ISSN 2977-0602


    Perry Shimon

A pair of baubles, some art or another, unfixed themselves and their meanings and rolled down St Giles square in central London. They careened through the city streets, slowly unwrapping themselves and then exploding into many reflective pieces. Perhaps the event resonated with the object oriented ontologists, or OOO, seeing these circles rolling through the orthogonal city, shedding their thin, shiny phenomenology. The scene was captured by an amateur phone camera recording and shared quickly and indeterminately. The artist's name is not particularly important in this usage. Rather the effect of the world on the alleged autonomy of art. How art constellates meaning in fleeting relations.

Dear Ros,

Here is some more writing for the project journal, in addition to the passage about the baubles previously shared with a loop. It's in the form of nested and open letters, with images and some loose data about

subject: dreams

Dear Sebastian,

Last night, in dreams, we met in the streets, on bicycles. You were moving very quickly, with a small woman, unable to walk, swaddled with a light blue sarong to your chest. It appeared you were very close, dear friends, perhaps your life partner. The details of our conversation blurred, and our last talk, on the phone, was dreamlike too. We both moved from Northern California, from the creeping silicon and wildfires. We went up on mountains and quiet mesas by the sea, and still those became suffocating with these viscous energies. I’m afraid they’ve adhered. Capital’s nephews came down in swarms and are spreading to warmer climes, new frontiers. There’s much left to love, to be sure, through the ruin, still, I sense we’ve packed a carry-on of dignity and left in the night. I went to the metropole, to see our abusive father, and ask for credentials to move more easily. You, as I understand it, traded a one euro token, for an old house on an Italian mountain and a promise to give it attention and presence. Perhaps it's rural Europe that you’ve swathed in a baby blue blanket, and cycle with through the night. Unsurprisingly, you’ve befriended the small town's mayor, invented a prodigal artist from this rural mountain town, sent them to all the biennale’s and fairs and let the rumors shape our artful concerns, our meager art conceptions. We proposed a conversation in our dreams. I would like to stop fleeing traffic and competition. Sit restfully, write thoughtfully, with words and images, and see how this proceeds. I went for two nights to see a Chilean ethnographer share songs and images from his search for the canto a lo divino. He helped imagine el Museo Campesino en Movimiento. It appeared it was the most experimental musicians in Chile that understood its significance. The Mapuche whale songs and chino dances. Kind and thoughtful men, playing the 8 minutes of Alan Lomax Violeta Parra London recordings in the rainy, daylight savings darkness. Cecilia filled the Turbine hall with diluted rituals in whatever this is that supervened community, somewhere between a funeral procession and a micro resurrection, quiet moments of wonder, cameras everywhere. Please don’t let this half sleep tributary color our tone too much. I’ll include some image as well. I wanted to make a short film actually, perhaps just talk into a recorder...



Dear Sebastian,

This message gives me a focus that I couldn't find this morning. I'm warming up my thoughts and the small room where I'm writing from bed. I wonder if writing from bed makes texts more dream-like. Your colors and images introduce some wonderful elements to the text body and I also feel like striking through nobles and generals when I have to write them. I sometimes feel like I'm so obscure because of how much I deteste submittingmyself. It's an ongoing struggle to question and estrange these language concepts... with repercussions. I've been slowly moving towards voice recordings in place of writing. The slightest lilt can add so much color and dimension. I bought a professional field recorder—not the first time in my life, without ever really committing to the practice—to preserve sounds for films. I rode the new Elizabeth line far outside the city to meet a young man, from an online marketplace, in a neighborhood he delightfully described as 'a bit leafy.'

I've been sending friends voice memos too, from my phone, instead of writing, and especially for momentous occasions. I'd like to get in the habit of doing it more casually. I remember 5 years ago, or more even—I can't remember with the Covid lacuna... I realized that all the kids in Mexico were sending each other little voice recordings instead of typing. I loved it! How it sloughed off this Guttenberg baggage. Of course, I can't imagine a life without writing. It's such a concentrated, and ultimately generous, mediation with communicable thought. And what we could capaciously call the undead.

I've been revisiting the writing and images in and feel like my voice is missing. It's actually alarming in some ways. I read the texts again and they seem so humourless at times, so committed where I feel—and felt—such ambiguity. I do take measures to bake this in, though a trembling voice holds this ambivalence better. A recording can also almost be too much sometimes. I listened back to a recording of Agnes as a small child, talking over music in a rainy car, when she still had a chirping lisp and sprightly pigtail fountains of wispy hair. I cried almost mechanically. It was so immediate and involuntary.

