Women have been driven mad, “gaslighted”, for centuries by the refutation of our experience and our instincts in a culture which validates only male experience. The truth of our bodies and our minds has been mystified to us. We therefore have a primary obligation to each other: not to undermine each other’s sense of reality for the sake of expediency; not to gaslight each other.Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets and Silence (1979: 190)
Each face is starkly lit separately from opposite sides – floating like disembodied masks that serve to complement and complete one another by providing mirror and semblance.Nicola Deane, An Autopsychography of a Mask (2020)
§1 ästhetischer Schein
In his article “Nietzsche and Schiller on Aesthetic Semblance” (2019) Timothy Stoll discusses Friedrich Schiller’s treatise Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795) and the influence of his concept of “aesthetic” or “fine semblance” (schöner Schein) in defending artistic imitation on the conditions of honesty and autonomy – that is, by renouncing both claims to, and support from reality (Stoll, 2019: 333-4). Lydia Moland’s summary of Schiller’s work for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes the following from Letters 26 and 27:
Schiller imagines the circumstances that must have been necessary for early humans to develop an aesthetic sense. Traces of play can be found in nature whenever there is an abundance of resources… Similar abundance among humans inspires “indifference to reality and interest in semblance [Schein]”: interest, that is, in a new layer of meaning and significance that humans recognize as their own creation (Moland, 2017: online).
In her article “The Double Bind of Artistic Research: A Thought Experiment of a Witness” (2017), Henryetta Duerschlag confronts her sense of being torn between art and research and the challenge of managing the indefinability and indeterminacy of experimental artistic practice while being held to the task of generating valid new knowledge. “Having to combine the multi-layeredness of the aesthetic dimension of artistic practice and the underlying necessity of the production of verifiable knowledge in research, artistic research itself meant,” for Duerschlag “to practice a double bind” (Duerschlag, 2017: 178).
Guided by Gayatri Spivak’s rethinking of Schiller’s terms in An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (2012), Duerschlag finds the means to diffuse the double bind dilemma through the productive concept of play. In Letter 12, Schiller sets apart the sense drive (Sachtrieb) concerned with material/physical/mutable existence, from the form drive (Formtrieb) concerned with rational/conceptual/time-bound existence. Following from Schiller’s faith in the inseparable bond between play and the aesthetic to ameliorate the body-mind divide and harmonize the distinct, oppositional forces governing human nature, he proposes the balanced experience of these dual drives to awaken the play drive (Spieltrieb) as that which “gives rise to freedom” (Schiller, 1993: 143), stating in Letter 15: “As the mind in the intuition of the beautiful finds itself in a happy medium between law and necessity, it is, because it divides itself between both, emancipated from the pressure of both” (Schiller, 2017: 21). As the mediating force “annulling time within time, reconciling becoming with absolute being and change with identity” (Schiller, 1993: 126), play then facilitates the balanced fulfillment of human nature. Schiller declares: “man only plays when he is in the fullest sense of the word a human being, and he is only fully a human being when he plays” (Schiller, 1967: 107).
Duerschlag notes the productive potential of the concept of play “to approach validity in artistic research” (2017: 180) since, following Johan Huizinga’s assertion in Homo Ludens, “Play cannot be denied” (1949: 3). She continues to reason that, “If experimentation as epistemic play is the driving force of innovation, artistic research as a practice that experiments with matter and explicit knowledge of any discipline has a highly innovative potential” (Duerschlag, 2017: 186).
§2 “Decentering the individual narrative is our key to freedom.” Tumi Mogorosi (Facebook post: 2018)
Considering Mogorosi’s assertion, I continue the decentering methodology in the parallel play of decentering the self and hereby outline the role that Elisabeth plays in this final plot twist of my PhD study of the archive DOMUS:
Elisabeth decentres Nicola Deane
Destabilizing the centred, centric notion of where the I resides
Elisabeth brings into question the idea that I is stable
Elisabeth sets up a series or system of ruptures of Nicola Deane
Elisabeth makes us aware that being Nicola Deane
Is always performing Nicola Deane
But then who is scripting these performances?
