Editors’ note Francesca Brooks, Editor in Chief Editorial Team: Fran Allfrey, Thalia Allington-Wood, James Fisher, Amy Lidster, James Morland, and Charlotte Rudman There are perfect research moments when we feel the resonance of Italo Calvino’s maxim that ‘reading means approaching something that is just coming into being.’ In these still points of thoughts coalescing, emerging laterally from the words of others, we sink into a feverish kind of reading in which we feel the approach of a revelation — the sense that something is finally taking shape. In the notebook beside us we scrawl these rapid-fire ideas in shorthand: trying to fix a thought, and yet capture its energy. When you sit down to write your next chapter, or paper, the words you commit to the page will be more concrete, precise, and diligently referenced than the freeform fall through language you tried to convey in your notebook. Yet something is lost. Typing-up demands a return to linear thought, in which spidery arrows and colour-coded ideas must be flattened, made monochrome. In this issue, The Researcher’s Notebook, we hope we have created a space to celebrate the beauty and complexity of the idea that is just coming into being. The issue is designed to read like a collaborative researcher’s notebook and in this sense it is a provocation, as much as it is an
www.thestillpointjournal.com email@example.com @stillpointldn /stillpointldn edited collection. From field notes, essay-poems and doodles in distracted creativity, to family archives, and acts of emotional archaeology, the pieces in The Researcher’s Notebook are testament to the creative energy the research process is fuelled by and, in turn, inspires. This is the last issue that the current editorial team will put together, and as we hand over The Still Point we’d like to say what a privilege and a pleasure it has been — thank you to everyone who has generously shared their work in print and on our blog. We hope you enjoy Issue II as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.
The Still Point Journal Issue II: The Researcher’s Notebook 02/ Small Loss of Every Softness Penny Newell 04/ Untitled Daniyal Farhani 06/ Cocteau’s Chapel Isobel Atacus 08/ Picasso’s Notebook Annegret Marten 12/ The Writing of It Romola Nuttall 14/ From The Book of Improbable Architectures: A Self-quest in Distracted Creativity Bihter Almaç 20/ The Conservator Lavinia Singer 22/ A Book of Memories (The Amnesiac’s Book) Leonid Bilmes 26/ Armenian Traces in a Family Archive: Researching through Art-Practice Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari 32/ A Time to Pretend Oline Eaton 34/ Field Notes Liz Bahs 36/ Emotional Archaeology Chiara Raffaella Ciampa 38/ Untitled Charlotte Northall 42/ The Story of Robot M Tianmei Chen
And when you are out of the room making your huge coffee doing your hair or something. I take your make-up brush I run it across my face I dust stuff. I exhale. I inhale.
‘Wait there,’ and I write the words small softness in my notebook ‘just breathe this perfectly smelling thing,’ I say. * Listen to Joni Mitchell and the soundtrack from Juno take long breaks from draft emails to universities galleries homestays on the WEST to stare at the jars in the abyss of the fridge hate my sister for her pickling of things compose a terse sanctuary in verse, a real achievement on the preserving of figs. turn every lovely photo every lovely photo every lovely photo there is nothing in tomorrow for I give all days to this * It is not that the sky beyond the window of the train that that sky is actually naturally bleak ever. What is that? Where would be the bleak in nature? Just the trees are helpless
fingerprints along the horizon. fuck this. then, fuck writing poems The woman across from me is sleeping. She used to be my sweetheart. She used to be my best friend. I am in love with this stranger. I wonder if I tell her I am about to Ophelia myself right here whether maybe she could halve me her Roast Chicken sandwich, agree to kick me lightly take me back and let me sip her simply roll her coffee awful eyes at me * Spring continues. The past perfect Summer flattens. And now this looking at my fingers. Just that when we finally collide you say vague things about life being in passing wrapped up in cling-film and it echoes in my own petulance. I must leave this city. This tragedy of particulars. Our cling-film visions unjoin their similar distants. And so I give it all to my notebook all scent, all exactness. all excellence the small of every softness, gone
Co cte a u ’ s Ch a p e l Written by Isobel Atacus
Illustration by Rebecca Healey
he Chapelle-de-Notre-Dame-deJérusalem, built for the Tour de Mare district on the outskirts of Fréjus between 1961 and 1963, is the final piece of work designed by Jean Cocteau before his death in 1963 (before the chapel could be completed). The chapel presents an unimposing sight; a small, single storey octagonal building, surrounded by columns, set amongst trees, away from the road. Its opening hours are random, the bus stop obscured by foliage. The interior of the chapel, however, contrasts starkly with its isolated setting. Murals cover the walls in the light, pastel shades and sketched lines that epitomise Cocteau’s style. Depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ, these murals extend from the ground to the central, circular skylight. The floor tiles are an electric blue, and the windows filled with bright stained glass. Around the back of the chapel are a number of mosaics, dated and signed (in stone) by the artist. Entering the chapel, the viewer’s gaze is immediately – and forcefully – drawn in various directions at once; up to the skylight (which provides the only non-filtered light to the room), and the celestial bodies that tumble from
the window down the walls; to the red-tiled Jerusalem Cross on the floor; to various points on the walls, where bodies of ranging size merge with other seemingly random images; most notably a rose situated next to the cross and, above the window facing the main door, a crest. These murals bring to the fore instances of simultaneity. Although the viewer’s eyes are drawn along the walls via the fluid lines and interweaving figures, the muted palette employed produces a (somewhat contradictory) restful quality in the space. The images somehow stand out from — whilst settling into — the background hue. The deliberate use of blank space prevents a sense of overcrowding. For the viewing subject pausing for a moment in the centre, the space feels self contained, the images creating a sense of circularity, the chapel relying on the natural light emanating from the skylight, and filtered through the stained glass. The images appear both incomplete and meticulously planned: space is left intentionally blank, outlines remain un-shaded. There is clear ambivalence at play within the subject of the murals. Each scene from the Passion is depicted, yet the images of Christ contain a distinctive unfinished quality, appearing almost as if sketched onto the wall. The artist places himself at the centre of this sequence, at the table of the Last Supper, as if to challenge it from within. Moreover, recognisable figures from his social circle are included in this challenge: the profiles of Jean Marais and Maria Casares are clearly discernible alongside Cocteau’s own at the table. At first glance, then, the murals contribute to the construction of a religious space, seemingly adhering to a long tradition
