My Secession Party
I. “Come to my party – I’m leaving.”
A man walks through a small satellite district of Hobart with a small drum beating out a rattling, somewhat martial clatter of rhythm. He is announcing the approach of another man who walks ten steps or so behind the drummer. This second man is wearing a sandwich board with placard raised and distributing small coloured flyers that declare in the graphic idiom of a local election campaign: “My Secession Party, Join The Procession, Saturday 1st October, Meet at 11.45am in the carpark, Montrose Foreshore Community Park, Bring instruments, balloons, banners, Refreshments provided, ALL WELCOME, something lost will be something gained.” For several hours the somewhat awkward and occasionally self-conscious man with placard distributes flyers in letter boxes accompanied by the drummer. Along the way, through the suburban streets, on the doorsteps and in the shopping strips, he talks to sometimes bemused, sometimes curious, sometimes chatty, sometimes reserved passersby and Saturday shoppers. Some question the motive – “Are you protesting something?” Some question means – “Are you getting money for this?” Some query the details – “Secede to an island in the Derwent?” “Leaving our Tasmanian State?” “What’s the point?” “A procession or a secession – what’s up?”
In these conversational exchanges, the artist James Newitt, wearing his blue sandwich board and bearing aloft his red placard, indicates an intention – “I’m an artist and this is my work…” The project, it emerges, is to process with all due ceremony to the bank of the river on the following Saturday, and from there to boat out to an artificial island. On this island he will – he announces prosaically – have seceded from his Tasmanian homeland and the community of friends and strangers that constitute that home, place and polity. Throughout the walking, drumming, talking, and handing out of flyers, there is no arch showmanship nor pushy salesmanship nor self-regarding assuredness. This is not the suave posture of haughty abandon. It is the very cautious, though a little brazen – that rattling drum rolling along and those brash blues and reds – and all the more ambivalent, declaration of intent. It is tinged with a gentle but unmistakable melancholy. Perhaps it is the strange intellectual melancholy of a self-annulling wish for future recognition in absentia. The affect here, the mood, is subtle but decidedly off-beat and anticipatory. There is a slight nervousness, as when a politeness announces a rudeness. There is a concern to not mislead, but also to not give the game away – if indeed there is a game in play. What is it to want to secede? What is it to want a passerby to know that you are passing them by, but that you want them at the goodbye party too?
II. “I will be loved where I am lacked.”
A week passes and the appointed hour arrives. A small crowd of well-wishers and curious souls has assembled at the nominated spot and balloons and hooters have been distributed. A marching band now leads the way down to the river shore and a troupe of cheerleaders chants the noisey procession to the place of disembarkment and the moment of secession. The secessionist rows out in a small yellow and grey inflatable dingy. There is a hint of comedy as in a silent movie’s relentless rehearsal of a rowing-boat heading for its destination. He now installs himself on a small artificial island platform that is covered with artificial grass and furnished with one ersatz palm tree and a small pitched shelter. The shelter is just enough to provide a modicum of respite from shoreline viewers and the rain. Now that the secession is enacted, it seems to be all over bar the after-match analysis.
The art criticism blog “supercritical” has pointed out that secession has a multiplicity of references ranging from an older sense of personal separation from one’s former friends and associates to the political re-ordering of sovereignty; from a formal withdrawal of association to an avant-garde strategy of self-institution beyond official state culture. But how does it operate in this instance?
