I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago at the Centre for Modern and Contemporary Writing’s Friction-themed day (English Department, University of Southampton, convened by Sarah Hayden). I spoke about readability and ‘thinkership’ in conceptual art and poetry, and in a degraded and truly unreadable archive object. In the case of the two books I talk about—Kenneth Goldsmith’s Fidget and Fiona Banner’s Nam—I draw on media theorist Cornelia Vismann’s designation of the accumulation of files in the courtroom as ‘live transfer of an event’, which she argues ‘not only fix a result but also shed light on their own development.’ (2008, p 8 [original italics]). These two publications are both examples of a kind of record keeping, and, we’re forced to think about how these texts were written, and recognise the patience, stamina and repetitive labour it took to produce them. The archive object also sheds light on its own development, with its condition being the result of wars and damp storage conditions.

About Jane Birkin

artist, writer etc

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