ESR 9 Blog April 2021: Sophie Mak-Schram

Hi, it’s April and lately, I’ve been allowing myself to let my associations drift.

I feel drawn to generosity and the notion of contact. To be generous is also to be generative, and I have been reflecting on which texts, talks or practices expand beyond their own formulated theoretical boundaries, and sustain an ambiguous space in which input, revision and presence is valued.  To be generative is then, in sequence, also to instigate a relation, or form of contact perhaps. To come into contact with, to touch, to overlap through the use of terms or the sharing of space, the ways in which one (accidentally or not) engages in a dance of co-constitution.

Entangled as I am within this loose web of associations, it’s a little harder to write to you today. I am thinking about how to move more than simply fingers on a keyboard to explore this further.

I read this text in my head as I write it, and wonder if you might read it out loud too. Take it to the beach, to the birds, to the corner of your room that doesn’t get enough light for you to Zoom from it. I’ve been writing pseudo-haikus, condensing theoretical problems into phrases with archaeologies of references. It’s hard to create a shared space for us here on this collection of pixels. I am writing out the body as I read about it, haunted by things I might better be able to articulate in gesture but do not yet want to fix into words.

To raise my eyes from my navel, to find a tongue faster than my stomach. How is your dance forming your question? What do my words taste like in your mouth?

I don’t mean to be overly physical here, and even in this act of writing, find myself reconceptualising the body rather than holding space for its knowledges. There’s a phrase that echoes in my head when I think of this, a poem I have long held traces of as I write – particularly today. In T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Prufrock anxiously asks:

“And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin…how should I presume?”

This idea of being formulated, pinned down, relates to how, and why, Erin Manning, in The Politics of Touch (2007) argues for a commitment to the body in motion. Motion is a resistance to singularity, a means to evade or negate this fixing into set forms of identification. For Manning, as for Prufrock, the body needs to thought of as moving in order to engage with its fullness, its meaning is always in excess of the way it is identified in language or concept. To think with touch, and the body, is to shift from common sense and conceptual individuation, towards sense-making and an ongoing dance between subjects in formation.

Touch, and the body, need not be only thought as that which one’s body does. In a recent presentation for my colleagues at Zeppelin University, I experimented with the proximity of writerly touch; through a Google Doc, we all cut, spliced, overlaid and inserted into a text I’d written. There was a viscerality to this process, in which the blinking icon of my ‘I’ or hovering mouse collided with, cut off or joined onto the thoughts, in digital written form, of others. A digitally tactile encounter with each other’s thoughts.

And so, my request for voicing, for an ingestion of my words, for a mobile engagement with the entanglement I share with you this month. What might you misread, what affective response does my hesitation create? In The Love Song, Prufrock laments the women who come and go, speaking of Michelangelo. Their motion seems to make them ungraspable to him, but perhaps this gesture towards you, a motion of sorts, might help us both grasp something more.

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