§1 Surface alone cannot provide meaning by the skins/masks/shells of the archive (of its containers) – one must make an incision – much like the one required in order to smuggle secret messages inside eggs…
Time past/experienced/framed = confined/contained space of archive
… much like the confinement to a coffin/kitchen.
It is thus, in this domiciliation, in this house arrest, that archives take place. The dwelling, this place where they dwell permanently, marks this institutional passage from the private to the public, which does not always mean from the secret to the nonsecret.Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (1995: 2-3)
§2 Domesticating DOMUS: decentering by invagination
“My” DOMUS in this research project may play the role of the home, or, if you prefer, domestication may be treated as metaphor for archivisation.“The process of archiving for retention in an archives and preparing for research use. The concept of archivisation asserts that the meaning and significance of the record changes through the process of archiving, whereas “archiving” is itself a neutral process, a mere act” (Dictionary of Archives Terminology, 2020). The process of domestication may reflect the active process of archiving whereby the record is in some way changed by its selection, and by its adherence to containment. It may be read, for instance, that my confinement to the home (as mother, wife, stay-at-home artist) – the routines and rituals carried out as gestures or treated as fixtures while maintaining order – is best reflected in my obsessive mapping of the archival territory by systematic circuit and blinkered surface dimension.
This may in fact further reveal that the closest and most intimate encounter with confinement may be traceable by the surfaces alone, as in the case of marking time by inscribing on the wall of the prison cell, or in the more macabre case of being buried alive – evidenced by scratch marks upon the inner surfaces of coffins – the fear of which was captured in postmortem photography of the Victorian era, with the presence of a small bell at hand (to alarm the living if one were to wake up buried).
Both sites – archive and domestic – are haunted.
On the subject of being buried in/by one’s domestic heap Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days (1961) comes to mind. The protagonist begins her act waist-deep in a mound of earth, by the second act she is buried up to her neck. She never questions or explains her sinking predicament but prattles on regardless and continues to dream that she will “simply float up into the blue … And that perhaps some day the earth will yield and let me go, the pull is so great, yes, crack all round me and let me out.” (1961: 33).
In “Forgotten Relations: Feminist Artists and Relational Aesthetics” (2013), Helena Reckitt discusses the performance work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles in the group exhibition of female conceptual artists c.7,500 curated by Lucy Lippard and opened at The California Institute of the Arts in 1973. Titled Maintenance Art, Ukeles’ work continued her charged critique of the modernist denial of maintenance labour in her Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!: ‘Care’ A Proposal for an Exhibition (Reckitt, 2013: 132). This manifesto resonates strongly with me as I identify with Ukeles’ struggle to navigate the divide between artistic and domestic practice upon becoming a mother – “the principles of artistic liberation and autonomy that she was schooled in conflicted with her new domestic responsibilities” but instead of struggling with slow-drip studio time “in a Duchampian gesture of appropriation and performativity, she announced her decision to recode all her activities as ‘art’,” while her manifesto “rejected habitual distinctions between avant-garde progress and the cyclical processes of affective labour” (Reckitt, 2013: 133). Reckitt goes on to highlight Ukeles’ critical practice of “recoding her bodily labour as art,” as a revision of the “distinction between ‘labour’, which concerns life and death’s eternal processes, and ‘work’, which produces objects and things” (2013: 133). My own practice of inscribing on eggshells has provided me the means to meditate upon this distinction between labour and work. Of course I am creating transformed objects in the process. Their transformation does not end there. I summon the will to walk bare-soled upon those objects – numinously transformed by my labour of focused attention. My initial intention was to stack the inscribed eggshells to form a carpet at my physical exhibition, requiring the examiners to walk on them in order to inspect the rest of the exhibit, crushing the eggshells in the process. When COVID-19 restrictions necessitated cancelling all ideas concerning a physical exhibition, the transcribed eggshells remained only as a stage of an unconsummated artistic idea.
Systems of organization – whether they be of organic or inorganic material, animal or human element – exercise terms by which to align, confine, confirm, delimit, classify, replicate, segregate, colonize, discipline, domesticate… The archive in fact offers very little escape.
And so, what…?
… if that inscribed surface were to invaginate?
Through my critique by dual process of creating and curating the object and subject, as the framer and the framed, I have had to ask: To what end? I am only a me/ans to an end (Deane: 2012). Am I constructing an appendix to my husband’s profile in the archive for myself to inhabit? Or, am I donning the mask of my husband’s profile in my research affair with the archive? How do I exist in this small part, of this particular archive – as an abject-object-subject? I end up “invaginating” the profile (which is also a detachedWhat I mean by detached profile, within the archival domain, is a profile constructed out of records – that are in effect detachments of the actual subject of the collection. profile) as well as the fabric of the archive.
How curious the genre of self-portraiture as it features through the art ages of practice – a particular avenue of poverty, the fruit bowl and vase lie empty, only the mirror, despite its crack and surface decay, offers a view (and frame) without charge. But what should happen if the self-portrait turns to self-appropriation, and in turn, to the mask instead of the mirror? Aren’t all the profiles and compositions (those structuring and framing practices) that are collected in this archive, in fact masks?
§3 oekologyDomestic economy or home economics as it was named at the first of the Lake Placid Conferences (1899); prior to its naming, an ambition emerging from this field was to title it the profession of oekology (“the science of right living”) (Lake Placid – North Elba Historical Society, 2012: online).
soap the dishes
leave the plug in
are you a storer
or a restorer?
indexical clues to my own thinking
are you a restorer
or a storer?
leave the plug in
soap the dishes
The domestic monad is torn, full of stories and scenes, haunted by secrets.Jean-Francois Lyotard, “Domus and the Megalopolis” (1991: 195)
In the wake of my detached tour of the surficial conditions of the archive I coveted a more intimate engagement. In The Intimate Archive: Journeys Through Private Papers (2009) Maryanne Dever, Sally Newman and Ann Vickery present a combined analysis of their research encounters with personal archives, that consider the more intimate aspects of examining the private papers of their respective research subjects – records that are often fragmentary, elusive, even cryptic, and often require complex systems of assembly and interpretation that may well approximate fabrication if not kept in check. They ask: “How, then, do we live with—and work with—the patterns of knowing and not knowing thrown up by these sources?” (Dever et al., 2009: 6). Their aim is to reveal “the benefits of keeping in play precisely those elements of uncertainty and contingency inherent [therein],” (Dever et al., 2009: 9) and furthermore “to convey something of [their] taste for the embodied experience of encountering the archive” (2009: 32), while declaring their departure from “the dry archival report” that eliminates the subjective aspects of interacting with the personal in collections. By their accounts of navigating the more intricate folds and cryptic creases of personal papers, they have come to realize that “meaning and significance are not necessarily inherent in the archival artifact. As with any form of text, meaning does not simply flow from these documents, it is actively produced through engaged reading, which is always provisional inasmuch as it remains open to challenge and contestation” (2009: 20). As noted by Patricia Hayes, Jeremy Silvester and Wolfram Hartmann in “Picturing the Past” (in Refiguring the Archive, 2012: 113), “[d]ifferent meanings are created by different readers who bring diverse reference systems with them”. They suggest that readings “might shuttle between photography’s dual potentialities: between evidence and enigma, between truth-claims and lies “that tell the truth”, and between photographs that denote and those that connote” (Hayes et al., 2012: 113). Although they are referring to photographs as the texts being “read” I propose that it applies to perceiving any archival artifact amongst personal records.
