WHITE-EYE BIRD | THE VEGETARIAN BY HAN KANG

My review of Han Kang's The Vegetarian is online at Aster(ix) Journal. We all have inside of us a wound that’s bound, at some stage, to open. That much we can take for granted. In The Vegetarian, Kang doesn’t ask what causes the wound, not even what undoes the suture – we have, after all, only a glimpse of cause and climax, a hint of aftermath. Rather, the novel dwells in the slow, tiered process of unravelling. Yeong-hye wants to transform, and it seems becoming a vegetarian is something her psyche throws up – an offering, a means of removing her body from the system that oppresses it. And, in a way, it works.

.

one’s body is an animal | a conversation with Mary Gaitskill

I actually think I am drawn to people who just don’t have the stuff to function in the world, and I don’t know why. Mary Gaitskill Mary very kindly took the time to talk with me on Thanksgiving, and over the phone we spoke about writing generating new perspectives, universality in literature, the issue of teaching style, and insidious censorship. Read our conversation on Sampsonia Way, an online magazine sponsored by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, celebrating literary free expression and supporting persecuted writers worldwide. 

.

Artefact | Dorothy Cross’s Connemara

My review of Dorothy Cross's Connemara (RHA, March-April 2014) is in issue 8 of Artefact, the Journal of the Irish Association of Art Historians. To order a copy, email iaahinfo@gmail.com  Deterioration is an aesthetic mechanism and a biological fact. Things simply wear away, a refrain heard as Sea Cave plays on with its simultaneous approach and retreat of the sea, the gradual corrosion the water enacts on the shore. Even as the skeleton seems headed toward the bucket and part of the work’s pleasure is the agency granted the bones, the very purposefully cast shadow adds an extra degree of immateriality that posits the skeleton as solid, living.

.

VAI | Writing About Your Work | Oct 7th ’16

In this workshop we'll be exploring the potential of the artist statement across a spectrum of functional to radical, considering how writing can be employed toward explicative and subversive means within an art practice. Working through an array or practitioners and exercises, the aim of this workshop is to foster a generative relationship with writing in its many forms that can be applied topically as needed. Book your place here.  

.

Fragments & Palimpsests | generating feminine textures

Below is a paper I presented at Writing Between The Lines: creative writing as research methodology at Cardiff Metropolitan University in September 2016. I’m going to start with some quotes from Sadie Plant, Eimear McBride and Hélène Cixous. No parents, no children, just ourselves, strings of inseparable sisters, warm and wet… (Plant, 3) What? When you miss me. What words are when. Get. Jesus. Over. He goes somewhere else inside. Does that hurt? Yes. A lot and relieves me for a while. (McBride, 137) …your womb is not dreaming, your body is not mistaken… yes, flesh has an undeniable memory. (Cixous, 82) If we could peel back layers of compacted ideology to peer at the undiluted, ‘uncultured’ female body, what might we see? Woman is so swamped in discourse that she is speechless, writes Julia Kristeva, even when she’s speaking (Black Sun). For several years my research has oscillated around questions of how the pervasively repressed and explicitly traumatised female body expresses itself, and how this expression might be embodied in writing. Namely, how hybrid prose can operate in the cross-space where radical experience compromises language, but literature is still plays a role. This has entailed considering prose as the product of a necessary, generative act rather than cerebral or aesthetic impulse, and sometimes as a means of restoring or even making female experience. In this vein, I’ll be taking examples from Susan Howe and Bhanu Kapil, each of whom employ a degree of hybridity to unearth experience, before applying some of these concepts to ideas around my own writing.  Howe and Kapil each embrace what Renee Gladman has described as ‘the conditions that cause one to stutter in the making of a sentence’ (70). Female experience is stifled, but seeks manifestation nonetheless, with variant degrees of radicalisation resulting to take oblique and subversive form. The final section ... Read more »

.

Artist’s Voice: Memorial Gardens | Niamh O’Malley

IMMA recently invited me to respond to Niamh O’Malley’s The Memorial Gardens, 2008, which is featured in our current exhibition IMMA Collection: A Decade. My response is in the context of Art | Memory | Place, a year-long programme focusing on artists whose work addresses themes relating to memory and place. Made in 2008, while participating in IMMA’s Artist Residency Programme, The Memorial Gardens by Niamh O’Malley is an installation comprising footage taken at the National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge, Dublin, projected onto oil on etched-primed aluminium. Read the full text here.  

.

