Ed Atkins "Un-like" - Part 3: Words

Sa 26.04.
  • Free entry

The three-part symposium «Un-like» culminates with the subject of WORDS. After approaching the matters of LOVE and DEATH, poetry, writing, and a concern for the possibilities of language – the artistic practice at the core of Ed Atkins’ digital video works – will form this final chapter. Contributors from various fields of writing as well as visualising will join Ed Atkins in a personal and poetical approach to the crucial question of how to assert a subversive position and thus subjectivity amidst the pitfalls of things and signs digital – or how to reclaim experience through the abstractions of language in these abstract digital spaces.

With Ed Atkins and Joe Luna (poet), Ann Cotten (poet), James Richards (artist), Adam Kleinman (writer and critic) and a restrospective reply by Tobias Madison (artist).

In the context of «Un-like», WORDS is an interpolation and a reflection. As discussed in the two prior sessions, LOVE and DEATH are intertwined in their mutual discretion, their situation being one of near-impossible representability – their condition such that their very apprehension threatens epistemological possibility, not to mention any kind of unanimity. Poetry epitomises «Un-like»’s attempt to interrupt and understand.

A foundation of the symposium as it has unfurled, is a certain asserted belief in the irrecuperable within experience; the inability of culture to represent or, more saliently here, redeem the loss of experience, the loss of lived life, in all its etcetera. – We are left, according to «Un-like’s» rubric, with Love and Death and their blinding deficit. More than anything else, we are left with those vast, echoing words, whose condition is their paradoxic: their insufficiency abutting their primacy; their universality applied, frustrated, to the deeply personal. WORDS might happen at the point where a compulsion to bear witness to experience is felt with such reluctance but such good faith, hubris and, yes, love towards its possibility. All of the glorious contingencies unfurled in the simple fact of a word’s betrayal affirm experience as irrecuperable, as well as renewing the possibility for experience’s singularity in the future – an experience, too, enacted in the writing. WORDS, then, might be a sort of advocacy without possession or reparation, and impossibly so. This permissiveness, in the context of artworks and in relation to implications of the digital, the virtual and the deferred can be understood as a rejection of immortality. The vital, embraced by the parentheses of love and death, is allowed and celebrated apart from words, but by their vacancy. Concerning implications of the digital and its particular aesthetic apotheosis in computer-generated, high definitional mode – the same might hold true.

With regard to the means and meanings of futurity, Joe Luna will inquire after the condition and/of composition of poetry. Departing from his contribution to the exhibition catalogue, “Against Immortality as Such”, his paper will speak to some more or less literal possibilities of activating community by the scene of reading and writing. Guided by a sincere scepticism towards the “critical commonplace of poetry as resistance”, Luna suggests a fresh look at the revolutionary call to simplicity as the condition of impossibility of poetry; its very poesis – disjointing temporalities, including contemporaneity. Stripped bare of reliable foundations, asserting responsibility becomes a question of distancing, measured by the “hair's breadth” between us, and others. The gap. The very “dialectic of resistance to despair that entails the recognition of the difficulty of making simple what is more and more difficult to maintain.” Offering optimism by way of cruelty, Joe Luna will argue for reflection to surpass regret, and unprecedented presences to instigate a future never perfect.

“Hermeticism doesn’t claim anything universal, it says: come”, says Ann Cotten in her Munich Speech. She wrote it for the Lyrikkabinett in Munich but replaced the text with another shortly before the performance, deeming the first text too personal for comfort. “In the snuggly-struggly context of the space Ed Atkins has pried open at the Kunsthalle”, Ann “has been coerced to share her struggle of being understood.” She is currently considering the possibility of a new ersatz text for Zurich. It is her intention, she says, “to substitute for the contracted realness a simulated opening that will give the satisfaction of an effective experience of opening to the audience without actually allowing it access to the American-Austrian poet’s inner existence”, as she must travel on the next day. “Will she succeed in conducting a virtual operation with real, sharp verbal tools on her own living body without coming to harm?” remains the question of Ann Cotten.

Cotten's first book of poems consisted of 78 double-sonnets, creating a surprise effect in the German poetry scene. The few who read her one publication in English, I, Coleoptile (2010), have been rather surprised as well. Most recently, she published The Quivering Fan (2013), a collection of short stories in German currently being translated into English, and has been working on a project on the Kanji in Japan. Ann Cotten performs, with poets Monika Rinck and Sabine Scho, the Rotten Kinck Schow, a wild theory and papier-mache thing.

The artist James Richards presents a selection of artist videos that comment upon and embellish the themes of «Un-like». Featuring works by Stuart Marshall, Julia Heyward and Chris Saunders, among others, and interspersed with Richards’ own material, the programme presents language and muteness channelled through and actioned by the body, subject to its contingencies and distortions.

The day of the symposium will be the last day of the exhibition Alms For the Birds that James Richards curated at Cabinet Gallery in London. Recent exhibitions include Rodeo, Istanbul (2013); Center for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu, Japan (2012); Chisenhale Gallery, London (2011) – and Tate Britain (2010). Last year he was included in both the Venice and Lyon Biennials (2013), as well as the group show, Speculations On Anonymous Materials at Fridericianum, Kassel. In 2012 he won the Jarman Award for film and video. He is currently completing a DAAD scholarship in Berlin.

Adam Kleinman, a writer, lecturer, occasional performer, and sometime curator, asks: “When conversing on your smartphone, do you prefer to text, or do you place a call? Social anxieties, expedience, or other pragmatics aside, let’s consider something else: what is the power the page gives and the voice not, and vice versa?”

Perhaps it is a fundament of poetry that both the voice (a living presence) and the page (a disembodied record) tend to speak through words. How do these two modes work in concert – and to what effect? Writer and critic Adam Kleinman will present a meditation on how things like sentence structure – like rhythm and imagery – and word choice can produce something magical: an idea that cannot be found materially, but only felt conceptually. Could such a sensation be similar to what love is? Can anyone actually describe what it is like to be dead? Can words and allusions trace the contours of both?

Zurich-based artist Tobias Madison will respond to WORDS, after the fact.

WORDS concludes the symposium and undoes «Un-like».

Ed Atkins
Sa 26.04.
Ed Atkins "Un-like" - Part 3: Words