That is the beauty of making the script the PhD
It’s a decentering of the archive “Nicola Deane”*
Scripting the self is a fabrication
Of sonic memories
A decentering of Nicola Deane
Elisabeth does that
Identity loses its fixity
Instead of lucid
It becomes turbid
Instead of lurid
What we thought
Was a generic white woman
Turns out to be a chorus of banshees
Mouthing their own silent screams
noise is the state
between two separate planes of “pure” sound
it is a tension
that brings out new and secret
* Nicola Deane, likewise, decentres an inherited archival structure and undermines the values informing that structure.
§3 Dehiscence in DOMUS: emergence of the previously masked
Presence/emergence of earlier images/forms/strokes
that have been changed/painted overDictionary definition of ‘pentimento’ based on The Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2020.
The previously masked emerges
Is ever present
As ghosts are
Splitting along the seam
Along the border
Dehiscence captured my imagination via Fred Moten’s use of the term in one of his essays collected in Stolen Life (2018) in which he states: “Black studies is a dehiscence at the heart of the institution on its edge; its broken, coded documents sanction walking in another world while passing through this one, graphically disordering the administered scarcity from which black studies flows as wealth” (2018:155). In the process of developing this passage of the study as a “stitch-up” of all my “creative disruptions” of DOMUS I reflected on the idea of dehiscence“Dehiscence is a partial or total separation of previously approximated wound edges, due to a failure of proper wound healing” as defined by Ryan D. Rosen and Biagio Manna in National Center For Biotechnology Information (2020). or rupture in the archive, along with the creative conceptual manipulation of maskingAccording to the Millodot Dictionary of Optometry and Visual Science (2009): “A term describing any process whereby a detectable stimulus is made difficult or impossible to detect by the presentation of a second stimulus (called the mask). The main stimulus (typically called the target) may appear at the same time as the mask (simultaneous masking); or it may precede the mask (backward masking; example: metacontrast); or it may follow the mask (forward masking; example: paracontrast).” to reveal the irrepressibility of the truth, whichever form it takes. Here I was inspired by the contrast of images of emergence between the painting term pentimento (whereby previous marks or forms emerge by the effects of time on the materials of painting like ghostly discarded traces of the process of becomingAn appropriate reflection for my study of archival surfaces in the first passage.), and the medical/biological term dehiscence (whereby the emergence occurs through pressure and rupture). This passage reviews the complex cast of self-representations (self revealed and self-masked) that can be found in the personal papers that outlive us, and the elusive nature of truth that cannot depend on cold facts alone, when the private (or previously masked) emerges in the public domain. An underlying question that challenged my research process was—how should I perform an intimate reading of the archive? I have forged pathways, from an archeology of the self to an archiving (& masking) of the self, that, if left to the organic tracing of time, inevitably lead to (re)emergence or rupture – a “return of the repressed” – hence dehiscence in the DOMUS represents the limits of the archival impulse to centralize and stabilize the historical record.
The enfolded desire in my “brief encounter” with DOMUS holding fonds related to music was to disrupt its categorical composition. To cut into and break out of those neat, orderly categories and make them bleed, so to speak. And so I sought the fissures and wounds of this archival body in order to disable the colonial lens of classification.
What would dehiscence of the colonial woundWalter Mignolo describes the “colonial wound” as the damage done by “the fact that regions and people around the world have been classified as underdeveloped economically and mentally” (Mignolo, 2009: 3). emit?
Walter Mignolo sourced the concept of the colonial wound from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1999) in which she describes the U.S Mexican border as an open wound: “es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds” (1999: 25). In an interview by Alvina Hoffmann in 2017, Mignolo further explicates the term in the context of a performance by Danish-Trinidadian visual artist Jeanette Elhers titled Whip it Good:Whip it Good (live performance: 2014) involves Ehlers creating action paintings by using black charcoal to capture the marks left from whipping large white canvases.
Jeanette was guided by the word “catharsis”, which was the goal of the Greek Tragedy according to Aristotle. Decolonial artists and thinkers translate catharsis to “colonial wound” for the simple reason that at the time of Aristotle, Western imperial/colonialism did not exist. And modern/colonial humiliations were not a human experience. The colonial wound refers to racism and sexism and the social classifications that ensue from them. Racism and sexism is a classification by people and institutions that control knowledge and have the power to classify and people who have no other choice than being classified (Mignolo, 2017: online).