In contrast to the classical archive that Michael Lynch likens to “the Cartesian mind, in that it is domiciled in a private space and controlled by a person who dwells in that space,” is the “reticulated brain” of the digital archive that is “distributed” and “uncontained” (1999: 79-80). In Lynch’s article “Archives in Formation: Privileged Spaces, Popular Archives and Paper Trails” (1999), he notes that with the “optimistic view of the technology, the ‘distributed cognition’ of the Internet” entails an opening up of interpretive processes:
as the primary locus of meaning [constituting] an informational flow in a network without an intentional center that generates and fixes thought. Meaning is liberated from its privileged container and is released to flow freely through an open texture of nodes, each of which brings texts and readers together in a unique and (re)creative relationship (Lynch, 1999: 80).
Considering the postmodern context and postcolonial perspective where “humans and capital flow in myriad patterns in a network of relations that span the globe”, in her article “The Edge of Difference: Negotiations Between the Hypertextual and the Postcolonial” (1997: online), Jaishree K. Odin observes the role of information technologies as “having a profound impact on our literary as well as artistic practices, creating a new space that demands its own aesthetic,” that is intertextual and interactive, which she terms “hypertext” or “Net” aesthetic. She argues that it represents “the need to switch from the linear, univocal, closed, authoritative aesthetic involving passive encounters to that of the nonlinear, multivocal, open, nonhierarchical aesthetic involving active encounters,” and furthermore that it provides the most appropriate site of representation for postcolonial cultural experience, since “it embodies our changed conception of language, space, and time… existing in a dynamic interaction of history, politics, and culture” (Odin, 1997: online).
Time is no longer the linear historical time of traditional historiography, a historical time that ignored the question “Whose time is it that is being recounted?”, a time that muted minority voices in a discourse based on the othering of the world. In order to escape the homogenizing and universalizing tendency of linear time, time in both postcolonial and hypertextual experience is represented as discontinuous and spatialized. The hypertextual and the postcolonial are thus part of the changing topology that maps the constantly shifting, interpenetrating, and folding relations that bodies and texts experience in information culture. Both discourses are characterized by multivocality, multilinearity, open-endedness, active encounter, and traversal (Odin, 1997: online).
In “Ethical Possession: Borrowing from the Archives” (2009) Emma Cocker follows the theoretical shifts of borrowing cultural material in art practice, distinguishing a path away from the previous postmodern practices of pastiche and empty nostalgic gestures towards “forms of creative appropriation that offer more empathic models of engagement with memory, history and the archive” (Smith, 2009: 3). She considers the refreshed critical strategies of appropriation around the work of Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi whereby they remix and reframe rare archival footage to address the “issues and dilemmas pertinent to the concerns of the present” (Cocker, 2009: 93). Cocker reads their engagement with the archive as a process of material excavation and re-inscription within “new narrative orders,” that she suggests “echoes the manner in which memory itself is performed across temporal thresholds, as a live act provoked from within the terms of the present” (Cocker, 2009: 102). She describes how in one of their film-works the archival material (re)appears “in a manner that is closer to the personal logic of memory than the archival order of history; it unfolds as a palimpsest of blended, bleeding and overlapping inscriptions of information” (Cocker, 2009: 102). Cocker takes into account John Sutton’s understanding of memories as “dynamic patterns rather than static archives, fragmentary traces to be reconstructed rather than coherent things to be reproduced” (Sutton, 1998: xiii), thus she remarks “it is a shifting system of knowledge and information, as much under construction as available for recollection: contingent, malleable and open to change, revision, and reworking” (Cocker, 2009: 102). Cocker points to the curators of the 2005 British Art Show 6, Alex Farquharson and Andrea Schlieker, who identified contemporary artists’ renewed interest in the past as critically distinct from the previously passive terms of hollow borrowing of the kind that Fredric Jameson outlines: “in a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum” (Jameson, 1988: 18). Instead, they have recognized a more active re-view/read, the appropriated material is “re-scripted, made malleable and injected with subjectivity—not simply cited, but performed” (Farquharson and Schlieker, 2005: 55).
After quoting Andreas Huyssen’s “mode of memory” as “recherché rather than recuperation […] a tenuous fissure (exists) between past and present that constitutes memory, making it powerfully alive and distinct from the archive or any other mere system of storage and retrieval” (Huyssen, 1995: 3), Emma Cocker suggests that the appropriation of archival material by artists should likewise, “be understood as recherché… a process of meaning making in the present rather than simply a retrieval of meaning from the past” (2009: 102). Returning to the context of The Intimate Archive (2009), Dever, Newman and Vickery acknowledge Derrida’s feverish message that the archive is far more than its material content and that:
the processes of meaning-making associated with it are complex and unstable. In many senses, there is no single archive. Readers will construct their own “archive” from the documents they variously choose to highlight, ignore or pass over, and, in this way, we are all implicated in the infinite unfolding quality of the archive (Dever et al., 2009: 20).
§5 I am the margin-centering-self
The proposed task of “decentering the archive” reveals the paradoxical need to assert a centre from which to decentre. It seems that only by the active process of reversing the order of priority may the margins emerge and assert themselves. Centering not the next genre/performer but the marginal self instead, in this decentering of the archive as material and memory repository. For the artistic middle voice to speak compellingly it will have to assert itself as “centred” within the whole – that middle point through which all cuts traverse, for according to Viviane Saleh-Hanna in “Black Feminist Hauntology” (2015): “The only place on the plate that the knife cuts over and over and crosses through consistently and evenly every time a piece of pie gets cut out of modernity’s grid-like system of control, is that singular dot in the middle.” (Saleh-Hanna, 2015: par. 42). What I propose to call the point of the absent-centre-self. Perhaps decentering is simply a necessary step towards dismantling and rejecting the notion of centredness itself, an endpoint of a journey without conclusion.
