Open the Source

A model gnome pulling a moonie

To begin, move around the space you are in—your house, your room, the park—and pick up three objects that mean something to you. They don’t have to be sentimental—I mean things that have an energy which attracts you. It could be a trashy magazine you like the colours of, that rustles even when still, because there is so much hot air inside it. It could be a candle cos then you can light it—you’ve turned an object on. It could be a tiny figurine, a gnome pulling a moonie—but what you really want is to look deeper into its eyes. Try not to overthink what you choose. If you catch yourself worrying, close your eyes and take a breath. When you open your eyes let them fall, soft and slow. Follow the horizon line of the objects around you. Feel the slight tugging sensation in the corners of your eyes. Then go to where you will be based for the next hour or so and place the three things around you, to be with you, while you are here with me.

You will need some headphones or a speaker, a device to read and listen on, and a paper and pen. There are activities which I’ve set aside for you—you can do these as you go, or you can return to them after reading. You might find you get more from them once you’ve swallowed me whole. You don’t have to be alone, you could do this in a group or with friends, but really, it is written just for you.

I am writing this because I wanna share with you what I have learned in the last five years. In those five years I finished at uni, fell in love twice, tried to live in Germany and Spain, someone I loved died, I finally got enough room in my share-house for a desk, and I drew a portal above it. I bargained with the imp on my shoulder, the one always chatting shit straight into my ear, so that over time and through practice I stopped second guessing myself, and I learned who I am writing for (today it is you).

You don’t have to have gone to uni to do this online workshop; this is for people who want to write. You don’t have to have done anything other than wanna do it. You can do it in your own language. You can do it if you are a visual artist. You can write how you do in a text message or how you talk to your friend. This aint highbrow. But if you stay with me for about an hour I reckon something will happen, it always does. Because we are going to another space, another zone. Take my hand. Can you feel that my lifelines are lava compared to the rest of my hand?

Darken your space and close the window and door. Lie down on your back, or if you are sitting drop your head down to your chest. Now: listen.

Transcript

I’ve gathered together for you all a collection of things, on the shag pile carpet of the void.

You can try to memorise them as I list them if you like.

A pile of dilated pupils,

A hacking cough,

A tongue coated in red wax,

Stretch marks,

Goosebumps,

A PVC crease,

A permanently pink nose,

A face that is constantly swimming,

A fresh tattoo of a nose bleed,

A ball made entirely from spit that bounces like rubber,

A nipple which when pressed has the ability to pause time,

Four animals without bones,

A silverskin onion,

A rash of words,

Sugar water,

A laminated death rattle,

The curve of a comma,

A fig that when bitten tastes like chlorine,

The sensation of a padlock opening in your hand,

These objects strain to touch one another. Each in their own way. In the same way that my organs all want to be able to touch one another, but instead must be content with sharing the same fluid, like the scent of one’s crush on the wind.

The rash reddens and throbs, willing itself to burst.

The tiny silverskin unfurls.

The muscillingeous animals urgently stretch, causing epidermal ripples.

The PVC crease winks cathartic and heady.

But, each exists in a different dimension, and so they will never, ever, touch.

Jennifer Boyd, But With What Protein? (Straining Collection), 2018, 02:42

Words are Liquid

This section has been written as though we’re waiting at the bus stop together, and the bus is coming in two minutes.

They can dissolve off your cheeks like tears, and they can evaporate in the sun. To release your commitment anxieties, try and think of them like this. Words are not a natural solid. They are something humans have made. Even the rocks of law can return to lava. Just because your words have been printed out as black lines and curves on a piece of white paper, or are posted in pixels on a screen, doesn’t mean they are now: Permenant, Official, or Forever. We need to try and unsettle the stability of the record! There is no correct way to write, there are only traditions that we learn and unlearn, twist and re-cycle. You can say to anyone who tells you otherwise: take your healing hands off my broken sentences!1 … Don’t be afraid of writing!

The American poet and playwright Ariana Reines has said this thing about the process of translating: ‘The way I’ve put it to my friends is that working on it [the translation] was like being made to vomit up my first two books, eat the vomit, vomit again, etc., then pour the mess into ice trays and freeze it, and then pour liquor over the cubes’.2 I believe that writing should be this intense.

