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.

September 1 2017

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. The ferry ride will take about half an hour. Place your hand on the white rail and feel the spray of seawater hitting your face. Squint into the reflected bright Sydney 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; and it is also a big set for film and television productions. Contemporary film props, hollowed walls and mock colonial brickwork lie next to real, legitimate or authentic heritage brickwork, un-marked and un-differentiated. You can tell the difference when you touch the walls, you can feel the emptiness, the interior echo; feel the void through its slightly unstable shell. You can compare this to the cold heavy fullness of space occupied by thick slabs of clay soil, sand and lime. You can reach out and touch the walls and realise this. You can feel this but otherwise you might not know. You’re intended not to know, to remain unaware because more than anything else Cockatoo Island is a tourist destination, and the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust trades in the continued illusion of its heritage.

Stephanie Rosenthal is Artistic Director of the 20th Biennale of Sydney called The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed said in a talk in Melbourne in late 2015that she was interested in the 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. How you come to second guess your surroundings.

Kelly had attended that talk and was thinking about Stephanie’s words as she stepped off the ferry from Circular Quay to Stephanie’s Embassy of the Real. Kelly had been invited to the opening week of the Biennale as part of a project called The Bureau of Writing, a small collaborative writing project designed for artists and presented in parallel with the Biennale, running along-side it in association with Artspace. On the island and in this Embassy of the Real there were many works that riffed off the in-between-ness and liminality, which Stephanie had discussed as being inherent in the space of Cockatoo Island itself; 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 our lives lived in multiple realities. Works like those by Cecil B. Evans or Camille Henrot proffer a world where these lives are defined by social media and film alike. Depicting characters that are at once plastic and artificial but also rooted in and moving through the same worlds and platforms that we move through. Negotiating the texts of social media and film side-by-side through the space of technology. Platforms that liquefy and bleed into each other. Competing moments and circulating forces or ideas, creating alternate worlds and environments to generate an absurd hyper-real. But where is the slippage between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy, and how important is it that we realise this slippage has taken place?  The work on the island signified an acceptance that we live these multiple realities, and far from being anxious about it, these works and their seductive post-internet aesthetics, relished in the complexity of this layering, enamoured with the success of duplicity and in-between-ness.

On the far south east end of the Island, where you look 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 hang on one of the island’s huge industrial sheds. A triptych depicting three iterations of text, ‘PHYSICAL DOORWAY’, with a simple line drawing depicting a door at three differing states of ‘open’ or ‘closed’. 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 played with the 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 masculine 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.’ pronounces Baudrillard. ‘A desperate strategy to return to the Real of the body’ adds Zizek without feeling, describing individuals who have the desire or compulsion to cut themselves, inflicting pain in order to ground themselves in the realm of the physical. Reading these dated men’s words, their flagellations in the face of their perceived loss of the real, Kelly thought that what was presented at the Embassy of the Real was not a binary of real/unreal, bodily/virtuality at all. She wasn’t interested in questioning the nature of reality within these terms because it felt passive, dated, conservative. It assumed that there was a quota of live experience, that in having one experience you delete the capacity for another. That it was either or. Kelly wasn’t sure why curators like Stephanie kept returning to the words of Zizek or Baudrillard, when they failed to describe what she was experiencing. Brooker at least saw the 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 whose 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 to those living on Birch Cove across the Parramatta River, those who can see the door open or closed. 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’. 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 Museum of Contemporary Art.Before venturing to more of the Biennale she decided to stop on the second floor instead and spend some time with the MCA’s collection. She stood in-front of Agatha’s Every Artist Remembered series. She had always loved this work. It was simultaneously the aftermath of a performance, and an improvisation of the performance itself.  There is something intimately 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 they could remember off the top of their heads, every artist from which 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 does not know? Who is invited? What is included and excluded? Are we to simply forgive ourselves of these exclusion and inclusion binaries because they are the natural consequence of community? Are we to forgive ourselves as active participants in a game of self mythologising? Are we to forgive ourselves of the vanity in standing in front of this mirror? Kelly thought about how this kind of social confession is a processes of dedication — the reason why she wrote and participated in the art world. It wasn’t about cashing in the chips of social capital, rather it was offering up a context in an act of generosity to the audience. A mirror for illumination.

