J and Harriet Jones
“1 : 1 : infinity issue 5: empty chairs sit between us”
How to take care of a sentiment, a sound, when it’s carried across a distance and passed back and forth between us over a footpath and a chat server and a kitchen bench?
“We carry dust home on our shoes” was drafted by Harriet during lockdown, reflecting on her ephemeral impressions from Fayen d'Evie's exhibition 'We get in touch with things at the point they break down // Even in the absence of spectators and audiences, dust circulates...'
“Your staggered lenses…” was composed by J, filtering conversations, memories, and fragments of the exhibition circulating online. Both contributions by Harriet and J wonder at how we might carry on contact when out of touch.
WE CARRY DUST HOME ON OUR SHOES
Weeks ago now, beside Fayen… squatting, the two of us, hovering, holding our weight above the West Space floor to scribble chalk on the boards beneath. We try to cross the gap between us, carry words across it, but particles fall, on to the ground then collect in rubber grooves and leave a print (an angular pattern) on the wood when we move from here to there. Carried further they’ll get smudged by the path of another body or maybe otherwise caught on the wind, like a note, carried insecurely, a secret — did you catch that? Are you getting what I mean?
Dust so thick today, a storm of it I can’t collect into clear thought. Kicked up and foggy, it’s swirling clouds that I try to fix, make still for a minute to record them. I imagine them, fixed, looking something like Zoe Leonard’s sun photographs.
These are stirred up again in my memory. I recalled them walking through bushy park with Justin & Sam, around the big loop of footpath in its middle. Calling on ideas collected over time and rearranging them to help translate ones captured in Fayen’s we get in touch…trying to get something across; these somethings little particles carried over time, like the chalk on my shoes.
I learnt about Zoe Leonard’s sun photographs years ago and they’re stuck in my head. A series of greyscale prints, analogue photos of the sun in which her camera lens is pointed directly at it, so the final images are hazy gradient blurs of grey, dust cloud flattened. Thinking of the sun we bring to mind a symbol, little loop with a halo of beams encircling it; sun as life, light, exposer-of-truth. A too usual dependence on perceiving-as knowing is, in these, fiddled with. We know the sun in truth by what it hits, how it looks and feels touching something else, and so the photo record fails to properly capture it, at the same time making a subject of what understandings and interpretations we project and keep suspended.
“When we habitually read documents as evidence and evidence as indication of a past supposedly gone by, do we overlook the liveness of temporal deferral, the real time of our complicities?” — Rebecca Schneider
I picked chalk up off the gallery floor and carried some, through the bush and home, reprinted on the concrete path and Sam asked, is there documentation of the work I could show them to get an idea?
Instead I condense bits of dust into one, voice passing them shakily across, inscribing something in the air, letting what slips between intonation and inference fall on the footpath for other feet to step in and carry on, then redeposit and combine them in some place and into some thing else.
‘…the way language contains legacy contaminants… cliche, a metaphor, a synonym, a pronoun’
Now I’m getting to know each artwork, trying to, by it’s archive. Lizzie describes debossed spread three of Fayen & Trent Walter’s 'Ascending/Descending Sonic Shadows’, a piece of collaborative palimpsest that republishes encounters with Bill Fontana’s SFMOMA installation as indented and printed spreads:
…Moving from the top middle of the spread, splaying wider as the texture underneath indicates a string of lines on a curvature. I draw an amateur drawing of the sun in my head, likening that drawing to the pattern underneath my fingers, the rays of that sun drawing. The form dissipates as I move down the page…
Language is rehearsed likenesses. I’m building up a vocabulary and yearning for other ways to speak. Yearning, reaching, clutching…
“I missed that … you’re breaking up”
I’m listening to Fayen’s voice, recorded, and the way she says tear I hear as the kind that rolls down a cheek.
‘Care is a cognate to grief’ caring: tending to, paying interest in, healing
This is the etymology often retraced, republished to describe a curator’s work and relationship with art, artist, audience. But our cares are also our worries, troubles, concern, as derived from Old English caru, cearu — sorrow, anxiety, burden of mind, and Proto Germanic karō — to lament, care, grieve. Here is the contradiction of care, a dual inference of burden or inward grief and of giving, stretching across distance and beyond oneself to care for.
The Roman myth of Cura cites care as the burdening force pulling humans to earth. Care is also philosophised, though, as that which extends a person outwards, in forms of charity, love, or concern, towards the cosmos and a better connected existence.
We grieve what we worry we won’t get across, what will be lost, damaged or worn away, and unfurl ourselves to our peripheries, to suggest it, gesture it, carry it on, with inscriptive limbs.
In West Space is a constellation of kept secrets. Among them sits a stage — Adam’s Pleiades platform — perhaps in wait of a privileged speaker. Had the gallery stayed open, those who felt able and brave enough to might have stepped up to it, to ladder ground to heavens and speak up, “hear me, hear this”. When there is no speaker? Dust circulates.
Shy notes on a page. Scattered strings of words. Editing, editing, wondering how should I condense dust to see it come undone again. I’m writing, I’m trying to write about Fayen’s show within periods of access, periods of distance.
We’re locked in again, on pause but still going, and I brought a box of fortune cookies home from the shops for novelty.
Cracking them, hungry for words to fill and fix hovering uncertainties,
Knowing is not as good as loving.
