how to do things with words

HTDTWW invitation

last friday night, my flatmate leigh and i put on an art event in our house: how to do things with words.

it started with my whinging about not really being able to find that many places to have exhibitions in perth, to which leigh replied: “why don’t you just have one here?”. of course!

so, we made it a joint effort, with all the works and activities about text and art.

the evening went a little something like this:

first light, last words
a wall-work by me which now lines our Victorian hallway. a series of six painted rectangles, mostly yellows with one blue which are symbolic of what i wake up to see each morning. i have a window above the doorway that my bed faces and each morrning, when i awake in a darkened room, all i can see is the refraction of the sunlight (or cloudy light) that comes in from the front door window.

underneath these ‘light’ works, is a string of words. these are the last words i heard before i fall asleep in the weeks leading up to the show:

first light last words

library of annotated books
a work benjamin forster and i did, in which we found and collected only books that were annotated – where people had underlined or made marks in an effort to remember, or determine important ideas or valuable points in a book. We rearranged leigh’s shelves in the loungeroom and the kitchen, making them into a library. having only books that were annotated surrounded the room with meaning and important information. none of those books were superfluous or ambivalent.

both of us made further notes about the notations on the wall. benjamin created a poem within the notation, by directing the reader to sections of each book. like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, except benjamin already chose it. and it’s more narrative than adventure. my notes grouped the books in which sites were described by sound, referred to texts of previous works and highlighted the meta-notation of two books. ie. notated books that contained imagery of notation (by bruce nauman and claes oldenburg).

12-hour reading club
lead by leigh, the 12-hour reading club chose somebody to read an excerpt, or a work, on the hour, every hour, for twelve hours. with general discussion session starting at 7 and our first solo reader was robert cook, who read some of roland barthes’ the fashion system. i kicked off the final session at 6am on saturday morning, reading the introduction from j.l. austin’s how to do things with words (see what we did there?) and in between was a variety of poetry, silliness and seriousness.

when each reading started, the room full of people was quiet, then there would be some questions from the ‘audience’, which would kickstart well-behaved discussion. which would then generally descend into hubub and chit chat for the rest of the hour, slowing down just in time for the next reading.

the evening was a great mix of formal, critical readings – those ones we always mean to read, but never quite have time – and hilarious pop-culutral humourous pieces, revealing more about us than we perhaps like. we had a loungeroom and kitchen full of people, with wine, chai, hot chocolate and leigh’s home-made soup. it was warm and cosy and a fantastic atmosphere.

there were waves of guest who arrived too – some who came right on time at 7pm, those who filtered through after dinner at about 9, then the late-comers – the young whippersnappers who turned up at midnight. one of them, joanna, stayed all the way until the end! what a champion!

during the evening’s proceedings, visitors were encouraged to create their own catalogues, using leigh’s collection of vintage typewriters. few did – more interested in the active discussion and chit chat about words than creating them. similarly, we set up a print station from which people could choose a section of annotation to have transcribed and given to them. it wasn’t so popular. but that’s OK – the excitement and camaraderie of the evening was fabulous enough as it was anyway.

HTDTWW running order

when leigh and i finally rose, after midday the next day, we chatted over a champions breakfast and were quite pleased with ourselves. we had a house full of intelligent, interested, erudite and amiable people who enjoyed each other’s company and had the opportunity to think and talk about interesting things for an evening, learning how to do things with words.

NOTE: there are more images coming. i just left them at the studio, it’s late and i really wanted to just post this tonight. stay tuned for illustration soon.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

jorges luis borges

serendipity is funny, innit. about 3 weeks ago, i don’t think i really had ever heard of jorges luis borges. or at least i didn’t take much notice.

but then ben and craig, as part of their fabulous residency, recently did a recital of his essay around the grounds of the collingwood housing estate and it was ace.

