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Non-determinist responses

- Lawrence Upton


This is a revised text of a talk given at  Institute of Contemporary Arts, London on 17th August 2009. In a few areas, the text that I took with me was unfinished; and was, on one page, only a set of prompting words and phrases. In addition, in giving the talk, I skipped parts of what I had written to keep it timely.

I did not audio record my talk so that when I finished, as a writer, I was back to those prompts, phrases and incomplete paragraphs together with the bulk of my prepared text plus what I could remember.

Since then I have revised the text and expanded it in the light of questions asked by the audience. They were very good searching questions; and I am grateful for them. So here is the revised transcript of a talk that I did not quite really give. It twists and turns, like a coastal path, by swerve of sure and bend of maybe. If there were a straight path…
but there is not.

When the talk was proposed by the ICA, the idea of my talking about Writers Forum, a workshop and publisher which was founded and run for half a century by the late Bob Cobbing, was raised -- though Cobbing doesn’t feature in the current exhibition! 1 It is true that I have been associated with Writers Forum for nearly 4 decades and now co-direct it with Adrian Clarke, as Bob Cobbing requested; but it is a huge topic, not easily summarised. 2

However, aspects of Writers Forum’s output do relate to my current and ongoing research, funded by AHRC, at Goldsmiths, University of  London; and they seem to me pertinent to matters on which the exhibition is surprisingly silent.

Therefore, I shall remind you briefly of one Writers Forum book; and then, move on to speak of associated aspects of my own artistic practice, the soundsinging of visual poetry. “Soundsinging” is a term I learned from the fine Canadian poet, Paul Dutton, and adopted as my own. I mean the utterance of visual poetry seen as a score for improvisatory performance.

At the same time, I shall speak of my fascination – greater than my present knowledge – with some seventeenth century scientists. It has its relevance.This then is a reflection from the perspective of my own current professional disciplinary identity as a Research Fellow with a (self-) specified programme of inquiry, an identity I am still constructing and exploring.

My artistic practice as a whole is wider than that supposed by this professional discipline which, in part, is concerned to track “the transition from belief to knowledge” 3 during soundsinging.

There are other presently silent identities implicit in that practice.

Much of what I shall say will be developed further at a later date, just as some of this talk has been prefigured in talks given since I took up my Goldsmiths Fellowship in May 2008.

The 750th publication of Writers Forum as a press was called Word Score Utterance Choreography in verbal and visual poetry. 4 Bob Cobbing and I conceived of it as a primer to performance of visual poetry, but in a spirit of inquiry.The basic structure of the book is: for each artist, one example of “linear poetry” or “verbal poetry”; with one example of “visual poetry”; and a statement.

These terms, linear poetry, visual poetry et cetera are unreliable. And, clearly, there could be – and is – verbal poetry which is not linear and linear poetry which is not verbal  I use them indicatively; no more than that. I don’t claim to write “concrete poetry” because I think the term is too vague; but if someone asks me if I have any unpublished concrete poetry then I may well say yes on the assumption that what they mean is what I call visually emphatic poetry. There is a meaningful distinction to be made between concrete poetry and visual poetry, at least in their emphases, but this approach keeps being occluded by destructive imprecision.

In my nomenclature, Larkin’s The Less Deceived, for example, would be semantically emphatic.

One might also easily identify sonically emphatic poetry. Remember that, in 1966, Cobbing identified an eye version as well as an ear version of the same poem: Are your children safe in the sea?

Bob Cobbing was by far the most influential and resourceful artist working in what is called visual poetry, though his achievements exceed that genre, from the mid 1960s until his death in 2002 and indirectly since then; and it is a great pity that he is not represented in the exhibition. I do not think he was ever published in Finlay’s P.O.T.H. but then nor were some others who are in the exhibition.I proposed my definition-by-emphasis about ten years ago; and I cannot pretend that it has been popular. Nevertheless, I persist with it because, I believe, it makes clear what is happening formally, while a term like visual poetry or concrete poetry seems guaranteed to muddle if only because there is no consistent agreement as to what the terms mean.

We conceived the primer as a way of trying to answer and helping those who are willing to work who asked at book fairs “How on earth do you perform that?” Many had somehow managed to miss out on graphic approaches to poetry or had classified it all as not poetry and thus managed to avoid revising received positions.

One rarely hears that question asked of semantically-emphatic poetry. It is assumed that we can all manage. (Similarly, it was strongly suggested once, and the idea still persists, that, to teach English, one does not need to be a subject specialist because we all speak English.) It is often assumed that actors and some others do it better than the rest of us; and this faith results in what we may call the poetry voice, a mode of delivery which neglects in its dying fall kind or its declamatory kind and so on what is actually being said.

In an article written a year after Word Score Utterance Choreography, 5 I question just how good the text of the poem, as we have been taught to recognise it, is as an indication of how to read it.

It tells us very little about how to stress words or anything about any other form of vocal emphasis.

If it were widely recognised how much the performer has to bring to a poem and how many decisions they have to make, the performance of poetry might be greatly improved.

In English-speaking regions, we expect our texts to go from left to right horizontally and we fill in the deficiencies of our alphabet and punctuation systems as a notational system when we have to, hardly noticing that we do so; and we are confused when, implicitly, we are asked what these conventions signify.

Sound values given to letters and combinations of letters are arbitrary (values explicable in terms of linguistic change but not in terms of current conscious human communicative purpose) and they have to be learned. Someone joked recently:

The vowels and consonants you’re hearing in your mind’s ear right now are being generated by mere squiggles on a page or screen. Pointless hieroglyphics. Shapes. You’re staring at shapes and hearing them in your head. 6

The a in apple and the a in ape, for me, are different sounds, but we write / type them with the same letter. So, when we meet the letter on its own, we have no certainty as to how to pronounce it.

One might use the International Phonetic Alphabet, and some have experimented in that direction; but that would usually require learning on the part of the performer and the audience. I think it highly likely that the audience would skip it.

Furthermore, the precision conferred by the code would surely be lost as soon as the page was treated.

It is not possible to write down non-verbal utterance with any assurance that others will know how to utter what has been written. 7  Writing is good enough providing it is notating a fairly predictable use of received language, providing we are at peace with the accent being used to speak, providing also we are on top of what we are reading and providing we use all of our mental faculties.  That is, it is not very good.I am muddling, quite deliberately, the reading of text  and of treated or visual text, because the issues are much the same. Both are invented. It’s just that semantically-emphatic writing has the benefit of consensual approval – to a limited extent. These matters are sociological, how people deal with the consequences of low-level petty tyranny: “Poetry, as a cultural and a culturally specific activity, a map of institutions, initiatives and resistances”. 8

When I spoke about Bob Cobbing at Southampton University in 2005, 9 I was told, informally, later, by one who had been in the audience that…

It is difficult to say just what I was told. The gist of it was a suspicion of some kind of invalidity in Cobbing’s work post 1970 because someone else had theorised that the movement they claimed he was part of had ended in 1970.