§4 I cut up, colonize, decentre & detourn…
found text outside and inside my own archive in progress – an archive of scribbling that serves my artistic practice continuously. My personal collection feeds the invaginated pocket I construct within a virtual version of a piece of DOMUS – to generate a space for my study by which to navigate time by counter-systems and amplify the polyphonic by “counterpoint” composition.Counterpoint originates from the Latin punctus contra punctum: “point against point” or “note against note” as in music, it designates the relationship between two or more independent melodic lines or voices within a single harmonic texture creating polyphony, while in other aesthetic practices including drama it indicates the use of contrast or interplay of elements in a work of art (Merriam-Webster: n.d.). Fragments emerge from my personal archive that I remix and appropriate myself to produce: Elisabeth’s AutopsychographyBook of poems based on personal archive that contains all the surviving fragments of my creative writing practice (2000-2020) – an archive I have always drawn from to stimulate my art-making practice. “autopsychography”: an account of one’s psychological outlook or development written by oneself; this as process or genre (Oxford University Press: 2020). that will hereby interrupt this textual analysis, as ruptures to linear logic – a dehiscence of the textual wound. This is done in order to weave the intuitive and irrational strands of my creative practice (which boils down to composing: organic materials, images, sound, text, installation and performance) with the strands of my disjointed rationalisations for the academic script. I think more like a poet than a sophist.
The poet is a man who feignsFernando Pessoa, 1931
And feigns so thoroughly, at last
He manages to feign as pain
The pain he really feels,
And those who read what once he wrote
Feel clearly, in the pain they read,
Neither of the pains he felt,
Only a pain they cannot sense.
And thus, around its jolting track
There runs, to keep our reason busy,
The circling clockwork train of ours
That men agree to call a heart.
§6 the multi-dimensionality of self
In an article in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Yanyue Yuan and Richard Hickman propose the term “autopsychography” as a form of self-narrative inquiry that they acknowledge is related in some aspects to the well-recognised methodology of autoethnography. However they distinguish it in the following way:
While autoethnography aims at exploring culture through self, auto-psychography foregrounds self and positions culture as integral to self rather than as the context where the self is situated. In other words, autoethnographic research treats “self” as the medium and instrument for research, whereas autopsychography celebrates the multi-dimensionality of “self” and values the process-oriented reflective nature of creating stories about and by the “self” (Yuan and Hickman, 2016: 5).
§7 STORY HISTORY REPORT
one has come into possession of one’s own story
it is a final act of self-appropriation
the appropriation by oneself of one’s own mask
this is in part so because one’s own mask is in so
large a measure a phenomenon of hearing
through the ear…
what we end with, then, is a meta-fictional deconstruction
that is more true than the truth:
the untranslated speech of the mask
replaced by the innocent sensation of pressure
upon her thorax
… we shall enter the invisibility of [masks]
§8 the region between
inside & outside
cannot be separated
since it is identified
in relation to both
The identity exterior to one’s own is generally perceived as other, and yet, when one’s own identity is categorised by external features (in terms of identification papers: eye/hair/skin colour), one’s overt characteristics inscribed on the surfaces of the body, one resists that determination in seeking a deeper/truer representation of the “inner” self: the I within. Fundamentally, one’s identity lies in externality: we live in a world of surfaces, a world of masks.
Thus there is such a thing as being too profound. Truth is not always in a well. In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I do believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the mountain-tops where she is found.Edgar Allan Poe, “The Purloined Letter” (1844)
Where does the mask begin and where does it end? A persuasive disguise requires wearing the mask like a skin, but where should the border lie? A bit like the peculiarities of the parergon that Kant and Derrida were so stimulated to consider. Neither inside nor outside… The mask disguises and reveals (a surface that hides and a surface that extends, and one that can furthermore be removed). Should a mask be seamless or obvious? It is how one wears the mask that elevates the mask’s success in transformations. Wearing the mask of the other is one way of escaping the double bind of mimetic desire. “Mimetic desire”, according to René Girard, is foundational to his mimetic theory whereby “[m]an is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires” (Girard, 1988: 122). Instead of desiring the model’s object of desire, cut to the chaste, wear the mask. Internalise the conflict and be rendered passively divided, or doubly bound.
