Joshua Leon

I invite you to steal.

To perform a fugitive gesture.

 

The theft I call you to participate in is, whenever you are in any form of public social space, you steal a drinking glass.

 

Once stolen, write down the location, the person with whom you may have been and the date.

 

Then send it to the address below.

 

 

Joshua Leon

Studio 104, 31 Peckham Road, SE5 8UB, London

In collaboration with Coleção Moraes Barbosa

In continuum

 

A continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other.

 

The unfolding of events in sequence and in time.

 

In-Continuum frames research as a contingent practice, whereby the excesses and detritus of forms and materials used within a dissemination, in this case exhibitions, events and performances, are treated as constituent elements to be used in future disseminations.

 

To work In-Continuum means to work in the blur. The blur being the space between that which is static (history) and that which is fluid (affect).

 

Things produced In-Continuum are being made in real time and are reflective and immersed in the processes of living.

 

When working In-Continuum the Archive is radically reconsidered as something ongoing that develops its own logic by way of the emerging networks between objects, words and conversations that are being produced.

 

In-Continuum treats all work as being unfinished and ongoing.

 

In-Continuum is a means for inviting ritual and repetitive gestures to take place and be considered part of the making of work. (For example the making of morning coffee or lighting a candle everyday.)

How to become the host, custodian, carer, and scribe of the house that is already evacuated of its people but seeks to invite friends, allies, those who need a home, to come, be received and given space to share their lament, whilst also remaining in attendance to the lost, fallen and the past, upon which we build this house? So as to say, how can one become both the infrastructure and mechanics, and the intermediary for the house that our ghosts built?

If the archive is in the process of being made, if it is not retrospective, or memorial, but living, organic, healthy, unfolding and peripatetic what then is this kind of archive? What becomes of the archive that is in transition, that is effectively and literally being made as we speak? And furthermore what excesses does this formulation of archive produce?

Who has the right to be seen and who has the right not to be seen, and within this how we can we produce ways in which we challenge the privilege of being seen, the performativity of being seen, directing the eye towards the ear and contemplating how we condition space?

How do we develop a system of conditions that occur prior to, during and after the production of an exhibition, event or artwork? These conditions would take into consideration, the inheritance of material and how to deal with materials that carry specific histories and how we articulate these specific histories within a context, which leads to the question of what one's materials are, which is to say what materials have we inherited, and what produces this inheritance. One cannot assume to know materials, but rather to look at a specific history, that of both personal identity and cultural identity, and to also have the right to ask questions of this, to find ways to fail within it and without it and to see this historicity of material as something that has been produced as a result of being other.

We must condition our address to speak directly to a specific corpus and what is the responsibility of this address? Why do we have to speak, and if we have to speak and how do we manage to speak to our listener, so as to say, how do we produce intimacy in our work without becoming exclusive? And how do we frame the Our and the You so that any reader, listener, viewer, is able to understand the direction of the address. Who is my our? Who is my you?

And then how do we condition a state of constant and radical fragility and if we are to do so? Which asks what this fragility is trying to represent, and therefore who has the right to be fragile and what are our fragilities?

What is the work of the kleptomaniac? Who steals for whom?

Eight tea lights for Hanukah

One wooden block 5 x 5 x 2cm

Shards of glass belonging to one glass plate (arrived in shards), spread over several letters

Two coins (one from London, one from the office wallet in Rotterdam)

One polishing cloth, sent from London

One black Ikea soup bowl

One Turkish tea glass

One matchbox

One Turkish tea glass

Used matches to light the Hanukah tea lights

Candies (Rapunzel, lemon mint), sent from London

One wooden block 2 x 2.5 x 1cm

Used matches to light the tea light for Wednesday meditation

One elastic band (wrapped around the envelope with the candy box inside)

One small box of Rapunzel lemon candies

One glass with coffee

One apple

Used tea lights for Hanukah

The attendant tea light

A set of keys to the garden door

One glass without coffee (An empty glass)

Within this production of fragility, which I want to attempt to suggest is based in the passage between being other and being fixed, which is the aspiration of anyone who has at some point in their familial history arrived in a place without desiring to be there, I want to try and understand if we can use the lament and love within the lament, as a condition for the production of work, and if we can use this to code a relation that moves beyond the living, into the dead and back again.

Is my context contingent, if so, what am I contingent on? Can you produce your own context? Can you exist without context? Can you begin to claim a context? Are contexts pre-determined, given, offered, inherited? The loss that makes you become us, that serves to offer my foreignness , to refer to Butler, and to wonder about what my irreducibility might mean in relation to my context. Who is it I am beholden to? Responsible for? To whom do I address? If I address the other in me, do I address you?