It sounds bureaucratic to me; someone saying “I am in charge” who was not actually in charge except by assertion and certainly not in charge retrospectively: “I am telling you that the artistic community does not do that any more.” It may be that the theorist had been chosen to be in charge by the reader, wanting a leader as a judge.

A friend and colleague who is conducting doctoral sociological research has been told “some of your stylistic tendencies do not serve the essay well.” That’s about all she was told.

The tendencies are not identified. The process by which they fail to serve is not identified.

It reminds me of the Franz Kafka story, In the penal colony, where a criminal’s crimes are etched into their body until they learn to read them. Possibly, style is being taken as an indicator of behavioural conformity. As it is exclaimed in the film of the Jungle Book, “I want to walk like you, talk like you, ooooh, I wanna be just like you.”

Disapproval and approval is a far more potent means of social control than bullying.

One becomes accustomed to the unfamiliar; and the unfamiliar are anyway declared to be exceptions. It is a version of data smoothing. There’s a use for data smoothing, if we know the answer we really and honestly want, but only if it is veracious i.e. if we really want it arising from intellectual curiosity rather than out of personal appetite.

Here are some images, visually-emphatic texts, this from Naming for Adrian Clarke, which I wrote and performed with John Drever at Shunt Lounge in 2007. The source material here is Adrian’s name.




[Figures 1 to 4 – from NAMING for Adrian Clarke]

And this is from NAMELY for Peter Manson, which I wrote and performed with John Drever at The London Horse Hospital this year, 2009.



[Figures 5 to 9 – from NAMELY for Peter Manson]

is a generic title for a large amount of my work over the last decade; but it is not an arbitrary title.

One may take naming as the generative artistic process. In Genesis, God gives to Adam the authority to name. He should have given it to Eve as well, yes; but my point is that (humans say) God gave it to humans. Humans saw things, found them good and named them.

The idea of names as containing and conveying power remains with us despite the dual perhaps contending powers of what is called organised religion and what is called secularism. Similarly, being able to say a name also removes power in some situations and / or confers it locally.

When British soldiers are killed, there is a delay during which for all but their families and lovers they are nameless; and then Ministry of Defence names them.

Red top newspapers name and shame people, they say.

The idea of creatures having secret names persists.

Many of us are known to intimates by names other than our official or given names or variations upon those names.

Conversely, we may honour and or please our friends by being sure to name them as they wish to be named.

For these various and sometimes incompatible reasons which demonstrate the importance of naming, I have chosen to show you visual poems based on people’s names.

I place emphasis on naming graphic poems because they predominate in the recent work which I have made sonically with John Levack Drever. There are others.


[Figures 10 to 12 – from CLOSE]

Close to the literal
(2005) refers implicitly to the naming process in general, as explained in my essay Writing “Close to the Literal”. 10

Here are some images.

Here you can see letter shapes forming the actual world they fill – it’s a bit like computer programs which allow you to make complex shapes in three dimensions from more basic shapes. Here it is letter shapes which are the basic shapes.

These are from Cumbria Poems.


[Figures 13 to 14 – from Cumbria Poems]

Here again are letters running around on their own mental Pennines. There is a lot of private fun happening here, I like to think; but no name calling.

The poems for Adrian and Peter are meant as praise songs. The process can also utilise names negatively to emphasise the maladroit.

One of my poems in the naming series does not contain the letters  of the named person’s name. It’s published by

I’ll play you a studio version of Namely in a little while; but let me talk a little around what might be going on.

Some years ago I wrote an email to a friend and didn’t bother to do anything about the caps lock being on. The recipient didn’t respond to my content but wrote back one line – Why are you shouting at me?

We do seem to interpret dark and or large letters as being louder than light-coloured and small letters; and our responses to the visual are more complex and varied than that.

There is clearly a basis then for the graphic score, the visual poem et cetera.

Synaesthesia is an often abused word… One with which we should exercise caution; but one that should not be excluded.

How does one read a visual text as a performer? That is something that I am working on understanding. I am going carefully because I don’t want to make it more difficult for myself to do so. If you have ever found yourself carrying a glass full to the brim, and then -- while you are still carrying it -- wondered how you are managing to do so, then you will understand my caution.

An unavoidable problem is defining what one means by the term to be commented on. Because there is such a wide range of visual texts available, it is unlikely that there will be any one answer. I have inadvertently narrowed the field under examination by using the term “visual text”. The use of “text” instead of, for example, “poem” may say as much about me and my influences as I say about anything else. The use of “visual” can be read as “visually emphatic” and the whole phrase as a synonym for “visual poem”; but Word Score Utterance Choreography demonstrates how wide a field that is; and we just did not engage with movies and animations and the then growing phenomenon of net art as we edited. Even so, there were many visual poets who had differences with our own practice of reading visual texts / poems: visual emphasis practice went way beyond those who saw poetry as a live and uttering art.

I would not like to use the word “symbolic” of any graphic score with which I am concerned as practitioner; but many do, the symbolic features widely in the explanatory response to the concept of visual scores. Or if I did use it, there would have been a lot of investigation and perhaps prevarication to consider just what the process of symbolisation entails!

I don’t think there is any a priori system which can be discovered and made as a set of instructions; so that now I am fairly convinced it will not be possible to pass on one of these texts to another practitioner so that she could perform it as I would.

On the other hand, I have performed other people’s texts with and without them present; and others have performed with me. A good example might be Alaric Sumner’s Bucking Curtains 11 which was finished in February 2000 and published at the beginning of March 2000.

By the end of that month, Sumner was dead of a heart attack; but his text has been performed since both by me and by Chris Goode.

I think Sumner would have approved others’ later interpretations; but it should be understood that what we were doing was different to interpreting a conventional musical score.

I recall discussing with him the generation of the visual texts in Bucking Curtains: he had approached me as potential editor / publisher; the role of the performer came to me later. It was clear even while he was still writing the piece, or possibly because of that, that we were arriving at graphical images as poetry by different routes. However, we found later, when I went down to Devon to work with him, that we were able to agree a method of working together which facilitated an improvised collaborative performance on publication day. (We were told that the event was being recorded but that proved to be untrue, or at least misleading, and what happened is lost now to anyone who was not there. It remains likely that what Alaric and I were doing, or thought we were doing, as makers of graphic images within poetry was procedurally and conceptually different.

