Practices making experimental use of citations and quotation strategies to produce bastardizations, amplifications, intensifications, reterroritorializations and recontextualizations of (parts of) existing textual work, be it canonical literature, legal documents or overheard, everyday conversations.
1. This work is a diagram. It extracts and physically reprints all the ellipses in Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s novel “Mort a crédit.” In doing so, it seeks to explore the function of the ellipsis as an attribute of literary writing.
The function of the ellipsis in literary writing involves two concurrent modes. On the one hand, it signifies an omission, something left out, or something falling short, an opening up of the text to the ambiguous or the unsaid, to a plethora of subcurrent insinuations and uncertainties. This might be referred to as its arrestive mode. On the other hand, however, it involves a force which moves the text forward, from exclamation to exclamation, from fragment to fragment, and with increasing speed. This is what we might call its propulsive mode and it designates neither a space to paus or reflect, nor an ambiguity or a loitering around the uncertain, but rather a frantic rambling, an incessant rant, and an ever-increasing velocity.
2. The extracted ellipses are not reprinted one after the other. In other words, this is neither list nor an inventory. Rather, the ellipses of each page of the novel are superimposed onto the ellipses of all the novel’s other pages using a mechanical typewriter and running the same sheet of paper through the typewriter as many times as there are pages in the novel.
If Gilles Deleuze is right, and what we find in Céline’s two remarkable novels Death on Credit and Guignol’s Band is writing turned into pure sound, then his use of the two concurrent modalities of the ellipsis is precisely the means by which the sonorous mass of his writing is rendered rhythmical. It is by the use of ellipses (the propulsive cut as well as the reflective arrest), that his writing opens up to a non-syntactical infinite ground beyond the text – what might be thought of as the text’s potential – a horizon opened up to, then closed off yet again, in a pulsation. The ellipsis, in both its modalities, remain a liminal space and a passage, either a slowing down and an opening up toward an ambiguous and uncertain silence beyond the text, or a speeding up, moving erratically between disjointed fragments, in velocities that open syntactical language up to pure, polyrhythmic prosodies.
3. This is an abstract, geometrical shape. This is a set of traces of the repeated movement of the type bar. This is a diagram.
The function of the ellipsis is to crack syntactical language open and to reveal, from its shattered interiority, its outside, its excess, its exteriority, its folding of its exterior into itself – language, in other words, as materiality, as sound, as silence, as voice, as prosody, as rhythm, as embodiment, as affect, as intensity. It is there on the page for the reader of the text, a physical gap, a perforation of the mass of text, and it is there for the writer encountering language as code and the machinery of textual encoding – the movement of the type bar, repeated thrice, a breath in the writing of the text, the paus of someone lost and exhausted, or the erratic hyperventilation of someone too excited, forced but unwilling to stop to mark the omission thus doing so only briefly and to rush off again immediately, and with greater velocity this time. For reader and writer alike, the ellipsis marks a transgression and a transition, from inside to outside, from syntactical language to rhythm and prosody, from meaning to affect, and from narrative to intensity.
Based upon this notion, the graphical piece presented in this volume uses a typewriter to create a diagram outlining the function of the ellipses in Céline’s novel Death on Credit. In the diagram, the ellipses are extracted from each of the novel’s pages and typed out one after the other, but on the same page, in such a fashion that the ellipses of each page of the novel are superimposed upon one another. Graphically, in the resulting diagram, this means that the first few ellipses on the page, will be bolder on the page, as they have been superimposed a greater number of times. As the reader proceed to read the remaining ellipses they will be less and less bold, as fewer pages contain sixty or seventy or eighty ellipses. The page can thus be read as a diagram of Céline’s use of ellipses per page, which in turn can be interpreted as an outline of the different speeds in Céline’s novel. Because the diagram has been produced using a typewriter, the repeated superimposition of the ellipses also takes on a physical character, where the first ellipses are not only bolder, but more deeply embossed into the fibres of the paper, to the verge of being a perforation rather than a mark – again coming back to a play between the graphical mark, the sound and speed of the repetition, and notion of an oscillation between mark and passage – and the latter ellipses are lighter, graphical marks, signifying higher speed, less duration passed, less repetition, propulsion, in much the same way as the pages with few ellipses tend to contain long sentences where the ellipses signifies and arrest and an ambiguity, whereas those with a greater number of ellipses tend to contain fragments where the ellipses signifies and increase in speed and a passage between fragments.
