HANNAH BLACK, SOME CONTEXT @ CHISENHALE GALLERY
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hello, ok, so i have been a bit scared of writing this text. i can’t quite articulate why; it’s that feeling like you’re like dealing with something large and bigger and further away than ur comfortable with. Like i feel like i’m scared of speaking without knowing everything, like.. i am scared of sounding stupid? i know that sounds stupid, but i feel like this show has been a show that loads of ppl have messaged us with their thoughts about, asked us if we’ve seen, and that’s a kind of pressure, so combine that with that, ALSO i rly like Hannah Black, like…. i am scared if she reads this. Hannah if u r reading this hello, Dark Pool Party is on my bedside table behind me as i am typing this. the spine peeled away in July and i was so sad. I love it a lot, and ur writing means a lot to me i think i hold it quite close to my chest. Like i don’t read many things and ~feel~ them, but i ~feel~ a lot when i read ur writing n that feels special and tender and it means a lot to me (i’m not saying this bc it should mean a lot to u, i am just tryna explain why i’ve been putting off writing this text, where this feeling of fear comes from, bc what i’m tryna say is that i don’t rly respect anyone but i respect u and that terrifies me). but like tbh this pressure is irrelevant bc this made me feel something but the something feels non-specific and far away. like u kno those spots that are so deep under the skin n u squeeze and squeeze and nothing ever comes out it just makes it angrier? this is how i feel about my thoughts about this show. there’s something there, and i can feel it and i know it’s definitely there, but idk how to get it out, or if it actually ever should come out. so like… that’s a nice way to start a text isn’t it? with the implication that this is a simile for me squeezing an angry lumpy spot.
I wana start by talking about the book before i talk about the space maybe? i feel like that’s the bit that’s stuck with me; esp bc i’ve been carrying it everywhere with me for the past month,,, it feels stuck to my side, i’ve made notes, tested pens in the margins, written phone numbers on the inside cover. The book is called ’The Situation’ n it’s not just Hannah Black it is lots of people, everything and everyone all tangled up like wires; mixed salad. n it feels like it. I remember Gab texting me to ask if i’d read the book yet, n i launched into a long feeling thing about how it feels like it’s so immediate, like speech, like what twitter is to me; like the text is just thinking through writing, writing as a verb. that it’s LIKE;;;; it’s like these thoughts are made into text as soon as they arrive in the writer’s mind, and the text feels sporadic and tangled in that way, in a way that feels like it jumps about but you follow. truly conversational, but not in a reductive way, in a way that feels like a joy to read bc it’s not trying too hard to craft itself into something clever, it just is clever and it makes me feel better bc i can understand it as it jumps about bc that feels like how i talk sometimes, that’s how everybody talks sometimes. it feels familiar and easy, but also like it’s stretching,,, all at the same time. i said all of this and then on the next tube journey i took i read a bit that mentioned something about “saying this aloud”, n i realised it was a transcription n i felt sad that i never clocked that; that i was so willing to take it as style, at face value. But i mean,,, in hindsight, it wasn’t rly me being hoodwinked, it just is; but it also says that it’s transcribed on the chisenhale website; but i never check these things bc i also wana guess sometimes. but sometimes, like this time, it leaves me feeling like… idk? like i miss something by doing this… n then i feel, like … no. i actually wish they didn’t tell anyone it was a transcript. bc then i would write about how that’s so cool n radical and how much i respect that as a way or feel of writing. bc i don’t rly use grammar or punctuate properly bc (in my mind) it’s like… grammar is a social construct n it’s socially enforced n sometimes i can’t be arrssseeeed with the performance of it all and the performance of it as a kinda labour. like sometimes i just wana write my thoughts and do like… writing as a verb.. like let the words flow thru me, i am only a vessel my body as like a machinery for producing these words, complete output,,,, n like, i’ve stopped going back and editing and correcting typos and making things read better bc i live in the present not the past, and i meant what i wrote and i need to honour and respect that intention from the past and not betray my past self… like, yes that feels like (with me at least) it’s a kind of laziness, but also it is one that i’ve academically justified now so i have had to commit to it and just like commit to these words as they come out, as they are expelled from my body like a violent shit. i can only like analyse the splatter patterns with u, the reader. it feels like an equal playing field for us both if i write something confusing n hazy and we try and get thru it together. like our experience of it is on the same level or the same side or like the same vague position of like… reading my past-self’s attempts at articulation… but i mean it’s also maybe problematic bc it also rejects any kinda authorial accountability for me if i also don’t know what i really meant. ygm? i mean, none of that rly matters now bc i just saw on the chisenhale website that it says it’s a transcription so idk, this feels kinda trite and i rly wish they would tag their spoilers kinda? if you know what i mean? like that they could keep the facade going n it would throw up different things that were weird n weirdly shaped n like maybe place a different kinda stress on the text which would make sense bc it’s a whole-ass book that someone has made on inDesign and printed and bound and neatly neatly stacked…. Let’s talk about the space maybe, but before we do, i would just add that i haven’t finished the book yet, but i just wana say that in the book every one is referring to the situation and i don’t know what situation that is yet, but i hope no one ever clarifies bc like a horror movie, the build up and the not-knowing is always so much more delicious and tingly frightening than the reveal which always falls flat almost bc of the build up? so i hope no one actually says.
