Thomas Pors Koed – 3 June, 2021
No giving up in evidence here, though, he thought, the artist did not give up, she made good her escape, the bed became a cocoon knitted around its inmate, or she entered it after the knitting, more likely, a garment, an ungainly outfit but a portable one, a portable visual shield, a colourlessness, a means of passing undetected through blanknesses, barriers, edges, defining histories or defining stories, whatever, in any case a means of escape. There is no knowing through which liminal zones this escape was made, he thought, if he was right and an escape was made, but here, caught in the fabric, a plume of seagrass or some such vegetation, vegetation perhaps pushed through in traversing the zone, snagging itself on the fabric as such vegetation snags, he knew about that, evidence, both time's trace and the trace of a location.
In the Hursthouse Barnicoat Contemplation Gallery
Soft ground, Tall grass
23 April-19 June 2021
I want the response to be a non-response, he thought, I want the response to reject the conventions of review, to reject both the objectivity and the subjectivity of a review, but if I succeed in doing so, he thought, the response, which will be, ideally, a non-response, will resemble nothing so much as a failed attempt at either the objectivity and the subjectivity, or both the objectivity and the subjectivity, of a review, my most careful efforts to reject the conventions would resemble nothing so much as the failure of careful attempts to adopt those same conventions. You only succeed when you fail, he thought, though, he thought, this is only possible at the point at which it is no longer possible to tell which is which. I would also like the art itself to be non-art, he thought, too much splashing in the art pool nowadays, these days as in the old days, nothing wrong with splashing but I’m trying to keep dry. Perhaps I don’t like art, he laughed, but here I am entering an art gallery anyway. To name a space a contemplation gallery is to take from other spaces the possibility of contemplation, he thought, to take from the contents of other spaces the contemplation that they either did or didn’t deserve, at least that will save time, he thought, these few minutes are all I have. I will hold my breath then, or my ears anyway, and pass through this zone of foyer music, this zone filled with rummage bins of cultural trinkets and art bric à brac, and spend these few minutes that I have in the contemplation gallery, whatever we mean by this word contemplation, nothing spiritual, he hoped, whatever that means, I won’t think about that. What he noticed first as he entered the space of SOFT GROUND |TALL GRASS in the so-called contemplation gallery was not so much the white garment hung in the white space but the shadow of the garment crouched behind the garment like a hole. Already he felt a longing to fall or squat or throw himself into this shadow, but he did not fall or squat or throw himself into this shadow except to the extent that the longing to fall or squat or throw oneself is in itself a sort of falling or squatting or throwing. I must be wanting to get away from something, but I’m not sure what, he thought, recognising somehow in the garment, or in its presence, something that represented or enabled getting away, there was a narrative implied by this garment for which the garment was a piece of evidence but not a means of access, there was a narrative implied by this garment and the evidence of that narrative was now part of the narrative of his experience of the evidence but not of the narrative, to which he had no access, his narrative was unconnected or only very tenuously connected with the inaccessible narrative of SOFT GROUND | TALL GRASS, but it was a narrative all the same, he thought, verbs act on each other through intermediary nouns, nothing else makes sense. The garment was knitted, or he supposed it was knitted, he was no expert, apparently from bed sheets torn into strips, tearing bed sheets into strips is a fairly established means of escape, the thought struck him, though usually not in this way, it will have taken the artist, so to call her, a very long time to turn a bed into a garment, he thought, a bed is a place of refuge but also a trap, same thing, a bed is a prison, a place of stasis, a bed swallows a sleeper, a bed is a place of comfort and oblivion, a place of relinquishment, why am I so ambivalent about beds, he thought, or so apparently ambivalent, perhaps there is nothing I long for more than giving up. No giving up in evidence here, though, he thought, the artist did not give up, she made good her escape, the bed became a cocoon knitted around its inmate, or she entered it after the knitting, more likely, a garment, an ungainly outfit but a portable one, a portable visual shield, a colourlessness, a means of passing undetected through blanknesses, barriers, edges, defining histories or defining stories, whatever, in any case a means of escape. There is no knowing through which liminal zones this escape was made, he thought, if he was right and an escape was made, but here, caught in the fabric, a plume of seagrass or some such vegetation, vegetation perhaps pushed through in traversing the zone, snagging itself on the fabric as such vegetation snags, he knew about that, evidence, both time’s trace and the trace of a location. And what was he to make of these few pendant metal nuggets, maybe copper, if copper can be said to form nuggets, burnished but amorphous lumps, tethered to or tethering the garment, extra weights but very small ones, things melted down or yet to be melted and made into things, small weights to catch on passing thickets perhaps, if there are any thickets passing, or seagrass, impediments or treasures, memories not quite ready or able or willing to be forgotten. But what is most remarkable about this garment, he thought, what is most remarkable is at once the least and the most obvious thing, that there is nobody wearing the garment, he noticed, we have a garment but no body, the narrative that the garment implies has been completed, he thought, the ungainly garment has served its purpose and been discarded, the garment that enabled movement hindered movement and has been cast off, he thought, the garment of escape has itself been now escaped. Is the word now in the right place, he wondered, is the word now ever where it should be. The foyer music seemed to be now getting