[in fact their post about their first 6 weeks is excellent and although i’d seen most of it in the making, i was proud and jealous and excited all at once]

then i meet benjamin forster, who is one of the other residents at cia. he’s super smart, super motivated, he get’s it. and he’s got a show at fremantle arts centre, which i went and checked out late last week. apart from being amazing manifestation of actions about time and language, he referenced mr borges in his catalogue essay and in a work about the removal of meaning!

i took a friend along, who still believes art is about images and striking images at that. unsurprisingly, my friend didn’t quite get it. but after our post-exhibition post-mortem, he understood (which is the subject of another post, by the way).

as slight sidestep about the other works at the centre: olga cironis‘ show, fajr, about prayer rugs and the significance of their aesthetic on islamic ritual was pretty interesting, but could have knitted in a little extra punchiness with something else – perhaps the sound of fajr call to prayer, or some vision of fajr prayers. i don’t know exactly, i just felt that there was a vital piece of information or meaning that was slightly missing. i did, however, find that i felt a great sense of relief about seeing an artwork on ritual in islam, in a place that is so not-islamic, like perth. perhaps i’m just being a romantic orientalist. 

sadly, i felt no connection to the patrick doherty work. it’s probably just not my thing.

this weeks’ homework:

obviously, i need to go and borrow a copy of something by jorges luis borges (or, in australian strine: geooorge boooorgs).  refutation of time? exactitude in science?

for you perth folk reading – you need to go and see benjamin’s show at fremantle arts centre.

for you melbourne folk reading – you have to keep an eye out for open studios at the underground. or at least on the blog. there’s some interesting stuff goin’ down there.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

she sees read

while my laptop was hanging out with virgil in purgatory, i managed to chew through a few books, unsurprisingly. [i also managed to make my own christmas cards, wrapping paper and cookies. but that’s not what i’m going to post about, obviously.]

and i just thought i’d share about these books a bit, because, as it turns out, they’re all linked in some way and all three have effected me in a profound way – existentially. the nice thing is that two of them were gifts too, which means i now have awesome mind-reading friends who know exactly what kind of garbage to put in my brain.

the trickster makes this world: how disruptive imagination creates culture  lewis hyde.

apparently there’s quite a famous book by lewis hyde called the gift. i’d not heard of it, so this author and his second big title was all new to me. i was a little dubious about that subtitle, but i peeked at the first page and was hooked from the get-go. in fact, i cheated on the book i was reading at the time – ditched it in favour of the first chapter under the covers. ooh er..

basically, hyde uses stories in mythology about various trickster characters, to show that the wiley, crafty and chaotic traits of the trickster are a vital part of society. He then matched those traits in stories/principles with the traits of the artist in modern society, as a vital trickster character that keeps everyone on their toes.

some of the other areas that i found fascinating included place of chaos/dirt/upheaval (or images thereof) in orderly society; the need for shame/shamelessness in social cohesion; and the skill of a trickster to play with perception, whilst holding the order of perception dear.

Hermes, Coyote, Monkey (and tripitaka), Ifa/EshuPicassoDuchamp and Cage (are all referenced as figures that simultaneous understand the lay of the status quo, respect it and yet seek to subvert or circumvent it, whilst offering it back to the quo on a gold platter, having completely reinventing the status. [And maybe because I was listening to the new Kanye album non-stop during this time, I kept imagining that Kanye West would end up in there in the future sometime.]

the actual writing flow of the book was slightly problematic, but the way he teased out his examples, and the kind of stories he chose as illustration was so good, that i could forgive the lapses in writing craft (just like you’re doing now).

there is an admirable element of playfulness about the trickster which hyde kept reiterating (and about which i have a creeping doubt that i have lost recently). it was inspiring to get a bit cheeky, a bit naughty and throw caution to the wind a little. nothing reflects a security in the order of ‘things’ than acting as though they’re not important.

the book was an excellent reminder about the role  of chaos, entropy, mishap, coincidence, serendipity and mistake in evolution, change, growth and innovation. trickster also served as an illustration of the position stories, myth, artifice, imagination and fiction have in society as a way to abide by principle and establish a code of conduct.

ISBN-13: 978-1847672254

the canon: the beautiful basics of science. natalie angier

whilst i was reading the trickster, i had an invigorating discussion about science and religion with a friend who had just finished the canon. we were the only ones in a club in stockholm, laying on a mattress and shouting over 105 rpm techno at 95dbs, debating the importance of scientific thinking and spirituality and everything in between. it was a brilliant moment in our friendship, and the momentum to read this fantastic book.

its premise is to concisely and adroitly recap the main tenets of science and scientific research, to upskill adults in the basics. especially after they have convinced themselves that they know nothing about science.

as a science writer, angier surveyed a stack of scientists and academics for their ‘top 5 things to know about your field’ type information. each chapter covers the principles of each ‘flavour’ of science, distilling the history of its knowledge and how it relates to life, the universe and everything.

