Laura Moriarty: The Living Room

Fall '05 TOC

"Thought is a form of sculpture"

In answer to and as a reflection of
What is recognizable and yet not

Pictures of rooms in our collective
Biography accommodate the stuff (accumulates)

Of life considered as a form
Or the living room as an opportunity

Comprising the list of things in the room
The bibliography of this moment

Later or earlier or both
A bird heard from another room

Mocking my attempt to fall asleep
By mentally assembling the living room, piece

By piece, including the silver bowl
Damaged when my mother drove

Through the garage door and my
Tiny aunt rushed out saying "Goddamn,"

In a particular moment I picture both rooms
In my head we are on the couch posing

The photo of me with my mother and aunt, the one of Norma with me and Bernadette Mayer, the endless snapshots of rows of people on couches are part of what takes place in the living room. The difference, one difference, between my aunt's couch and the one in Norma's installation is that Norma's couch was consciously chosen to fulfill its destiny as a couch. Norma, Bernadette and I (or later Norma, Suzanne Stein and I (the combinations are infinite)) fulfill our destinies by sitting on the couch together. We know this while we sit, but we don't talk about it.

"Which is blowing, the flag or the wind?"
Begins an action film by Wong Kar-Wai

Which is to say
Are we living The room or is it living us?

Possessing us in an arrangement meant to evoke
The past but what if we weren't born then?

This is Saturday and that was Sunday
How far back can we go?

"It's the heart of man that's in tumult"
Wong Kar-Wai continues and in his film

The world moves and the actors are still
For awhile until they too have to go on

"You feel like you've been here before" (A. Byrd)
Norma begins on the floor

Starting her performance from a resting or prone position on the somewhat grand staircase of the California Historical Society (where the living room lives), Norma remains still while the audience listens to a recording of her reading Scout. The work is dense. She reads it rapidly. The quickness is in contrast to her stillness. The contrast becomes more apparent when she rises to a sitting position and begins to read. She has chosen words that are currently difficult for her to pronounce. The stroke she suffered in December of 2002 left her with a slowness of speech. She was found on the floor. Whenever Norma stops reading, Caroline Bergvall begins to read from a series of texts. Caroline enunciates each of the letters in the words, performing them slowly. There is a lot of assonance in Norma's reading. She uses the word "violets." "Violence," I hear thinking how physical thinking is, how the body (how life itself) makes its own violence, how sometimes things don't change as quickly as we would like, how sometimes they change at the speed of (blood or) light.

"The world-lotus blooms" (from The Mudra on
The bookshelf in the living room)

"In answer to and as a reflection of
The light of heaven" can be seen through

The glass in a view of the living room taken
From the street and the street itself

Is reproduced by the photographer,
Who is the father of Norma's son. The picture

Arrives in a flyer, I have it here.
"Are you are a writer?" she might ask

As you appear and you might be, you may have
Written there, as I do now in my mind though

In fact I am here where though spring
It is cold and dark but green

Buds are everywhere of cherry
And hawthorn or poppies sharply

Wrapped like something unwritten
Or like a thing that's written but hidden

As when George Herms reads as part of
The exhibition he throws his handwritten and stamped

Poems into the audience (it's interactive)
Stamp, paper and poem all rolled into a ball

"exhibitions: temporary inhibitions, my semblables:
collective guilt" Norma reads from "Speech Production"

It's just another day in the world
The world is just another word like "Jack"

Which she also includes adding "Why do I like it under the trees in autumn when everything
is half dead? Why would I like the word moving like a cripple among the leaves and why
would I like to repeat words without meaning?"

She mentions her son Jesse in the reading and someone called J.J
"Bill," she says and this is the end, "who was J.J. anyway?"

It's spring now. Life goes on but the world ends
That we enter when we are in the living room

But it continues to construct itself backwards in my mind
The cloth texts from the "House of Hope" to detach and lay themselves out

As I first saw them on Norma's floor before they were cut into strips
Like film and before I saw them and was filmed myself among them

Or actually taped making more tape to add to the tangled Archives
Tableau, the original of which we create ourselves

In a set of views that are personal and truncated
And might as easily run back as forward

In the catalog of the show that followed his death, Montien Boonma is quoted as saying that "The house is a metaphor of hope that is impossible to grasp physically." In a sense, Norma's "House of Hope" begins to be constructed when Nick and I go to the Montien Boonma exhibit at the Asia House in New York in 2003. We are startled by the beauty of it and the artist's insight into life and death. I like thinking about death with Boonma because he knew about it up close as I do, but even closer. One can occupy his sculpture helmets like rooms you can wear on your head. We give ourselves over to his thinking and to the fragrance of the sandalwood and herbs. He cultivated the image of the lotus and other aspects of Buddhist practice with an urgency that is relaxing. As with sitting practice, I find I can give myself unreservedly to the work and come away with the ability to feel more pain. The catalog we bring back for Norma is called The Temple of the Mind. Later the show comes to San Francisco. We go.

The living room is an atrium to the show
Giving onto a collection of works, worlds (words)

Impossible to grasp physically and yet impossible
To grasp any other way

"Thought is a form of sculpture." Joseph Beuys
As quoted by Montien Boonma

The show ends today
That began with this thinking

April 16, 2005


:: TOC ::

Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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