by Travis Jeppesen on April 3, 2014
Here I sit by my large ass window, staring out at the milkgray sky, brewing up my own typhoon. This harbor is such a whore. Look at all the boats she allows to crawl all over her. Kind of like me last night, in my misguided attempt to field out some relief…I know I am really going nowhere. Let an avalanche of foam drown me. This sky, its name bears no definition – that is what’s so sexless about it. Who has the craving for a landscape, to attach yrself down into it. Little hermit poets outside of time…
I want to go and bathe. I feel like I don’t deserve to be anywhere. My great force is the unbearable secret of namelessness. Wear it like a string of prunes.
by Travis Jeppesen on April 1, 2014
-after James Benning-
I am alive (the sky.) The waters lapping, moving towards. Calm – cool, the curl of momentum. Speedboat whizzing past the birds. In April birds’re louder. Still, the sky desolate – a deathly gray. Inside that surrounding curl. Stepped on the rocks to look out at the mound, that wannabe mountain, defines the beyond. Water lapping at my crustacean brains. A bit silvery, that moon of rock. Its collapse. Magnetized the shore. No localized feeling. From the first curl look at the green the constant shore. Were it not for silence. Blackish rock single emerges from the waters. A scar on the canvas. We follow the around. Pick up that spiral, put it in the sky. Bendy shore the stones lean in to punctuate.
September came and then the sun, a mountainous angle. Sometimes the salts wrap around, form a beatific muck shell. Sweet whistle of lake bird, here have some salt. The water cold swallowing yr ankles, shoots up the legs and full body froth. The negligence that the sky commits its bold openness. Now the hills golden, so as not to commit to the sound. Cross the zonal malcollapse. Look how the salts make silty sculptures on the water’s lid. Rub up against the rocks inferring a shore. Reach out into the water’s calm fake beyond, it is pulling you there. Like an arm, saluted.
What winter does is lower the sky. Whee! someone shrieks. A voice in the abdominal mist. The spiral screams its own shore. Water surrounding has partially abandoned, left dry sand in its retreat. We know not what we are tracing. Voice keeps crying out, yell at that spiral, so desperate and angry. Or else maybe it is the stones crying out at us, desperate, their hydral therapy. We are zoning out and shocklike in the perpetual misery of our abandon. Scream at that mountain also, it is shocking in its tumescence. The mists fornicate with the horizon. A man squelches. Rocks have snows on them. The water melts. It was never frozen.
The following month and somehow the water so much brighter, but only the stones. Now a sheath layer of snow upon them, much hoary water noise in the otherwise silence. What happened the birds have frozen. Airplane. Gone down to the snows and to have found. A buck around. Zero in on that curve she makes the most sound. It is because the ice minnows, nipping at their form in the under. This ice looks like two breasts. Laps against and then oh the little bubbles. Rockshore mercy is frozen. The gulf that drains the block. All along the snowy hills surrounding. Yet nothing falls. A mere portrait of the ice. Soon something to emerge from all this.
Spring brings with it fresh sounds. The birds had babies, came back. They like to look at the spiral from their place in the sky. Soon also some mothers dying. Silt between the rocks has replaced the ice. Waters have returned to the jetty also. They wish to go under. At the beginning, ankle of the jetty, it has very neatly covered. And across the hilly expanse we can see it reflected in the water. We study the water mirror and two heavy explosions sound: the earth’s stunning rejection.
By May, it has become an ocean. Jetty all eaten by the flood. Will the waters wash all those rocks away? A sudden storm comes upon us, let it not be a Moby Dick tale. Rushing into salt foam, water matches the sky, that means there is no horizon for once. Looking out there. Please wash me, I am a spiral jetty stone, dirtied by the seasons. For me, there is no reason. What others soon may not. For me there is no season. A bath the only thing that keeps me dry. When the waters retreat enough to spot it from a distance. A dog running down the jet, about to attack the shore.
July and it’s all water (I am sneaking.) Lush, nature has had an orgasm, the cloud bodies. Shivers and curls, too enjoying itself to form a wave. What is not to be forgiven its quaking. Spiral can’t even be seen. Thought I heard someone slurping. The salt that bad. Maybe a gobular gulp. Cloud magnets underwater. Underwater sky, the by and by. Burp fat elastic yellow. I am watching.
A decade has surpassed our observatory folds, it is January. A skull-era encased. Now naught can be seen once again. It is almost all all-cloud, the only bright is the lapping. Light seems to spill out of that distant mountain, like a white dove vomited from Joan of Arc’s croaking bod. Waters assume a certain gray to contrast with the impressive blue-white of the sky, a certain time gone by. Now we are all waters. Buried may indeed forge our future legacy. Do you love the deposits, bubble? Not too far to be a landlocked breeze. How light the climb. The music in our disease.
Springtime for a whole other buried. Reach toward the fructified other, magnificent birdstock, never so innocent as to be seen. Rock has only its head above water, barely treading. Goddamn gunshot. America reacts back. You can’t put this fucking art down here. The curl now can hardly be inferred, that is why it is sad (the drowning.) A whistling cocktail of a bird, chickadee may be its name. Narrow focus on one rock appears like a sharkfin. Not in this stormy lake of dreams.
Five of them out there. He wants to be drunk, a pirate. Sixth, even. Three couples take their turns. This is the time of year there are sands surrounding. Go out to the middle, the very terminus, close yr eyes and hear the lapping. Looks different from the air, she says. She has knowledge. Others followed the signs from the national park. Him and her, the birds told them where to go. They unearthed it. Tiny dead robin asleep in permanence upon the sediment. Pretty soon its rot to be preserved. Salt is good for some things. That mountain making the brown waters move toward us. White stones look naked as summer takes its last flight.