of iconographic art, possibly fitting in with the more contemporary, modernist turn towards making art for religious spaces in post-war France (Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence is not far away). Yet closer examination of the images themselves undermines any unambiguous commitment to this. This is echoed, moreover, via the arrangement of the space itself; it is empty of seating, the altar appears less as a feature in the room than an obstruction to a clear view of the murals. There is something that puzzles in the chapel space, a cognitive frustration that the work presents in a very deliberate way, one that obscures an ability to be simply moved in either religious or artistic terms. In effect the chapel foregrounds ambiguity. It posits a kind of enigma without a code. Standing alone in the space I felt moved in literal terms, compelled to orient my body in different directions and angles to get a closer look at the images. As an experience it was disorientating, and seemed to require a different kind of engagement. Euro coin flip change, clammy hand, here; flat to lined, short exchange, door closes: outside rendered in. Octagonal walls, mosaic tiles in autographed exterior strangely mirrored, smoothed inside. A circle. Light streaming, ceiling, colours glinting through stained glass gaudy windows, numbered three. Pastel shades their lines and sketches surface barbed, bubbling nineties pop dream (forty years too early). Stand. Smooth blue-tiled cold, gleaming, cold floor left bare uncovered by the usual ornamentation, isolation hinted by sheer lack of chairs (distinctly plural). Only chance to sit, just round on other side, red, faux velvet plush beside the altar covered laminate and pamphlets on a rack. Like curator’s chair in chapel all this sheer incongruity, brought to fore and really why and is this space supposed to represent? (what) Brow raised, eyes bouncing up, beside, around, darting legs arms faces all in differing sizes strange and / garish / planned / spontaneous and joyous confused state. Jubilant. In grey shorts turquoise t-shirt sandals firmly planted looking up…struck bewildering crest.
Her eyes trace one line then another tumbling forms and JC’s face upon the wall. Reflecting on the trees outside the heat of day, its coolness both in temperate and: aloof regard Last Supper JM also sits there, (MC too?) looking down, amused – muse / musing / bemusing affectation somehow seems intended, fine. Absence rendered presence? Christ’s face fades into the walls, as if only half committed here, anxious to depart, don’t touch; impossible to number stations, know just where to start just move and from the top of room glares against this bulging sun: cascading forms, such beauty in male body, filling space and layered and gleeful and confusing and (The) Space perplexes, taunts obscurely, and she moves around and crouches and now stops before this rose – cum – face so large and…wants it stamped on arm as sign that she was really there. It looks at her and she looks back, both with half-expression only really half-there at all. Somehow moved in way that is not articulate, able, sentiment but other, pacing round and round this hallowed hall, deserted mausoleum, almost, with its visitors’ book balanced on the altar’s stone, no pen, and is this consecrated ground? to think of other footsteps and dead hands painted, construct, signed, departed.
by Annegret Marten
I felt the urge to sketch down a striking painting in my notebook. At the time I was not sure what exactly drew me to Picasso’s 1903 ‘Portrait of Sebastián Junñer Vidal’ from his Blue Period. I remember thinking that Sebastián’s face, despite the cold and gloomy tone, looked fairly naturalistic and not at all what I would have expected of Picasso. The man in the painting leans forward and the shining outlines of his head seem as if he was trying to press through an invisible screen; almost as if he is straining to escape the picture. Had he done so, he would have left behind his sole female companion. As a cultural studies researcher I work with texts and films, but the vocabulary to engage with paintings still often eludes me. Similarly, establishing a new language for my own research means to be in a mode of constant discovery. Once a corner of the puzzle is assembled, a new picture emerges that forces me to use a different angle for a problem I thought I had already solved. This can feel as if I am constantly playing catch-up with my own ideas. Sometimes, days filled with doubts and ‘shoulds’ change to bouts of confidence. But more often than not, it is the other way round. Insecurities about methodology or time management are only matched by the feeling of frustration about how slow the research progress itself unfolds. These ‘shoulds’, instead of productively driving progress, can stifle ideas and are indicative of the urge to know answers without really having engaged in the process that will allow me to ask better questions.
When I think of the painting today it is the woman next to Sebastián that I remember most vividly. Her face is distant, much less human with large and disproportionate eyes. Picasso placed her in the background and I did not pay much attention to her at the time, and when I doodled the picture I was only interested in the male face. Looking back at the notebook, I can now see that I scribbled down some notes on the lady — that she is ‘ghost-like’ and has ‘less real features’. What I identified in my haste as a golden earring in my notes, is actually a flower. Quite simply, I did not know what to make of her and so I tried to ignore her. Before these glum ghosts had intruded on me and my notebook, I had not been aware of how much ‘not being quite there yet’ has its place in the research process. The unnerving niggles of uncertainty are as important to my work as conscious and carefully planned decisions. They help develop my argumentative craft and allow me to gain confidence in my own writing. Later I came across another Picasso. This time it was the non-naturalistic, distorted Picasso I thought I had known so well. ‘Tête d’homme 5’ is a portrait of only a man’s head. Despite being painted sixty-three years later, he is just like Sebastián, with wild curls and sporting a proud moustache. It now seems to me that the early female, apparently so carelessly pushed to the side by the artist (and this scribbling observer) has turned into an invisible revenant. The distortion which the early Picasso had deflected away from the main subject onto her sidelined face was now utterly unrestrained; the initial alienating kernel in that pale face has found manifestation in the features of the main subject. Picasso has shown me that originality will rear its head at precisely the right time and that my only job is to notice and then clarify it. This pair of bookends are now linked in my head, and as I flick through my notebook their proximity on the page helps me understand the importance of not yet being quite where I feel I should be, but where I will be.