I’m not talking about literary fiction or art criticism. I’m talking about a form of writing that wrings you out because it is so physical. I also want to tell you that if you are writing in this way, it is OK to rest for a while between the things you write… Just because language is readily available doesn’t mean it is quick! You are taking things through your body which can shred your cells, and they might need time to re-bud. I give you permission to rest… And, if you need someone to do so… I give you permission to write.

In the same way that when you create a sculpture you should think about the physical material of it and how long it will last in the world, when you write you shouldn’t do so just to fulfil a stale brief or word count! My recent gauntlet for how to write is from another American poet, Barbara Mor, wait a second, I’ll airdrop a picture of it to you.

An excerpt from a book

If you want to start writing, write about your relationship with writing. How has your brain been moulded to think about language and words? We are always burrowing in words to figure out what this stretchy realm of signs can offer. So, this is a good place to begin. To see what has influenced how you think about writing. What it has meant and means to you. And what you want from it now, picking at the past.

You can write without planning ahead what it is you want to say. You should write to get somewhere, not because you already know. Writing is a way of searching. It is a form of thinking. I call this ‘streaming’. If you open a stream of words, you will discover the thing closest to what Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector calls the IT of pure presence. A quote from her is: ‘These babbled phrases of mine are made the very moment they’re being written and are so new and green they crackle. They are the now’.3

Look at the objects in front of you and extract a word. For example, a colour (like blue), a phrase (like ‘wide eyes’), or a material (like wax). Write this word at the top of a piece of paper. Look into the distance (even if this means looking through the wall). Then, close your eyes and take a breath. Feel the breath rising to the top of your head and warming the roots of your hair. Now, open your eyes, and begin to write—using the word like a springboard. Let go like a diver into a pool.

A twentieth-century French writer and dramatist, Antonin Artaud, talks about trying to overcome the violent discrepancy between what he was thinking and what he was able to express written down.4 The gap between the brain and the hand. Words running down the arm like pale blue electricity trying to make it in time to be written exactly as they were born! Of course they lose synapse sparks as they go… which fall back, and get lost in the darkness of the body. Writing as sculpture is an attempt to close this gap.

I am not talking about a solely introspective form of writing. It is shaking the sieve in the stream, and seeing what chunks of real gold you uncover. In a sense I am talking about poetry, but poetry in a place with many different rooms in many different styles, where opinion, fact and sensation all huddle together. Where fiction helps us, where art can be felt, where everyday language, and pleasure, exist too. Rid ur brain of categories, blend ‘em into one! It can include pop culture and science. It is your experience of being a body in the world that includes all elements.

Give to language the qualities of an object. Give it texture and sensations… This doesn’t mean using fancy language, it means… writing images. It means writing images where objects are given physics out of your grasp. Sometimes the synthetic is realer than the real. I write because the physical realm of materials also has its limits. I write to make objects that can’t exist. Objects that you might recognise, but given different forces. Sculpture does something similar: it’s where objects are given power beyond utility. I write because it is how I can activate what I can see with what I feel… words are our fourth dimension!5

Chew their Words like Gum

This section has been transcribed from speech.

To read the section below, say it out loud. Don’t worry if you stumble, let your tongue trip over the words. Slide their edges and curves against the insides of your cheeks. Feel your mouth muscles stretching, warming up. Let your voice break the open air, cutting across quiet, or someone snoring, or the washing machine spinning. Can you feel me in your throat? Imbibe me…

Texts can be social by sharing a body around… I really believe in this practice of reading out loud, I dunno… I think especially if you’re struggling really hard… I was in a period of struggling and… I was in Greece and I went to the beach and sat by this like really strange cairn-type structure made from loads of dried out hollow sticks… and I read all of Água Viva by Clarice Lispector out loud and it took like maybe two-and-a-half hours and my jaw was knackered and I was slurring and my left shoulder was sunburnt and I was crying my eyes out by the end… It was a nude beach on a Sunday and I was pretty much alone… apart from the occasional older Greek man craning at me like a little plucked crow.

A cairn-type structure on a beach made from loads of dried out hollow sticks

Go to Lankáda beach, Crete on Sunday 1 October 2017 for 4 minutes 46 seconds (out of 1 hour 50 minutes and 48 seconds).