Autumn is my favorite because every thing looks so beautiful when it starts to die. Here everything frozen by uncertainty. It knows (the everything) that winter is on its way, it just doesn’t know which direction it should run to escape it. Now, this year, an early snow has given us the answer. When in doubt, flush it out – yr entire system vague. Chunks of snow crawling up the shore, wishing to be elitist – they are only chunks. Great balls of flakiness, foam, chase the withered horizon. I love how you are not even me.
Skip ahead to spring and love hurts once more. What the effin’ fuck is that. The waters placid for once, making it singular – water, not waters. One lake, great and salty. The spiral recoils perfect in its stillness. Country music song. Sometimes (in yr mind) the water disappears and it’s like the spiral is a star wars spaceship frozen in the air. Because in that movie it is the camera always moving; the purple-pink bruise as day fades. Love is such a zoo.
The summer wanted to have something mean to say. We wouldn’t answer its fears. A great roaring, as though a chorus of tympanis. No ducks braying, only one lone bird that sounds like an insect. The shore’s hollow significance. Keep lapping, lord. It’s the trinkle that forms the treble, tympani is the bass. Aaaaahhhh, that bird’s screaming! It must really want to get laid. Wouldn’t you, if you were a bird? Rocks do their dance, stalagmites in the bleating stream. November came early this year.
The month of November is more like summer than winter or fall. All the calming that became involved, we wanted to camp out upon the jetty. Jet screamed across the sky, sentimentalized aerial bacteria. There is a moment when a curve becomes like an arch. Or you look really hard at a rock and see a bunch of little faces on it. The dance of the salt crystals as the liquid dries. Not an arch, but an angle. Water doesn’t move; we hear it anyway. That, I mean, is what was greatly needed: the bald eagle’s abortion across the midnight sky.
In February, the water moves faster than a flushing toilet, and so the better for those teensy parasites, who so love to dance. Let’s just hope the fishies don’t eat them. Even salt needs its identificatory features. Spiral almost got dissolved that year. Funguslike plant grows between the rocks, hoping to aid the upholdance. Little microbes grab on to it, praying. Living on the body of a larger thing is but one stop on the road to becoming.
And when it gets scattered, all the matter. The merry month of May, but this one ain’t gay. The sky is an elephant, water rushes away – not because it has things to do, but because it is scared. The rocks look the same to it as the sky, and so all is lost in indiscernibility. A tacky row of birds bawking in the distance. I don’t want to look at them. I am here to stare at the spiral. That and the everything that gets in its way. Storm clouds oh fuck. The curved arm reaches out, wanting. It comes closer the harder we stare.
by Travis Jeppesen on March 29, 2014
The ordinary mind is nothing – a chance to not break.
Our letters are thoughts
of having private feelings
to being in array
We were wise
to having been
Be wary of sirens
which I have implanted
to lead the silent ones
There are no awnings
in an ocean
no cover for the hurricane-watchers
You, Amphitrite, veil rustled by wind
perched still upon the shore
My arms the nightmists
that blanket the Pacific
I embrace you through the struggle
This horse below me it belongs to the sea. He a creature that yearned to be tamed, despite his wild neighs of defiance. Glaze myself over, reminded that if I am to rule all waters of the earth, that must mean I am in control of all movement also. The cause of every day is the pain of bleeding never. Where orthodox ducks in and declares, “Here – a boat!”
This goddamn horse called night. A horse from the sea, it does not wish to ride, it is not an ocean. Culled from waves, beating mercilessly against the dusk-stained horizon, summer’s reply was never. I may choose who I rescue. But even gods have their limits. The moon’s position this night ensures my planet’s even farther away than it’s meant to be.
The stallion unborn
as of yet
at gnarly sun
Drought dries the
earth the people
they cry out at me
in prayer & song
Me and this goddamn horse
I will answer with a storm
But only when
time is tide and
the winds have forgiven
I was the shore, too, in years unknown, unrecorded – the historians all aghast at my sudden disappearance. Withdrawal is perhaps the chief agent of interest. It defies all other movement to trickle meaning. Modern only to the floor of that lake I spawned, fed upon treacle and ocean floor violets, the scythe I use to tame this beast is more pertinent than the flawless form my body presents. A man has to tame his own desires or else live a life of torture. In such a life, every conversation, the slightest exchange is a wrenching reminder of what really controls us when the gods are absent.
The beast throws down
its head tries to bury
its own depths the sand
has its lots
Shores can be made
of many things – rock,
sand, grass, even
Nowhere yet has
our hero erupted
his fleece army
of shadow above us
Made the sky like
night only in the
of a day
Let us sit
beneath these shades
with our wine
until those clouds
come & please let them
as this sun
is diminishing our
Oh let us –
(but not once is Neptune able to hear their cries for allotment for his own task that which secretly controls those forces they wish for him to unfurl they have wished for some sign or symptom his presence his reign and yet the sweetness of his entanglement allows for no variants there are moments one at a time and then there is movement yet the action solidifies into a stop-start beginning that will end them all sooner than he may afford to stop engaged as he is with his own turmoil mired confusion this task the business with equus ferus and the winds have begun to mock his gestures and then perhaps he himself is persuaded by the sirens’ earthly calls)
Make blood an ocean. The certainty that a clear sky presents – that is what alarms. No higher ceiling than that – the fade-out drears their movements down until they are ankledeep in the dust, too moored to the barnacle-encrusted piers that deride their attempts at ascension.
