Sunday, 26 September 2010


by Mary Paterson

Pilvi Porkola invited me to contribute to Esitys Magazine, a Finnish-Language forum for discussions on the art and study of performance. This edition includes essays by Caroline Bergvall, John Hall, Heather Kappalow, Maija Hirvanen, Pilvi Porkola, Leena Kela, Johanna MacDonald, Tuomas Laitinen, Janne Saarkakkala, Masi W. Eskolin & Suvi Parilla.

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My essay (in English) is a short piece on writing, performance and lies. I used the opportunity to delineate the relationships between writing and performance which are the backdrop to my work with Open Dialogues and elsewhere.

I wrote about lies because I am increasingly drawn to the morality of writing. This has come from thinking about the experience of writing as it relates to time and translation (as well as performance). Of course, writing is never an equivalent for time or another language; in fact, writing always overlays other times and other languages. But whilst it's important to acknowledge this necessary imperialism, being self conscious can damage what is functional or even beautiful about the written form.

I find that writing in the context of art ('art writing', or 'performance writing') sometimes has a tendency to concentrate on the materiality or process of a textual work over the fluidity of the writing itself. This is intellectually productive, but not always affectively so. At worst, it feels likes moral abdication, or a kind of soft-focussed ghost of post modernism, which casts a shadow over daily life.

I find myself turning to familiar forms like plays and poetry (the ultimate score for performance, and the ultimate performative writing, respectively) in order to step outside the weight of knowing your own limits. Or, more specifically, to step outside the structural boundaries of this conceptual art tradition.

Looking at the architecture of writing from another perspective, I can see the moral relationship more clearly. (I can even see that the material relationship can sometimes slip into being a proxy for truth.) That entire edifice is an act of deception, which means the question now becomes - how can you make the deception consensual? Which is to say, morally acceptable?

Clearly, it's not enough to know that writing and reading are performative acts that create meaning - you also have to create meaning. It's not enough to invite the act of reading - you also have to address and position your reader. And in order to do this through consensus (if you are, as I am, that way inclined), then you have to acknowledge the moral in the material relationships. Which means I step back into the structure with a renewed enthusiasm, ready to tell some lies.

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