Having that other person in your mouth… Hélène Cixous this pretty well known feminist French scholar says this thing about voices calling from far away, from outside history, to put the word in her ear and save her.6 She says it specifically about Clarice actually… she came across time and place to save her when she needed her… She gave her mouth to mouth! Reading in this way, out loud and durationally, was an attempt to rinse my mouth out of its constrictions… Every time I tried to write I was tying myself up in knots, second guessing every word so I was just spinning and spinning but stuck, and it was completely exhausting. By imbibing her I was trying to… I was trying to thrash myself free.

Words are also how they feel in your mouth… How your tongue handles them. How they go into the air half living half dead… You’ll understand a text differently by giving it to the air, or the sea, or the walls of your room, rather than just staring into a page or a screen. That can be good too! Can create a simmering of air between your eyes and the plane. But you’ll understand it differently if you read it out loud. It doesn’t close the gap between thinking and expression, but in reading out loud, words translate through flesh, and go from your tongue into the air, so that you can hear them.

The other way to read out loud is with other people… I… used to sit on park benches with another writer, Alex Borkowski, and we’d read to each other and it was pretty romantic and we used to pass the book back and forth between us… afterwards we wrote some instructions for reading with others and one of them is that they should be first person texts, because then you are doing this thing we called ‘passing the I around’, you are mutually inhabiting a body.7

If you are in a group, or with a friend, read this text out loud together. Change the reader with each ‘I’. If you are alone, read it aloud yourself, and change the position of your body, or your hands, with each ‘I’.

Read text

As I look out of my window to the street, my eyes catch on a figure. A person is shuffling along slowly, only deviating from their course when it becomes necessary to avoid the cracks in the pavement. As a result of my fixed vantage point, I have missed my chance to glimpse their face. I crane my neck, searching for any semblance of skin, but their amorphous clothes seem specifically constructed to evade needling eyes like mine. Determination radiates through the soft pores in the material covering the back of the stranger’s head. Without warning, they go up in flames. I look on in stillness. The lean, licking fire adds a third, deathly epidermis. My globular eyes swell to take in forest fires, burning slag heaps, and the bright turbulence of things entering the atmosphere in a cyclic rush that quickly loops back and returns me to my own body.

I carry on passively eating my ham and lettuce sandwich. On the next bite, the bread sours on my tongue, drains of its wholesome integrity and turns to synthetic sponge. I taste this faint transition, as if my meal has turned sentient and is acting in collusion or empathy with the figure on fire, also no doubt changing states. I feel a slight crunch on my left canine tooth—friable matter, foreign to the crisp turgidity of fresh lettuce. The figure has barely flinched despite being ablaze, and they continue forward at the same steady pace. While I stare, my automaton fingers fumble with the slick of my teeth, attempting to find the source of my discomfort. Triumphant, they finally seize the object and hold it up between my face and the window. I shorten my field of vision, bringing it in closer to my body. The figure turns to a radiant smear. The minuscule object sits on the tip of my index finger—a dark brown curve like a stiff eyelash or delicate twig. Dread rumbles as I wonder if I can just perceive a few spiked protective hairs that might identify this as one of a cockroach’s six legs. I flex my fingers to grip the sandwich more tightly in a timid attempt to feel for the rest of the carcass through the bread. Dissenting flecks of oil cause the wiry limb to glisten—the singing provocations of an animal that will endure far longer than my own perishable body.

This text is part of ‘A Framework for a Collective Decanting’ (2016) by Alex Borkowski and Jennifer Boyd.

The American writer Renee Gladman talks about similar exercises in her book Calamities, which is made up of different vignettes starting: ‘I began the day…’. Gladman describes exercises in which sentences are begun in my body and end in yours.8 This she says, would be real communication.

Inside your head, fill in the blanks.

Every day I feel the juice of

I am standing in the

Tonight I’m lighting the

A text can question and can transport. You can use multiple fictional voices if it helps loosen your tongue. There are more voices at your fingertips than the restricted tones of an opinion piece. Than the objectiveness, seriousness—of someone making sense. If you are trying to speak with authority, this often leads to a tying up of things too neatly, which leads to strung out stereotypes. Often, if you splinter your voice, you will speak more freely. You will speak more of the IT. The pressure is off to be an Author, an Owner. It will help release any grip you have on the regurgitated idea that a writer must do so alone, must write in a vacuum. The idea that writers and words aren’t social—that they don’t get OUT much.

Dig the True Tooth out of the Mouth

This section is written in an attempt to make Google translations of it into other romance languages more accurate.