louder, he thought, they must be wanting us to leave, these few minutes to closing time are coming to an end and Enya, or something resembling Enya, has been sent to drive us out, but at least the audio tracks of SOFT GROUND |TALL GRASS could still be heard, he should have mentioned these before, a voice emerging from beneath another iteration of itself, and possibly from beneath yet another iteration, poems spoken in what he assumed was German, not that he understood German, not that that mattered in any case, this German poetry, this poetry in the Ur-language, so to call it, of SOFT GROUND | TALL GRASS, this protolinguistic nostalgia, so to call it, even, this voice or these voices from the past, hesitant, broken, somehow indubitably authentic, don’t make me laugh, struggling to emerge from under each other and from under the foyer music and its increasing volume assailing it or them, this voice or these voices like a record that skips and repeats as records used once to skip and repeat, the meaning either compounding or degrading for all he knows, that there is a voice or there are voices, that they are hesitant, broken, persistent, that they whisper and emerge, that they repeat and either compound or degrade or perhaps neither compound or degrade but just repeat, this pattern or lack of pattern which when repeated becomes a pattern of utterances, these whispers bear their meaning in the fact that they are whispers, in the structure of the whispers rather than in the whispers’ content, whatever that may be, he will not hazard to presume. There is, as well, a small booklet titled SOFT GROUND | TALL GRASS containing some poems in German, perhaps these same poems, he doesn’t know, and some poems also in English, which he recalls as both looking backward and reaching forward, or both reaching backward and looking forward, he can’t remember, he hasn’t brought the booklet with him and he did not buy another in the foyer because, after all, he already has a copy, but in any case poems of some sort of transformation, some sort of encounter with nature and its relinquishments, with memory and all that, some sort of making, donning and casting off of some sort of garment of escape or transformation, perhaps he is now making this up, he doesn’t have the booklet with him after all, the booklet also containing some photographs of someone enveloped in the garment, this garment, presumably, here on display, the artist, presumably, struggling to emerge from the garment or concealed peacefully, or that could be resignedly, he supposed, within the garment, photographs implying a performance version of SOFT GROUND | TALL GRASS, an enactment, perhaps, of the narrative implied by the garment, the narrative for which the garment and the spoken and the printed words and the performance, if there was a performance, provide some sort of evidence, though only of a circumstantial sort, actually the only sort of evidence we have of anything, he thought. SOFT GROUND | TALL GRASS does not surrender the experience implied by the work to the viewer, but the reverse, he thought, SOFT GROUND | TALL GRASS is a residue, a sediment, a husk, evidence that an experience took place, but not a means of access to that experience, the experience remains inviolate and undrained. He had no time, he thought, for the meta-experiences of art, and, as he said, and it wasn’t entirely a joke, he thought perhaps he disliked art, art that conveys an experience or attempts to convey an experience becomes an ersatz experience, a simulacrum of experience only, he thought, a way of replacing experience with its less intimidating double, a way really of escaping experience and draining it of its power, but if, he thought, as with SOFT GROUND | TALL GRASS, the story is not told, the experience is not explicated and annulled, the experience retains transformative power precisely by remaining inaccessible to the viewer of the evidence of that experience, and therefore not vulnerable to assimilation and annulment by the viewer. By remaining inaccessible and unexplained, he thought, the work retains its power to act even upon the viewer who cannot access or explain it precisely because they cannot access or explain it. He thought he might be repeating himself. He was against interpretation, he’d decided, just as he was against most things. We do not need to understand or even recall a trauma to leave it behind, he ventured, or to be healed or whatever of that trauma, after all, he thought, to recall and to understand or to think that you could recall or understand, is merely to reiterate that trauma, to define your recovery by that trauma, to armour that trauma in this reductive and frankly harmful understanding, or, rather, pseudo-understanding. Experience cannot be communicated through the representation, that is to say through the misrepresentation, for any representation is a misrepresentation, of that experience, he thought, but that which does not express, despite the impulse to express, if there is an impulse to express, and despite the craving for expression on the part of those who desire the assimilation and annulment the experience of another if it was expressed, either from ill will or good will or just from laziness or fear or whatever, that which does not express the experience preserves the power of that experience, the experience for which there may be evidence, or no evidence, or only very partial and circumstantial evidence. That from which so much is withheld that there are only a few bare shreds left of evidence, an abandoned garment perhaps, perhaps words that cannot be translated or words that he at least is unable to translate, as well as maybe other words that he cannot remember, is that from which so much is withheld that it becomes unreachable to the extent that it is withheld, and therefore undrainable, unquenchable, unsmotherable and so forth, he thought, some unexpressed or inexpressible thing that, because it is not expressed or expressible, whatever, retains its power to transform maybe, he thought, even someone who encounters the evidence, so to call it, of that withholding. SOFT GROUND | TALL GRASS, he thought as he quickly left the gallery through the conceptual footbath of the foyer music and the art bric à brac, it was after closing time after all, is a powerful work that exerts its power to the extent that it keeps its power withheld. How, he wondered, will I write about this?
Thomas Pors Koed