Lawrence Weiner said that language is material.

Lawrence Weiner said that language is material. Other people have said it too and in other ways, but he is one who has said it long and often and relatively recently. Material like paint. Material like marble. You know this.

You are wrong.

Weiner is wrong.

To err is human, wrote Seneca the Younger. He wrote : errare humanum est.

There are different material, different things. That was Weiner’s mistake. He believed in translation. He meant to say interpretation.

Writing may be interpreted but may not be translated.

Writing may also be what is not written, just as sculpture may be what is removed. Writing is thus composed of positive and negative space. The negative space of writing is as full as the positive space, though it has no essential properties. It may be the white space of a page, the uttered absence of a linguistic referent, such as a scream, or the sudden cut of simply shutting up. [My caveat here is that one of the distinct features of writing’s materiality is its ability to articulate a positive through the positing of its negative, i.e., « the chair that was not there ». Magritte knew this, as well as Poe, though visual art tends to posit its negatives in more essentialist material fashion. There is stone and air.]

[Should I use writing/text/language indiscriminately ? Yes, because here I mean language that is enunciated. I do not mean discourse, which can occur outside the medium of language.]

I am wrong. There is no generic negative space in writing. Language is subsumptive. [Is this covered by the specific vs. generic negative materiality distinction above ?]

Subsumptive in the sense that it constitutes the rules that it in turn is constituted by.

Conceptual writing is writing that is extracted from other writing, cut out of its point of origin. [This may be the point in language where the specific may become the generic.]

Like pink marble from Italy.

There is too much pink marble in Italy. [This would be the crisis in language comparable to the crisis in painting—the problem of poetry in the age of digital reproduction. There is too much text in, for example, American. If there is no longer any teleological mimetic burden on the writer, or at least none that cannot be shouldered by anyone with the means to write, what is the job of the art of writing, including naturalism, creative reportage, and the terribly personal essay, and, by the same alternative token, what is the job of subverting mimetic writing, including critical collage, formal disjunction, and the terribly personal essay? That is one problem in writing. What is the quotidian without the Academy, without the museum or gallery? That is another.]

Many early conceptual artists and art theorists wanted to shuck the self, to remove subjectivity in favor of objectivity. They were wrong, as you know, just as sculpture is always what is removed and what remains, for both aspects are aspects of perception. Perception, like language, is subsumptive : perception is subsumptive because it constitutes a language which constitutes a perception and so on. Thus, the absence of something gestures towards its possible presence, and the absence of individual subjectivity necessarily implicates the possibility of a transcendent subjectivity, i.e., the subject that knows how to extricate itself, how to cut its inelegant parts out of the pink marble.

“The I that is not there.”

[This was the crisis in poetry after modernism : how to evoke meaning through the evocation of non-meaning, or vice versa. John Ashbery, for example, used linguistic transparency and the quotidian serially, creating a feeling of something which carried the load of meaning as meaning became the meaning of feeling something. Free floating feeling. Like ice cream. Many language poets did this more disjunctively and to even more precise emotive (and ethical) affect. Lyn Hejinian, for example, wrote about the rejection of closure or completeness as a way of maintaining difference, and maintained that maintaining difference is the job of the poet. She wrote : « I would argue that one of the functions of art is to bring dreams and other works of the imagination into the space of appearance. » Like unicorns. And so writing showed, like abstract expressionism showed, that one could feel a thing without representing figurally the content of the thing one should be feeling.] Like pink and blue.

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It is a commonplace in quantum physics that what is real is only real insofar as it is perceived, and that is a point of perception. [There is a difference in this regard between disjunction and displacement. Disjunction maintains the perception of a discursive whole from which constituent parts are cut, or constantly changing. Displacement maintains that something may be effectively extracted from its discourse altogether.] [Like a tumor.]

Later, self as non-self became popular. This brought about the advent of identity, another attempt to pretend that the self is a differential construction, rather than a differentiated creation. Creations come from black muck and have pink lungs.

Creations are specific positive space as against a generic negation. They are repetitive, therefore different.

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[Disjunction is atonal and therefore primarily harmonic.] There is too much Italy.

I am working on a self-appropriation project in which I take statements of facts from some of my cases and re/de contextualize them as conceptual works. I am a criminal defense attorney who represents indigent felony sex offenders and sexually violent predators. I have participated in hundreds of these cases.