 

Peggy Phelan would say “All of our deepest questions are addressed to interlocutors who are not here, who cannot hear us. (If we could have a ready response our questions would not be “deep” – what makes them deep is their unanswerability)”

What this entails is a consideration of Care as a condition of mourning that is based in the preservation of bodies, voices and knowledge that can enable the production of new knowledge, or re-articulate ways which emerge and become part of a set of these pre-contextual conditions, the things we are given, not the things we can take, and then what the processes of re-contextualization are for utilising these conditions for ourselves? In my case this appears to be a process of reclamation, restitution, introversion, affect and speech, which in the end leads us back to the right to be and not to be, as in the right to disavow, the right to say I want to use this, or I own this, or this was taken away and I have a right to reclaim it and also the right to use our voice. There are materials that I cannot touch, materials I cannot absorb, materials that are not mine. I do not want to encounter these. I am framed by a certain positionality, but I reserve the right to contest this positionality.

And what is it to address? To be addressed. To sign the address. To write the address. To think how I can be addressed. To think, who am I addressing? When the songs are written who is it, they have in mind? Or as Celan writes, there are still songs to sing beyond mankind . What would it be to beyond mankind? To be beyond the space that we exist in. in the void that is not yet known. In the home that is not yet built. Or the home that is just a macquette for a home? The songs of our lives that are no longer here. Those who remain, sing to those who are gone.   Are the poems written after, the poems of the song? Driving on and on in unrelieved darkness. Dwelling in the darkness of those long gone.  Is this the beyond you mean?

How can I perform silence? How can I be absent from my own words? Three dots, to mark the space where something is missing. Will this suffice. Will this say we have been here; we are going to be here; we are yet to attend.

A bell

A black suit

Living room Furniture

Rugs

Chinaware

Photographs – (uncertain content)

Books

A nightshirt

A coffee cup with coffee in

Official Papers of residency

A bottle of brandy

A brandy Glass

An apple

Candles

A matchbox

A pin cushion

A black coat

Chairs

An elegant Lounge suit

A pipe

A pair of old stockings

An office phone

A general Phone

A hat with flowers on it

A dining table

Old cigarettes falling from windows

A crate of newspapers

Money

A watch

A bed

Official Badges

A simple hat

A small table

A dark sexy dress made of rough material

An assortment of clothes

A plate of breakfast

A handbag

Bundles of useless old papers

Empty Earthenware

Ink bottles

A bookcase

Leather Garment

A beating rod

Chocolates

Theatre Tickets

A medicine bottle

A carpet

A large portrait painting of someone important

Keys

A clock

A desk

A letter of recommendation

A sheet of tin

An easel

A canvas

A painter’s shirt who sleeves dangle on the floor

A sheet of glass

A pile of unframed canvases

A soup bowl

A pocket book

A pair of glasses

 

How do I develop a language of ‘once’ within a timeframe of the extended Event/Exhibition?

 

Therefore how do I produce contingent relations between one space and another, and perform transitory behaviours and gestures within an exhibition practice?

An Unfinished Interview

from within Martin Kippenberger’s The Happy End to Kafka’s Amerika, with Martin Kippenberger

 

In 1994 Martin Kippenberger produced the installation The Happy End to Kafka’s Amerika, a vast articulation of a single scene from the book. The work takes place in the universal employment agency from Kafka’s novel, which itself was unfinished and published posthumously. Kippenberger drew on a deep history of design from the 20th century to create the stage for the never-ending condition of the job interview to take place. Set on the green grass of a football pitch, the work presents a complexity of psychological interrogation scenarios. This interview was written from within the installation situated upon the table labelled 23. The work is currently being re-shown at Fondazione Prada, Milan.

 

 

JL: Let’s start with the most obvious question, Why Kafka?

 

MK: It’s a good question, because, as you may or may not know I never finished reading the book itself. But somehow it came to be that this work needed to be made. As I moved towards the idea of decentring myself there seemed to be a resonance between the idea in Kafka’s book and myself, I saw an opportunity to invert, or better to say, break, from a singular reflection of the psychology of myself, or of my work, and this became the catalyst. So, it was not so much why Kafka for me, but more this strange, absurd scenario that appeared relevant in which I could be immersed and dissolved.

 

JL: I wonder if you feel the notion of decentring the self, which itself is a complex philosophical enquiry, was always present in the work of Kafka and that this resonance you felt was related to that underlying subject matter?