In a discussion on “autonomy” held in the courtyard of the University of Tasmania Centre for Creative Arts two days after the secession party, one participant hazards a connection with the question of Tasmania’s potential to secede from Australia. Another suggests that the issue is about leaving Tasmania itself. In other conversations people allude to the personal imperative to get away from a familiar and established setting. Someone else indicates the paradoxical dependency of the newly seceded islander on his support systems and friendship networks onshore. Others reflect on the need or wish or hope for the artist to assert a cultural agency that exceeds the demands of representing and announcing the local and all its particularities – most famously Tasmania’s natural environment, landscapes and ecologies and their related tropes in the visual culture of Tasmania. The artist himself has, in an earlier and informal conversation with the writer, indicated a degree of ambivalence about the condition of self-enforced isolation on a tiny platform with rudimentary hygiene facilities and minimal personal comfort. So what’s going on here – political secession, personal separation, counter-cultural self-institution, psychological withdrawal, social refusal, inchoate protest, self-dramatisation, or faux-spectacle or something else altogether? Playfulness or hubris? Provocation or protestation? Which way of reading the significance of the work works best?
This mode of questioning – questions of the order of “how should we read the work?”– may need to be asked cautiously and with a little circumspection. Indeed, why is it appropriate to assume that we are looking at something that requires “reading” as opposed to some other mode of engagement such as “witnessing” or “celebrating” or “playing” for example? These other modes would seem to require some degree of “reading” (i.e., we need to ascribe meanings of some order to cognise the work as a celebration or a game or an event to be truthfully attested). However, these other modes of engaging the work do not prioritise the action of ascribing meaning – the process of reading-off our interpretations. Rather these other modes of engagement suggest activation of the work as salient for usage in ways that exceed the priority of interpretation. On the other hand, and purely on an anecdotal and preliminary basis, it seems that the actual effect of the work, in its first two moments of iteration, is to seed discussion and posit itself as a “thing-to-be-interpreted”. But will this be the sustained reception of the work? Will the man who withdraws himself from circulation among us continue to circulate within our discursus?
III. “There’s a man on an island over there.”
Some days have passed, and I am standing in an alleyway expecting to hear a singer perform and forming myself into part of a temporary public gathering around another Iteration Again project, Lucy Bleach’s Homing in Mather’s Lane in central Hobart. I am waiting for this other work to unfold, anticipating the mournful and yet charismatic song of Rebekah Del Rio. While standing and watching the small audience build, I begin talking with the woman beside me about the larger context of these projects – the Iteration Again curatorial strategy. This is the framework authored by the Curatorial Director David Cross, whereby curators and artists are asked to realise temporary public artworks that are ‘iterated’ or re-authored in someway over a four week period. Further folding a process of critical writing – and mediation – into this strategic construct, writers have been invited to evolve a critical text on four occasions, thereby following in response to the iterations of the artworks. The current text is one such attempt at critical response and it is being produced by a participant in yet another of these projects, Fiona Lee’s and Paul O’Neill’s free school under the banner of “Our Day Will Come”. So the production of this piece of criticism is yet further folded into the many layers of the Iteration Again research platform. Indeed, it is so in ways that for some appear potentially problematic.
My partner in the casual conversation that structures our time, and our short relationship of waiting together in the street for a singer to sing, shares with me some of her sense of the problematics that are at work here. She introduces a number of themes. Firstly, my interlocutor expresses some concern about the nature of the ‘public-ness’ entailed in these iterative temporary public artworks. She seems to be proposing a distinction between an informed or elective public (people who know there’s stuff happening and actively seek it out) and a casual or accidental public (people who come upon the work unwittingly). But, there is a sharper critical edge to this – it seems to be also a matter of suggesting that there is a kind of ‘in-crowd’ formation at play whereby a kind of self-selecting group of cognoscenti are constituting themselves as ‘the insiders’. She elaborates the analysis further by citing the James Newitt work in the Derwent. “It’s not serious. He hasn’t seceded. He is in the river there, close enough that you could throw a burger out to him.”
Both these criticisms strike me as important (i.e., worth thinking and talking through further) though neither seems to me to be exhaustively true or necessarily as delegitimizing as my partner in conversation appears to believe them to be. But they are interesting challenges and good provocations for thinking. I tell her that there is this really interesting and recurring issue about the desire for critique and the apprehension that the conditions of critique are somehow compromised in the local milieu. This issue keeps coming up in the conversations at exhibition openings, in chatting with people at the art school, in the dialogues at the free school, at the school dinner events, and in the other gatherings around Iteration Again projects. I ask if she has considered publishing her critical challenges somewhere – I suggest that she might write out the arguments that she had shared with me. I suggest that it would be worth posting these criticisms on the “supercritical” blog for example (which I am now shamelessly plugging a second-time out of new-found loyalty to other partners in conversation here in Hobart.) She responds by suggesting that nobody is really writing there – “It’s the same people.”
