog’s Life. Toto in The Wizard of Oz. Lassie Come Home. Greyfriar’s Bobby. Pluto. Goofy. Rin Tin Tin. Deputy Dawg. The dachsund in Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle. Old Yeller. Bodger the Bull Terrier in The Incredible Journey. Snoopy. 101 Dalmatians. The bionic German shepherd Max in The Bionic Woman. Benji. Mike the Dog in Down and Out in Beverly Hills. The love-struck St. Bernard in the film Beethoven. Scooby-Doo. Karen Salmansohn’s self-help book How to Make your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less, Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers. The greyhound Santa’s Little Helper in The Simpsons. Wallace’s companion Gromit. Talking farm dogs Fly and Rex in Babe. Oscar the Labrador who toured Britain as a hypnotist in 1995.

© David Williams

Tuesday 25 July 2017

animal acts 1: horses

a flying and falling list
List. n. A border; a boundary (obs.); a destination (Shake.). A catalogue, roll or enumeration. Desire; inclination; choice; heeling over.

hen suddenly Johnny gets the feeling he's being surrounded
horses, horses, horses, horses coming in in all directions
white shining silver studs with their nose in flames

He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses.

Do you know how to pony like bony maroney

Do you know how to twist, well it goes like this, it goes like this ...
(Patti Smith, Land/Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances)

Pegasus, the Vedic gandharvas and the five kinds of Chinese celestial flying horses. Centaurs, ichthyocentaurs (centaur-fish), hippogriffs and sea-horses. Alexander the Great and Bucephalus, El Cid and Babieca, Napoleon and Marengo, Roy Rogers and Trigger. Mr Ed.

The nomadic horseback warriors of Scythians, Mongols, Tartars and Huns. The centrality of horses to the Islamic prophet Mohammed’s Jihad. The ‘wind-drinkers’ of the crusades. The fifteen horses Cortés took to the New World in 1519. The ‘iron horse’. The Suffragette Derby Day suicide. The twenty ponies who accompanied Scott on his ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1911. The estimated 375,000 British horses killed in the First World War. The game of buzkashi played by Afghan tribesmen. The padded mounts of picadors in the corrida. Red Rum opening shopping centres.

The privileged roles ascribed to horses in Siberian, Korean and American Indian shamanism. Ocyrrhoe’s becoming-horse in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Jonathan Swift’s equine Houyhnhnms and human Yahoos in Gulliver’s Travels.

The Italian trainer Grisone, author of one of the 16th century’s most influential equestrian treatises, Gli Ordini di Cavalcare, who recommended persuading a ‘nappy’ horse to go forward by tying flaming straw, a live cat or a hedgehog beneath the horses’s tail. The ‘Horse Latitudes’ and the Gulfo de Yeguas (‘Gulf of Mares’), areas of the Atlantic Ocean so named because of the numbers of horses who died and were thrown overboard during early crossings from Europe to the New World. The apocryphal terror of the Aztecs when one of Pizarro’s riders fell from his horse; it is said the Aztecs had believed rider and horse to comprise one indivisible creature.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation: conquest, war, pestilence and death. 'And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder. One of the four beasts saying: "Come and see". And I saw. And behold a white horse' (Johnny Cash, When the Man Comes Around).

Mr Green’s ‘equestrian balloon ascents’ in mid-19th century London, astride his favorite pony.

Théodore Géricault’s death from a horse fall. The flogged horses who (appear to have) triggered psychological crises in Nietzsche and Little Hans. King and Queen, turn of the century ‘diving horses’ who performed 10 metre, head-first drops into a lake at Captain Boynton’s Coney Island ‘pleasure grounds’. Jerry Brown, Cocaine, Kilroy: three of Hollywood’s best-known ‘falling horses’, all winners of the Craven Award for ‘humanely trained’ animal stunt performers. The dead white horse suspended from the raised Leningrad bridge, then dropped into the river, in Eisenstein’s October. The horse who s/tumbles down a flight of stairs in Tarkovsky’s Andrey Rublev. Maurizio Cattelan’s dead chestnut horse spinning slowly above the heads of gallery-goers, its spine arched unnaturally around the harness support under its midriff - like those horses shipped live from England to the abattoirs of France, for human consumption.

The direct descent of all thoroughbreds in the modern world from one of four Arab stallions brought to England in the early part of the 18th century: the Darley, Byerley, Godolphin and Helmsley Arabians.

The New Zealand stallion Sir Tristram’s ritual burial, with his tail pointing to the rising sun. The continuing struggle over Phar Lap’s remains. The disappearance of Shergar. The White Horse of Uffington. The silver brumby.

The equine chronophotography of Etienne-Jules Marey and Eadward Muybridge. Byron’s Mazeppa. The Misfits. A Man Called Horse. Jean-Louis Barrault’s centaur in Around a Mother, as described by Artaud. Joseph Beuys’s ‘shamanic action’ with a white horse in Iphigenia/Titus. Bartabas and Zingaro. Lucy Gunning’s video work The Horse Impressionists. Forced Entertainment’s panto horse. Monty Roberts, the ‘horse whisperer’ ...

Horses and/as fertility, divinity, warfare, prestige, commodity, the instinctive, the irrational, an elemental force, the apocalypse, the ‘natural’ and ’free’. Horses as ideograms of energy, life-fulness, speed, sexual drives, the disorderly. Explosive danger-fear-nightmare- madness. Abject ‘beastly’ suffering. Kinetic and energetic event. © David Williams

Sunday 23 July 2017

the little by little suddenly

'One t
housand needles: imagine threading them with a straight thread’ (Yoko Ono 1970: unpaginated)

‘Perception over time equals thought’ (Bill Viola 1995: 150)

'Slowness is a formidable power: it has the passion of immobility with which it will, some day, fuse' (Edmond Jabes 1972: 55-6).

As Anthony Hoete has suggested in his introduction to Roam: Reader on the Aesthetics of Mobility: ‘Mobility, in the contemporary context, is a complex concept, ideologically elusive, difficult to pin down. Mobility is a transitory, transformational state, reconfigurable and self-refreshing, time after time. Mobility is an ‘event-space’, a sequence of appointments and rendezvous. Mobility is multi-dimensional […] polymorphous […] multi-scalar […] multi-linear. Whilst comprised of journeys from A to B, these lines constitute networks: from C to DE via KLM. As such mobility’s multi-dimensionality suggests a matrix, or an array of co-ordinates’ (Hoete 2002: 11-12).

Yet, paradoxically, in practice mobility has also come to infer immobility. We are increasingly obliged to ‘kill time’ suspended in the meanwhile non-places of waiting within the multi-dimensional matrix, crawling along or going nowhere in traffic jams and queues and railway stations and airports, inert in front of computer terminals as the server fails to serve our desires. In our haste to speed up our trajectories through the world we are obliged to slow down, and in this tension for many there is a loss of patience and a kind of impossible suffering. ‘Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared?’ (Kundera 1996: 4).

Some art processes and practices school us in slowness, and the qualities of attention that allow what is happening to happen and to take (a) place; they teach us about festina lente – making haste slowly. As Buddhist philosophers have recognised, there is an epistemology of and in slowness, and its propositions are informative and provocative for artists: ‘A rediscovery of the now, relocation in the here; return to the primacy of experience, of the event; rediscovery that facts are relations, that all knowledge exists on the threshold and in the interaction between subject and object (which are themselves only hypostatisations); a rediscovery of ambiguity, of contradiction, of difference; a reassertion that things – and people – are what they do’ (George 1999: 34).

In a 10-day conversation with a small group of dance writers and makers on the shore of Lake Como at Bellaggio in Italy in the summer of 2002, a conversation in which I was delighted to participate, American choreographer Susan Rethorst articulated her sense of choreography as a long, curious wandering: ‘Choreography engages what might be called a more sober passion. It lies in small cumulative moments and decisions, glimpses and glimmers that add slowly through the dailiness, that sneak into a whole consuming reality, a parallel to the rest of one’s life’. André Lepecki, one of those centrally involved in this drifting exchange, had written earlier about ‘the time of dance’: ‘to sit, to listen, to be, to observe, to breathe, to think, to remember – the most urgent choreography’ (Lepecki 1996: 107). Now we talk about the time of conversation, and its dance. The luxury of time, of taking time to make time - of slow wandering and drift and waste and interruption and change of direction and silence and connective emergence and the small ‘violence’ of dislocation - of a slowing down into the complexity and detail of what is happening ‘in the middle’.

