Below is Emily Rosamond’s review of my a-n blog Keeping Time, which she selected as an Artists Talking highlight in August 2012. The blog was written over six months to accompany my Keeping Time art writing residency at Modern Art Oxford. The review was originally published here in August 2012.

In her blog “Keeping Time” (31 January 2012), Tamarin Norwood takes note of some  initial responses to her work during her residency at Modern Art Oxford. Her close-up videos of scribbled pen lines in the process of appearing (or disappearing) on paper seemed “like liquorice,” “like stitching,” or “like a black hole” to some viewers. It’s interesting, Norwood remarks, that these initial impressions so often come in the form of similes.

Similes, of course, propose likeness – provisional identity – between disparate materials, actions and events. But in proposing likeness, they also produce an expression of radical difference. Liquorice collides with pen; in their complete disparateness,  these two material images jostle each other’s qualities loose from their situational scaffolding. Their pairing allows qualitative perceptions (sumptuous darkness, ropiness, twistedness) to take on their own life – to resonate beyond a particular context or material premise, even as they retain the combined specificity of the two contexts from which they take flight.

If I permit myself – as I often do! – to make a rather strange analogy, this function is not so different from Alain Badiou’s conception of love. Love, for Badiou, has very little to do with the construction or navigation of identity (either introspectively or between lovers). Rather, it is an encounter – and the subsequent careful cultivation – of difference: an ongoing navigation between two disparate perspectives on a world, which leads to the affirmation that we can “experience the world from the perspective of difference.”[1] Through difference, a relationship (or, more broadly, a relation) takes form, made and re-made point by point.

Henri Bergson makes wonderful use of simile as a structure for bearing radical difference. He flips through images in quick succession, simultaneously drawing from their qualitative power and revealing their inadequacy as likenesses, their inevitable erosion, their wanderings through a vast signifying chain. Describing the ever-changing experience of inner consciousness, Bergson begins by comparing it to “the unrolling of a coil,” as there is a sense in which we are using up our time as time works its way through us. Yet in another sense, he goes on to say, the experience of consciousness may equally be compared to “a continual rolling up, like that of a thread on a ball, for our past follows us, it swells incessantly with the present that it picks up on its way.”[2]

Just a few lines later, he criticizes both of these analogies, since they misleadingly imply a similarity of experience between one moment and the next. With that, he abandons the coil altogether and renders his description in several other imagined materials. In this passage Bergson demonstrates, on the one hand, the futility of coming to know an object through analytical means (against which he advocates for an intuitive leap of understanding which enters into an object rather than hovering around it, encrusting its surface with symbols). On the other hand, in producing a quick succession of analogies, he creates a space between representations, which allows another sort of landing site for understanding to take shape.

In her blog “Doing Words with Things,” Norwood has her own coils to contend with. She presents notes, source material and videotaped rehearsals for a performance in which she manipulates wire in response to instructions (or are they descriptions?) rendered in British Sign Language by her fellow performer Alex Nowak. As Nowak signs, Norwood slowly unwinds wire from its coils, bending and shaping as she goes. Sometimes, her gestures mimic his; at other times, the connection between them seems more tenuous, passing through many different relational modes.

This piece invites us to contemplate the ever-changing distributions of discursivity and expressivity in an ongoing encounter. The wire provides a record of sorts for this. Suspended between language and gesture, letter and line, it concretizes – for a while – the ongoing construction of a world view from the perspective of difference. But like Bergson’s coils, Norwood’s wires won’t stay put. They don’t passively “contain” this hermeneutic; they also shake it loose from its own bearings. Maybe, to attempt to describe this, I’ll have to come up with another simile. The wire mass is like a strangely-manufactured tuning fork, through which the airborne charge of radical difference lurches in and out of focus.

[1] Alain Badiou with Nicolas Truong,In Praise of Love,trans. Peter Bush (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2012): 17.

[2] Henri Bergson,Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. T.E. Hulme (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1999): 25-26.

Tamarin Norwood is an artist and writer living in London. You can view her blogs on Artists talking here:
All These Lines
What the Matter Is
Doing Words with Things
Keeping Time

Emily Rosamond is a Canadian artist, writer and teacher living in London. You can view her website here:
www.erosamon.com

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