Writing and books are part of my personal space and form my landscape, I have tried to leave them behind on occasions but they return uninvited only to be welcome. Some of these performances were created for the project Making books with things, making things with books .
In many of these performances I collaborate with the artist-musician Ed Briggs as individual artists or part of the duo laboratoro .
Commissioned by Phoenix Gallery for the exhibition about artist books Press & Release 2013
I wanted to create a process that would allowed me to write a new piece from the destruction of previous work; I wanted to show that a reading is a process of selection and discarding that creates leftovers, unused words. I also wanted to disassociate myself from the intellectual process of writing and leaving the choosing of the words to chance, wherever the bullets passed. I called the process shoot reading but in fact it could also be called shoot writing. As one reads through the shot pages one is writing a new text.
A collection of books were shot with an air rifle, a .22 gun and a double barrelled shot gun. Pages were taken at random from the shot books and collated into another book. A dice was thrown. The number indicated how many pages to turn (for this reading the number was 5). The words which had been shot, or which were nearest to the shoot were selected. When the word was not completely legible, a guess was made and this appears in brackets.
The Blind Reader
Sometimes a performance can begin with a visual image. And if the image is strong enough it will bring with it discourse, material, poetry, connotations; the work consist of making it visible, bringing it all out, explore the nuances. The blind reader started with the image of a face covered by a book. There is something brutal about being blinded by precisely what you want to see/read/explore. It also went to the core of one of the metaphors most closely assotiated with the book, the book as a source of enlightenment; we wanted to explore the other side, the possibility that this same enlightenment could make us blind.
The blind reader’s face is covered by a book, and he asks for help from the audience in order to achieve his simple tasks. He wants to find a notebook and a pencil to be able to write at a table. The sounds, voices of the audience and words from the blind reader asking for help, the experience of asking for help and crossing the space constitute the material for the performance 1; there is no story, no plot, when the blind reader reaches the table, while scribbling in the notebook, unable to write something coherent, his only words are to describe his experience, that the public have witnessed and participated in:
“I could not see, but with your help, I found a notebook and a pencil. With the help of your words I managed to sit at this table and write. I am at the same place stuck in the same word… “The blind reader keeps scribbling in the notebook over and over the same word, instead of writing in a line, writes on the top of each word, tries to represent another kind of writing, not a writing that evolves but one that gets stagnated in the same word, a writing that tries to communicate in another way, another dimension. Not a writing that creates a discourse from A to B; but a writing that entangles itself, and never progresses.
Why the image of a blind reader? We wanted to throw the stone into the river to be able to observe the ripples.
I can read you like a book
Sometimes people want to know “the meaning” behind a performance, and by a meaning I think they refer to an idea, or something that can be communicated by words.
When a very nice man approached us after the performance and pulling my arm, said: I did love it but what does it all mean? First I felt sad that he could not just enjoy the experience without the reassurance that there is an underlying meaning that can be expressed by words. But afterwards I felt surprised because if there was a performance easy to allocate a meaning it was this one. We take the title from a collaborator in this project, Helen Gibbs who was also present in the performance and wanted to shout “I can read you like a book”.
The idea of the performance 2 ‘I can read you like a book’ began with an image, a man wearing a suit made of books. A suit serves to cover us, to protect us but also gives an idea of who we are and how we want to be seen. A suit is also something we carry with us. The books are in this way informing us, forming us, protecting us, covering us; they shape somehow our identity, what we are or how we wanted to be seen. But we also wanted to work with the idea of the book as means of communication as a way to interact with others, that is why we created two characters wearing suits with books. We read each other, we exchanged stories, and the more we read each other the more we got entangled, we bind, bound, bonded with each other, all through our books. We are made of stories, stories that shape us, characters we want to become, and characters we see in others. What does it all mean?
With Johanna Rönkkö
We read the same differently
The fixed writing as exemplified in a book is the interface and the link between two activities: reading / writing. Put it down in writing and an idea becomes visible, it is a proof of what it is said. Writing/book appears in this way as a stable activity invested with authority and stability, it is fixed. We wanted to show the instability and fragility of this activity.
We wanted to go beyond differences on interpretation and show that the difference is already in the reading.
You can read the same thing differently and with different results. To make these two different approaches more clear performance 3 took place on two levels: live on stage and video. Both performers worked with the same fragments of books, one reads musically and the other uses body/vocals. Sometimes their reading merge, sometimes their reading diverge. Do they complement each other to form the full reading? Are they just two ways of reading a text? How many more can be created? Is it reading a passive experience or it is in itself a creative activity? We highlighted that separation by recording one of us in video and projected into a wall, while the other performed next to the image on the wall.
Xelís de Toro’s height is 1,72 cm in books