I think of the generative deceleration described by Matthew Goulish: ‘Most of us live in fear of slowing down our thinking, because of the possibility that if we succeed we might find that in fact nothing is happening. I guarantee this is not the case. Something is always happening. In fact, some things happen which one can only perceive with slow thinking’ (Goulish 2000: 82).

I think of Bachelard’s suggestion that one of his aims is ‘to school us in slowness’ (Bachelard 1988: vii). I think of Deleuze’s challenge to ‘think other durations’ through memory, art, philosophy, to ‘think the time of becoming’ as intensive rather than extensive, of time as the force of movement whereby movement transforms time by producing new becomings. Movement, he suggests, does not move a body from one point to another (translation), but rather in each aggregation/moment of movement bodies transform and become (vibration/variation/ multiplicity): ‘Movement always relates to a change, migration to a seasonal variation. And this is equally true of bodies: the fall of a body presupposes another one which attracts it, and expresses a change in the whole which governs them both. If we think of pure atoms, their movements which testify to a reciprocal action of all the parts of the substance, necessarily express modifications, disturbances, changes of energy in the whole … beyond translation is vibration, radiation’ (Deleuze 1986: 8-9).

I think of Paul Auster, blocked as a writer, falling out of the momentum of New York into the attenuated rhythms and discontinuous intensities and flows of a dance studio, and the moving stillness of a choreography taking shape: ‘In the beginning I wanted to speak of arms and legs, of jumping up and down, of bodies tumbling and spinning, of enormous journeys through space, of cities, of deserts, of mountain ranges stretching farther than the eye can see. Little by little, however, as these words began to impose themselves on me, the things I wanted to do seemed finally to be of no importance. Reluctantly, I abandoned all my witty stories, all my adventures of far-away places, and began, slowly and painfully, to empty my mind. Now emptiness is all that remains: a space, no matter how small, in which whatever is happening can be allowed to happen’ (Auster 1998: 86).

I think of Bill Viola’s explorations of the intervals below the threshold of perception in works where, as Walter Benjamin wrote of slow-motion: ‘the camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses’ (Benjamin 1968: 236).

I think of the French paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin illuminated by his encounters with Mongol communities and with the burnt stones of the Inner Mongolian desert in the early 1920s. Years later he wrote: ‘Throughout my whole life, during every minute of it, the world has been gradually lighting up and blazing before my eyes until it has come to surround me, entirely lit up from within’ (quoted in Dillard 1999: 13). I think of deep ecologist Arne Naess’s invitation to ‘think like a mountain’, and of Wallace Heim’s notion of ‘slow activism’ (Heim 2003). I think of Marina Abramowic’s statement that she is ‘more and more interested in less and less’.

I think of Andrey Tarkovsky, Clarice Lispector, Edmond Jabès, Bela Tarr, Terrence Malick, WG Sebald, James Turrell, Ann Hamilton, Tacita Dean, David Nash, John Cage, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Jem Finer. The slow ones.

The texts and images that follow comprise 24 fragments related to conceptions, perceptions and practices of slowness, where each ‘fragment’ should be understood in Maurice Blanchot’s terms as ‘the patience of pure impatience, the little by little suddenly‘ (Blanchot 1995: 34). Or as a single frame within an imaginary film strip of one second: 24 frames per second. The explosion of an instant. A slo-mo rehearsal of a lightning strike, moving at the speed of memory.

[* Please note that for this online version, I have removed one of the frames and its accompanying text, in memory of Lyall Watson who died a few weeks ago in June 2008. A prolific writer and a rather eccentric adventurer, he was the author of a book that was important to me, Heaven's Breath: A Natural History of the Wind (1984). In the missing section, please think of a wind you know and its particular qualities; let it blow].

Above all, in dialogue with Hannah Chiswell’s 24 fragments in the original artist's book, these texts and images stage something of a slow and ongoing conversation between two friends, about snow and rocks and sky and lightning and memory and flying and falling and birds. The unfolding loop of cogitation between two attenuated and intensive seconds, a dynamic relational meanwhile between an inhalation and exhalation.

1. ‘There was this, and then this, and then this: nothing … one could truly lean on’ (Chantal Akerman on her film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), quoted in Margulies 1996: 149).

2. ‘There is a secret link between slowness and remembering, between quickness and forgetting. Think of something utterly commonplace – a man walking down the street. Suddenly, he wishes to remember something, but his memory fails him. At this moment he automatically slows his paces. Conversely, someone trying to forget a terrible experience he has just had will unconsciously quicken his pace, as though wanting to escape from what is still all too close to him in time. In existential mathematics this experience can be expressed in the form of two elementary equations: the degree of slowness exists in direct proportion to the intensity of remembering; the degree of quickness exists in direct proportion to the intensity of forgetting’ (Kundera 1996: 34-5)

3. On a bright spring morning in April 2003, British performers Gregg Whelan and Gary Winters, collectively Lone Twin, conducted an exercise on the beach at Scarborough in Yorkshire, with a dozen or so participants. The proposition was simple: count the number of steps from the Victorian Spa to the beach’s edge, then over a period of 30 minutes walk towards the sea using the same number of steps; at the water’s edge make an action imagined en route, then turn and retrace one’s journey back to the beginning of the beach, again reiterating the same number of steps over a 30 minute period. A simple meditative slowing down and immersion in present process, drawing attention to time’s passing, in counterpoint with the rhythms of beach-side traffic, dog walkers, ball games, donkey rides, a group of girls cart-wheeling dizzily, swaying metal detectors, the crash of the waves, the drift of the clouds. During the group’s attenuated return from the sea, two uniformed policemen moved swiftly towards the lead walker - coincidentally the editor of this volume - and confronted him nose to nose, blocking his passage. They had received a number of phone calls reporting ‘suspicious behaviour’, a group of people moving imperceptibly slowly across the beach. What were they doing? Was it a protest of some sort? In this way a slow private action in public, its internal dynamics, meanings and functions resistant to a normalising survey from the outside, constituted a threatening anomaly to the civic everyday. The most everyday of actions - standing, walking, thinking, at times apparently immobile and doing nothing at all – had produced an unreadable and dissident friction in the complex layered polyrhythms of the seaside. Perhaps unwittingly, they had provoked a small collision of practices of mobility and conceptions of ‘acceptable’ speeds.

4. ‘I like the feeling of the texture of cocoons. A cocoon produces numerous threads. The threads come out so fast that my body is often left behind. At such times my body is empty. I wonder where my stomach and other organs have gone. But the threads that go out may be my organs, or they may go out through all my pores. They spread out into space, no one can stop them. All that’s left of me is contours. In the meantime, my body remains in the cocoon and is suffocated. People often say that I’m not moving or that I look like an idiot. Is it because I move too fast?’ (Butoh performer Akedno Ashikawa in Moore 1991)

5. 400 polished stainless steel poles, each of them with a diameter of 2 inches and solid stainless steel tips, arrayed in a parallel rectangular grid 5,280 feet by 3,300 feet, or 1 mile by 1 kilometre. Each pole 220 feet apart. Each mile-long row containing 25 poles, each kilometre-long row containing 16. A walk of about 2 hours to cover the perimeter of the grid. A field of potentiality in waiting for the untimely, sudden, sublime event of lightning. The conditions for lightning and its ‘doing of the did’.

Completed in West Central New Mexico in 1977, Walter de Maria’s The Lightning Field was one of the iconic works of land art. It was intended for the work to be viewed alone ‘over at least a 24-hour period’ (de Maria 1980: 529). Using aerial and land surveys to determine the precise elevation of the terrain, in order for the plane of the poles’ tips to ‘evenly support an imaginary sheet of glass’ (ibid), the work took 5 months to install. Only about 60 days a year fell within the season of primary lightning activity during the summer months. It was possible to observe a number of distinct thunderstorms simultaneously from The Lightning Field. With occasional light snow in winter, and the anomalous optical phenomenon of the vast majority of the poles becoming almost invisible when the sun was high in the sky, light was deemed to be ‘as important as lightning’ (ibid: 530). On rare occasions, a powerful electrical current in the air generated the glow known as ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ which was emitted from the tips of the poles. The conjunction of art and nature, engineering and unpredictability, a tiny number of witnesses and a vast landscape/skyscape, the slowest of events and those moving at the speed of light.

6. During the 1990s, the Russian performance artist Oleg Kulik made a series of related performances collectively entitled Zoophrenia, in which he pursued the game of playing dog in a purposeful way, mimicking a certain kind of canine behaviour to excess. Becoming-dog was a strategy to ‘renounce his identity as a reflective being in order to become a being with reflexes (a dog)’ (Kulik in Watkins & Kermode 2001: 76). At other times, he also ‘became’ a bull, an ape and a bird, but the dog tracked him like a shadow. In 1998, Kulik made a performance called White Man, Black Dog. In complete darkness in a Ljubljana gallery space, a naked Kulik tried to interact and establish an intimate exchange with a real black dog. Intermittent camera flashes produced by two photographers documenting the encounter supposedly burnt ephemeral images into the short-term retinal memories of spectators. For Kulik, such an encounter and its fugitive visual traces constituted ‘the only true, “absolutely real” art’ (Kulik 2003: 23).

7. ‘Oui … Oui … Oui … Oui … Oui … Oui … Oui … Oui …’ (Aurore Clément, on the telephone in the final shot of Chantal Akerman’s film Toute une nuit (‘All Night Long’), 1982, quoted in Margulies 1996: 173).

8. She moves. Her attention adjusts and focuses as she sniffs around a quality of stillness in the action, a quality of action in the stillness, her nostrils flared for the event of it. Slowly slowly. Stalking while never letting on, while always letting on, that stalking’s afoot. Something lives here, and moves here. Something warm. Something animal. Its presence resonates and is carried on the wind in this windless space. Its reverberation comes to her as smell. Just a whiff, the merest hint of a lair, of a pelt, of a world in a surreptitious moment of synaesthesia. Coloursoundsongsmell. Something there. The need for moist attention. The need for a wet nose. Follow your nose. Slowly slowly track it, but but let it be, let it take a place in the open. Patience, go quickly go slowly, stay close to it but not too close: she must move away if she gets too close. How to be near and far? Come and go, just as it comes and goes on the wind in this windy place. The role of the eyes in sniffing it out, the role of the ears. Body all eye-ear-nose. She follows her nose, it takes her closer, closer, then no too close and she can’t smell a thing and she smells too many things, the smell blurs and its shape fades and she moves away again and begins to drift again. Circling. Circling. As if now were here, and she were all alone. S l o w i n g d o w n t o n o w h e r e s h e Breathe. Ready. Again. And. No not now, be slower. Move away again and wait, lie in wait, be still in wait. Wait. Weight. Wet. She remembers an Inuit word she read and wrote down and learnt for the rightness of its rhythm, the shape of its sound in space and the time of its gesture - an onomatopoeic map: QUINUITUQ, the deep patience of waiting for long periods while prepared for a sudden event. QUINUI - like a polar bear waiting for a seal at a hole in the ice. A chameleon invisibly perched on a branch attentive to the flashing insect wings around it. A tick on a blade of grass ready for the passage of fur. Or a photographer standing in a storm at night, camera in hand, waiting for the lightning strike. Then TUQ - a flaring into appearance. An active vanishing that burns itself into the retina for a moment, then gradually dissolves.

9. ‘There are about two hundred shots in Mirror, very few when a film of that length usually has about five hundred; the small number is due to their length. Although the assembly of the shots is responsible for the structure of a film, it does not, as is generally assumed, create its rhythm. The distinctive time running through the shots makes the rhythm of the picture; and rhythm is determined not by the length of the edited pieces, but by the pressure of the time that runs through them. Editing cannot determine rhythm … indeed, time courses through the picture despite editing rather than because of it. The course of time, recorded in the frame, is what the director has to catch in the pieces laid out on the editing table.

Time, imprinted in the frame, dictates the particular editing principle; and the pieces that ‘won’t edit’ – that can’t be properly joined – are those which record a radically different kind of time. One cannot, for instance, put actual time together with conceptual time, any more than one can join water pipes of different diameter. The consistency of the time that runs through the shot, its intensity or ‘sloppiness’, could be called time-pressure; then editing can be seen as the assembly of the pieces on the basis of the time-pressure within them’ (Tarkovsky 1986: 117).

10. Of all of the artist-walkers who spring to mind - Hamish Fulton, Marina & Ulay, Lone Twin, Wrights & Sites, Janet Cardiff, Tim Brennan, Iain Sinclair, Bruce Chatwin, and so on – Richard Long seems to me one of the slowest and most patient, one of the clearest about his choices. Long repeatedly uses walking structures as generative ‘games’ in the production of photographs and texts in which words assume a sculptural quality, as well as ‘non-site’ works for gallery spaces. His walks are playful in a purposeful way, and it’s invariably hard to separate the idea for a walk, the walk itself, and the trace of walk. The walks are conceived by Long as ‘sculpture’, taking sculpture way beyond the usual definition of the generation of objects. Instead, he proposes to make experiential events and impermanent relational connections with and in places. In his registering of their traces lies an implicit set of propositions about reality, nature, our place(s) in the world: a kind of ethics of lightness, movement, process, change, relationality in complexity. We only ever witness traces of the space-time aggregate of the absent/invisible event. The sculptural work itself rarely involves violent interventions; the work is always on a human scale, often discreet, ephemeral, small restrained displacements more often than not employing the elementary and archetypal formal configurations of lines (motion) and circles (stopping points) and their variants (spiral, cross, arc, zig-zag, ellipsis).

In an interview in 1990, Long reflected on the complex relations between duration and ephemerality in his work, a slow dance of endless repetition with difference, of unfolding multiplicity within identity: ‘I suppose my work runs the whole gamut from being completely invisible and disappearing in seconds, like a water drawing, to a permanent work in a museum that could last forever. The planet is full of unbelievably permanent things, like rock strata and tides, and yet full of impermanence like butterflies or the seaweed on the beach, which is in a new pattern every day for thousands of years. I would like to think my work reflects that beautiful complexity and reality’ (Long 1991: 104).

One of Richard Long’s most remarkable walking works is Crossing Stones (1987), in which he carried a single pebble from a beach on the East coast of England, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk, all the way across Britain to Aberystwyth in West Wales, covering more than 300 miles in 10 days. On the beach in Aberystwyth, he deposited the Suffolk stone, exchanged it for another, and then carried this second stone back another 300 miles to deposit it on the same beach in Suffolk. This act of displacement is both heroic and Sisyphean in its epic absurdity. A return journey on foot lasting 20 days, covering more than 600 miles, in order to exchange two pebbles (why those two?), and all that survives is one text work, a brief score-like description of the structure of the event as a whole. The symmetrical transplant effects a re-assimilation by two pebbles on a new beach in a fresh alliance with other pebbles, all of them moving incessantly with tides and weather: so nothing moves, everything stays the same, but everything has changed. (The layerings of time: the moment of choice of a pebble, the rhythms of foot steps, the moment of placement, the rhythms of the sea, the glacial speed of change in stone: slowness is always relative). The pebbles remain remote from each other in their new locations, as far apart as ever, but a new connective relation or tissue is established between the individual stones, the beaches, the coastlines, the edges of Britain. Each of them has crossed to a situation that is the same and quite different. The space between them is blooded and activated by Long’s long walk, a passage which has all but disappeared in its embodied complexity, Nothing is mentioned of the journey to and fro beyond the fact that it took place; three weeks collapse into a few words, and Long’s experiences en route are excised completely in this most radical act of editing and distilling to a pure economy of exchange. It is the experiences of the pebbles, it seems, that are to be privileged.

11. ‘There are, on a few Shinto shrines, some sacred curiosities. Stones that have fallen from the sky. Nobody makes much fuss about them. They are simply there for people to take pleasure in, and as objects deserving of the respect accorded to everything that shares the spirit of divinity. The traditional explanation for their existence is very simple and matter-of-fact. “There is a hole in the sky”, say the priests, “and sometimes things just fall through it”’ (Watson 1984: 319).

12. In the opening sequence of Le Jet de Sang (‘The Spurt of Blood’), a short play written by Antonin Artaud, a pair of young lovers express ardent passion for each other in a (parodic? nostalgic?) exchange that culminates in the young man declaring: ‘We are intense. Ah. What a well-made world’. Artaud then provides a genuinely startling stage direction: precise, hallucinatory, dissociated, anti-romantic, surreal, apocalyptic. It appears there is indeed a hole in the sky, and fragments of well-made civilisations and anatomies fall through it as the lovers’ intensive coup de foudre gives way to cosmic dismemberment: 'Silence: noise like a huge wheel spinning, blowing out wind. A hurricane comes between them. At that moment, two stars collide, and a succession of limbs of flesh fall. Then feet, hands, scalps, masks, colonnades, porticoes, temples and alembics, falling slower and slower as if through space, then three scorpions one of the other and finally a frog, and a scarab which lands with heart-breaking, nauseating slowness’ (Artaud 1968: 63).

Although one might readily associate an Artaudian ‘theatre of cruelty’ with frenzied speed and ecstasy, it is my impression that in his writings Artaud rehearsed a particular ontology of slowness. He returned repeatedly to his sense of time and integrated, ‘orderly’ spaces (e.g. that of the human body) being out of joint, and articulated the pervasive dis-ease he experienced as ‘that abnormal facility that has entered into human relations which does not allow our thoughts the time to take root’ (Artaud 1988: 162).

13. On a footpath, in large letters traced with a finger in the fresh snow, someone’s written a message to the sky: MORE SNOW PLEASE. The gift of snow. Its aura.

14. ‘Relation of walking and thinking, the movement of the body setting thought in motion. Rimbaud composed many of his poems while walking. So does Edmond Jabès. Walking the space of a line, a phrase. As if finding it. A grammar of motion … Edmond Jabès walks. Hands crossed in back. Slowly … In the dining room, Edmond opens a drawer full of pebbles he has collected on beaches. In Brittany, In Italy. “Look at this, wouldn’t you say, a face? And this one here, magnificent”. Almost all his pebbles have markings one could see as a face. “Just look; it’s Verlaine”. Once he has said this I cannot see anything but Verlaine in the veins of the stone. But I think more of how it is sand and stone that hold his attention rather than the sea. Bits of desert … After Edmond’s death, Marcel gives us a most precious gift. Two out of a group of five white pebbles that Edmond has collected for him. These do not suggest faces. They are pure white. They are, strangely, almost perfect cubes. They sit on top of one another’ (Waldrop 2002: 15, 30, 32-3)

15. ‘In 1981, I made a videotape in Japan, Hatsu Yume ('First Dream'), in which there is one sequence where a fixed camera views a rock on a mountainside over a long period of time. When it comes on the screen, the images are moving 20 times normal speed, and gradually, in a series of stages, it slows down to real-time, and eventually to extreme slow-motion. People usually describe that scene by saying, “ … the part where the people are all slowed down while moving round the rock”. What I looked at in that scene is the rock, not so much the people. I thought it would be interesting to show a rock in slow motion. All that is really happening is that the rock’s time, its rate of change, exceeds the sampling rate (the recording time of the video), whereas the people are within that range. So the rock just sits there, high speed, slow speed … it doesn’t matter. I think about time in that way. There are windows or wavelengths of perception. They are simultaneous and interwoven at any one moment, but we are tuned only to a certain frequency range. This is directly related to scale changes in space or sound, proportion in architecture and music. A fly lives for a week or two, and a rock exists for thousands or millions of years’ (Bill Viola 1995: 151).

16. In the late 1960s, in a proposal for a new work called Island of Broken Glass, a work that might be thought of nowadays in terms of a ‘deep ecology’, American land artist Robert Smithson suggested that a small island in Vancouver harbour (Miami Islet) should be covered with broken glass. Eventually, through the forces of nature over a long period of time, the glass would break down into ever smaller pieces until its final return to sand. Smithson’s proposal was vehemently opposed by ecologists, and the work was never realised. Elsewhere Smithson wrote: ‘In the museum one can find deposits of rust labelled "Philosophy", and in glass cases unknown lumps of something labelled "Aesthetics"' (Smithson in Holt 1979: 79).

Meanwhile about thirty years after its disappearance Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) has re-emerged into astonishing visibility (for the time being) from beneath the surface of the Great Salk Late in Utah; the rocks are now caked in sparkling salt crystals in the pink waters of the lake.

17. Imagine it. A wheat field, two blocks from the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and Wall Street in New York City, opposite the Statue of Liberty. First, the clearing of rocks and trash on a disused block of land, then a fresh covering with truckloads of landfill, before the spring planting of seed in 285 hand-dug furrows blanketed with an inch of top-soil. The establishment of an irrigation system, clearing, maintenance, weeding and spraying. Four months of careful tending, from brown to green to amber, then the final harvesting in August: almost 1,000 pounds of wheat. Finally, the return of the land to the rhythms and economies of intensive urban development, and the construction of a new luxury complex.

Reflecting on her land art sculpture-event Wheatfield (1982) afterwards, activist-artist Agnes Denes suggested: ‘It represented food, energy, commerce, world trade, economics. It referred to mismanagement and world hunger. It was an intrusion into the Citadel, a confrontation of High Civilisation. Then again, it was also Shangri-la, a small paradise, one’s childhood, a hot summer afternoon in the country, peace, forgotten values, simple pleasures’ (Denes 1982: 544).

A wheat field in lower Manhattan. Imagine it.

18. On a February morning of both sun and snow, walking through the fields on the banks of the River Dart at Dartington in Devon, I come across an oak tree that has fallen during a winter storm. Uprooted, its massive trunk shattered, the tree’s canopy lies over the pathway made by dog-walkers and joggers: an impassable obstruction, an interruption in the rhythms of walking and running. It is as if it has dropped out of the sky, like the timber house in Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. I am struck by the juxtaposition of a long, slow period of vertical growth and the sudden moment of falling to the horizontal:

‘There is a moment when the newborn first lets out a cry into the dry air, when the pressure of light first falls on the virgin surface of the new retina and is registered by some pattern of nerve impulses not yet fully “understood” … There is a moment, only truly known in anticipation before it happens, when the eyes close for the last time and the brain shuts down its circuits forever (the end of time)’ (Viola 1995: 142).

In the weeks since the oak’s collapse, a new ‘desire path’ has been worn into the grass around it, a perfect semi-circle tracing the outline of the canopy and connecting the path at either side. The old path, now enveloped by the dead branches, remains bare. From the perspective of the buzzard floating far above my head, one might see a large brown D inscribed into the grassy surface of the field by gravitied footfalls over time.

19. [...]

20. First, a score: Yoko Ono’s TAPE PIECE III/Snow Piece (1963): ‘Take a tape of the sound of the snow falling. This should be done in the evening. Do not listen to the tape. Cut it and use it as strings to tie gifts with. Make a gift wrapper, if you wish, using the same process with a phonosheet’ (Ono 1970: unpaginated).

Then a slow and illuminating close reading of a slow and illuminating work. In his remarkable study of sound in 20th century avant-garde art work, Noise Water Meat (1999), Douglas Kahn begins by describing the paradoxical acoustical effects of snow falling: ‘It is a sound of blanketing bereft of warmth, a massive field of intense activity that is oddly quiet, and because the accumulation of snow acts to absorb sounds and the minute crystalline structure of snow breaks up sound waves at their own scale, it becomes progressively quieter as the snow mutes itself. [...] The irony of snow falling is that it produces the conditions for listening closely but then absorbs the sounds that might be heard’ (Kahn 1999: 238-9).

Kahn then turns his attention to Ono’s poetical disposition towards technology, and its embracing of multiple inaudibilities. For the score involves: ‘much more than trying to listen, even though Ono has employed and displayed the technology of listening. She has actually employed a technology one imagines and a technology one ignores. Assume for a moment an impossible transparency of audiophonic technology [...] A tape recording is made of falling snow using such technology and then ignored. Ono’s score instructs the recordist not to listen to it because it is the best way to ensure its accuracy’ (ibid: 239).

Finally Kahn highlights the ethical overlay in Ono’s score between environmental and social relations, the tacit acknowledgement of multiple silences (and silencings) and the emotional warmth in the economy of the gift: ‘A refusal to listen complements both the silence of the imagined sound of snow falling and the silences involved in the very act of gift giving. Whatever else can be said about gift giving, something is always left unsaid. Although speech may revolve around the act, the delicacy of the gesture, especially in Ono’s score, acts to absorb the sound waves of speech. When the audiotape is used as ribbon, the environment of snow falling lies covertly inscribed along the length of the tape in patterns resembling the loops of a bow’ (ibid: 239-40).

21. Las Ramblas: a bustling, tree-lined boulevard bisecting the old city of Barcelona. Lorca once described it as ‘the only street in the world which I wish would never end’. Its name derives from an Arabic word (ramla) for torrents or rapids, for at one time it was a seasonal watercourse, the route of run-off from hills to the sea. The memory of water.

Today Las Ramblas runs from Plaça de Catalunya in the north to Plaça Portal de la Pau in the south, with its harbourside monument to Christopher Columbus. Caked white with birdshit, with a hefty stone map in one hand by his side, Columbus points confidently out to sea, but in the direction of North Africa rather than the New World. This way, folks, must be.

How to remake a river? Or more modestly, for I’m uneasy with Columbus’s unshakeable conviction as model, how to make a small action whose ephemeral traces might reconnect this place briefly and playfully with its naming, and with its past role in the micro-circuits and flows of the hydrological cycle? How to re-member a river? I discussed this with Gregg and Gary. Many triggers for me in what they do, and they have moist imaginations. We chatted in a cafe, quiet little rants and what ifs and didyaknows about weather systems, bodies, maps, becoming-river, Snowflake the albino gorilla. Then Gary said what about ice.

In the end we slid a block of ice from the CCCB, past the Plaça dels Angels and along the Carrer Bonsuccés to Las Ramblas. We placed it on its side on the paving stones in the middle of Rambla Canaletes, near an old iron fountain, then wrung the melted ice from our gloves to start the flow. People watching, talking in the sun. The water of memory (David Williams in Whelan & Winters 2001: unpaginated).

22. After hearing La Monte Young talk at the Barbican in December 1998, Jem Finer, the creator and composer of Longplayer, a 1,000-year-long musical score for looped Tibetan bell-chants spiralling ‘like planets around the sun’ (Finer in van Noord 2000: 3), wrote in his journal: ‘I was interested by his talking about the evening’s performance as part of an ongoing, ever-lasting performance. The time that had elapsed since the last one merely being a pause in the music’ (ibid: 29).

23. Speed of the sound of loneliness is the title of a John Prine song sung by Nanci Griffin, a title borrowed by Richard Long for a walking work he made on Dartmoor in the winter of 1998. Walking continuously from dawn to dusk, Long circled Crow Tor at a distance representing the Earth’s orbit around the Sun; the rock acted as still point or fulcrum in a circuit of 7 miles walked 3 1/2 times, at a speed Long estimated to be at 2.8 miles an hour. Long’s published score of the event goes on to record other speeds occurring simultaneously in a sliding scale of space-times around Crow Tor - an overlay of differential speeds and relational connections moving out from the rock to the galaxy in this simple meditative staging of the vertiginous dynamics of our tiny corner of the universe (Long 2002: 149):




24. A man in a snail suit stands waiting at a zebra crossing. Spiral shell on his back, comedy feelers protruding from his forehead. A car slows to let him cross. He acknowledges the driver politely, then lies on his belly and slides imperceptibly slowly across the tarmac, inch by inch. Music: Bakerman, by the band Laid Back. "Bakerman is baking bread. Bakerman … is baking bread. The night train is coming, got to keep on runnin’ …" (from Dom Joly’s Trigger Happy TV).

Artaud, Antonin (1968). Collected Works, Volume 1 (trans. Victor Corti), London: Calder & Boyars
Artaud, Antonin (1988). ‘Manifesto for a theatre that failed’, in Susan Sontag (ed.), Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, Berkeley: University of California Press
Auster, Paul (1998). ‘White Spaces’, Selected Poems, London: Faber & Faber
Bachelard, Gaston (1988). Air and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Movement (trans. E.R. Farrell), Dallas: Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture
Benjamin, Walter (1968). ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ [1936], in Illuminations (trans Harry Zorn), New York: Schocken Books
Blanchot, Maurice (1995). The Writing of the Disaster (trans. Ann Smock), Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press
Calvino, Italo (1993). ‘Quickness’, in Six Memos for the Next Millennium, New York: Vintage Books, 31-54
Carruthers, Mary (1990). The Book of Memory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Deleuze, Gilles (1986)). Cinema I: The Movement-Image (trans. H. Tomlinson & B. Habberjam), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
de Maria, Walter (1980). ‘The Lightning Field’, in Kristine Stiles & Peter Selz (eds) (1996), Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, Berkeley: University of California Press, 527-30
Denes, Agnes (1982) ‘Wheatfield: A Confrontation’, in Kristine Stiles & Peter Selz (eds) (1996), Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, Berkeley: University of California Press, 543-5
Dillard, Annie (1999). For the Time Being, New York: Vintage Books
George, David (1999). Buddhism as/in Performance, New Delhi: DK Printworld
Goulish, Matthew (2000). 39 Microlectures in Proximity of Performance, London & New York: Routledge
Heim, Wallace (2003). ‘Slow activism: homelands, love and the lightbulb’, in Bronislaw Szerszynski, Wallace Heim & Claire Waterton (eds), Nature Performed: Environment, Culture and Performance, Oxford: Blackwell, 183-202
Hoete, Anthony (ed.) (2002). Roam: Reader on the Aesthetics of Mobility, London: Black Dog Publishing
Holt, Nancy (ed.) (1979). The Writings of Robert Smithson, New York: New York University Press
Jabes, Edmond (1972). The Book of Questions, vol. 1 (trans. Rosmarie Waldrop), Hanover NH: University Press of New England
Kahn, Douglas (1999). Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts, Cambridge Mass.: The MIT Press
Kulik, Oleg (2003). ‘Armadillo for your show’, in Adrian Heathfield (ed.), Live Culture, London: Tate Modern / Live Art Development Agency, 20-3
Kundera, Milan (1996). Slowness (trans. Linda Asher), London: Faber & Faber
Lepecki, André (1996). ‘Embracing the stain: notes on the time of dance’, Performance Research 1:1 (‘The Temper of the Times’), Spring, 103-7
Long, Richard (1991). Walking in Circles, London: Thames & Hudson
Long, Richard (2002). Walking the Line, London: Thames & Hudson
Margulies, Ivone (1996). Nothing Happens: Chantal Akerman’s Hyperrealist Everyday, Durham & London: Duke University Press
Massumi, Brian (ed.) (2002). ‘Introduction: Like a Thought’, in A Shock to Thought: Expression after Deleuze and Guattari, London & New York: Routledge, xiii-xxxix
Moore, Richard (dir.) (1991). Butoh: Piercing the Mask (film)
Ono, Yoko (1970). Grapefruit, New York: Simon & Schuster
Tarkovsky, Andrey (1986). Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema (trans. Kitty Hunter-Blair), Austin: University of Texas Press
van Noord, Gerrie (ed.) (2000). Jem Finer: Longplayer, London: Artangel
Viola, Bill (1995). Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House: Writings 1973-1994, London: Thames & Hudson / Anthony d’Offay Gallery
Waldrop, Rosmarie (2002). Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jabès, Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press
Watkins, Jonathan and Kermode, Deborah (eds) (2001). Oleg Kulik: Art Animal, Birmingham: Ikon Gallery
Watson, Lyall (1984). Heaven’s Breath: A Natural History of the Wind, London: Hodder & Stoughton
Whelan, Gregg & Winters, Gary (2001). Of pigs and lovers: a lone twin research companion, in Live Art Magazine no. 34, March-May

(‘The little by little suddenly’, in Ian Abbot (ed.), Slow, Devon: Elusive Camel Books, 2007. Limited edition artist’s book. Contributors include Matthew Goulish, Kirsten Lavers, Kevin Mount, Cupola Bobber. This version - with one frame 'missing', no. 19 - is reproduced here in memory of Lyall Watson, who died in late June 2008).

Wednesday 19 July 2017

an encounter is perhaps

a meeting with d.b. indos, zagreb

‘The only aim of writing is life, through the combinations which it draws’
(Gilles Deleuze)

‘Every word was once an animal’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson, via Ben Marcus)


From: David Williams
Sent: Tuesday, April 27 2004
To: Ivana Ivkovic, Una Bauer
Subject: group dynamics, zagreb

Hello Ivana and Una,
I hope all’s well. Just a quick request in relation to my participation in the Zagreb symposium: would it be possible to have some maps of the city please? Also I will be trying to intersect Ric’s workshop walks with animal trajectories: could you let me know if there is a zoo in Zagreb? Is there a natural history museum?
I would like to try to meet someone who has an animal (domestic or not): could be a pet, or could be a horse, pig, chickens, other farm animals – or even something more ‘exotic’ (like a tropical bird). Anyone who interacts with animals. Do you know anyone? Or do you know someone who might know someone? Any email or other contact details would be VERY helpful. Ideally I could get in contact with them before I come to Zagreb, and try to talk with them as the starting point of a possible network of people-and-animals.
Look forward to meeting you both.
With best wishes, David


From: Ivana Ivkovic
Sent: Tuesday, April 27, 2004
To: David Williams
Subject: Re: group dynamics, zagreb

Dear David,
We can have a good map of Zagreb waiting for you when you arrive, or would you need it in advance? There is a very good map in pdf with close up possibility here. The ZOO is where it is written Maksimir (large green area in the north-east of the city). The natural history museum is very small, but in the city centre.
I think Una has a cat :-) but I just heard of a friend of a friend who own some snakes yesterday. I am sure we can arrange something. I will ask around.
See you in Zagreb soon, Ivana Ivkovic


‘I wanted a form as obsolete yet necessary as the weather […] Who is to circumscribe the geography in which thinking may take place?’ (Robertson 2002: 21, 25).

