10.3 Acknowledging (pt 2 of 4)

Koestler (1964: 173) explains that words crystallise thoughts by making precise the vague images, and articulating intuition. Likewise, the painter Malevich (Drutt, 2003: 34) asserts that ‘the pen is sharper’ than the brush, and that by writing with the pen it can ‘…obtain the turns of the mind’. Since words are tools of expression I have tried to crystallise the act of words themselves, in the form of a coin, producing something ‘made’ of a word and that could be held and seen by audiences. My feelings, as Kapoor (Kapoor, Bhabha & Tazzi, 1998: 11) explained above, are that artists should make the tools of expression visible, not necessarily say something new.

For Rudolf Steiner, the attempt to visualise the act of a word may be seen as altogether unnecessary, since words are seen by him as an integral part of one’s own body. Steiner (1972: 10) argues that the use of words is so inherent that it operates with the orientation of the body in space. Speaking, Steiner says, is the outcome of walking, where forces of movement are carried to the head structure. As such, walking turns to speaking, and speech becomes one’s orientation in space. Steiner wishes to assert the importance of the inherent tools of speaking through words and thinking in words. Perhaps for that reason, Yeats (1966: 99) states that words spoken with intensity in public turn powerful, becoming more than the mere verses. It could be argued that Yeats acknowledged Steiner’s argument that an intensified and authentic speech produces an expression of the true self of the person, which Yeats calls ‘more than the mere verses’.

I have sensed Yeats’ ‘more than the mere verses’ throughout my performances, poetry readings, and paper presentations where a feeling of inner power was welling up within me while giving my talks or readings. This creative power helped me to speak in front of many varied audiences, in a clear strong voice. In times, my sentences may have been far from perfect, yet the voice was always strong, delivering the inner essence if not the ‘outer’ essence (the meanings of the words said.) This was evident in one conference presentation which was made into the video Trembling Words (2006). The content of my presentation was accepted by half the audience but rejected by the other half. Likewise was the feedback in regards the way in which I combined the ‘normal academic’ presentation format with some artistic presentation or performance. Yet, the intensity seemed to express itself and externalise the inner voice, which was credited by all the audience.

Following this I have noted that people do not listen only to the content of words but also to the energy behind it. Critic and artist Robert Morris (1989: 339) observes that a word in a text ‘…works by gaps and discontinuities,’ where one word means something else compared to the next word, and as such ‘language shows only differences’. Borrowing this idea for art I would suggest that if one looks at a painting one observes a complete picture with forms and shapes, but reading a text one observes the white gaps between the black words. Each word in that way can be seen as a separate island. The Dada art movement discussed at length its belief that each word contains a few meanings, not a single meaning.

However, Skelton does not focus on the discontinuity or the several meanings of each word. Instead, Skelton (1978: 13) focuses on the context, believing that the appearance of words on the page actually produces their meanings through the reference. A word appearing next to a word, Skelton explains, can determine the quality of the word. He summarises by saying that people do not accept a single meaning as a basis for words, but rather they allow meanings to be enriched by their context.

Artist Ken Devine (the person was interviewed, see intervie win appendix. See appendix, PhD Art Design and Media, Gil Dekel paras. 13-15) discusses the multiple meanings of words, saying:

‘…behind the ‘simple’ things that people say lie complex relations that they have with life, and they use language to convey that. Language is illogical… [it] is saying something which is partly true and partly false. Rarely can you say a complete truth…’

Devine (para. 24) refers to points of view, suggesting that we create meanings depending on context, ‘Whether something is true or false, that is a matter of position, a point from which we see it’. The complexity of words and the inherent energy which they contain is described by TS Eliot (1970: 30): ‘Words are best when they say things we no longer need to say’. Following Eliot’s assertion, and borrowing from Non-objective art, we may speak of ‘Non-objective language’. I see Non-objective language as an art form where words are stripped of representation. In one respect words already have a side to them where they are stripped of their representative meanings, and seem to have a visual shape: words that are printed on a page become ‘a shape on the page’, as Wilmer (the person was interviewed, see intervie win appendix. See appendix, PhD Art Design and Media, Gil Dekel para. 38) notes. Likewise, concrete poetry tries to create a shape using the printed words on the page. The Italian Futurism art movement in the early 20th century is known for its use of layout of ‘bursting’ shapes of words across the page – words becoming an image.

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