Kelly worked at the Monash University Museum of Art in Melbourne and had the pleasure of spending time watching people interact with Agatha’s 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 stretched across the campus suggesting a performance, its lines and words inviting, requiring participation. These words that read in capitals, ‘ASK’, ‘TELL’, ‘UNKNOWN’ were not the usual script of a sports arena — quickly those walking through the campus, walking across the work, would see the slightly off-kilter stage, and either willingly or unwillingly be turned into participants. Through the simplest of materials and gestures, lines and words drawn on the ground, Agatha created an audience of performers. Directing bodies to move, in a preprepared choreography through space. Inviting them to work within the parameters, acknowledging that parameters exist, acknowledging that they are there to be broken, that they exist even if they are acknowledged or not, that they are simply there. Creating spaces for direction and deviation. Desiring deviation.

The work deconstructs and reorients the bodies of those inhabiting the university campus. The staff, the students and the 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. It hopefully leads us to question the way the institution constructs our paths, and asks us to forge new ones. On Cockatoo Island, William Forsythe’s sculptural installation, Nowhere and everywhere at the same time, mirrors this desire for direction and deviation. Nowhere and everywhere at the same time’s collection of mechanised hanging pendulums swing across the warehouse, becoming choreographic objects. William places these objects in the path of bodies as an instigator of decision and action, of movement and pause. The participant and spectator are one and another, observing their own association as the work itself.

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 lay potential actions on top of each other, collapsing multiple realties. The audience partake in an unconscious choreography that becomes aware of itself, we become aware of our everyday movement, how that is intimately connected to our present state of mind. 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 interventions of 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.

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction is written and spoken by Kelly Fliedner for the On the Beach podcast. 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.

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 leading up to and during the Biennale including a re-read of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. She is getting ready for a Bureau of Writing workshop with participating Biennale artist Heman Chong. Heman’s work The Embassy of Stanislaw Lem was an itinerant library-come-bookshop of assorted editions of Solaris, a touring collection of its varying covers, an illustrated history of its differing translations. And since some of it adorned the walls of Artspace, Kelly had also read and re-read much of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle. But even for the great sprawling worlds of sci-fi, there becomes an end, a limit in which the authors voice is conquered by the boundary of a final page. So Kelly found herself entering the infinite domain of online fan fiction.

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.

***

As a member and contributor to sites like fanfiction.net since she was a teenager, Kelly had always loved fan fiction, and had been witness to the beauty of a mere handful, to hundreds, to thousands, sometimes millions, of fans coming together to write in collusion, 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, the insertion of oneself, and one’s own story.

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 streetscapes, the Camperdown Cemetery, the MCA Forecourt, the Newtown Library and the Royal Botanic Garden’s as well as mobile in-between spaces like Heman’s Lem library. These spaces formed a series of interventions that wrote and rewrote 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 those loved icons into line with their own personal and lived experiences, it is the “in-between spaces” of the biennale, like Keg De Souza’s We Built This City installation on Vine Street in 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—or is a symptom of—the gentrification and displacement of many from Redfern itself. Kelly thought 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 both the context of Redfern for Keg, and the text of the biennale itself, Stephanie’s curatorial scheme. Kelly got a sense that Stephanie was acknowledging that those major institutions could never fully be hers to write, so she inserted herself across and in-between those venues, poaching and rewriting their larger narratives. Pointing out their limitations, their inability to comment or critique themselves.

***

Kyrafic continues in the voice of character 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 Gothe-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 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 and the 20th Biennale of Sydney in 2016. They thought about how the then highly publicised artists’ boycott of the Biennale  because of the involvement of Transfield, a major sponsor, running offshore detention facilities for refugees seeking asylum in Australia. They thought about how that now had been swallowed by the void between 2014 and 2016? In many ways the boycott had been successful: it was decided that Transfield, owned in major part by the Beligiorno-Nettis family, major supporters, founders, Board-members of the Biennale, would cease in the future to be a sponsor. But the space had grown between that victory and the present, because although Transfield were technically not a sponsor, their logo still held pride of position in the Biennale catalogue and hand guide.Everywhere the Beligiorno-Nettis family, who had in part made their wealth from an industry that traded on the suffering of others, were acknowledged as ‘Founding Patrons’. The void had allowed for their ‘applauded’ 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 hear the whispers of disquiet that we hear as artists and participants, that perhaps the broader public audience does not. Let’s make them louder. Let’s 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 this blatant. Behind the bust of Franco Beligiorno-Nettis at Artspace there is the Embassy of Non-Participation, and on the wall before you enter are these keywords from Stephanie,  ‘Alternative structures, threshold, owning space, silence, dislocation, resistance’. Lists that are signposts, suggestive of something that happened, that is, but instead of saying it directly, instead of filling in voids, these words 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 decide what is known and not known.”