scientific thinking, probabilites (maths), calibration (maths), physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, geology and astronomy are all covered – from their history to current thinking. and of course, she covers where religion and astrology clash too. in fact, sometimes her subjectivity around the subjects of religion and even intelligent design, and her outright derision at astrology show her cards a little.

in the last two years of high school, despite being a A+ english student and studying 3 languages, i decided that i wanted to be an industrial chemist. so i moved to sydney and started a science degree. turns out it was much harder than i thought: i was convinced i was a failure (thinking that 72% on an assignment was akin to disaster) and the fact that my week would start at 8am  on a monday with a mathematics class on matrices in a stuffy room, was a recipe for flunk-out. i bid science a swift adios and turned to print and art instead.

i kept a secret crush on mathematics and chemistry through those years and so reading the canon was like falling in love again. all the old lessons came flooding back, with greater links to subsequent experience or knowledge. the picture of how much everything is related scientifically was quickly seen and i just churned through the book.

thanks to a catholic education, my knowledge of the details of evolution had been a bit loose, so this book was a mind-blowing and yet super easy-to-read lesson on how far we go back (like, to the beginning of cells) and same with the big bang theory. the idea that cells’ innate mission has always been to respire, replicate, excrete, communicate and coalesce is mind-boggling to me and is influencing my next read.

i feel like i know more about science now and that i can’t hide behind the ignorance of learning it in high school – it’s part of a general knowledge and understanding about life. in the same way that i feel it’s necessary to understand concepts in philosophy, economics, politics and art in order to be a well-rounded citizen (how neo-classical of me).

and i can see why my friend gave this book to me (and six of his other friends). i feel similarly – like everyone who has let their science knowledge lapse, should pick this up and feel like they know a little more again.

in fact, it was so profound that i ended up in a two-hour conversation with a paleonto-bio-mechanic about his PhD and i held my own! yay me!

ISBN-13: 978-0571239726

basic writings. martin heidegger

i stopped and started with this one. i got distracted by shiny pop non-fiction. but now that i’ve read both of the previous books, i feel like my take on heidegger is going to actually be better prepared. especially after reading about molecular biology and the big bang (which trace the history of the life, the universe and everything, back to the beginning – before there was even ‘let there be light’). After reading about these things, i keep asking myself ‘why did life begin? – what is the purpose of Being..

heidegger’s big area of questioning/interrogation/query (words which he unpacks as a sign of being) is about Being, with his famous work Being and Time (Zeit und Sein). It is the very capital-B being and different from existence and the nature of being. So far, he’s primarily interested in the meaning of Being, and not necessarily the purpose, or the drive behind it. But i’m only a little of the way through so far.

thanks to the simplicity of the english language, there are a lot of being/Being/beings in the text, which are translations from Dasein, Dass-Sein, Was-Sein and Da-Sein. All different relationships to Sein ( the action of being).

heidegger unpacks his questions in a very methodical way, and makes a lot of references to other sciences that tackle existential concepts (which is why i feel like reading The Canon has unexpectedly augmented my understanding of Being and Time). It has been quite interesting to see the history of his thinking around it and the critical ‘evolution’ of such ideas throughout philosophy and ontological research.

on a more egocentric level, are there levels or classifications or even species of Being? what does the Being of an artist translate to and is it fundamentally different to the Being an accountant? or does it follow biological framework – that the Being of a vertebrate is different to the Being of an invertebrate, but has mutual elements of Being, both being from the animal kingdom and eurakyrotic domain. Or is there just one type of Being?

ISBN-13: 978-0061627019

images: all images from

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good and great

today i caught up on some reading, ‘cos i’m procrastinating and i couldn’t help it. but i wanted to post about some of the ace things i’ve seen, which mostly happen to be from GOOD.

clapping your hands when you like a band – music and social media.

brilliant posters for the kent state folk festival. they sparked a few little thoughts looking forward to the time when social media and social interaction get really close. i think they’re getting closer, but it’s gonna be awesome when we really smush them up and really value both.

i also had a utopian idea the other day that the death of television should be welcomed and that it was only ever going to be a small invention on the way to the much bigger awesomeness of the interwebs anyway.

in fact, if i was in charge of cultural radness in australia, i’d get rid of all funding to TV content production, turn it into good production for DVD/online video/live experience and radio; chuck money back into films, gaming, online stories and books. i guess like the media equivalent of thanking a lover for a good time, but committing to a long-term relationship for the future.

but i digress.

tourism is the march of stupidity

i’m a bit of a traveller/tourist at the moment, so of course i couldn’t help but LOVE LOVE LOVE this post about tourism and literature by miles allinson. miles is a super-fucking talented writer and thinker and artist-type. readings is a melbourne institution that really supports literature, reading, thinking and artist-types.

