A chasm of uncertain time opens a recess to fill, it seems. Or it opens a recess and this is filled differently. Or the recess that’s opened is actually site and studio and what happens there is mindful of a siteless chasm of time. And what happens there is a clarification of proximity. Of what situatedness might offer the liminal writer, artist, colleague, peer. ‘The recollection of the place must intensify it,’ writes Kate Briggs (p. 12).
Now gathered in a group permitted to be larger than ten, we’re back around the table and this time it is round,1 and this time it appears different, it is more like an anchor than ever. An anchor for anchorites to circle, to test from, to hit their knees on and turn out soft shells from. There is a distinct materiality to the work made by Art Writing students over the last year. An apparent pleasure in that which is tangible: made and found objects, movement afoot, building, installing and asking how this might transformatively join force with the digital imperceptible that has connected us all beyond time and borders more than ever over the last few years.
There is a distinct registering, of ‘how thoughts have intruded, how certain words lodged or slipped, how not exactly pictures but dispositions were offered and withdrawn, adopted then lifted—or exchanged, and what was traversed was a patterned, shifting and intensively participatory emotional field.’ We are ‘patting, turning, finding a new position,’ Kate concludes.
‘In 2020, locked out of studios, many artists necessarily shifted medium. Sculptors took up crochet, silversmiths became video artists, and everyone became an Art Writer,’ writes Hazel Glass (p 16). In 2022, we see art writing is an ever present, proximate, material practice. It is corporeal in the encounters of Ms Real as she ‘rolls her eyes and stretches out relieved and queasy on the leather bench in front of a large Joan Eardley painting of Catterline.’ Ms Real’s stomach rises with her churning neoliberal indigestion, reports Caitlin Merrett King (p 64). It is touchable in the future that ‘leaks’ and palpable in the ‘small scar [that] is often at the origin of literary writing’—the infractions scored in Ben Redhead’s scratch poem for ‘two voiced turntables’ (p 93). It lives with others in ‘dim tracks,’ or in the phenomenological soul that is ‘squeezed’ out of a pinky, recalls Marie-Chantal Hamrock in a poetic hauntology that breathes on and off page (p 49). It is danced all night, incarnated and ‘(re)membered’ by Rebecca Fortnum (p 53). It is plain in rebekah raine probert’s Astronaut Suit when she ‘feels in colour and sees in blue’ (p 103). It is verifiable in the loss of home in oneself as Donald Butler considers the tactile disparity between documentation and production. It cuts through the ‘thickness of silence’2 when Lucie McLaughlin ‘attends to the interval [between art and words] as an active space’3 (p 88). It is trodden and traversed across five plots in Elizabeth Reeder’s On Surveying. And it is patent in Paul Mendez and Susannah Thompson’s conversation on Rainbow Milk, the unknowable yet achingly felt loss of anchor experienced by Jesse after his disfellowshipping from his Jehovah’s Witness family.
‘Anchor,’ writes Sara O’Brien, Art Writing graduate, winner of the 2021 Yellow Paper Prize and recipient of The Glasgow School of Art’s Foulis Medal for Outstanding Achievement, is ‘that from which we tether ourselves. The point from which we may drift,’ in her provisional index of Porous Selves (p 23).
This year some semblance of gravity has (re)manifested and Art Writing at The Glasgow School of Art has extended its own soul from a pinky. We are delighted to have hosted the School of Fine Art’s first annual Practitioner in Residence, welcoming Kate Briggs in March 2022 and collectively considering what conversation is to practice. In spring we opened our digital classroom to interdisciplinary’s new and familiar with Biographical Fictioning, a masterclass inviting ideas around expanded biographical forms. We returned to Glasgow’s Poetry Club where a ‘Bombshell’ declared Soft Shell’s death. In semester two, stowed out, we sighed in relief at Soft Shell’s rebirth. We truly moved to feel in our Writing Studio, sinking into our scribing bodies, and later two trips to Cove Park took us out of the Studio to remind us of the ambient quiet. We welcomed back graduate Maria Howard to lead a conversation with Khidr Collective on water, porosity and independent publishing as part of GSA’s Close of Play series, and our students talked with a host of incredible guests as part of the Friday Event series: Donald Butler with Morgan Quaintance, Ciarán Mac Domhnaill with Bedwyr Williams, Clara Raillard with Erica Eyres, and other brilliant speakers: Maggie Nelson, Catherine Liu, Joy Gregory, and more. We are endlessly grateful for Esther Draycott’s unflinching support of the Programme in her first year of Teaching Assistance and thrilled she’ll join us again next year. And we extend a huge thank you to Silas Lehane for his administrative patience and vitally important sense of humour.
Edition 3 of The Yellow Paper gathers work from Art Writing’s Class of ’22 and contributions from those who have shaped that which becomes solid. And yet – what is captured here is by no means representative, and we extend further appreciation to the immeasurable energy of Lauren Dyer Amazeen, Daniela Cascella, Laurence Figgis, James Hutchinson, Margaret Salmon and the many others acknowledged at the end of this book. Perhaps all could be guests at the next critical dinner party held by Clara Raillard and Frederick Loren, with Nigella cake supplied by Alex Bottomley, complete with ‘resonant, ferrous tang’ (p 60).
- In 2018 Kate Briggs visited Art Writing and wrote about the rectangular table that together Kate and the students sat around, and throughout the course of the day ‘felt rounded’. Kate Briggs, ‘A bit, a piece, a thing, a twin’, The Yellow Paper: Journal for Art Writing, 1 (The Glasgow School of Art, 2019), p 17
- Denise Riley (in Lucie McLaughlin, ‘Parting, Picking’), Impersonal Passion, Language As Affect (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), p 71
- 3 Emma Cocker (in Lucie McLaughlin, ‘Parting, Picking’), ‘Writing Without Writing, Conversation-As-Material,’ The Creative Critic, Writing as/about Practice, eds. Katja Hilevaara and Emily Orley (Oxford: Routledge, 2018), p 50