 

MK: That’s a difficult thing to contemplate. I am of the belief one cannot produce without circumstance and context. If I understand the question correctly you want to know if my circumstances and Kafka’s are somehow inter-connected, and if I feel an affinity to his context and my own?

 

JL: yes.

 

MK: I would want to say yes, but I didn’t know Kafka. All I have to go on are his novels, and the way they were told to me by friends. To be able to say I understand his context, I would have to know as much as possible about his biography and the social situation of his times, otherwise it’s guess-work. How can I say I know how it felt to be a Jewish man working a job he hated between the first world war and second? What I can say is that Kafka’s protagonists always seem like outsiders, trying to get into the central narrative, to find a way to enter into the system. Which is quite a perverse strategy when you think about it. I wanted to break out of a system or structure. So, whilst Kafka was seemingly articulating the embodiment of already being the decentred subject, the other, I was thinking about how this process can happen. This is a propulsion that leads to failure. I would suggest that the system of employment in ‘Amerika’ is an allegory for the psychology of the human, and that what I wanted to make was about showing how the device of literature offers us the means for self-invention, re-invention and opportunity, and that this device happens in how we talk to one another. I have always had a strong affinity towards mocking the ‘authenticity’ of the artist, but the reality is that a truth always seeps out. Truth is a kind of excess.

 

JL: Are you suggesting that the meaning of this work is in its excess?

 

MK: Yes. I did not want to close anything down. If we walked over to table 17, we could read the interviews I produced, and you could read them and garner a suggestion towards meaning, I wanted there to be a space for reading and viewing but also feeling, and later reflections of being. Like how we are sitting here. This interview could affectively be entered into the document of this space. When another person approaches it what do they read, they will read about Kafka, but reading about Kafka would be a limit to understanding the experience of being in this space. Better, would be to conduct another interview. This endless interviewing is something common to life, the presentation of the self to the other. It’s a performative expression, it relies on one coming into a space and giving account of themselves. The job interview offers a strange world to perform the self wouldn’t you say.

 

JL: Totally

 

MK: If we think of these empty chairs as the space in which absent people came to perform themselves, then their absence produces an excess. We are chasing their narrative. This chase is what is interesting, I felt it is a deep part of how we perform our lives, we perform in conversation. This is tied into and countering the current accelerated, competitive nature of existing, which produces excesses as a result, and these excesses perform in the space between language, or more precisely between the space of what is said and what is silent.

 

JL: I always think of excess as related to a kind of obsession, a space that is produced without or against control. I wonder where the control is in this work, and where the resistance to this control happens?

 

MK: I fight this feeling of control. In the first moment you want to be in control of meaning, but there is something dogmatic about this behaviour. I don’t see myself as one thing or another, I am not a painter or a sculptor, “my style is where you see the individual and where a personality is communicated through actions, decisions, single objects and facts, where the whole draws together to form a history.”

 

JL: In which case are you producing a history of a subjectivity? …

 

CAN WE USE FEEING AS A FORM FOR CRITIQUING AN INSTITUTION?

WHAT MATERIALS DID I INHERIT?

WHAT MATERIALS ARE OWED TO ME?

WHAT MATERIALS DO I NEED TO GIVE BACK?

WHAT MATERIALS DO I OWN THAT ARE NOT MINE TO OWN?

How do the methods by which we approach something actually emulate the kind of affective texture of the thing itself?…

If the archive is in the process of being made, if it is not retrospective, or memorial, but living, organic, healthy, unfolding and peripatetic what then is this kind of archive? What becomes of the archive that is in transition, this is effectively and literally being made as we speak? And furthermore what excesses does this formulation of archive produce? As well as how does this archive collect, resource and reveal itself? Once this archive has found its articulation – be it poetic, theoretical, physical, ephemeral or all – what traces does it leave to be interpreted and translated, and within this how does an archive of this nature engender space for affect – so as to ask, can the archive be affectual, can the archive be a site for emotion?

Obsession here is not a problem, an addiction, but a necessity, without the archive concludes, it collapses on itself, for each future event is necessary if the archive will have something that can be added and developed and create new labyrinthine passage ways. The archive as I see it, is akin to the rhizomatic neurological reflection of the brain. Hence why it is memory. It seeks to make memory and record memory, and to lose memory. A process of cyclical renewal, ambition and failures. For all memory is a failure in that the accuracies and details shift. So that the witness cannot quite witness the event, they can only witness their retelling of the event, which to the listener is their own future event. And so, in this formulation the archive that is at once idiosyncratic, becomes social, it relies on its sociality.

The Lament

 

a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.

 

the language of the border

 “lament is nothing other than a language on the border, language of the border itself.” Gersholm Scholem On Lament and Lamentation, p313

 

a method of writing that approaches the space of writing as a space for one’s affect to be released.

 

a poetic force conjured in between the written word, orality, and silence.

 

The lament is a condition for considering the inherent grief within a community and later society.

 

A method for increasing one’s proximity to the dead, lost, and dispossessed.

 

A means for resistance languages of positivism that often centre the subject or attempt to erase the pain, fear, and anxieties of the subject.

 

The Lament is a space for subjective experience, expression, and worries to be shared, received and cared for.

About / Contact

30th January 2021

 

Now, as you know, I am always investigating this model, trying to anticipate how I cannot perhaps only 'show' within an exhibition, but in some manner be from within the site, space, or model in which the exhibition happens, and in doing this somehow find a series of questions, or a single question to ask of the space, visitor and work. As though as to suggest that I am materially entangled with the constituent elements that produce space and the ability of any physical body to approach said space. I had wanted to say this, but with so many voices in the room, and also the complexity of the question, I felt it best to hold as much as I could. And this made me realise one question we had not considered in our discussion was where/if/how we might think about what silences need to be attended to.  This question of the silence in the space, or a space that offers silence, is something prevalent in what I do. I both ask, and condition silences. Writing and speaking, and reading, may all offer some kind of noise, but their excess is quite specifically silence.

22nd January 2021

 

I carry you in a small bag at all times, an inscription on my hip.

21st January 2021

 

Our attendance is a trace, existing for just enough time for our bodies to begin to enact the gestures that pertain to living. The everyday tasks of managing the details, of making time, of preparing breakfast, lunch & dinner, of breathing, of listening, of talking, of reading and thinking, of walking, bathing and sleeping, of cleaning and tidying, and of observing all the spaces that constantly worm their way in between this. I am working to find a means to make this work, the work of attendance, work for us, so that when we need it, we can live side by side with the spirit within and the ghosts that we are yet to know.

19th January 2021

 

Taken away, twice, no three times. We are reticent to leave. Touching is technical. I fold the pasta with tongs. In deliberating where to go, the dream to go overwhelms the place. Sites of meaning are infinite. The stone that I tripped on, on my walk. The wall I sat on, just to remind myself what it felt like to watch the world move. Take an apple and eat it. Then replace it with a pear. Turn said pear into a tart. Take the tart and gift it to the one closest to you. Clocks still tick somewhere in a shop further east. Yesterday I ran my hand over the back of my other hand. It was electric. I stroked my chin. I leave tea stains in the mug. I needed some traces. The thin chords of things unseen rest better when they can be lightly touched. Skin is ephemera. When this is over, take everything I have given you and place it neatly in a box. Tie a ribbon out of common string around the box and send it on to the next place. The secret to attendance is to refuse the desire for constant return by initiating a contingency of sequential gestures, or as I like to think of it, a collection of stains I carry in my pockets. I cannot grieve in my home anymore. Nor can I be told how to place the parts of me that do not want to be at home where to go. Try lying on the floor. It is good for the back. Try bending down. It is good for the knees. Who knew energy was not internal but reflective? Who knew the longer we remain in one place the longer we are left questioning our attachment to anywhere?

11th January 2021

 

A close circuit of relations waits attentively for closeness.

4th January 2021 9:12am

 

We spoke on the phone two nights ago. You asked about how we deal with low feelings. Of the points when one feels they are a failure to themselves. You mentioned your father, your worries. You asked if perhaps he felt he had never felt to be the man he wanted to be. Which made me think about how we come to be in attendance to who we are, to where we are, to what we are? You wondered if this was a question of being present. Words and letters matter most in these instances. Our memories begin with words. Our stories trapped in objects, that unfold the gestures we use to maintain these fragile and necessary relations.

4:57pm

 

A physical bond that manifests itself in non-material ways.

5:04pm

 

But dust and air are materials too.