Written by Romola Nuttall Illustrations by Ruth Tullis
elcome to my essay-poem. I have never written one before but like any essay (from the French essayer, ‘to try’) it is an attempt, an attempt to express ideas and explain them with coherence and clarity. Here, I will explore the experience of academic writing. My discussion is intended for readers who are familiar with this process, readers who are also writers, and readers who are simply readers. My aim is to playfully use the essay form to suggest that academic writing is, in its own way, as creative and imaginative a process as the writing of poetry or fiction.
barely lift them, my arms buckle under the awkward weight of my awkward ideas, crushing me every time. How can I move them to the right place, or even just out of the way of all the other blocks, which keep on appearing at the top of the screen, and which keep on coming down? For what feels like forever, all that the dull screen offers me are the wrong blocks: nothing fits, no set of ideas combines in a coherent shape. I am being squashed under the weight of all those leaden writer’s blocks.1 I am breaking. I need a break.
There, there it is. My introduction, the above. I love writing introductions, framing the object in a few pithy sentences, making the whole thing ready and ripe to open, like unpeeling a perfect clementine – the release of pressure, the slight puff and spray of air, revealing the pattern of its segments. Indeed, when writing an essay, as with eating a clementine, the contents have to be organised into segments, otherwise the unpeeling would reveal only mush. The process of segmentation is called planning, it’s the old GCSE revision classic, ‘bite-size chunks,’ for how else will the reader go about consuming the contents? It is just now, in the process of thinking through the opening of my essay-poem that this set of images, this new metaphor of the clementine has come to me, as tangible as the fruit itself. Today is a good day for my writing. It isn’t always like this. Not all clementines are easy peelers, and not all my writing days are encased in their orange brightness. I have some days, weeks even, when all is grey, the grey of an old Gameboy screen; I become trapped inside, playing Tetris with giant blocks of lead. I can
A line break? A paragraph break. No. Bigger … I’m going for a walk. In the park, my feet follow the footsteps of the paths, the criss-cross contours of bordered land, the snakes and ladders, the downs and ups of tarmac lines and grassy hills. My eyes take in the freshness of the outside world – my faith in repetition is restored (again). The hard drive of the academic mind reboots, kicking up the pixels of my internal screen into teasing puzzles, tessellating thoughts, which wait at home on the real screen to be revisited and revised. How long do I wait and walk, and write and walk, and wait again, before I convince myself that I understand the shape of my ideas? How many wrong words do I have to write before the right ones form and perform properly? I wait for the days when the internal screen becomes a vortex made of what look like dartboards, overlaid and overlaid all the way down, their segmental divisions revolving  A footnote. To continue down this path is very dark, and quite contrived, which is why I did not include it in the main body of the text. Writer’s block becomes an executioner’s block, to which writers must submit their necks at the dead end of yet another fruitless day. Unproductive thought is my conclusion here, but metaphorically it is helpful for expressing the Promethean-pain of the (academic) writer.
continually at dizzyingly different speeds. These are the ideas that the essay needs to marshal into neat sectors, but the vortex whirs and it whirs and you wonder till your mind aches how you will ever get all the dartboards to be in sync. Then, something happens in a recess of your brain; you have a thought that makes everything interlock; every line of every layered dartboard aligns and rotates in peaceful concentricity. It’s like looking into a wishing well, the penny has finally dropped, and you can see all the way down. That is a very good day. They are rare. Most of the time I feel that the scale of what the essay is becoming cannot be contained; it’s not unpeeling a clementine, it’s growing an orchard of them. But how? You know nothing Jon Snow. But then, the excitement of new knowledge, and the effort of its containment, is precisely the excitement of those whirring-dartboard-vortex-days. I am in a new game, one in which a stream of consciousness generates innumerable fairground ducks – the type with rings that you can hook – and the object is to hook only the right ones. A lot of the time I like this fishing game. It’s fun, it can be a luxury, an indulgence even, a time of productive concentration in the focussed choosing of each passing hook correctly, then the thrill of the catch. Sometimes the fairground dissolves into a pool of fresh water that mediates new thought, ripples expanding over its surface. A game-changer. No more plastic ducks. Move onto bigger fish in the rivers of broad
ideas. There are days when I hook more fish than I know what to do with, and days when I catch nothing at all. I wait. I put out my line and the bait bumps blindly against the bottom. I am fishing in the wrong waters with the wrong hook. I grow impatient. I need a new perch, a new post, I fumble around the overgrown banks of research databases, hoping for a suitable position from which to cast my line in the correct style. After the mind games and the mind maps, the unpicking of puzzles, the slotting of segments, the immeasurable difference made by a semicolon or a new paragraph in just the right place, after visions and revisions, which a morning, evening, afternoon, or sometimes, just a minute, would reverse, I feel like a sculptor carving a Christmas tree of ice, taller than the topmost tower, taller than the Shard; so tall that I have to climb up a swaying ladder in the sky to get there. As I get nearer the top of my tree I am more ruthless, I hack away more and more, sending so many bright shards of thought down into the distance of the cutting floor, away from my shining pinnacle. I look up, to find the screen lined with words I have written across it like rungs. This is the end of this attempt, this essay, but at the end of its pages, it feels like more than just words: laid out in the shapes of games that helped the mind produce and harvest food for thought. The pages we write on are mountains of epic proportion and the lines that can be carved down their white surfaces can be perfect and parallel, if we try. We’ve all been there – up one ladder or another.
by Bihter Almaรง 14
 Laing, R. D. (1990) The Divided Self An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (London: Penguin Books), p. 78.
 Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1987) ‘One or Several Wolves?’, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. By B. Massumi, (New York: Continuum Books), p. 29.  <http://www.merriam-webster.com/ dictionary/ephemeral> [accessed 12 November 2014]
 Kafka, F. (2006) The Zürau, Aphorisms, trans. By M. Hofmann, G. Brock, (New York: Schocken Books).
 Kafka, F. (1995) ‘Description of a Struggle’, The Complete Stories, ed. N. N. Glaztzer, (New York: Schochken Books).
 Breton, A. (1924) Manifesto of Surrealism, < http://www.tcf.ua.edu/ Classes/Jbutler/T340/SurManifesto/ ManifestoOfSurrealism.htm> [accessed 14 November 2014]
 Derrida, J. (1978) ‘Cogito and the History of Madness’, in Writing and Difference, trans. by Alan Bass (Chicago: the University of Chicago Press), pp. 65-66. <http://www.merriam-webster. com/dictionary/frivolous> [accessed 12 November 2014]
 Ronell, A. (2002) Stupidity, Chicago: University of Illinois Press), pp.10-11.
 Kwinter, S. (2001) Architectures of Time Toward a Theory of the Event in Modernist Culture, (Massachusetts: MIT Press), pp. 24 -25.
 Kafka, F. (1995) ‘Description of a Struggle’, The Complete Stories, ed. N. N. Glaztzer, (New York: Schochken Books).
 Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. By B. Massumi, (New York: Continuum Books), p.3.
 Dostoyevsky, F. M. ‘The possessed’ in Tarkovsky, A. (2003) ‘Imprinted Time’, in Sculpting in Time: Tarkovsky The Great Russian Filmaker Discusses His Art, trans. By K. Hunter - Blair, (University of Texas Press)  Tarkovsky, A. (2003) ‘Imprinted Time’, in Sculpting in Time: Tarkovsky The Great Russian Filmaker Discusses His Art, trans. By K. Hunter - Blair, (University of Texas Press), p. 57.
 Tarkovsky, A. (1979) ‘Stalker’, The Movie 163 min., directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, (Russia).
The Conservator by Lav inia Singer
Be it understood, then, that I am writing about things which I have neither seen nor had to do with nor learned from others—which, in fact, do not exist at all and, in the nature of things, cannot exist. Therefore, my readers should on no account believe in them. —Lucian of Samosata, A True Story
For days I’ve worked on this page. Wind loose through window cracks, attendant bone-chill and weather shivers. The more one looks, the less it appears— surface dissolves like a desert mirage, breath on glass, some shadow sense. Trained in standard damage detection: infestations, wormholes, inactive spores, wrinkling, soiling, splits and tears, embedded dirt, dust, fingerprints &c. O the immeasurable examples of human carelessness! Yet this ‘loss’ is—extraordinary. The paper coruscates unnaturally, clearest when considered askance, harbouring such ghostly impressions. Its script is steeped in ambiguity, marks marooned from meaning . . .
Four gates. Tall walls. A river spilling from two sources. These I can see and can name. But some trick of the light, or fatigueâ€™s feigning conjures strange vegetation and circling wings, a carnival of characters â€ŻI remember those faces! teasing fountains hot wild regalia red, red and blue an oracle professing, the racket! of thunderclaps â€”but nonsense. Touch this paper, true and real and other. Materials must be maintained, the page clarified, quieted dreams.
Written by Leonid Bilmes. Illustration by Stuart Ruel.
In a quiet German village, as the sun was setting in a purple sky, an old man sat at his desk before a vermillion-bound manuscript. The old man had suffered a long period of illness, which led to complete amnesia. His body eventually recovered, but his memory failed to return. Although he could speak and understand everything that was said to him, all foundation of previous experience was missing: his mind devolved to a tabula rasa. Some days before, just before noon, a small carriage had stopped at his home. A small man with a pipe tucked away in the corner of his mouth greeted the old man and presented him with this vermillion-bound book. The old man did not recognise the little stranger in his billow of blue smoke. But the stranger addressed our man by his name – or at least by the name that others had assured him was his own. Then the stranger climbed back into the driver’s seat of his carriage and drove off in a swirl of dust and smoky aroma. The aroma of the stranger’s smoke … well, it had not called up any memories for the old man, but it stirred something in his mind, like a quiet wind that shifts sands into gentle undulations. He felt that he knew that smell, and this sense of recognition was a new experience for one lost to oblivion’s fund of nothing.