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, as well as 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. So why participate? 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, between passivity and action.

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  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 her friends Sarinah Masukor. They can’t help but think that 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 their talk. The battle to think through the politics and to give it form. The hesitation to be involved and the subsequent 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 acts 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 anarchist 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 strewn on the ground and men banging in the doors to hotel rooms. Through violent screen cuts and sliced scenes, the film builds to a dramatic rupture at its centre, in which one of the terrorists, who intended to die as a martyr through the attacks, survives and is captured by police. He is questioned and given a voice. The void of the ‘other’ that he inhabited before is made whole, visible, present.

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 commissioner, the tourist, the hotel worker? The artist? The Biennale? The artistic Director? Who gets to speak ? 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 claims a voice in the void. 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 intense image circulation and so little autonomy.

On the walls of Artspace there are excerpts 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. Mirza and Buttler’s homage tell us what they consider the most important aspects of the text. Le Guin’s extracts sit on the wall of Artspace like little pieces of edited fan fiction, with a switching of gendered pronoun here, and a little cutting there. These are messages from the Embassy and its 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 that are somehow fantasy yet real.

***

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, with quotations narrated by Robert Wood. 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.

 

BoS Fan Fiction — Episode 3

Synopsis: an afternoon at the Art Gallery of New South Wales; listening to Scaffold; galaxies; ghosts and telephones; an afternoon at the MCA; intermediary zones between public and private; and, forward, backwards, sidestep, sideways, abstracted.

Characters (in order of appearance): Adrian Heathfield, Sidney Nolan, Aodhan Madden, Beth Caird, Adam Linder, Sarinah Masukor, Robert Wood.

Transcript ›

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction

Episode Three

One afternoon of the opening week, Kelly was watching and listening to Hahn Rowe’s sound procession as part of Adrian Heathfield’s Ghost telephone project, a score that was developed in response to Sidney Nolan’s The Galaxy. Ghost telephone was a sound installation that incorporated Nolan’s little exhibited and relatively unknown work, speakers that played Hahn’s score, and the gallery installation staff who pushed the painting and speakers, becoming a choreography that gently weaved its way through the collection galleries of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Ghost telephone invited the audience to follow its journey. Kelly thought about how the work spoke to all other works as it moved through the institution. She wondered what it was saying: how its presence created an eeriness; how it suddenly made the young girls in the Arthur Boyd paintings take on an unattractive menacing tone; how they were probably always menacing; how The Galaxy seemed delighted that it had at last been given the spotlight, waving hello to the more famous Nolan works of the Kelly gang, the ones more loved in their dedicated room; how it cowered and paled in comparison to the constellation of Uta Uta Tjangala and other aboriginal artists; how it made all these works speak to each other in a way they had never done before. Like much of the work in the Biennale, Kelly thought how the language and movement and choreography suddenly make context visible, and how that context was always fleeting, how that context was always shifting. Kelly thought that the works themselves acknowledged the impossibility of controlling their context, and instead took delight in it.

Kelly wished that she could see the different iterations of Ghost telephone curated by Adrian Heathfield featuring Chrysa Parkinson, Philipp Gehmacher and Benoît Lachambre. But she would not be in Sydney and so she would not know how their various choreographies would create new contexts and enable new conversations between artworks. In Stephanie’s The future is already here there was a rigorous three-month long shifting program of ephemeral work and for even the most dedicated of viewers, it was impossible to capture everything. Instead something else opened up in this futility of complete comprehension, more gaps and voids. Room for multiple conversations and multiple perspectives. Room for multiple voices. The artwork as conversation moment, gestures to all other conversation moments; to a history of diverse conversation moments that extend out from the Biennale, to the ecosystem of the world.

