Sparagmos (art)

Deer Decoy Wren House by Mike (Iowa)

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.


socks + flappers

inside spread.jpg

decoy spread (Phoenix Court, York St Johns University)

test flight, 16.07.16, Fitzroy allotments

'real parakeets'.jpg



CA CA (“you be good, I love you”)

have washed in sunlight and taken the gold

found things: gold chain / green ring-necked parakeet feather, Hackney/ Hampstead Heath June 2016 

‘The Smokers’, wrote John Shaw Neilson, with reference to the Regent parrot, ‘have washed in the sunlight/ And taken the gold.’


If, after this someone still wants to know what the ‘pure word’ is that stands at the threshold of language, the answer is by now surely obvious. It’s the parrot’s own squawked ca-ca – Italian baby talk for ‘poo’. Only a Freudian would say this is shit. Ka may be the first word in Hindu mythology, but in the history of the New World, it is the ca-ca, the ironic repetition of the should, that signifies, the same sound parodied (parroted?) in Guacamayo’s own name […] in treating the Taino as human parrots, ideally suited for enslavement and conversion, Columbus and his successors ‘parrot[ed] their own fantasies of native intentionality’.  If my speculation, that such communication as occurred took the form of echoic mimicry improvised around the syllable ‘ca’ (hence canoe, cannibal, Caribbean, etc.), then it seems that Wallace Stevens’s Crispin was not far wrong: in future, history, as well as poetry, would be composed of ‘parrot-squawks’.

‘parrot’,  Paul Carter 

green feather

“A human researcher named Irene Pepperberg spent thirty years studying Alex. She found that not only did Alex know the words for shapes and colors, he actually understood the concepts of shape and color.

Many scientists were skeptical that a bird could grasp abstract concepts. Humans like to think they’re unique. But eventually Pepperberg convinced them that Alex wasn’t just repeating words,that he understood what he was saying.

Out of all my cousins, Alex was the one who came closest to being taken seriously as a communication partner by humans.

Alex died suddenly, when he was still relatively young. The evening before he died, Alex said to Pepperberg, “You be good. love you.”

Gobbles Sound OK



Panel with Kevin Logan and Richey Cary at audibleVISIONS, Goldsmiths 


Gobbles Sound Ok

The real skill of the practitioner lies not in skilled concealment but in the skilled revelation of skilled concealment…

For hundreds of years philosophers and artists have lamented their incapacity to adequately copy ‘nature’, with frustrated attempts at representation only serving to accelerate the increasing fissure between polarized worlds of human and animal. On the other hand hunters and trappers use finely-tuned strategies for aesthetic and audio mimesis: decoy calls and Foley performances draw a hunter into intimate proximity with his/her prey.

‘Gobbles Sound Ok’ explores the critical difference between these contrasting approaches to discourse with and around the natural world. Via Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages, Dijkstra’s theory of image substitution and online hunting instructables, Gobbles Sound OK investigates the production and performance of sonic decoys and hunting lures as multi-sensory, multi-species ‘artworks’ that utilize difference to undermine the boundary between human and animal.

smaller hooks for plants (4)


4. (again). I shouldn’t have, I did, I know I shouldn’t, I still do. I’m feeding you. You might be eating me, a bit. You don’t want to but you also do. You can’t quite bite but you almost can, it’s so much safer this way. It’s So Much Safer. I can breathe even though I’m feeding you my oxygen. I can put my finger in your mouth. I’m collecting you rain water, you’re drinking my fluids, there’s pressure and release. I want to take you to the countryside but you’re too carnivorous. You want to be in my bedroom where there’s flies.