Replaying and transcribing them I notice false starts or tentative ones in the 1:1:infinity recordings:
Um, I guess, I guess the way…
kind of, almost like…
Edits and approximations. Hesitation an anticipation of slippage, of loss.
‘always a proposal and an approximation of it’
Language, words, forge closeness.
‘sometimes together, other times not, sometimes in order, sometimes another’.
Wide gaps between them.
‘empty chairs sit between us’
Listening necessitates situatedness and interdependence. Between two there is a gap, to get something across, try to if you want to.
‘…this emptiness is full of space’
I’m googling grief. Professional language and categorisations for bereavement have a distancing, dissociative effect, so how to find a dialect for something that is by nature hard to grasp or grip? We stretch out, reach for legibility, but continuities between thoughts, memory, feelings crumble and stir. Maybe grief is haptic? The feeling of loss, without-ness of, the witnessing of erosion of a thing or the memory of it. Its decay or transformation.
‘We get in touch with things at the point they break down’
I’m trying to preserve contact, remember fingers on raised and lowered syllables, so I’m using words to make contact, unable to have it, properly.
to have: to possess, own, or hold.
I condense memory dust into something of definition.
Justin’s is a memory song, broken bits re-strung, an unsteady thread of exchange between me and him.
tear: a hole, rip, split, something pulled apart.
I rip the next page I write out, it’s Rainer Maria Rilke poem but I think my thoughts are getting so scattered, pooling from too many places, soon they won’t make sense.
Now the page before it is only loosely tethered.
Words hold so tightly to each other, the gaps between them moments of absence, pauses which if left too long lingering will surely fill with dust, sounds, sediment…
Why don’t you sit between them? The gallery’s closed but here’s a seat that stays empty.
Locked in, always, a limbo between fallen timelines and ones still forming. History dust circulating, as well as what is coming to. And maybe it is better to love than to know.
“And we, spectators always, everywhere
Looking at, never out of, everything!
It fills us. We arrange it. It decays.
We re-arrange it, and decay ourselves.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke ‘Duino Elegies’
YOUR STAGGERED LENSES, ON AN EMPTY TRACK, RECORDED INTO VIEW AND OUT AGAIN, A DUST CLOUD ON A SHEET HUNG IN THE GARDEN. SILVER DECOMPOSED TO BLACK...
J (JU CA, PICNIC, ETC)
Track: “Your staggered lenses, on an empty track, recorded into view and out again, a dust cloud on a sheet hung in the garden. Silver decomposed to black…”
Whisper like residue, gesture, movement or experience. I think about lacings across text. How things connect spatially through it as if it were a volume of space. The reader approaches it in a linear way, but it has nonlinear form. It will mostly make sense, but later, as you see it in relation to something else. Life is precious and swollen.
The hair of both figures indicated by streaming lines. There is a growing distance in the ways we interact. I wish I could see you, all the things I could say. The vulnerability, complexity, and closeness arranges itself into four separate layers:
I don’t think anybody knows how to be anything, anymore. Is this all to just be together, to feel togetherness, complicity, closeness? The functions of desire and empowerment of togetherness. Always a proposal and an approximation of it… sometimes together, sometimes not, sometimes in one order, sometimes another.
Descriptions of the work:
How often does one’s imagination step in to furnish the nuances of a moment that occurred in another place or time, such that it might be contemplated, interpreted, responded to?
The place which in our desire to collect we consecrate to memory, has become an overwhelming place of accumulation. The small gestures preserved in the hope of holding on to memories of what I thought was disappearing. As soon as communications leave our fingertips they’re immediately rearranged and whatever the gesture enters into the broader network. The question then becomes what changes, or rather who. I do think there is a sense of one thing leading into the next even if this may not be linear development, but lines and threads that are crossing and connecting. Texture. Colour. Material. Light. Movement. Sound. One morphing from another, seamlessly coming together. Suggestive. Empathetic. Delicate. Strong. Desire
I took inspiration from different text and music works in my gesture towards Fayen d’Evie’s ”We get in touch with things at the point they break down // Even in the absence of spectators and audiences, dust circulates…". These were, “Memory is not a recording device: on Eliza Hutchinson’s Hair in the Gate, a biography” by Helen Johnson, un Magazine 7.2, 2013. “The Last Time”, written by Eva Birch which I first saw on the Dissect Journal YouTube channel, particularly the words “In the end times, we all declared what we were truly thinking. As of a true drowning. Giving thanks to each glacier as it melted at a speed which we could not see. Yet our hearts felt”. “who said what, exactly”, by Hartman Wallis and their words “There’s mineral turps too, and it’s not so hard to pour all along the back wall of the house and down the other––that’s the non garage side––And in the open window of what was always supposed to be. Miki Yui “Small Sounds”. Stephan Mathieu “Die Entdeckung Des Wetters. The piano was recorded with a handheld microphone at my friends house in Naarm, 7th July 2019.
J (ju ca, picnic, etc) is a writer, musician and founder of the record label and publishing platform Daisart.
Harriet Jones follows a curiosity in ways of understanding and the interference from language-frames we habitually use to locate and identify, in search of untidy & empathetic alternatives. She is a curator and collaborator who lives and works on Wurundjeri country.