Points of Rupture | women writers breaking form in contemporary American fiction

This paper was delivered at IBAAS 2016, at Queen's University, Belfast What does it mean to ‘break form’, and what makes one feel the need? Breaking form within the realm of literary fiction implies a subversion of words and their relation to the sentence, paragraph and page. Not only this, but it challenges the kinds of knowledge that prose can divulge. Not linear, narrative or rooted in plot, but perhaps partial, corporeal and intuitive. The impetus? To make manifest those aspects of experience that are beyond the scope of traditional language, those subaltern voices that struggle to find representation within hegemonic discourse. The works I’ll be focusing on are Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever (2001) and Suzanne Scanlon’s Her 37th Year: an index (2015). Each novel draws heavily on autobiographical material, providing us with an oblique, staggered portrait of a female mind in the throes of anxiety or trauma. In each instance the impressions we collect of these narrators are inadvertent and fractal, compiled from details the narrator may or may not have intended to provide, and in each and the portrayal comes about via titled, numbered, fragmented sections of text. My research focuses on women writers who break form because of the particular textures experimentation garners when applied to female experience. We can think about Julia Kristeva’s oft cited clinical text Black Sun, in which Kristeva tells us woman isn’t speaking even when she’s speaking, such is the extent to which patriarchal structures, including language, have hindered her self-expression. Renee Gladman, author of The Ravickians and Newcomer Can’t Swim,  has spoken of her otherworldly existence as a black lesbian poet. Namely, she enters ‘language from a place of disorientation, <her> grasp of the subject is slippery’ because it’s fashioned for a subjectivity other than hers, and every time she enters the realm of ... Read more »

.

object – memory – narrative | The Lab, Dublin

This event was organised by Lorraine Whelan in response to Bridget O'Gorman's In The Flesh at The Lab, Dublin. object - memory - narrative from Dublin City Council Arts Office on Vimeo. On Saturated Objects & Disrupted Narratives So taking the the veil as a starting point, I’ve been reading Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain. I have a quote behind me illustrating Scarry’s view of objects, which is that they’re a manifestation of human sentience,  and bring into the realm of the visible what was originally an invisible aspect of consciousness. Scarry also writes that a ‘lightbulb transforms the human being from a creature who would spend approximately a third of each day groping in the dark, to one who sees simply by wanting to see.’ What, then, does the veil turn us into? What does its physicality say about human nature and desire? Perhaps a propensity for secrecy, an impulse to shield and also to reveal what would otherwise be in a constant state of exposure. As some of you may know, myself and Bridget O’Gorman collaborated last year, and the result of that collaboration was the text Slow Tear, the script for Bridget’s video work which features the 1916 store rooms at Collins Barracks. The cabinets there which hold these items certainly partake of veil-like properties, and their existence very much fed into myself and Bridget’s perception of these objects -- the kinds of lives we perceived them to have, the kinds of roles they might have for memory and narrative on a historical and material level. I was also thinking about the membrane we’re veiled with when we’re in the womb, and how to be born with this still entact – to be born in the caul – is a sign of good luck. To be born into the world enshrouded, with ... Read more »

.

Impressions Left | Ciara Harrison

Last week I had the pleasure of opening Impressions Left, a new body of work from Irish artist (and my good friend) Ciara Harrison. Below are my words which try to give some sense of this dense, rich and highly charged pieces. The show runs 'til Saturday the 9th of April at Ranelagh Arts Centre. Over the years, I’ve come to think of Ciara’s approach to art-making as one of observation, of noting qualities are already present in the materials she chooses to work with and then coaxing those qualities out into the world. For me, this approach has always resulted in her pieces achieving a very organic, if not outright inevitable feeling, as though they’ve come out of the ground. This organic aesthetic that I’ve grown so attached to is especially explicit in this show, because the works are inspired in part by objects in the National Museum – the lunalae dating from 2200-700BC, objects that have spent a large portion of their lives subsumed in the bog.  I say ‘in part’ because Ciara hasn’t drawn on the valuable materials of gold and bronze, but the fact of their being immersed for so long and the dampness and corrosion they experienced. When they were recovered, they of course had a new kind of value, and Ciara and I have talked about how paradoxical this value is, that they’ve grown all the more precious and strong for the amount of damage they’ve suffered. The pieces in this show share in that paradox: they are tentative, tarnished, transient, but they exude longevity. It is not only the works’ textures that allude to preservation and time past, but the geometric shapes Ciara has honed in on, the details she’s chosen to select and repeat. These hatched lines and half-forms tell us something inexpressible about how people were looking ... Read more »

.

Jean Genet’s Funeral Rites | close reading

I sometimes moved my hand close to the edge of him, careful not to touch him, for I was afraid that he might dissolve or drop dead or rather that I might die; that is: either I would realize I was suddenly naked in a crowd that saw my nakedness; or my hands would grow covered with leaves and I would have to live with them, lace my shoes with them, hold my cigarette, open the door, scratch myself with them, or he himself would know spontaneously who I really was and would laugh at the knowledge; or I would shit out my guts in his presence, dragging them far behind me in the dust, where they would pick up bits of straw and wilted flowers (black and green flies would alight on them and he would shoo them off with his flabby white hand, and he would brush them away with disgust as they swirled about him): or I would see and feel my penis being eternally devoured by fish; or a sudden friendship would allow me to stroke toads and corpses to the point of orgasm; for evoking these torments – and others – my death may well be the knowledge of my shame appearing in the play of those manifestations most dreaded in the presence of the loved one. I therefore kept him at a distance. Once, however, I touched his hair. This passage from Funeral Rites demonstrates Genet’s ability to fuse existential concerns with abject bodily imagery. Writing as a version of himself during WWII, Genet portrays with sustained intensity the passion he feels for the German soldier who killed his lover (a young Resistance fighter). This passion is necessarily twofold, and results in the fraught co-existence of the repulsive and the sensual. Divided up by colons, semicolons, ... Read more »

.