I remember watching an early cut of the Brasilia film, it's tragic modern hubris, perched in that cozy Inverness cottage. We've been looking at flats in London where we affectionately seek out the social housing estates. Simple, equitable blocks of concrete in neighborhoods that feel hospitable, proximate to people we care about and cultures of pleasure and conviviality. A large green commons, a lido, pedestrianized streets, good sour bread, some bookstores, charity shops, cultural venues, and a modest space of private repreive—what else does one need? Though, here it is quite expensive and I'm afraid to consign myself to a workaday mortgage. Time is what we need. A redistribution of time among the classes. A better distribution of money and expectations about work could be helpful levers.

I feel I'm coming to the end of my London time, for now, and have a few appointments around Europe this coming month. I bought one of those open train passes and have a loose itinerary. I'll stop in Lyon for the biennale, and then go down the coast, stopping in Marseille and Barcelona where there is a video art festival on. And then heading north again to see a new friend in Brussels and for a meeting in Amsterdam. I was thinking I'd try to write a novella while on the train journeys. If you feel like joining or meeting along the way it would be wonderful to see you.

At this point, mid-morning, I decided to put into practice some of these concerns. Enkū is the artist's name, and I was moved by this practice, these simple more-than-human forms, smiling beatifically, embracing the character of their material, being given openly, with reciprocity.p

79,434 words
2,645 images
53 loops
10 films
7 videos
1 thesis (Biennialization and hyperculture; the decolonization of time, dissolution of borders, reimagining of socioecological space, and plural flourishing of more-than-human dignity, or, the everywhere perennial of quotidian kindness and beauty.)
20 open letters
845 links
1 libretto
9 field recordings
2 playlists (rituals shuffle, 10hrs, & Deconstructing the Western Passionfruit Narrative, 6hrs)
7 biennial visits
1 provisional outline for basic social dignity
1 institute for interspecies sociality
1 graduation show (The Sianne Ngai becoming ergon of the parergonal discourse of evaluation library and tearoom)
1 ongoing practice of generosity, friendliness, openness and uncertainty
1 distrust of numbers as anything but an occasionally helpful conceptual device
Many references and thanks to Anne Carson, Jalal Toufic, Anna Tsing, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Davids Graeber and Wengrow, Hito Steyerl, Heraclitus, John Berger, Bruno Latour, Ben Lerner, Anne Boyer, Jonathan Crary, Susan Howe, Gareth Evans, Ros Gray, Byung-Chul Han, Mirta, Gabriela and Agnes.
1 month remaining…

This exercise or project journal is also the opening of my forthcoming novella, that flickers back and forth between past and future, or, ‘... a fallacy each generation reinvents and disavows, reinvents and disavows, a rocking motion.’ says Ben Lerner in The Media.

Dear Laurène, dear London, dear Laurel tree,

I woke up this morning thinking about the void. Since our conversation, this has become something of a preoccupation. I’m so curious to see how you’ll approach this enduring and provoking theme in your biennial. I think sleep is an interesting site for exploring this, one of the last realms that has not been fully financialized, though of course many are trying. In response to this ongoing encroachment of data and capital, I’ve been searching for spaces beyond their reach, reprieve.

It strikes me as a distinctly western disposition that consigns the unknown to the dark and terrifying, though perhaps there's some partial biological or evolutionary explanation for this. I guess it’s from the unknown where we stake our ethical claims and practice our poetics of relation. This humble acceptance of uncertainty and the opening up of a horizon of possibility is actually quite thrilling for me. Especially as these oppressive axioms and algorithms we unthinkingly reproduce are quickly rendering the world uninhabitable. So, yes for voids, or the unknown, from which new possibilities can emerge.