[Displacement is deterritorializing and therefore primarily spatial.]

My project is called « Statement of Facts. »

I do nothing to the writing except change the font. (TNR to Calibri)

It is a Samzidat project, an act of triple-alienation in which I use the product of my paid labor to produce an aesthetic work that removes the case from its subsumptive and utilitarian function as the root or origin of the law. A function that depends in large part on its mimetic fidelity. In this regard, my project is not subsumptive, but creative, not disjunctive, but deterritorialized, not really real but overtly represented. It could work as a book project or function as a visual project. It is an indexical project that betrays or negates the index as it destroys its ethical reason for being, what Kant might consider its categorical imperative.

Dan Graham’s recent retrospective showed that language is mostly interested in itself.

This is wrong : as has been noted, language is nothing in itself.

In 2007, Yvonne Rainer recycled The Rite of Spring by way of re-enacting a re-enactment taken from an old BBC documentary. She added bits of her own choreography where the BBC camera turned from the dancers to the audience. The piece was called RoS Indexical. This is wrong. Without the camera, there are no dancers. Unlike the pragmatic index, including the non-referential index, the pure index is not disjunctive, does not act in opposition to the icon or within the symbolic order, but rather promises an entirely separate point of perception or subsumption. In this way, it is the infra-thin of deterritorialization. Yates knew this, as proved by his writing the eighth stanza of Among School Children. I know this, for the law, like the lyric, is similarly an act of enunciation, which is an act of articulated embodiment. Of movement or time in space or the concept of movement or time in the concept of perceptible space. Edges without specific content or affect, just potential contours or containers. What writers do artists need to read ?

Herman Melville : Moby Dick

Pound : Pisian Cantos

Rob Fitterman : Rob the Plagiarist

This is wrong. It is Benito Cereno by Melville that you should read.

These works prove that writing is nothing in itself. For its July 2009 folio on conceptual writing and flarf, Poetry Magazine rejected a piece from « Statement of Facts. » The editor said the content (a child rape) was too disturbing, and did not give the reader any guidance on how to consider the material as it did not « elucidate » the dynamic of power and gender. They did accept my blackface appropriation from Gone With The Wind.

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It’s Moby Dick. Moby Dick is indexical and iconic. Also symbolic. [It is important to note in this regard that triangularity is the new binary.]

Badiou notes that nothing is a singularity, as compared to the multiplicity of being.

Like rainbows.

Rancière writes of « a new political experience of the perceptible or perceptual experience of the political … » He writes this in La chair des mots : Politiques de l’écriture.

« Chair » means flesh in French, « char » means burned in English. Looks like chair, the embodiment of no movement. My Statement of Facts project is a project about the latency of the law, the case as non-self-constituting, the case without law, the case without the case. (Because all law is the law of the case.) It is therefore indexical and symbolic and iconic, or at least iconoclastic (lawless), which is the same thing. [Binarism was born of the nuclear family, an essentially Freudian view of the Western core self. Triangularity is flavored more by Lacan, the family as already divorced and Mommy remarried, a more cock-blocked core.]

What artists do writers need to read ?

Courbet : The Artist’s Studio

Ken Gonzales-Day: The Wonder Gaze

Hanna Darboven : Evolution Leibniz

These works prove that art is nothing in itself.

It’s Benito Cereno. The content is less, meaning generically more by way of its specific refusal of meaning. It is a novella about a rebellion on a slave ship in which mastery shifts and shifts into another form of slavery, in which perception is keyed to theatricality and a man’s head becomes a « hive of subtlety. » This is also the infra-thin, as you know : the point where the dialectic has been reframed. But not as yet disinterred.

By virtue of its pure singularity, nothing (the nothing-in-itself) is therefore the purely subjective. As Kierkegaard said, « God is pure subjectivity. » Pure subjectivity makes, or casts, pure objects. This is demonstrated in Christianity by the one-in-three : the Lord able to objectively partition the Lord by subjectively be-ing God. This is demonstrated in Islam by the ban on figural representation, a ban shared by Jewish religious art : images are « likeness » and only god can make a « likeness, » as evidenced by the making of man via His enunciation. Man, in this case, is subsumptive to his own likeness : man is subsumed by man : subsumed by is. Ontology is thus, to us, generic specificity. It is indexical + iconic, easily. It cannot be symbolic, or rather, it is simply a symbol of itself. Like food and trees.