We the hero-
sufferers of this
drought will we not get
our own statue
to commemorate our
to hang on &
not feel the burdens
of death too
We want out, the
dryness and the heated
winds – silent simmering
that engulfs our
breaths and pre-
vents our singing
What are we to do
but for the cloud leakage
that must baptize
We know not sing-
ularities we are broken
savage by this medi-
terrain & no winter
Lord, do you see our
promise, this cow for
yr horse, an ex-
change that will
satiate both our
worlds – yes, it is
A bridge & we hope
to hear yr steps upon
it – this dying not
our thing, yr fantasy
still to be reverenced
by those with strength
But the creature fought on, and the god tried to stab it with his fork. The wife sat quietly upon the shore and watched the commotion that disturbed the calm of the ocean and, as the struggle neared its completion, waves began to tear into the both of them, so that the two bodies – god and beast – had to equally contend with the ravishings of the salty waters. This gave their struggle a further tint of madness in the wife’s eyes (for she was the sole to see) – a chaos of movement of interlocking forms each becoming more brutal in strength as the tides set upon them, rabid as the cloudless night, and cold they became as they fought against the currents. Until the waves fought back and, beating against flesh and hide but unable to gain mastery, the all-out struggle between god, beast, and nature unleashed the first ripples of a tsunami.
Now sprinkles seem
to come our sacrifices
have wrought opulence
of a new season –
Let us finish the wine
Before we leave this patch
& head down to the shore
to offer our final thanks
Dear Neptune has arisen,
strengthened our valves
our fields shall give rise
to the richness that our
raped soil has forgotten
Breath of ambivalence
admitted but no
it must rain
One hears the
our god has
gulls screech fair
warning the sky
blackens to seal
This night our cellars
to be full this night
we will watch from
our cellars and see
that life brings
and in our chests
we know which way
the winds we are
led, now Neptune
Is upon us, hear
the rumble up ahead
The tide slowly
We will sleep before it. But lo – the tide has not returned. And in its place, a horse comes galloping toward us – a fire burning in its yellow eye. The rumble continues, and now it comes seaforth not skyforth. A wave higher than a tower, and up on top, Neptune in his boat-chariot, spear raised triumphant.
by Travis Jeppesen on March 29, 2014
I wanna eat, fuck, and shit america, and it’s my face the world is sitting on as I write this. The electric guitar spilled all over my tits got sent there for sure cos like a real motherfucker barks like a dog as he wolfs on down the raw egofuck. Mountains of tender pussy finesse scrape the barrel of MY understanding punctuated threats of novel sparse and no deep meaning. Free pussy on the trembling airplane, it crashes into disaster spillage and no more sleep for big money fuckwad whose thorough pagedness frisks my burden electrical outside of giant dickdouche time maze. My real world yr astronomical astonishment closed eyes to the black gulf sentiment that ashes up all yr eyeballs. Sleep gives me drumkit hard-on knock my head on concrete block to smell the real stars striped on my conal ambivalence sphere this is how we goddamn construct the real. NO ONE is safe and no one wants to be, be my enemy and I will celebrate you into the cement, jam a metal pole up my conscience and watch as I spew out a recycled vocabulary of constants. Puke unarmed vigilance into the mourning robe of cerebral violent apathy. The REAL motherfuckers all know perfectly well what they’re doing when they starve the innocents. Isn’t that a nice private sphere of dwelling
until the wrong race invades it and you are suddenly forced to confront all those dark brown fears that have been necessary to keep you going all these wasted years. All the goddamn regurgitated garbage that’s kept you alive swinging corpselike from the flagpole a flaccid trophy called guilt. There is no silence that is a law I can taste. Lost in ethereal abandonment of precepts hounded morale barking fucked hypertrophy at sound of electric saw cutting into metal sheet. I think about fucking a poodle a lot less than ludic conceptions of democracy haunt my intrepid on a hot red night the LA cuff of dawn. Magnets splayed out in the coital hemisphere, politicians’ brainspans display on LCD monitor – direct visions of trapezoidal lemming paths melt backwards right before molten begets explosion. Terror suspects masturbating behind concrete walls, threat of hammer at least gives breathing room to the non-cause of life, laser booby trap pre-elucidates all possible becomings, which’re strings of wire formatting electric hammock. Whore of all death penalty inmates makes important announcement over prison intercom: the time of aridization has arrived. As I compromise this grecious slab of lucidity, name me a single prophet whose corporate interests have raped apart my own. Bald eagle squawking twatless through a sky fall down dead and poisoned the night air maniacal the gallon fart of justice. Drug war czar hermaphrodites rebuke the slowness of today’s meritocracy. Eating
the stockbroker’s cock for breakfast each morning, she started to feel a patriotic fervor that eventually led her home to christ. I am a goddamn hot dog called america, rubber chicken. Justice will only be served by falling down killing yrself in the eye of the tornado, entire waves of fuck trespassing yr being which flips and fleets like pages torn from a glossy fashion mag a catholic bishop in north korea. Athletic pick-me-up and fuck my brains out with a crashed car bumper that folds up inside my dearest membrane luv and circular fries tomorrow like a curious goblin cunt whose hairs lied to the public investigator last friday. Not caring about sleep, loving the paranoia that fries yr brains as memories of the loudness that once deified yr ambitions gutlauded you into chaos breakbreathing down yr backbrace – you became a mummy the moment you started to manipulate. How can one look at the world and call it a culture. Baked yr logic in a thin soup that forgot all about elevation and instead shat you out all the effectuality you once fantasized limiting yr intestines spewed out in a shopping spree cart whose shape rhymed with this most putrid of lights shining in