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Entries in hand writing (10)


London calling

Joe Strummer, London Calling, circa 1979

Yes, it is writing, a heap of writing, the sign of the hand, a document of visual culture, but it also sings at us embedding the music, the words, the exhilaration of hearing it again, and again for the rest of the day.  I don't need the recording, it is in this scrap of paper. 


Robert Smithson: a heap of language, 1966

Robert Smithson. A Heap of Language, 1966. pencil drawing, 6 1/2 x 22 inches. The Over Holland Collection. © Estate of Robert Smithson

My sense of language is that it is matter and not ideas - i.e., "printed matter". R.S.June 2, 1972.

The Writings of Robert Smithson, edited by Nancy Holt, New York, New York
University Press, 1979


before delete, cut and paste

The first two pages of chapter 11 of Jane Austen's manuscript of Persuasion, written in 1816 and published, after her death, in 1818. The British Library, Shelfmark: Egerton MS 3038, ff.9v-10.

The original pages appear to have been trimmed and pasted onto larger sheets and bound into a book.  Slow composition, time to smooth out thoughts and ideas.  Do ideas come to us more quickly because we can now type more quickly?  or is writing with a straight pen a form of editing as you go.

Why do I turn so often to images of handwriting?  Perhaps because it is a form of drawing, mark-making, with its own rhythms based in the hand, the arm and the body; the hand, the pen and the ink; the brain, the hand, the words.


sign painting

Kenji Nakayama's hand.

Kenji Nakayama, mechanical engineer, shoe designer, artist based in Boston, here.  Detailing and lettering of great exuberance. 

And below, a vimeo trailer for a well-discussed film on American sign painters.  For something so fundamental to the look of America, the painters are a near outlaw lot. Well, maybe that is the point.  Lose the signwriters and lose that nostalgic, hand-made quality that used to characterise the States, but increasingly ceases to do so.

SIGN PAINTERS (OFFICIAL TRAILER) from samuel j macon on Vimeo.



how to write a well-proportioned letter

&! Art of Signwriting, 1954

&! Art of Signwriting, 1954


Krauss, Twombly and graffiti, 2000

Coronation of Sesostris, panel 8, 2000. / Acrylic, crayon, and pencil on canvas. with erasures

A dandy piece by Rosalind Krauss on reading, or not reading, Twombly.  It was written for Artforum in 1994 about the catalogue raisonne of Twombly's works, overseen by Heiner Bastian. Krauss writes about the various projects that assign meaning to Twombly's paintings from those who take the classical references, such as Virgil scrawled across a canvas, as evidence of Twombly's classical humanism and a deep reading of the deep past, to Barthes, who throws all that out and speaks against analogy in Twombly's mark making, where 'Virgil' is a citation running against any sort of classical reference, and is instead a position, modern, cultural, irresponsible.  

Krauss writes instead about graffiti — 'performative, suspending representation in favour of action', which is what Action Painting wanted: all emotion and gesture.  She writes that 'graffiti's character is the strike against form, ensuring a field in which the only way the image of the body can survive is a part-object, a concatenation of obscene emblemata...'  There are marks, but they aren't symbols, ciphers or citations, rather they are fragments that protest the self-reflexivity of his Abstract Expressionist peer group, Pollock, de Kooning and Motherwell.

Twombly has a writing hand.  The work from the 1950s, yesterday's Poems to the Sea, is perhaps a protest against the vigorous, obliterating masculinity of Motherwell, but it became how he made his marks.  By time he had appointed Bastian to assemble essays for the catalogue raisonne, the summary of an artist's life, he quite liked the idea that he was a channel to Apollo and Dionysus.  One might, towards the end of one's career find it more noble than being a thirty-year old artist working through artistic differences with one's friends in New York.

Rosalind Krauss, always true to the work, restates the critic's responsibility to make an independent reading. I love her for this. 

I looked up Sesostris, whose coronation we are presented with, above, and found this sculpture, below.  
I would say that in Twombly's Sesostris we are looking at a crown. A fragment of a sculpture.  Sesostris III has departed.

Rosalind Krauss. 'Cy was here; Cy's up'. Artforum International Magazine, September 1994


Berger, Twombly and graffiti, 1959

Cy Twombly. Poems to the Sea, Rome 1959. Sheet 16 of 24. / Oil, crayon, pastel and coloured pencil on paper, 12 ½ x 12 1/4 in. (31.7 x 31 cm.)

Language is always an abbreviation.

John Berger, 'Post-Scriptum'. Audible Silence: Cy Twombly at Daros.  Exhibition catalogue, Loewenbraeu-Areal in Zurich, 2002


I learnt this from crime...

'I learnt this from crime' Soflies, Melbourne

yes, it is stylised, yes it is an elaborate tag, but it is also still writing of a kind. It reminds me of Nude Descending a Staircase, the fractured edges of each mark, the haze of intentions falling off us as we move.    


Andrew Piper on lists

Dimitri Nabokov, note included in The Original of Laura (Knopf 2008)Andrew Piper's essay 'Media and Metamorphosis: on notes and books' in the new everyday, a media commons project  talks about the notes made by writers as they organise a novel, or a poem cycle – anything complex that moves from idea to what is eventually published.  The fact that marginalia is a genre, that the notes themselves are a significant narrative, changes the way one thinks of the book.  It isn't just the narrative between two covers, but a book is just one piece of a much larger story that occurs in many forms, not least the act of writing itself.

Nabokov's list, above, of synonyms for removing something has one phrase completely scribbled out as if it offended him.  This isn't a list of possibles, a to-do list, rather it is a list of rejections.  Above all, it takes the words that moil around in the brain and makes them visual.  And once they are visual, they can be considered.

Goethe's list of keywords, the framework for Novella, is a map, with each country crossed off as he passed through it.

Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv, collection number 25, signature W 1990


Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly. Apollo & Artist, 1975on lists: the Cy Twombly website is very generous.  It has all his work from 1951 to 2010 in 5-year periods.  If one is feeling desperate, one could do worse than to pick a year and look at all the drawings and paintings he did that year.  And then some other time, look at a completely different year.  I've always thought his work was about handwriting. The drawings seem to be full of written instructions for how to see. 

The Menil Centre in Houston has a pavilion dedicated to Twombly, solid, but it feels inside like a white canvas tent so the light is pale and completely diffuse. On the Menil website it doesn't look at all as I remember it: I remember paintings the size of the walls in quite small spaces.  They were wonderful.

Some work makes me very hopeful.