Thursday, October 14, 2010

From the Office of Cultural Repair: A proposal for a Day With No Words

Tristan Tzara by Lajos Tihanyi
By Barry Johnson

Last night, the several poets assembled by Mark Owens for Reading/Rearrangutan at Pacific Northwest College of Art informed the Office of Cultural Repair that its communiques, memos and plans of action were not sufficient. And maybe useless. And maybe even worse than useless.

At least we haven't built our entire practice on words, like some people we know (*cough, Arts Dispatch, cough cough*). Have we mentioned our Art Cart fleet?

Anyway, here's some of what they told us, just the bits that they aimed at us specifically. You know. Like the TV does sometimes?

"Writing aspires to erasure." James Yeary

"Once again there is nothing to report... One cannot even report that it can't be reported that there is nothing not to report." Arnold Kemp

"You can never make enough money to disappear." Weird Fiction

"In writing saying is forgetting." Lisa Radon



 Maybe they didn't quite say it like that, because we were scribbling and listening at the same time after all. And who knows how they broke the lines or punctuated their sentences. But the message came through loud and clear, as clear as words can (and, perhaps, can't).  It was obvious, and Weird Fiction told us, "don't get trapped in a valley of obviousness." Trapped? Hey, we're way deeper down than those Chilean miners. It's like No Exit in this valley.

So, words, or rather no words: We are hereby proposing a Day With No Words throughout the culture-shed. No one talks. No one reads. No one listens to music with lyrics. Because of all the signage, we propose that everyone stay inside. That shouldn't be a problem: On the day we are proposing, it will be raining: 11/11/11.

And then, after going cold turkey for a day, we only gradually allow words to leak back in, very gradually. Maybe one word the first day, two words the second. And back to zero at the first hint of confusion.  By New Year's maybe we'll be up to an entire sentence apiece. A short sentence. We will have learned to make it count.

12 comments:

MightyToyCannon said...

The audacity of it has rendered me speechless.

Barry Johnson said...

The Office just had a terrible thought: emoticons...

radon said...

What is quite brilliant, and quite relevant to the program of some of these poet/artists at Rearrangutan, is that a Day With No Words would perform the magic trick of foregrounding words as Cage's 4'33" foregrounded the sounds to be found in "silence." I always think that the trouble for words as a material for making art/poem is that they are cheap, common, mundane (we order pizza with them) and more importantly, expected to be transparent (we "see" right through them to what they are meant to mean) so that we don't attend to them with a heightened sense of awareness in the way that we do a brushstroke or a dancer's gesture.

radon said...

And P.S. Thank you for coming, Barry.

Suzi Steffen said...

I want to "like" the emoticons idea, Barry. But this isn't Facebook ... WAIT, YOU WANT ME TO GO WITHOUT FACEBOOK FOR A DAY?! Ahem. :(

Barry Johnson said...

Lisa, Thank you! And I agree: We even have a saying -- "Talk is cheap." Fortunately, this fits somehow into my love of things made from common materials (baskets, pots).

Suzi, You will be looking so forward to 11/11/11 that you won't even notice you're not FB-ing/tweeting/talking/interviewing/etc-ing. And you'll be able to work on your humming!

bastinptc said...

You are proposing a day of utter devastation, wholly living within the loss? What shall I do with the voices in my head that insist on singing Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight?"

radon said...

I think the inside-the-head voices are okay in Barry's scheme, Patrick. Am I right, Barry? Oh, and he didn't say "no humming."

Barry Johnson said...

Patrick/Lisa Yes, the voices inside our heads are going to be difficult to silence. As the date grows closer we'll suggest an advanced program for muzzling them a bit. (It involves repeating what they say over and over until the words are no longer able to carry specific word-content. Only the raw sound-content remains.) Generally, though, the voices inside the head will not be counted as "non-compliance" with the Day With No Words. It's amazing how many people have "Afternoon Delight" spinning at any given time!

Leo Daedalus said...

Ordering pizza without words is like dancing without architecture.

Barry Johnson said...

A Day Without Words is a Day Without Orders -- the architecture of power collapses. We will have time to practice miming pizza?

Barry Johnson said...

By the way, L. Daedalus's contribution to Rearrangutan sucked us deep into the Parsifal story.