Performative writing, Tracy Mackenna

On generating and trapping thoughts in word and image by writing through conversation and observation, in the same site as the artwork

When I wrote the following in LIFE, DEATH AND BEAUTY: performative writing in visual art, it referred directly to the performative writing element of our exhibition project Life is Over! if you want it, and now relates equally to the writing process in this month’s project On Growth, & Forms of Meaning.

The writing I produce as part of an artistic practice oscillates between monologue, dialogue, essay, poetics, reflection, research and documentation, within a space between subjective and objective knowledge.

The terrified writer

The act of appearing in one’s own project can be traced back to the early 1990’s in my work, before Edwin and I began our collaborative practice. This aspect of my individual practice existed as a way of opening up for questioning the authority of the artist’s voice by situating myself both amongst and at times apart from the audience, depending on whether my role was at a given moment that of conversationalist or of editor. Somewhere deep underneath the surface was a rumbling anxiety, a questioning of the very validity and potential of the individual artist’s voice.

A mental and physical state

By writing live in a public space that through my activity is simultaneously private, a tension is created that confuses definitions of public space. The opposition of the terms public and private contribute to destabilising the categories of conversation and writing. Private writings that at times verge on the diaristic or testimonial and that arise largely through conversation are created in the visitor’s space. I am literally producing myself through the public revelation of my subjectivity, in the public’s domain.

The methods employed in the process of writing contribute to the text’s expansion. It grows as much through neglect as engagement, simmering silently exactly at those times that I consider myself to be disengaged. Vitally, at such times when the writing is building up, it is simultaneously falling apart, ready to be reconstructed in a new way, one element or other temporarily brought to the fore.

Read full text