The version of Namely which John Drever and I performed at The London Horse Hospital was quite different to the studio recording we had already made. We surprised ourselves. The images stayed the same.

To appropriate a favourite phrase of Bob Cobbing, there was a family resemblance between the versions; but I have refuted almost entirely Cobbing’s assertion that every mark has its own sound. I don’t think his practice supported that contention. My havering “almost entirely refuted” points to a recent rethink which expands  my opinion but finally does not change it.

I do not like artistic statements as such, nor really, I think, did Cobbing. He did make some exciting statements and I do not wish to detract from them; but more often than not he avoided saying anything by way of an artistic manifesto. Later, I’ll give an example of what seems to me his primary manner of fielding a direct question. Yet, to qualify that, he did discuss these matters, in so far as they needed discussion, as part of collaborative practice. 12

I prefer to avoid the whole manifesto urge. We only asked for statements for Word Score Utterance Choreography because it seemed more honest and quicker than writing our own commentary.

As I have mentioned Alaric Sumner, let me relate a brief exchange of some years ago. I overheard it and it was said in a pub, and informally, so I shall leave out the names of the conversants.

One critically-inclined person says to another “I never really understood Sumner, you know. He kept doing different things. I never understood what he was doing.”

Now, to me, the really excellent thing about Alaric Sumner was that he kept re-evaluating his approaches, and changing direction as a consequence i.e. “doing different things”. It’s an approach that I find admirable. He was intellectually restless; he changed.

There is a pressure on all of us as producers of art to make sure that our work is consumable both by its buyers and by its critics. I don’t find that admirable. The (commercial) trick is to make work about which there is always something else to say. (Discussion is often a saleable  consumable and also sometimes a form of hardware.) That is, the trick – or, if you prefer, the secret -- is extrinsic to the process of making and therefore secondary to it.

Recently, I have been making a variety of work in and about Isle of Wight, and, increasingly, concentrating my attention on the life of Robert Hooke, the seventeenth century scientist who came from Freshwater.

It seems to me that one of Hooke’s difficulties in career terms was a wide-ranging learning. One thinks of the phrase “butterfly mind” and “jack of all trades”. These are rarely complimentary.

Rather, they are often ad hominem attacks yearning for behavioural conformity. Wren, with whom he got on, and Newton, with whom he most definitely did not get on, paid attention to their public image. Boyle was consciously carefully discrete.  Hooke just stuck to what he was doing; or started something utterly different at the same time! and, it seems to me, spoke with personal emotional veracity.

He may have been personally ambitious; but then so were Wren and Newton and Boyle.

He may have been aggressive; but Newton threatened Henry Oldenberg  that he would resign from the Royal Society as a tactic against Hooke. 13

Appearance, manner and class (though not necessarily class as we now use the word) were against Hooke. Maybe his accent was against him. I assume he had an IOW accent. But I believe the main problem he had, apart from overt feistiness, was that he was seemingly interested in everything and quite good at most things. He could not easily be pigeon-holed. He could be annoying to the urbane-minded.

“Jack of all trades” is the first half of a proverbial statement completed by “master of none”.

But it begs two questions. There is the derisory “jack” and the exaggeration of “all” and “none” where “many” would be appropriate in both cases.

Human thinking habits tend to separate what is seen as the best thing a person has done and class it as the truly significant thing that they have done.

I have noticed also that individual works of art which some find particularly pleasing are taken as evidence of the quality of their makers’ whole body of work; and that does not follow.

Hooke seems to have been a master of many trades. Perhaps one could assert that and cap it with “jack of none”. Yet, for whatever reason, it is ever that one is deemed to be able to be master of one trade only.

This is cognate with the division of artistic labour in which one person must be a musician, another a painter, another a poet and so on.

However, that is probably a division asserted by those who have or seize the public ear; and / or those who can only do one thing.

It is the point of view of both those whose sense of order is one-dimensionally analytical and those whose talents are otherwise limited.

Limitations can lead to new strengths; analysis may produce greater understanding. However, there are those who reason thus:  “I don’t go any further so we must all stay here.”

My current enthusiasm for the early days of the Royal Society is their determination not to stay where they were.

One signal piece of information I have acquired is the degree to which Newton was an alchemist throughout. I might have suggested that he thought his way out of mumbo jumbo and into science; but it seems that in some ways it was all one to him. 14

One of Newton’s strengths was his reliance on proof.

By comparison, Hooke made use of intuition and experience. Note the degree to which the Society members sometimes refused to accept experiments Hooke presented (it was his job to organise them – entertainment for the gentlemen scientists) when a result did not match prior expectations. Maybe they thought it was ridiculous that he could be right and they wrong, he not being worthy of their trust. 15

Regarding Newton, much of the world now is still touching wood as educated individuals negotiate a route through their days. Others of us are casting out spirits. There’s a strong demand for horoscopes. Reasoned argument is widely met with ridicule when a conclusion is unwelcome. As a performer, I find myself burdened with superstition. (Perhaps the belief that I am superstitious is a superstition too; I try not to bear my burden like Bunyan’s Christian.) It’s very hard to track it down because in some ways I am trying not to look too carefully at some aspects of what I am doing in order to outwit my prejudiced mind. Nor is it just mine when I am collaborating.

And that is a potentially problematic element of my work’s reception: the question of authorship – the solo versus the collaborative. I wrote and performed collaboratively with Bob Cobbing; and now I write and perform collaboratively with John Levack Drever. And there are others with whom I have worked and do work though less voluminously.

In such a situation, whose work is it? Whose work is it if one resists the notion of a lead or primary artist? There is also the matter of its relationship to one’s solo work.

This calendar year, still only two thirds through, I have made Namely, sets of graphics made solo and Namely a set of sound works with John Drever co-authoring-composing and will soon publish snapshots and video, writing made solo over nearly a decade. These activities are not fully separable in my mind.

Initially, I wrote the Namely images for a festschrift for Peter Manson’s fortieth birthday organised by Alec Finlay.

That was a work on paper albeit with the potential for performance.

The act of making the performance was another kind of writing. (I am using the word “writing” in its familiar but not colloquial sense of inscription.)

Where I had been concerned, as a solo maker, with filling space available, now we, as collaborators, were concerned with filling time available. Where I had been concerned with making a visually-attractive image, now we were concerned with making a sonically-attractive image.

I find these terms more than slightly inappropriate, but they are the best available.

Before someone expresses doubt about whether or not the result is poetry, let me say that I don’t think it matters. In Chris Goode’s usage, when introducing performers, it’s stuff.