yr diamond dishonesty. Shuddered like the day’s design NO SCATTER pieces like a suicide bomber’s mantelpiece this my god solidify DEATH’S DESIGN. Twitchy folds american faggotry owns no tyrants except locked in stead with outer world’s ambitions, suicide, to fuck and die in america looks tough. A flower bent over like silhouettes last dream’s logic. Dolorous streams of bicentennial fuckery scream “no future” at the public abortion gravesite, no shadows cast mean bloodsuckers constitute the majority today, cock in a light socket seen as final option like a midnight scream ingrained in armchair fabric dead and magnified suicide glamour the radiance of shit lessons in deadness that dematerialize yr brain as you go through it, soft and lost and tenuous to the shatterings of former bone structures, victims’ remains lost to the shame broadcast. Merging loads of fuck with stealth and hyperturbulence. I’m feeling designed today because being alive there’s no other way. Hold on the fence I’m sorry a passive bitchfuck that makes us all insane, toxic, a clown senator bounces on a rifledildo war machine, bitterness table sold to us at discount settlement site forever off-center. Feral kid roaming the streets at night in a city that just ate him. Constancy is shielded and then no one. Shopping redundancy is a snakepit made of silver feudal sparks term cradled intelligent and fucked less, the wicked battery spins. Here comes the last breath of honesty the world in its perennial self-slaughter is willing to take on, all those walking corpses and a neurotic strain of decay waving like a beauty pageant queen at the loyal deserters whose army remains scarred and unpaid. There is NOTHING to be deserving of and no losses only a handsome visual feast that screams with the silence in yr eyes and leaves us trapped intrepid victims of the emotion economy, recycling feces and globular animosity. No mystery and none that can satisfy the metal tube’s craving for melting into lightness, called up by the wreck mirror and serve yr country until you are martyred gruesome, whose greatness is that, the awning is garbage, burn self up and fucked like falling, the tower that watches watching will secure yr ride to the next gatecrash tragedy until there is no more yesterday worth fighting.
by Travis Jeppesen on March 27, 2014
My name is the world’s endlessness, and “world” has no humans in it. The first thing you’ll probably notice about me is my tits. Nice and big and squirty, what a certain type of man likes. But my tits are made for no man. No child, either. They’re big like that because I need something to rest my arms on.
My vag is a slit too small to fit a coin. Women used to hold on to me whenever they wished to get preggers. Twenty five thousand years old and eleven centimeters tall. I jiggle for no one.
I am happy and I belong to no woman now. I cannot tell you the name of the one that used to own me. My ass has a sort of mouth and a lot to say. I am not the first to be carved, only the one unlucky enough to be found. Now behind glass and unable to exercise the magic that is and was my sole function. Now I just have to lay here, a fat bitch for the world to abuse with its eyes.
When I was infested with use value, I liked nothing more than the feeling of a woman’s sweaty palms all over me. No man ever touched me and if ever I were lucky enough to die, that’s one thing I could be proud of. It was dykes who invented porn, and no, I am not something to be moved inside the cunt. My mass is my goddamn victory, which is why so many feel compelled to kneel.
It is not just my navel you are drawn to. A woman’s body has many holes. It is our burden to provide the safety blanket of the entire race. Look closely at mine, you will soon know something. My hole-iness is raw gorgeosity – fat fuck holey for the masses. At times unpleasant in my self-adulation, but it was part of the burden of being buried for so long – I needed something to hold on to!
Oblong my hole, fucker, it is so nothing meant to be inferred. This thing I wear upon my head, the thing that erases all my features – that is pornography also. Stomach and scruffy vag’re better than a face. I was never the thinking woman’s doll. Thoughts came later, and then annihilated my higher power. Look at this little dent above my right breast.
The tiny tiny puncture beneath my headpiece is the one that really gives me hope. Bet you didn’t even see it. Really is fun, to go from hold to behold. And no more competition from those fierce feral girls that used to always grab me! They have something else to learn now, buried as I was. Walk around to get a good view my GORGEOUS heart-shaped ass. It’s just too bad I have to be displayed like this, a metal rod going up it, as though I were a piece of junk on a stick – a corndog.
I don’t want that plinth going up my ass. Who are all these motherfucking people anyway. I once served a real purpose, man. I’m talking the cosmos, alright? If you held me tight enough, you could get pregnant without ever having to touch a man. This is why they had to get rid of me for so long. These tits contain the groundwork of a whole other form of civilization.
What the world wants is more chances to live. I know a lot about this, even though I’m not alive, because I’m a woman. What this means: I have the courage to be held. All that courage, all wrapped up in this hard rocky stone. Come close and be afraid. I’m not moving, but thought has no cadence either. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening. My real joy is fitting in the palm of yr hand. Small like a dick, and the right girth to disappear. If you call me mother, then it’s yr own weakness you are reveling in, bro. I am no one’s sis and I am pre-symbolic. Form happily altered by the sweat of yr yearns.
Look at you, on the other side of the glass, wishing to be “alive.” A man is just a freak with an accidental third leg. All creation is barbaric to a greater or lesser extent, and it is this barbarism I watch you constantly trying to get away from – what use are you aside from this havoc? Munching on platitudes you present to those perceived to be greater. When the truth is my surface matters no less than yrs – it is all matter, this skin of disaster. Whosoforth presents themselves denies the built-in capacity of breaking down. I only suffer from what I am discretely subjected to; my elements are limited.