30th December 2020

 

Here is what I know about attendance. The first instance is at school, when the teacher would call our names. The first time they do this they always make some mistakes, then gloss over them as if a name is no matter. The second attendance made is at the temple, where no register is taken, but you are noted for having been there on all the important days and for each individual’s rite of passage. The third is the first funeral. I don’t remember being at the first funeral. My grandfather’s. Only at the event afterwards. Scurrying under the table to share snacks with my cousin. These are formal attendances, but the form of attendance we are dealing with here asks us to attend more deeply to the day to day, to the time you wake up, to the time you sleep, to the minutiae details in what you ate and what you did. We are also checking in more with our state of mind. Meditating more. Exercising for health and for boredom. This is what I know about attendance. To be in attendance requires boredom. The boredom of waiting in line, of standing there quietly listening as two magpies collect their twigs, or two friends socialise. And within these moments, there is a weight of melancholy. Not the tragic melancholy that dramatizes a simple event. No. The melancholy of waiting. The melancholy of knowing that this conversation however insignificant won't last longer than a few minutes. So, we talk longer, deeper, more furiously than ever. Here is what I know about attendance. Those who attend are singing on the inside. Those who attend know the tunes of sad songs that speak to many without ever knowing how. That is what I know about attendance.

24th November 2020

 

This is a space for you to get close to me.

23rd November 2020

 

Everything starts but doesn’t want to conclude.

5:32pm

 

Fumbling with these envelopes. I want them to resist becoming uniform. A desire that I appreciate is the antithesis of how I get dressed. Something in the putting on of one thing, says I must not do the same anywhere else. I arrive nowhere anymore. At my desk I toy with idea of going somewhere. These envelopes are my new suitcase. My words travel better and more than I do.

13th November 2020 12:20pm

 

Today’s clothes; a white t shirt, the jumper you gave me, blue jeans. I am wondering does attendance always ask for there to be a host. What if the host is just a room within a building? Someone would still have to open the door. Give the official “hello”, something that would explain the manners of the place. No elbows on the table. No trainers. No hats. No talking on phones. I think I will write an invitation that reverses these negations. Something that reads: “You are invited to attend; we await your presence.” A generous invite, don’t you think?

7th November 2020

 

The days feel different. Less alone. Even though I am still as alone as ever. I am still in the room of confrontations, waiting for more noise. But there seems to be no noise here. I stole your black coat. You said I should protect myself, and this seemed the best companion. If I can’t be with you, why not have a part of you here. Although I wonder if perhaps this time it is you who cannot be with me. Did I mention I have been preparing my talk on the question of attendance? To be honest, I have struggled with structure, as al-ways. It is as though I cannot persuade myself to trap this formless idea as it seeps into every thought I have. I ask myself, how is it to be there, how comes we cannot make more of our moments together? This transitioning between happening and event and back again. Like Newton’s cradle. I talk aloud to myself here. There is no one else with me. Just the small lamp we bought. Although there are many chairs, their legs chopped down. I sit on the tallest chair I could find, hoping that this will give me a better angle to see if any shadow crosses through the expanse. I whisper repeatedly the words “as long as I am speaking, as long as I am writing, my pain is less keen.”  So little comes of it. It is just another justification that I am here, in the room of confrontations, which I would prefer to call the room of conditions. For I know all too well that one leads to the other, and that my talk of attendance hinges on my under-standing of the conditions that brought me here. You know all my conditions already. A lock to my uncut key.  Do you believe silence is a form of attendance? Or do we need our body? And what of our ashes? What of those tiny fragments that ask for our words? I sense that my sense of duty is born from this, and that in this time of sorrow and isolation, this duty has come calling again. Although I am not sure I am ready. Do you believe I am ready? You always seem to know what’s best for me. Today I say, my question is, the question of attendance. Which is the work of the body that feels. A labour that is rarely acknowledged. A labour that calls the body to interact with objects, to touch them, to care for them, to share them, to gift them. To give them the opportunity to become a signal to all those who need to be signalled. This is an unforeseen responsibility. Is it not? The state of play feels motivated differently. As though as our bodies were asked to live in isolation, our minds deserted us. Back into the desert. To the place where words break up into letters. These letters are yours, only yours. I will confront them in the same manner I tend to them. I am here to hear all of them as they pass from your mouth into our hands, before becoming the means for making our signals stand up, alert, aware and alive to our movements. I will refuse to work from distance. I will attend to the bond between us, the way one puts their hand around the candle flame or tends to pieces of broken glass on the floor.

 

 

I must return to my talk on the question of attendance now.  