The second diagram is a graphic rendering of all the ellipses in the novel. Using a typewriter, the ellipses were typed onto a transparent acetates, the projected onto a piece of paper, on which the outlines of each ellipses, enlarged, were drawn faintly and superimposed on one another. The resulting line drawing is a diagram of the minute graphical differences in Celine’s repeated use of ellipses in Death on Credit, where the slight divergences between the lines, signify miniscule anomalies within the repeated movement of the type bar towards and against the platen, outlining the play between repetition and differentiation, repetition and rhythm, repetition and passage, involved in Céline’s use of the ellipsis.
Rant is a project initiated in 2006 for the conference Beckett & Company at Goldsmiths College and Tate Modern in London, UK. The project consists of a series of reworkings of Beckett’s trilogy – Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable – in which the fragments of text are systematically extracted from the novel. These fragments form a series of new text which are then translated back and forth between English, French and Swedish, resulting in both incoherent, nonsensical turns of phrase, and fragments that suggest new narrative trajectories. Bearing in mind that Beckett’s writing itself flickers, makes obscure the possibility of animating words as speech issuing from a body, Rant constitutes an attempt at infusing his words with an excess that refuses to submit to signification, an intensification of what is already a particular and peculiar quality in Beckett’s work – its affective register; its minor, exilic qualities; its stuttering and stammering – a quality as frail as it is powerful; a borderline that exiles us from all possible meaning at the same time as it produces a germinal state where words link and mutate outside of their original narrative.
At Beckett & Company, the resulting text was performed by participants walking among the crowd at coffee breaks, quietly reciting the text, and at an advertised event in the concrete staircase at Goldsmiths College, where the performers paced up and down the stairs reciting the text.
Parts of Rant has since been published as part of Little Paper Planes’ Sights & Sounds series (2010). You can listen to an extract from the accompanying sound recording below (read by Neil Chapman):
The piece has also been performed at the gallery Oksasenkatu 11 in Helsinki, Finland, in 2011. A video recording of the performance is available below.
In 2013 the project in its entirety was published as an artist book with Publication Studio, available here.
Ida Börjel, Sabotagemanualerna (ltd ed)
BLACK BOX is a textual re-staging of pager messages intercepted in the US between 3am and 8.46am on September 11, 2001 and released publicly in 2009 by WikiLeaks. The text was first commissioned by Stockholm publishing press Valeveil in 2011 and has since been used as the basis for an artist’s book and a series of performances using overhead projectors, tape recorders and live voice.
Ola Ståhl & Terje Östling (2014)
Seeking to explore the elasticity of the isolated graphic mark as a signifying component, the project Border takes as its point of departure the substantial collection of 20th Century prints kept by The Art Museum of Estonia, KUMU. The material gathered in the collection quite literally represents a plethora of diverse strategies, approaches and forms, the common denominator of which is the medium itself rather than a specific theme, historical trajectory or concern. For the project Border, we have chosen twelve prints from the collection from which we isolate specific components: circles, squares, rectangles; slabs, blocks, straight lines, diagonals; fragments of letters or words, the curve of an arm, or part of a chimney. Isolated and extracted – decontextualised – from the context of the print itself (the history of its production and consumption as a cultural artifact), these marks still operate as signifying components. They still carry meaning and make visual references with different resonances. They are, however, stripped of their specificity and can, significantly, be recycled, reused and recontextualised in ways that open up to a transgression of the signifying economies from which they were originally taken; or, in other words, to other formations of meaning, other connotations, other stories and other destinies.
Seeking to explore the elasticity of the isolated graphic mark as a signifying component, the project Border takes as its point of departure the substantial collection of 20th Century prints kept by the Art Museum of Estonia, KUMU. The material gathered in the collection quite literally represents a plethora of diverse strategies, approaches and forms, the common denominator of which is the medium itself rather than a specific theme, historical trajectory or concern. For the project Border, we have chosen twelve prints from the collection from which we isolate specific components: circles, squares, rectangles; slabs, blocks, straight lines, diagonals; fragments of letters or words, the curve of an arm, or part of a chimney. Isolated and extracted – decontextualised – from the context of the print itself (the history of its production and consumption as a cultural artifact), these marks still operate as signifying components. They still carry meaning and make visual references with different resonances. They are, however, stripped of their specificity and can, significantly, be recycled, reused and recontextualised in ways that open up to a transgression of the signifying economies from which they were originally taken; or, in other words, to other formations of meaning, other connotations, other stories and other destinies. Border makes use of these extracted components, creating a series of repetitive patterns used to produce long printed strips akin to what is usually referred to as wallpaper borders, exhibited, alongside a display of the twelve prints chosen from the collection, as part of the 16th Tallinn Print Triennial at The Art Museum of Estonia.