Aodhan Madden and Beth Caird make one of these works as conversation moments of time, sound choreographies, music texts — they call it Scaffold. It is one of their contribution’s to The Bureau of Writing and they played it on the FBI radio on the evening of Thursday the 26th of May 2016. They also play it at the beginning and ending of a talk given by Kelly in the carpark called Alaska on Friday 27th of May 2016. They also play it in this podcast. Beth and Aodhan provided Kelly with an accompanying text:

It was disappointing that the Obituary Writer was an extreme, pedantic gossip. At Circular Quay I ask a woman the name of her two dogs tied up to an iron fence, ‘this one’s named Mummy, this one’s named Beddy-Bye’. To experience the sensation of having a song stuck inside your head is to be a part of a community with others who repeat it with you. Silently and for a time and sometimes sweating, flu symptoms, telephone cliché. Build up, push up, all purpose. Shared matter comes in many invisible, transient forms, like Songs, or Embassies, sometimes containing the energy of a State Prosecutor, others have a Bedside Manner, all of which sound as if they are translating someone else’s Journal Entry. Precarious edges are found in The Top 40, Embassies, Advertisements, Footprints and Data Farms or Visions That Can’t Be Trusted. Frayed wires. And so on, they repeat. Everyday we use our calendar to give chaotic mystery order. We give a dog a name. A Funeral March is a piece of music played during the Funeral Processional or Execution. At the end of the ordeal, you’ll say, whistling, ‘Don’t tell me, I’ll catch it,’ when you simply want me to say, ‘I can hear it too’. 

This sound work by Beth and Aodhan makes Kelly think of Adam Linder’s performance work Some proximity at the MCA. Remembering how they all sat on the cold concrete floor of MCA’s thoroughfare/walkway/in-between place for two and a half hours with Sarinah Masukor and Robert Wood. They didn’t leave because it was so good. They were all creeps, who couldn’t stop watching. Couldn’t stop watching Adam and Justin dressed in dark navy blue jumpsuits with rope belts, their top buttons done up. They were all in awe of the beautiful internal logic created by the work. How in a walkway, that was constantly being punctured and penetrated by bodies, moving to and from building services like storerooms and bathrooms, a self-contained world was built. This is the way that Beth and Aodhan’s work is to be experienced, a punctuation, a sound that finds a gap and inhabit’s it, stumbled across by an audience unbeknown. A reflection on the space of the institution it’s intermediary zone between public and private, MCA, the Biennial, artists not from Sydney, artists in the Bureau of Writing, who are simultaneously in the biennale, but not on the list of artist, from the outside, them as collaborators, critical reflections, written as a score, mutated into choreographic embodiment, as the audience orients themselves to it and around it, orients themselves to the lovely slurred dark words. Kelly loved how Beth and Aodhan used the language, like Adam did to build and breakdown walls. In the case of Adam, the performance of the artist, and in the case of Aodhan and Beth, the performance of the audience. Kelly loved how both works indicated the context of community, in the case of Adam the shared language of the arts world, in the case of Aodhan and Beth the shared knowledge of popular music. Both works gesture to the inclusion and exclusion of performance, the omission that occurs when a work hinges on a moment.

Here is a list of the materials of Scaffold:

cardboard, metal chain, generic painkillers, reconstituted orange juice, crying spells, earthenware bricks, an airlocked laptop, abandoned geo-caches, two privately encrypted keys, 30 Industry Park Drive, Brooklyn, 3012, Bill Hicks screaming, ‘play from your fucking heart,’ headphones, public pool water, floorboards, the sounds of a lightning storm striking the atmosphere above the planet Jupiter, one aspirational elevator, radio scanner phone calls recorded from home phone lines, failure pop, devcore, file names good rhythm, juicy juicy, sadsong again, trill bit, second hand communication from a café manager unhappy with the experimental direction, the piece of fabric that is torn from your clothes as you try and jump the fence, memories of Some Proximity, a cruise ship named Celebrity Solstice, the sound of a freight train rolling through the town my mother grew up in, teens discussing the disproportionally high suicide rate of young people in Australia, an explanation of nuclear fallout, wind particles, women exclaiming, ‘they’re not having any fun,’ a private grief calendar, and a (hidden) quote from The Drumhead by Gerry Bibby, which reads ’Wild Kids would reemploy a melody to service their needs at any given present. This remixing was an ingenious trick; an extension of their being in two places at once, and although it might’ve been assembled from a prickling satisfaction, a well-heeled ignorance and/or collective willful anmesia, it didn’t matter much. It was tough out there on the field, requiring them to Capture all the arsenal they could get their hands on… and there was a lot of it.’ 

