Close Reading is an ongoing series of investigations in which I apply close visual attention to language, looking at the materiality of words ‘close up’ through processes of visual magnification, microscopic observation. Through the practice of close reading, language can be made to stretch or pucker, ruche or fray. With experience, it can be pulled thin and sheer as delicate gauze or gathered up into thick and impenetrable creases. Under scrutiny, text can be pressured into its component parts (of ink and page), the sense or legibility of a word rendered nonsensical the closer it is attended to, as writing slips towards image, as meaning dissipates into pleats and folds.
This ongoing series of works plays on the practice of close reading or of explication de texte as a critical tool for destabilizing the linear unfolding of a text into discontinuous fragments. Close Reading investigates how paying close attention to language does not always fix or clarify a single, stable meaning, but perhaps counter-intuitively produces further uncertainty, indeterminacy and formlessness. Here, the more something becomes scrutinized the less it becomes known.
Like conventional forms of close reading, this work focuses on paying attention to individual words and the order in which sentences and ideas unfold as they are read or presented, drawing on the Latin origins of the word explicare which means to unfold, to fold out, to set forth. However, critical attention is not paid to the meaning of words themselves as signs, but to those other meanings produced by looking at the materiality of words ‘close up’, through processes of visual magnification or microscopic observation. This research enquiry is concerned with pushing or pressuring language beyond the regime of signification, in order to explore the affective and asignifying potential ( or perhaps even poetics) of textual fragments.
Close Reading inhabits the space between page and screen, existing as a series of short video works and composite poems constructed (almost through chance) from screen-grabs gleaned from the video editing process. I am uncertain whether the video is a byproduct or residue of the production of the text or vice versa, or whether both produce and are produced by each other simultaneously. As a writer, I am increasingly interested in the discrepancy between the temporal and spatial dimensions of writing, where the time that it takes to write words is condensed into the space that they occupy once ordered into line. The wrestle of how the words got there is often forgotten.
Close Reading takes the temporal event of a text unfolding before a camera, and collapses it into the spatial form of a page. The translation from moving image to still reveals an entirely different grammar to that encountered in the video. The movement or unfolding of the video is pushed back as though behind the surface of the page, perhaps still imaginable as a loop stitch whose content remains latent within the work, rather than a visible part. Through these close readings, the time of reading one text becomes folded into the space of making another.