impossibleobjects

“SOME FORMS OF AVAILABILITY” BY SIMON CUTTS

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Before opening the book itself, the cover of some forms of availability provides the reader with information about what they should expect from the book.  Some of this information is straightforward, while other parts are my guesses or suppositions:

That this publication will include “Critical passages on The Book and Publication”
That these passages have been created by Simon Cutts
That this book will involve putting things into perspective.  Opening up things that appear closed.  Acknowledging different shades or hues of work, in a metaphorical way of speaking.

The sections of some forms of availability are generally arranged as follows:

  1. Some Forms of Availability
  2. Taraque, The Trent Bookshop/Coracle, workfortheeyetodo
  3. The Process of the Book
  4. Critical Publication
  5. The Artist Publisher
  6. Dislocated Paragraphs
  7. Some Coracle Ephemera
  8. Homage to Seurat
  9. Polemical Postcards
  10. A Partial Bibliography
  11. Beyond Reading

To begin, I’d like to explore the last section “Beyond Reading” first and then return to the first section “Some Forms of Availability.”

“Beyond Reading”

“Beyond Reading” opens with an initially unattributed quotation that reads:

The pure work implies the elocutory disappearance of the poet, who abandons the initiative to words mobilized by the shock of their inequality; they light one another up with mutual reflections like a virtual trail of fire upon precious stones, replacing the breathing perceptible in the old lyrical blast of the enthusiastic personal direction of the phrase.

The reader learns in a note at the end of the section that this is Stéphane Mallarmé from his essay Crise de Vers.

We then read Cutt’s argument:

(What follows is the transcribed text, below is a scan of the page spreads as they appear in the book.  Click on image for a larger view.  The structure of these words on the page is undoubtedly of importance to Cutts).

The unit of the work cannot be the sentence

or the phrase

or the line

the linear syntax structure causes

the line

the phrase

the sentence

to be systematic, sequential

the unit of the work is the

word

Following this tract, is a section called “notes.”  This short prose explanation by Cutts reiterates the thoughts described above and Mallarme’s sentiment in the opening quotation.  Cutts writes:

The work is its own continuous accumulative impression, varying and differing not only for each reader, but each time it is read.  For this continuous structure to be effective, it must to be the antithesis of a sequential reading…to have read the work in sequence is only one of several possibilities, as the supposed sequence exists in a condition of simultaneity.

What follows is an examination of the text through two categories that I feel are pertinent to this essay:

the unit

possibility

the unit

After much reading and thinking and re-reading and re-thinking I return to the thought that the “unit of work” can be reduced to a further degree.  Why not push further?  Why can’t the discussion extend to the letter as the unit?

It is in fact Mallarme who wrote in “Le livre, instrument sprituel” (1895) that letters are “gifted with infinity” and that “Everything [the totality of earthly existence] is caught up in their endless variations” (please see Gerald L. Brauns Modern Poetry and the Idea of Language for more information both on this topic and Mallarme’s relationship to Language in general).

I return to Mallarme’s thoughts here because his presence is very much felt throughout Beyond Reading, not only in beginning quotation, but also in Cutts’ gestures through typography and in his explanatory notes section.

While I do not share Mallarme’s mystical appreciation of the letter, I see tremendous beauty and interest in the “endless variations” that are at all times present in the combination of letters to make words, phrases, and sentences.

possibility

Returning generally to Cutts’ “Notes” section and specifically to the above-mentioned passage I want to reiterate the following passage:

to have read the work in sequence is only one of several possibilities, as the supposed sequence exists in a condition of simultaneity

While several possibilities of readings of any work involving multiple words exist, when thinking about an essay or a book of essays, the opportunity for exponentially more than just several possible readings exist.  If a reader were able to disregard linearity, sequential reading, learned reading, and traditional reading the possibilities would become as infinite as the amount of possible combinations of words in the text.  This argument is perhaps a side note. However what interests me here is the idea of possibilities.  I am struck by the potential relationship between possibilities and chance.

In thinking about chance I was recently struck by the short exploration of chance and the American pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce’s thoughts in relationship to the work of artist Donald Judd in Richard Shiff’s essay, “Donald Judd: Fast Thinking.”  As Shiff writes:

‘Everything which happens is infinitely improbable.’ This is one of Peirce’s characteristically odd statements…It’s validity lies in the realization that ‘everything which happens’ has an infinite number of opportunities to happen otherwise—in principle, not to happen at all.  Something of this sort may be what Judd was thinking when he wrote, ‘Things that exist exist and everything is on their side…Everything is equal, just existing, and the values and interests they have are only adventitious.’  By existing, the things that exist have already beaten the odds.

What I’m attempting to get at here is not an intensely philosophical position on the nature of chance, but instead to highlight the excitement of the fact that each thing that exists could have been otherwise and beyond that each thing that exists, be it a poem or an artwork, can be thought of and “read” in such multifarious ways that the possibilities for “reading” in all of its connotations are infinite.  One should not lose excitement when facing this multiplicity.

“Some Forms of Availability”

“Some Forms of Availability” does a number of things very succinctly.  I will try to be even more succinct without losing Cutt’s meaning, by bullet pointing what I think are some of his key points, in some instances using Cutt’s exact words, sometimes using my own:

  1. The book is the most available of formats (this writing is from October 2006).
  2. “The potentiality of publication as a form is inexhaustible.”
  3. Making books is an action, akin to gardening and cooking, where one can learn many things about the abstract and natural, material world.
  4. “The poem’s ideal manifestation is the book itself.”

From this writing, it seems that Cutt’s came to these conclusions through personal experience.  He describes encounters in his life that led him to form his own press, Coracle.  He also describes his reading interests throughout the 60s, beginning with Joyce’s Ulysses and continuing on with writing by Mallarme, Apollinaire, Pound, Eliot, and concrete poets.

One thing of interest to me is his insistence on describing his physical, active encounter with the materials used to create a book or printed publication.

He says:

…..we taught ourselves…the economics of formatting, about paper, sheet sizes and weights, the use of off-cuts, print, ink, and not least of all printers and the means of handling them.

Cutt’s begins this writing with a Rimbaud quotation from Momento d’expression anglais, which reads:

Do you please, as soon as possible

send to me in my box all things

which remain in the room again

This quotation strikes me as quite beautiful in relationship to language and the book.  In Rimbaud’s poem there is a box, a room, and all the things that can go in both the box and room.  Think about the box as a metaphor for a book, and language as a metaphor for all that which can be both put in the box and also remain in the room.  Therefore, language can exist simultaneously inside a book, but also outside of a book.  From this metaphor, I came to one possible and for me, quite beautiful interpretation of the poem:  that language is inexhaustible.

In thinking of Cutt’s statement, “The poem’s ideal manifestation is the book,” I am left with a sense of ambivalence.  This ambivalence has led to the following questions:

  • Is this perhaps a statement that is only best to be discussed with specific scenarios, such as, how does the content of this poem match it’s physical form?
  • Why is the term ideal being used, is it a necessary or even appropriate way of discussing art?
  • In what other ways are poems manifested, for example, stone, performance, or on the internet, and how are these manifestations more or less interesting (and again, shouldn’t this only be discussed in the specific)?
  • And last, might a more suitable title for Cutt’s book be “’Many forms’ or perhaps ‘Infinite Forms of Availability.”  We must remember that a commitment to a sense of the ideal does not recommend ‘some forms’ or even ‘many forms’ and in fact only recognizes one form.
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