TWH? - Publication

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March 2, 2010 - Call for Contributions

Hi All

We had cookies and sweets and potatoes with words and a really good eve - so if you missed it then tough! I probably got to eat your jellybabies!

We left it with a little proposal for a writing experiment (in respect of practice) at the next meeting. Its a hybid of Oulipo and Burroughs - a text that is written with rules but is cut up and reconfigured.

All attending should bring:

  1. an idea about some 'content' which they can write a few sentences on.
  2. a rule for writing which they will give to the group.

The rules will be given out (in the manner of a secret santa) and we will write our 'content' in accordance with the rule we have received...

The idea is that our 'content' and 'rule' should reflect our practice but this does not need to be explicit.... "as the genius will rise up naturally, of course"...

It should be fun but do be clear about your two ingredients before arriving to keep the 'lab conditions' pure!



Notes from our March 9th Session

We missed Barbara and Caroline


  1. Each of us wrote down our rule on the top of a large, blank piece of paper. We then folded these in half and passed them to someone else.
  2. We "worked" the rule in accordance with our preselected content. We had ten minutes to complete this "exercise."
  3. A reflective discussion ensued, with each one of us reflecting on our experience/outcomes.

Rule: Include a metaphor that concerns sound or resonance.
Content: Should she move with her boyfriend? Very funny - personal matter - this rule allowed for a particular kind of behavior/concern - observed her exposition went from listening to sex
MA/Kristen exchange - Why did your writing takes such visual form? There's a kind of sarcasm here - trying to make it look at bit crazy - a bit of structure in it...The visual is underscoring the verbal - but sarcasm seems to suggest the visual element should under cut rather than underscore...How it's written matters - the visual aspects of text.

Rule: Only use concrete nouns
Content: Risk assessment of her kitchen. Titled: Things in my kitchen that might hurt myself. Very funny - risk assessments are usually silly - this approach (concrete nouns) forces the physicality Isobel: Does the rule help or hinder? Did you choose risk assessment because it connects to the group - Questions around substitution - Is "thing" an abstract noun?

Rule: Reduced to adjective-noun combinations
Content: Horses
MA's comments - There's something about censoring your thoughts - have to fit into categories - points of specificity - you still retain something...List maker - other kinds of inventories... Kristen/Marsha exchange - Perhaps there are ways the text might have been more personal - but then again, perhaps the fact it's focused on horses is a very personal - suggests a particular interest/body of knowledge

Rule: Not to use any adjectives
Content: Parasite
Writing ends up enacting something parasitic - adjectives of parasitic

Rule: No "You," no "I"
Content - A Lawrence Weiner text - but there were no "You" and no "I"s in the text - so it didn't work.

Rule: Write an entire story in one sentence
Content: Doubt...
MA's question: Did anyone feel they were allowed them to say things ironically that they wouldn't be able to write otherwise?

Rule: Write about your content with as many words as you can that begin with the first letter of your name
Content: Missed it - but there seemed to be a fantastic tension between the form and the content; we all enjoyed the form for a while but then it just felt forced

Mary Anne:
Rule-light: Write in the manner of an instruction manual - put your content into five rules to be followed...Imperative - instructions to the reader...Allain Rob Grulee (?)...there's a declarative quality....
Content: Missed it

General Reflections: Did we do something useful?

  • MA - thinking about the constraints and writing in a group - dynamics very different from what she engages in at home when writing on her own and on the computer
  • Random element is important - encountering otherness in a very concrete way
  • Writing about something that addresses the relationship between form and content...Writing in the twitter... (Kristen had planned to organise her rule as tweet)
  • Something special about today's meeting: freshness - time and space
  • Questions to take forward: To what extent does it improve one's writing? To what extent does it extend one's practice? Kristen talked about artists working with rules - they make rules for themselves and then they break them.
  • What do we want? What are the expectations?

After-the-Fact Reflections on the March 9, 2010 Session

Aaron's email: Evening of March 9, 2010:

I thought what came out of the little experiment was really quite ... inspiring, dynamic and startlingly unexpected. I got the sense that the table felt that (with some refinement) this could go on to produce something very readable. We all have our RULES and CONTENT so lets try to repeat the experiment but take it that little bit further. I am thinking in terms of practice relationship but am not putting that out loudly...We can have an update next week; ideally if it was emailed all the written-content would be available to all. We could then try to take this further in a more refined way at a later date.

Isobel's response to Aaron's email: Morning of March 10, 2010 - edited (I've skipped MA's response to Aaron): I was wondering if this exercise was solely about the imposition of rules or constraints to produce interesting outcomes in the way that OuLipo describes as "the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy." It may be that their project was about more than that and some of you will know more about that than me.

However, it did occur to me that it was interesting to see how we responded to the task. For some of us , I suspect, it has the potential to bring out the tendency towards text-based OCD (herewith TBOCD). For others it pushes them towards anarchic rebellion (you know who you are!). So there is a subjective response to the task which shows in the outcome perhaps.

There seems to be an interesting tension between the ‘author’ and the imposed constraints , which are not only the rules but also our individual capabilities.(been reading Ricouer!)

This brought me to thinking about the areas we have discussed previously – subject/object, autonomy, authorship, creative “freedom” and , perhaps, next week the idea of “expressive writing”. I wondered if our rationale for using the ROOLS could also tell us something about these areas as well as producing interesting and evocative outcomes.

So in short the use of rools could be for several purposes including exploring aesthetic possibilities and revealing something about the subject in hand (the content)?

Would like to know what thoughts, if any people had on this or whether I should just lighten up and enjoy it for what it is, regardless. If there is a discussion to be had I’d like to set up something on wiki for this and for our files but for the moment and computerly challenged.

For instance, I’m using an unfamiliar laptop and this is the third time I’ve written this e-mail as the previous times it disappeared mid-flow! Can't put myself through too much of this frustration.

MA's response to both Isobel's and Aaron's emails, morning of March 10, 2010:

Yes, just to pick up on Isobel's email, what we seem to be agreeing is that there's lot going on in this exercise. Tensions between 'rule' and 'self' depend on whether the self is ruled by rules. At the same time, the rules have been 'subjectively' generated - i.e. by ours truly and to that extent they're 'human' or 'expressive'. I thought what was interesting last night was the discussion about where expressivity might occur - not necessarily as an affect of syntax in its more obvious role.

My response to the email stream on the afternoon of March 10, 2010:

Last night was very intriguing - though I agree with Kristen's point about it being exciting in part because it was unknown - I, for one, didn't know what to expect. I wonder how we can sustain this freshness? How we can avoid/confound the rules we'll tacitly produce (are already producing) through these kinds of exercises? (My assumption: exercises inculcate rules.) Thinking about these questions reminded me of the ways in which shared knowledge can be policed through habits, conventions, routines and other forms of socialization...etc.

I suppose I'm stating the obvious when I observe there's a certain amount of irony in the development of TWH? We've gone from things being emergent to a propensity for rules! :) I'm not complaining about this - it's just an observation...

With this said: I'm hoping we're able to cultivate something a little more--unruly, unkempt and uncomfortable through our rule-based approach.

Anyway, I'm up for a wiki discussion closer to the end of the week. I've dumped some stuff there already--it's all mirrored from my page on the Critical Practice wiki. I've included bits of emails here that feel relevant - I've tried to exercise judgement about stuff that sensitive and stuff that's not. It's not my intention to offend anyone by sharing sensitive materials but I do believe it's beneficial to try and record how TWH? is unfolding...If you find this practice disturbing, please tell me and I'll make other arrangements (likely in the form of more aggressive paraphrasing, which does a different kind of violence, I think).

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