My recent research has drawn on elements of contemporary philosophy and cultural theory in an attempt to explore the mutable parameters of performance, or its heart. It has proposed performative mappings of certain unpredictable, energetic events ‘in proximity of performance’, to borrow Matthew Goulish’s phrase: the shifting point of contact in contact improvisation; fire energetics and their implications for writing about the active vanishings of performance; place as contested and heterotopic; skywritings, a proliferative critical historiography of ways in which skies have been conceived, contested, and practised in contemporary art and socio-politics, and their implications for a performance epistemology; and in particular alterity as productive event in human/animal interactions. In these texts, I have endeavoured to explore more performative modes of writing critical histories. So, for example, I have attempted to write about what resists historiographic inscription - the qualitative, the fugitive, the unpredictable, the overlooked – and in this way minimally ‘to redirect the geometry of attention’, to borrow a phrase from Joan Retallack. Such redirection goes hand in hand with a conviction that one can never recuperate a disappeared world, one can simply try to write (into) a new one, try to find a form for what Paul Celan called the Singbarer Rest ('the singable remains'). The act of writing therefore seeks to ‘do’ or perform something of the moment(um) or affect of movement in absent bodies, or at least to rehearse aspects of the ambiguities, pluralities, displacements and ephemeralities of live performance through the conjunction of diverse modes of writing and voices, intertextual citation, linguistic slippage and fray, a poetics of repetition and accumulation, the tropes of the fragment and the list, and so on. I conceive of this writing as a material discursive practice, in which the page is a public space for enactments or instanciations of critical performance, rather than a matter of formal (or modish) ‘style’, or writing to be consigned to the ‘merely’ creative; to quote Retallack once again, ‘a space to be playful in a purposeful way’.

The evolving trajectory of this work reflects a gradual displacement from the relatively ‘solid ground’ of theatre studies and theatre history towards more fluid and tentative articulations of the shifting ‘lie of the land’ in an expanded field of contemporary performance and its intersections with philosophy. This trajectory marks an unravelling of conviction as to theatre as the singular site of concern, and at the same time a growing fascination with present process, conditions, practices, perceptions ‘in the middle’, and ways of thinking through performance as interactive and ephemeral event. Perhaps these materials also suggest a certain scepticism about particular claims to knowledge and its ‘finishability’, and, to borrow Jean-François Lyotard’s terms, a desire to become a ‘philosopher’ rather than an ‘expert’ (Lyotard 1984: xxv), to know how not to know with interrogative momentum, to travel between different modes of knowing (and not-knowing) in a relational field.

‘Ordinary human beings do not like mystery since you cannot put a bridle on it, and therefore, in general they exclude it, they repress it, they eliminate it – and it’s settled. But if on the contrary one remains open and susceptible to all the phenomena of overflowing, beginning with natural phenomena, one discovers the immense landscape of the trans-, of the passage. Which does not mean that everything will be adrift, our thinking, our choices, etc. But it means that the factor of instability, the factor of uncertainty, or what Derrida calls the undecidable, is indissociable from human life. This ought to oblige us to have an attitude that is at once rigorous and tolerant and doubly so on each side: all the more rigorous than open, all the more demanding since it must lead to openness, leave passage: all the more mobile and rapid as the ground will always give way, always. A thought which leads to what is the element of writing: the necessity of only being the citizen of an extremely inappropriable unmasterable country or ground’ (Hélène Cixous in Cixous & Calle-Gruber 1997: 51-2).

When I was invited to participate in the Group Dynamics symposium in Zagreb in May 2004, feeling somewhat lost, my initial questions related to orientation and connectivity, and to a desire to try to register traces of the unmapped and the ephemeral: animal encounters and trajectories, secret places, small acts of kindness, dreams of else/w/here and other/wise. In what ways might one ‘collaborate’ in a city never visited before, a city where one doesn’t know anyone, in a language one doesn’t speak? What kinds of meetings are possible? Given how easy it would be to get lost, what might one find? I knew I wanted to remain connected to the symposium and at the same time fall out of it into this unfamiliar city. I knew I wanted to allow the occasion for the unforeseen by giving over some degree of agency in the city, through encounters with others (a provisional micro-version of ‘group dynamics’) and through a process of drift. A ‘purposeful drifting’ that requires patience, an attentiveness to detail, to multiplicities and connectivities. ‘The multiple must be made’ (Deleuze & Guattari 1987: 6). Knowingly not knowing what it is ‘about’ at the outset, what is being looked for, just staying close to whatever rule/game/attempt structures are in operation, or whatever ‘desire paths’ open up, and attending to figures and trajectories and repetitions and alliances as they occur, listening actively, letting them take shape in a relational space. Tracking something emergent, trying to go for the ride, knowing it will always be a few necks ahead of the rider. These shapes and patterns may be fictional (‘made things’), but the ways in which we represent them can have a variety of functions: aesthetic, critical, ethical, affective, epistemological, historiographic. And as Tim Etchells writes in Certain Fragments, it’s not always a matter of ‘describing a situation so much as placing the reader in one’ (Etchells 1999: 23).

'What the map cuts up, the story cuts across’, wrote de Certeau (1984: 129). Location and identity are produced as much through narration as through what already exists; they are more to do with doing than knowing. Perhaps this was an opportunity to rehearse and play-fully refashion some fragments of those heterogeneous personal mappings that we are continuously making up and over, and out of which we constitute our-‘selves’. So, a kind of fluid performative ‘auto-topography’ that could create provisional senses of self and of space and place (rather than the ‘self’ or the ‘world’ occurring preformed, as if they were pre-existent entities rubbing up against each other). Space, time, self as ‘a multiple foldable diversity’ (Michel Serres), a field of flows and intensities: spacing, timing, selfing. Here a dynamically spatialised (and fictionalised) self-in-process can perhaps fray just a little the dualist territorial imaginaries of inside and outside, of self-identity in opposition to alterity. So, a philosophy and practice of passage, rather than of ground or territory. If the continuity of identity is secured through movement and the capacity to change, rather than the ability to cling to what is already established, then my interest here was to explore simple strategies for loosening the grip of the logics of mastery and opening towards an engagement with the transitional passages, networks and inter-subjective flows of an ‘animal geography’.

Certain core questions recur throughout this work: How might one interact with another whose difference is recognised as an active event, rather than a failure of plenitude? What are the productive qualities of alterity? In what ways might one work (in) an existential in-between and perceive other-wise? How, in Jean-Luc Nancy’s terms, might one ‘think on the limit’ (Nancy 1997:70) and ex-pose oneself to the event/advent of meaning? In other words, if the ‘animal’ comprises a constitutive outside of the ‘human’, (how) can this limit-horizon be experienced as ‘not that at which something stops but [...] that from which something begins its presencing’ (Heidegger 1971:154)?


‘There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are the things we don’t know we don’t know’ (Zizek 2004: 9).

I’m quoting the words of that rather slippery philosopher/cartographer of modes of knowing, former US Secretary of State for Defence Donald Rumsfeld. As Slavoj Zizek points out in his book Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle, Rumsfeld forgot to add a crucial fourth term – the ‘unknown knowns’, the things we do not know that we know – in other words, very precisely the unconscious, the ‘knowledge which does not know itself’ – ‘the disavowed beliefs and suppositions we are not even aware of adhering to ourselves’ (ibid: 10). These can’t be controlled, because we’re unaware of their very existence. Perhaps attentive immersion in certain activities – talking, writing, playing, drifting, dreaming, the event of encountering an-other – can generate frictions and short-circuits to unsettle or jolt them, allow us to glimpse their contours out of our peripheral vision. Perhaps one can learn how not to know what one is doing and still keep on doing it, knowing that the unconscious will always make a fool of the expert. The ground will always give way.


