Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Renee Gladman on Language/Space/&Narrative

I was reading these essays by Renee Gladman, and I came across these passages about the space(s) of narrative and the distinctions between Poetic Time vs. Time of the "Object World." 
"Recently, I had found that to talk about something that was in essence everything was simply too exhausting, and that the only way around it was to talk about the question of the thing rather than the thing itself, since in the end, it would become both. “Narrative—” I went on with my talk, “Was anybody still interested? I didn’t want to open my eyes to it. I hadn’t wanted to think about narrative at the same time that I was conscious of my body lying in the object world. It was a problem of space similar to what Martha and I were discussing yesterday: Was it possible to say that something was gathering outside of a thing with the intention of meeting something else when this something else was the larger space in which that first thing existed? Could I talk about narrative as I was operating within it?" 
"I wanted to tell her that the problem of poetic time was not a fiction, as I’d been, for years, calling it. Fiction did not concern itself with problems of time. If there was a problem inside a fiction—a problem of any nature other than what's happening inside the plot—then the whole thing would swell and small holes would form across the surface and the swellings would become as large as mountains while the holes would fill with water and become river valleys and soon we would be so far from the surface of the water that we’d recognize the picture of the mountains and valleys as a part of a geological map and recognize ourselves standing in an object world much larger than the object world in which we’d been lying when we began this essay." 

She dives more into explanation of Poetic Time and Language Space in this interview:

LI: What should you be doing with your writing?RG: If I were a really good drawer I would give up writing and just make beautiful line drawings, or at least for a while that would suffice, but I don’t draw well enough to abandon writing. Sometimes I go around and talk about the sentence and prose, and for a while I was really stuck on how thoughts exist in a preverbal way. I was thinking about how in our minds we have many things going on simultaneously, as images, half words, gestures, partial marks, and from that multiplicity we go into the single line of articulation, of expression. I kept trying to point back to that threshold moment, that translation or becoming. The linguistic selection process, what you decide to privilege, is fascinating to me, but it’s hard to know what to say about it. It makes writing a very interesting space. Writing is not a map, but something that comes after mapping. 
LI: Why prose?RG: I came up through poetry, but I am a sentence writer. I don’t know if it’s so much creating narratives as narrative space. I’m interested in time and experience and the sound of telling a story as opposed to the story itself. I have a love and deep interest in fiction, especially fiction in translation, so I teach that. But often in my workshops now I’ll bring in texts that are hybrid, cross-genre works. It’s useful as a way to get students to take more notice of language. I have students read poetry and then enter it from a sentence space. 
LI: So the poem also contains the sentence?RG: You can’t avoid narrative in any kind of language space. And poetry is interested in experience; time is there, and the day. There are places where it pushes toward documentation and begins to remind me of what you might do in prose. Maybe not fiction. But in prose, how you might build sentences around an abstraction or feeling rather than plot points. I think it can only benefit literature for fiction writers to employ various degrees of compression in their approach to narrative. 
LI: At the risk of going backward, what’s the difference between fiction and prose?RG: Fiction is interested in a certain kind of unfolding or sequence of events. Time is more intact in fiction. Prose, I think, introduces the element of the awareness of yourself in language as you are unfolding things in time and allowing yourself to be distracted or interrupted, allowing yourself to question the difficulty of what you’re doing and be stalled, not to move. I want more fiction to do this, because it changes the way we read and understand story. With fiction that repairs all doubt and interruption and experiment by being fluid, coherent; what we expect doesn’t leave much room for me as a reader. But I think the more you talk about these categories, their distinctions, the quicker they break down. Ultimately, what I want is for there to be a blur over everything.

It's a very powerful idea to me, the distinction between using language to create "narrative space" vs. a  narrative plot. I gravitate toward the former infinitely more; I'm affected more by literature and and text linguistically/formally/experientially than I am by the plot of the book.  
I definitely need some more time to flush out my ideas around this topic, but it struck a chord, and I'm interested in the use of of the term "space" in this context: as an experience or mindset. Something intangible, but very real. 

I found this artist, Rune Guneriussen, over the summer, but I find these installations/ photographs relevant because his work reminds me of nomadic groups or herds of wandering animals.  He speaks of his work as a path or a collection of moments creating a story.  http://www.runeguneriussen.no/

obliteration room Yayoi Kusama

Tent constructed from old umbrellas in Australia

Monday, January 30, 2012

Felix's yard

There is a dog named Felix who lives at a house in the neighbourhood of Ocean Park, in Surrey, British Columbia. As there is no fence in the front yard of this house, he is often tethered up on a leash to a post in the middle of the yard. Whenever a stranger walks down the street he goes wild. He barks and growls and and doesn't stop running until the intruder passes the house. As he is held back by the lead, he runs the same semi-circle back and forth, over and over. He has made a very visible path in grass which you may find relevant (and entertaining).