In some of my writing and thinking, I’ve associated the abyssal with a nihilistic state of advanced anomie, and abyssal aesthetics specifically with work that elaborates the ethical and epistemic absences that produces the poetic abyme. In this usage, an artist will contour a set of intractable-seeming conditions and histories that produce a sense of reified and resigned unkowing, that can often tend towards apathy and anhedonia, as well as serving an economic function and perhaps satisfying—if this is not too strong a word—some career ambition or another. What results is a high-romantic, post-industrial and deeply confounding affective product. And be that as it may, with my inclination to situate this phenomenon, and perhaps overdetermine its meaning, I’d like to temper this notion with what I see as the laudable project of complexifying and unsettling overly-simplistic received narratives, that can legitimate all manner of harmful relations. I do find many aspects of this already ill-defined and overflowing genre, compelling, if only discursively, for staging conceptual impasses and the chosen valances of particular histories.

Contra the western (if such a category is even useful anymore) tendency to associate void with something like a scary darkness, I would like to offer brightness as a more fitting allegory for our truly terrifying algorithmic fortification of social and economic relations. The algorithm feels to me like a void, a perfectly unnatural space of total finiteness, that excludes all contingency—that is to say, all life—from its severed, chauvinist machinations. I was tempted to say something similar about the GIF (or looped image), though that strikes me as distinct in its disposition, the algorithm defining possibilities, while the loop inviting contemplation.

I imagine Doug Wheeler's infinity room—whatever its original intentions were—seems like a useful addition, at least to the discourse, in its physical staging of the horizonless cloud we typically peer into through tiny fleeting windows. The tabula rasa—that’s anything but—from where the virtualization emerges. Being confronted with nothing but a never ending expanse of pure white space is absolute terror for me. I suppose in some ways, this is like using the unfortunate canon, against itself conceptually, a tricky kind of curatorial indictment, with mixed effects and opportunity costs. And I wonder though, would it be redundant, expensive and unnecessary to stage a work like this when one is situated in the snow-covered mountains. Faced with the enveloping white of a snowy summit, surely a completely different feeling is produced than in the illusive, anemic interior of a white cube. Perhaps it’s better to set this aside. I suppose most art palls in Switzerland’s sublime.

A few artists come to mind who’ve concerned themselves with the void. Nam June Paik’sTV Buddha, is an epochal shorthand if there ever was one, no? As mentioned, the work of Ahmet Doğu Ipek, that I encountered recently in an exhibition called A Halo of Blackness Upon our Heads at Artner in Istanbul, explored remarkably some of these concerns. Same for Michelangelo Frammartino’s Il Buco and Cyprien Gailllard’s current exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, which I found to be a quite brilliantly rendered philosophical look at deep time, a notion abyssal in its scalar relation to the articulation of human generations and culture. Simon Fujiwara and Adrian Villar Rojas might be the most impressive auteurs of the abyme for me. Simon’s incredible sense of unresolved paradox articulated in the extreme and anomic present and Adrian’s ecologically-inflected poetic technofossil cultural assemblages, his theatre of disappearance, of which he’s somewhat joined in his recent act. I see I’ve made a bit of a boy’s club here. Maybe the more evolved among us just get on with it. I think of Le Guin. Maybe some people have a stick and a void and some have a bag and some stories... I wonder if the reckoning with the void is not like an adolescent phase, that gets prolonged for some by the dictates of the art market, thriving on stylistic repetition and enigmatic obfuscation. 

In Lyon, a city that largely resisted my affection, I encountered a series of haunting paintings by Fleury François Richard. These paintings showed a ghostly absence, quietly opening onto the void. They captivated me with their ambiguous and fleeting moods. Such is art at best of times, wonderful portals into the unknown and ineffable. When the Met moved momentraily into the former Whitney Breuer, their inaugural show was called unfinishedand was for me a watermark of western art, where we watched occidental museology fall like blossoms at the end of the season. I’m resolved to look eastwards toward its cosmological conceptions. Byung-Chul Han has been a good companion in my preliminary study, in his Philosophy of Zen Buddhism he places a haiku from Buson

        The bindweed flower
            It’s only calyx breathes
                Mountain lake color…

‘like a beautiful frame that talks to its picture,’ next to a passage that offers ‘Openness, the friendliness of emptiness, reveals that particular beings are ‘in’ the world, and further, that the world is in their foundation, that in their deep layers they breathe the other things and offer them space in which to dwell.’


I suppose to do the void thematic justice, with all its romantic baggage, one might feel inclined to exhibit practices, artists, maybe activists even—well, anyone really, who makes meaning and relations alongside the unknown and unknowable. In this regard, I could list all my favorite artists, including the baker where I’ll go in a moment for cultured bread. Let’s include all those artists we love, whose names we repeat every day, who give us soft and warm light in which to see each other kindly in their glow.

