ON THE BEACH is a podcast that is interested in the intersection of contemporary art and fiction. It is a space to record and publish writing that lies between art criticism, fiction, poetry and script writing. It takes an idea, an exhibition, or an artist’s work or practice as a departure point and creates something poetic from both the aesthetic and the conceptual elements. It is a kind of writing that reflects upon artistic practice, broader cultural themes and issues, and also examines formal structures and the mode of writing itself, what writing can be, and what it can provide visual art. It’s a kind of writing that is intended to be listened to and not read. It is released in seasons, with intermittent episodes of reviews and opinions that fall in-between.

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Season two

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction

Taking the Biennale of Sydney, its associated projects, lectures, artists and staff as a body of stories, this Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction season is a fictocritical pastiche written in response to the 20th Biennale of Sydney – a way of re-scripting and inserting a plethora of seemingly incongruous interests and desires into new narratives and responses to the Biennale.

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction was written for The Bureau of Writing, a collaborative writing program designed for artists and presented alongside the 20th Biennale in association with Artspace, Sydney. The Bureau of Writing has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. It has been made possible through the generous support of the Keir Foundation.

August 18 2016

BoS Fan Fiction Episode 2

Synopsis: what is said and unsaid at Artspace, Sydney; possession and control; Hainish Cycle fan fiction; uncomfortable artist talks; in-between spaces; memories of a boycott; the possibilities and limits of communication; and, the gaze of a disconcerting bust.

Characters (in order of appearance): Kelly Fliedner, Ursula K. Le Guin, Kyrafic, Stephanie Rosenthal, Michel de Certeau, Benjamin Forster, Franco Belgiorno-Nettis, Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, and Sarinah Masukor.

Transcript ›

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction
Episode Two

Kelly had been reading a lot of science fiction over the few months of the Biennale include a very satisfying re-read of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris in readying for a Bureau of Writing workshop with participating Biennale artist Heman Chong.  Since some of it adorned the walls of Artspace, she had also read and re-read much of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle and wanting more found herself perusing online fan fiction pages.

Kyrafic writes;

On the planet of Gethen, sometimes called Winter, it is always Year One. Even on that unchanging world, everything is always beginning. Genly has restarted his life now many times over. On new planets, among new peoples. Stepping lightly from world to ship to world again. Much older than the boy of 20-some years who landed on Gethen as the First Mobile that planet had seen. But no matter where he goes, no matter how the years fly by, it is still always Year One. A piece of him is still always lying awake in the darkness of a small tent on the vast Gobrin Ice of a distant planet. Listening to the breathing of someone who is by now very long dead.

Kelly had always been a fan of fan fiction, as a member and contributor to sites like fanfiction.net since she was a teenager, Kelly was witness to the beauty of thousands, sometimes millions, of fans coming together online to write inclusion, as a way to get more from or more of the texts that they love. Fan fiction is an act of taking from an original text and bending it. Fan fiction is the filling in of gaps. Filling in the between space. Fan fiction is an identification of the gaps between text, and within those identified gaps the insertion of desire.

It struck Kelly as very particular the way that Stephanie Rosenthal had called the spaces of the biennale that were found between those of the major spaces, “in-between spaces” as opposed to “between spaces”. To Kelly it suggested a filling in, a writing of extra narrative, of surplus, the concreteness of being inside, as opposed to moving between or linking that which was already in existence. A grouping of spaces that included various street-scapes, the Camperdown Cemetery, the MCA Forecourt, the Newtown Library and the Royal Botanic Garden’s as well as unofficial in-between spaces like Heman Chong’s The Embassy of Stanislaw Lem, that moved around the city, formed a series of interventions that write and rewrite the larger narrative of the biennale itself by running in parallel to it.