I think often about ‘seers’. Seers have time. Time to walk and time to look. A swamp of time to swim in. This amount of time peels them away from the surface. The seer is at once deeply embedded (like a jewel in a belly button, like a stinger lodged in a cheek) and detatched. They see the world as untethered parts, and because of this, they also have the ability to move and slide. They also aren’t stuck down. Seers are extra sensitive, they aren’t a witness or being only connected to the transcendental, rather they are the most in reality, privy to all of life and death, to the changes in cities, to coincidences, to microscopic expressions and failings. In a way they are a real form of a god. They are watchers of the world, noticing it—on both a micro and macro level.

In Água Viva, Clarice Lispector recalls how at birth she was given the task of watching over the world. She writes:

‘I’m tired. My tiredness comes often because I’m an extremely busy person: I look after the world. […] Note that I don’t mention my emotional impressions: I lucidly speak about some of the thousands of things and people I look after. […] Is it a lot of work to look after the world? Yes. For example: it forces me to remember the inexpressive and therefore frightening face of the woman I saw on the street. […] Now I can’t find a single ant to look at. I know there wasn’t a massacre because otherwise I’d have already heard.’9

Lispector seeks a form of recording which, although taken through the subjective sieve of the body, remains plain in exactly what it is being seen. A mode of simultaneously intense and plain watching over. As Lebanese-Amercian poet and painter Etel Adnan said to Simone Fattal, ‘When I die, the universe will have lost its best friend, someone who loved it with passion’.10

Here are some contemporary examples of being attentive to the street for you to read, watch and listen to. In the poem Mille Tindresse, Australian artist and writer Madeleine Stack does what she calls ‘attending’ to the women that pass by. And, in the project, video snack, daily recordings twenty seconds in length, capture, for example, hand gestures through a window in Paris, or the shadow of a palm tree on the naked back of a person in a hammock. These short videos have a particular kind of eye, one that watches unofficial civic activities through a sort of steady, warm, prism—blissful but plain. Like Lispector, these are visions that reach even the movements of ants. Something beyond human control that we often deny, but still strikes the soul. In British artist Leyla Pillai’s audio nightwalk, This Side of Nowhere, a friend stares at plants living under the strip lighting of corner shops, or in the windows of chinese takeaways. This piece is a mystic tome that loves coincidences and hugs them close, but also, levels them—this is the connections of the real world after all, tinnie and rollie in hand. Another example is American poet CA Conrad’s ‘(Soma)tics’, texts which are ‘ritualized structures’ accompanying each of their poems. They are intended to create an extreme present, where whatever is around him before he wrote the poem can come into sharp focus, to reveal the ‘creative viability’ of everything.11

To begin to write the world, you can begin by writing your surroundings right now. What is the weather like, and how is it effecting the light, and the smell of the air? What time of day is it? Who is around you and what are they doing? Look out the window and note the clothes of your neighbour, their gestures as they get into their car or collect their post. In looking closely at everything, you will begin to notice when something shifts—when something catches your eye. Try not to draw conclusions from inside, but rather, write right down to the root of what you can actually see.

If you like, you can come with me first to the space where I wrote this text, and what led me up to writing it.

Transcript

I’m in my living room surrounded by tonnes of time. There are two spiral candlestick holders coated in shiny green lacquer on the table in front of me. Each has got the remains of different coloured candles dripping down them. Green, on top of red, on top of black, on top of violet, on top of red, on top of blue, on top of orange. The holders were bought in a place we call ‘the dead people’s shop’. Each week depending on who dies in the neighbourhood a new job lot of things are added to the shelves for us to haggle for. Things deemed not worthy of selling but with too much energy or usefulness still left in them to be thrown away. Forgive me cos I’m using a very annoying Us, but I can’t really help being an Us here, despite its heteronormativity, because I’m not currently in the country where I was born, and I came here with the one other person who makes up my Us. Sometimes my Us is more people though, I promise you.

In this room round the table are three chairs we found on the street. The chairs are a very similar style, all a variation on a rattan design, their bottoms are rotting and frayed. Or at least they were. They were found one street apart from each other on the same hard rubbish night, which happens every Friday. The first one, oh this is nice, then we got to the second, wow, another!, and then when we found the third we were like, the fates are on our side tonight baby!