This is a list of materials as an attempt to describe in totality the context of the work’s creation. This is a futile attempt, but it is an attempt all the same. This list of materials includes a series of shared moments or experiences. Particular phrases correspond to particular events. As you sit and listen, these particular phrases might evoke particular actions that slowly become apparent. Or they may not. They may literally mean nothing to you. The text is spoken, sung and danced. The voice you hear, Beth’s, is abstracted, placed through multiple filters, as she says the words they break down, they get stuck on other sounds in the recording, words distort, they become mere vowels, they stretch, elongate, cut off. They are an attempt to describe everything, but they allude to more. Kelly thinks of Adam Linder and his work, of the words said backwards and forwards and said over and over again. The simple action of his and Justin’s steps, of stepping forward, backwards, sideways, sidestep, abstracted. Through this abstraction the audience make their own connections and project their own thoughts. Connections are made everywhere. The Biennale becomes an eco-system of connections.

For Some Proximity text covered the walls of the MCA’s hall, the space of the performance It was spoken/sung by the performers within the prescriptive conditions of its presentation. These prescriptive conditions, were outlined clearly in the contact (also found on the wall of the hall) which set forth the rules of the performances engagement. His work was both transparent and opaque. It, like the writing being examined in The Bureau of Writing, questions the efficiency and function of writing and text, but also choreography/dance/movement, in relation to our bodies in spaces as practitioners and audience members. From a place that is not fixed it questions what choreography might be rather than what it is. It does this through language. Some Proximity problematised the institutional and economic aspects of the performance and gestures to the paradoxically authoritative nature of the legal document that utilises a language that makes concrete claims but also invites diverse interpretation. It gestures to the disposable or negotiable reality of partitions and delineating lines like those of the ‘law’; about the instability of the ‘law’; the instability of binary states. We only ever inhabit liminal spaces, we only ever find ourselves in hallways. It laid bare the economic relationship and power structure between artist and institution, that resist in many ways the radical commercialisation of the art-object based world, yet undermine dance and choreography’s ability to question, when it is enveloped in this institutionalised dynamic. Andrea Fraser said, ‘the institution is us’, so perhaps ‘the contract is us’, ‘the capital is us’. It is, as the Biennale hand guide says, the perfect product of an immaterial experience economy, where memory itself is a commodity to be consumed. Kelly gives over her memories in this podcast and becomes complicit in the building of these actions and gestures as commodity. The lived movements of those in The Bureau of Writing, the moments they experienced with each other becomes a scaffold, informing the reading of the text of the Biennale, which informed the movement becoming a contained loop.

***

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 for the On the Beach podcast, with quotations narrated by Robert Wood. 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. This episode featured the sound work Scaffold by Aodhan Madden and Beth Caird.

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.

BoS Fan Fiction — Episode 4

Synopsis: in-between writing, performative writing, affect theory and ficto-criticism; continuously-searching movement; decentering ‘vision’, making room for other modes of encounter and perception; spaces, and holes and pauses.

Characters (in order of appearance): Andrew Brooks, Beth Caird and Aodhan Madden, Kelly Fliedner, Benjamin Forster, Astrid Lorange, Sarah Rodigari, Stephanie Rosenthal, Adrian Heathfield, Gerry Bibby, Heman Chong, Eileen Myles, Rhiannon Newton, Della Pollack.