I carry her criticism with me in my head, thinking through the questions that this text has set out above: “Will the man who withdraws himself from circulation among us continue to circulate within our discursus?” There is a presumptive collectivity invoked by saying “among us” and “our” when the text produced has an undisclosed readership: a readership that is not-yet-constituted-as-a-“we” (if indeed it ever can become so.) This deployment of “we” and “us” and “our” is a unitary rhetorical strategy that I have come to use, in spite of the many difficulties that it engenders. (No doubt these difficulties multiply in this text as the presumptive use of “we” is complemented here by the frenetic use of “I” and the unanchored use of “she”). It is a rhetoric that seems to summon into co-presence even those who do not wish to be with us. It summons “them” and “us” to see that we are among them and they are among us: It declares we are here together now, not as a lie nor as a truth, but rather as a summoning into the co-production of thinking, as a summoning of the readers into reading together apart. This rhetoric is tricky, of course. Indeed, just as the rhetorical declaration of secession is tricky, so too is this rhetorical call to collectivity. These are tricky and slippery announcements in the same way that the task of thinking about art, and doing so textually, is tricky.
Some more days pass and I go to the riverside – to look out upon the man on that artificial island who claims to have seceded. It is my first time to see first-hand and not through the mediation of anecdotes, statements of intention, photographs, video, texts and conversations. I am now a witness. I know something that you might not yet know. There’s a man on an island over there. He has said he would leave us, and this is him: Gone. I have seen him: Gone. Over there.
I am here in the riverside park with a small audience gathered by the river. Now we wait upon another singer who comes to sing out across the water to the clearly visible man who is reclining, feet raised, reading a book, relaxed on his floating platform. The platform rotates erratically, yet gracefully, in the ebb and flow of the calm-seeming water. A woman approaches with a solid purposive gait and walks herself to the river edge, not giving much notice to the small troupe of onlookers and the several cameras arrayed in anticipation of her arrival. She pitches her body into an oratorical pose and sings out to the island, declaiming in her song that: “There’s a man on an island over there…” Her voice is strong, dense, compelling and the onlookers seem to forget the man on the island for a moment, and instead attend upon her singing. Just beyond the singing woman, I notice some people on a nearby path, walking their dogs, evening strollers, middle-aged couples with their well-behaved animals on leashes, conducting themselves together along the park path in a conversational and relaxed huddle. For a brief moment, they look on at the small crowd that we have gathered ourselves into: they look at us but they do not join us nor pay attention to us for very long. They seem reserved but also somehow sufficient to themselves, enjoying their own convivial perambulations through the early evening riverside parkland.
The singing continues and shifts register, moving first into a bluesy torch song and then emerging into an operatic effusion of longing. The singing moves and I am moved along with it. The operatic theatricality is emphatic. The singer moves in a lurching gesture of impassioned address, moving now right to the river’s edge. She is reaching out in strained address toward the man on the island. A flotilla of ducks sails past close to the shore: A bright-eyed young woman smiles in delight at this contingent event. I forget to register the secessionist’s demeanour during all this. Was he interacting? Was he responsive? Did he have a casual jocular manner? Was he awkward and self-conscious? Damn. What happened? Was I looking at the wrong thing?
It is later. I am in that great huddle of sociable chat again down at the city’s central waterfront, having left the suburban park in order to adjourn to the harbour and the handsome quayside. There are more discussions of criticism. People swapping stories of artworks encountered elsewhere. Then the rain and the wind blow hard, and a tremendous squall has suddenly broken out in the night harbour. How will the secessionist fare in this? Surely he can’t stay out in this? The restaurant people ask us to withdraw inside from where we are seated. They say the awnings may snap in such a gale.