§6 a pocket of one’s own
Since access to the archive is conditional and restricted I find the most practical means to play freely with archival material via the practice of self-portraiture. The short film-work of this passage engages archival footage from DOMUS: extracts of Primal Scene (Kaganof & Deane: 2002), and signals my first attempt to infiltrate the archive – to embody in part and retrieve a memory from it. Primal Scene (04:40) is sourced from the Kaganof collection of DOMUS, part of a short film series collaboration with Aryan Kaganof that accompanied my Home EconomicsThe performance involved a live demonstration of the labia casting (using quick-drying dental plaster), and the subsequent chocolate melting and mould-making process while dressed in a school uniform. performance at the 2003 edition of the L’Etrange Festival in Paris.
Lost in the archive, I stumble upon my own image – a lost image, a lost self … I retrieve my object-image-self and re-compose its aura. This “memory” is a framed study of my subject-object status, since I am the framer (in my collaborative capacity) and the framed (the object of the gaze). It also marks the point at which the archive of my study (DOMUS) traverses the archive of my own. The proposed objective conditions of “a study of archival materials through a visual arts perspective” unexpectedly transforms into the subjective conditions of my research study and the history of my own practice. With reference to Virginia Woolfe’s essay A Room of One’s Own (1929)Whereby Woolfe argues for both the literal and figurative space needed for women writers to flourish within the male-dominated literary tradition., I would like to propose “A Pocket of One’s Own”. While the first passage of this dissertation has laid out my engagement with the DOMUS surfaces, this passage delineates the interruption or enfolding along the surface(s) of the archive. A subjective fold along the objective seam of surface (noise) provides an invaginatedInvaginated: adj. (of an organ or part) folded or turned back upon itself. Medical v. To infold or become infolded so as to form a hollow space within a previously solid structure, as in the formation of a gastrula from a blastula (Collins English Dictionary, 2012 and The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, 2002). pocket of the DOMUS.
Let me discuss the conceptual resonance of invagination to my research, which can be traced to Derrida’s use of the term for deconstructive purposes that he describes in “Living on: Border Lines” as “the inward refolding of la gaine [the sheath, girdle], the inverted reapplication of the outer edge to the inside of a form where the outside then opens a pocket” (1979: 97). By his usual terms of analysis Derrida challenges the partition between inside and outside as explained in plainer language by Peter Brunette and David Wills in Screen/Play: Derrida and Film Theory,
Briefly, invagination destroys the notion of a clearly identifiable and intact inside easily distinguishable from an outside, since the vagina (or the mouth or the anus or the ear, for that matter) can be seen in a sense as exterior tissue that has been folded inside, and thus as exterior and interior at the same time. This internalized pocket of externality can in fact be larger than the exterior that is said to enclose it (Brunette & Wills, 1989:46).
As I understand it, enfolding allows the exterior surface to continue its course along the interior without the need for separation or cleaving into distinct parts. The enfolding capacity of the exterior is pivotal to my invagination of the seamless surface map of the DOMUS as an alternative to categorical divisions of the ordered archive. In some way the perceived and conceived separation of surface from content or the apparent opposition that lies between surface and depth alludes to a border or boundary point of contact – that fissure or margin of productive friction is what I am most interested in for this visual research of a music-centered archive. Derrida’s deconstruction of the frame (in “The Parergon”: 1979) and his mission to unsettle divisions between the frame and the framed, inside and outside, or interior- and exteriorizations simply serves as stimulus to the conceptualizing research of my practice.
§7 casting the self
For the historical context of my practice related to this passage let me briefly outline the performance that was accompanied by the film footage that I extracted from DOMUS. The performance was entitled Home Economics (Durban: 2002; Paris and Utrecht: 2003): a demonstration of how to make a cast of one’s own vulva with dental plaster to capture the minute surface details of the vaginal vestibule, labia minora, clitoral hood and clitoris. This work confirms my interest in the “surface of things” – in this case, capturing the surface of a thing that is not a thing at all, but a part of the outside and inside of my body. The positive of the cast was then set in chocolate, creating an edible mask of the vulva. The potential for consumption of the most intimate aperture of my body challenged the notion of audience participation (in the spectacle) and tested the boundaries of what may be considered abject while considering the objectification and commodification of female sexuality in an economy that is market-driven. I offered the limited edition chocolate moulds as gifts to the audience, thereby further undermining the capitalist economy, replacing it with the gift economy. This work also points to the practice of self-portraiture since the cast reflects a unique part of my body, a kind of body-centric autobiography. Of course it is a “self-portrait” as a young artist, not yet initiated into wifedom and motherhood that distinguishes the current self-portrait under discussion.
From another context or reading altogether, the casting of genitals also points to the more sinister practices of physical anthropology in creating body casts of human subjects for research purposes, as race science artefacts (in the 1700s and early 1800s). It is worth more than a footnote to mention the South African context. The life-cast project conducted by James Drury (between 1908 and 1924) “captured” a race “type” for research purposes – preserving indigenous peoples as bodies for observation purposes. And another South African case – the deconstruction, preservation and display of the remains of Saartjie Baartman (d. 1815) – as object of scientific study in the hands of the Natural History Museum in Paris. There was some abject-exotic value or fetishized otherness in the particular requests for casts of the genitals of other races, as objects of spectacle and study of classified differences. In the case of my work I commit a self-casting: as object of my own study.
§8 Ways of listening
“The eye (in general) superficial, the ear profound and inventive,” says filmmaker Robert Bresson, “the whistle of the train engine imprints in us the vision of an entire station” (cited in Sound, 2000: 4). In the case of my audiovisual study Jabès’ statement “through the ear, we shall enter the invisibility of things” is brought into play when we (the viewers) are introduced by a black screen void to a sonic backdrop alluding to a nocturnal garden world. This exterior soundscape is suddenly disrupted by an interior soundscape of actions: cracking, draining and rinsing. In this moment of mystery, when we hear in the dark we try to “complete the picture” of by our imagination since the sound source is not visible, making it an acousmatic listening experience (Schaeffer, 1966: 91), until our eyes are opened to the domestic scene that actualizes the sounds in the kitchen. The crack in the dark signals the breaking point of the surface – cracking the egg – the fracturing point of any illusion, sonic or visual. The opening shot of the kitchen sink demystifies our sonic sensibility with the context of an ordinary kitchen scene. The lighting condition of the full shot of the kitchen is reminiscent of the series of Johannes Vermeer’s portraits of seventeenth century Dutch women – self-contained and engrossed in their respective activities such as reading, writing, or lacemaking that are illuminated by a window (most often on the left side of his frame). More than a mere homage to Clarice Lispector, the film study becomes a meditation on the experience of watching. The gaze is interrogated and revealed as not simply a function of sight, but as always being reliant on the ears and memory in order to generate meaning. The emotional impact of the piece is dependent upon the particular relationship between sound and image at any given point, constantly in flux, always organic, and affecting.