Transcript ›

Biennale of Sydney: Fan Fiction

Episode Four

As the inheritor of the post-structuralist project that actively resisted the ostensibly closed space of individual evaluation of art writing and criticism, Kelly was interested in the dialogue between texts and objects, between participants and audiences, between all things that circulated around the Biennale. Being part of The Bureau of Writing, Andrew Brooks, Beth Caird and Aodhan Madden, Kelly Fliedner, Benjamin Forster, Astrid Lorange and Sarah Rodigari, were all interested in pursuing models that allow for an exploration of ambiguity and interpretation. This is a kind of art writing that is not at all interested in quality, nor is it descriptive reportage but is perhaps somewhere in the middle. An “in-between writing”. And with this in mind, she thought that Stephanie’s Biennale offered her and the other members of The Bureau of Writing space in which to project and layer their thoughts and ideas in relation to the Biennale. They crawled into gaps designated for them, and they sneaked into spaces they created for themselves. With the em-dash in the middle of the Biennale’s title in mind, The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed they collaborated for six-ish months, and like other ‘in-between’ projects of the Biennale, became one of its many breaks and parenthetical insertions, quotations and interruptions.

They watched a screening of Writing Not Yet Thought: Hélène Cixous and then talked about it with curator Adrian Heathfield. They spoke about approaches to writing practice that reconfigure the relation between embodiment and textuality—in particular, thinking through the impacts of écriture feminine, performative writing, affect theory and ficto-criticism. They did an online workshops writing exercise to re-write Michel Foucault’s famous text Of Other Spaces with Constant Dullaart. They did a workshop and exhibition with Gerry Bibby called Flexing muscle that was pretty much about sphincters and how writing can convey encounters as point of entry and exit, about how writing presumes reading, inferring both ingestion and ejection, states of introspection and production that contract from, and expand into, the social in space. They made an exhibition with Gerry Bibby. They did a workshop with Heman Chong called Common Characters. They gathered with him for 24 hours in order to each produce a fictional character. They didn’t really end up creating characters, but they did some writing. Andrew Brooks and Astrid Lorange made Antisoulmate Mixtape and played it on the radio. Benjamin Forster and Sarah Rodigari made a website intervention called Seven Hundred and Forty Three Fragments Drifting by. Through custom code, their words cascaded down the screens of people viewing the Biennale’s website, distracting them from the informative function of the website. The sudden paralaxing quality of the cascading words abstracted the experience of viewing the websites information, illustrating the ‘in-between’ and partial status of The Bureau of Writing. They did a workshop and poetry reading with Eileen Myles. They gossiped about hollywood and Kevin Bacon. Beth Caird and Aodhan Madden made Scaffold for the radio. And Kelly gave a lecture and made a podcast. She made them all into characters. They made works that were written for and presented within the Biennale, but were mainly for each other. As they passed through the space of the Biennale, it’s venues and it’s duration, they used each other’s works to anchor themselves. As you consumed each other’s texts they sank into the Biennale, breathing in its atmosphere, their words becoming its space. They became a central part of each other’s experience of the Biennale. The Bureau of Writing mirrored the Biennale as meeting place of multiple practices. It created a place of junctions and borders, a space between identity and territory. For Kelly The Bureau of Writing was the Biennale.

***

On the last day of the first week of the Biennale, Kelly made her way to the Newtown Library to see Rhiannon Newton perform as part of Mette Edvardsen’s Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine. In writing about the experience later, she couldn’t quite find the right worlds for what her experienced with Rhiannon had been. She knew that Rhiannon hadn’t read her Orlando, nor did she perform Orlando. Rather, Kelly thought Rhiannon was Orlando. Not Orlando the character, but Orlando the book, the actual pages, an embodiment of the text itself not an acting of it. Rhiannon was so relaxed during the reading/being, un-agitated, calm. She was the first lines, her calmness betraying, undermining, belying their brutality:

‘He —  for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it — was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters. It was the colour of an old football, and more or less the shape of one, save for the sunken cheeks and a strand or two of coarse, dry hair, like the hair on a coconut. Orlando’s father, or perhaps his grandfather, had struck it from the shoulders of a vast Pagan who had started up under the moon in the barbarian fields of Africa; and now it swung, gently, perpetually, in the breeze, which never ceased blowing through the attic rooms of the gigantic house of the lord who had slain him.’ 

