Presented in the context of ‘All Flesh is Grass’ at Kim? Contemporary Art Centre, the screening ‘Toin or Spurl or Plinuckment’ features work by: John Baldessari (onsite), Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky (online), and Charlotte Pryce (online).
In the short story ‘The Sound Machine’ by Roald Dahl, Mr. Klausner tinkers with his invention, a black box ‘designed to pick up sound vibrations that are too high-pitched for reception by the human ear, and to convert them to a scale of audible tones.’ Standing in the garden with this black box he hears ‘a frightful piercing shriek’ when his neighbor Mrs. Saunders cuts a yellow rose and places it in her basket. Overcoming his initial shock, Mr. Klausner revels in the possibilities of this discovery. Through further ‘testing’ he questions if these severed flowers really ‘expressed pain’ and hypothesizes that they ‘didn’t really express any of the feelings or emotions known to a human being.’ He continues: ‘a flower probably didn’t feel pain. It felt something else which we didn’t know about – something called toin or spurl or plinuckment, or anything you like.’
It’s difficult not to read Mr. Klausner’s statements as anthropocentric hubris. He obfuscates his hand’s action and his responsibility in causing the shrieks in his experiments by making the shaky claim that the flowers ‘probably’ didn’t feel pain. His actions seeking data beyond human sense, and his technological apparatus feeding him results, create a feedback loop. It seems as though his experiments reveal more about his desires and impositions. However, there are gaps in the feedback loop where more-than-human data does come through, even if it can’t be analyzed or deciphered. The shrieks still resonate. Through Dahl’s use of ‘non-sense’ language for the un-named feeling of the flowers he creates a placeholder. ‘Toin or spurl or plinuckment’ become variables open to being renamed and filled with meaning by the flowers, or just plainly ignored. Either way, the agency and voice of the flowers has its own rhythm and logic despite any human claims.
Available to view onsite at Kim?
(18 – 23.08.2020):
Teaching a Plant the Alphabet, John Baldessari, 1972, 18:08 (courtesy of VDB)
Available to view online at kim.lv
(17 – 24.08.2020):
Conversation with a Cactus,
Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky, 2017, 45:00
PWDRE SER: the rot of stars, Charlotte Pryce, 2018, 6:44
*Programme notes available here.
*Thanks to the artists presented, and to Tamara Becerra Valdez at Video Data Bank (vdb.org).
*The Rot of Stars (Essay)
by Elvia Wilk on the work of Charlotte Pryce, published in Aperture 241: Utopia, Winter 2020, available on request.