Maria Kjær Themsen, curator of the 16th Tallinn Print Triennial, 2014
A selection of the wallpaper borders produced for the exhibition:
FILM Ola Ståhl & Cassandra Troyan / PS Malmö
Headlands Center for the Arts
San Francisco, California, USA, 2010
The project F I L M dates back to 2008, when Ola Ståhl was unexpectedly given the handwritten manuscript of the unpublished memoirs of his great granduncle, a person about whom he knew virtually nothing. Having previously worked extensively with the restaging and reworking of found sound and text, Ståhl began reworking this found manuscript, seeking to engage and amplify its peculiarities not simply or primarily in terms of its content, but also in terms of the style of the writing, its poverty and its affected, stuttered, polylingual quality. Considering the manuscript less a genealogical document than the index of a series of significant geo- and sociopolitical shifts, these reworkings were intended to explore the ways in which particular forms of writing articulate subjective political experiences; how, for instance, the experience of migration creates a polylingual site where language becomes uncertain, subject to continuous displacement, or how the lack of conventional literary tropes articulates and negotiates positions within shifting class structures. The overall project F I L M comprises several series of such rewriting exercises, utilizing different methods, interweaving the manuscript with fragments of text from a wide array of discourses around such disparate but interlinked topics as autobiography, medicine, film theory, optics, camera and film mechanics, class structure, economics and migration. During residencies in the US 2009-2010, Ståhl exhibited and performed the project at Headlands Center for the Arts in San Francisco and, in the form of performances and publications, at various locations in the Bay Area, at the Bureau for Open Culture in Columbus, Ohio, and in the magazines OEI and Journal for Radical Shimming. These versions of the text make use of interlinked processes by which: (1.) the text is reduced to its nouns, listed and printed in silver ink on black paper in the shape of rectangles corresponding to aspect ratios referencing the history of cinema; (2.) the text is juxtaposed with contextual archival material gathered in Sweden, Finland and the US (where the narrative is primarily situated) on printed, superimposed transparencies; and, (3.) the text is translated very quickly between Swedish and English, in such a fashion that traces of many of the loops and repetitions you go through as a translator, trying to find suitable equivalents between languages, are kept in the text, generating a rambling, incessantly looping, repetitive voice which never ceases to assert itself despite its own stuttered absurdity.
F I L M (extract) [ performance / reading ]
F I L M poster / card, Venice Biennale ed. Nico Dockx
Helsinki International Artist Programme
Soumenlinna, Helsinki, Finland, 2011
(1.) A couple of big vans were busy all day yesterday moving the furniture, books, records and documents from the upper offices of the Police Department at 64 Eddy street to the new Hall of Justice – the $1.000.000 structure – opposite Portsmouth square, on Kearney street. At 6 o’clock last night the work had been completed, and the following offices were moved to their new home: The office of the Chief of Police, the detective bureau, the business and complaint department, the Central police station and a large part of the clerk’s department.
The four police courts will probably not open in the new building before the end of the week, as there is considerable work to be done there by the carpenters. Docks must be constructed and new rails which will divide the bench portion from the witness inclosure must be put up. The prisoners cannot be moved from the temporary City Prison on Anna lane until the courts move. The Supervisors, now housed in the building on Eddy street, will soon move to the temporary City Hall att Market and Eigth streets.
On March 1st the old building on Eddy street will be turned over to the wreckers and on the site will be erected the new Tivoli Theatre, the same site occupied by the Tivoli before the fire of 1906.
(2.) Organized labor knows but one law, and that is the law of physical force – the law of the Huns and Vandals, the law of the savage. All its purposes are accomplished either by actual force or by the threat of force. It does not place its reliance in reason and justice, but in strikes, boycotts and coercion. It is, in all essential features, a mob-power, knowing no master except its own will. Its history is stained with blood and ruin.