A man is not a cause. Woman is the site of limitlessness. Beauty aches inside my crags – an entire night of deficiencies: this is what makes a day. No one really wants to marry the spectacle of naming. See inside the black inside. The babies shooting out of you.
Tits need their support also. That is what stomach is there for. I ate and I ate until I became this oddity, all the men around me went hungry so that I could eat, I would not let them gorge themselves, neither on food nor on my body, and so the entire race starved while my women continued to produce more.
For women are production, while the men merely want to consume. The male is the consumption drive my tits are eager to displace. My tits are a throne, this crown that fits on no man’s head. If I had a face then you would try to erase me, instead I have a body which serves as a horny threat. I am lucid and I am scarred by pockmarks. Unlike most fatties, my flesh contains no sleeves. I may be a monument to softness, but I can also be used as a weapon. Deep inside my rocky cove, I harbor waves.
Perforce the earth turned sour. That was before love. There was a way. Form born out of rhythm; the body, also. Through dreams, an ideal was bred. A body-form like my own dwells in ideality. A time when dreams were not the electric burden they now are, but rather foretold things. The secret of being buried, absorbed.
One experiences so much in stone. Hat covers my laughter. Nighttime now in Vienna, everything closes down, and I’m still here – wrapped in the fog, counting the bells to know the time. When viewed from the human perspective, it is but a number. I know what time really is: a container that moves outside of all mathematics. That impossible wooden truth that gives stone, skin their meaning.
Cut into me, I told the woman who picked me up as a rock. She formed me with her tools. And look at me now: all ready and willing to be cannibalized! It is so funny how useless I am I realize this suddenly and laugh inside. Because of me, there will always be more women than men in this world, and that’s exactly how it should be. No one has outlived me so far, and I have absorbed all the poisons that the world has put forth. Grazing on contradictions, I am skin without organs, worth more than diamonds, and yet nothing – female without sheen. The first phallus and the last to bleed. Touch without tactility.
by Travis Jeppesen on March 23, 2014
“Neptune/Antoine Coysevox,” one of the object-oriented text works from 16 Sculptures, is published in the March/April edition of Art Papers.
by Travis Jeppesen on March 20, 2014
16 Sculptures, my book of object-oriented writing published on the occasion of the 2014 Whitney Biennial, can be purchased online at Publication Studio.
16 Sculptures is a book of Travis Jeppesen’s writings for the Whitney Biennial 2014. In his installation 16 Sculptures, visitors—sitting while blindfolded—listen to recordings of Jeppesen reading his object-oriented re-creations of sculptures. Depriving us of our usual faculties for experiencing works of art—sight and visual-spatial reasoning—Jeppesen’s texts instead stage an encounter with objects through language that nonetheless retains the texture of embodied, physical experience, an imaginative realm in which he attempts to summon the autonomous essences and interior lives of objects themselves.
by Travis Jeppesen on March 9, 2014
He wonders how he will ever begin to write about the object. A bit like writing in the dark…The object is there in front of him, and yet isn’t. Both at the same time. How can that be, that state of simultaneity. Oh very simple: it isn’t. He drinks all his thoughts up, visits his feelings. No, not there. Feeling a place to run away from. Objects have no feelings…but could they? A question of investiture. So shitty to be left to wonder. Leave the wonderment at the beginning (i.e. “He wonders how…”), let’s not get back there, not yet at least, too soon. Must move forward. The object contend with it. Let this moment be defined by it. Rather: let the object, its thingness, contaminate this temporal structure, he thinks, and thereby give rise to the formation of a moment. The beauty of a moment is that it passes a delightful turd. The turd is an object, but it is not the object he is now contending with. Contend with the non-turdness of the current object. In the moment. The moment of running away. Running away from feeling. The moment he finds himself facing the object, seated before it, forcing his thoughts to coalesce into something – words. Words the physical manifestation of something: the object. The object’s bluntness. Not a copy, not a simulacrum, for that is not something his words could ever be. His words, he thinks, he knows, are always something else, even when they purport to represent, to critically engage with, the object and its thingness, what it purportedly is outside of all possible and potential representation. And yet he – not subject (for he recognizes the imperative to momentarily suspend his own agency in order to engage with the task to be elucidated henceforth), but another object, another possible thing that things outside its particulate thingness – is not, in a sense, there. Not in the sense in which the object (the originary object, made originary by our writing of his writing of it, naturally) is there. The thing is, the goal he has set himself (his manic delirium, his sense of physicality, his manifestation of doom – his own private version thereof – through his manifestation of time, his awareness of spatio-temporal limitation) is to get beyond both facile representation but also and even mostly that “critical engagement” that the majority dismiss as the only possibility of interacting (he hates this word) with the object, and to enter into a state that would actually enable him to inhabit the object. And this, through writing. And for him, this writing, this striving-for-inhabiting, resonates with his current concern, to get beyond all the materiality – the thingness, the objectness – of writing – to contend with writing’s failed project of transmitting meaning.
How do I write myself into the object? he asks himself.
(Always a failure, then, every instance of writing, and yet how to overcome.)
Describe the object in its thingness.
He goes over, in his mind, all the pathways through which one might approach the object, positioned as it currently is, in the room, on the floor, at the center of the black cloth, not far from where he rests his feet. It is a kind of hunger, this desired transformation, transmutation, transubstantiation, but then no, that’s not it, for then what would the writing be, shit? Is it: to find a way to put the writing inside the object? No, but to make it (the writing) come out of it (the object) – and vice versa.