4th November 2020

 

I wanted to send you a gift. I spent the last days searching for one that could attend for me. To find a substitute for my lack of attendance. It has become so hard to attend in these days. I don’t even know if I am here for myself anymore. The room feels too close. I keep returning to an image published in the Washington Post of a memorial with only empty chairs. It speaks to this. The emptiness of our attendance. No one person next to another, the pressure of being pressed into any situation, gone, dissipated in one swift gesture. But still I feel this desire to attend. To be there for someone, to arrive in places, to be announced, to be given the license to converse. I then realised. I cannot at-tend your birthday. Which brought me a huge feeling of loss. Last year we were able to celebrate together. At our restaurant. With our wine. How do we go about sharing space, when we are barricaded from such an act? The gift being the thing that we let go of. Much like the conversation. A confirmation of our arrival. Allowing it to stand in for my body, to work on you as a memory. As the substitute. I think perhaps I have been trying to say this all along. I am trying to attend to all that stuff that falls out, the excess, the little things that normally we only notice later on, when you are gone.

18th April 2020

 

In the anxiety of needing things to do, I began to re-order my collection of things. In an attempt to make sense of it all. Placing them in order of the place where they came from, placing them in order of who they stood in for, the conversations they represented. But mostly placing them in order of how they made me feel. I tried to embody them, to let them get so far inside me that they were a part of me, coming up from within, not from a without. I am always feeling interior, feeling like the space of the interior is where I spend my time thinking about the things I keep, which I have stolen from exterior places. I still wouldn’t be able to say why I keep them, there is always this effort, the fight, to let go of things, and then ultimately the need to keep them. I tried to find ways to make the objects speak back to me. Or speak for me. Or speak through me. Or speak for us. I stole our conversations and attempted to trap them inside, so I could keep them for later. I stole from my life too. I stole because I did not see how else I could talk about talking, how else could I think about being in conversation, how else could I capture that time back?

8th April 2020

 

What is my being without you? Without us? Without saying what we are? Without defining the space per se, but knowing it is a space that exists, in form, and material, and energy. I wanted to let you know that I have lost my voice.  When I write to you, I feel myself screaming but without a noise appearing, I say to say myself what is there to write? Can I write my silence to you? Can you hear my silence? What weird drifting sound would that be?

 

I am not interested in talking about functional silence, or a conceptual silence, but the real silence, the one that manages to worm its way into the world through a gap in between the noise. This silence that is the sound of the in-between, the border. Much like us, who are in-between, not here or there, not yet, not now, not always. Now I cannot speak, nor to you, or anyone else. What do I do when I can’t talk? When I cannot transcribe my speech into words, such that, even when I try to write, the clarity of my voice is diminished by the knowledge that what I write may have no public, no corpus to relate to.

 

I wanted you to hear me more than I wanted to write, I wanted to share space with you with our bodies and our voices. I wanted you to feel the echo of my words bouncing against other heads, hearts, and bodies, in a room we all share. So that we could all be eavesdroppers catching a glimpse of the profound and stupid things we say, who could feel caught up in the way we laugh and the way we argue. No one hears us, this moment has collapsed us. I lie on the floor, flat, looking up at the blank ceiling, just to find some sense of being out there, when I know being out there is a risk to all.

 

Feb 12th 2020

 

I am the fluid in the glass. The glass is the fluid in me. The here and there of our body. Connected by our desire to connect. By our need to be social. To live in a manner that is interconnected. These glasses are not from somewhere, they were already there. They have been here before. They will always be here. When I am here, they are here to. They call into relation my duty to the other. My duty to my other in me. They stand in. They speak out. They relate. They intersect with the spaces in which we were. They are us. They are the madeleine. And they are more than a madeleine.  They are every moment I have shared with you. They are every moment I have been unable to share with you. They are every sentence I wished you could have spoken, or unspoken, they are the silence between us when speaking was a risk. Informal, unformed, under produced, but precise none the less. In this between of the edges, the peripheral notions of my being and your beingness, our voices, and in our voices exhaustion, and tirelessness, our latent lament song, the oldest song, the one where we remember our home, which is not the desire for home, not a claim to land, but a need to understand, home goes with us, as our refuge  for our state as the refugee and as our desire to need to protect our refugees. Who would we be without our travels?

[undated]

 