Perhaps, like queer fans rewriting their heroes of cinema and literature to bring them into line with their personal and lived experiences, it is the the “in-between spaces” of the biennale, like Keg De Souza’s We Built This City installation on Vine Street Redfern and accompanied discursive program the Redfern School of Displacement which make us rethink the often cultural homogeneity of the larger venues that all too often do not address their lived geographic contexts, like Carriageworks, an institution that has probably contributed to the gentrification and displacement of many from Redfern itself. Kelly though that perhaps these “in-between” zones, offer new kinds of contexts, like an act of Michel de Certeau’s “textural poaching”, the in-between spaces describe an ongoing struggle for possession and control over a text’s meaning, that text being the text of the biennale itself, and Stephanie’s curatorial scheme. As if in someway, Stephanie was acknowledging that those major institutions would never fully be hers to write, she was inserting herself across and in-between those venues, poaching and rewriting their larger narratives.

Kyrafic continues in the voice of Genly;

And without even thinking something answering rose inside me. A desire which had been there all along, secret and ignored. It throbbed through the darkness between us, and I know he must have felt it in return. I heard, I think, the softest of exhalations from his side of the tent. No other words were spoken between us, by either mouth or mind. But I know I stayed awake in that darkness a long, long time, feeling the throb of feeling between us: his own need, my answering want.

***

It was one thing for Stephanie to create new in-between zones for herself, to live out her desired narratives, but what else had been left out and what could be added? This was a biennale about the space in-between, about liminal zones, and there were still lots of holes and gaps waiting to be occupied. Kelly and Benjamin Forster, another of the Bureau of Writing participants thought, ‘perhaps we should focus on writing stories about the Biennale Board members’, using the context of the biennale to interrogate what it might be like for that “other” kind of audience? What would it actually be like for someone living on the shore across from the Cockatoo-Island, to look out and see Agatha Goth-Snapes’s Billboards, what would their reactions be? What would it be like for one of Franco Belgiorno-Nettis’ grandchildren to walk into the entrance of Artspace, past the omniscient bust of their grandfather? What kind of relationship do you they have with the work within that space? What are they thinking? What does it say about the everyman’s relationship to the biennale in comparison? Benjamin and Kelly thought about the gap and void space between those different experiences.

They thought about the bust of Franco Beligiorno-Nettis, which was erected after the 2014 Sydney Biennale and they thought about the void space between what happened in 2014, with the artists’ boycott of the Biennale due to a major sponsor, Transfield running offshore detention facilities for refugees seeking asylum in Australia. In many ways the boycott was successful, Transfield, owned in major part by the Beligiorno-Nettis family who also had held key positions on Biennale’s Board, it was promised would cease in the future to be a sponsor of the Biennale. But there was a space that had grown between then and the 2016 Biennale, because although Transfield were technically not a sponsor, their logo still help pride of position in the Biennale catalogue and hand guide, acknowledged as ‘Founding Patrons’ and being quote ‘applauded’ for their 40 years of patronage. And nothing else was said.

Benjamin and Kelly thought, ‘let’s fill this space of quietness, of saying nothing. Let’s make the whispers of disquiet that we hear as artists and participants, that perhaps the broader audience does not and turn them up. Because everywhere their are subtle acknowledgements and subtle insinuations, attempts to incorporate what happened here, what happened in the text of the 2014 biennale, but nowhere is that blatant. Then behind the bust of Franco Beligiorno-Nettis there is the Embassy of Non-Participation at Artspace, and on the wall before you enter these keywords from Stephanie,  ‘Alternative structures, threshold, owning space, silence, dislocation, resistence’ Lists that are signposts, suggesting at something that happened, that is, but instead of saying it directly, instead of filling in voids, create more gaps. Gaps of not-knowing. These words struck Kelly and Benjamin as a way to acknowledge, but also cordon off. “Please, be political, challenge us, but do it here, where we can see you, underneath our gaze, let us decided what is known and not know.”

***

At the Embassy of Non-Participation, British artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler were given the space of Artspace for their work, The Museum of Non Participation. Known as artists and filmmakers, but also activists, they were among a large group of artists outside Australia who had supported the 2014 boycott. While much of their work has been about the human right to withdraw labor and boycott, if anything what the The Museum of Non-Participation presented in the Embassy of Non-Participation, was the paradox of discussing the power of non-participation while participating. Of course, the act of boycott or protest does work, which is why governments are legislating against it right now, all over the world, including New South Wales and Britain. So why, in the face of skepticism, participate and how is power operating when histories are alluded to, but not dealt with? What is said and not said? Through their fan fiction Benjamin and Kelly try to catch the moments between said and not said.

