Writing in Situ

Yesterday I went to an early evening talk at the RCA. The subject was ‘writing in situ’ and the speakers were Jane Rendell, Sally O’Reilly and Brian Dillan.

As writing within the art world is now deemed a genre of its own – the three artists/writers were asked to discuss the role of space/ spatial awareness/ setting in their published works.

Jane Rendell – architect, writer, lecturer – discussed her role as art critic, and the importance of being present in the space holding the art – before critiquing it. She encourages multidisciplinary practice, and expects her students to experiment with space/ form/ texture – when writing, and then presenting, their work.

She showed us a handful of beautiful dissertations – one embroidered around the edge of a cotton table cloth, another typed onto paper bags – illustrating the transience of London market stalls, and capturing the lingo of the stall holders.

Rendell also touched on the space between art and architecture, which is something I’m interested in – having worked alongside an architecture firm for the past year. They couldn’t ever seem to work out whether they were artists or not. I haven’t read Rendell’s publication – so can’t shed real light on her stance (the talk was brief) but from what she did say – it seemed she finds the barriers blurred. In a good way. She looks for architecture in art – and, of course, the same in reverse.

Sally O’Reilly was writer-in-residence at the White Chapel Gallery for a couple of years and was asked to talk about this experience – but decided not to. This was a shame – because although she justified her choice by describing her job as neither writer, nor particularly ‘in-residence’, it would have been very interesting to hear what the role involved.

Instead, she talked about her performance art and the broadcast she has recently been involved in: Last of the Red Wine, bringing together artists, comedians and actors to explore stereotypes within art. She showed some funny clips to illustrate how often artists are stereotyped, and mocked. And then discussed the importance of looking at what/who artists really are, what their work says about them – and about how to not necessarily invert steretypes – but to make them more accurate.

Lastly, Brian Dillon took to the stage. Dillon wrote a book in 24 hours. It was printed the next day, and reviewed on the third day. It is called I am Sitting in a Room. Rather than do the obvious thing, which would have been to write about the experience of the time contraints put upon him, and the experience of being in the room (which was actually in a gallery – very much a performance piece, as well as writing task) – he was determined to write a structured, thoughtful novel – about writers and their personal writing spaces.

Dillon referenced Dahl, Didion and others. He discussed Plato and Sophocles, and their discussions about thoughts being transcribed – and how this removes the originality and freedom of the thoughts; the inevitable contraint.

The last of the three speakers definitely caught my attention most. I loved hearing about the experience of writing a novel in 24 hours. I also loved hearing about writers and their ‘spaces’ – and the importance people place on having a room of their own. As well as those who (according to Dillon) pretend that they can write anywhere.

All in all – an interesting, enlightening talk, which, on further reflection, has left me questioning time and space – with regard to writing – in a new way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *