Say Who I Am / Or a Broad Private Wink
I had two books with me, which I’d meant to read on the plane. One was Words for the Wind, by Theodore Roethke.... My other book was Erika Ostrovsky’s Céline and His Vision. Céline was a brave French soldier in the First World War—until his skull was cracked. After that he couldn’t sleep, and there were noises in his head. He became a doctor, and he treated poor people in the daytime, and he wrote grotesque novels all night. No art is possible without a dance with death, he wrote.3
Re-imagining the art object as sharing a number of basic ontological qualities with the riddle, I am interested in thinking through some ways to write about, or, again, write around the art object: to elicit, to unlock, to induce its essential obscurity with essential obscurity.
Approaching the writing of this text, I looked back at my original précis and discovered that I had used a very wrong word. In fact, the use of this wrong word was a fundamental error on my part, and thankfully, now that I’ve realized this, I can proceed with the proper word (or so I hope).
My wrong word was deduce.
In summoning this word, I had inadvertently evoked the very fixed place where I had hoped not to be; for to deduce, with the dictionary smack of reaching a conclusion or inferring something from a general principle, is far from my understanding contemporary art writing. What I’m interested in is what art writing might be, rather than what it actually is.4
What I really should have said was induce.
For to loiter near the art object, with the intention of capture through critique, should essentially be a procedure of induction rather than of deduction, in that we are creating or tracing a broader, possibly more fertile environment through close looking, rather than tracking a logical conclusion from the clues given. To concur with Maurice Blanchot, as he would have it in his 1941 novel Thomas the Obscure, “making no distinction between the figure and that which is, or believes itself to be, its centre, whenever the complete figure itself expresses no more than the search for an imagined centre.”5 It’s preferable, then, to work in the margins, to attempt to write “the inside meaning of it if you understand me.”6
We should keep in mind, after all, that the supposed ur-deducer Sherlock Holmes had but detailed knowledge of “everything” that could be applied to his inductive investigations of crime, but little to no knowledge of the material world outside of his investigations.7
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About the Author
Maria Fusco is a Belfast-born writer and academic based in London. She recently edited Put About: A Critical Anthology on Independent Publishing produced out of a conference at Tate Modern that she organized. She is currently developing a new journal The Happy Hypocrite for and about experimental writing within visual arts.