---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: G Mashot
Date: 10 November 2016 at 12:05
To: Charlie G Thomas
Thank you for talking me through your work yesterday, it was intriguing to hear the way in which you framed it, that it is fundamentally an exercise in writing. I have also been reflecting on what you said about the stifling nature of working in the same space all of the time, especially with regards to the series Lines Written for and by. Are these works not also a means of getting out of the studio and going for a walk? You might read that as an oversimplification but I think it’s really fucking hard to get out of bed in the morning, let alone get beyond the front door. Either way, it was interesting to trace the history of writing in art and art in writing with you (yes, I know you think I’m a bore for making a distinction). The point that I wanted to make when we were talking is that not only do I recognise the fundamentals of writing poetry in the constraints you employ, but also that they seem to be a means by which to go “on”1. I am trying to recall the rules you recited to me with regards to Lines Written for and by, bear with me … I am also going to add some brief observations if you don’t mind responding to them.
a) The wooden dowels must be painted black
- Mirroring the written word or the drawn line, or both?
b) The background must equate, approximately, to a blank page
- This brings to mind a quotation I read at the top of a press release for one of your previous shows: “Don’t make the mistake of thinking the white sheet is nothing. It’s nothing for your novelist, your journalist, your blogger. For those folk it’s a tabula rasa, a giving surface. For a poet it’s half of everything.” 2
c) The wooden dowels must hold themselves without any fixings
- Does this relate to what you said about the work having the potential to undo itself? I think there is a contradiction here in the presentation of these as still images. Also, I think the work I Found the Poems in the Fields are still, silent even. I’d go so far as to say that that’s their fundamental quality.
d) The positioning of the dowels must not take longer than three minutes in total
- Is this important to maintain the gesture of a quickly penned line?
Something that intrigued me was our discussion about failure. As I understand it the dowels only have a certain degree of bend before they snap and when they do you take it as a sign to return to the studio. That you find it necessary to stop at that point, sometimes after only one attempt, made me feel frustrated on your behalf. I guess more often than not we find ourselves unable to write anything meaningful, is this lesson in false starts? I am glad you pointed me towards Three Dialogues 3, I wasn’t aware of the text previously but it has introduced some thoughts about the impossibility of language. Perhaps this is something we can discuss in more depth next week, I don’t have the words right now.
This brings me on to the works you are looking to make from funereal foam letters. * In these the potential of constraint is at the fore. When I write about these, I think that it’s important that we don’t insist on ignoring what these letters are actually used for. I know that you would posit that they are conveniently pre-ordained sculptural / lexical arrangements that you can use but it’s clear that that is a half-truth. I saw a copy of Dunn’s Elegies 4 on your desk, let’s not exasperate everyone by ignoring “the antiseptic whiff of destiny”5. I know that in the past you have brushed off decisions such as these by stating that you are merely “an indecisive person”. Obfuscation is, rightly, your modus operandi but please open this up for me a little or writing this will be near impossible.
Let me know about the other works, it’s important that you give me enough time to drill down into these too. Are you sure I am the person to do this, it seems strange to get someone who is not a writer to piece it all together, in fact, I am barely coherent.
* Will you be showing these works? Please let me know soon as they may form the core of my text.
1 “On. Say on. Be said on. Somehow on. Till nohow on. Said nohow on”, Samuel Beckett, Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho, Stirrings Still, (London: Faber and Faber, 2009) p.75
2 Glyn Maxwell, On Poetry, (London, Oberon Books, 2012) p.11
3 Originally published in Transition in 1949, Three Dialogues represents a small part of a correspondence between Samuel Beckett and Georges Duthuit about the nature of contemporary art. It is sometimes referred to as The Duthuit Dialogues.
4 Elegies by Douglas Dunn is a collection of poems written after the death of Dunn’s wife in March 1981, it was the winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year in 1985.
5 Douglas Dunn, Elegies (London, Faber and Faber, 1985), p.12
NB: All footnotes were subsequently added by Charlie Godet Thomas and may not reflect the original intentions of the author