It’s sound art.

John and I talk to each other a lot as collaborating practitioners. We make a lot of suggestions to each other. The analogy with what one does solo is strong.

The comparison with the collaboration with Cobbing is interesting. There, in our conceptual space, Cobbing and I both made graphics.

In Domestic Ambient Noise (or D.A.N.), 16 between 1994 and 2000, Cobbing and I responded graphically to each other on the page.

One of us took a page by the other and varied it 6 or more times. Some of the variations were quite close to what was being varied; some were radically different.  Without really discussing it until later, over about six and a half years, we used a wide range of media and explored the gamut of meanings of the word “variation”. Sometimes we deliberately misattributed the pages, attributing my work to Bob and Bob’s work to me; and sometimes we worked in each other’s styles however we attributed it. We were good enough at imitation that after a few years we almost fooled ourselves. Most certainly, we had to think about it to be sure. In all, there were over 2000 images / pages, each of which we performed at some point. 17

However, in the 1997 book Collaborations for Peter Finch, 18 one would take half of a portrait page or half of a landscape page, or half by working diagonally from corner to corner. Then the other poet would fill the other half.

[Figure 15 – Collaborations for Peter Finch - Cobbing / Upton]

Trespass was allowed, too, so there would not necessarily be a hard dividing line.

One was allowed to rework what had been done although that was used very little, less than consensual rejection of the whole page, which was also allowed.  Disagreement was to be avoided as an end point.

Emotionally, and intellectually, the result is quite different. Whereas in D.A.N., it would be something like bowling one’s artistic partner a bouncer; in Collaborations for Peter Finch, there was more of an inquiry. D.A.N. was an inquiry, but a little competitively.

We structured D.A.N. as we went along. With Collaborations for Peter Finch, we spread the completed pages across a floor and composed the book as the final process of its making.

I think that Bob’s death rather makes their performance questionable. I am not saying that one should not perform them; but I wonder why one would wish to. At best one can achieve a simulation; and there is so much more to be done now.

Bob included his pages to Domestic Ambient Noise among his output; and that is fine.

I prefer not to. It seems to me that the authorial situation there is somewhat different  to the situation with the scores that I have taken to John Drever, proposing they are used by us to perform together.

Those scores exist prior to the collaboration even if I know that I shall offer them for collaborative performance when they are finished.

With the work that I made with Cobbing, the making of images was part of our collaboration, with the possible exception of the very first image of mine with which we started Domestic Ambient Noise, a photograph of an image of mine being shown at that time in a Gallery in Novy Sad in Serbia.

So, among other pursuits, I find myself trying to account for behaviour which has developed “intuitively” rather than, primarily, theoretically – sentence first, verdict afterwards – in a context of permission granted 19 by others’ behaviour.

Visual poetry is hardly a movement. It may have been, for some, but now it isn’t, except possibly by those who are reinventing it unwittingly.

Arts movements are to some extent an invention of the curation industry where it meets Parasitism.

Parasitism is a business movement of some antiquity.

My involvement with “visual poetry” continues because my interests and needs push me in that direction.

Recently I was involved in a celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the Futurist Manifesto. In some ways I want to have nothing to do with The Futurists and their celebration of war and their tendencies towards fascism. In other ways though they are principal generators of the intellectual world I inhabit. For that latter reason, I agreed to collaborate.

Art history is a worthwhile study; but there is a danger that the work becomes categorised for academic consumption. Academic Consumption is not the same as Parasitism though it does have its problems.

Seeing art as a version of kings and queen’s history is often a way of making it teachable. And that is more of a fit with Parasitism.To me the important subject of attention is the artistic work itself, not so much as a fulfilment of a theory so much as something to look at or to witness in and for itself.

The art that I want to make, solo or collaborative is, one hopes, intrinsically determined.

One might describe this as formally organic, content following form or form following content; and evaluation criteria arise from this co-existent collaboration.

In my work with John Drever, I have frequently proposed time signatures – in the sense of so many images over so  many minutes; but such decisions arise from the graphic writing process. Similarly, John will suggest things that might otherwise be under my aegis and would be if we stuck to “I’ll do the poetry and you do the music”.

In due course, I intend that there will be much more said of this relationship.

Cobbing and I rarely talked about the performance beyond finding opportunities. 20 We just did it 90% of the time, assuming or ignoring many things with lashings of unacknowledged negative capability.

Now I’d like to refer to things written recently by Alan Sondheim. He’s a New Yorker, a bit older than I, a very interesting and gifted man. I had the privilege of introducing him formally to Incubation 2003 at Nottingham Trent University. It was a brief talk which I had hoped to follow up with a long interview and maybe article. Another project supposedly taking me to USA fell through when the chap who said trust me I’ll get the money didn’t get the money and so I didn’t get to spend the time in New York with Alan that I needed.

Since then, as the Mad Hatter said, it’s always been six o’clock.

These are “notes” which Alan posted on wryting on Saturday, 25 July 2009, saying he had put them in an email elsewhere, but not saying where. I am selecting from them for my agenda, not his, so they’ll be bitty.

It is intriguing and intelligent. Originality and maybe unfamiliarity makes it seem a bit odd; that’s why it’s worth quoting.

By culture I'm referencing passed on learning that's not encoded or is only partially coded, and learning that leads to non-determinist responses.

A nice answer, though not intended as such, to those who see training as a way of making sure that we behave politically. And an assertion of culture as learning rather than a justification for greedy boorishness.

The next is a little hard to grasp perhaps:

I think that language is always already within and without bodies, that bodies are inscribed, and that inscription is basic to organism.

That needs fleshing out; but it is one way, perhaps, of approaching Cobbing’s assertion that every mark has its sound. I accept, however, that such a connection itself needs fleshing out.

Another quote:

There is certainly 'muscle knowledge,' but that also is within languaging as ball- and guitar-players know. Perhaps languaging stops at the bordering of pain, certainly death, but pain is inscribed as if within and without the body, simultaneously centered and decentered, and death is transparent to inscription.

I think this wouldn’t make so much sense without the other quotes, yet it is rather a statement on its own even so. And it speaks to me.

His notes go on a little more. There’s quite a funny bit where he speaks about “labor” by which I assume he means US “labor laws” but also behavioural aspects of being at work and managing to stay there; and that would include learning leading to non-determinist responses, and that is not, I know, how to stay in a job; and he does also then concede that what he has said may be quote untrue.

If there is any truth in what he is saying, and I really think there is, in so far as I can be sure that I know what he means, then some of my attempts at visually-emphatic writing are an attempt to visualise the inscriptions made within and without me, my body, my memory, an answer to the kind of question a doctor asks:

Where does it hurt?