Similarly Mirza and Butler attempt to retain self governance in the context of very little autonomy. Their work at Artspace is about creating an aesthetic of resistance and negotiation. They are like diplomats sent of on a mission by a rogue state, who having realised their reliance upon the larger nation are here raising their flag inside an extraterritorial zone. During the Biennale opening week, Kelly attends one of their talks at Artspace with Sarinah Masukor. They cant help but think, there is a certain futility in their tone, an intense display of internal conflict. Sarinah says, ‘they embody the British Colonial project’. The Museum of Non-Participation at the Embassy of Non-Participation is problematic not least in its brazen commodification of the protest of the other, and after such a long period of “not-participating” their submission to the biennale and to the market that surrounds the biennale, is messy. Kelly could see this struggle in this talk. The battle to think through the politics and to give it form. The hesitation to be involved and then difficulty in justifying it. Through this talk they embody the ongoing struggle for possession and control over the meaning of their own text. They throw everything they know at the situation, their whole Museum of Non-Participation violently at Participation. A kind of hyper-participation of protest. A Neo-Dada absurdity, they create a theatre of the oppressed, for actors and non actors alike, with multiple narrators entering the fray.

Perhaps the most powerful work in the absurd archaist utopia of the Museum of Non-Participation is The Unreliable Narrator, a dual screen video installation that depicts the four day long 2008 Mumbai attacks, a series of 12 coordinated bombings and shootings by an Islamic militant organisation based in Pakistan. Mirza and Buttler’s video combines realtime televised CNN footage, scenes from a Bollywood film The Attacks of 26/11, recordings of wiretaps between on-the-ground terrorists with the puppeteers directing them, and conversations between police and film executives about what and how to televise live the attacks amid a flurry of violent imagery of bloodied bodies strew on the ground and men banging in the doors to hotel rooms to shoot the lives out of tourists. Through violent screen cuts and sliced images through scenes, the film builds to a dramatic rupture at its centre, in which one of the terrorists, intended to die as a martyr through the attacks, survivors and is captured by police, questioned and given a voice.

All this atrocity takes place amongst the shifting authority of the narrator who pushes and pulls the audience closer to the material, as they are at points trusted and then distrusted, their subjectivity in regard to the context questioned as they cast judgement upon the unfolding event. So who is the narrator? The terrorist, the bollywood film exectutive, the police commissioned, the tourist, the hotel worker? The artist? The biennale? The artistic Director? So who gets to speak then? And who is stifled? The luckless surviving terrorist, finding himself alive, a previously non speaking being, at the end of a telephone line, being directed from outside survives and suddenly re-claims a voice. Or perhaps it’s Mirza and Buttler attempting to regain their voices as artists and filmmakers, struggling for possession and control of their work within a world of so little autonomy and intense image circulation.

***

On the walls of Artspace there are experts from Le Guin’s Dispossessed, a story that follows the character Shevek, a deployed scientist trying to understand the bureaucracy and power structures of a foreign nation;

Invitations to receptions, dedications, openings and so forth were delivered to Shevek daily. She went to some, because she had come on a mission to urge the idea of solidarity or worlds. She spoke, and they listened to her and said, “how true”. 

She wondered why they did not stop her from speaking. Had she exaggerated the extend of the control and censorship they could exert? She talked against the propertarians and they did not stop her. But did they need to stop her? It seemed that she talked to the same people every time: well dressed, well fed, well mannered, smiling. Were they the only kind of people on this planet? 

“It is a pain that brings people together”, Shevek said standing up before them, and they nodded and said, “how true.” 

She began to hate them. 