I’m on the comfortable couch inside, looking out at the smoker sneaking his last blast before accepting the waiter’s instruction to retreat. And as I watch, I keep thinking of the man on the island; and the ersatz palm tree – more properly a New Zealand cordyline, I have since been informed: I think of the old Robinson Crusoe device and the novelistic nature of the narrative conceits in this text you are reading. I think of the “insider” group I appear to be inside; about the pro-filmic nature of the performances I have seen; about the documentation imperative that is so strong, especially when there is an unresolved ambivalence about the geographical and cultural particularity of the place of initial production; and now, finally, I think about the artist reading this later and being irritated that his work has become the occasion for my diaristic indulgence. But then I think “well, after all, it was he who left me behind first.”
Then, it dawns upon me: perhaps the iterative format could be deployed as an episodic narrative device, in the great tradition of epistolary novels, or of what old Dublin slang calls a “follow-er-uper-er” (and old Hollywood slang calls a “cliff-hanger”). So I have the temerity and chutzpah to suggest that all narrative and critical threads will find themselves resolved in our next episode. Stay tuned. It’s not over until…
IV. Part 1: “My eyes filled up, and I don’t even know the man.”
Dear reader. Such things as have transpired these last few days do not admit themselves of an easy report. However, given the manifold expectations on the matter of the dissolution of all attenuated questions and critical worries – that we may presume to have been promoted among our good, fine and noble readership these last few weeks – it is necessary to proceed in the vain effort of the full and frank disclosure of the events at Glenorchy and environs over these last three extraordinary days. In order to parry forth in this urgent task, and regardless of risk of personal injury or insult, let us move jauntily forward via a circuitous routing backwards and thereby first recall those important insights of the late great Prof. De Selby as recorded in his “reflections on the economy of winds in those uncertain parts both anterior and far southerly.” (On these and related matters, the reader is directed to the notebooks, unpublished at the time of De Selby’s death having been produced – as most scholarly commentators now agree – during the period of his work on the analogues of black air and shuddering temporal displacements. The reader is reminded here that the notebooks are now stored in the capacious and well-used archives of the state library.)
It is to De Selby’s great credit that he has foresworn the linearity of the temporal continuum – a linearity otherwise ubiquitously endorsed in the moving pictures and all manner of televisual devices and vehicular transports that furnish the modalities of personal transplacement and disarrayment so characteristic of our woefully unreflective, though allegedly modern, times. (And yes, indeed, these very plurabellious times may be altogether too modern in that very degree of their avowal of linear progression that is assumed so grievously uncritically in the complacent declarative “modern”.)
It is in these greatly understudied notes by De Selby – which incidentally are soon to be brought out in a handsome volume, with a fine system of scholia, footnotes, indexes, commentaries, cross-references and trilingual glossaries, under the careful editorship of our own much-loved philosopher and practitioner of the dark arts of Hermes, Professor Malpas of the Universality of Trasmania Tropicalis in Temperis Fides – that De Selby declares himself convinced of the cyclical nature of the temporal manifold. Indeed, De Selby has gone so far as too suggest that a triple rotary system applies across the temporal manifold. It may be worth noting that in this development of his ideas he has, perhaps wittingly and in full possession of his own posterior analysis, precipitated a controversy among his scholarly commentators as to the significance of his move from the earlier Freudo-Nietzschean “duplicity of returns” model (as manifest in his dual-chamber or bi-cycling quantum paradigm) toward a later, and admittedly less readily assimilated, Marxian-Freudo-Nietzschean “triplicatory returns” model or what some have called his tri-cycling schematism of temporal re-judderation and repetitiousness.
