Monday 1 December 2014

Cory Arcangel - Working On My Novel

I think that even when I am not actively writing, I am working on my novel. Having read Cory Arcangel’s book titled Working On My Novel, I was informed or perhaps reminded rather of the mass of people who are constantly writing, who need to write and who at any given moment may be working on their novel. Just as in this book, Arcangel’s larger artistic practice is Internet-based. This project can be read as appropriating a Duchampian tradition by way of repurposing found objects to be qualified as art. And yet, Arcangel’s found materials are not objects at all but are instead tweets, personal sentiments, and utterances describing brief moments, feelings or occurrences with regard to writing.

By collecting these phrases, all of which include the words “working on my novel”, Arcangel collects people and forms a community whereby the testaments of people working on their novel interact with one another in such a way that the assemblage forms a narrative. There is almost a sense that there exists a single protagonist working on his or her novel over the course of some time, at once inspired and encouraged and at other times lethargic, disappointed or merely in a state of procrastination. Despite this, Arcangel does not wish to merge these writers stuffing them into one manufactured character. He includes with every quite the name of the tweeting author, the exact time of the posted tweet and the precise date during the year 2012. Is Cory Arcangel writing a novel?

Placed sporadically throughout the book are pages with line drawings of a stove kettle, each picture drawn from a unique angle. The altering angles have a temporal quality whereby not only is the viewer moving around the kettle as object but we become aware of the kettle as a mercurial thing in and of itself. It becomes hot, comes to a boil, and then begins to shriek on the top of its lungs until it is removed from the fire and let to cool anew. I began to consider that this is not dissimilar to the ways in which one experiences the process of writing a novel. At times you are hot, you are smoking, you are so fucking on fire that your hand cannot keep up with your head. You are unstoppable. You are a genius. And there are also those other times. There are those times you cannot bear to even think about working on your novel, times you spend hours and hours staring into blankness (be it paper or screen) only to change one word and then change is back again. There are those times you feel your mind is so empty, so banal, how dare you call yourself a writer.

It is all part of the unavoidable highs and lows of accessing one’s creativity in a way that is brave enough to actualize something real. In the end, we are all really just kettles getting hot and cold about life and words over and over again.

A tweet collected by Cory Arcangel:

“I’m working on my novel again, and it feels good, you guys. I love my mind.

Stephen Mangol – 11:44 PM, 23 Sep 2012.”

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