Inside/ inside/ late at times/ early at others/ into the circle/ no other way in/ out/ to do it in time/ to weep/some nights/ but the day goes/ on/ and our memory ain’t but/ ain’t but/ a process of sitting/ torn shirts/ a throng of garments in disregard/ you got your hours/ and your details/ and we sat still for a little while/ dodging the oncoming/ wound/ the wound that goes and goes and goes/ passes from one parent/ to the next/ an exit from the safe ground/ don’t build it if you can’t maintain it/ that’s what they say/ but we have to build/ there’s nothing else to do/ they get you uprooted/ down playing the distance/ we are quite close/ performing gestures/ performing our privacy/ performing our personality/ pretty much/ pretty please/ thanks for coming/ let something dissolve in our glasses/ let me dissolve into a glass/ sand/ the unstraightening of our line/ not to say/ it was ever very straight/ hopping/ between/ location/ no place is home/ no place/ like/ home/ no place/ home/ is unknown/ only places/ places we have been/ we are being in/ we are being un/ un-do/ un-learn/ under-go/ under as home/ that’s what we know/ like when we get lost in conversation/ and they look at us like/ what is this all about/ because they don’t want to know loss/ they don’t know how to be lost/ what it feels to be lost in your beingness/ you’re being there/ or as Cathy Park Hong wrote/To even the youngest planet of powdered matter: hear my lament,/ As I gawk and rub my hands/ while saline cells slide/ and slide down my sodden face./

Dear P.

 

Please forgive me if I am late. It seems that everything takes so much longer than expected these days. I have been fumbling around, stalling in fact. I am trying to unpick all our threads. There are so many. Every time I pull one away, I find another that seems vital, urgent even. You spoke of this search for fragile violence, for something that holds things together loosely. I feel I have become loosely put together. Like all these parts seem to fall out of me. Do you know this feeling? I wondered how we could make this become our thing, how we could find a way to make things loose and at the same time strong. Threads became actual threads. Strands of fabric strewn across my floor. Abandoned, then recollected. Something physical that reflected these thoughts. It always humours me to think how material I am, how bound up in materials I am, even though I try to convince myself I can live without it.

 

I hold in my hand one of these threads. I have been holding onto it tightly, wrapping it around my finger. These threads, as you know, are more than material, they are our bond. Hence why I keep hold of them so tightly. I hope you appreciate that my conversations with you are always intended to remain private, intimate. These threads, both material and not are what ties me to these conversations. What allows me to maintain our bond. And I wish to protect this bond. To bask in its echoes in fact. A bond this strong is hard to break. It speaks in the steps we take and the words we say, but most of all in the means of examining the smallest of details from the day.

 

I recently bought two new coffee mugs, for when we next share coffee and cake. They are nothing special really, but they had been calling to me on my daily walks, and I thought, what fun it would be to have something we could use as ours, only ours. Your invite to me triggered this response. Two mugs just for us. We could carry them with us wherever we go. Keep them as private islands of connection. Were another person to ask why, we could simply say, to cherish a connection wherever we are. And we are wherever we are. Distance cannot be said to do much if we carry one another to each place we go. I think of this bond, the bond an object can become, as a form of stitching, of sewing together the threads. The threads in our conversations. The words which flash in and out of existence but remain. With these objects I do not need worry that our exchanges are lost. My melancholy is broken. My memory made active.

 

Tell me how are your water bottles? Are your chairs ready for uncertain visitors? It came as a shock to me to see those chairs. Not least because, as I am sure I told you, I too had been scheming chairs whose legs were shortened. I wonder if you knew all along about this, if somehow our connection spoke without a word being uttered. A closeness of thought. Another thread. How inviting these chairs seem. They ask not to be sat on but to be cared for, to be looked after, to be repaired. Funny too, how if you take something that seems so common, so accessible, and make the smallest of changes, we become more alert to its nature, to its use, and to its history. How many bodies have already sat in those chairs? Drank from your bottles? How their history changes as we change, how their form allows them to hold our bodies, and our stories.

 

To remind myself of this I have been working on my visualisation techniques lately. Returning to the sewing room. It used to be so empty. Now it has a beautiful old sewing machine and table, and all the threads await me. In the process I see myself, sitting in one of your chairs, and carefully stitching a long, estranged, circle of torn cloths. I think it means I want to sew the world. I know you will understand what I mean by this. To repair, or reconstitute, all the broken fragile remains that lie upon the ground. You are always here. There. In the visualisation. I know this. I know that.

 

Oh, the days tick away. There is so little noise too. I miss the messiness of the conversation. The messiness of the process. The messiness of it all, to be honest.

 

You must forgive me for the staccato thoughts. I feel I have lost so much time, and I am already late, or slow at least. I want to be short. To just update you. To tell you that I am hard at work, sewing. What was the German word for it? Nähen? Which is also close to closeness, our closeness. Well this is my task now. The task which I fear I will never complete. For the time it goes on. I am becoming the white rabbit. Drenched in pink liquid. But I have had a revelation. The threads are alive! And now I must, I must, furiously sew them together.

 

I will show you next time, during the high tides, over coffee and cake, in our new mugs, at the Eiiscafe.

