A list of ends? Or becomings?
I’m using the blog, this is good. I’m trying ask the question, ‘How did the work on endings begin?’
Simply put, what is at stake in the question is what is at stake in the work. That is, in the perceiving of beginnings and endings, when does one thing start and /or finish, and another one begin?
(What are we and who are we at the various boundaries between the no longer and the not yet? See Emma Cocker's work on this. I’ve been doing a small piece of writing about Brigid Mcleer, I can’t put in the blog as its for a catalogue for Brigid and I don’t want to pre-empt that publication, but lets say this short intro to Brigid’s work approaches a notion of a ‘territory’ and of being between territories. A lot of work I’ve done seems to get tangled up in this, a sense that a work can transport you, or turn you upside down, or invert you and by doing so, upset the whole idea of who you think you are ).
Back to the point. For the sake of argument, lets say, this work began to form, at least ‘conceptually”, around Dec/ Jan 2010/11. In a studio in Sheffield, very cold. Coincidentally, the beginning of one year and the end of another. The work began to form, I think, out of a drive, ( always there? ) to try to present some sense of distance back at myself. I was working at that time with Steve Swindells for a show at PSL in Leeds ( the Stag and Hound). Steve and I tended to split jobs, he would do one branch of the work, me another, and when we put it all together, we would say yes or no to it, and then collaboratively tweak stuff. This was one of those, it was in my head all the time, I’d started to make the list, and the communication might have been something like this..
“What are you working on there?”
“ Er..an inexhaustible list of endings?”
“But if it is a list of endings then surely it will end?”
“Then if it does there will be no endings because endings will have ended along with every else.”
Then back to work.
I made a prototype for PSL which was ok, we showed it, it was very brightly coloured and not really worked through. The whole show was pretty good, but I knew this piece was not really resolved.
The idea stayed with me, if not with Dutton and Swindells, so here we are, working a totally angle and new piece with Neil Webb and BITR.
We seem to spend all our time making it look simple. Its hard work.
Neil is working with sound, he is working with the loop, and the loop as we will see will become very important.
I’d say there was a drive to reduce at first. A reductive drive. Maybe I wanted to spoil all those precious endings. I wanted everything to be the same as everything else. But really, in my own defence, I think I really needed something so negative it couldn’t even be called negative anymore, so negative it was totally liberating. A flat terrain of language is a phrase I’ve used before. But this isn't quite accurate. Lets call it perspective instead. Lets say, or imagine, I was having a really hard time, lets say I was unhappy in my job ( again ), lets say my relationship had broken down ( again ) or I was having a mid life crisis ( again ), or I was depressed ( again ) then maybe the list offers some solace. The list externalises. It gives perspective. And a LONG list gives a lot of perspective.
My thinking might have been something like this;
“Let’s make a list of all the things that will end and how they will end. That will make you feel better when you realise that you are still going! Its not that bad! As long as you are writing the list you are not ending! Keep writing the list!”
I’ve said before that I love the thinking of Arakawa and Gins. I think there is something of that going on here.
Later the list will become an expanding loop ( or even a sphere? ). It will be filled with sound as well. It will be being filled from the inside and it will surround the entire universe. This will be a positive thing.
So it started as a book of endings. It was apocalyptic; mountains crumbled, planes crashed, territories flooded etc. All very eschatological, biblical even. Then, ( try it, try a list ) as you dig down you quickly run out of things and you have to try a bit harder, and they get a bit more intimate, or stupid, or bland, and then you might get stuck because you run out things you think might end, which is very weird but true, at least for me, but then when you keep going, maybe they become interesting, possibly revealing, opening into something almost repressed like some kind of dadaist game. That I liked.
I figure now that we if manage to get a few endings and ‘last things’ from around the world, we might even get a sense of differently nuanced ‘goodbyes’. That might turn up something beautiful. Or not.
At first I wanted to flatten all the potential endings, to reduce them to sameness, and I still do, but now it’s out of my hands and its far more mountainous than I imagined.
I realised as well that as I proceeded with this list of endings that it was also a list of last things, least things, ( thanks to Sharon Kivland for that from years back when she wrote a review of work by Dutton and Peacock, “least things last things” for 'untitiled' ) and maybe that’s a more appropriate way of thinking about it. I think, this is what its like to live, to recognise also that you also have to say good bye to things, to good things but also to bad things. We have to do this everyday, we have to say goodbye all the time, but sometimes its good because then we have to say hello to other things. All cancer cured-good ( the end of progress-bad? ). All children lost-bad ( the end of losing-good ? ).
So a list of all endings is both a potential secret and an impossibility, but also a reveal, a mining of something, and it is this combination I find so compelling.
The list becomes not so much a list of ends as much a list of things that one day may become ended. Something oddly full of potential.
I'll have some more info coming on this soon, I'll be asking for those lists....