No eating, no shitting, he says aloud.
To inhabit means some encoding. Break that code to reseal it. That’s what the process will look like. The thing things itself thingingly, he quotes Heidegger. A certain bluntness of proprieties yes that will do. Nietzsche lost his mind, Heidegger found it, gave it back in hideous form: an object of a subject called loss. He steps outside – to get some air, he thinks. Fat man in a wig comes pattering down the cobblestones, waving a book over his head. It is Leibniz. Eat my monads, scum! he screams.
He slams the door in the philosopher’s face, runs back in to the object. Into the object, he would like, but he can’t have. The object wills, for certain, but not beyond itself, that is certain also. My thingness not for you to take, it seems to call out…or was that Leibniz out there, tormenting him. That book he was waving over his head, what was it. Go have a look. A glance through the window…but Leibniz is gone, you’ll never know what book it was now. Perhaps
it is better that way. Can substance be defeated? He knows: Desire to attain a state of total selflessness through the act, and yet this risks reducing writing to a sort of gratuitous masturbation. Cancel the second part of last thought. For this stab at conceptualization here is, admittedly, a means of propping up – propagating – excess.
He initially wanted to call it “object-oriented criticism,” until he realized – not just that he had the terminology wrong – but that his misuse of the word criticism would only serve to confuse this invisible majority for whom he was writing against. For this – this obviating the decision-making process via the thereness of the object – is to be an act of writing: a writing to come. No, criticism, critique, too specific the terminology; he favors the openness, the activeness – the actness – of writing.
He is against control. He remembers reading a blurb on the jacket of the first edition of Barthelme’s novel, The Dead Father. Something like, “Well gee, folks, it might look wild and crazy, but its redemption as a work of art is that it is all actually tightly controlled by the author, that makes him a genius, by my validating authority as a critic…” Why, he remembers thinking, would control ever be regarded as a positive value in writing?
And of course, the answer to that is quite simple: We live in a society of total control, so it is only natural, from a psychological standpoint, that they seek out forms of (what they perceive to be) control in art, and that authorial exercise (as opposed to insane or otherworldly channeling) be the defining characteristic of genius for that invisible majority.
Thus, in writing the object (never writing of the object): Deny all perimeters.
The object and its mysterious anti-nature, he thinks. Object considered as manifestation of mind no that’s wrong.
Object and world, okay: he thinks that’s something he can do. Hesitating to proclaim it in these terms, but since so many mispronouncements have already polluted the stratosphere, perhaps his will serve as a cleansing agent. (Or else risk collapsing the unity of the entire multiverse by further polluting. A risk taken every time one opens one’s mouth and squeaks.) It is
a question of domains.
Treat myself to a fresh shirt, he decides.
When we write the object (and here, the definitionality of what’s being said matters, for we are not channeling classical exchanges of phenomenological wankery) we transiterate the resonant hallway of psychology to verify the made (constructed) status of objectitude (in its pure sense) and effectively emerge from this processual act as producers of a reality. He sees this as a completely viable anarcho-individualism that resists the fetishization of edges that gives the object its definitional status in our limited perceptuo-tactile exchange field therewith, and thus unleashes the animality that resides within the object’s previously controlled essence. And within that animality resides a will…
Once the object is written – and liberated thus – we may begin to speak of objectity, he reasons. Now, objectity goes beyond mere thingness in its necessitude to claim a spectral identity. Identity, in their way of thinking of it, always comes with an I. Expend your shit logic across the evening sky. Objectity neologistically combines the object with identity, but also reality, to lay claim to a scape that evades the perceptual diminutive that typically derogatorizes the object in the field of the major Them. The object, then, is vision, it is a surface filled with ego eyes. Its constructedness matters less than the way it goes about reconceiving our own willed surfaces.
But of course, he reasons, his object thus edified will most certainly clash and cocirculate concurrently with others’ edification of the object. And so the route becomes shortwinded, a show flourish – it is meant to be, in its measureless metonymity. No metaphoricity. Chains of difference overflowing, gather them up if you want into assorted cycles. Play god by defeating yesteryear. The answer, he suddenly conjectures, to Husserl dodging the intersubjectivity bullet: Everyone produces their own reality through their reciprocal arrangement of object-perceiving. Thus, in concept production, each concept is only designated for use by its original creator/inhabitor. Use exhaustibility. There are limits to this applicability: Why I Am So Unpopular. All these different realities clashing into one another. And the sparks caused by the interaction. No more human/nonhuman divisions, a rebirth of agency. All this, through the writing. He closes his eyes and sees thick blobs of text on paper. Pen rolls out of hand. From across the galaxy, the room, the object stares at him and sighs.
by Travis Jeppesen on February 25, 2014
In addition to his work as a novelist, art critic and poet, Travis Jeppesen has developed what he terms “object-oriented writing”—writing that seeks to use language as a site for a subjective, embodied encounter with and response to art objects. Jeppesen’s writing treats objects themselves as inhabitable, in an attempt to write from within the object; this approach intends to counter forms of critical analysis that assume distance from objects in order to speak about them. As he has said, “something that is located within an object can never be ‘about’ that object – aboutness is always external.”
In his installation 16 Sculptures, visitors—sitting while blindfolded—listen to recordings of Jeppesen reading his object-oriented re-creations of sculptures. Depriving us of our usual faculties for experiencing works of art—sight and visual-spatial reasoning—Jeppesen’s texts instead stage an encounter with objects through language that nonetheless retains the texture of embodied, physical experience, an imaginative realm in which he attempts to summon the autonomous essences and interior lives of objects themselves.