So. the gallery at Chisenhale felt smaller. in the middle of the room was a neat stack of books all neatly neatly perfectly piled so it kinda alternates.. it feels like it’s been stacked with care. Around the room are shredders and all over the floor is the contents of the shredders;; shredder confetti. and hung up on some hooks in the corner are these empty teddy bear carcasses and throughout the room are the teddy bear carcasses full of shredder confetti and it feels nice; like a very clear: these are the components, this is what’s happening, this is the situation rn (that’s not funny i literally mean it, but maybe it’s also tongue in cheek i can’t tell yet, i’ll let u decide) and also mixed in to it all, when we went in the guy at the desk said “be careful there are tiny sculptures on the floor so watch where u stand” and there were indeed tiny little clay sculptures that many people had already stood on. and it felt so nice and cosy. Like big bright lights, a warehouse, i think it’s hard for Chisenhale to not feel like ikea or homebase; but tbh bc everything was on a specific level, all on the floor it felt drawn in a little bit closer. Like kinda the same feeling i get with vitrines, it pulls you in (but not quite the same way i feel with vitrines bc i always feel like a pervert or a peeping tom looking in thru the curtains on something private) but maybe that specific pull is the same. it was nice and it all felt so perfect but also … i mean, it felt complex. i didn’t know if i wanted to participate. i feel like participatory art appeals to a specific type of viewer, and idk if that is me all the time. i like to visit alone, maybe keep my headphones on and be very english about it all like not have anyone touch me or talk about me, just float thru window to window like a fruit-fly. but also,,, it kinda wanted me to participate. it gave me all the components and presented them to me. And like…. it felt like a softer more gentle kind of participation. like: ‘you can do this if you want? you don’t have to’ it was comfortable either way, it wasn’t like some hidden meaning was unlocked by this forced social engagement and bantering it off with strangers. it felt generous tbh. i appreciated its gentleness with my shyness. it also felt reciprocated; like i took the text away bc i like books and having books and reading books and i was curious to know what was being destroyed in this case. So i shredded one book and i took one home and everywhere else with me. It felt like that gentle presentation of all the components and the outcome; that equation as a visual was also mirrored in the presentation of the text itself. it felt like a ‘you can read this, but only if you want to’, bc you could also equally just look around, fruit-fly; not touch anything, mind where u step, not take a book, not shred a book. or you could violently participate by only shredding a book and not knowing what was in it; only participate in its destruction like a very definite and ceremonial ending. or you could also not shred anything, only sneak a copy into your bag, not knowing if you’d get stopped on your way out and get politely asked to return the book bc they didn’t want it to leave the four walls of the gallery;; read and place it on your bookshelf and keep it and archive it forever. or do all of the options;;; such a gentle and generous way of asking people to do things. not ordering or commanding, a softly spoken suggestion. i appreciated it immensely and i valued this text all the more for it, bc i chose to read it and make sense of it and that made the value and joy i found in it all the more happy.
i hope this has made sense, dear reader. i hope this hasn’t been too much of a sticky mess. bc truly i enjoyed this show and i felt something, but that something was a slow burn. and sometimes they are the best ones, where you don’t know what you’re going to write until you write it. i feel a bit better for having extracted this. and i feel like this has been a good use of my time,,,, writing as verb. I will read this back only when it’s already published on the website. but that won’t be till tomorrow evening and i have a whole other life as a person, not a writer, to get to. i hope reading this for u feels nice and jumpy and like travelling downstream. i am not sorry if it doesn’t make sense, i only hope it does.
So this show has closed. i'm very sorry, i meant it when i said i've been scared of writing this review. Sorry bout that. here's the website for chisenhale and also Hannah Black's reading list to accompany the show