I ask that the reader would briefly recall to mind that the triplication of returns model comprises of three moments of non-linear continuity-rupture-turnings – (If one were producing a technical paper on the matter, perhaps one would incline more properly to speak of modalities rather than moments, but as this text is a modest non-technical paper addressing itself to a de-general readership such fine grain details of terminology – of the “dis, dat, dese and dose” varietals – need not be taken as a matter of any great significance in the contrivance of our commentary here or indeed in their becoming else-whereabouts later).
De Selby’s model then entails the Trinitarian doctrine of repetitions or re-ring-ings (some have preferred to say “re-bellings” in recognition of the sonority of tone required for the high abstract schematism of the tri-repetitiousturningbackarsewards) namely: (i) a real repressive cyclicking return; (ii) a tragically historical far-cycle return; and (iii) of course (as he was understandably under the Nietzchean influences of late 19th Century nationalism once again) a prodigal unpardonable near-cycle internal return. I am convinced that if we wish to make good the investment of the reader’s time and energies in the pursuit of the meaning, nature, implication and consequentiality of the recent events at Glenorchy and environs, we have no choice but to invoke and make appeal to De Selby’s triplicating-of-returns model.
Unfortunately, De Selby’s paradigmatic re-modelling of the post-scalar (and, as others have written elsewhere, the attendant postpartumtitiousness and presumptive heteroglocality of this) and multi-rupturous temporal de-continuum brings a significant overhead in terms of the requisite terms. In a word, indeed summatively, one might say De Selby’s model brings linearity back in through the backdoor sideways, thereby off-setting the earlier gains in terms of a re-lossing of the rear-entry-linearity, again. Indeed some would say the tri-cycling model is inherently flawed and that a more properly or more comprehensively weakened ontology requires us to engage a quadruple repetitious model and bypass the tri-cyling system altogether. These critics of tri-cycling, the so-called four-folders (or self-styled, under their own steam as it were, auto-motivated four-wheel re-re-cyclers) have declared unambiguously that a quadriheteroic model is required. And again, such positions have been re-iterated elsewhere, so we will not pursue them in greater detail here.
To proceed then, with the aid of De Selby’s model, and taking as supplement Lacan’s re-reading of Freud’s “beyond the pleasure” in principle we can be left in no doubt whatsoever that at Glenorchy what transpired was a quartering return of time fortrighly across the two week period and with an astute mobilisation of bagpipes in order to quell the rising emotion of the music-lovers gathered in anticipation of that great food for thought, that is indeed a meal in itself, namely the victuals (lately barbequed up for many minutes to grab salads and glassed on the breakages.) This was enough to bring tears to the eyes of one spectacle-wearing onlooker.
I have been interrupted I am afraid. I see that the young man who butlers for me on Tuesdays after mass (a daily communicant no less) has returned from his errancy and is about to pre-serve breakfast just now for me on a table that I am not yet seated at, as I have yet to get up this fine morning. (Although I have been awake for many hours now, as I was awoken quite heartily earlier in the morning by a garrulous young man with a cap and some fast talking clothes who door-stepped me with well-wishes for leaving and letting me know that there was little need of my return.) So, reluctantly, I must allow the interruption of my cogitations here for a few moments, and I will return to you, dear reader, with a fuller explication of the Glenorchy episodes after I have had the opportunity of some breakage in my fast and some outages in modest though urgent intestinal re-adjustments and having attended to some sundry related practical matters shifting myself now toward a small half-lit alcove to repast. Bear with me and we shall have further chance to pursue our critical quarry here, to wit, the nature, meaning, function and iterative cast of public withdrawal on a private matter by the secessionist at Glenorchy. I expect we shall have been regurgitated sufficiently by late afternoon to proceed toward the closing remarks. Thank you for your temperance and patience.