From: Una Bauer
Sent: Tuesday, April 27, 2004
To: David Williams
Subject: Re: group dynamics, zagreb

Dear David,
Hi again, I just remembered something that was sort of, right in front of my nose. There is this wonderful artist Damir Bartol Indos working and living in Zagreb, and he has a dog, and is, in general, very much interested in animal behaviour (doing his new piece of wolfs/dogs). He would be a great person to talk to – I already called him to tell him you might be contacting him … I realised most people I know are into cats, but domestic cats that don’t leave their houses, I don’t know if that’s a problem. JT is a friend of mine who has 2 cats … and then there is also a good friend MS, who is also very much into cats – just talked to her – she would also like to be part of what you are doing
Is that ok for the beginning?
Best, Una
p.s. by the way, I live very close to the zoo … if not in one.


From: kugla
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2004
To: David Williams
Subject: RE: re. visit to Zagreb

dear david
must be tuesday or friday, we shall use school bus. i have phone from laguna, i am every day in contact with una. my phone-mobile is …
see you, dbi


‘An encounter is perhaps the same thing as becoming […] an effect, a zigzag, something which passes or happens between two […] intermezzi, as sources of creation’ (Deleuze & Parnet 1987: 6, 28)

It’s just before dawn on a Friday morning in early May, and I take a tram across Zagreb to a meeting with Croatian performance maker Damir Bartol Indos. People heading to or from work, the murmur of the city waking up, and my head still thick with sleep. The tram takes me east along Ilica through the city centre at Trg bana Jelacica, with its towering equestrian statue and its flapping explosions of pigeons, and out past the twin temples of specular mythologising and aestheticising - the zoo and the glass folly of the Dynamo Zagreb stadium, home of the Bad Blue Boys - towards the terminal point of tram line 12. All I know is that I have to look out for ‘a big man with a small dog: you can’t miss him’. In the preceding days, whenever I’ve mentioned to local people that I will meet Indos, who has a reputation as a performance maker in Croatia, some reactions suggest that he is perceived as something of an anomaly, someone on the ‘wilder’ edges of the contemporary Croatian performance scene; almost all reactions convey a sense of respect and a certain wariness, as if I don’t really look as though I know what I’m getting myself into (and I don’t). He is to be taken seriously, it’s clear. As I wipe the sleep from my eyes, and try to unfold into the day, it feels a little like a test of my resolve, this request to meet so early and so far away. And it feels like a falling off the map.

As the tram trundles along, I look in my notebook at some preparatory fragments I’ve listed about wolves, two of which now stand out: an old Italian good luck saying, In bocca al lupo! (Into the jaws of the wolf!); and the fact that Dante placed those who had committed the ‘sins of the wolf’ in the eighth circle of hell in his Inferno - seducers, sorcerers, hypocrites, thieves – I wonder what version of ‘wolf’ is being constituted there ... And I look at an image of the Earth sent to me by my friend Sue, taken from the Challenger space shuttle shortly before it broke up on re-entry in the skies over Texas: at the cusp of night and day ('between dog and wolf', as is said in French), a beginning and an end, constellations of lights in West Africa and central Europe, Greenland and Iceland adrift like clouds in the dawn sky …

When the tram eventually comes to a stop around 5.30, I see big man and little dog on the other side of the road, and wave, delighted they are there. We shake hands, and Indos introduces me to Indi, the former street dog named after Indiana Jones. The bond between Indos and Indi is self-evident, and the dog creates an instant connectivity for us two men. Both interested in philosophy, performance, animals; both born in the same year, thousands of miles apart in opposite hemispheres. I am suddenly fully awake and we head off through the cold morning air.

As the sun comes up, we walk the dog in the grounds of a local school for more than an hour. Round and round a paving circle, through the grass, past the graffiti on the playground walls: a swastika and a scrawled ‘fuck off’ in amongst the indecipherable tags. Man and dog as machinic assemblage, ‘the shift of a centre of gravity along an abstract line’. As we walk, Indos tells me about Indi’s earlier life as a stray, about the forthcoming performance of Man-Wolf (now less than a week from its opening) and past projects with his company DB Indos: House of Extreme Music Theatre (HEMT), about his interest in animals, the friend of a friend who lives in Zagreb with two wolves, his horror at the condition in which some animals are kept at the zoo, the story of him cycling past Franjo Tudman’s unfinished folly of a football stadium shouting ‘You are fucking crazy!’... At one point, he stops and says, ‘I will talk for two hours about me: and then you will talk about you’ … Later I tell him a little about Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto (which I have brought with me to Zagreb), about Deleuze (he’s heard of him, but not read anything), in particular the notion of becoming-animal and his critique of Freud’s ‘Wolfman’, as well as my interest in the animal discourses of performance, criminality and social conflict ... And I tell him about Antoine Yates who lived with a fully-grown 350 kg tiger in his Harlem apartment until he was badly bitten while trying to protect a stray cat he’d adopted – he pulled the tiger’s tail when it attacked the smaller cat, and it turned on him and sank its teeth into his thigh (or did I tell that to someone else in Zagreb? I was brim full of animal stories in Zagreb, a whole mob inside me, in pursuit of what?) …

The stuttering meander of our conversation is continually (and pleasantly) interrupted by Indi and his encounters with other dogs and their owners: always a formal and polite introduction by Indos of the ‘English man with an interest in dogs’, and then easy exchange around the dogs as they play. Lola, recovering from sickness and foolishly friendly; Koya, who has had gastritis and colitis, with her young maths teacher owner on a bike. Indi is delighted at every meeting. When no other dogs are in sight, Indos pretends he can see someone coming and calls out other dog names to Indi; the dog stops still, ears cocked, and scans the park for the newcomer, then realises it’s a game, and bounds off again. ‘And if I see a dog running, it is just as much the run that is dogging’ (Bataille) … Then we drop Indi home, Indos organises breakfast for his parents and daughter, before we join her on the school bus that will take us across town to the Waldorf/Steiner School near Novi Zagreb. Every day for the past seven years Indos has worked as a volunteer warden accompanying his daughter and other kids on their way to and from school; he makes this journey twice a day, and everyone knows him. He says this is ‘soul-work’. At the school, there are ducks in a pen, and a rabbit struggling in the arms of a young girl. I ask if I can take a photograph, and girl and rabbit are momentarily still. Bobo, a teacher at the school, talks me through the year 4 introduction to animals through looking at morphological variations; he shows me exquisite pastel drawings of a human, an octopus, a mouse, an eagle. Through illustrations of the relations between form and function, the Steiner pedagogy invites a recognition of both connection and difference. Meanwhile, Indos is collecting bottles of what he calls ‘apple acid’ for his personal use: home-made cider or juice …

He has bought sandwiches and some water, and, skirting a dead dog in the middle of our path, we eat our breakfast as we walk towards a vast rubbish tip a mile or so from the school, the site of Zagreb’s detritus since the Second World War. Indos calls it ‘the mountain’: an apocalyptic place, as if something terrible has happened’, he says. The repressed and abandoned of the city, its waste trundling out here in incessant convoys of trucks. A chaotic archive of the broken, the unwanted, the redundant, the forgotten: a monumental collection of fragments, shards of memory, the residual traces of the city’s discarded pasts. A fleet of earth movers scurry across the slopes of this wasteland, burying the most decayed material beneath a thin layer of soil. Layered temporalities and rhythms: the trucks, countless seagulls wheeling overhead, some huge pigs feeding on the flank of the hill, the invisible and attenuated processes of decay. ‘They plant grass, trees: in winter it is perfect for snowboarding’, Indos says with a wry smile, then: ‘It makes something conflicted inside me’. Bird song and gull cries as the trucks rumble. He tells me about methane build-ups within this mass of refuse, how some years ago a huge explosion scattered rubbish far and wide across the Southern suburbs of the city. We talk about the toxic stench that drifts across his daughter’s school and on to the concrete blocks of Novi Zagreb; about the leaching of toxins from the tip into the market gardens at its edges and into the River Sava. Then he tells me of his desire to make a performance here, and points to a spot high on a crest. I imagine him dancing like Tatsumi Hijikata, almost naked in a sea of trash, peering through his glasses at the birds and the other mountains on the horizon behind the city.