What sort of pain is it?

Only here, or is it there?

The pain is, for want of a much better term, spiritual.

I have the belief that it will, through my imagery, solo or collaborative, speak to others, a speaking through non-verbal utterance and gestural performance.

I recall around the mid 90s, when I began to perform such texts (D.A.N.) again, assertively rather than imitatively (of Cobbing and others), that one of the things I did was to try to access images and ideas of suffering within myself while I was performing – to source a response, to enhance the rather abstract and intellectualised reaction I had immediately felt perhaps, to sauce it. The newspapers are full of suffering. A walk in the country will show you pain and death on a scale beyond World War, if you keep attentive. Usually, we try not to think about these things. I taught myself to break some of that tendency to censor.

Practising this art this way raised my awarenesses until it became seemingly seamlessly natural. It takes one beyond a mere simulation of a cry of pain very quickly – listen to anyone singing the blues well and fiercely and you’ll see that they’re having a good time as they pattern pain into music. Tristan und Isolde, say, or Purcell’s “When I am laid in Earth” are just two examples I have in mind from thousands of possible examples of this idea.

I am not saying, however, that suffering is a prerequisite of art, not at all.

I don’t only soundsing pain; but there is less to say about happiness. If anyone has seen that film Ghost where Patrick Swayze goes to Heaven, perhaps you noticed that there’s nothing there… It seems to be a place of personal isolation… 

I meant when I spoke of “my imagery, solo or collaborative” to add that solo work is also collaborative in that the solo artist is in collaboration with themselves. The idea of the solo individual self-integrated artist is not true. We aren’t single purpose constructs; nor universal machines; nor general purpose machines or organisms.

We are here because we are here. We evolved as a species. Reproductive mistakes which can survive do survive. The question What’s this bit for? does not apply to a living organism. The question were better: What does this organism use this bit for?

When the organism has acquired some learning with non-determinist outcomes then the answer may be surprising. Most questions of that sort applied to me amount to a single word: Art.

I am, I like to think, quite extensively non-deterministic. Within me, there are many versions of something of me all pushing and shoving to get to the front and other versions of me which have already been up on stage today surfing on the hands of other versions of me as they head back out. We don’t agree. We want to be heard. Each of us. We have different skills. Each of us.

Yet somehow or another sometimes we manage to be chanting the same thing, or pushing at the same door marked pull until the pressure gets it open.

And that’s when one can say that an act of making has occurred.

Next time you see me staring out of the window, realise that inside my consciousness, part of it, there are bumptious and chaotic crowds pushing and shoving with their egos, damned if they want to cooperate with upstarts around them. It’s the same with you, of course.

Next time there’s a heavy rain and you are out in it, look at the rivulets and cascades. (You’ll see it more spectacularly if you are in a built up area.)

Suddenly you’ll find there’s a lot of water in one place. Now and then people get drowned. That’s collaboration by water droplets. Collaboration isn’t necessarily conscious.

I’ll quote briefly from Gertrude Stein; The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas on an aspect of the internal and the external

Gertrude Stein’s style gradually changed. She says hitherto she had been interested only in the insides of people, their character and what went on inside them, it was during that summer that she first felt a desire to express the rhythm of the visible world.

and another quotation, a few lines further on:

It was a long tormenting process, she looked, listened and described. She always was, always is, tormented by the problem of the external and the internal.

Her conclusion is that human beings are not, as she says, paintable. I take that to mean that they are too various and rapidly-changing, the apparent fixity of the individual person and perhaps everything about us an illusion. It’s what we see but it is not what is there.

And she is enjoying, in a sort of solo collaboration, writing about herself  as a unified organism in the third person in the style of her companion Alice B Toklas, talking about herself and about her life containing the dominant figure of Gertrude Stein.

Note also how she speaks of one art form in terms of another.

Recently, Arundhati Roy has been said to have “come to despise the collaborative creative process” 21 at the time of the novel The god of small things in the context of writing film scripts.

That is a process where form and content are too often extrinsically determined. Separating oneself from collaboration as a working procedure does not really deal with that separation between the work and its purposes. Buried in Roy’s reaction, as I have read it reported, is an idea of the solo artist as heroic, I think. It may or may not be true, but the heroism, if it exists, is not inherent in non-collaboration.

Roy says “When you start seeing the way the whole machine works, the structure of what is happening is so clear.” 22

Here, by machine, Roy means the free market and not a film script. And I lost interest in writing film scripts that the commercial industry hopes for when I had the opportunity to study the process a few years ago.

All the qualities of my writing which my tutor praised, and there were a few, were praised for their potential to be trained to meet industry needs; but, as I have said, those needs are extrinsic to aesthetic demands.

What I am doing as an artist is not part of a movement. I am not working as one of like-minded artists. From my point of view, I might myself identify peers; but I might well list among my peers those with whom I have differences. Movement, no; perceivable patterns or tendencies, yes, maybe.

To me, the aim is the work as itself, NOT so much as fulfilment of a theory e.g. something to look at, to witness, to investigate, not to fight over or with.

Sometimes, those who do not witness a time-based work require documentation and there is a problem. The work John Drever and I make is often multi-channel and rather spatial. It is place and time specific. It is somewhere between difficult to impossible to represent such work in stereo.

The work is physical. I have said in Word Score Utterance Choreography that I not only have to stand up to perform my texts but also to stand up to them. People have told me that they find my utterance and performance to be, amongst other things, visceral; but much depends upon the attitude of the organisers.

When John and I performed in Plymouth at Sonic Arts Network, we weren’t fussed over or bothered; we were helped; and it went well.

The difficulty would be in documenting what we did in terms that would allow a true sense of having witnessed the event.

I would rather have an audio recording than a video recording of an event, at least in terms of getting a sense of what it might have been like to have been there.

To be able to see what actually happened then you need the video. I am thinking along the lines of the now clichéd remark that the pictures are better on radio.

A video not only shows you what happened, it also shows you evidence of what you can’t see: and therefore what you do not – via senses – know: a frame edge marks where the problem starts.

The photographer may stumble mentally over a frame. One sees something one wants to record and out comes the camera; but it is easy to forget that we can see more widely than most camera lenses and that we recall what we have just seen; and continue being aware of it after it is invisible. We interpret the camera view through what we know via a mental movie.

The camera is rather limited in a way that the photographer’s ears are not. Our ears are good at direction and leave scope for the brain to imagine what it is not seeing. Provision of mechanical pictures does not encourage the brain to imagine more pictures.