IV. Part 2: “Yes, you may leave now, but…”
I must apologise to my readers, but a certain subterfuge has been required of me these past few days, as I have had to make good an escape from the dread island of Transmania where all manner of intrigue and conspiracy has been afoot. I am afraid that when I indicated that my butler had returned to prepare breakfast yesterday, I committed a most egregious untruth. The fact is that I was making good my escape with the assistance of a fellow rhetorical technician. Unfortunately, we had to make the escape without allowing the relevant authorities enough time to prepare the necessary warrants for our arrest and deportation from the island, hence the need for skulduggery and misdirection. There has been therefore no breakfast but rather a fast break for it. By employing the stunting effects of De Selby’s well known “black air” in its most concentrated form, my fellow escapee and I were able to shrink ourselves in a thickened fog of the said air (what Robert Anton Wilson later described as a super-dense coagulation of teratological molecules). With our size thus reduced by a factor of ten, rendering us down to a discrete half a foot or so (shrunk by the black air from our normally formidable six foot three inches and six foot two inches respectively), we were able to conceal ourselves inside some pretty boxes wrapped in flowery papers for the purposes of smuggling. We then had ourselves transported, thus disguised as a set of the complete works of Victor Hugo, to a safe house in Melbourne. It is from there that I must now complete my work and assert that the events, rumoured to have taken place this past month in Glenorchy and environs, thereabouts and nearby, have not yet taken place. Rather, by some grim trickery of quadraheteroic temporal folding a pre-emptive repetition urge has overtaken the small and much maligned community of artists, ne’r-do-wells, conspirators and general trouble-makers that live there. The full intention and probable consequences of such nefarious temporal re-juddering near but boggles the unprepared mind.
My fear is that my fellow escapee and I have not managed to really get out in time, as the effects of the temporal mischief wrought by unknown forces ripple out to engulf us even now. It may be that we are doomed to a prior return: Having completed the future farce ahead of time, it seems now that we must engage the preceding tragedy that is yet to be realised. I fear we have no choice but to experience the repetition’s origin that lies ahead of us somewhere. What dark minds have worked their infernal arts upon us here? When will their day of reckoning have already come upon us?
Whilst, I cannot give good estimate of what animates such dark minds, I am reminded of De Selby’s student’s famous remarks:
“We have seen an urge to repeat, an urge to return, as a means of performing a desire to overcome a failed earlier attempt to master the circumstances of life. We have also seen that this urge to repeat and to return may be seen as an impulsive attachment to the trauma as a thing desired for itself. We have something that is not the seeking of pleasure or the seeking for pleasures to be ended or even repeated: It is the seeking of something beyond the pleasure principle. It is not the autonomous ego that seeks this or is guided by this unknown seeking. It is the thickening of the black air in the congested lungs of the dead that shrinks us into echoes of what has yet to take place. Therefore the politics of love is the politics of dying. All death is social death, and it can only be experienced by the social without me. That is why we must go back to where we have yet to be.”
I must leave off writing now, as I am due an urgent reversal of size lest our hosts in the safe house in Melbourne should decide to read their newly acquired master pieces of French literature and cause all of us an unpleasantness we could well live without. Tell no one that you saw me, in case they were already looking for me. These are dangerous and secretive times that we have been living towards, and I am afraid you will have heard no more from this particular student of De Selby for sometime that is to come. Until that day, I must bid farewell and adieu dear reader.
Early on in the process of thinking about James Newitt’s work, the following question was posed: Why is it appropriate to assume that we are looking at something that requires “reading” as opposed to some other mode of engagement such as “witnessing” or “celebrating” or “playing” for example? The reader may rightly wonder if this question has been properly elaborated, or for that matter any of the many other questions posed throughout the different stages of the text. One might feel perhaps that these questions have merely been left hanging in the air, somewhat ponderously, and without any real effort to come to grips with them. On the other hand, one might wish to settle for a sense of the work as quite simply this provocation to ask ever more proliferating questions. Yet another strategy might be to read the form of written response presented here, the shifting modes of discourse adopted throughout, as the performative response to all these questions. But perhaps there remains a certain frustration. Perhaps a reader might just feel cheated and want simply to know: Is the work under discussion any good or not?