I’ve re-rushed their bottoms, each completed on a different day weeks apart, when both looking at or making words, or, speaking them was just too difficult for me. Instead I followed the instructions of Ed Hammond, a business owner with his wife, Cindy, from Plainwell Michigan, in my ear, on Youtube and the images on his head-mounted go pro. Each chair including the one I’m sitting on right now took me about 6 hours to complete.

I’ve got a bad cold but I’m trying my best to write. You must pay attention to this kind of sickly consciousness. To any slight change in your mental sea. I’m quite high on the two pseudoephedrine pills I’ve taken so far today. As well as the wanting to share these thoughts with people who might actually want to read them, this is what is helping me see the spinning yellow orb through the fog, is what is helping me strike on planes of silver metal that I think might work.

The afternoon sun is lighting up the leaves of my ‘Mother of Thousands’ plant. They are medium green and semi-transclucent. I can see right down to each vein. There are drilling noises that have been going since about nine am from the hostel opposite, the sound of metal cutting metal with a saw, in order to make one brand new thing. This keeps combining with the hacking coughs of two pale topless men leaning out the hostel windows to smoke, one on the third floor, one on the fifth. The one on the fifth is looking through my window and right into my eyes. In the street someone I can’t see is playing the flute. The gas seller is walking the length of the road, clanging on their orange metal, in a dark blue overall, with a single silver earring glinting against their dark brown mullet. In a few minutes two hundred glass bottles and jars will crash into the designated rubbish cart. Can you feel me typing it all up for you. My fingers are whirring. I’ve been sat here for four days straight. Apart from when I’ve eaten. Or when I’ve re-joined my Us. Or when I’ve showered. Or when I’ve slept.

There is a line to look out for, one that sees plain vision slip into pure romance. Nothing is wrong with the latter, but it does take us into something else, something that must live in the realm of fiction. There are also thresholds within empathy and imagination—both of which can be dangerous. If you empathise with someone, and use your imagination to fill the gap of their experience and to speak on their behalf, you do so only with the imprint of the lint—the errant information you’ve picked up in your own life.

There are ethics to watching, and there are ethics to imagination too. There are different kinds of seers and observers. Colonialism is central to these discussions. In western writings in history and anthropology, observers have either done so ‘at arms length’, or have chosen to ‘live amongst’ those they are watching—both are violent and fetishistic in their own ways of asserting difference and power. One aspect of this that can be found in contemporary writing is white-washing: assimilating the life of a person of colour into a white idea, a white guess at their experiences.

How to write about someone who doesn’t share your identity? How do you write about someone who shares one of your identity categories, but isn’t you? Although a sharing of the category may give you a personal place from which to approach someone else’s experience, every person must be treated as an individual in your writing. Never make one person a monolith for the identity categories they inhabit. It is only from a starting point of specificity, that trust can really be built. It is easy to want to make assumed connections in order to tie things up neatly—doing that with the identity of someone, especially someone real, is unethical.

A stream of gloopy pink liquid with some colourful fragments in it

It is not enough to simply stream. It is not enough to throw up and think you’ve got it made. You must make a mass of words like a swarm while in a kind of mystic state, then go back and pluck what feels true from the mass. It is not enough for a text to be dirty with errors and formatting for the sake of it.12 The frameworks you choose must speak to meaning. The first torrent from your head is not automatic excellence. You’ve got to scrub away at your sentences to rid them of stock phrases, and of words that act as stand-ins for a presumed whole.

Words like ‘community’ and ‘diverse’ often become extra hard, solidified, thrown around by many like rocks. Used as lip service. As window dressing. As stand-ins for some agreed upon meaning. If words like this come out in your first draft, make sure you go back. Run against rounding things up, run against abbreviation, which is really just rolling things up into a neat ball so that it can turn into stone. Dig in with your nails to find their molten centres. Gum them again and again until you spit specificity onto the page.

Text can Infect

This section is written in the form of vignettes.

Sometimes the whole of a thing can’t be told through narrative language, can’t come across from written word to human body solely through description. But it can be felt because of how a text is built. Your text can be the frayed end of an electricity cord, infecting your reader with sparks.

If you want to write with or alongside a piece of art, the way you write should reflect the object. It should be an explosion on its landscape. It should describe the world of the sculpture in the sculpture’s own tongue. A feedback loop: textual material informed by the material in front of you.13

Adnan writes that ‘comprehensibility has nothing to do with the real’.14 You might not be able to say the thing that feels beyond words in a single sentence, but you can say it in a montage, a tessellation, of vignettes. The creation of a world and space in words. In building blocks. Like the objects around us.