The movie is a human and intellectual artefact whereas our own experience of the phenomenal world is animal and gut, to use the colloquial metaphor. Sound on its own communicates with us at least partly in our animal mode. We live a lot of our lives as animals to some degree. We get all the sound; there is very little framing.

At The Shunt in London (2006) and at Plymouth (2007) we had freedom to present our work as we chose; and it seems to have been artistically successful. In Paris (2007) we were constrained. They didn’t seem to understand what we wanted. They certainly didn’t give it to us. And I found myself worrying when people said they liked what we did! Because I didn’t like it much. Certainly they got some sense of what we might be doing mechanically; but only some.

I tend not to return to what I have called my “greatest hits”. One may repeat something but not because it has been found to succeed. The work itself comes before its public success; and the effort of constantly making the best one can of new work is a part of the work. An important element of the performance is the effort involved.

That statement may surprise you. Note, though, that I say that effort is an element; and only that.

I hope that it will distract us from thoughts of inspiration whereby some spirit of Nature breathes a work into the mind of an artist(s). The word at least is still in currency even if the meaning is now usually latent.

Effort alone is not indicative of value. It’s not just making an effort.

Yet virtuosity worries me in some ways. I am not against it, not always; but it worries me.

It’s not enough. Chase virtuosity and there’s little room for error; error is the basis of change and invention. We are all and each the product of errors in our evolved form.

Given a basic competence, the more one performs, the more accomplished one is likely to become. It is necessary, therefore, to keep changing what one is trying to achieve and to make the process difficult for oneself in order that, as a performer, one does not take oneself for granted.

It is in that sense that effort is important – a combination of labour and invention.

The meaning of the work is in its totality, not particularly in its details when separated out from the whole. Desire to find an abstractable meaning comes into being when the work is seen as or is contextualised as poetry, though not exclusively. And that is a product of the teaching and examination system and the way that the teaching profession is required to approach the demands of the assessment system. Meaning in this sense might be called Dark Meaning both to invoke “dark matter” and to suggest the misgivings of those who suspect what it seems some others perceive but that they cannot.

Drever and I show the audience the score that we are following, to the degree that we are following it, because we are jumping off from it, nearly always. It may be more unfamiliar to the audience than to us; but that is ok. I suppose one could say to the audience “This is something that I can read”; but I prefer to leave it open as something that I am demonstrably trying or hoping to be able to read. In so far as I am able to utter, it must be clear that I am being successful to that degree. The question of how I manage it is a useful question in itself when so many – including me, if I do not concentrate on reminding myself -- assume that reading the scripts of what are called natural languages is not artefactual.

The utterance may sound odd, but not any odder than much that is done with instrumental work. It is, however, probably more unexpected. Put a familiar frame around it – Siberian throat singing, scat singing etc – and that reassures. To just do it without such a reassuring frame, which may be a form of apology, alarms and sometimes antagonises an audience. Remember the story of George Melly putting would be muggers to flight by uttering Schwitters’ ur-sonate without warning or explanation.

I suppose that the more one is allowed the freedom and given the support to work as one wishes, the less antagonism there will be. The more one is constrained and contained, pushed into a shape that one does not like but which is known to the organisers and / or the supporting technicians, then the more likely there will be misunderstanding and perhaps antagonism from the audience. Certainly there will be more questions. I welcome questions; but more than that I welcome the audience understanding what is performed without specific questions needing to be asked.

Encouraging that understanding implies the works’ availability.

With Namely, we were already aiming to work in stereo whenever possible just in order to make it more likely that the work would be distributed more widely.

Our first works together (mid 2004) had been multi-channel restorations of two of Alaric Sumner’s multi-media multi-channel pieces from the 1990s: Text out of image (Sandra Blow) – on which John Drever had worked as co-maker with Alaric -- and error studies and Portraits.

I am happy with what we achieved but the relative technical difficulty of staging them does make it difficult for more than relatively few people to experience the works.

There have been experiments to see what happens when the 8 channels of Close to the literal is reduced to two; and, while they gave people an idea of the eight channel piece, the result is not impressive as a piece itself – it is too “muddy”.

Our reasoning now is to aim to start new work with stereo and work up to multi-channel if there is the inclination, opportunity and time.

The studio version of Namely was made in response to a high-likelihood that John Drever would not be available for the scheduled first performance.

It was necessary, therefore, that the prepared material that he would use, or the bulk of it, be available in “completed” form, his transformations time-shifted, so that I could play it and “soundsing” with it.

When I first heard it, in the studio, as a separate work, I had not long returned from some weeks living on an island much of which has not changed in 4000 years. There are many non-human mammals – mice, rats, voles, rabbits as well as well-loved and murderous cats – and quantities of birds, mostly but not exclusively sea birds. They’re noisy most of the day but especially at dawn and sunset and I am reminded when there of a friend’s remark “Go to the desert, Upton. You’ll like it for the sound. Everything gets up and has a shit at the same moment.”

Namely, like Naming for Adrian Clarke, and Close to the literal, can be seen as a set of variations on a theme which is never stated; so there’s something somewhat cubist about the final work (i.e. one of its performances, there being no single final version): the same thing over and over and yet each iteration slightly different to its siblings, a dialogue between start time and now time and / or between the two-dimensional and the three dimensional.

Hearing what John had made with my repetitious studio recordings, it seemed to me that I was walking around an invented island (in which, alarmingly, everything had my voice, the curse of the man who thinks he is like Adam) where I would walk the thin woods or below the low cliffs of my imagining and hear what we had somehow seemed to conjure.

In addition to the primary score, there is also what we have referred to between ourselves as “the drone score” which binds things together – a base for expression to rest on or a solution for it to be suspended within. Its performance is quite noticeable in the studio recording.

I tend to use colour sparingly because its reproduction is still costly.

Sometimes colour is unavoidable.

It had to be used in Naming for Lucio Agra 23 (which has not been performed). There was no way round that; and, as a consequence, the piece has only been screen-exhibited.

Somehow, too, ‘Peter Manson’ demanded it. Glasgow doesn’t quite suggest colour to me, not in the way that Lucio’s Sao Paulo does; but Peter’s brain seems polychrome to me.

Thus the work that I make in visual poetry reflects the circumstances of its conception. In this case of Namely, I kept banging away at the idea(s) over months and then selected what I thought would make a good visual birthday tribute.

I composed the text for the performance piece by me and John Drever from the same material. If it joints in a number of various and perhaps slightly incompatible directions, that’s fine – that’s Peter… and that’s a compliment. He is a man who is seemingly both an island and intensely involved in mankind. That too is meant as a compliment.

As well as using size of image and thickness of risers and descenders and so on, I may also vary tone. There is nothing special about the deepest possible black. That is only an option and I like to vary the tone at least potentially.

Here I would like to go back to that worry and awareness that I am prejudiced.

It seems to me that my images become endowed or endow themselves with a substance that surely they cannot really have. (It seems that Newton thought of Mercury as both a substance and a quality of other substances which are non-Mercuric.) They catalyse me, on a good day, and they form me, I am informed from them, as to how to proceed.

One is not too far here from attributing the images with unearthly power. I think of Stephenson’s Treasure Island with characters fatally struck down by their own fear of a black spot cut from a bible. 24

I went down on my knees at once. On the floor close to his hand there was a little round of paper, blackened on the one side. I could not doubt that this was the BLACK SPOT; and taking it up, I found written on the other side, in a very good, clear hand, this short message: "You have till ten tonight." 25

We need to take such risks. Charles II mocked and refused funding to the Royal Society because they wanted to weigh the air. It was rather convenient to think it ridiculous because he was short of money; but perhaps his inability to see the issue clearly had reality. Now, if inability to follow a clear argument may be a valid perception, then perhaps a manmade sign may be said to be aware of its sonic interpretation – both propositions stop making sense, once considered. And remember that, while, today, some may think we have buffoons, elected and unelected, running our country and calling others buffoons, we speak optimistically of the artificial intelligence of a box of switches.

I offer these thoughts both to acknowledge an implicit factor of my scientific education which began with learning Logic when I was 15 which inclines me to wish to remain open to possibilities and to investigate some of what may be going on in mind-in-performance as separate from what one is trying to achieve in performance. (By “mind” I do not intend to indicate anything more than “brain” and that brain’s thoughts and memories. I do not, please note, use the word “embodied” or any synonym of such ideas,  because I think that thoughts and memories have no separate and unembodied existence beyond derivative inscription.)

Yet this emphasis away from extrinsic goals and towards intrinsic process may, to knock together a phrase, go odd. Speaking of the first time he went on stage without a text to read, Allen Ginsberg said he “had to improvise [the performance] out of the whole cloth of what I was thinking at the moment. And it was really awkward and unfinished, but it was so profound... and so liberating when I realised I didn't have to worry if I lost a poem any more, because I was the poet. I could just make it up". 26

I would not wish for such liberation, not in that way. I would not see it as liberation. I would be wary of being “the poet” in that way. I have said elsewhere that people on pedestals get dusty. In my experience, one does not know well when one is being profound; and I think it is a risk-sign if one starts to think that one is being profound.

And the big trouble with the cloth of what one is thinking at the moment is that it tends to be tawdry cloth. We are made of clichés and imitative habits.

I have not been called “the poet” or a shaman, but that was a word applied to Cobbing. I can’t speak for him; but I think it shows a misunderstanding of what he was about. It may have been a mistake he sometimes made himself.

Shamanism is something else, whatever it is that we are doing; and I think I and everyone I know is some way from it even when we are in remote places on our own – as I sometimes am. I think that Shamanism always will be something else here and now. It was there and then.

Finally, some comments on actual performance and on one’s involvement at a personal example. I trust that I do not cause offence in saying this.

I had thought of making a naming poem for the Israeli politico Avigdor Liebermann, a name of the gentleman’s own choosing with which he was not born.

It would be an interesting craft / method exercise in many ways, not least in view of the length of the name as an alphabetic string and its six syllables in comparison to the shorter and four syllables of Adrian Clarke and Peter Manson.

One could do a lot with that; and I envisage an outcome in which images would double or even treble beyond my usual single sheet work (based on the A4 page).

And then there is the question of the piece’s tone in performance. It would not be a praise song.

How would that work? Should I go on stage and self-harm? I hardly want to.

It may be that the growth of this person’s power is such that some will consider harming him and claim that as legitimate. I incline to wishing him a life in interesting times; I try to wish no further. Yet these are responses arising from a lot of woolly thinking. Just as World War Two is often described as a justifiable war by not considering it as part two of the unjustifiable World War One. I use the example deliberately.

Using Liebermann as an example, let me suggest that the difficulty of using his name is a problem in itself; and the problem is not knowing, at least ethically, how to handle material which one finds awkward even embarrassing even objectionable, akin perhaps but not as troublesome as the use of unpleasant “noise” in musical composition may be, nor yet as easily “absorbed”; and that is a prefatory problem before the various compositional problems of each and every piece one writes.

In the recent Namely, much of what you hear via non-microphone sources was from utterance made on inhaled breath, a potentially uncomfortable process, physiologically perverse, which led to an overall sound one might find pleasing.

Why should one limit oneself to soundsinging the worthy?

In general, I take off from the image that I have made and what I know of the named one as occasions for response; but there is more to it. Recently someone played me a CD of a string quartet which I thought compositionally sound and yet still not of any great interest.

Or a piece may be based on dull and unreliable beliefs and still be exciting. Donne’s devotional poems excite and move me though I do not share his faith. I find Richard Strauss’s four last songs deeply moving and yet, my German being poor, I am disappointed by reading translations of the literary texts he used.

In the case of someone like Liebermann, I find myself responding to the subject negatively emotionally with a ferocity which I believe is counter productive in almost all circumstances, not just artistically. What use is that?

It is my problem, an autobiographical datum regarding the peace plan in my own head.

I might harness it as propaganda or for rabble-rousing should I wish to do so; I might describe it to someone also seeking a way out of a conflict arising from states of mind both by turns apparently mystical and materialist; but for artistic purposes it is egotistical vomit.

I might start from a new point and make a different kind of work in which the problem is the work’s subject.

Until one has come to realistic terms with these ethical conundra, how to read the text is a paltry struggle. One’s approach sets the context for the relative readability of the text.

The question of how to read the text in practice is in some ways a valid question; but a problem arises in answering it and in terms of that problem and what it may indicate.

A literate language community shares knowledge of the sound values of its alphabet letters and attendant rules. That knowledge includes awareness of variations (e.g. the largely generational difference of “bored of” where one of my generation would say “bored by”) as well as variety in accent and dialect.

There is no such shared knowledge of which I am aware associated with visual poetry. A decade ago Cobbing and I had to ask visual poets whom we admired how they performed their texts. Visual poetry is not a language in that sense. It uses language and it may be linguistic in aspects; but that is not the same thing at all. We could not tell from looking at a text how it should be sounded in the opinion of the maker.

The readability, the potential for that readability, is a poetic conceit; and it is one that not all visual poets make and or accept. There is no natural language as such here, not directly.

One may, as a visual poet, take from natural language. For example, Richard Tipping has made works where the letter O is a hole through the material of the piece. 27

[Figure 16 – Let Go by Richard Tipping (1980)]

Here Tipping is sampling primarily from the written while the uttered remains meta, without being uttered, in the primary poetic process of the artist’s making and exhibition. Though the audience may speak aloud what he represents, the sound is an absent O (a drilled out hole, silent post-drilling) and remains more than a little problematic as an example from the spoken language. It is not of course Tipping’s claim or intention to claim it as an example of spoken language.

[Figure 17 – Let Go by Richard Tipping (1997)]

And taking a letter and distorting it or overlaying it might be seen as a thought experiment.

At a preview of a WOUP 28 exhibition, more than thirty years ago, the late Alan Riddell, managing to sound both amiable and exasperated, turned from a work by Bob Cobbing and asked that man “What’s this, Bob? I mean here it looks like an upside down U”.

Bob replied: “I expect that’s what it is then.”

Riddell: “Well what’s the sound of an upside down U?”

Cobbing: “That’s exactly my question: What is the sound of an upside down U?”

Riddell abandoned the inquiry.

I think it is likely that there are more than one valid answers to this question; but, at best, the answers, if they involve exemplary utterance, will be idiolectual.

Yet I think that we must be more cautious than that. We are in an area of hidden idea rocks.

The question What does this poem mean? is nearly always wrong-headed. (To quote from Hugh MacDiarmid, You heard what I said.)

Yes, there is meaning, a lot of it, but it is not the paraphraseable sort.

When we view a society portrait by Peter Lely or a jungle scene by Henri Rousseau or a Nicolson as it reaches from the pictorial towards the abstract, what are the meanings?

They are not meanings that one may find translated in a phrasebook. Yet meaning is being conveyed.

Because the meaning in semantically-emphatic poems is carried on words, it is easy to forget that the words are being used in special ways. Rather than illustrating that, a stratagem which can lead to orthodoxy when the unimaginative reach out to find executive summaries, let me ask a small question: if one could summarise or paraphrase a poem then what would be the point of writing the poem? Likewise with a piece of music and with a painting.



All images included with this essay are copyright © Lawrence Upton except the two images of sculptures by Richard Tipping which are copyright Richard Tipping and used with permission

1 The exhibition was Poor.Old.Tired.Horse 17 Jun - 23 Aug 2009

2 To some extent, I have said much of what I have to say in Writers Forum—Life by 1000 Books by Lawrence Upton; in A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the Book & Writing; edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Steven Clay; ISBN: 1-887123-28-8; Granary Books, New York, 2001

3 “the transition from belief to knowledge” is a quotation, consciously rather out of context, from A SOCIAL HISTORY OF TRUTH: Civility and Science in Seventeenth Century England by Steven Shapin; University of Chicago Press, paperback edition; 1995; P 123. I am grateful to Professor Peter Middleton for drawing my attention to this work.

4  WORD SCORE UTTERANCE CHOREOGRAPHY in verbal and visual poetry; eds Cobbing, Bob & Upton, Lawrence; Writers Forum, 1998

5  Utterance and notation of poetry by Lawrence Upton in Riding the Meridian 2:1, 1999. There is a copy at because some of the links at the original publication site are now failing

6  Charlie Brooker, The Guardian G2 13th July 2009

7  “Two people, reading the same poem out loud together, are unlikely to maintain the same intonation” (An essay on Bob Cobbing; cris cheek; British Electronic Poetry Centre; page 12

8  cheek; ibid page 8

9  Bob Cobbing: and the book as medium; designs for poetry by  Lawrence Upton, Readings 4

10  Writing “Close to the Literal” by Lawrence Upton; Pores forthcoming

11  This publication, from The Mainstream Poetry in 2000, is now out of print; but it is hoped that it will be back in print within the year in a second edition probably from Writers Forum.

12  Exceptions to what I have said, and they are substantial exceptions, were the interview with Stephen Ross Smith (Ballet Of The Speech Organs; Steven Ross Smith; Underwhich, Toronto 1998); the interview(s) with Martin Spinelli (Radio Radio 7 and 16); and the discussion with Alaric Sumner (Domestic Ambient Buoys in discussion with Alaric Sumner, August 1999, London first published by web magazine Riding the Meridian (edited by Jennifer Ley) in 1999 and later republished as a pamphlet by Writers Forum).

13  Isaac Newton: The Last Alchemist; Michael White; Fourth Estate 1997

14  Newton published much of his science but went on writing his alchemical and other writings in privacy. White ibid

15  That they had seen the experiment performed would not necessarily persuade them. White ibid. I use the word “trust” in Shapin’s sense – Shapin (ibid)

16  A project exists to get some or all of D.A.N. back into print but it may take a year or two

17  cris cheek (ibid) investigates the exact page count and also the number of separate publications -- see his footnote 67: “seemingly too clever a ruse not to be deliberate error”! Though wrong, it is an intelligent and deductive position and one that could only have arisen from close attention to and respect for the evidence.

18  It is hoped that this publication will be back in print within a year or so.

19  As in “permission to continue” which I take from Robert Sheppard – see for instance his blog for 1st August 2009.

20  One can argue, as cris cheek (ibid) has done, that various aspects – writing, editing, printing et cetera – are “distributive performances” (cheek, ibid, page 6) and I have no difficulty with that; but I am distinguishing here those moments when we said or implied by gesture “we are now going to perform this section of Domestic Ambient Noise”.

21  Tim Adams, The Observer 12th July 2009.

22  Adams, ibid.

23  published by Intercapillary Space

24  Do the images know they are being performed? I was asked at ICA. It was an unexpected question containing within itself an imaginative stride across several at least stages of thinking which Robert Hooke might have approved.

25  Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883) PART FIVE--My Sea Adventure.

26  GINSBERG A biography; Barry Miles; Penguin edition page 442. The text, as it moves between the commentary of the biographer and the narration of the subject, tends to confound two separate things: the ability to remember one’s poems and the ability to make poems up on the spot; but it does not engage with the unasked question of whether these aspects of Oral Literature have a place in industrialised cultures. In this aspect, it seems to me that Ginsberg was doing something other than forming “a reflexive circuit without a mediating a priori mark” as cheek suggests of Cobbing (Cheek page 25).

27  Let go (1980) shown at Eagle Gallery, London in the exhibition “Hear the Art” (1997), together with a hinged wooden book version Let go (1997) in an edition of 21.

28  WOUP stands for Westminster Group, a formation after GLOUP which stood for Gloucestershire Group. NB e,g, Gloup and Woup, Arc Publications, 1974 [(ISBN: 0902771272; Cobbing, Bob (ed.).


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