writing with art (rather than about art)

Consider how the Soane’s Museum, conceived as an “archive”, could inform your own practice of writing with art (rather than about art)?

What does that even mean?

And here lies the crux of my difficulties, I think. I am unable to understand this method of working, this very philosophical practice.

In the other courses we are dealing a lot with Jacques Derrida who seems to epitomizes this way of thinking. For instance, in the course ‘Philosophy and…’ we are reading the English translation of Che Cos’è la Poesia? (1988) published in A Derrida Reader1, and in the introduction to the piece the editor says:

As always, Derrida works to abolish the distance between what he is writing about . . . and what his writing is doing.

In this case he’s writing about “poetry, the poem, or as he will finally call it: the poematic”, and so his writing is being positioned as closing in on poetry itself.

It seems odd to me to describe writing as “doing” anything. Does writing “do” poetry or literature? It seems to be taking the activity away from the writer, the writing that the writer does becomes self-generating or generative of further writing.

The introduction carries on:

Reference without referent, this poem defines or describes itself even as it points beyond itself to the poetic in general.

These texts (inevitably?) make a lot of assumptions on the readers knowledge, or they make spectacular leaps of metaphor which leave you wondering just how much you were oblivious to in that little sentence.

As an example, here Derrida is referring to his response to the initial query—“ ‘Che cos’è la poesia?’ (What is poetry? or more literally, What thing is poetry?)”—he claims:

. . . the answer sees itself (as) dictated (dictation). I am a dictation, pronounces poetry, learn me by heart, copy me down, guard and keep me, look out for me, look at me, dictated dictation, right before your eyes: soundtrack, wake, trail of light, photograph of the feast in mourning.

. . . la réponse se voit dictée. Je suis une dictée, prononce la poésie, apprends-moi par coeur, recopie, veille et garde-moi, regarde-moi, dictée, sous les yeux: bande-son, wake, sillage de lumière, photographie de la fête en deuil.

Why those particular words stressed? What significance do the references to death have – “wake”, “photograph of the feast of mourning”? Why specifically a photograph of the feast of mourning? How do these relate to “soundtrack” or “trail of light”? Are they very personal things, or, if I was to read more Derrida, would they re-occur at significant points. Why do I need to know this?

For me, there is a touch of meaning, a fleeting glimpse in the corner of your eye of another world of content slipping by without your having the dexterity to turn and comprehend it in time. On the one hand it’s frustrating to be left straining at thin air in the wake of meaning, on the other there is such a nearness to it that you hope against hope for the leap of the electrical spark of comprehension, the short-circuit to take place.

  1. Peggy Kamuf ed., A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, Columbia University Press, New York, 1998

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