As we walk towards the concrete housing projects of Novi Zagreb en route to Indos’s studio, we pause to watch a chicken and a cat sharing a piece of bread on the street. The gulls circle overhead ‘like shoals of fish, like water’, says Indos: a multiplicity and a singularity, a molecular aggregate. Then, with a laugh: ‘That is group dynamics – many in one! That’s the real symposium, up there!’ The conference of the birds. ____________________________________

From: Una Bauer
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2004
To: David Williams
Subject: a poodle

Here is another guy who wants to talk to you: Adam S – a musician, he has a poodle
Best, Una


‘A flight of screaming birds, a school of herring tearing through the water like a silken sheet, a cloud of chirping crickets, a booming whirlwind of mosquitos … crowds, packs, hordes on the move, and filling with their clamor, space; Leibniz called them aggregates, these objects, sets […] Sea, forest, rumor, noise, society, life, works and days, all common multiples; we can hardly say they are objects, yet require a new way of thinking. I’m trying to think the multiple as such, to let it waft along without arresting it through unity, to let it go, as it is, at its own pace. A thousand slack algae at the bottom of the sea’ (Serres 1995: 2, 6).

From: Una Bauer
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2004
To: David Williams
Subject: animal thing again

What do you think about a child taking part in your animal thing? I thought of M’s daughter who is 8 or so, and she has a turtle? I haven’t asked M about it, but perhaps …


Do you know which animal you are in the process of becoming and in particular what is becoming in you […] a whole mob inside you in pursuit of what … ? (Deleuze & Parnet 1987: 76).

It’s not long after 9.00 a.m., and we walk along a muddy path towards Indos’s studio, at the back of a semi-derelict club once trashed by skinheads, Indos tells me, for showing communist films. ‘Skinheads are not political enough, they wear costumes not uniforms’. This leads him into a discussion of Gandhi’s philosophy of ahimsa, and of the paradoxes of non-violent protest: ‘perfect for the police or the army, but maybe one must fight with skinheads’. When we walk around the side of the club towards the work space, Indos forewarns me: ‘no toilet, no heating’. At Indos’s invitation, I relieve myself in the waste ground at the back as he opens up and prepares; I smoke a cigarette, write some notes. And some mental connection is tentatively made between Indos, this context on the margins and Brian Massumi’s resistant ‘strategies for becoming’: 1. Stop the world (becoming begins with an inhibition); 2. Cherish derelict spaces (holes in habit, cracks in the existing order); 3. Study camouflage (seeming to be ‘what you are’ in order to ‘pass on the inside’); 4. Sidle and straddle (when in doubt, sidestep, remain marginal: move sideways through the cracks towards ‘the place of invention’, the dynamic in-between of transformational encounter); 5. Come out (‘what one comes out of is identity’) … (Massumi 1992: 103-6).

Inside, a tiny semi-industrial space, perhaps a garage originally. It’s a minefield to negotiate a route across the playing area towards some simple raked seating, only 3 or 4 rows. It looks like the wreckage of some Constructivist scenography; the space is covered with wooden industrial palettes, dozens of car tyres scattered randomly or in piles, loose bits of timber and small tree branches, scraps of paper, two ancient reel-to-reel tape machines and speaker system. Indos fumbles with his glasses, puts them on in order to tinker around and then cue the sound for the rehearsal of Man-Wolf. He hands me a package of photocopied materials, which will be distributed to spectators in this ‘anti-symposium’, as Indos describes it with a smile. The bundle of papers includes a contextualising programme note in Croatian and English, listing performers, textual and audio sources, and offering a rather elliptical account of the event-to-come: ‘Performers establish their otherness using tools, shaping beauty, establish their otherness from their animal Ur-forms using psychoanalysis, transcend to a state in which they pose questions, arrive to conclusions about the uniqueness of various forms of existing and perishing’. As well as trade journal descriptions of wooden palettes and torches (both of which are to be used in the ‘lecture/demonstration’ performance, the programme note informs us, ‘in order to build a stage object: wolf territory’), here are also: cartographic representations of ‘howling sites’ (the estimated range of audibility of individual wolf cries in a territory in Minnesota); an analytical zoological text entitled ‘Use of faeces for scent marking in Iberian wolves (Canis lupus)’ – Indos pronounces faeces ‘fakes’, and completely confuses me for a moment; materials about social order, expression and communication in wolf packs, including texts with line drawings about wolves’ facial expressions (‘high ranking’, ‘anxiety’, threat’, ‘suspicion’), about wolves’ tails as indicators of mood and status, about the presentation-withdrawal of the ‘anal parts’, and a very graphic text called ‘AND FAMILY LIFE’ describing vulpine coitus, tying and ejaculation. Finally, there is an extract from Freud’s case study of the ‘Wolfman’ (‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis’, 1918), including the Wolfman’s well-known dream.

Before I have really had any time to read this material, Indos begins to set the scene as if this were a performance for an audience of one, then proceeds to talk and run through it on his own. He runs it in sequence, demonstrating certain episodes with his own actions and those of the other (absent) performers, at times enacted in a walk-through shorthand, with fill descriptions as he locates with a gesture where specific events will take place, at times performed at a massively heightened level of intensity and energy. The shift between these modes is often almost instantaneous, the jar of sudden gear-shift quite bewildering; Indos has that disarming capacity to transform himself utterly in a split second from quiet practical description to embodied actions and vocalisations of a blowtorch intensity, a white-hot flaring into appearance, a teetering dance of borderline possession; it’s like flicking a switch between Brechtian guide and Artaudian martyr signalling through the flames. A long circling clenched dance with a song that gradually evolves into wolf-like howls. A rolling contorted action on top of a circle of wood balanced precariously on an uneven pile of tyres: ‘the surface is alive’, he remarks. A sequence in ‘what we call English gibberish’ – a hilarious nonsense parody of a chewing-gum American draaaawl. These actions interspersed with taped sound of a wolf keening, a layered wolf chorale, a crackly recording of Yvette Gilbert singing in French about a woman walking along the street followed by the dogs she attracts, extracts from an audio-lecture by wolf zoologist Fred Harrington describing his encounters with timber wolves, a variety of bird song samples and a frog …

As the sounds play, Indos is entranced, attentive, his gaze fixed into the distance. I feel at ease with the tape material somehow, and almost drop off for a moment; Indos doesn’t notice. But as my head snaps up again, I find myself once more astonished at this 47-year-old man-child-performer-philosopher-giant- old-soul playing and mapping and writhing and howling and singing in a deserted workshop, the door wide open framing a patch of early morning waste ground. I have never witnessed anything quite like this in my life. As an event, it unseats me, this something-taking-place, this someone-going-through-something. A haecceity, inseparable from an hour, a season, an atmosphere, an air, a life ... This is a landscape of the trans-, of passage. Like fire, Indos is a ‘shaking up of myriads’ (Serres 1995: 103). At the end, we sit in unembarrassed silence for a few minutes, drops of sweat falling from Indos’s nose, then he jumps up to pack things away, locks up, and once more we walk, this time at high speed, towards the city. I laugh as he pulls out one final sandwich, wrapped in foil and a paper serviette with a cartoon fluffy sheep on it: ‘the most better sandwich last!’ We pass a man training an alsatian on the grass between streaming lines of traffic, a flower memorial on the verge where some accident has occurred, and it begins to rain softly …


'The animal might interrupt writing, as if demanding something of us, but writing can’t catch the animal, though it tries. You’d think a quotation might pin it down. A quotation, after all, like an animal, is a literalism. And like an animal, according to Benjamin, quotation is a mode of interruption. ‘To quote a text involves an interruption of its context’. The writing that allows itself to be interrupted by the animal is the writing that understands the complications of context, offering itself as fractured, scattered, corrupt, misdirected, multiple, elsewhere, other. The writing that would pay respect to the animal acknowledges the animal, gives place to the animal. Except even these are metaphors, and the animal is too literal to give itself up like that. That is its dignity, ‘to be shaped, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as it hath breadth: it is just so high as it is, and moves with its own organs: it lives by that which nourisheth it, and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates’ [Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale]. Which is to say, the animal is like nothing on earth. Writing, it appears, can barely cope. Even if the animal can be trained it cannot be scripted’ (Kear and Kelleher 200: 88).


With special thanks to Una Bauer, Ivana Ivkovic, Ric Allsopp, Alan Read, Adrian Heathfield, and in particular Indos for his great generosity: In bocca al lupo!

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Originally published as 'An encounter is perhaps: a meeting with DB Indos, Zagreb 2004' in Frakcija (Croatia), no. 36, October 2005, pp. 18-35. Text published in English & Croatian - © David Williams/Frakcija