So, now, with the sun setting, he lit several candles on his desk and frowned at the curled ink on the front of the manuscript: ‘A Book of Memories.’ …………….. Many years before, during that era of our intellectual history we have wistfully christened the Age of Enlightenment, a scholar entered a completely unremarkable bookshop. This paragon of humanism was in the prime of his intellectual life, and it was during the soft twilight of his middle age that he arrived at this bookshop, which he had heard from a colleague was worth the visit if he ever passed through the city of Madrid. The scholar let his text-weathered eyes travel with stolid complacency over the shelves, like a captain scanning the shoreline of a familiar coast. But he soon realised that this was not a familiar coastline at all. His eye came to rest upon successive volumes of manuscripts, but he was disconcerted to find not a single familiar beacon, not one title of a work or an author that would act as the reassuring lighthouse to these shores of literary obscurity. The scholar felt unease: he made his way deeper into the neat storehouse of books, and again and again he saw only the unfamiliar. He took a volume from one of the shelves, bearing the title, ‘Memories of a Historian,’
and scanned its pages. The book’s author had voluminous knowledge of European history and spoke more languages than he had digits on his hands. There was no doubt that this unknown author had described real historical events, invoked the authority of the great authors of antiquity, and was evidently a learned man on familiar terms with the writers of the preceding centuries who courted literary merit. But our scholar had never heard of him. As the scholar turned over the pages of several other books he realised that they were all confessional accounts — memoirs, autobiographies, self-disclosures through correspondence — every single one by authors of whose existence the scholar was completely oblivious. He sought explanation from the proprietor and found him seated at a little desk tucked away at the back of the premises. The proprietor was an elegantly dressed man, who sat in a blue billow of smoke snaking its way from a Turkish pipe, and he was busy writing in a large volume. “I confess that I’m somewhat unsettled by your collection,” began the scholar, “I am well-acquainted with the great literatures of the ages and I have dedicated my life to the pursuit of knowledge and the sciences, and yet I do not recognise one single name on all of the shelves in your premises. I have deduced that your collection consists chiefly of personal writing, in the form of memoirs, but this fact notwithstanding, I see neither Montaigne nor Marcus Aurelius; no Pascal, no Saint Augustine, no Descartes. And
furthermore, I have never, in all my years of pedagogy and consultation of the catalogues of the world’s great libraries, come across a publishing house that evidently produces all the hermetic and recondite volumes filling your shelves.” Having patiently heard out the scholar’s dismay, a dismay very familiar to the proprietor’s ears, he responded, “My dear sir, I have an easy explanation for your perplexity and – I may add – it is a perplexity shared by every learned person who deigns to cross my threshold. You see, my publishing house and commercial premises only sells the labour of the select few – the few enlightened souls not fortunate enough to be heard in the undemocratic forum of our world of letters. I see myself as a man who, in his humble way, strives to redress this unfair selection made by Fate. My dear sir, you are standing amidst a congregation of voices, voices who should not be forgotten, who have made known the priceless secrets of their souls to the world. We do not forget the famous – many already look after their estate for posterity’s sake. No, my work is to let others have their say, and leave their mark with the endurance of ink.” The scholar was impressed by the man’s eloquence, but he was still unclear about this unheard-of enterprise of publishing the undistinguished. He was in the process of formulating further questions, when the proprietor suddenly placed before him a thick, beautifully bound volume. The scholar’s eyes were transfixed by the vermillion-dyed cover, and it was with difficulty that he managed to direct his gaze back at the small man smiling up at him from behind his desk.
“My dear sir, forgive my presumption,” the proprietor continued, “but I am a man who believes in the serendipitous. This is perhaps no longer a fashionable way of looking at our reason-governed world – I suppose I am a man out of season, but what I am saying is that I have a strong suspicion, in fact I am positively certain, that you are in possession of much that should not be left for the maw of Oblivion.” And before the scholar was fully aware of the fact, the proprietor had persuaded him to take the book of blank pages back to his lodgings. When he returned to his rooms that evening, the scholar placed the large blank manuscript on his desk, and sat for a long time before it. This learned man was indeed one of those left on the shores of obscurity by the ship of fame, as it sailed toward the bright horizon of future recognition. He had accumulated a share of moderate success, for he was a respected tutor at his university, a respected burgher of his town, and had even crossed paths with distinguished people of state. But he was no Erasmus. The learned world did not know his name, and would likely never know it. But such disappointment as he had experienced would not have sufficed to prod this largely timid man to begin what would prove to be a year-long labour of composing the story of his life. For while he sat and ruminated on this unbidden opportunity of writing his memoirs, he was overcome by a feeling of immense … light. There was not another word that could convey equally well the sensation of inner illumination that the scholar felt igniting its way all through his mind. This exhilaration can perhaps best be compared to the passion that is said to possess the poet, or the musician when the Muse begins to play its melodies and sing its verses for the inner ear. But the scholar’s inspiration differed somewhat from these: for he was inspired by Mnemosyne, Mother of the Muses, and thus the goddess of the source of all creativity. Memory possessed him. The scholar, for the first time in his life, saw his past, he saw it as though he gazed at an infinite number of paintings, and what is more he perceived his story being
told through the individual scenes of his life. Unselfconsciously, he began to write that very evening, forgetting his supper, and continuing into the early hours of the next day. He translated his past onto the page without pause. The exhilaration that he experienced on the first day continued unabated for several weeks, and the weeks soon became months. After the first month of absence from his university he was visited by a colleague, who could not persuade him to abandon his profitless endeavour and return to his hometown and grieving spouse. His mind was aglow with the fever to write, to reach the summit of completion that he so ached after with his quill, ink and eye. After a year of unrelenting work, sleepdeprived and pale, the scholar collapsed over his completed manuscript. ……………. As the sun sunk below the horizon, the old amnesiac, yet again, opened this vermillion book of memories. There were a few blank pages left at the end of the volume. After a pause, he picked up his quill, and added the following: I have spent many days reading and rereading these memoirs that bear my name. My eyes have become dim from much study, as I have endeavoured to rekindle the knowledge that I evidently once possessed – but all to no avail. For my time on this Earth is short, and I must confess that I lack the thirst for the founts of fact that my other self once had. For the life narrated here is truly of an other-than-myself. He, the learned scholar, who wrote with my hand and eyes, is not a man that I can recognise. I see him like one sees one’s great-grandparents in the mind’s eye – people one has never known, but people whom one can nevertheless picture from the stories he has heard about them. I am a man gazing at myself from the shore of Lethe, and all I know of my past is the autumnal smell of aromatic smoke.