As a musician, I am interested in the sensual nature of sound, its power of synchronization, coordination, release and change. Hearing represents the primary sense organ – hearing happens involuntarily. Listening is a voluntary process that through training and experience produces culture. All cultures develop through ways of listening.Pauline Oliveros, Quantum Listening: From Practice to Theory (To Practice Practice) (1999: 1)
A decolonial and feminist perspective calls for the overcoming of the aesthetics dominated by the gaze and a move toward the aesthesis of listening. If the gaze is about the appropriation of the world as perception, then we respond from the decolonial position with the question of listening.Rolando Vázquez, “Decolonial Aethesis and the Museum” (2019: 5)
§9 enter the text: for voice and piano
Q: And what do you think of that description—“hermetic”?
A: I understand me. So I’m not hermetic for myself. Well there’s one story of mine that I don’t understand very well.
Q: Which one?
A: “The Egg and the Hen.”
Q: Among all your writings, there’s always, naturally enough, a prodigal son. Which one do you have the tenderest feelings for?
A: “The Egg and the Hen” which is a mystery for me. […]
[My work] either touches people, or it doesn’t. I mean, I guess the question of understanding isn’t about intelligence; it’s about feeling, about entering into contact. […]
Q: Does that still happen, that you write something only to tear it up again?
A: I put it aside or te… No, I tear things up.
Q: Is that reaction purely rational or more of a sudden emotion?
A: Anger, a little bit of anger.
Q: With whom?
A: With myself.
Q: Why Clarice?
A: Who knows? I’m a little tired.
Q: Of what?
A: Of myself.
Q: But aren’t you born again and refreshed with every new work?
A: Well. For now I’m dead. We’ll see if I can be born again. For now I’m dead… I’m speaking from my tomb.
Transcribed extract from interview with Clarice Lispector – São Paulo, 1977, Fundação Padre Anchieta (TV Cultura).
“The Egg and the Chicken” (Lispector: 1992) in voiceover – the main subject of which ties in with my ever-expanding collection of eggshells that serve as memento mori and carry the textual fragments of the research in the projected installation that never took place. This monologue also creates the base for a study in composition that provides the music score for the film: I use the far left section of the piano alone, as it consists of 26 keys (including the ebonies) – equivalent to the number of letters in the alphabet. I play the keys of the piano like the keys of a typewriter, with the piano keyboard translated to a qwerty keyboard. In this way I proceed to play words and phrases from the short story text by Clarice Lispector – letter by note, by letter. I have no musical training, so the challenge is to make “non-musical sense” by applying a different notation system to the keys of the piano.
In Scene 10 we are confronted by the “sudden sharp sound of an electric instrument” whereby I détourn the Lispector text by replacing the word “Egg” with that of “Noise”. It is the internalized noise that I want to find the signal to. “Which way to Inner Space?” asks J.G Ballard, as he defines the internal landscape of his interest as “an imaginary realm in which on the one hand the outer world of reality, and on the other the inner world of the mind meet and merge” (from interview of 1968 in Sellers and O’Hara: 2012). This voiceover text seeks to stimulate such a zone of fusion instead of providing a clearly defined narrative for the sequence of actions and images of the film.
§10 A portrait of the artist
This short film study provides a self-portrait in terms of image (in fact a split image – the present-day image documented in the kitchen intercut with my archived image, as a young woman, captured in the past), and in terms of sound by the use of my own voice to speak what appears to be the inner voice of the protagonist. The nameless protagonist played by Nicola Deane? Or simply a self-portrait enacted? In this way the film series of my research may also be read as a portrait of the artist via other texts, other voices, since I voice other voices (in this film, that of Lispector – and whose voice, after all, is she writing in her short story “The Egg and the Chicken”?).
§11 Decentering DOMUS…
… by means of sample and remix creates a pocket of meaning in the vast fabric of endless material traces of time, a pocket that insists on an aptitude for subjective reflection and constructive revisions of perception. The intersection lies between the two-dimensional plane of the archive (as surfaces) and the interruptive axis of the (multi-dimensional) self/subject. The node that is hereby produced may be contemplated in the film-work when the reflective surface of an egg timer frames the activity in the kitchen, and however distorted that image is, the sounds of activity confirm the context and depth of space (through the ear…). The framing capacity of art may be analogous to our comprehension of time and space.
§12 an act of presence, observation and self-preservation
An auto-documentary or self-appropriation as such, “Through the ear, we shall enter the invisibility of things” resists the usual distinctions applied through categories, casting instead an entangled relation between documentary and fiction that redefines the presence of both the observer and the observed. As Trinh T. Minh-ha notes in Framer Framed, “There are many ways to treat the autobiographical” (1992: 119). The relationship built within the kitchen allows me a gaze that is both inside and outside of it. To locate a film in a common place like the kitchen – for which Martha Rosler activates a witty frame in Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) to represent “a system of harnessed subjectivity” (Rosler, 1975: online) – reinvents its spatial relations to time (echoed in the egg-timer), documenting my domesticated labour framed by filmic techniques of flashback and displaced voice-over (of literary origins), and yet resists the representation of conventional realism.
§13 Kitchen-sink meditation…
… upon history’s effect on the life of a woman anchored to her domestic rhythms and rituals, while the “greater tragedy” of contemporary political existence may continue off-screen. Jeanne Goosen’s controversial novella Louoond (1987) – and its subsequent adaptation for theatre into Kitchen Blues (1990) – delivers an example of such, as Goosen probes the disjunction between private and public domains of a country in political crisis (South Africa) through radical commentary by the narrator from her station in the kitchen: “Listen friends, the world of the kitchen is deserted by man and God” (2009: 9). The protagonist, referred to as Kombuisvrou (Kitchen woman), asserts her perspective of the kitchen as having “no relation to anything that happens in the rest of the world”, “drives on a mood of its own” and is “unclassified” (Goossen, 2009: 34), which designates it as a free and flexible space in which anything can be created or transformed… and stored – like the manuscript she is working on and secreting in the warming drawer of her stove. Goosen revivifies the kitchen as a dynamic zone in which to experiment with the visceral (as opposed to rational) aspects of one’s art, to isolate and nurture one’s creative thinking and practice.
In her article referencing Kitchen Blues, “The kitchen as battlefield” (1993), Hilda Grobler applauds Goosen’s “strong feminist stand” in returning women to the kitchen that Goosen claims is a woman’s “memory bank” and location of “the actual power base in society”. The violence raging amongst men at war (in the world outside) is paralleled by the de(con)structive and often bloody culinary preparations at the chopping board by the protagonist Kitchen Woman, who by her monologue, according to Grobler, “gives voice to the voiceless, asks all the unanswered questions people ask during times of violent conflict” (Grobler, 1993: summary). My short film located in the kitchen, however, makes no references or parallels to the current political climate, and the spoken text is not grounded in the socio-political concerns of the day. One only gets a sense of any “outside world” through the night sounds from the garden: what is depicted instead is an interior landscape and its range of internalized conflicts, closed off from the world at large.
