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28:sound links

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Entries in text (6)


David Birchall: Sound Drawings, 2012-2013

David Birchall. Bird Song Drawing for Psychic Dancehall Magazine 5. Drawn in Leicester August 2010

Drawing to birds as the sound track.  David Birchall's Bird Song Book uses pencil marks on paper to write the sound of birds.  There is text, in english, a running commentary of being out where birds are, and then it all becomes clusters of small noises.  

Another series, Sound Drawings (white ink, black paper) also uses the small scratch mark written language of birds combined with english language notations of place and mind; bird song and bird presence punctuate Birchall's thoughts, which in turn intervene in the continuity of bird life.  

These drawings inform Tacita Dean's inscribed cloud drawings — phrases from books, from everyday speech interrupt the process of drawing – they interrupt the perception of the drawn image as representation, returning the chalk marks to just that: marks, like letters that we ascribe value to.  Birchall's drawings are of sound, not the things that produce sound, so in looking at them, the degree of representation is not visual but audial.  

I'm no longer sure whether we are a logocentric people, where language and parole, text and textuality, register all the layers of meaning and interaction we need to know about.  Although both Dean and Birchall are film-makers, not writers in the traditional sense, both are drawing a language, one in english, the other in bird.  

David Birchall. b11, Sound Drawings (Leicester, Skipton, Edale) 2012-2013 (white ink, black paper) Made between August 2012 and October 2013 all the drawings record passing of time and sounds as heard from single spots in the midlands and north of England.


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. 


writing without meaning

Mirtha Dermisache, Asemic writing

Asemic writing: writing without easy translation into meaning, leaving one to contend with the marks themselves.  I'm not sure that marks that look like writing are, actually, writing.  I think they are drawing, and all the senses that they resemble writing are mechanical.  The hand makes marks.  Sometimes the marks are encoded, and we read them; other times the marks carry other things, and all we can do is look at them.  

This comes byway of an article by John Foster in Observatory on Michael Jacobson's website, The New Post-Literate: A Gallery of Asemic Writing.  Out of the long list of examples with the Observatory article, I picked this one.  It looks like something I understand, some of the others I don't.  Perhaps I understand how these marks are made, and so feel a kinship.  This is not meaning however.  I don't know what this page says, if it says anything other than that one can make such marks.  It is not text. 

Nonetheless, there are books written asemically, no doubt as magical as viewing any kind of calligraphy in a language one does not know.  It could be saying anything at all and we would never know.


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.



lists and letters

Juta Savage letter to Dorothy Weiss, 1984 Oct. 6. 1 item : ill. ; 36 x 43 cm. Dorothy Weiss Gallery records, [circa 1964]-2001 (bulk 1984-2000). Archives of American ArtJulia Kirwan put together Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts and Other Artists' Enumerations from the Archives of American Art from the Smithsonian collections.  There was an exhibition of all the lists in Washington through most of last year and there is a book, published by Princeton Architectural Press.

This is a case where even a shopping list has a kind of rivetting assemblage of marks on the page.  Juta Savage's collection of teapots above is not only a letter, but also the working out of variations.  The hand is an automatic extension of the eye and mind.  This is, all artists will tell you, why they are such good snooker players.