[The triangularity is obvious.]

Point of origin.

Point of articulation.

Point of reception.

What writing/art do artists/writers need to read ?

Duchamp’s « The », in which the artist handwrote a text in English, replacing every « the » with a star. At the bottom of the page, the reader is invited in French to replace the star with « the » in English. In a paper on « The » presented at a 2008 CalArts conference on experimental writing, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries indicated that in Korea, English is the conceptual medium : a language of negligible or no content, a conceptual language that signals only language itself. This is the function of a star : it provides direction, not content. It is not transcendent, or significant, though it is seen as such.

[This is wrong. Young-Hae Chang said that English is the medium of American. English signals American-ness, which I understand to mean contentless-ness through the medium of capitalism. Žižek’s statement that capitalism is an inherently contentless container, or rather a construction capable of holding any content is worth repeating here.] [Thus, the third function of language is not the invocation of a feeling but the invocation of indexicality—without the index. In other words, it does not matter that text written in American does not « mean » anything to the Korean, for it is precisely the absence of meaning coupled with the precise material presence of the language that is itself significant. This is distinguished from the symbolic in the sense that this symbol is also a symbol sans context. This is the displaced index.]

Definitely Benito Cereno.

In Benito Cereno, the now-free slaves pretend to still be slaves in order to protect their freedom. Unlike many men, I have never had to transcend the seemingly overwhelming force of my individual subject self to become an object. I have had the democratic freedom of third-party representation : I am « the Woman. » Unlike many women, I have never had to make an objective « likeness » of myself to be seen as a subject by many men. I have had the freedom of negligibility. I am « queer, » a likeness of a likeness. The product of production. In this regard, I am self-subsuming. I.e., the specific generic. I.e., the freedom of « the », or in French, « duh. »

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Someone recently critiqued my poetics as nostalgic for the sacramental and sacramental authority. This is a lovely sentiment, as it implies, via its projection, the presence of such an authorial absence, i.e., a longing for the comforts of a singular subjectivity. This, like the quotidian, is a problem that could be remedied disjunctively. But by casting this as a form of nostalgia, my critic sees me as having already betrayed the law as the law of the case, given its point of origin as a comparable point of pure and mutually understood singularity, a point which subsumes, and is subsumed by, the rule of law at the point of enunciation.

My critic was wrong : this is the layperson’s view of law, that it acts as a set of comprehensible rules to be applied to comprehensible situations. This is real nostalgia, the itch for the diagnostic.

Poetry Magazine was right : I am the law as a lawyer sees it, nothing less than a likeness of being, a set of facts selected from a larger set (itself gleaned from a constellation of actual and fictitious events) and categorized by a codification of conduct, itself categorized from a constellation of possible points of perception. A set of facts, therefore, of being, being thus referencing genre, or medium, thereby referencing nothing more than the means of likeness itself at its point of reception. My linguistic materiality is therefore nothing, and thus, like the American that I am, becomes something. I do not elucidate. I instantiate. I am repetition with variation, the generic affect of which is affectless-ness. There is no disjunction, because there is no juxtaposition. I am everywhere displaced.

The question always is whether teleology is possible : whether the deterritorialized creates a new territory. What is the subsumption of the, or the unhinged individual case, of a-judication, of the text as the text, of language as language as nothing more than enunciation?

Thierry de Deuve wrote that « Art was a proper name, » meaning that it is only the individual case that calls art into question, and always into question : once work has been deemed art, it operates retrospectively in its subsumption to the rule of art. What has not been written about writing is that in the case of writing, it cannot work subsumptively because it cannot act outside the perception of language in the first instance. Art may be any thing, or nothing at all. It has another point of referentiality—language. Language is and cannot be anything other than itself. In other words, writing cannot be non-writing in order to become writing. However, displacement, insofar as it operates as the indexical without the index thus constitutes writing as a-writing, whose subsumption depends exclusively on its unwritten three-way adjudication. In this regard, conceptual writing, like my Statement of Facts, articulates the enunciation of the American, a case or valise which is both empty and full, signifying the singular nothing and the potential of the multiple. It is the possibility of negligibility, the a-indexical of slavery. It only is.

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Seneca wrote : errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum.

Translation : To err is human, to persist diabolical.

---Vanessa Place