It’s not necessary to know whether the nude figure really is the matron baking or simply a phantom, because the device activated via the (film-document) medium implies other questions, for instance:
What do we witness when we watch a documentary?
How does a framed reality/actuality show us the real?
How do we witness that representation of the real?
What does a self-portrait document exactly?
How does the interior landscape of the subject/protagonist become delineated in the documentary format?
I have attempted to answer the last question via the concept of invagination, creating an audio world within and without (“neither inside nor outside”) the visual world of my “documentary fiction”. The voiceover text of literary origins steers the film beyond the documentary format despite its first person register, and the flashback technique (to and from the archive footage) reveals that different temporalities are at play. The film medium is able to fuse or counterpoint temporalities and realities that are furthermore experienced in the viewer’s time and space, the ultimate invagination.
§15 Kitchen-sink confession
During my Master’s research (2010-2012) into confessional art and performance I came across British artist Bobby Baker who is renowned for her absurd translations of daily life and domesticity into performances like Drawing on a Mother’s Experience (1988), whereby she narrates notable moments of her experience that she associates with certain food substances (milk; Guinness; eggs; treacle; flour, to name a few) and paints with them onto a sheet laid on the floor in the style of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock. Her final mark of the drawing she presents with the following, “There’s one element I never seem able to introduce into my painting. I find it very hard to talk about. So I won’t. I shall just introduce it visually” (Baker in Baldwyn, 1996: 54). She proceeds to sieve two bags of flour all over her drawing, creating a powdered undulant mask for the drawing that is simultaneously under erasure. I find this enacted statement of making “visible” the unutterable by simultaneously masking and erasing very pertinent and moving, considering my own practice of composing tension between obvelation and revelation.
My introduction to her work was mostly through textual accounts of her performances in scholarly articles and chapters, but by revisiting her work today I discover a far greater online presence of the actual performances that has allowed me to recognize the resonating elements with my own work, though she adopts a more humorous and entertaining approach to relaying the domestic condition. Her “Daily Life” series includes Kitchen Show (1991) that she performed in her own kitchen, inviting members of the public into her North London home to witness a number of actions that serve to comment on the inner conflicts of the housebound wife/mother/artist. One action involves dealing with anger issues in the kitchen by throwing a ripe pear at a cupboard door to relieve tension. Another work from this series is How to Shop (1993) that she defines as “a complete guide to shopping for the well-nourished spirit” (Online: 1993). Here she cruises the aisles of the supermarket as we are carried by her thoughts in voiceover seeking “spiritual nourishment” as a tongue-in-cheek parallel to The Pilgrim’s Progress. What is most unnervingly funny about her passage is the “enacting obedience” moment of forcing a tin of anchovies sideways into her mouth, causing a pained grimace verging on tears of discomfort.
Baker and I have mutual concerns made all the more apparent by my online experience of her work, but the particularly resonating factors I only properly registered after the production and presentation (Short Film Festival, Oberhausen: 2017) of my own work “Through the ear…” I recall the extreme vulnerability of being presented, as myself: the subject and image-object of the study.
§16 And so, are you going to tell us…?
Q: How does your film “Through the ear…” relate in any way to Baker’s Kitchen Show, other than the fact that you are both the framers and performers of the works?
A: Well, our common interest in the kitchen sink is worth discussing here. The expression “everything but the kitchen sink” implies everything imaginable whereas (a shot of) nothing but the kitchen sink confines our focus to an area of daily interaction bound to the kitchen and its relevant tasks of cleaning and nurturing. Both Baker and I re-present this site as possible contemplation point where notions of pleasure and sacrifice meet, offering some kind of escape from tedium.
Q: You are referring to the kitchen sink scenes of your respective videos?
A: Yes, in both cases, we (as performers) appear absorbed by our actions, while the voiceovers (using our own voices) seem to relay the thoughts accompanying those actions. Baker peels carrots in joyous wonder at the “colour under the skin” and confesses her love for “the feel of the water running over my hands and wrists… it’s so calming and cooling”, whereas I peel the inner membranes from eggshells while rinsing and voicing, “love is to possess nothing”. The kitchen sink becomes a portal – it frames (and swallows) the cleansing, nourishing source of life.
Q: And how does your framing of the kitchen differ?
A: Baker’s Kitchen Show video resembles a television cooking show, a parody of sorts, whereas my film has nothing to do with cooking demonstrations – I often have my back to the camera or appear distorted as a shadow figure within a reflective egg timer, and I do not narrate or explain my actions. I simply make noise as I go about my baking chores in the kitchen, presenting a day in the life of… Nicola Deane the artist/wife/mother, while my disembodied voice (off-screen) recites somebody else’s text.
Q: Would you say that you are both artists playing with the domestic?
A: We are both playing with the site of the kitchen, but in different ways – I play with mystery and abstraction of the actual while Baker plays with absurdity and demonstration of the actual.
Q: And so, what do the eggs mean?
§17 Kitchen agents alike
In her article “Domestic Place as Contestatory Space: the Kitchen as Catalyst and Crucible” (1998), Marcia Blumberg addresses the parallels between Bobby Baker’s performance Kitchen Show (1991) and Jeanne Goosen’s theatre piece Kitchen Blues (1990), as both explore by interventionist strategies “the actuality of ‘kitchen’ occupations and preoccupations” (Blumberg, 1998: 195). I have thrown my own film into this comparative mix since I too locate my study in the kitchen, albeit almost thirty years on. Despite the kitchen, here I am. Despite time, here I stand. There has to be more to this actuality, this reality. The characteristics of domestic confinement have not changed substantially across time, but the mind of the kitchen agent can never be fixed or formatted.
§18 A Brief History of my Practice in the Arts of Making
Our successive living spaces never disappear completely; we leave them without leaving them because they live in turn, invisible and present, in our memories and in our dreams. They journey with us. In the center of these dreams there is often the kitchen, this “warm room” where the family gathers, a theater of operations for the “practical arts,” and for the most necessary among them, the “nourishing art.”Michel de Certeau and Luce Giard, The Practice of Everyday Life, Vol 2: Living and Cooking (1998: 148)
… doing-cooking is the medium for a basic, humble, and persistent practice that is repeated in time and space, rooted in the fabric of relationships to others and to one’s self, marked by the “family saga” and the history of each, bound to childhood memory just like rhythms and seasons.Luce Giard, The Practice of Everyday Life, Vol 2: Living and Cooking (1998: 157)
My protracted affair with the domestic boils down to my decentered beginnings as an infant-immigrant. My mother only began her culinary crossing upon her marriage to my father at the age of seventeen. She would confess her ignorance in this department with the blushing exclamation that she had to call her mother up for advice on how to boil an egg. Her basic culinary skills were therefore founded on a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery (1972) which had been abandoned by the previous tenants of my parents’ first home in Scotland. Still today, I compose my bolognaise sauce from my mother’s tentative exploration of Beeton’s chapter: “Selected Recipes of the World”.
My maternal grandmother grew up in the Southern Irish countryside under the care of her grandparents (having lost both her parents by the age of five); she learnt how to cook basic, traditional and comforting home-grown fare by assisting her grandmother and three sisters in the daily preparations of food for a family of nine. And yet she managed to keep both her own daughters naïve regarding the cooking domain – all her energy was spent on providing wholesome, varied meals, instead of devoting attention to their home economics education. This is quite unlike my paternal grandmother who, despite being well versed in feeding (being the mother of nine), had to make compromises according to her budget and didn’t enjoy the kind of variety that luxury affords. Furthermore, her four daughters qualified from an early age in basic food preparation and assisting with domestic tasks, as they grew capable. My awareness of the practice of breaking an egg into a bowl before adding it to the pan to assure its freshness comes to me from my father, who in turn gained that advice via his younger sister.
The subtleties of my maternal grandmother’s food preparation and cooking gestures were lost to my mother, and so to me, as we emigrated to South Africa in 1980 and had little opportunity to observe and integrate this knowledge and practice. I have her soda bread recipe safely stored, for instance, but lack the memory of her in the process of preparing it, however her Leek and Potato soup recipe grounds my repertoire and honours her memory every time I prepare it. I was moreover cut off from my paternal grandmother’s knowledge and skills set for the same reason, unfortunately lacking both the recipe format fragments of her memory and her proficiency in catering for a crowd. My experience in the generation of meals has therefore been gathered along an irregular journey that resulted from my dislocated enculturation in what Michel de Certeau terms “the nourishing art” in The Practice of Everyday Life (1998: 148).
My passion for exploring unusual flavours emerged under the guidance of my parents as I navigated the menu of our local restaurant that we frequented: garlic-soaked snails and Roquefort cheese were amongst the most thrilling flavours for my seven year old palate. That early curiosity concerned with taste experiences is what really fuelled my interest in the cooking arts – according to my palate I was “well-travelled”.
My kitchen skills slowly evolved from helping my mother with food preparations as she worked full time and certain chores fell automatically on my shoulders as opposed to my brother’s, for although we were at that time (1990s) a few waves on regarding the feminist movement, my heritage remained fixed within the division of gender roles. Within the pleasures of preparation I especially enjoyed cutting up raw meat – handling the wet and sticky abject: dead flesh. That tangible fascination with organic matter ended up informing my graduate exhibition in the year 2000 that explored the practice of preparing the Sunday Dinner Roast. In books such as Beeton’s stages of preparation and traditional techniques of stuffing, stitching and larding were illustrated or included as photographic inserts for the budding housewife to refer to – these provided the inspiration for my graduate project in which I presented seven compositions of chickens frozen in their various “postures” accompanied by my own hands cast in animal fat in various preparatory gestures: stuffing, stitching, cutting, splaying and rolling. And so the kitchen entered my studio quite early on in the development of my own artistic language.
In addition to acquiring skills in assisting my mother in the kitchen, I obtained some basic comprehension through my Home Economics lessons of early high school (which is referred to in the titling of my chocolate labia casting performance Home Economics: 2002 and 2003). My desire to feed (and be fed) was sparked by my love interests along the way, as my capacity for seeking pleasure expanded … Nevertheless what really impacted on my experience gained in cooking was my nourishing role required by motherhood. There is a certain amount of anxiety encountered when faced with that role of primary caretaker and the apparent urgency of an infant’s dietary needs, and this may in turn lead to an obsession with feeding. Of this I am guilty, and in my home, everything evolves around food and eating – even my art making. When I am handling raw meat I disassociate to some degree from my repulsion, in order to invert an unpleasant experience “approaching abjection” (Kristeva, 1982) into an avenue for enjoyment in the care and attention to preparation. I decentre to another degree, in order to consume the flesh of dead animals by the veiled knowledge that death breeds life. I need to be the quality control matron by my ability to discern the fresh from the rotting, paying attention to any nausea stirred upon opening something that is beyond its expiration. My careful handling and consideration for hygiene is imperative for the healthy upkeep of the household.
§19 Cracking the surface… the domestic turn.
Domesticity keeps me free from the discomforts of thinking… Kept fraught by filth and sharply focused on surfaces, continuously blinkered by endless regulatory chores is what ensures my being in the world. Of all domestic surfaces, those of the kitchen are the most demanding of one’s continual care and attention, while toilet surfaces have to be the most abject. There is a whole spectrum of ambivalent pleasures in the (futile) attempt to abolish filth once and for all. The co-habitation of horror, disgust, and sheer glee, exists within the scouring domestic agent’s mind bearing witness to the surfacing, subsequent vanishing, and inevitable resurfacing, of absolute grime – a truly organic process to be privy to.
In her essay on abjection in Powers of Horror Julia Kristeva states that “…what is abject, the jettisoned object, is radically excluded and draws me toward the place where meaning collapses” (1982: 2). I have meditated upon this revelation most effectively while crouched on my knees engaging with the obscure and neglected recesses of the toilet bowl. And I have wondered if I were to pass this cleaning task on to another, to pay someone else to take care of all the abject pockets of my abode, whether I would be truly liberated from “the improper/unclean” and be provided with a fuller sense of meaning in my life. In the South African context this option has always been available since its history of racial oppression has allowed working to middle class white families to afford to employ domestic servants from other racial groupings, unlike Britain where having servants (from lower to working class backgrounds) is associated with the middle to upper class and wealthy echelons of society. My maternal grandmother in fact worked as a housemaid upon her arrival in London in the 1950s, which was considered appropriate work for an Irish girl who had not finished her schooling. As far as I know her experience was fair but Irish immigrants often faced discrimination by the anti-Irish sentiments of the English when it came to social status and economic labour. In Imperial Leather (1995) Anne McClintock argues that the “cult of domesticity” was not just a private or irrelevant matter of the home and family, but rather, a critical facet of male and female identities and “an indispensable element both of the industrial market and the imperial enterprise” (1995: 5). In her “Empire of the Home” chapter she explains,
Housework is a semiotics of boundary maintenance. Cleaning is not inherently meaningful; it creates meaning through the demarcation of boundaries. Domestic labor creates social value, segregating dirt from hygiene, order from disorder, meaning from confusion. The middle class was preoccupied with the clear demarcation of limit and anxiety about boundary confusion – in particular, between private and public – gave rise to an intense fetish for cleaning and a fetishistic preoccupation with what the anthropologist, Victor Turner, calls liminal, or boundary, objects (McClintock, 1995: 170).
