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Response 33 - Footnote for Zyg


Dear Alan,

I wasn’t sure at first whether to cry, laugh or dig a hole when I read your instruction for Task 33 – The Philologist’s Objection. In short you asked me answer to your philologist supervisor Zyg’s (unvoiced) objections towards our project and convince him that it is a distinctive mode of knowing—but without using conventional prose. The ultimate obstruction. I think Jørgen Leth would have called this ‘benspænd’ perverse! But that final instruction to avoid conventional prose was perhaps in the end what saved me. Had I tried to play the game in Zyg’s court and persuade him through prose, I would certainly have lost. So all I could do was to work intuitively with immediate ideas derived from other jobs I had on this week and with what was given: how my own body relates to the project.

I wanted to insist on the importance of ‘Practice’ (as a counterpart to ‘Theory’) and precisely to contest the notion that there is no alternative to philology in terms of knowledge production. Therefore the body is central to my video (below). Coincidentally my current bedtime reading is Practice as Research in the Arts (2013) by Robin Nelson and in it he quotes Marina Abramovic as saying that ‘knowledge … comes from experience. I call this kind of experience “liquid knowledge”… It is something that runs through your system’ (p. 52). I love the image it creates for me of ‘knowing’ as something that flows through me and that it is perhaps even ‘ungraspable’: if you try and hold on to it, it will disappear between your fingers. This idea of ‘liquid knowledge’ certainly comes close to what I experience when working with the body.

To prod you, I wanted to speak to and confirm your own doubts and insecurities about the project that you voice in your task: that it is a form of ‘narcissism’, ‘couple therapy performed in public’, and your anxiety about answering to your colleagues about Parameters & Practice. How could this response confirm all your concerns? You wanted to be provoked, challenged and perhaps a bit embarrassed and if I did a good job you will feel all this and even be more confused after watching the video. I put myself—and us—on the line: the response feels vulnerable, absurd and potent. But it is also the easiest response I have done for the project to date, it flowed out of me two days after reading your task. It is also the one I am most happy with of all my responses. So, there you go.

In the end, the ultimate obstruction was perhaps what was necessary to push me closer to the edge. There was no way of getting the response right, so why not get it as ‘wrong’ as possible! The making of this video below did indeed have me laugh out loud and cry on the inside. Undoubtedly, I have dug a hole for myself.

Footnote for Zyg


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