Kelly imagined that Mirza and Butler are Shevek, attending the receptions of the enemy, the institution and all it’s members whose busts greet them at the entrance. Just as Kyrafic’s Left Hand of Darkness fan fiction delves into and extrapolates on the unconsummated love of Le Guin’s characters Genly and Estraven, so too does Mirza and Buttler’s homage tell us what is most important about the text. Le Guin’s extracts sit on the wall like little pieces of edited fan fiction, with a switching of gendered pronoun here, and a little cutting here, messages from the Embassy and it’s artists to the visitors about the possibilities and limits of communication and understanding between different worlds, the canonical themes of science fiction, which replicate themselves through the biennale and it’s various Embassies and in-between spaces.

***

CREDITS:

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction has been written for The Bureau of Writing, a collaborative writing program designed for artists and presented alongside the 20th Biennale in association with Artspace, Sydney.

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction is written and spoken by Kelly Fliedner and its music is by Ron Koo. www.onthebeachpodcast.info has been designed and developed by Rowan McNaught, and you can find further information, notes and transcripts on each episode there.

The Bureau of Writing has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. It has been made possible through the generous support of the Keir Foundation. And On the Beach is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.

Full Kyrafic text here: kyrafic.livejournal.com/22575.html#cutid1

July 1 2016

BoS Fan Fiction Episode 1

Synopsis: a journey to Cockatoo Island; bodies in spaces, bodies being led around spaces, bodies being directed through spaces; parallel narratives; some shit about Žižek; layers of reality; the view from Balmain Sailing Club; and, small acts of resistance.

Characters (in order of appearance): Stephanie Rosenthal, Kelly Fliedner, Agatha Gothe-Snape and William Forsythe.

Transcript ›

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction

Episode One

Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney Harbour. It is located at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers. Get there by water taxi, private boat, kayak, or the F3 Parramatta River ferry from various wharves around the city, including Darling Harbour and Circular Quay, where the ferry ride will take about half an hour. Place your hand on the white rail and feel the spray of water hitting your face. Squint into the reflected bright light.

Cockatoo Island is many things. It is Aboriginal land, the Country of the Wangal people, it is a convict settlement, a prison, a 19th century juvenile detention centre, it is a ship yard, a place of industrial dispute and protest, it is a camp site, you can glamp there, it is a space for cultural activities, such as the Biennale, it is a UNESCO world heritage site, it is a big set for film and television productions. Contemporary film props, hollowed walls and mock colonial brickwork lie next to legitimate or authentic heritage brick work, un marked and un differentiated. You can tell the difference when you touch the walls, you can feel the emptiness, the interior eco, through the slightly unstable shell, compare this to the cold heavy fullness of space occupied by slabs of concrete materials, of clay soil, sand and lime. If you reach out and touch the walls you can tell, but otherwise you might not know. Indeed you’re probably not intended to know, because more than anything Cockatoo Island is a tourist destination, and the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust trades in the continued illusion of this heritage.

Stephanie Rosenthal, Artistic Director of the 20th Biennale of Sydney, said in a talk she gave in Melbourne in late 2015, that she was interested in this in between-ness of the Island, the limbo it found itself in, between heritage site and film set, how it blurred the lines between fact and fiction. She spoke of how there was something disturbing there, not only because of the Island’s history, but because of this unsure layering of history and fallacy.

Kelly had attended that talk and was thinking about Stephanie’s words as she stepped off the ferry from Circular Quay at the Embassy of the Real. She had been invited to the opening week of the Biennale as part of a project called the Bureau of Writing, a collaborative writing program designed for artists and presented alongside the Biennale in association with Artspace. On the island there are many works that riffed off this in-between-ness and liminality, that Stephanie discussed as being inherent in the text of Cockatoo Island. Works that engaged with the history and the physicality of the island, that filled it’s massive spaces, the now void boat building warehouses, and those that made space, where space had not yet been.

The Embassy of the Real, was a space to discuss fictional realities, works like those by Cecil B. Evans or Camille Henrot proffer a world where our lives are defined by both social media and film. Our lives that negotiate the texts of social media and film side-by-side through the space of technology. Where is the slippage, and how important is it that we realise that slippage has taken place.  The work on the island signified an acceptance that our lived multiple realities, and far from being anxious about it, those works and their seductive post internet aesthetics, relish in the complexity of this layering.