§9 When wearing a mask…
Make it a seamless mask by carrying it off well – one has to mine one’s deep subjective order to identify something of the other (of the mask) within.
Disguising the self is part and parcel of wearing a mask, and is vital for the projection of the other (of the mask) providing a temporary externalised identity.
For the flawless portrayal of the mask’s profile one must internalise the surface of the mask and project it from deep within.
Find the familiar in the features of the mask for the proper portrayal – the appropriate mimetic expression.
Find the improper features of the mask to give counter-substance to the task of the proper mask.
§10 I use the personal when applying a mask to my face – Anne Sexton
Mystifying the personal in the service of one’s fabrication strategies is one aspect of creative work – whether in writing or art-making (which I believe is just another form of writing). “[W]hen applying a mask to my face” speaks of the transformation and translation process involved in giving body to or providing the ground for one’s creative concepts, much like the ground required to prepare a surface for a painting. The above quote comes from Anne Sexton’s lecture notes (discussed in Paula Salvio’s essays on Sexton’s teaching life and pedagogical influence: 2001 and 2007), in the context of a critic’s response to her poems – “the I” which “is clearly related intimately and painfully to the poet’s autobiography” (Salvio, 2001: 109). According to Salvio, Sexton preferred to describe herself as a “storyteller” rather than the “confessional poet” classifification bestowed upon her (2001: 93), and she was adamant about the fictive character of the I in her poems, clarifying to her students that in the work “I am often being personal but I am not being personal about myself”, to which Salvio remarks: “Sexton’s parodic sensibility functions to undermine the normative order of ‘performing confession’ in the academy” (2001: 111). One of Sexton’s students, whose confessional letter was discovered amongst her papers in the archive that prompted Salvio to interview him, had an intimate sense of Sexton’s profound insight as well as her strength in vulnerability. He acknowledges that “Sexton wrote and spoke to us about her deepest emotional and social involvements, and she taught me to address mine.” Salvio concludes that such memories and other’s accounts of Sexton’s distinctive teaching style “suggest that Sexton’s pedagogy of masks offered her students opportunities to approach, in some instances to wear, the masks of an Other”. And Salvio believes such an approach can open the channels for students and teachers “to re-draw the lines demarcating their own psychic and social life” (2001: 113).
This epigraph to my final script is détourned and ascribed to Elisabeth:
I use the personal when applying a face to my mask.
§11 the autopsychography of a mask
this morning i broke my mask
on the end of a brush
it was like cracking an egg
the yoke untold
all albumen and blood
i spread the deposit across my image
thus i was borne on the back of a mask
a coarse salt to my wound
she unlearns her speak
what is this thing called love, this mask?
§12 stitching the mask
In “(De)facing the Self: Postructural Disruptions of the Autoethnographic Text” (2009), Elizabeth de Freitas and Jillian Paton refer to Paul de Man’s claim that the linguistic trope that dominates all autobiographical writing is prosopopeia, “the giving of voice and face to an absent subject” (2009: 496). They acquiesce that the dilemma faced by all “self-stories is this production of a figure in the place where a self was presumed”:
Accordingly, the author of an autoethnographic text invests the writing with a face to mask the absence of the self. The paradox of autobiographical prosopopeia is that the act of giving face also marks a defacement or disfigurement… Autobiographical acts, according to de Man, are acts of ellipsis and erasure as much as they are acts of constitution (de Freitas and Paton, 2009: 496-7).
§13 i love being masked into invisibility
this masking machine thinks ahead of me
everything that menstruates is a mask
§14 dividing and doubling
In her book The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony (2001) Leigh Gilmore refers to the “narrative dilemma” produced by what she calls the auto/biographical demand in which “the demands of autobiography (to tell my story) and the demands of biography (to tell your story) coincide”. She explains the difficulty of satisfying this double demand because “it both divides and doubles the writing subject with respect to the task (whose story is this? mine? ours? how can I tell them all?)” (Gilmore, 2001: 72). Gilmore looks to Paul de Man’s deconstructive essay on the subject “Autobiography as De-facement” (1979) and concurs:
In its characteristic representation of the past, autobiography makes a demand on the dead to do what they cannot do: speak in their own voices. In any performance of the autobiographical voice, one speaks across a gulf to address an inanimate face, one’s own, and to urge it to speak. Such an attribution of face to voice leads inexorably to a “de-facement” for de Man, for the thing itself is neither “there” in the past nor in the text just waiting to speak. The autobiographical “I” is not the self in any simple way, it is necessarily its rhetorical surrogate. […] Persons in the past, including you as you were, can only be bidden like discarnate spirits, and de Man’s scrupulously deconstructive reading ends with the self writing the text staring across an abyss toward the self in the text (Gilmore, 2001: 72 ).
Which bring us back to the “(de)facement” concerns of de Freitas and Paton regarding poststructural disruptions of autobigraphical texts, that they conclude with the following:
Self-writing is not simply a confession or a constitutive act of self-construction. The “self” is simultaneously constructed and deconstructed. When we gaze inward, or onto our own reflected faces, we witness the delay, the repetition, the many substitutions that interfere in the process of reflection, and we learn to doubt the transparency of the image, although unable to abandon the hope that it might return to us (de Freitas and Paton, 2009: 497).
§15 nothing to confess?
i have no mask
but i must dream
he interrupts me again
the convulsions of the libidinal band
a Möbius seizure
i cannot wake up
i do not trust my mask
§16 I cannot bear to witness…
The agent/traitor wears a mask
I cannot bear to witness…
The pain/fear of bearing witness
Necessitates masking the divide
The title of the film that I remix for this part of the study is Eyes Without a Face (Franju, 1960) and connects to my sense of what it is to be a witness, that is, to be eyes without a face: seeing, unable to tear one’s eyes away, and yet, lost in the general (of the landscape or bystander setting) – that anonymous role without an individuated skin, without a membrane to facilitate contact with that which lies outside of oneself. That which I witness lies outside the border of my being, in the material world but by means that stir an inner-to-outer conflict (i.e. shocking the endocrine system) that may penetrate and petrify – bearing only a mask. Julia Kristeva discusses that border in terms of abject markers in Powers of Horror (1982):
as in true theatre, without makeup or masks, refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live… There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being. My body extricates itself, as being alive, from that border (Kristeva, 1982: 3).
My personal fear of witnessing lies in the emergence of splitting. The subsequent divide within – the divided self – must be masked. But is the mask not also the mechanism through which the division becomes visible, and productive? Not if it’s a seamless mask. The level of disassociation required to eat meat, for instance, is re-membered in witnessing (in my case through another Franju film Blood of the Beasts, 1949), the horror of “urbanized slaughter”. But through necessity, this horror is quickly masked in the deep subconscious. One’s perceptions are always capable of being masked by our own productive imagination and invagination. My final composite sketch: An Autopsychography of a Mask (2020) works with sections and dissections of this film (Eyes Without a Face) that relate to the psychological disfigurements of the female subject.
§17 noise is the nexus
We hear 27 sounds manufactured in the kitchenReference to John Cage’s 27 Sounds Manufactured in a Kitchen (1983) in which a soundscape is created, literally, from 27 sounds generated by kitchen items and actions, followed by Cage preparing food in his own kitchen while disclosing his conversion to the streamlined macrobiotic diet.
… We hear 27 noises-en-abyme
The point at which we are cast in darkness by a black screen accompanied by a noise-scape is repeated (Scene 9 and 11) and includes a counterpoint structure of “dialogue” (or parallel monologue) between two voices (or two distinct trains of speech recorded from the same vocal chords). These two points (providing mirror and semblance) of intersectional disorder frame the twist of the libidinal band and provide the nexus by which to continuously link to the other film studies.
Noise §18 Inn Between & silence how do we remember a private affair with the invisible the sonic? what my blood sounds like is all that matters
§19 a stitch in time…
Quickly, while I can, I must remember…Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (2001: 29)
The opening sequence of the final script is a reading from the novel Wide Sargasso Sea written by Jean Rhys in 1966. This story fabricates a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) whereby Rhys proceeds to give voice to the objectified marginal character of this English Literature classic – the barbarian mad woman in the attic: Bertha Mason.
Rhys’ character sketch follows the origins of the other, colonial subject in the Caribbean, leading up to her marriage to the Englishman and her fateful demise in England as mysteriously absent obstacle to Brontë’s protagonist Jane Eyre. Rhys speaks to post-colonial concerns as well as racial tensions that she herself would have been witness to, having been born in the Caribbean island of Dominica in 1890. Rhys therefore wanted to tell the other side of the story, to trace the outsider’s perspective, which she herself identified with (as a “white Creole” from the West Indies). She wanted to counter the demonizing gaze of the colonizer upon the other, and problematize what she considered the latent racism (and sexism) from within the canon of English literature, in the mode of “writing back”, a form of “rewriting” classic texts to question their prejudice or assumptions (Rhys, 2001: vii-ix). Rhys calls upon the experiences and memories of her own Caribbean upbringing to embellish her account of the origins of such a tale and this serves the depth of her insights regarding the colonial subject’s position.
In her chapter on Jean Rhys in The Other Side of the Story (1989), Molly Hite outlines Rhys’ critical position of “writing in the margins” in terms of radical innovation:
Rhys continually places a marginal character at the center of her fiction and in doing so decenters an inherited narrative structure and undermines the values informing this structure (Hite, 1989: 25).
Rhys’ position of writing in the margins from the margins – that is, from her particular subjective perspective of displacement – is what interests me in understanding and giving voice to the marginalised, “previously unvoiced” character – a character that Rhys subtly implies was “gaslighted”. The feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich situates this term in her appeal to voicing the truth of our individual experiences in On Lies, Secrets and Silence (1979):
Women have been driven mad, “gaslighted”, for centuries by the refutation of our experience and our instincts in a culture which validates only male experience. The truth of our bodies and our minds has been mystified to us. We therefore have a primary obligation to each other: not to undermine each other’s sense of reality for the sake of expediency; not to gaslight each other (Rich, 1979: 190).
Rhys’ way of writing back, through her subjective analysis of the “unvoiced” and her multi-textual portrayal of the decentred subject, is what interests me most in terms of decentering the archive. From a decentering desire emerged the converse desire to centralise any “marginalised” elements I could find (or fabricate) within the archive in order to construct a counterpoint to the “centred DOMUS”. This research is a practice: to decentre an inherited archival structure (imperial, colonial, classificatory) and undermine the values informing that structure through imagining and imaging multilayered terms and concepts such as invagination, dehiscence and masking.
§20 displaced parts
In “Women and Schizophrenia: The Fiction of Jean Rhys” (1979), Elizabeth Abel parallels the psychological states of Rhys’ characters with the views of the psychiatrist R.D. Laing. Laing explores the existential-phenomenological context of schizoid and schizophrenic states in The Divided Self (1965) and observes the “primary ontological insecurity” underlying the afflicted person’s experience of the world and of herself (1965: 39). “Experience,” Abel notes, “like language, is fluid and complex, and to impose strict categories is to falsify” (1979: 173). Abel suggests that Rhys contextualizes and validates the supposed madness of the protagonist to present her response to experience, and Rhys thereby “forces us to question our own logical categories” (1979: 173). Abel refers to Laing’s The Politics of Experience (1967) to assert the relativity of the terms “madness” and “sanity” that should defy “absolute categories” – Laing argues that what is regarded in our society as “normal” is a “product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection, and other forms of destructive action on experience” (1967: 27), and he posits an alternative interpretation of “madness” that “need not be all breakdown. It may also be breakthrough” (1967: 133) – that is, a process of dismantling the ego’s limits and healing the psyche through transcendent experience (Abel, 1979: 173). Abel goes on to analyze the closing passage of the book with the protagonist’s narration of her final dream that ends in the following way: “Someone screamed and I thought, Why did I scream? I called ‘Tia!’ and jumped and woke” (Rhys, 2001: 123). Abel explains the shift in the protagonist’s language as she becomes conscious “from a divided state in which her voice appears autonomous to the possession and deliberate use of that voice”, to reveal “a newly integrated sense of purpose and identity” with her irrevocable insight: “Now at last I know why I was brought here and what I have to do” (Rhys, 2001: 123). Abel notes the deliberate choice of present tense “that isolates her statement from the past tense of the narrative”, and she acknowledges Rhys’ successful portrayal of the protagonist’s leap to her death as an active choice “over the prolonged decline of madness and imprisonment, as a liberating form of self-assertion”, since we (the readers) “are forced to ask ourselves the question that the novel poses: how does one judge experience?” (Abel, 1979: 174-5).
My extract from Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) is from the protagonist’s time in the convent while she embroiders her name and the date (1839 – in the wake of the Emancipation Act banning slavery in the colonies, shortly before she gets married off and then taken to England). However, I replace her name with my own dear persona, as I am now writing over palimpsestically with my own displacement tale: “Underneath, I will write my name in fire red, [Elisabeth]”.
Nicola Deane, Elisabeth Stitching, 2020, HDV, 2min
§21 an untold confession
The second cinema extract that I remix and refer to for this final study is from the classic romantic drama Brief Encounter (1945) written by Noel Coward and directed by David Lean. The plot is primarily narrated by the female protagonist in voiceover as an untold confession to her husband. This film connects to the DOMUS by its remix: Say it with Flowers (Kaganof: 2017) – a short film constructed from film footage of an amateur filmmaker Charlie Weich (sourced from the Arnold van Wyk collection of DOMUS) and selected dialogue from the original cinema classic. My short film study inverts the extraction – I appropriate the image instead of the sound from the original. The female protagonist’s “untold confession” is replaced by a remix of all my appropriated texts throughout the study that speak to notions of separation (with reference to Guy Debord’s 1961 film Critique of Separation – about which he notes in 1964 “the relation between the images, the spoken commentary and the subtitles is neither complementary nor indifferent, but is intended to itself be critical”), division (with reference to R.D. Laing’s book The Divided Self, 1965), and, finally, dissolution into noise.
Voice assumes mouth, eye, and finally face, a chain that is manifest in the etymology of the trope’s name, prosopon poien, to confer a mask or a face (prosopon).Paul de Man, “Autobiography as De-facement” (1979: 76)
Many voices? Actually there is only one voice. My voice. My vocal chords speak others’ words. I am uttering constructions of other voices’ written constructions. The voice of the artist and the voice of the writer – I must fabricate both voices for the construction of this PhD. My singing voice is something else. My speaking voice was always something “other” because of my accent. We are accented by our accents.
The noise inside her
I find it easy to be quiet
I was always too easy
What a beautiful word: acquiescence
“silent consent, passive assent”
I bring into play other women’s voices
Women who spoke of…
Or rather wrote women’s voices
Writing with Others’
Voices, wit & wisdom
Voice of Jean Rhys : happiness is…
§23 It always comes down to ways of hearing
Whatever the matter
With or without the content
I just struggle to communicate it
My life has to be kept small
With just enough space
A place of knowing
is in a precarious position
How to be framed?
I want to “make light shine in all directions”I refer to Jenny Holzer’s ‘When Someone Beats You with a Flashlight You Make Light Shine in All Diretions’ from her Survival series (1983-1985)
By my sticky documentation exercises:
weight, temperature, scents, fluids, textures, experiments with own body and its surrounds, surround sound, excess/deprivation methods,
collaborate with medical team & dust-puddles, weave disparate texts together using Singer sewing machine, biology notes, medical indications & directions for abuse
How does one deal with the scene where no crime has taken place yet?
All one’s fears of discovery
As the audience begins to arrive
My breathing is amplified ten-fold
discovering her hiding spot…
There will be a turning point in this text
The darker it is in here the more I see
a woman sheds
her sacrificial status
she sheds the mask last
§24 Wearing a mask is always in the past.
The very instant a mask is worn it becomes the memory of a mask. Détournement of Lispector’s “The Egg and the Chicken”. Original text, as translated by Giovanni Pontiero, reads: “Seeing an egg is always in the present […] The very instant an egg is seen, it becomes the memory of an egg“ (1992: 533).
