On the bus home after our meeting, unfurled and exhausted, I met an ex-commercial fisherman—
“to know something you have to fight it…
…To fish for albacore tuna, you stand with a rod braced against your chest and facing the sea. When a fish bites the hook it is flying through the water at 50mph using its own momentum. A practiced fisherman uses an albacore’s existing flight path (trajectory, energy source), to cajole the fish into leaping out of the sea, and into his boat with the flick of a rod. He learns this through repeated swings of his stake in the wrong direction: a fight with a 4-foot albacore is bloody and exhausting. They have sharp teeth.”
To know a fish you have to fight it, but to catch a fish you have to fly with the fish.
I’m thinking of a category of works of art that probably don’t exist, formally at least, until now – at least this is the first time I’ve mentioned them. These things have started stubbornly entering my workspace and consciousness, demanding to be considered, and I’m calling them sparagmos. The idea that sparagmos are ‘works’ needs to be reconsidered too since these are things that work in the sense that they do work on the artist/maker/(re)searcher, but they cannot be said to be work made by that individual(s) in any simple sense. Nor are they ‘readymades’ (which are always selected by somebody). Sparagmos is not. Sparagmos self-selects. Etymologically it arrives from a Dionysian rite, and from the ancient Greek meaning “to tear, to rend, to pull to pieces”. As object or noun it occupies the verb-form.
by definition Sparagmos
a) are always concrete, material things
b) cohere though an ongoing project/ obsession/ sacrifice (are never experienced as random or meaningless)
c) arrive from an unexpected and uncontrollable source
d) tend towards the perverse, paradoxical and / or funny
These are things or bits of things that find me (you) through a back door, like fish leaping onboard a fishing-boat. They could perhaps be defined as artifacts of an (onomatopoeic) unconscious, or paradoxical objects, or shrapnel. They seem to be what happens when you take a process seriously to the nth degree, so much so that it overtakes you like a leapfrog and gains its own momentum, it’s own agency, and a creative capacity that cannot be claimed as authorship in any simple sense. Sparagmos signify the liveliness of a given line of flight, and in my experience they are signs of being on the right track. They balance on the pivot between exhaustion and exuberance and arise out of the flash of coherence that arrives when ineffable, ungraspable things (objects, concepts, actors) line up for a fleeting moment to make more sense of themselves than thought could ever make of them. The energy behind these things is something like a Moire pattern.
Sparagmos are also contingent on the artist/finder/receiver being open to the thing that is at stake: the project, the work, the fish (being open, or equally being able to open, to undo, to ‘gut‘) without fixed expectations for a pre-defined outcome. Sparagmos are the product of a recursive approach to making, so much so that it is let loose and begins to take lead and can make its own difference. ‘It’ bites back. The bite is good. You cannot force it, you can’t foresee it, but you can try to catch it.