McClintock goes on to describe how the ritualized, time-consuming scrubbing and buffing of such objects (doorknobs, windowsills, steps, pathways, bannisters et cetera), to safeguard the private/public boundaries, gave them “exhibition value as class markers” (1995: 170). Such customs were of course transplanted to the colonial territories, and power relations over the domestic sphere were particularly harnessed in the South African context under apartheid, to create hierarchies that continue into race and class stereotypes today. My mother was hesitant to take on this “common practice” of hiring help when she arrived in the country as she had been brought up to take care of such things herself. However, she was urged by her fellow immigrants to integrate seamlessly (“when in Rome…”). She never did get used to it and once my brother and I were more independent, she turned to her former self-sufficient ways with domestic duties over and above her full-time work hours. As a young girl I assumed this was the truly feminist stance – to be part of the workforce and take care of all things domestic. I was obliged to assist in the domestic department as soon as I was capable, so I had to get over my dirt-related disgust. Scientific researchers in the medical field have observed that disgust is the instinctive defense mechanism against the dangers of contaminating substances and so one’s sense of hygiene and health is informed by this radical emotion (Curtis and Biran, 2001: online). One must therefore guard most severely against pollution in the kitchen – the domain primarily concerned with ingestion.
Activities undertaken in the kitchen generate mess and kitchen surfaces necessitate continual wiping and clearing. Systems are created for the sake of efficiency and order being maintained. Even if one is prone to creating a meal out of chaos the return to order and a clean slate is necessary for the next culinary creation to take place. The surfaces carry the traces of the actions and processes involved in these creations that may be deciphered through the stains and debris that remain before the cleanup. The formless remains reveal the modus operandi as well as the disposition of the cook, perhaps even his or her particular mood during the preparation process of the meal. Surfaces may reflect the past, present, or future since surfaces carry clues – they may be clues to what lies beneath the surface, or what has been invaginated underneath that surface, pockets of visual noise. The impact of that contact may be observed (presently, and temporally) and measured or projected. The traces of contact remain and may visibly transform over time. The surfaces of archival records evidently trace time and affects of contact.
Archival surfaces differ considerably from domestic surfaces since access to and use of the storage space is generally limited to the archivist whose activities are strictly bound to establishing and maintaining systems of order, monitoring the means of tracking the records, and supervising the optimal environmental conditions for the various archival materials. Dust proliferates no matter how controlled the environment but the management thereof is not of daily concern as it is in the domestic setting. Domestic surfaces are functional, constantly activated and engaged with – alive. Archival records remain stored on their functional shelves in a closed setting, where the archival surfaces, that is, the surfaces of the records, are rarely activated through touch, especially if fragile and prone to disintegration: dead or dying matter that is only engaged with once accessed by researchers who may resurrect the contents (information) to translate into knowledge.
My proposal to decentre the archive by way of a surface reading (carried out in Passage I) ties in to this domestic obsession with surfaces, since it is the surfaces that facilitate all interactions and often carry the traces thereof. Signs of life always present on the surfaces. Tactile interaction with archival records is limited, and so any attempt of “breathing life” into dead (arte)facts is generally kept to the domain of writing. Wolfgang Ernst insists, however, in his article “The Archive as Metaphor: From Archival Space to Archival Time” (2004), that “[w]hoever reads personal coherence into archival papers performs fiction, figuring dead letters in the mode of rhetorical prosopopoietics (naming dead things ‘alive’)” (2004: 3). From Ernst’s media-archeological judgement: “[h]istorical imagination, applied to archival readings, mistakes hallucinations for absence. Against the phantasmatic desire to speak with the dead, archival awareness faces the past as data” (Ernst, 2004: 3). Despite Ernst’s assertion that “archival memory is monumental; it contains forms not people” (2004: 3), as researchers, we are driven to sieve through this dead matter for signs of life to identify with. We are permitted and encouraged to write (accounts and histories) out of the archive, but not to make from the archive. As an artist who likes to engage with the tactile, I found my engagement with the archive to be a frustrated one. Hence my obsessive capturing of the surfaces to get closer to knowing the archive, is attempting to trace the impressions of touch and find signs of (still) life.
§20 Loss of signal to my memory bank
I definitely feel as if I have a few holes in my “memory bank” – a few pivotal memories missing and yet affecting me invisibly. What would be the point of restoring those damaged drives? Of completing the picture and experiencing a lost memory all over again in technicolour? There are voluntary and involuntary modes of “losing”, after all. The traces that remain sustain the sense of loss and the inevitable lack of fulfillment.
Sense of agency
Complete control of the space
A sense of completeness
An “at home-ness”
Integrity of the work
Only what is necessary
§21 A productive rabbit hole
To put a Shedule, or lytle wryting into an Egge, lay an Egge certaine dayes in strong vynegar, vntyl it be soft, and wryte your name or what you lyst in a lytle peece of paper, and folde the paper as harde together as you can: then with a Raser cut the sayd Egge in the toppe fynely, and aduisedly: through the which, putt the little paper into the Egge cyrcumspectedly, and then put the Egge into cold water, and immediately the shell wyl be hard as it was before. A proper secrete.Giambattista della Porta’s “Magiae Naturalis” (1558; 1658 ed. Book 16–Chapter IV) and Thomas Lupton’s “A Thousand Notable Things” (1579), give step-by-step descriptions of how to secretly hide letters in eggs.Thomas Lupton, A Thousand Notable Things, of Sundry Sortes (1579)
§22 And so, what do the eggs mean?
Every sort of passion verges on chaos, I know, but what collecting passion verges on is a chaos of memories.Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street and Other Writings (2009: 162).
I now turn to my obsessive practice of collecting eggshells with a description of the preparation process towards the installation thereof. The entire preparation of eggshells throughout the “eggshell-carpet” The concept behind the “eggshell carpet” was destined for the proposed installation – presenting the practical outcomes of the research in exhibition format. The concept involved transcribing the text of the research onto the inner surfaces of eggshells to cover a floor space and provide a surface to walk upon. The audience would thereby crush the eggshells while viewing the installation. The research presentation design subsequently transformed into an online digital exhibition. making process includes cleansing, inscribing, and assembling towards the final crushing.
Pauline Oliveros developed a practice that she calls “deep listening” and describes as “a process, which engages with hearing, attention, and awareness. Sensation… means engagement of all the sensory organs of the body [and] is very important in this. But it also means engaging with the vibrations of all that there is, everything” (Oliveros, 2014: online). She initiated this “deep listening” practice in 1970 with her series of “sonic meditations” that resembled instructions more than conventional music notations: “[t]hey were recipes, that anybody could do, so that […] anyone could participate in making sounds that would result in a piece” (Oliveros, 2014: online). She gives an example of one of these instructions:
Take a walk at night, and walk so silently that the bottom of your feet become ears.