The vignettes don’t have to lead on from one another directly. The gap for time inbetween is important. It is the gap for breath, for feeling to swim in. It is room for the parts to squeeze closer as they are gathered.

You can say it in the way different images run up each others sides. You can say it in the speed and rhythm of the building blocks and where they lead. If you have a lot of material and you can’t see what it is clearly, then you can try and let it speak out you side. Split a mouth where your stomach is.

If we follow Adnan, then conversely incomprehensibility has everything to do with the real. In this method you cannot understand as you are making, you cannot question your instinct. It removes this trip hazard. This method makes an unexpected whole, slightly out of your conscious cerebral control.

A rock-like form with a peach hue

What is in the vignettes? Gather material on a theme or research interest or group of artworks over time, print it all out, and then call on your gut for a new order. This is how you do what American muscian and writer Patti Smith describes as trying to ‘crack unclaimed combinations’.15

This is another way to write to try and get beyond the violent discrepancy, the disconnect between word and world. A method of montage, research and thinking in which you can arrange chucked up chunks of text, emails, transcripts, objects, science, myths, text messages, quotes and emails.

A vignette format might allow more freedom. Some examples: the ‘portraits’ of Gertrude Stein,16 Clarice Lispector’s descriptions of flowers,17 and Etel Adnan’s headings and answers, ‘magic keys’ first used during the civil war in Beirut, and then again 25 years later, at the time of Iraq War.18

When you arrange your vignettes the key is to listen to your gut. Embedded in the body’s gastrointestinal walls is a network of one hundred million neurons. This kaleidoscopic mesh is affectionately known as the body’s ‘second brain’.

Let me talk you through some exercises to tune you in to your gut. In your space, put your headphones in or turn your speaker on. To listen, you can be inside or outside, wherever you feel most comfortable. The recording includes instructions to move around and to lie down; these two instructions can be replaced with moving your head and looking up respectively.

Transcript

To begin start moving round your room, or the area that you’re in,

As you move, let your eyes sliiide across the surfaces of any objects near you,

Keep moving,

Now, change direction,

Let your eyes runnn over the skyline of the objects you can see,

Now, change direction,

Now stop.

Look up at the sky,

Then look down at the earth,

Look up at the sky again,

Then continue moving,

As you move now, shift the focus from the soles of your feet, to your stomach,

As you move now, shift the focus from your eyes to your gut,

To the centre of your body,

Feel your gut begin to swell,

Feel your gut begin to redden,

Then tingle,

Then throb,

Focus on your gut now, feel it pulsing as you move…

Let your gut lead you round the space you are in,

Keep moving and feel it tugging,

Feel your ears pricking up in tandem…

Now go to a place that is attracting you,

If you’re in the middle of the space feel free to walk to the edge, or to look up or down,

Feel free to get right up close,

Once you’re there, focus on a point in front of you, something your eye has caught on, for one minute.

Notice the colour of what your eyes have hooked onto,

Its texture,

The material it’s made from,

The process of the hand or machine that has brought it into being,

How it got here,

What is behind it?

Now, how do your eyes feel?

Can you feel the muscles round them working, stretching them, trying to open them wider…

Take a last look, and now,

Lie down,

Or look up at the ceiling.

If you’re outside, look up to the first cloud, or if the sky is clear, look up to the first five metres of air above you.

Treat the cloud or the strata of sky as your ceiling.

Now, throw your eyeballs up to the ceiling.

Let the colour of your irises almost touch the paint.

How does it feel to see the ceiling this close up…

What does it smell like…

What does it feel like…?

What can you see when you look microscopically….

Now roll your sticky eyes over the surface and look down at yourself,

Look down on your own body.

Focus in on the item of clothing covering your stomach…

Look through it, to your skin,

Look through your skin, to your stomach,

Then slowly exit out your back, and look through the floor to the foundations of the building,

Look through to the worms in the soil,

Moving slowly, now take a minute to look all the way down to the molten centre of the Earth…

Once you are ready,

Pull your eyes back up,

Feel an invisible elastic tugging on your loose tendons,

See every layer going past in place, as you whooosh up backwards…

Back up through the earth, the foundations, through your body…

Until your eyeballs are back on the ceiling.