I experience an ambivalence here on two registers: (i) an ambivalence as to how this question might be asked and whether it is the pertinent question to ask: and (ii) an ambivalence as to how I would wish to respond. But let’s play along, in spite of these reservations.
This work manifests a series of different elements which are threaded in different ways around the proposition that the artist will withdraw and secede in someway from something. The elements comprise of various performances, different signs, gestures, actions, announcements, artefacts, events and various mediations of these. On the level of form, this work initially manifests the “weakened ontology” of artworks that abandon the self-contained, and apparently immediate, “presence” of the modernist autonomous artwork. Formally, this work manifests as a distribution of elements over place and time so as to frustrate any attempt to fully master and possess the work. (This issue was rehearsed with great clarity by Marko Markon in his keynote for the Iteration: Again symposium.) On the other hand the actualisation of the work manifests a strong pro-documentary instantiation – the being-toward-camera and for-later-display – and one senses that there is a strong practical imperative to generate a representation of the work that will function as the surrogate of the work. This surrogate, once finalised, one suspects will be inserted into the circuits of distribution in the artworld, effectively reinstating the discrete mobile autonomous-seeming artefact-spectacle that contradicts the initial disposition of the work. This formal contradiction may in turn be responsible for a certain lack of resolution in the multiplicity of “public” moments of the work whereby the accumulative, generative, and open-to-discovery potentials of the work are shut down in favour of a sustained serial realisation of a discrete work which is fully “authored” and mastered from the artist’s position. This last issue is not inevitably a problem, but it is problematic in terms of its mobilisation without evolved or considered reference to the thematics of secession, sovereignty and self-institution and the relational dynamics of togetherness and apartness, of inclusions and exclusions, and of territories contested (in an age of displaced non-persons and stateless-persons – a theme the artist has engaged elsewhere).
In the earlier questioning of the work, it was indicated that it seems that the actual effect of the work is to posit itself as a “thing-to-be-interpreted”. At this point, it seems to me a problem that the moment of interpretation has been externalised from the work, rather than made to be a constitutive process of the work’s formation over its iterative staging. The form of the work is a series but the generative moment of the work is not this iterative series: the work has been pre-emptively authored and finalised with minimal latitude for the unplanned to take priority or to have any real effect in the formation and disclosure of the work over time. The critical response I have produced has been somewhat unplanned and irregular, and I have attempted to honour the iterative process as a generative one and to join in with the work of James Newitt’s work in a small way.
This is an important dimension of the critical response. This project is one worth engaging with, attending to, and thinking through. I believe that this work is not yet finished and that it can actualise its potentials precisely in a re-configuration of the modes of after-life determined for the work. My ambivalence about the question “is the work any good or not?” is that it risks short circuiting the generative moments of the work, and its potential, by finalising too soon something that should be still in formation. But I also want judgement and I want to take responsibility for saying something and asking to be given your time to say something to you. (This is after all a very longwinded piece of writing that risks abusing the opportunity of online publishing and its capacity for limitless columns of text).
My proposal is that the work is not yet as good a work as it could be, because it has made an unsatisfactory compromise between being an iterative and generative temporary public artwork and being a self-contained autonomous and singly authored artwork. This is problematic, because precisely the tension between the sociality of temporary publics and the autonomising self-institution of the author should be a key axis for a work that posits the possibility of “secession”. This axis of the work appears to me as not fully developed. However, it may be that it is precisely in critical responses such as this one that the work activates these potentials. That has been my hubris which I have performed here, suggesting in someway that I can co-author the secessionist’s work without his permission or approval. It is a gesture performed in convivial play.
Do you want to play ball or not? Do you want to say “it’s my football, and we play by my rules”? Or “it’s my ball and I am taking it home”? Or can we have a kick-about and jostle in friendly competition, trying to score occasional goals against each other, but also seeking to delight in the sheer poetry of moving around each other in responsive transactions that summon us into the game as co-dependents pretending to seek self-sufficiency?