Cleansing: As the eggshells from my general food preparations are cracked and discarded they become available for recycling. I immediately rinse and peel any loose membranes from the cracked eggshells. This gentle peeling action is refined by tearing the shell membrane inwards along the shards of the cracked seam under running water. This provides a perfect moment to meditate within the repeated gestures of the tips of my fingers in separating membrane from shell. All routine tasks require a certain amount of repetitive gestures that possess the power to either dull or soothe the senses by their rhythm. Some may be urged to hum or whistle to such rhythms of their daily rituals. Others may find no joy but the need to complete the task as quickly as possible. I find the sensation of pulling thin membranic veils from their brittle containers very soothing and satisfying. The cleansed shells are stacked in trays once air-dried, and stored in a corner by the writing desk of my studio.
Inscribing: Confined concentric scripting onto the inner surfaces of the eggshells with a set of fine point archival ink pens (0.15mm – 0.20mm line). Where the eggshell membrane remains, that is, not removed during the cleansing process, the surface is smooth and shiny as opposed to the eggshell surface (stripped of membrane), which is more porous and textured, therefore more resistant to the pen nib and ink flow. The restricted posture of physically writing out every sentence of the research process by hand, affects the curve of the neck and spine held in tension to transcribe all the fragments, sentence (per eggshell) by sentence. The ink runs dry, the fingers cramp up, or the mind grows weary and commits errors. Such moments of frustration are however alleviated by the great satisfaction of hand-crushing the typos immediately. Instant pain. Proximate pleasure. And begin again… producing fifty thousand words across approximately five hundred eggshells to weave the dissertation passage by. As I try to hold a comfortable working tension while keeping labour regulated, I begin to reflect upon the installation room of my mental projections. Foremost is the meditation on scale, how scale frames… for me the “bigger picture” is never a high definition shot, but the closest parts are always in focus. Of course a balanced view requires a constant shift of focus between the whole and the parts. As a visual artist one has to constantly shift the register of scale to realise one’s vision. What first comes to mind is an image of limitless dimensions but as that image is realised in practical terms of the material world, proportions must be more carefully considered. The minute scale of my inscribing activity allows me to be in the moment, confined by focus and attention to the parts (sentences) that make up the whole (fifty thousand word document). My scope is limited for good reason. If I can effectively cover the floor of the room, with every sentence accounted for, the physical aesthetic labour of my writing is done. A floor full of fabricated ruins that carry the drawn out process of writing a dissertation of my practice. However, with these shells being destined for destruction by their original conception, that is, reduced to shards upon the viewing process of the installation (being walked upon in order to examine the elevated objets d’art), they provide another meditation on violence. This crushing procedure is in line with my self-inflicted spellcheck system, in terms of sacrifice, discipline and punishment. The text that serves to quantify and qualify the art must be sacrificed to behold the art. Would that crushing component of the activated installation count for the sadistic (spiteful) or the masochistic inclination of mine? To have my words literally crushed by other soles. Am I in terms of a “divided self” the sadist of my own masochist? “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” was a regularly repeated phrase of warning throughout my childhood. The inscribed shells are stored once again in their trays. In the virtual version of this work’s “activation” (online, as opposed to the physical and material participation of the audience crushing the artwork) I am limited to the audio and visual immersive potentialities of the website medium.
Assembling:The proposed “assembling” of the material for an interactive installation is translated into a digital curation of the research online where the interaction is limited to the virtual. The eggshells are laid to rest with cracked seams or facing up, upon the ground of the installation room. The proposed starting point for stacking the inscribed shells is on the left side of the single step of the doorway, against and along the wall, building continuously along this path till the right side of the step is reached. The second row of eggshells is then built back upon itself against the first row of eggshells till the left side of the step is reached. Again, the line continues back on itself against the second row of shells till the right side of the step is reached, and so on. The continuous ‘weave’ of the eggshell carpet gradually masks the entire floor surface until the last egg (inscription-side face down) – the final word – is laid to rest.
What is inherited from others can be nothing but egg shells. We should treat the fact of their presence with indulgence, but they will not give us spiritual nourishment.Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value (1980: 27)
“Through the ear, we shall enter the invisibility of things.” (2017)
Brief synopsis: A short film study (duration 06:23) that engages the invaginated pocket of the DOMUS archive. Title-quote by French-Egyptian writer and poet Edmond Jabès. Quotidian accouterments frame and sound the domestic scenario of a figure preparing cakes, voiced by reveries at the kitchen sink turned to existential reflections on time, motherhood and noise. “Lost in a dream, all I understand is a broken noise…” Spoken text adapted from Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector’s short story “The Egg and the Chicken” (first published in Portugese in 1964).
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|1.||“The process of archiving for retention in an archives and preparing for research use. The concept of archivisation asserts that the meaning and significance of the record changes through the process of archiving, whereas “archiving” is itself a neutral process, a mere act” (Dictionary of Archives Terminology, 2020).|
|2.||What I mean by detached profile, within the archival domain, is a profile constructed out of records – that are in effect detachments of the actual subject of the collection.|
|3.||Domestic economy or home economics as it was named at the first of the Lake Placid Conferences (1899); prior to its naming, an ambition emerging from this field was to title it the profession of oekology (“the science of right living”) (Lake Placid – North Elba Historical Society, 2012: online).|
|4.||The performance involved a live demonstration of the labia casting (using quick-drying dental plaster), and the subsequent chocolate melting and mould-making process while dressed in a school uniform.|
|5.||Whereby Woolfe argues for both the literal and figurative space needed for women writers to flourish within the male-dominated literary tradition.|
|6.||Invaginated: adj. (of an organ or part) folded or turned back upon itself. Medical v. To infold or become infolded so as to form a hollow space within a previously solid structure, as in the formation of a gastrula from a blastula (Collins English Dictionary, 2012 and The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, 2002).|
|7.||Giambattista della Porta’s “Magiae Naturalis” (1558; 1658 ed. Book 16–Chapter IV) and Thomas Lupton’s “A Thousand Notable Things” (1579), give step-by-step descriptions of how to secretly hide letters in eggs.|
|8.||The concept behind the “eggshell carpet” was destined for the proposed installation – presenting the practical outcomes of the research in exhibition format. The concept involved transcribing the text of the research onto the inner surfaces of eggshells to cover a floor space and provide a surface to walk upon. The audience would thereby crush the eggshells while viewing the installation. The research presentation design subsequently transformed into an online digital exhibition.|
|9.||The proposed “assembling” of the material for an interactive installation is translated into a digital curation of the research online where the interaction is limited to the virtual.|