Now, let them fall down, back into their sockets.

Roll them around and blink a little to get them back in place.

Can you see the small patch of moisture they’ve left behind on the surface of the ceiling?

Trace a line between these two points: your eyes in your head and the point where your eyes just were,

up on the ceiling.

Imagine something connecting them…

A tunnel. A stream. A shaft of light. A rubber band.

Whatever comes to mind.

See it hovering there, inbetween the two points.

Think about what how it moves…

How the light hits it…

Its colour…

Its texture…

Its weight…

What is its way of being in the world…

What does it want…

What would its last meal on Earth be?

As you speak inside yourself, feel the answers to these questions bubbling up from your cheeks like water in a fountain.

Now bid this shape goodbye, and blink to let it go.

And slowly, over the course of the next minute, watch it evaporate upwards,

dissolving in its own particular way,

into the ceiling.

How to whip yourself up? How to thicken the air? Solitude, moving on a train or walking, surrounding yourself with selected books, objects, computer tabs. The world is impossible to write down. In these fragments we are writing with its rhythm, writing a whole by way of its parts.

The more you trust your gut the higher you’ll get off your writing. But, as part of this you will still need to interrogate what you write. To crack it open. You will need, once it has streamed from you, to go back and dig in.

You must be constantly trying to dig the true tooth out of the mouth. This is a fine line, and the gut can also come in handy here. Close your eyes and feel the multiple meanings come off the words like steam, and then, make your choice.

Behaving in this way, one is writing a record of the now in the energy of the now. Be a sieve for the errant information the world drops on the ground. Feel the pull of coherence and push against it while you begin to make something—that isn’t sense.

All images credit Jennifer Boyd

  1. Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings: Notes and Texts (Tate Publishing: 2015/1998), p.62 (1992). 
  2. Ariana Reines, Translator’s Note: Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl (Triple Canopy, 2012; Tiqqun, semiotext(e), 2012/2001). Read online
  3. Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, trans. Stefan Tobler (Penguin, 1973/2012), p.20. If you are reading Lispector in English, please also read this essay on the mis-information and misogny surrounding her translation, by Magdalena Edwards (Los Angeles Review of Books, August 16 2019; Revista Transas, October 10 2019). 
  4. As described to me by Katharina Joy Book, in ‘LIVE, BUT DIRTIER’ (Palin Ansusinha, Katharina Joy Book, Jennifer Boyd, Critical Interruptions Vol 1: Steakhouse Live, 2018). Read online
  5. A riffing off Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, trans. Stefan Tobler (Penguin, 1973/2012), p.4. 
  6. Hélène Cixous, ‘To Live the Orange’, The Hélène Cixous Reader, ed. Susan Sellers (Routledge, 1994) p.86. 
  7. Alex Borkowski and Jennifer Boyd, ‘A Framework for a Collective Decanting’, How to Read: Writing Groups. How to Write: Reading Groups (Five Years Publications, 2016). Read online
  8. Renee Gladman, Calamities (Wave Books, 2016), p.89. Read a section online
  9. Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, trans. Stefan Tobler (Penguin, 1973/2012), pp. 53–55. 
  10. Etel Adnan in Simone Fattal, ‘On Perception: Etel Adnan’s Visual Art’ (2002). Read online
  11. CA Conrad, Ecodeviance (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (Wave Books, 2014). 
  12. As discussed in ‘LIVE, BUT DIRTIER’ (Palin Ansusinha, Katharina Joy Book, Jennifer Boyd, Critical Interruptions Vol 1: Steakhouse Live, 2018). 
  13. For a free copy of FROT THE WORLD (Jennifer Boyd, Tornabuoni Art, 2019), a text which explores the work and life of American sculptor Louise Nevelson in a physical form that is illustrative of Nevelson’s process, click here
  14. Etel Adnan, Surge (Nightboat, 2018) p.4. 
  15. Patti Smith, Devotion (Why I Write) (Yale University Press, 2017), via Leyla Pillai’s audio broadcast Who’s That Girl? CR(L)IMINAL DEVOTION (NTS Radio, 4 February 2019). Listen here
  16. Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons: Objects, Food, Rooms (Dover Publications, 1997/1914). 
  17. Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, trans. Stefan Tobler (Penguin, 1973/2012). 
  18. Etel Adnan, In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country (City Lights Books, 2005).