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