in a family archive : Rese arch ing
Art-P ract ic e
By Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari I begin by looking at my family archive. Photos, objects, legal documents, maps, and other testimonials from 1915-16, when my family fled the mass killings of the Armenian Genocide to settle in Greece. These documents and relics are now the material of my arts practice and research. For a project called Photo Presents, I look at the photographic portraits that have been exchanged between family members. The photographs vary from group studio portraits to outdoor setups and spontaneous family snapshots. All have some evidence of handwriting on the reverse side. Either in Armenian or Greek, the text complements the image and helps us to identify the context of the photograph. I am interested in these archival family photographs as referents that bear witness, as objects that are created, manipulated, circulated, transported, relocated, stored and, even in some cases, dispersed. Diaspora, in which populations are temporally and geographically displaced, often results in a performance of identity that relies on an engagement with the past and the stories of the first generation of survivors. Marianne Hirsch, in her research on collective memory of the Holocaust, coined the term â€˜postmemoryâ€™ to describe the cross-generational revision of memory: postmemory stands between memory and history, as a compilation of reinterpreted experiences. This position identifies the survivor as the archetypal figure for the generations born after, who then confront the void left by this figure in their personal memory and reflections. This paradoxical scheme results in the fragmentation and repetition of memory and trauma in the third and fourth generations of diaspora. Where do I and the portraits of my family fit into this theory? To explore the void, the memories and mnemonic anamnesis of my familyâ€™s archive, I take the photographs into the darkroom. Here, the image and the handwritten notes on the back of the print merge into one. Having first photographed both sides of the archival prints on black and white negative film, I work to produce a new document that has the exact
size of the original print, but through cropping, scaling and montage, I reprint the archival images and superimpose the reverse side of the photograph on top of it. Through the use of masks and stencils, I recompose image and text. My close engagement with the object in the darkroom revivifies the materiality of these photographs. By locally controlling the exposure, I allow the handwriting, the photographer’s stamp, the edges of the carte postale, the stains and scratches, to become more visible, showing how these photographs have functioned as exchangeable objects and emphasizing their historicity. Like an archaeologist, I examine the photograph’s materiality and look for traces of its past, working to bring them to light. I feel as if I am rewriting the script of history through this reconfiguration of the portraits. My aim is to tease out the different temporalities and experiences involved in an image’s life, including its exchange between people and places. One of the photographs is a reproduction of a studio portrait of some young Armenians of the 1920s diaspora. Their clothing, objects, poses and backdrop appear to express idyllic ideas of wealth and prosperity. It is probably a school photograph or a memento from a men’s society. On the reverse side is a note giving the measurements for a suit or uniform. Seeing these two elements in a single frame – the image and the handwritten note – the change in the photograph’s social function across several generations of diaspora is brought to consciousness. From personal memento to notepaper for the making of a garment, the photograph’s meaning is transformed, so that today it is an instrument for the performance of memory.
Another image I worked with plays with the function of photography as a reminder of personal experience and as a mode of communication. The image shows a studio wedding photograph. The Armenian text reads:
Mr and Ms Barouktjian,
Please accept our photograph as a reminder of our honest love. Mr and Ms Khacherian.
1936 September 13 Selanic It is an archival document that offers us a glimpse of two temporalities: the wedding and the date of correspondence. However, there are other afterlives that the casual viewer cannot unveil and the image cannot provide. That the bride was the sister of my grandfather for example, and that this photo sits in my archive because after her husband passed away she moved next door to my grandmother. In this way, my manipulation of the photograph is as much about absence as it is about presence.
Family photographs are personal artefacts that capture a moment, records of people and events that are, as Willumson writes, ‘rich with biography and personal memory’. In Photo Presents, this memory work involves a personal engagement with the previous lives of each photograph. The encrypted handwriting allows me to embed the photographs in an autobiographical frame that brings together personal and collective history. In a gallery setting the small prints are preserved with the aura of precious and delicate objects: their pictorial context reveals that the images are part of a personal collection. However, interrogating the family archive three generations later, through the prism of postmemory, these photographs shift symbolic function to become representations of Armenian identity that transcend the limits of the personal family archive. Showing Photo Presents as an art series reveals the significance of these photographs in portraying collective experience. When shared with the public viewer, these personal photographs reveal themselves to be bearers of collective memory and conveyors of Armenian social history.
Further Reading: Hirsch, M. (1997) Family frames: photography, narrative, and postmemory. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press. Pasia, D. (2014) Photography and the Politics of Heritage: The Case of Cypriot Studio Photographic Portraits. 3rd International Conference of Photography and Theory ICPT 2014. [Unpublished paper] Nicosia, Cyprus. 5-7 December 2014. Porto, N. (2001) Picturing the museum: photography and the work of mediation in the Third Portuguese Empire. [Online]. Willumson, G. (2004) ‘Making Meaning: Displaced Materiality in the Library and Art Museum.’ In: Elizabeth Edwards & Janice Hart (eds.) Photographs objects histories: on the materiality of images. London; New York: Routledge.
A TIME TO
was a week away from my thirteenth birthday when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died. Though I didn’t really know who she was, I could not stop thinking about her. That night I wrote about her in my journal for the first time. My diary entry for May 19, 1994, reads: ‘I keep thinking about Jacqueline Kennedy & Richard Nixon. They were a part of history. They made history. And now they are history…’ It was a poorly expressed articulation of a complex idea: an acknowledgement that, so quickly, with alarming ease, we slip from one realm into the other. But also that, once we’ve slipped, there’s no going back. Time passes inexorably, and abruptly, irrevocably, Jackie Kennedy and Dick Nixon are simply no longer here. The death of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wasn’t a story likely to affect many teenagers, but as a young girl I felt starved of stories about women. ‘American history is for men,’ Jackie informed a biographer in 1960, and my experience in 1990s America felt much the same. Biography, however, was one realm in which this seemed not to be the case. After Jackie died I read every single book about her, from A Woman Named Jackie to Jackie Oh! and Jacqueline Kennedy: The Warmly Human Life Story of the Woman All Americans Have Taken to Their Heart. At the same time, in my journals, I was performing an autoethnographic triage, trying to work out why I so suddenly and so strongly cared about this dead woman I’d never known. Were someone to write the story of my life some day, stumbling upon my adolescent writing, it would appear that, from the age of thirteen, I was destined to become Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s biographer. It looks inevitable to me now, even though I know it was not. This is one of the things we biographers
WRITTEN BY O L I N E E AT O N I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y G E O R G E C L AY T O N
love about this mode of storytelling. The consistency suggested by looking at a life in retrospect, the implication that both people and events are knowable. It’s a certitude we’re denied in life, where we do not know what will happen or where the story will go. Which is perhaps why stories of lived lives so often remove this anxiety, presenting the life’s trajectory as one of linked and fated inevitabilities rather than a disjointed sequence of haphazard choices and chance. And yet, as in life, gaps persist. There is so much the biographer cannot and will not know. In reconstructing the story of a life, the biographer uses anything at hand: letters, office files, interviews with elderly friends and ex-husband’s nieces, anything. But it is journals, with their promise of untold secrets and private revelations, that offer the illusion of bringing us closer to the actual person. Did Jackie keep a diary? Her biographers are divided. Jackie herself claimed never to have kept one. ‘So many people,’ she said in a 1981 interview, ‘hit the White House with their Dictaphone running! I never even kept a journal. I thought, “I want to live my life, not record it.”’ Yet there have long been rumours that she torched a secret trove of her own writings and letters shortly before her death. I like to picture Jackie’s delight in watching evidence of the private life she so fiercely guarded going up in flames. I can envision her pleasure over the frustration this destruction would inevitably provoke in her future biographers. This scene appeals to me. It is in line with who I imagine her to have been. But I can only imagine her, I cannot know.
