By Joseph A. W. Quintela
The Stone Words | Notes On Les Mots
The year is 2014. Words are tired. Like us, they’ve been working hard and moving fast. There are more of them than ever. They prop up entire cities. Pack onto subway cars. Zing through the air between satellites and cell phones. Ink themselves onto bodies. Bend around tangled tongues. They are tapped out, bundled in bytes, and shuttled between countless servers. Words have more to do every day.
What becomes of a word worked to the point of exhaustion?
Perhaps Antoine Lefebvre knows. His hand is exhausted. It has been writing the same word for hours on end in a slightly messy scrawl. The word is as exhausted as his hand is. Between them there is nothing. No meaning. No message. Just emptiness and exhaustion.
Exhaustion is a feeling that precludes all other emotion. We know what it is to feel love with anger or happiness with terror or sorrow with hope. One of the many missions of art has been the carving out of spaces that evoke strange and wondrous combinations of feeling. But exhaustion never shares its stage. It could be said that exhaustion is not a feeling but rather a complete void of feeling. That it is the very feeling of nothing.
But the void is a fertile ground. It should be remembered: the sun is a void, where life is concerned. Within the sun there is no possibility of living. But without the sun there is no possibility of living. It is both empty and absolutely necessary.
Just as a seed lies dormant in winter, waiting to be called forth by the sun-warmed soil of spring, a word at the point of exhaustion must eventually fall into sleep. Dreamless sleep. The fall into a wintering of meaning.
It is a sleep that is akin to stone.
It seems worth noting that both the first lasting incarnations of written word and Lefebvre’s lithographs of single words in exhaustive repetition are instantiations of language put to bed in stone. In its evolution from stone to parchment to paper to electrons and light, the written word has been both loosed and loosened, now reaching a point of absolute flexibility and absolute speed that may render the word meaningless. Exhausted. Void. But this is not the end of words. Merely, their collapse into much needed respite, that is, a cyclical return to stone. Lefebvre’s work, then, may be correlated to the work of the shepherd who sleeps with his flock and conducts them safely into the renewed day. Yes, there is a hint of the sacred here. This should come as little surprise.
Following Bataille, it is made clear that the sacred is held into relationship with taboo via the mechanism of the erotic. The modern erosion of the sacred has thus necessarily resulted in a similar erosion of both taboo and eroticism. This is particularly the case with words. In 2014, most anything can be said. In both written and spoken language little is sacred; little is taboo; the erotic abandoned in favor of the explicit. What has become taboo are silence, the meaningless, and any recourse into the still void of exhausted sleep, where words cannot be deployed at the behest of modernism, capitalism and consumerism. Thus, Lefebvre’s engagement with the meaningless–his put-to-bed of words by scrawled repetition–occurs at a new fault line of eroticism. His void space is sacred space. He is carving out a place not only for the absence of meaning but a fertile site for its resurrection.
We stand at this site in Les Mots.
| Notes on Peanut Underground (Undercurrent Projects)
Lefebvre has been working since Thursday, December 26th at Peanut Underground as the inaugural artist in the project space’s new Artist in Residency program. With the aim of approaching exhibition as a living endeavor, the program offers artists a month to work and show in the space, transforming the presentation of their work in response to both interaction with the public and the space itself. Lefebvre began the exhibition of When Nothing is Done, Nothing is Left Undone with the display of Les Mots, a series of lithographs composed of a single word scrawled in repetition. Through the month, Lefebvre presented a single-edition, transparency-printed art book of his unique Bibliographie (a catalog of every book in his possession during the writing of his doctoral thesis) and a mid-residency performance of an interview with Deadly Chaps Press presented as an ephemeral, living publication: Transparency. Levebvre will close the residency with The Artist is Void, an emptying of the space of text in favor of an image of the void appropriated from New York City liquor bags reproduced on paper, art boards, plastic, and tabletops.
Peanut Undergroud began in the fertile void of Occupy Wall Street, where artists Katie Peyton and Lee Wells met at an exhibition called No Comment and began to envision a freethinking art space inspired by the epic myth of the avante-garde. The space itself was established in 2012 as a laboratory for creative conspiracy and promotion of collaboration between the arts. Since then it has served as an incubator for artists, writers and curators to communicate ideas and create new artifacts for the 21st century. While Wells left the venture at the end of 2013 to focus on IFAC, Peyton re-examines the original mission and will re-emerge in the space as Undercurrent Projects, fostering international collaborations as well as local projects.
Currently, Peyton is curating a video exhibition at Zona Treinta and Terror Gallery in Lima, Peru, where she was invited as the resident artist for January. The video program includes work by Jeremy Blake, Gregory de la Haba, Heide Hatry, Kim Keever, Colette Lumiere, Marjan Mogghadam, Rachel Monosov, Zhang Ou, Joseph A. W. Quintela, Barbara Rosenthal, Lydia Venieri, Lee Wells, and Alison Williams, and will be screened on the rooftop of the gallery in Lima’s historic Plaza San Martin. Continuing the investigation of the relationship between arts and literature at Peanut Underground, Robert Petrick’s Read Just the Truth / Readjust the Truth examines the links between art, poetry and graffiti (opening January 24th). The next Artist in Residency will be Colette Lumiere, who will create a new installation in the space beginning February 18th.
Peanut Underground invites you to the close of Antoine Lefebvre’s residency this Tuesday, January 14th:
Finissage | The Artist is Void (Facebook RSVP)
Antoine Lefebvre | When Nothing is Done, Nothing is Left Undone
Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 6-9pm
Peanut Underground / Undercurrent Project
215 East 5th Street (Off Bowery)
New York, NY 10003
Joseph A. W. Quintela is a poet and artist working at the fault lines emergent alongside post-textual and post-productive modes of living. Eschewing the use of any “new text”, his first full-length collection of poetry (Black Market, 2013) was published as the inaugural title in the Plagiarism Series by Publication Studio Malmo (Sweden). In 2013, Portrait of the Artist as the Cast of You in Eye, a collection of sculptural self-portraits cast from dictionary pages was shown at Central Booking and DUMBO Sky. His 2012 installation, FOOT | KNOTS (Project Space Envelope), dressed an entire gallery in shredded and reformed pages, creating a virtual, super-composite book object that generated the collaborative #Bookdress project that has appeared in galleries, museums, and bookstores across New York City. Ongoing displays of his art include work at The Strand’s Rare Books Room, Central Booking, The Nu Hotel (Brooklyn), and Salinas Restaurant.