(3.) Cut to monochrome frame, black; two minutes and fifty and two thirds of a second. Cut to extreme close-up, slowly panning, slow-motion shot of layered crystal structures, sharp light refracted through the crystal texture. Cut to slowly panning medium shot of a woman’s torso, black and white, image blurred, only the contours of her shape visible. The camera pans around her torso in repeated cycles. Cut to monochrome frame, black; five minutes and forty one and a third of a second. Occasionally a white horizontal line appears on the screen, for a twelfth of a second only. The line extends fully across the screen horizontally, but appears in different positions vertically. After an initial duration of two minutes and fifty and two thirds of a second, the white line appears more frequently, in recurring intervals; a rhythm but not a steady pulse or beat. Once a pattern has been established, the appearance of the horizontal white line is immediately prefaced by an even briefer appearance of a slightly thinner white line that extends fully across the screen vertically, but appears in different positions on the screen horizontally. To begin with this vertical line appears in regular intervals, prefacing every fourth or fifth appearance of the horizontal line. It appears on the screen only for a twenty fourth of a second, immediately preceding the thicker horizontal line. Slowly the frequency with which the vertical line appears increases to every fourth, third, second appearance of the horizontal line. Simultaneously, however, the number of appearances of the white horizontal line per minute increases. This mutual build-up of horizontal and vertical flashing lines is slow and rhythmical. Gradually a stroboscopic sensation is produced over a build-up of five minutes and forty one and a third of a second. Once the stroboscopic yet rhythmical effect is firmly established, the shot is sustained for a duration of two minutes and fifty and two thirds of a second. Cut to long duration, long shot of warehouse, red brick. The windows on the upper floor have been smashed and boarded up. Barbed wire covers the edges of its roof. Adjacent to the main building, a smaller building in corrugated steel. Thick metal tubes connect the two buildings. Camera fixed further down the street. Dust on the street is occasionally disturbed by the wind, no other movements or actions. Cut to a fixed camera medium shot of a fire escape attached to the facades of a brick building; brickwork painted beige, window sills and fire escape too. Identical white curtains – soiled, ripped – cover up each of the windows. Shot from below against sunlight, clear blue skies. Cut to monochrome frame, white; forty two and two thirds of a second. Fade into a slowly panning shot of an urban street; run-down brick buildings, brickwork painted in different colours: beige, red, pink, yellow, white. Tall signs at the corner of each building announces the names of shops, theatres, bars, restaurants. Colours vibrant. Cut to monochrome frame, black; five minutes and forty one and a third of a second. Cut to monochrome frame, black; ten and two thirds of a second. Cut to close-up shot of abstract shadows; shapes moving across a non-descript surface. Fade into a monochrome frame, black – ten and two thirds of a second – then fade back into the close-up shot. Loop sequence.
The project has also been presented as a performative reading at the Bureau for Open Culture, Columbus, USA, in 2009 and, in collaboration with the artist in residence project Ptarmigan, at Oksasenkatu 11 in Helsinki, Finland, in 2011. A short extract from the reading is available here:
F I L M Ola Ståhl & Cassandra Troyan, KRETS
Ola Ståhl & Cassandra Troyan (2008-2013)
FILM is an intermedial collaboration between Ola Ståhl and Cassandra Troyan, that explores intersections between fictional writing, archival material and film historical and theoretical discourse. Based on a common narrative material, they have produced parallel work, constantly referring to each other. Ståhl through a text based practice and Troyan in a series of video work.
The project dates back to 2008, when Ståhl started to work with a found manuscript containing unpublished memoirs written between 1881 and 1954. Using the manuscript as a starting point – its content as well as its stylistic peculiarities – they explore how particular forms of writing articulate subjective political experiences, related to questions such as belonging, migration and class.
KRETS will present two text volumes, containing experiments where Ståhl has deconstructed and reworked the biographical material. One part is composed by loops generated as the text has been swiftly translated back and forth between English and Swedish. Traces of many of the loops and repetitions have been kept in the text, as a form of amplification of the manuscript’s peculiar impoverished quality, rendering explicit its relationship to the historical, geo- and sociopolitical and cultural contexts from which it derives. The second part consists of all nouns from the manuscript, presented parallel with references to the history of film technology, as well as fragments taken from medical literature reflecting on the cessation of the body’s functions and the memory. Flickering over the pages, these words appear as simple images that create a rhythm reminiscent of Sergei Eisenstein’s ideas about filmic language.
In both format and reading experience, there is a clear link to early cinematic development, analogous to the narrative account of the text. In Troyan’s video work – moving from relative abstraction to visual collages with direct references to archival material, the original manuscript and Ståhl’s rewritings – this connection is further emphasized. Elements from the video work have also been picked up as references in the text volumes. Through this looping process, an extended form of writing is explored, which oscillates between different media and simultaneously reflects on the impact of technology on our perception – and thereby on the autobiographical narrative as such.
Anna Granqvist, KRETS, 2013
In collaboration with KRETS FILM was also published as a book, available here.
Material from the book has also been published in Journal of Radical Shimming in 2009.
And in Swedish journal OEI in 2011.