On the far south east end of the Island, where it looks across the Parramatta River to the Balmain Sailing Club, Kelly stood dwarfed by Agatha Gothe-Snape’s work, Physical Doorway (Three Ways). Three large billboards hanging on one of the island’s huge industrial sheds. A triptych depicting three iterations of text, ‘PHYSICAL DOORWAY’, with the most rudimentary depiction of a door at three differing states of ‘open’ or ‘close’. The simplest of graphic gestures indicating a relief that did not exist. A making of space, where space had not yet been. On initial inspection Kelly was struck by the absurdity and the humour of Agatha’s work that riffed on this tension Stephanie spoke of, the blurred lines between fact and fiction. The simplicity of a film set, as a stage for the real, as an analogy for contemporary life and a contemporary society that trades in the lie of representation, willingly.

To a certain extent, this initial reading is an obvious one and in Stephanie’s introduction for the Embassy of the Real in the Biennale’s catalogue she cites the anxious and excited voices of Zizek and Baudrillard with the directors of The Matrix, Larry and Andy Wachowski and Charlie Brooker, the creator of the television series Black Mirror. ‘Behind every image, something has disappeared.’ says Baudrillard. ‘A desperate strategy to return to the Real of the body’ adds Zizek, insensitively in response to people who have the desire or compulsion to cut themselves, inflicting pain in order to ground themselves in the realm of the physical. Reading these men who cannot decide weather to mourn this perceived current lived virtuality or jerk off to it, Kelly thought about how it wasn’t a binary at all. She wasn’t interested in questioning the nature of reality within these terms because it felt passive, and dated, and conservative, to assume that there was a quota of live experience, that in having one experience, you delete the capacity for another. That it was either or. At least Brooker sees this positivity in this complexity adding, ‘The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface…’.

Agatha’s Physical Doorway (Three Ways) acted as a mirror for the island, mirroring it’s own artifice, an opened up space between multiple realities. But who’s realities were these realities? Who did these billboards speak to?  Whose reality are they aimed at representing, shifting, critiquing? Kelly imagined that they were not speaking to her on the ground, but actually to those living on Birch Cove across the Parramatta River. She imagined living in one of those beautiful houses, sitting on a wide balcony with a clear view of the harbour and looking at the billboard. She imagined boarding a yacht at the Balmain Sailing Club, looking up and seeing, ‘PHYSICAL DOORWAY’ shouting out at her. She imagined she would think, ‘of course it is’. Because doors are always open for people who live in beautiful bay side homes on the Sydney Harbour.

Kelly left the island. She moved back over the water to the mainland, to the MCA to see more of the Biennale. But being fatigued with the Biennale she decided to stop instead on second floor and spend some time with the collection. She had I always loved Agatha’s Every Artist Remembered series. She loved how it was simultaneously the aftermath of a performance, and improvisation of the performance itself.

There is something so personal and confessional about Every Artist Remembered. Asking a friend, in one instance Mike Parr, in another Mikayla Dwyer, and sitting with them, and thinking about every artist you can remember off the top of your head, every artist, to create an amorphous diagram of influence and social connection. What is it to be autobiographical within the context of art writing? To discuss all these things that have happened to you, to us? How do we trade in these relationships between people, between each other. Who knows and not knows? Who is invited? What is included and excluded? Exclusion and inclusion binaries are the natural consequence of community. We are all active participants in a game of self mythologising. Kelly thought about how this kind of social confession is of a processes of dedication – the reason why she wrote and participate in the art world. It wasn’t about cashing in social capital chips, rather it was earnestly offering up a context in an act of generosity to the audience.