On the occasion of the Whitney Biennial, Jeppesen has published a book of his texts for 16 Sculptures; in addition, a marathon reading of his novel The Suiciders, published in 2013 by Semiotext(e), will be held at the Museum on May 9.
1. Les Trois Ombres, Auguste Rodin
2. Venus of Willendorf, Artist Unknown *
3. Walking Figure I (City), Thomas Houseago *
4. Untitled, Robert Morris
5. Incantatoire, Alicia Penalba
6. Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson *
7. Untitled, Isa Genzken
8. Terrain, Koji Kamoji
9. Femme Assise (Annette), Alberto Giacometti
10. Misc. Spill, Cady Noland *
11. Neptune, Antoine Coysevox *
12. Staple Cheese (A Race), Dieter Roth
13. Relief with the Liberation of a Besieged City, Artist Unknown
14. Light Reign, James Turrell
15. Vierge à l’Enfant, Artist Unknown
16. Milon de Crotone, Pierre Puget
* These works will be included in the installation at the 2014 Whitney Biennial. The full 16 will be featured in the solo exhibition “Travis Jeppesen: 16 Sculptures” at Wilkinson Gallery, London, in July 2014.
Texts/Voice: Travis Jeppesen
Voice: Brian Tennessee Claflin
Audio Production & Sound Design: Paul “Snax” Bonomo
Graphics: Mario Dzurila
Special thanks to Stuart Comer and Amanda Wilkinson.
Published by Publication Studio (Portland, Oregon) in 2014
Copyright © 2014, Travis Jeppesen. All rights reserved.
isbn: 978 1 62462 055 3
717 SW Ankney Street
Portland, Oregon 97205
16 Sculptures is published on the occasion of the 2014 Whitney Biennial and the exhibition “Travis Jeppesen: 16 Sculptures” at Wilkinson Gallery, London.
A project supported by the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program.
Preface: On Object-Oriented Writing
This book is the culmination of a method of writing I have been working with for the past several years, a writing that attempts to inhabit the object. That is, a writing that positions itself within the work of art, while simultaneously including all the contradictions and impossibilities that come embedded within such an approach. Impossible, because of course one can never go inside a solid object. What I’m attempting here is a metaphysics of art writing. If need be, the reader of these texts can evaluate each according to its degree of failure with regards to the original work, though in the spirit of creation – or, to be precise, re-creation, the cyclical nature of art’s generationing – I have opted to exclude reproductions of the original sculptural works from this project in its various iterations, including the present volume.
It could be suggested that the father of object-oriented writing is the Gertrude Stein of Tender Buttons, the mother the Roland Barthes of Mythologies. Though object-oriented writing is more likely their aborted fetus, having been revivified on a UFO by an extra-dimensional alien race that exists on a plane parallel to our own, and returned to this reality in order to contaminate it.
Unlike criticism, which is always necessarily about an object, and unlike poetry, which is inspired by, object-oriented writing takes on the task of being. As such, another writer’s version of these 16 sculptures, selected according to whatever mysterious force drew me to them at various moments in my travels, would and should look very different from my own. This is a vehicle; not a school. I don’t believe in definitive statements and I don’t believe in endings. There is still so much more to be said and done.
- Travis Jeppesen, Berlin, 7 February 2014
by Travis Jeppesen on January 19, 2014
There is a whole other history of cinema out of which Jonas Mekas falls—kicking and screaming, alive and elastic to the necessities and vicissitudes of this thing we call life. One has to be thoroughly drenched in it to attain such a position as Mekas’s, and for evidence, one doesn’t have to look further than the films themselves, which capture a politics of the banal and everyday despite their author’s frequent assurances that he has no overarching plan, no real understanding of what it is he is doing. The films are political precisely because Mekas allows experience to serve as his sole structuring device. His cinematic submersion into total presence has been at the root of all his activities from the beginning—for he knew no other way. This not-knowing is what Mekas might term “beauty”; for the viewer, it is the spiritual impetus that compels us to go along for the ride.
It makes total sense that Mekas, a displaced person, would end up making films from a positionless position. It is also not coincidental that Mekas, after surviving Central Europe’s attempts at civilizational suicide in the Second World War, would wind up a resident of his century’s capital of displacement: New York. Once there, he and his brother Adolfas procured a Bolex camera and immediately began filming their lives in this baffling new world, to which they would both make a massive contribution as artists. Jonas Mekas would soon find himself at the very center of New York’s downtown underground film-making scene.
Just as the Abstract Expressionists required a dose of the old world, which came in the form of the great German painter and teacher Hans Hofmann, in order to come into being as artists, it is hard to imagine how their cinematic counterparts on the Lower East Side in the 1950s and ’60s would have turned out without Mekas’s contribution. The roots of Mekas’s sensibility, more ‘Russian’ than ‘European’, can be traced back to Soviet filmmaker and film theorist Dziga Vertov. Thanks in no small part to Mekas’s influence, as well as that of Maya Deren before him, one could read the downtown New York underground filmmaking scene as Vertovian in many of its aesthetic ambitions.