 

with love

J x

Proposal 19

 

I propose to repaint the exhibition space in the antithetical colour to its current colour. Prior to painting the space, I propose we invite a professional architecture photographer to document the space emptied of all its objects. This photograph and this proposal will then be displayed next to one another in identical metallic frames within the space once the space has been painted.

[undated]

 

Glass of water.

 

The usual. Regular one.

The one we use daily.

Here, have a sip.

Good friends. Good.

We talked about the home of our dreams

And the chairs of our dreams.

But little attention was given to our

Cups and glasses.

Little details. The Rugs

The Storage. The Lights.

Furnishing the time.

Furnishing the future.

Here’s a clue. The less you worry

About this, the less you will need.

I mostly use the glass to take

The ibuprofen for migraines.

 

I wonder if the home décor industry

suffers from the lack of spaces to furnish?

 

Proposal 11

I propose we make a bowl of chicken soup for every person who comes to visit this space.

[undated]

 

And so I took a glass from the Delaunay Counter, where we had discussed Jung, and his Christianity, and you were upset, because he was a founding member of AA, but you didn’t want that space to be about god, because it had done you good. The glass itself is not that remarkable. The place is. It felt like I was back, again, in the types of places my grandparents would have passed by as kids. I bought a Manner bar to remember them, to remember my childhood of being given the hazelnut and chocolate. And what about the wine glass from Princi, where we ate dinner after the opening of Fischili and Weiss, I stole glasses from there to, the five of us, eating and talking and thinking, and drinking, and me, realising I had paid too much, and asking for a glass of wine, which is the glass I had to take, to say I owned it, but also to ask, what is the real cost, what is the real loss, because where they can, they take it back from you. And I realised I had another glass from there, from a rainy day, and I needed to find somewhere to wait for you, so I read Stefan Zweig’s Chess  in one sitting, and when you arrived, you didn’t want to stay. And I was only reading Zweig because B. had told me to when we were at La Perle in Paris, which I later discovered was the site where John Galliano had shouted anti-Semitic remarks at an old couple, and then later claimed he was out of his mind. I stole five glasses there, I felt they were owed to me. All these spaces. All these connections. All this strangeness. And Zweig who ended up finding refuge in exile in Brasil, dispossessed. And the text, about other forms of violent torture by the Nazis, on the wealthier, more embedded, Jews, producing another insanity, madness, dehumanisation that remained. Locked in a room with nothing, no windows, no tools, no reality. And his and his wife’s death, suicide.

[undated]

 

You asked to be held back to back, as if standing up together, in sync, could elevate us into a new form. But at that point, the touch of shoulder to shoulder, left us at an imbalance with the situations unfolding around us. It was not safe to say, we desired perfect harmony. A reflection of the deeper rifts affecting our ethics. Floundering in the face of single streamed thoughts pressed upon you, I began to be nurtured by the support you entrusted to me.

June 2019

 

Without a self in front of a self. handling consequences of the unmade mess. crisis of confidence or indirectness. a residual testimony. there has never been a plan, never been a mode of action. one side goes right, while the other stays left. dissonance dissipates. we enter a new kind of vertical. the limit of speech hits a mirror in our ceiling. the limit in our pitch powders the faces. the hours go. the hours move. and all we want, is to be left to roam. upside, inside. reside -ing in the last licks at the base of our bowl. turned up to the lip. all manners of movements make us motor forward, missing out on the memories, missing out on the momentum. my scar deteriorates, only to swell. I chew, I nibble, so as to not forget how it happened. not blacking out. not turning off. not holding on. an aftermath. once, once, and then the same again, the same again.

 

after forgetting, comes rituals of space. people pass in and out of the arena of actions. personalities passage by, held under light, for a moment. if they deemed it time to strip, then strip down. born as bruise. the intimacy of milk and coffee suspended for the foreseeable time. we attempted to improvise. inventing fundamental tradeoffs, before the blowback. stripped in public or stripped in private, our pains, our passions, can you take them both, for their silence, for their silence, for my conflicts. liquid assets, liquid in the stomach, heartship and health prized over purchases. bring soup. Mother. bring soup. Father.  while we wait to return to any kind of promise that might come. like the promise of a re-run, or the rediscovery of classic folk songs. my sweater harbours a field of families. we throw dirt into the empty hole. and hold hands. there are tears so salted they burn the earth. but I haven’t been back since. truth is that I did not cry on that day, nor any other day. but I did squeeze your hand until it turned numb. and watched as a robin stopped flying mid-flight.

Joshua Leon  © 2020