BOMF wisdom to know the difference

and then there’s the fantastic and worthwhile and ‘oh i wish i thought of that’ Back on My Feet running program coming out of the East Coast in the US – brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

it’s programs like this that remind me that humans are not stupid. we’re not heartless. and although life circumstances can freeze over our hearts and minds – at either end of the poverty scale – it is the simple, meaningful, heartfelt actions that really help us keep our shit together.

oh, and just one more thing from good – a great article about the history of the word OK.
i personally love the spelling ‘okeh’ and am going to use it from now on.
meh, teh and okeh.

image credits:
44th kent state folk festival posters by marcus agency from the GOOD blog
miles allinson/reading st. kilda from his confrontation with falling blog
eric fair image from the GOOD blog/lauren e. friedman [best name ever, BTW]

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

hot in the city

i’m sorry if you don’t live in melbourne right now. there is SO much on for anyone who is mildly interested in anything other than the lost finale (which, for the record, i’m not).

firstly, the next wave festival is on and although the first week of stuff didn’t really get my heart started*, there have been some excellent works on and this week i’m finally having that ‘oh crap i need to see 5 things in the one night’ moment. PLUS the emerging writers festival has started!

if you haven’t been down to the meat market to see the structural integrity pavilions and scott mitchell’s smoke machine, for god’s sake brave the cold and do it. it will make it all worthwhile.

and if you’re whinging about how out-of-the-way the meat market it is, i understand. really, i do. but it’s worth it – just get off the 19 tram at queensberry st, it’s pretty easy from there.

the other thing you need to do is come to west space and see the feminist project exhibition, the view from here. and you should buy/read the catalogue. it is the hopeful beginning of the next wave of feminist discourse (see what i did there?).

interestingly, the introduction to the female eunuch could easily be the introduction to this work, whereby we’ve sat on our laurels again got all caught up in raunch culture and fake tans/boob/lips, forgetting that we STILL need to loudly remind ourselves and everyone that exploitation of any kind based on gender (or race, sexual preference or creed for that matter) is not OK.

it’s pretty shit, but i’ve already missed out on the parachutes for ladies’ i thought a musical was being made and tape projects’ 100 proofs the earth is not a globe. if you’re going, i think i might hate you for a while. and if you’re not – join the philistine fan club.

things i will not be missing out on:

great heights 2 at melbourne central tonight, featuring kay abude, sam george, michael georgetti, tegan lewis, andrew liversidge, amy + claire spiers and paul wotherspoon.

the infinity tube near the neck face piece off meyers place (now that it has finally arrived!)

and estelle tang‘s 15 minutes of fame book launch extravaganza, as part of the emerging writers’ festival. estelle’s blog 3000books is one of the best lit blogs going around, so you should read it and come to the events this week. super ace.

two other shows you should see:

glenn walls’ show at john buckley, projects for total urbanism (pictured above). i think it’s in the last couple of days, so you should run to richmond. (yes, lauren. ahem)

and owen leong‘s show, birthmark, at anna pappas. SUCH beautiful photographic works. but you know, i’m biased as he’s a dear friend.

PLUS there are a few things i’ll be missing out on because i’m giving a lecture at RMIT.

so, if you’re not going to grace us with your presence, one of the things you should go and check out the soundkilda music vid competition on at the palace george in st.kilda – showing the hottest music vids on the big screen, which i’m totally into as an idea.

and…actually i can’t remember the others – i live in a purely need-to-know timescale at the moment. ha!

if you’re not in melbourne, i’m sure your week is great – you’ve either got waaay more interesting things to do, or you’re watching re-runs of the lost finale. either way, i’m happy for you. really.

* except the taking it to the streets forum with lucas ihlein on sunday. i’ll talk about that another post.

image credits:
estelle and her facebook page
next wave site
john buckley website
owen leong website
dell stewart and her flickr stream

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx