Wednesday, 11 February 2015

'The Process of Content' Readings/// Catherine Street & JL Williams' text 'The Practice of Being'

On Saturday 29 November 2014, Cooper Gallery presented the Roundtable Discussion The Process of Content: on a temporality in contemporary artDrawn from the proposition that the work of Anna Oppermann acts as 'a practice of thinking', the roundtable discussion was a stimulating gathering of thoughts that elaborated and amplified the histories, politics and social reverberations of art practices in the 1970s and 80s, and the influence and impact they have on our thinking about art and culture today. ​The event included invited speakers Guy Brett (Curator and Critic, London), Lynda Morris (Curator and Art Historian, Norwich), Tobi Maier (Curator and Writer, São Paulo), Prof. Martin Warnke & Carmen Wedemeyer (Researchers, Leuphana University Lüneburg) and was chaired by Dr. Lisa Otty (Research Fellow, The University of Edinburgh). For more information please see here.

Accompanying the Roundtable Discussion was a series of readings from art writers in Scotland: Frances Davis, Kirsty Hendry, Alex Hetherington, Catherine Street & JL Williams, and Richard Taylor. This is the fourth in our series of blog posts on Cooper Gallery Notes to publish the texts from each of the writers who presented their readings at the event.

Catherine Street reading The Practice of Being by Catherine Street & JL Williams.
Photo: Kathryn Rattray

Notes on the reading during the Roundtable Discussion on Saturday 29 November 2014.

Catherine Street presented the reading of her and JL Williams' 'The Practice of Being' over the sound of their video which was projected in the gallery. Print outs of the reading were distributed to the audience.

JL Williams & Catherine Street 
The Practice of Being

JW The Practice of Thinking 27th October 15:37

I could breathe quietly and slowly dreaming as if the
home was the only real place where the women sat at 

the dining table shamed and dreaming their hands white 

birds in the room their lips red buds red purses closed
shut tight as the men rubbed one another with
sweetened oils and the slaves walked back and forth
carrying glass jugs of wine and the poet stood in the
corner of the room declaiming that the rich are too rich
and the poor are too poor and the entire structure is
about to collapse 

CS The Practice of Thinking, 27th October, 22:07
lying awake in a cool room the cosiness of the cotton 
around as steam bursts through the window open with 
the guttural sound of the broken boiler in the pub below. 
And later an erotic train of thought but perhaps that 
leads to a kind of non-thought in the end. Many 
practices require the suppression of concentration in 
some ways. To stop at a full stop and hang and hover in 
suspense over an empty bright void precipice

JW The Process of Content 2nd November 11:31
we have to find a new way to process it is for the dog to 
say what comes next and his nose is on the bone some 
sleep calls for more sleep some for waking and this time 
talking is the only option when the door closes the small 
lines on the floor become apparent and the smell of 
melons in the room the drape of the carpet on the sofa 
the listing and cataloguing of many beings sometimes 
the memories flood in all the mistakes and I wonder at 
the notions of good and bad when really what there is

CS The Process of Content 29th October 08:05
A cooling tower in Germany or a Chinese oil platform. 
Something that’s not immediately in front of our eyes 
can be attended to by realism. But can all things lend 
themselves. Can I be in a talk about realism can I think 
about realism and these bubbles of existence sprout out 
and float up into a documentary eye that blinks sticky. 
She said it’s not enough. What you do isn’t enough and 
you’re not enough for me. You have an iridescent 
surface of a sphere or those balloons that straddle 
across the ocean. Drifting to another continent where a 
better life awaits.

JW The Practise of Thought 2nd November 11:38
Dig deeper into the soil of the mind the hot white flesh 
whose smell intoxicates the fornicator unless my heart 
dries from shedding too many hearthstones in the night I 
will dig dig until the centre is reached when you were a 
minute when did space relent I saw a black dog with his 
nose in the air the space between men is nonexistent 
we want to relent we hope for nothing there is nothing 
but the present moment it is so strange to realise the 
capacity of being when you step outside of

CS The Practice of Thought 30th October 22:54
The light itself is what he sees not the person as a 
young child maybe ten years old he stood gaunt. 
Mysteriously but purposefully striding across the grass 
towards us with white lips and taut hands in pockets.
He stood there curiously light and solid whilst another
figure faded into the background. Figure and ground
that was something that I read yesterday about a 
pyramid with a top that glitters bright against 

JW The Practice of Being 2nd November 11:59
Gutted fried the culmination of cities the slow movement 
of cities toward airlessness the hiving of men into cells 
the strange desire for folding into one another the odd 
terror of space in which the only isolation of the self 
becomes apparent the driving driving force of space the 
dust in the eye the slow decay of cities I imagine the city 
imploding in a slow silent gold silver burst the way a star 
would chewing its own skin off from the inside out
the only moral hook to hang your coat on before the 
burning begins 

CS The Practice of Being 31st October 18:23
Wits about you and flitting. Tip towards the surface and 
angle you are everything in the world that’s happened 
so far. And tip restrict aim for distinct. Distance and 
fragmenting plates join together. You are every event as 
it unfolds. Untold and unfurled resounding delight. An 
escape from representation just let it open out sounds 
are shared wholly more than the image in front of us. Tip 
light and quick move faster than the dead tonight. 
Shaking forwards towards that reflective plain and 
I’m unsure now of what is going to happen next.

JW A Mode of Being 2nd November 10:35

You walked with your eyes open and unseeing trusting 
to the space in front of you trusting that no beast would 
attack and no branch would grab and in the distance 
you could hear the sighing of a river and as you walked 
through the utter dark the cold breath of the blackest 
night kissed your eyes and your cheeks and your lips 
and your forehead and your neck and your hands and 
you walked unafraid and somewhere in the distance you 
could hear hooves crushing leaves

CS A Mode of Being 2nd November 07:04

Hart floor fang dart. Fragmented recollections and 
beats. A diversion tactic. Wrung same span lake. 
Keeping bare and scraped down I can adopt a minimal 
way of staying here. I wish you were doing something 
more worthwhile he said. A straight line of being here is 
just a case of not going away. Upside flat down dark and 
spun. Late at night till morning always hanging on until 
light spreads and keeps. Keep busy and don’t think too 
much. Stop to begin. End to start. In the vast change of 
day it comes as before. I wish you were doing 
something a little bit more worthwhile write more slowly 
now to fill the time only fifteen seconds to go now eight 
now four now one.

Written for The Process of Content: on a temporality in 

contemporary art Saturday 29 November 2014, Cooper Gallery Dundee 



You can watch a showreel of the readings by Frances Davis, Kirsty Hendry, Alex Hetherington, Catherine Street & JL Williams, and Richard Taylor via the video below:

Interested in critical art writing? Check out our developing collection of work by writers based in Scotland on the Studio Jamming Critical Writing Residency website. Group Critical Writing Residency, edited by Maria Fusco, was part of Studio Jamming: Artists’ Collaborations in Scotland curated by Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in June-August 2014.

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