In The Practice of Everyday Life Michel de Certeau declares memory to be “a sort of anti-museum: it is not localizable” (1984: 108), and prone to alterations that are relative to external happenings and the conditions of recall: “It inserts itself into something encountered by chance, on the other’s ground… Like those birds that lay their eggs only in other species’ nests, memory produces in a place that does not belong to it” (1984: 86). De Certeau describes memories as collections of disparate invisible inscriptions, fragments that hold interventionary powers – recalled by the unexpected, provoked by the present: “Each memory shines like a metonymy in relation to this whole. From a picture, there remains only the delicious wound of this deep blue…” (1984: 88). De Certeau continues:
Perhaps memory is no more than this “recall” or call on the part of the other, leaving its mark like a kind of overlay on a body that has always already been altered without knowing it. This originary and secret writing “emerges” little by little, in the very spots where memory is touched: memory is played by circumstances, just as the piano is played by a musician and music emerges from it when its keys are touched by the hands. Memory is a sense of the other (de Certeau, 1984: 87).
you become the remembered
i have always considered it a prison, secretly
with my feet up against the wall
the cold wall
and the queer absence
of my will
§25 Sonic memories?
How do we remember the sonic? The playing of music brings memory into play… Whatever emerges as a memory while listening, to sounds or music, is made present by that playing of sounds in any listening experience. The soundscape is ever ready to jolt the neglected channels of our memories. What haunts by the sonic, is only made present by the play of sound through the ear…
“we shall enter the invisibility of things”
Maskingphysiology: the concealment or screening of one sensory process or sensation by another (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2011). psychology: the process by which a stimulus (usually visual or auditory) is obscured by the presence of another almost simultaneous stimulus (Collins English Dictionary, 2014).
by the presence of another
The other is always present
in the playing
Noise and Silence
A private affair with the invisible
The personal can never go public
§26 and now i am going to talk to you about PROGRESS…
For the PROGRESS in the world
we’re going to send titanic bombs
I wouldn’t want to depress you
but it’s all over.
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|1.||Dictionary definition of ‘pentimento’ based on The Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2020.|
|2.||“Dehiscence is a partial or total separation of previously approximated wound edges, due to a failure of proper wound healing” as defined by Ryan D. Rosen and Biagio Manna in National Center For Biotechnology Information (2020).|
|3.||According to the Millodot Dictionary of Optometry and Visual Science (2009): “A term describing any process whereby a detectable stimulus is made difficult or impossible to detect by the presentation of a second stimulus (called the mask). The main stimulus (typically called the target) may appear at the same time as the mask (simultaneous masking); or it may precede the mask (backward masking; example: metacontrast); or it may follow the mask (forward masking; example: paracontrast).”|
|4.||An appropriate reflection for my study of archival surfaces in the first passage.|
|5.||Walter Mignolo describes the “colonial wound” as the damage done by “the fact that regions and people around the world have been classified as underdeveloped economically and mentally” (Mignolo, 2009: 3).|
|6.||Whip it Good (live performance: 2014) involves Ehlers creating action paintings by using black charcoal to capture the marks left from whipping large white canvases.|
|7.||Counterpoint originates from the Latin punctus contra punctum: “point against point” or “note against note” as in music, it designates the relationship between two or more independent melodic lines or voices within a single harmonic texture creating polyphony, while in other aesthetic practices including drama it indicates the use of contrast or interplay of elements in a work of art (Merriam-Webster: n.d.).|
|8.||Book of poems based on personal archive that contains all the surviving fragments of my creative writing practice (2000-2020) – an archive I have always drawn from to stimulate my art-making practice. “autopsychography”: an account of one’s psychological outlook or development written by oneself; this as process or genre (Oxford University Press: 2020).|
|9.||Reference to John Cage’s 27 Sounds Manufactured in a Kitchen (1983) in which a soundscape is created, literally, from 27 sounds generated by kitchen items and actions, followed by Cage preparing food in his own kitchen while disclosing his conversion to the streamlined macrobiotic diet.|
|10.||I refer to Jenny Holzer’s ‘When Someone Beats You with a Flashlight You Make Light Shine in All Diretions’ from her Survival series (1983-1985|
|11.||Détournement of Lispector’s “The Egg and the Chicken”. Original text, as translated by Giovanni Pontiero, reads: “Seeing an egg is always in the present […] The very instant an egg is seen, it becomes the memory of an egg“ (1992: 533).|
|12.||physiology: the concealment or screening of one sensory process or sensation by another (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2011). psychology: the process by which a stimulus (usually visual or auditory) is obscured by the presence of another almost simultaneous stimulus (Collins English Dictionary, 2014).|