In The Man with the Movie Camera and his voluminous writings on cinema, Vertov articulated his principle of the “kino-eye,” which considered the cinematic apparatus as a means for revealing the true nature of reality and thus liberating the masses from the bondage of servitude to capital. “From the viewpoint of the ordinary eye,” writes Vertov, “you see untruth. From the viewpoint of the cinematic eye (aided by special cinematic means, in this case, accelerated shooting) you see the truth. If it’s a question of reading someone’s thoughts at a distance (and often what matters to us is not to hear a person’s words but to read his thoughts), then you have that opportunity right here. It has been revealed by the kino-eye.”1 While Vertov took as his grand subject the building of socialism in the USSR, Mekas, beginning his work at a later date, had already seen the tragic failures that such utopian schemes often descend into and the human expense that results. Here is where Mekas’s “kino-eye” departs from Vertov’s. From Walden, his first major accomplishment, onwards, Mekas’s concerns were immediately diaristic, and yet political, albeit in a more subtle way than Vertov’s could ever be. Mekas’s camera became an extension of his being, constantly on-hand to record the peregrinations of a Baudelairean flâneur. In fact, it is probably not much of an overstatement to characterize Mekas as the Charles Baudelaire of New York City. Just as the poet’s wanderings through the capital of the 19th century, Paris, formed the basis of his oeuvre, so did Mekas merge with the camera to become a moving machine, generating audio-visual poems of city life almost as a by-product.
The camera as an extension of the eye, of one’s being. All those who traveled along such a path—among them Stan Brakhage, Jack Smith, and Bruce Conner, to name but a few of Mekas’s fellow travelers—felt it within themselves that film, the vehicle to which they had dedicated themselves, and with which they had merged as they became artist-machines, had the power to do more than merely tell stories. Or else, it compelled them to tell stories in truly different ways, outside of the narrow conceptions of Hollywood. The underground film-makers were far away—geographically, aesthetically, and spiritually—from that model, in which the neurotic fears and banal desires of the middle class are spotlighted and attention spans are capitalized upon in order to generate an endless stream of copies. Instead they assumed the possibility of an entirely different means of cinematic transmission and representation, unthinkable to the mid-century mainstream, which was largely complicit with the McCarthy witch-hunts that had only just recently ravaged American society. Each of these filmmakers had his (or, admittedly less often, her) own individual style, with Mekas’s being the diaristic—which, in cinematic terms, is the home movie.
How, for instance, does one begin to make sense of the first major diary film, the 180-minute-long Walden, described by its author as simply “materials from the years 1965–1969, strung together in chronological order,” interspersed with random reflections, philosophizing, and bursts of music? The film is of course a major archival landmark of the decade, capturing as it does a number of the era’s luminaries, including Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, and Allen Ginsberg. Besides that, as its title suggests, it serves as Mekas’s own version of Walden, the famous tome by the 19th-century Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau.
So here we have a Lithuanian poet-filmmaker standing between Thoreau and Vertov—two unlikely figures, the American Transcendentalist and the Soviet Revolutionary. Two radically disparate visions of reality. But are they, really? And is Mekas’s stance between them really so uncanny? What more suitable position could one adapt as an immigrant in New York from a country behind the Iron Curtain? “We loved you, world, but you did lousy things to us,” Mekas reflects in Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania. Mekas’s quest has been to locate his own mystical Walden, realizing, unlike Thoreau in his idealization of nature or Vertov in his eulogy to the city, that this Edenic realm is not likely to be found anywhere on Earth, but in the people that surround one and the experiences shared.
The diaristic mode is, from the standpoint of consumption, rife with problems for the viewer. The key to Mekas’s films, perhaps, is not to watch them, but to attempt to drift into them. His films are what those of a conventional bent call “experimental,” because they refuse to do our thinking for us. “This is a political film.” The message flashes across the screen several times, and yet his films are political in no obvious way other than their form, which is often rooted in the seeming senselessness of the collage principle, the anarchy of the chance technique. As Chris Kraus has noted, “Since diary-writing is subjective practice, it’s more fragile, looser, messier. As a transcription of live thought, diary-writing’s destined for confusion because the mind does not stay still for very long. As an art-making practice, it’s incoherent and therefore essentially flawed.”2
Adapting the diaristic mode to cinema has allowed Mekas to be at work virtually all the time, bringing his camera with him everywhere, and thus annihilate the divisions between art and life. One is, in a sense, always at work while never working – just being. His 2001 epic, As I was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty, consists of 320 minutes of film made throughout his life, randomly spliced together and featuring occasional voice-over ruminations from the author. At some point Mekas announces, “By now, you must have realized I am not a film-maker. I am a filmer.” Mekas takes on the role of the amateur, the Sunday painter, not to demean his product, but to assert the viability of a cinematic vehicle that is markedly other in design. He has no other choice; this is the language he has forged out of compromise with the world he was thrust into. “But while we are confined to books,” writes Thoreau, “though the most select and classic, and read only particular written languages, which are themselves but dialects and provincial, we are in danger of forgetting the language which all things and events speak without metaphor, which alone is copious and standard. Much is published, but little printed. The rays which stream through the shutter will be no longer remembered when the shutter is wholly removed. No method or discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen? Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer? Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity.”3 Jonas Mekas made that choice a long time ago. Walking alongside him, we are reminded that vision, an active agent, is nothing less than the life force itself.
1. Dziga Vertov, “Three Songs of Lenin and Kino-Eye,” in Annette Michelson (ed.), Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov (trans. Kevin O’Brien). London: Pluto Press, 1984, p.124.
2. Chris Kraus, “Shit on My Sleepmask,” in Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2004, p.139.
3. Henry David Thoreau, Walden. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, p.192.
Originally published in Jonas Mekas: The Fluxus Wall, as part of the exhibition at BOZAR in Brussels, 2013.