Response to Reading Loop, 11/5/11

I had hitherto concealed the secret of my dress, in order to distinguish myself as much as possible from that cursed race of yahoos; but now I found it in vain to do so any longer. Besides, I considered that my clothes and shoes would soon wear out, which already were in a declining condition, and must be supplied by some contrivance from the hides of yahoos or other brutes; whereby the whole secret would be known.

(Jonathan Swift, 1726)

Language can only describe the shores of our exile, and what is contained within.

Outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck… Something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion…

(Joseph Conrad)

We may, in our endless freedom, construct metaphors of escape, but whether they sink or sail is unimportant, for they do both in perpetuity. Left to stroll aimlessly, what we do not see is always a reminder of what we have seen – shades are reflections of the sun.

Home, this mystical lacking, primordial and vague, is here defined in opposition – it is a place of un-exile. Because opposites cannot be reconciled, the result, in this instance, perhaps in all, is a painful awareness of separation, a nostalgia. Preoccupation with this space between opposites is utopian thought; all utopian thought is nostalgic.

Karatani relates a practice of Zen Buddhism, in which a disciple sits before the teacher, and is presented with a number of alternatives, all of them unpleasant, from which he must choose one. The student chooses none: he walks away. Is such a thing possible in the dichotomy described above? Is the restriction of dialectic a matter of choice?

An allusion to a metaphor of escape:

What if there was more than one language? What if there was some meta-language, which is assumed not to exist because to confirm it would necessitate translation? Any description, such as this one, is another denial. To call it ‘meta-language’ is a cutesy affront; ‘passive’ or ‘existential language’ only create further binaries. ‘Aporian language’ might be better, but even this is ‘infinitely false’ (De Quincey). All allusions to its existence, like this paragraph, teeter hopelessly – mystically – into a pit, in which prowl the vague, the primordial, and other linguistic creatures.


Some thoughts on Reading Loop 11/5/11

Hondartza Fraga‘s recent video works – Bearing Elsewhere (2010) and Annorstädes (2010) – explore the journey as an endlessly repeating, perpetually unfinished and non-linear process, a thwarted movement towards an elusive elsewhere (annorstädes in Swedish), within the vast expanse of which we hope (and fail) to beat the bounds of a home. Figments of Home (2011), a black and white video work made from fragments of six films, interrogates the nostalgia which which underpins our constructions of home, staging fictions which speak to our desiring memories.

We discussed home as ‘a dangerous myth that we keep repeating but never resolve’; as ‘a myth-making gesture’ that belies our realisation that ‘we want home to be real, but it never can be’.

Exile, then: ‘both quotidian and profound’.

‘You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.’ (Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again)

Hondartza is Spanish, Basque, and has lived in England for six years. She explained how she went to Norway and felt at home there, although she does not speak the language… How, then, do we explain the equation of certain feelings with that sense of being at home? Perhaps, paradoxically, it is about being outside and looking in from afar; seeing the city from the window of an aeroplane, neat and bounded beneath you, as though caught in a snowglobe… A miniature…

This idea that in miniature, the city below looks perfect, freed from contradiction and conflict… As Bachelard states, to miniaturise is to resolve contradictions within a space…

‘In looking at a miniature, unflagging attention is required to integrate all the detail’. (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space)

‘Psychologists — and more especially philosophers — pay little attention to the play of miniature frequently introduced into fairy tales. In the eyes of the psychologist, the writer is merely amusing himself when he creates houses that can be set on a pea. But this is a basic absurdity that places the tale on a level with the merest fantasy. And fantasy precludes the writer from entering, really, into the domain of the fantastic. Indeed he himself, when he develops his facile inventions, often quite ponderously, would appear not to believe in a psychological reality that corresponds to these miniature features. He lacks that little particle of dream which could be handed on from writer to reader. To make others believe, we must believe ourselves.’ (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space)

We discussed George Szirtes’ poem, The Looking-Glass Dictionary (from The Budapest File, 2000), exploring the poem’s articulation of the resistance of language to meaning. This idea of Lacan’s of one’s homelessness in language…

‘Words withheld. Words loosed in angry swarms. / An otherness. The whole universe was / other, a sum of indeterminate forms / in motion. Who knows what the neighbour does / behind closed doors?’ (George Szirtes)

For L.P., what the neighbour does behind closed doors resumes the whole problem of language: ‘other people’s imaginative worlds are closed off to Szirtes, just as his is closed off to them’.

M.E. raised the question of exile in time… To be exiled in the time in which one lives. Is this, then, what prompts nostalgia? How – and with whom? – do we construct the home from which we are exiled, in time and in space?

Reading Loop, Wednesday May 11th, 6pm, Site Gallery

We will be reading George Szirtes’ poem, The Looking-Glass Dictionary (from The Budapest File) alongside 3 of Hondartza Fraga‘s video works.

For a copy of the text, please email

And so we escaped arm in arm through the streets, continuing our daytime conversation, roving by chance until the early hours and seeking amongst the chaotic lights and shadows of the thronging city those innumerable excitations of the spirit that peaceful study cannot offer.

(Edgar Allen Poe, Double Assassinat dans la rue Morgue, translated by Adrian Rifkin)

Hondartza Fraga

We are pleased to announce that we’re preparing a new project with Hondartza Fraga, a Sheffield-based Spanish artist.

I am a visual artist, originally from Spain, based in the UK since 2005. I keep my practice active between the cities of Santander (northern Spain) and Sheffield. The common thread running through my work is the individual and collective relation to the world around us; the different ‘distances’ between ourselves and everything else: spatial, temporal, emotional, cultural and imagined. The cultural exchange between home and homeland is implied – more or less unconsciously – in most of my work.

My work explores the relation of dependency between images, objects and the individual. I am interested in different image-making processes to explore the physical and emotional distance between opposites. I use different mediums in my practice, primarily drawing, photography and video.

My latest works revolve around the notion of loss, distance, journey and the meaning of home. In my drawing, I am interested in using souvenirs and domestic objects to force a dialogue between the domestic and the remote, suggesting narrative and contradictions between seemingly unconnected subjects.

Hondartza Fraga, 2011.

Bearing Elsewhere (still), HD video, 2010

Reading Loop returns

Reading Loop returns on Wednesday May 11th, 6pm, at Site Gallery.

The discussion will take as a starting point three video works by the artist, Hondartza Fraga, including Figments of Home.

There will also be a text for discussion, a copy of which you can obtain by sending an email to

Please remember to reserve a place, as the number of chairs available is strictly limited! If you’d like to attend, please send a message via the usual Reading Loop email address –