How do I get anyone to read my work without painting it onto a door? In an art school everyone accepts the written word as a source, to be mined for concepts. Language is also just fine if it’s packaged in a performance or painted on a door. But there is a space between research and gimmicks where language can just be. It can operate as itself, without being limited by the size of your door. But no one has any time for that space. I’m not saying I want to write a novel. I don’t have the patience for anything more than a few pages. Unfortunately, no one else has the patience for anything more than a few words. You wouldn’t think that it’s possible to discuss a text-based artwork without reading a word of it, but you’re dead wrong. You can still talk about the table, or the QR code, or the printing method. That can even take up thirty minutes. I get it though. Text makes people uncomfortable. It’s just too intimate. We never experience it together; it’s a thing for wet afternoons and train rides, when you’re alone. Drag it into the hard white light of a gallery and it suddenly looks very scary. The more words there are, the less vague it is, until suddenly we have to deal with something that is very blunt and very legible and very ugly. Maybe, like a Manet, the bluntness is something people will come around to. The nakedness of the language and all its implications might get less shocking if more galleries become spaces to read in. There’s basically nothing anyone could paint today that would shock us. WHAT UNITES HUMAN BEINGS IS HUGE AND WONDERFUL. WHAT DIVIDES HUMAN BEINGS IS SMALL AND MEAN. Someone painted that on a door once. Now, I know what Shakespeare said and everything, but to me there isn’t a shorter and less challenging platitude out there that you could ever want on your door. Brevity and wit are not qualities I would ever attribute to that particular door. I mean, there’s a reason why Hamlet is four and a half hours long. I’m about halfway through the length I’m aiming for with this, and obviously the flow is breaking up. I constantly feel encouraged to package my text with those gimmicks I was talking about. Perform it as a monologue to lend the text a voice, for instance. Fuck off I don’t want to act. Writing has a voice already, that’s literally the whole point. If you’ve made it this far you can hear my voice, inconsistent as it may be, and you’ve been completely charmed by it. Writing is already a performance, and it’s already expressive and nuanced and it has its own texture that isn’t wooden, with hinges and a door handle. The words don’t need to be different sizes because I’m not designing an advert. Words already have different weights and stresses and colours and flavours. Wow I’m really going after this door. It was already getting old by line two. I think the point is: based on my less-than-a-year in the not-quite-art-world, I can say with absolute confidence that the art world is embarrassingly illiterate. You can’t find anyone who isn’t literate in paintings or objects but chuck a couple of paragraphs in the gallery and no one will ever want to read them because to do so would expose them to a genuinely effective medium of communication, and they might not love what they see. Everything I have been told so far has been about embellishing around the text – distracting from it. But I don’t want to keep a loose grip on my work. I want complete control. Language is already nuanced enough, I don’t want to waste all my effort wrangling it, in the process of adding redundant crap. It’s weird because you can put a Manet on the wall and no one will believe you painted it – because of course – but put a piece of text by Raymond Carver in a show and you get to enjoy a discussion about whether anyone would ever suspect that it’s been appropriated. He’s fucking Raymond Carver. This is how I write when I try to write something original. The issue is that to spot the difference you need to read the thing. No one ever reads the text-based artwork. And that’s why it’s my favourite medium.
MY LEAST FAVOURITE STAGE OF THE LUNAR CYCLE IS THE NEW MOON. YOU MIGHT WAIT AND WAIT FOR THE CLOUDS TO CLEAR, AND WHEN THEY DO THERE IS NOTHING TO SEE. I HATE THAT. THE MOON SHOULD BE A CONSTANT, LIKE THE SUN. IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE TO ME THAT IT HAD TO LEAVE.