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Presence in Work

Are You There, Artist? It's Me, Audience.

In light of the new Marina Abramovic exhibition at MOMA, The Artist is Present, and having just read Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, the transcripts of a three-day interview with David Foster Wallace from 1996, I’m thinking a lot about the person behind the work; about identity and the pitfalls and perils associated there-in. I’m thinking about the act of reading as thinking. I’m thinking about how people use other people’s voices to form their own voice and opinions.

I’m not great at making empirical statements, but I do feel like once I start thinking about something intently, it starts showing up everywhere.  So here’s evidence, in the form of quotes I’ve jotted down in the last few weeks, that the universe will present itself if you’re just paying attention:

It takes me at least an hour to warm up when I sit down to work…Just taking off my own disguises takes an hour or more – JD Salinger
Who you are shouts so loudly, I cannot hear what you say. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I think it’s really feeling that, their brain voice for a while becomes your brain voice. – David Foster Wallace
I was just thinking that the real world wasn’t enough, that a true mistake is some kind of magic, or maybe God. – Harmony Korine

The artists are all searching for something weightier than the stories people tell themselves about who they are, the common place narratives that allow people to function in ordinary life. – wall text for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver’s exhibition Looking for the Face I Had Before the World Was Made

“What’s the difference between lying and when you’re making things up?” She asks./ “I know of none,” I say./ “What about stories in books?”/ “They don’t count,” I say. “They’re made of writing.” – Mary Robison One D.O.A., One on the Way

She kept talking.  She told everyone.  There was more to it, and she was trying to get it talked out.  After a time, she quit trying. – Raymond Carver “Why We Don’t Dance”

How nice to feel nothing and still get full credit for being alive. – Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five

it is difficult to know my mind without other minds/ knocking into it – Kathryn Regina “the sky is not a good place for careful observation”

Sawing myself in half/ is how I make choices – Zach Schomburg “The Sawing in Half”

5 thoughts on “Presence in Work

  1. I just saw that show! Saturday! And I almost sat across from her, but I didn’t. I have more intelligent things to say about it, but not yet; I have no idea at this point if I liked it a little bit or if I hated it a lot.

    Great quotations, Jac. I could read a whole book of these.

  2. These are interesting, and I’m sorry not to have seen the show….my scattered thoughts on the quotations make me wonder to what degree these are inflected by romantic notions off authorship (salinger taking off disguises = revealing his true self. Ugh…).

    I’ve become skeptical, almost hostile really, to this idea that writers are somehow channeling an inner consciousness that can best be accessed by those same writers working on their craft. Salinger is the most egregious case from the catalog above, while even Kathyrn Regina’s suggest an ownership of her mind as distinct within the cacophony of the crowd.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a complete erasure of authorship, but a stance I’ve yet to fully work out where writing is a conditional space: conditioned fully by vectors of economics (what degree of success allows the name of JD Salinger to make a statement like this?) and other cultural variables.

    In other words, I’m not sure one’s opinions are one’s own in any meaningful way, although I know that sounds absurdly poststructuralist, and, hypocritical for someone (“me”) who publishes work tied into a specific style, even when that is a conceptual erasure of style.

    ok–long day, last day of pomo class for the year, so words on the page in no particular order.

  3. Jac, what a lovely confluence: I used this Abramovic piece to talk about the re-assessment of the personal in writing just last week in class. I’m glad to see you thinking about it as well, as I think it’s an idea that’s shifting for many contemporary writers and artists.

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