In the mid-1960s, in response to a claim that someone had written an ‘authorised’ account, she wrote that she’d only approve absolute silence. She was tired of all the books. This was, I believe, because she was profoundly disturbed by her inability to recognise herself in what she read. Using language to recreate a life, the biographer puts a deluge of words into the place where a person used to be. In the gaps that persist, the biographer and the reader make the subject our own. Despite being a genre with bold claims to truth, it is, in reality, an intricate dance around the edges of what we can and cannot know. This is what I was doing in my journals, in my clumsy adolescent way. In an entry from July 1994, entitled ‘Jackie-O/Nixon,’ I described my first encounter with her story. I recounted how, two years prior, she had been one of the ‘Important Women in History’ that we studied during Women’s History Month. ‘It didn’t mean much of
anything to me,’ I wrote, until the ‘winter of 1994, when it was reported that she had nonhodgkin [sic] lymphoma, [and] I started to pay a little more attention.’ During this time it was Jackie’s movement from living history into history proper that seemed to intrigue me most. ‘This woman had been part of history for the last thirty years of her life,’ I observed, returning to the idea that, in her death, ‘now she was history.’ I see now the ways in which I was using her to combat the idea that American history was for men. How, as a woman, her being history automatically made my life matter more. ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live,’ writes Joan Didion. But we also tell stories to make sense of the disorder of living, the messiness of who we are and are becoming. In another journal entry I made the observation: ‘I never knew her.’ Rereading this now, it seems like a lamentation, an articulation of a loss, an acknowledgement of the limits of my knowledge. Never would I know Jackie Onassis, I realised at age thirteen. But perhaps I’ve misunderstood myself. Maybe this wasn’t a lamentation so much as a developing epiphany: the realisation that there are people we can never know, feelings we’ll never understand, and that, in the vast space of that lack, we are free to pretend.
F i e l d N o te s : T rai g h M h o r by
L i z B ah s
islands appear from nowhere / from làn-mara like ghosts Mirror of molten light / Smoke screen Found—back of Sarah’s drawer / Thing like skin / Didn’t wanna touch / Something to do with the girl
No way to change this
One then the other / gone / Green island all my own
scyliorhinus canicula : mermaid’s purse : twisted tendril, usually hatched, difficult to identify unless examined closely
Written by Chiara Raffaella Ciampa Illustration by Jon Paterson
As a child I used to hide handwritten
scraps of paper in all the corners and crevices of the house, hoping to forget them and find them a few months, or even years, later. I still remember the feeling of opening those folded sheets with my small hands and rereading my secret messages: an unlikely, potent mixture of nostalgia and surprise. I didn’t know it at the time, but this game of discovery foreshadowed my future as a scholar of classics. These same emotions pervade me when encountering an ancient text: a wistful longing for intimacy with a past that belonged to someone else and pleasure at the revelation that the antique world is not so distant from ours. An ancient text is like a hand warmly grasping your own across the centuries. When I read one of Pindar’s sixth-century BC odes celebrating an athlete’s victory, I am no longer in the library, nor am I in London. My years of research bring all five senses to bear on the words before me. They become flesh. I am in Greece. I am in the audience, waiting for the victor. He appears in the crowd. We throw garlands and damask roses, harvested earlier to preserve their scent. My hands join the swell of applause. Petals and voices flow together in the warm air. I feel the ground throb as the dancers take the shadowy sacred way to the temple. Is the past really a foreign country? Today, we still try to make sense of our existence in the same way our ancestors did. We crave success, recognition and happiness. Ultimately the same urgent questions, the same interrogations, rise within our souls:
‘What is someone? What is no one? A dream of a shadow is man’ writes Pindar in Pythian 8. Could we not address the same question to ourselves and find, after so many centuries, that our answer was an echo of the past? When I research a text I feel like a curious traveller journeying across the ancient world. I become a committed archaeologist, digging intensively into that past. My work turns into a process of emotional archaeology, executed not with spades on soil but with eyes and minds on pages. To me, it is an honour to have such close encounters with those who made the past great with their fertile and powerful minds. It is moving to embrace these words written on delicate materials, and to guard them. I feel the responsibility of protecting these texts and the privilege of hearing such instructive voices, voices that still rush into the present to fall upon our ears. When Pindar says ‘learn and become who you are’ in Pythian 2, I hear not just a beautiful piece of poetry, but a voice speaking to me personally — encouraging my mission as a scholar. Those little pieces of paper I hid around the house were a rehearsal for what I do now. But it is not my house any more, and I am not hiding the words. The house is the entire field of the past, and Pindar and others have left the messages for me. I just have to excavate using my chosen tools, getting imaginatively physical with my scholarship. This career, it seems, was already inscribed on my childhood. I was always going to be a virtual archaeologist, this is what I have become.
In this age of ‘I’, of the selfie; [...] we might describe ourselves as ‘Narcissisti c’ but to what extent do we acknowledge the full implicat ions of such a claim.
by Charlotte Northall
It, (that superseding Self) may find its body (huma n, fallible, gendered, revolting).
