I was in Brooklyn recently, feeling very much in my element.
Before Brooklyn, I had flown to El Paso in
west Texas where I was raised. My mother is frail with tissue-paper thin skin and she's a deeply melancholic person. Lately, she's been physically reminding me of Joan Didion, the American writer who is known for her intimate, literary non-fiction works. Didion recently released what might be her last book titled Blue Nights. Blue Nights refers to the evening hours of the summer solstice-the gradual demise of light, that everyone in Scandinavia is innately familiar with-and for Didion, is a metaphor for how she just wants her misery-filled life to end, and of course it will-but until then, it persists, slowly, within arms length of the horizon.
This personal aside is my way of introducing what I would like to present at the 2013 Sensuous Knowledge
conference. When I talk about the elements, the material and psychic difference of place, it's to highlight
the very specific conditions of living and working in Sweden, performing artistic research in an institutional
context, and the effects this has had on me as an artist. Pointing out the specificity from which the work of
art emerges, is the starting point for my own art's contingency on a discursive relation.
The first work of art that constitutes my 25% of artistic research, is a 22-minute long video titled Sunsets,
which is both a literal and metaphorically-derived title. It is a piece that self-reflexively addresses this a forementioned context. But this dimension serves as only one facet of the work. The other facets deal with issues of place, values of productivity and passivity in relation to creation.
The footage in the video was shot in Sweden at either 3am during the summer, or at 3pm during the winter. It takes this liminal zone when it's not really day or night, or when the sun sets too slowly or too rapidly, as a way of connecting to the generative liminal space of translation-of not knowing exactly-of getting things wrong, of being too slow or out of step. The alienated position in my video, relies on the most banal topic, something that I thought you really shouldn't talk about anywhere, but especially here in Scandinavia because its presence is so achingly obvious: the weather. Or really, it's about the light. The video is formally centered on two things, 1) light, 2) Clarice Lispector.
Much of my research focuses on one literary figure, the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, for how her highly figurative writing involves itself fully in reaching the limits of subjectivity. I also look to literary theory and freely replace the word "writer" with "artist" and "writing" with"art", when it serves my purposes. For example, Samuel Beckett and Maurice Blanchot were big mutual fans of each other, and their sympathies lie in an ethical passivity, sheer uselessness. The writing (art) that comes after this reckoning is the enabling possibility of paralysis.
1 When I was reading Simon Critchley's Very Little Almost Nothing, a book on death and literature, nihilism and overcoming it through regarding meaninglessness in the everyday-I was in the middle of my first full winter in Sweden-that recent winter where a headline in the newspaper read "The Frozen Continent". It wasn't the best reading material for my mood at the time.
It is out of these conditions that Sunsets began