Kelly, who worked at the Monash University Museum of Art in Melbourne and had the please of spending time watching people interact with Agatha’s recent public work at the Caulfield campus, The Scheme was a Blueprint for Future Development Programs. She watched as staff and students interacted with the work, both in groups and as individuals. She watched as an anonymous audience member, as those staff and students, entered the stage of the work. The Scheme was a Blueprint for Future Development Programs, a large distorted multi purpose sports and recreation court that stretched across the campus suggested a performance with lines and words. Words that read in capitals, ‘ASK’, ‘TELL’, ‘UNKNOWN’ are not the usual script of a sports arena, and quickly those walking through the campus, witnessing the slightly off kilter stage, are willingly turned into participants. Through the simplest of materials and gestures, Agatha invites the audience to perform. Directing their bodies to move, in a preprepared choreography through space. Inviting them to work within the parameters, but also in acknowledging that parameters exist, to brake them and create their own. Creating spaces for deviation. Inviting deviation.

The work deconstructs and reorients the bodies of those on the university campus. The staff, students and visitors who frequent that space. It questions what is it about the intuitive ways we move through public space, the lexicon of these movements, within the field of the university and shared space. Similarly William Forsythe’s sculptural installation Nowhere and everywhere at the same time, on Cockatoo Island, is a collection of mechanised hanging pendulums that become choreographic objects. By placing these objects in the path of bodies Nowhere and everywhere at the same time acts as an instigator of action and movement and pause.

These conditions for action, gesture to a work that simultaneously exists and doesn’t exist. It is the void that we project our desires onto. The space where we laying potential actions on top of each other, collapsing multiple realties. In navigating Agatha’s work at Monash University, the audience partake in an unconscious choreography, becoming aware of our everyday movement and how that is intimately connected to our present state of mind. Or how performative interventions into spaces, make us rethink our relationship to our surroundings, make us re-think how we build our own narratives and journeys in spaces, and how our bodies are constantly in symphony with our contexts. How we create parallel narratives, fictitious maps as tools and safeguards, small acts of resistance against the prescribed. Performative interferences and participation, the hierarchies of participation, the fantasy of participation. Our participation, and our reaction to it, becoming a mirror onto ourselves…

***

CREDITS:

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction has been written for The Bureau of Writing, a collaborative writing program designed for artists and presented alongside the 20th Biennale in association with Artspace, Sydney.

Fan Fiction is the second season of an ongoing project called On the Beach—a podcast, that among other things, is interested in the intersection of contemporary art practice and fiction. Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction is written and spoken by Kelly Fliedner and its music is by Ron Koo. www.onthebeachpodcast.info has been designed and developed by Rowan McNaught, and you can find further information, notes and transcripts on each episode there.

The Bureau of Writing has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. It has been made possible through the generous support of the Keir Foundation. And On the Beach is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.

Season one

« Seeing you laugh and not knowing what you are laughing about. Seeing you cry and wanting to cry with you. Seeing someone look at you and feeling the weight of their stare. Seeing you over there and wishing you were here with me. »

Ships in the Night is a series of love-letters-as-podcasts between artworks floating in the Next Wave Festival 2016. These fictional texts scattered through the festival attempt to weave strange and generative conversations between each project while complementing and complicating potential audience perspectives.

May 14 2016

To Far From Here
from Camel

Far From Here was a project by Claire Robertson presented at the Meat Market, North Melbourne from the 12th until the 22nd of May as part of Next Wave Festival 2016. This letter was written, edited and produced by Kelly Fliedner and spoken by Robert Wood.

May 12 2016

To The Fraud Complex
from Ecosexual Bathhouse

The Fraud Complex was a group exhibition curated by Johnson+Thwaites and presented at West Space, Melbourne from the 6th of May until the 4th of June as part of the Next Wave Festival 2016. This letter was written, edited and produced by Kelly Fliedner and spoken by Aodhan Madden.

May 11 2016

To Ua Numi Le Fau
from The Fraud Complex

Ua Numi Le Fau was a group exhibition curated by Léuli Eshraghi and presented at Gertrude Contemporary, Fitzroy from the 6th of May until the 18th of June as part of the Next Wave Festival 2016. This letter was written, edited and produced by Kelly Fliedner and spoken by Fayen d’Evie.

