APOLOGIA: Administration is just Oulipian poetry

One of the passing ideas for this show was to cut letters out of the wall. R A T E S would be rearranged on the mobile to spell T E A R S.

I was thinking about the administration, caretaking and maintenance of the building itself, and its heaving duty to fulfill a set of institutional expectations. From the new urban garden to the South of the building you can look squarely at the tiny details above the windows on its façade. They celebrate some kind of scholarly connection to the Renaissance that is indeterminable to most people, including myself. From inside the vast West End gallery, these windows look over the city. New developments in recent years have made the skyline of Perth’s Central Business District marginally more interesting, and whilst leaning on the windowsill, it is a view that I have often enjoyed more than the exhibitions themselves. Not because the art is not good, however, but the reprieve from it offers a moment of clarity and perspective that the hermetic environment of an exhibition often doesn’t. Maybe, like in an old Dan Graham work, the view reminds me of my body in relation to the known universe.1 Maybe the clarity comes from the understanding that meaning has escaped me, because the implied violence of all that steel and glass in the distance is more confusing than art ever could be.

“Money and language have something in common: they are nothing and they move everything. They are nothing but symbols, conventions, flatus vocis, but they have the power of persuading human beings to act, to work, to transform physical things.”2

Administration in life and art is something that increases exponentially. Modern culture has equated economic expansion with futurity, which is a burden on both the individual - who is forced to work harder and faster, and the future - because capitalism is so embedded in every physical and imaginary dimension of the world that it’s dismantling might lead to the end of civilization itself.3 In non-fiscal terms what one has inherited from family, culture, and any other implied history is a debt that one has to escape.

Governmental administrations co-opt creative energies to stimulate the economy. This is no secret. Through the holes in the walls of the gallery we see the new State Theatre that will undoubtedly stimulate West Australia’s tourism, and contributes to an increasingly gentrified Northbridge. Local galleries such as the late Galleria, OK Gallery in Northbridge, and even PICA have the potential to self-immolate, and operate in a state of precarity and psychic fragility as their creative efforts drive up real-estate prices, and the standard of living.

Artists are at the service of clear, and more frighteningly, ambiguous forces that direct the way in which we work. Out of despair, I have come up with a process to subvert the authority that the paperwork yielded from creative processes, health, automotive, income and tax, have over my life. When I am sitting at my desk, filling out forms, applying for funding, paying bills, pitching writing assignments and replying to emails, I let the process engulf me so wholly to the point where I can step in and out of it. Filling out, replying, and pitching becomes a mathematical automated process, and there is pleasure in that blankness. I clinically wash myself in an Ocean of language that is nothing. The document is now a feeling. It becomes a form of rule-based poetry. In that moment I am no longer working for whoever I am sending the document to.

How many times has your boss or client asked you to do something that you don’t want to do, yet you have responded with gratitude? Over email: Of course, thank you, I really appreciate it. Here language is not only nothing, but it supports a hierarchy and is used for leverage. It is a symptom of contemporary cynicism, where what we purvey is so far removed from our original thoughts or impulses. It’s a simple matter of connecting the dots between that hierarchy, and systems of oppression.

Eventually I decided that the shapes in the walls had to be non-descript so that they would not flatter the “phallocentric nature of language”4 and the hierarchy that it permits. In meaninglessness is slowness, exhaustion, and disobedience. That the mobile is in the room is a consequence of an administrative process wherein I performed a series of Oulipian poems. When Andrew Varano5 and I cut the shapes, we were administrators of form.6 Not the owners, etc.7


  1. Dan Graham
    March 31, 1966 [1970]
    1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00000000 miles to edge of known universe
    100,000,000,000,000,000,000.00000000 miles to edge of galaxy (Milky Way)
    3, 573,000,000.00000000 miles to edge of solar system (Pluto)
    205.00000000 miles to Washington, DC.
    2.85000000 miles to Times Square, New York City
    .38600000 miles to Union Square subway stop
    .11820000 miles to corner 14th St. and First Ave.
    .00367000 miles to front door, Apart. 1, 153 1st Ave.
    .00021600 miles to typewriter paper page
    .00000700 miles to lens of glasses
    .00000098 miles to cornea from retinal wall
  2. Berardi, Franco “Bifo.” “The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance.” Semiotexte, Los Angeles, 2012, p.134
  3. ibid, p.78
  4. Wallis, Pip. “Loosely Speaking” Exhibition text. Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, 2013.
  5. Anything on this scale is a collaboration, thanks for your help.
  6. Strau, Josef. “mr. knife & mrs. fork.” On Henrik Olesen. Walther Koenig, Cologne. 2012.
  7. On the internet and in magazines, Alex Vivian composes concrete poetry that sits somewhere between titles for artworks, storyboards for advertisements, and scripts for pungent fantasies that often end in “etc.” This premature end to the various storylines suggest that the artist or protagonist is at the point of lazy pleasure that would be frustrating to return from and impossible to continue articulating.