Over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with a new writing technique. In response to an invite by Rie Nakajima and David Toop to take part in an event at Café Oto called Sculpture, I thought about the process of casting – about the interchange between mould and material, the empty and the full. How could I translate it into my own writing, where the cast would be my archive, and the material would be my words generated by it?
As a prompt, I decided to collect some thoughts around a certain sculpture and the words around it. Aptly, the sculpture I chose to begin with is entitled The Inner Voice and it induced a chain of thoughts not dissimilar to those that gave shape to my book, En abîme. I chose it not only because of its title, but because it exists in repetition and change, and because it echoed the title of another work I’ve been writing about, Inner Voices, a comedy written in 1948 by Italian playwright Eduardo de Filippo, featuring an enigmatic character who, disillusioned with life, refuses to speak (‘because the world doesn’t listen to him anymore’) and only communicates with the outside world by exploding bangers and crackers (and who only speaks again soon before he dies, saying: ‘Some silence, please…’)
The Inner Voice is a sculpture from 1885 by Auguste Rodin: a body in torsion with no arms, its legs scratched off edgeless, in-between the stillness of matter and centripetal motion. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote of it: Again and again Rodin returned to this bending inward, to this intense listening to one’s own depth. Never was human body assembled to such an extent about its inner self, so bent by its own soul. Rodin himself said: My figure represents Meditation. That is why it has neither arms to act, nor legs to walk. Haven’t you noticed that reflection, when persisted in, suggests so many plausible arguments for opposite directions, that it ends in inertia? He later used the sculpture to illustrate a poem by Charles Baudelaire, Beauty: As lovely as a dream in stone, as clay eternal and as taciturn.
The arms might have been mutilated, or maybe they never were. Cast over the years in different materials, The Inner Voice is a muted reiteration. Rodin took the title from a collection of poems by Victor Hugo, who had said: The Inner Voice is the echo, certainly confused and feeble, but faithful, of that song that responds in us to the song we hear beside ourselves. I cannot quite hear the song of The Inner Voice but in half-guessed disturbances, never too far from its core, that is, never too far from the outer shell that casts one form into various materials.
For five days I have taken the inner voice as a mould, and I have cast it in a dismembered group of words, in proximity with my reading, as I learned by heart a paragraph from a new book every day, re-wrote it from memory the next day, and interpolated the missing parts with my own words – an experiment in enforced memory as it corrodes and actualises my archive, while I elicit more voices: an echo cast into shape, to fold my enchantment with words round, and back dissolving, and again.
The resulting texts raised many considerations about authenticity, the resonances built within the fabric of language, how we read and how we hear, a writing embroiled.
Plenty for the next chapter.