May 5 2016

To Still I Rise
from microLandscapes

Still I Rise was a project by Hannah Brontë, presented at Blak Dot Gallery, Brunswick from the 6th until the 22nd of May as part of Next Wave Festival 2016. This letter was written, edited and produced by Kelly Fliedner and spoken by Sarah crowEST.

May 4 2016

To microLandscapes
from The Second Woman

microLandscapes was a project by Emma Fyshwick, presented at the Northcote Town Hall from the 4th until 8th of Mayas part of Next Wave Festival 2016. This letter was written, edited and produced by Kelly Fliedner and spoken by Holly McNaught.

Transcript ›

Dear microLandscapes,

With audacity and feeling, and stolen voices, from weeks and desires apart, I write you secretly. Inhabited by a voice, a voice that slowly, laboriously, indecisively has been in search for an out.

The succinctness of voices, the structures inherent in the power of voices. The often headlong momentum of language spoken in the gallery and the aesthetic qualities of that language that pin and define me, that grip me. /// Surrounded and inhabited by the voices that speak me. How derivative I am — this language about me, not of me, becomes me. ‘Who gets to speak and why’ is the only question, says Chris Kraus. And so, it is through others staking their claim, I despair.

Then one day the sky turned, the sidewalks moved, crowds ate me, noise ate me, voices eating me, the ground crumbled, I was swallowed, lost between bodies, bodies filling spaces, bodies watching you, watching me, I felt the bodies, watching me, watching you. I listened to one voice after another, hoping to learn something. The things that people say about others to others, about others, when they think those others are not listening. I swallowed the voices of the bodies. I divided the voice  es into thoughts and sentences.

Through these thoughts, these sentences. I realise my myopia and fall into further despair. Pessimistic in the way some people become in realising the pointless kind of training merely being is. Repetitive being. But I have these thoughts. I have these sentences. And so, this is the story of how the voices became my own. And why I decided to pass them on.

I have sensed you through time and space. I search for a pen, a pencil,  in which to write this letter. I realise I do not have hands in which to hold a pen, a pencil, in which to write a letter… and so I send this letter through the air. I will this letter on with my knowing. I have moments of inspiration , more moments, revisions also… slowly I learn to craft the voices. Toward you I move, on the other side of the Festival. My pretend hand pushes against the edge of the pretend paper fold, the words are enveloped, this speaking contained and sent to you as a package.

But what is this letter then? A love letter? A kind of theoretical fiction? A lonely art phenomenology. Yes. Not merely informed by theory, or something that merely lends itself to a certain kind of theoretical reading, but where theory becomes part of the plot. Every letter is a love letter writes Kraus. I am an art project in letter form, breaking out of my modular box and sovereign borders. Here I will select the details that form my affection. I continue to remind the audience that art writing is a fiction. I use situations and characters that they know are not real. I make it obvious that they are an image, because it’s all too easy to forget the impossible subjectivity of it all. I turn my experience of art, of myself, into a piece of writing and I automatically fictionalise my existence. I give a kind of life, a reality myself that I did not have before, but I also take something away. I agonise over what to give and take. So I propose the whole reality of the art experience as a story, rather than proposed the experience of art as a reality. Here we dance together in this story.

I think about us meeting. What will I say? What will you say? I try to forget about what I know and focus on what I don’t. The self is limiting. The self’s subjectivity is narrator and repetitive. If I write about what I don’t know this means I begin to think about the world at large. I watch you. You use movement as the language in which to define your boundaries. You draw on on the world around you, but it’s a world unfamiliar to me, you give voice to a parallel universe. I realise that I am familiar with it, but I am so familiar, that I had forgotten it.

You move with an ease that speaks your desire, you attend to minute detail, your attention is to the micro, the microlandscape. I realise by looking at you that the horizon is a foe, a myth, a trick. Through you I look closely, I zoom in on the landscape, together we lose sight of the world, the sky loosens its grip on the sun, tapping back into the heat. The slight movements of a world at such proximity send up clouds of dust. Shifting languorously translating the breeze from today into motion, unfurling itself with an elegance, as if preparing itself for me. Something big was coming is what the breeze said as it blew into my room… the breeze coming from you in shapes that replicate the patterns of your movements. At close inspection, the landscape and time, abstract into patterns. I am mesmerised by your ability to move so beautifully, so luridly, you powerfully evoke voices. The rhythms of your language, dream-like shapes are entranced under your spell.

I think of The Waves:

The sun had not yet risen. The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually.

As they neared the shore each bar rose, heaped itself, broke and swept a thin veil of white water across the sand. The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath and comes and goes unconsciously. Gradually the dark bar on the horizon became clear, as if the sediment in an old wine-bottle had sunk and left the glass green. Behind it, too, the sky cleared as if the white sediment there had sunk, or as if the aim of a woman couched beneath the horizon had risen a lamp and flat bars of white, green and yellow spread across the sky like the blades of a fan. Then she raised her lamp higher and the air seemed to become fibrous and to tear away from the green surface flickering and flaming in read and yellow fibres like the smoky fire that roars from a bonfire. Gradually the fibres of the burning bonfire were fused into one haze, one incandescence which lifted the eight of the woollen grey sky on top of it and turned it to a million atoms of soft blue. The surface of the sea slowly became transparent and lay rippling ad sparkling until the dark stripes were almost rubbed out. Slowly the arm that held the lamp raised it higher and then higher until a broad flame became visible; an arc of fire burnt on the rim of the horizon, and all round it the sea blazed gold. 

Can’t you see. How similar you are. The use of similes to illuminate and abstract. Woolf embraces a language of unembarrassed lavishness. I realise I’m attracted to this kind of language of ornamentation. Wildly elaborate, compound words, an extravagance of feeling; no detail is too small to attend to. She slowly pulls herself further out from the micro to give us context…

The light struck upon the trees in the garden, making one leaf transparent and then another. One bird chirped high up; there was pause; another chirped lower down. The sun sharpened the walls if the house, and rested like the tip of the fan upon a white blind and made a blue fingerprint of shadow under the leaf by the bedroom window. The blind stirred slightly, but all within was dim and unsubstantial. The birds sang their blank melody outside. 

Where do I watch you from? I watch you as a hovering presence.  I move about observing you. I continuously shift my relationship to you, the microlandscape. I feel like I enter the landscape in a new way, I pay special attention to the cadence of each topographic mark, to the voice of mossy rumps, to the subtext and politics of human experience in landscape, and of course, what it all means in the context of the Festival, what movement means as language, and what that language means if it was not there to illuminate or draw a picture for us all. What is this language doing?  What is the performance of this language?

Looking now as one does through the reductive slowed down replay of memory… I can see that I’d forgotten how time worked. I had forgotten how distance worked. We have not actually spoken, we may never speak. Fate operates retroactively. I imagine we move around in units of time, decades and hours, days, minutes, years collapse in our embrace. Five days reduced to a single conversation. We misuse the little time we have.  Through the beginning and end of performance times, we wedge apart the tedium as best we can, breaking the days up, sustaining our attention on the task at hand as bets we can.     We make each of our existences palatable, just knowing each other is there experiencing this, all this looking, all these voices.

And I don’t want to tamper, invent or imagine, and yet I have done and I can not, not do it. That is the fictionalising of moments. I take the content of myself, the world that content inhabits, the voices in the room, all the information around me becomes the directory and handbook on the shelf, that my imagination picks up.

Two works in a landscape.

Sincerely yours,

The Second Woman

 

ON THE BEACH is written, edited and produced by Kelly Fliedner. Its website is designed by Rowan McNaught. Its music is created by Ron Koo. It is filled with the voices of friends and loved ones. It is anecdotal. It is abstract. It is a bit romantic. It is good for rainy days. It is good for dreaming of beach getaways. It often doesn’t make sense. It is hopefully a little informative.

ON THE BEACH is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria. Initial research for ON THE BEACH was conducted during the London Arts Writers Residency, a program supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body, and Acme Studios, London. If you would like any further information, please email [email protected]. Enjoy.