Islams call to prayer, as its powerful eruption cuts from the minarets, produces in me, an incredible absence/presence, like the undertow, overturning and wetting smooth rocks, and in this withdrawal, a blossoming of awareness and interpretation.I once saw Bill Callahan, the great American mystic, give a concert in a golden-era Hollywood set, done in the style of an 1870’s frontier town. A fan had brought him a lightly-rhinestoned nudie suit that gamely performed in, and I can’t recall if he played faith/voidbut I do remember Sycamore.

I wonder if you might not find a way to include some hospice workers in your proceedings? As they work beautifully at the thresholds of the abyss.

And perhaps a lyrical scientist might join and share some thoughts about black holes? Karen Barad seems to be a popular choice for the intersection, or perhaps the infinite latent intersections, with the contemporary art world and quantum mechanics.

I find old photographs, with their perfect patina of time and relation, to be like little slivers of speculative void. They interest me much more than the overly choreographed and fussy orthogonal presentations by the business.

Jalal Toufic, in his Forthcoming collection suggests some interesting thoughts on black holes, photography, art and time.

He offers in A Hitherto Unrecognized Apocalyptic Photographer: The Universe:‘[Paul Gsell:]

‘Well, then, when in the interpretation of movement he [the artist] completely contradicts photography, which is an unimpeachable mechanical testimony, he evidently alters truth.’ ‘No,’ replied Rodin, ‘it is the artist who is truthful and it is photography which lies, for in reality time does not stop, and if the artist succeeds in producing the impression of a movement which takes several moments for accomplishment, his work is certainly much less conventional than the scientific image, where time is abruptly suspended.’” While I tend to concur with this Rodin view generally, I do not agree with his assertion that “in reality time does not stop.” To disagree with this assertion, I do not have to invoke the freezing in dance and undeath, under silence-over; I can invoke relativity. The Schwarzschild membrane of a black hole is an event horizon not only because once an entity crosses it that entity can no longer communicate back with us this side of it, but also because from our reference frame the entities at the horizon do not undergo any events, being frozen due to the infinite dilation of time produced by the overwhelming gravity in the vicinity of the black hole. Was photography invented not so much to assuage some urge to arrest the moment, but partly owing to an intuition that it already existed in the universe, in the form of the immobilization and flattening at the event horizon?’

And goes on…

‘By superimposing the reference frame of the outside observer and that of the astronaut approaching the black hole, one has at the event horizon a flattening and a suspension of motion—a photograph—of the still moving three-dimensional person who crossed into the black hole. The universe automatically takes the astronaut’s photograph as he crosses its border, the event horizon, in a sort of paradigmatic farewell. Do photographs induce nostalgia because they show a moment that has vanished? Both relativity, with its spacetime, and Zen master Dōgen, with his time-being (uji), tell us that that moment has not vanished. I rather think that this gloomy nostalgia is linked to an intuition of the resonance of the man-made photographs with the aforementioned naturally occurring photographs, which signal the irretrievable loss to the universe of the one who has been thus photographed. From a local reference frame, an artistic rendering in the Rodin manner of the astronaut at the event horizon might very well be less conventional, more truthful, than a photograph of him; but from the reference frame of an outside observer, a photograph of the astronaut at the event horizon is less conventional than an artistic rendering of him in the Rodin manner, for at the event horizon not only is the person flattened, but also time is so slowed it comes to a standstill.’

By my measure, Jalal is one of the great, rigorous, beautiful poets of the void.

I’ll hold, in the front of my mind, my limitations, my humility, in the face and the guts of the void, in this epistolary address towards its exhibitionary-becoming. 

Asemic writing and glossolalia, even ululation, come to mind, that approach a pre-semantic, almost return to pure form, an ontological register of unbounded communication, then overlaid with culture, provisional meanings. This swirl produces a pleasant abyss in me, with me. And perhaps it could be said, to some extent, all language—that is all art—operates in a like way.

Each time I hear a birdsong or an animal call, or the wind in the trees, it is both a wondrous abyss and reminder of our shared lifeworld and responsibility to it.

Of the abyme, with kindness,


The Journal of Art & Ecology published by MA Art & Ecology, Goldsmiths, University of London

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