Rhiannon was these lines with an eerie calmness, the threat in abeyance of the grotesqueness of their depiction. She was these lines with a clean minimalism, which undermined Woolf’s embrace of an unembarrassed lavish language. Kelly was always attracted to this kind of language of ornamentation;  semicolons and em-dashes everywhere. ‘He, em-dash, for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it, em-dash, was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.’ Woolf’s dash, as in Stephanie’s, reinforces a kind of continuously-searching movement, reinforcing the need for specification but never landing on a definitive. Their indeterminate words and in-between spaces generate the readers’, the viewers’, the audiences’ participation, indeed their necessary role in creating meanings. This is their place in the inadequacy of language and art in a void.

Kelly sat there listening, watching. She thought at multiple points about Benjamin Forster, Rhiannon’s partner and her friend. And pictures popped into her mind of Benjamin in a library he had constructed late in 2015 at Monash University Museum of Art. She thought how unique it was to have two very distinct images of this couple in seperate libraries reading to her, reciting her language. Directly after Rhiannon was the first 17 pages of Orlando, Kelly set off to purchase it and continue herself. As she read, she imagined Rhiannon there with her, a hovering presence. She had completely shifted her relationship with the text. Instead of illuminating the pages with images from her imagination, Kelly felt as if Rhiannon had enter the language in a new way. Kelly paid special attention to the cadence of each sentence as to mimic that of Rhiannon. She paused at each em-dash, reading into it a new subtext and politics that could not be extrapolated from the Biennale.

So, how in the visual arts, do the plethora of different practices reconcile their different relationships to text, particularly in the mosh of a Biennale? Much of the Biennale is concerned with movement and writing, and the specifics of performative writing as a form. Della Pollack discusses performative writing as a form that is acted or performed. She talks about how performative writing evokes paradoxes and intensities without adding up. She talks about how performative writing is not a single genre, but involves aspects across a plurality of writing. She talks about how you can’t lock it down. Within this context Kelly thought about the performative writing of Sarah Rodigari. Kelly thought how Sarah’s work perfectly fit into the “in-between-ness” of the Biennale, because of her very particular mode of delivery that was filled with spaces, and holes, and pauses. During their workshops The Bureau of Writing would read to each other. When Sarah read her work, with all its spaces, and holes and pauses, Kelly would study the distinct placement of these holes — spaces ad-libbed and improvised. She used them to orient herself around Sarah’s language, used them as a navigation device to inform her understanding of her work. As the score of Sarah’s performances, rather than the published work itself, the text, the script, the poem, simultaneously precedes the performance and is a relic of it. The text was the object that found itself both filling and creating a gap during a performance. It responded to its own being, informing and changing the performance.

Many of the works in the Biennale seem to be and comment upon the increasing inclusion of live performance, and specifically dance, within object-based art contexts and economies and as a regular part of programming at galleries and museums. Choreography serves as a framework and a platform, a practice and a means for which to draw attention to the multiple meanings of the word “performance”. It is insinuating a ‘liveness’, as a way to describe the adoption of character or position, and a wry reference to economic productivity. But  more interesting still is how Stephanie approached the use of language in the exact same way. She used language to choreograph the artists and the viewer.  To draw lines between the two. Language as Direction, didactics, void avoidance.

Of course language, in all its narrative and abstract forms, has played an important part in the visual arts, particularly throughout the twentieth century, even as art has tried to instrumentalise language for its own ends. Language forms have been mined for their creative resources but their individual, rich and specific histories often remain unacknowledged. This is what Jacques Rancière’s ‘crisis of visibility’ describes, namely that ‘contemporary art is, quintessentially, art defined by the erasure of medium specificity, indeed by the erasure of the visibility of art as a distinct practice’. The Bureau of Writing relished in this discarding of specificity, erasing, embracing ephemerality, decentering ‘vision’, making room for other modes of encounter and perception. The Bureau of Writing asked each other, what does language mean to you? What does it do to this artistic experience of inhabiting time and space? The Bureau of Writing releases poetry and language from their passive position to assert themselves as a driving force in image making. The Bureau of Writing releases image making into a layering of fact and fiction into a world that is yet to be reconciled. The Bureau of Writing releases the unreconciled world into a reality of built understanding that is a collective undertaking of happenstance and resistance.

***

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 for the On the Beach podcast, with quotations narrated by Robert Wood. 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.