Wednesday, 21 January 2015


"Literature is without proofs. By which it must be understood that it cannot 
prove, not only what it says, but even that it is worth the trouble of saying it."
 -- Roland Barthes

"As an allegory rather than a utopia, an allusion rather than 
an illusion, desire was for a whole generation a guiding 
star. Today it is merely an observation satellite." 
-- Jean Baudrillard

10:17 pm. I receive a  text saying "document arriving in ten minutes #letterbeingsandtime"

She doesn't need to sign her name: our devices do that for us now. And our names are now our addresses. We exist as locations, not as histories. We appear as messages, as quieter and quieter messages, appearing and dísappearing like moments of weather inside the Times Square of our crowded and cool devices. Messages like snow, or the 21st century equivalent of snow, coded for anonymity and distance and endless love.

And then, ten minutes later, these arrive:

Gazing at the images in the darkness I find myself thinking about the notion of 'reception'. There's a passage in "Godel, Escher, Bach" where Hofstadter talks about how messages have to not only contain their message content but also a little bit of meta-message that announces the presence of a message. He talks about Bach records being sent out into space with the hope of some alien civilisation receiving them. Will they be able to recognise the 'envelopes' of satellite craft and metal box and LP record? Will they recognise the grooves as containing 'music'? Will they đeduce 'record player' and 'violin' and 'reverberation' and 'emotion'? And finally, will they get the message?

He also goes on to wonder whether a meteorite crashing into the craft, obliterating it in a moment, may be a way of playing Bach, of 'receiving the message' of Bach...

Sometimes I feel like that meteorite and sometimes I feel like Bach, or a museum of musical instruments, or some kid's first ever record player, or a museum on fire in the night of all nights, or a video of that conflagration found on Kafka's phone and destined for Felice but never sent. Sometimes I feel like the message and sometimes I feel like the envelope.

I picture her texting, standing by the window of her studio (where her phone lives, on the windowledge, safe from the surrounding chaos), and a line from a Richard Powers novel comes back to me: "her face was like someone texting a lover." Its not an infatuation, its just something I'm thinking, something to do with light. Faces and light. The human eye perceives less than one millionth of one percent of the electromagnetic spectrum - yet here we are: texting, visualising, painting, remembering, a communicative array somewhere between golden telepathy and meteorite crash. We're at home in the darkness. Its amazing.

Friday, 2 January 2015


"The tree that springs up again, the locusts that devour the crops, 
the cancer that beats others at its own game, the mullahs who dissolve the 
Persian empire, the Zionists who loosen the hold of the mullahs, the concrete 
in the power station that cracks, the acrylic blues that consume other 
pigments, the lion that does not follow the predictions of the oracle..." 
 -- Bruno Latour

"On Mushashi Plain / the voice of a deer / is one inch long."
-- Basho

She's just finished painting for the day. Conversation begins as she cleans brushes and I finish assembling a playlist for her on Youtube. We talk about envelopes and clothes and platforms of anonymity, The vastness of the envelope, the length of a sleeve, the voice of Basho's deer, ghosts without watches or pens, voice recognition software and voice pretend-not-to-recognise software, CVs that fit on the back of a postcard, self-confidence and stillness, smiles that explain everything. We talk about anonymity as ornament: eloquent, disciplined, intentional, restrained. And anonymity as maze, as lost voice and disinheritance.

She asks me ìf there are any book titles I envy, that I wish could've been mine. I mention two: 'Operation Wandering Soul," and an essay by Helene Cixous entitled 'Letter-Beings and Time.'

We talk about languages, all the possible languages. The enchanted ruins of old grammars and etymologies  The prosaic formality of book titles compared to the fractured chaos of DJ playlists. The illusory distances between Jane Austen and Twitter and the literature-to-come, Hansel and Gretel in the age of google maps. Fairy tales told by maths professors. 

Fairy Tales

(more of his cartoons can be found here)

She tells me about a disappointing date she went on recently. 'We met, but we đidn't meet each other and we đidn't meet the unknown.'

She asks me for an image of passion, something from the world of a buddhist monk. "'Walking through fields of snow I counted the snowflakes.' - that's close to what I mean by passion. I mean a true feeling, poised within íts unrepeatability, yet graceful and modest. Neither limited nor reckless. But most of all freedom from compulsion. Deep sadness - with thanks. That's passion."

"I'm listening, attentive, I'm translating, I'm advancing in the 
scaled-down meaning ... the ascent goes from the hell of noise to 
the smaller and smaller paradise of the said."
 - Michael Serres, "Biogea"

I tell her about John Cage's recollections of D T Suzuki, the Japanese zen teacher at Columbia University in the sixties. He used to teach with the window open in the summer and the classroom looked out over the runways of La Guardia airport. Whenever a plane took off or landed the roar of the engines would drown out hís words. But he never paused or raised his voice. He just continued with his lecture regardless, allowing some of íts content to be erased in this way. One time he mentioned some zen master 'who lived in the 8th or 9th century... or maybe the 10th... or perhaps the 11th, or 12th...'

I tell her about a remark by the American writer Marilynne Robinson that I can't get out of my head at the moment, about humanity's "odd capacity for destitution." She gives me one of her special smiles - a lighthouse beam from the cliff-edge of rash decisions - that says 'I know, I know,...but don't forget your breadcrumb map...'