Afternoon Dust

Reading Notes: Green and Voegelin

I have a lot of books to read this summer, so the next few posts on this blog will probably be mostly about what I’ve been reading. Here’s some thoughts on a couple I just finished.

Green and Voegelin books

Renée Green: Endless Dreams and Time-Based Streams (2011)

This book is as close as it gets to being the catalogue from my favourite art exhibition ever — Renée Green’s 2009 show at the National Maritime Museum in London, entitled Endless Dreams and Water Between — though it was in fact produced for a showing of the same installation as part of a larger Green retrospective at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts the following year. I was overjoyed to discover within its pages the entire script for the video work from which the London show drew its title, as well as the script for Come Closer (2008), stills from Excess (2009), images of all the embroidered banners comprising Space Poem #2 (Laura’s Words) (2009), installation photos — basically a whole wealth of material, which is a bit like what the Endless Dreams installation itself is like too. Reading through all this documentation, and essays by London curator Lisa Le Feuvre and others, was in some ways an odd experience, in the sense that it brought me back to habits of thought that I was immersed in back in 2009, but had drifted out of since (for better or worse?). At times my reading of the texts made Green’s whole project seem solipsistic and airy-fairy, whereas my memories of actually experiencing her work were full of urgency, recognition, and even a kind of material heaviness. Some interesting things to ponder there, perhaps.

Salomé Voegelin: Listening to Noise and Silence (2010)

I don’t think I really understood much of Salomé Voegelin’s Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art (2010). From what I did understand, the author seems to have a very firm idea about what sound is and what it can do, which seems to rest on an absolute antagonism between it and an equally firm notion of visuality. Despite quoting Clement Greenberg disapprovingly mid-way through the book, Voegelin seems intent on elucidating the essential intrinsic properties of sound and its definitive role in forming the individual subject, which sounds to me rather like Greenbergian Modernism’s painting-oriented medium-specificity and pure opticality transposed. More worryingly, she seems to be suggesting that deaf individuals lack subjectivity, or at least some key aspect of it, and are unable to fully participate in the production of the world (just as Greenbergian Modernism likewise exempts the blind individual from transcendent absorption in the optical). I could be misreading all of this, however, given that Voegelin aspires to the linguistic complexity of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, an aspiration in some ways assisted by perhaps the most shocking failure of editing and proofreading I’ve ever had the displeasure of paying £14.53 for. Really, when mistakes like confusing “canon” with “cannon” and “ceases” with “seizes” aren’t picked up, I have to wonder if the author couldn’t have just printed the manuscript herself, although the illustration on the cover is quite lovely. Perhaps errors were left in on purpose in order to force me to read each sentence two or three times, though sadly my efforts at comprehension will not be relayed to the publisher - I have a printed copy rather than a behaviour-tracking Kindle edition.

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