东京机器人 M 的故事
here was a self-service drink machine in a street in Tokyo. It was a robot. Her name was M. Every passenger told M: “Your drink provides amazing energy and love.” And then they left. M kept serving drinks with love and energy. But no one ever asked her where she got the energy drinks from. One day there was a little boy passing by, he put a coin in. M added some extra love and energy to the drink.
The little boy was happy and said “It is so fresh.” Finishing the drink, he left. … Ten years later, the little boy had grown up. He travelled all over Tokyo to find this special drink. He tried to trace his way back through the lanes, the trees and, oh right, to the robot called M. There she was. The shining M, even after all these years. “How are you M?” “I’m good. Thank you. I was waiting for you.” “Me? Why?” “I wanted to tell you that I need your energy drink feedback. You forgot to press the Smiley face button ten years ago. And without LOVE Feedback from passersby, I cannot upgrade my battery.”
The Story “Oh, I am sorry. I thought robots did not need love and energy.” “WE DO need ... that’s the only ...” Before M was able to finish her sentence, she died without her battery upgrade. When the grown-up boy tried to push the smiley button and give his feedback, M disappeared. A new robot replaced her. Her name was N.
“I need love and passion to sustain me. I shine with my energy and love. First, please put your coin here, Sir.” … I don’t know what happened to the boy in the end. But one day I walked passed a trash bin, and saw that it was full of metal. There was also a note: I am a robot. I sell love and energy drinks, full of passion and inspirations. And then I run out of battery. I die. On one piece of metal, there was a letter “M.” … Whoever cared to reach her with love and energy?
This story is dedicated to Kaylynn Lee and Tombeur.
Written by Tianmei Chen Illustrations by Matthew T. Shaw
The Still Point Journal Issue II Contributors Annegret Marten’s background is in theatre criticism and communications work with an Arts in Health social enterprise. She currently researches monstrous linguistic strategies in German language texts at King’s College London and Humboldt University Berlin.
An AHRC doctoral scholar at Central Saint Martins, UAL, and former Fellow of the Library of Congress, Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari is interested in photography, archives, memory and trauma of the Armenian diaspora.
Bihter Almaç is a PhD candidate at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. Her research mainly focuses on tactics for peculiar creativities to trespass on the architectural unconscious. www.thebidon.org firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlotte Northall is a PhD student in Creative Writing at Birkbeck.
Chiara Raffaella Ciampa is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London. Her project investigates differences and similarities between Ancient Greek Literature and Philosophy, focusing on ‘Pindar and the Presocratics.’
Born in Isfahan, raised in Auckland, and based in London, Daniyal Farhani is the editor-in-chief of the online publication platform CRADink and a PhD Candidate at The Bartlett School of Architecture.
George Clayton is a London based freelance illustrator/designer, originally from Leicester. He studied at Westminster University and is inspired by David Hockney, Stephen Shore, and 1960s America. He also loves E.T., Minimalism, and the colour blue. Instagram @georgeclayton_ Isobel Atacus is an artist-researcher whose work explores notions of haptic visuality and the ethics of the encounter. Her work can be found at www.isobelatacus.com
For Jon Paterson, comic strips such as Garfield, Tintin and Astrix, were a big part of his life. He went on to get a degree in illustration, and sees drawing as his playground. www.jonpaterson84.wixsite.com/illustration
Lavinia Singer researches visual languages and processes of imagemaking in poetry and the visual arts at the University of Roehampton. She is the poetry editorial assistant at Faber & Faber.
Leonid Bilmes is a writer and academic. He is interested in memory writing, cultural criticism, speculative fiction and everything about cinema, and he occasionally writes about these subjects online. Liz Bahs’s poetry investigates themes ranging from corsets to London buses, plane crashes to cow stampedes in her native Florida. She writes reviews for Frogmore Press and blogs at whenyoureadtome.blogspot. co.uk Matthew T. Shaw, a University of Westminster graduate, is an illustrator, designer, painter, maker, thinker, scrawler and sculptor. www.matthewtshaw.com
Oline Eaton earned her PhD at the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London. Her biographical/cultural study of the life of Jackie Onassis, entitled An Alarming Life, is forthcoming.
Penny Newell’s poems have featured in Alien Mouth, The Still Point, Don’t Do It Mag, and The Cardiff Review, amongst others, and are forthcoming in The Emma Press Anthology of Love.
Rebecca Healey is a south London based designer, illustrator and maker of theatrical things. www.rhealeyart.co.uk
Romola Nuttall – born, raised, and still living in south-east London, and in the second year of a PhD on Shakespeare – loves: early modernism, reading, travelling, eating, theatres, museums, family/friends, festivals. Ruth Tullis is an artist currently living in Glasgow. She runs a little business called Xoxo Designs by Ruth and makes her designs happy, bright and fun. www.xoxodesignsbyruth.com
Stuart Ruel is an artist based in south-east London. Influences include Jazz, Buddha, Identity or lack thereof. www.stuartruel.com
Tianmei Chen is a Chinese explorer, artist and blogger. She is passionate about Chinese women’s development and encourages Chinese women to pursue their own dreams. Instagram @maychenyolo Email: email@example.com
This issue was designed and laid out by Rebecca Healey, with cover artwork and doodles pages 44-46 also by Rebecca Healey. Set in Palatino, New Tai Lue, Prestige Elite and Notera. All submissions underwent a process of blind peer-review: the result is a journal that represents institutions across London, with a truly interdisciplinary focus. Special thanks go to the LAHP and the AHRC for making the printed journal possible, as well as to all of our contributors and everyone who has supported us along the way.
The Still Point is a literary journal for Arts and Humanities researchers from institutions across London: featuring poetry, prose and visua...
Published on Feb 25, 2017
The Still Point is a literary journal for Arts and Humanities researchers from institutions across London: featuring poetry, prose and visua...