Volume 2 Issue Two
As befits the rationale of our editorial and curatorial approach to Soanyway, outlined on our homepage and in the introduction to Issue 1 of the relaunched magazine, ambiguity is a significant connecting thread through the diverse contributions in this issue. Wit and simplicity are interwoven with conceptual seriousness and complexity. Apparent superficialities mask layers of philosophical or art historical reference. Physical actions reflect psychological states. Writing imagines and re-enacts reading. Images are both created out of and deconstructed by language. Narrative authenticity and fictional fabrications collide.
Jan Pötter, based in Berlin, makes mixed-media paintings that owe clear debts to the legacy of German Expressionism, the rawness of 1950s Art Brut and the faux-naïveté of Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980s. Pötter’s expressive style, his aggressive line and vibrant colour, and the multi-layered symbolic imagery in these works all give the pictures a humorous dimension, but the apparent lightheartedness is always significantly tinged with the darkness of the conflicts and catastrophes of contemporary society.
Emma Bolland is an artist and writer who works experimentally with literatures, translations, script and screenwriting, text, space, performance and the moving image. This includes an investigation of the problematics and ambiguities of an expanded understanding of translation—between languages and language codes, and between modes of writing, reading and speaking. The work included here, with the self-explanatory title, Writing Imaginary Footnotes for Maria Fusco’s Legend of the Necessary Dreamer, interrogates and, in a sense, translates the act of reading through a process of writing, involving commentary on and interpretation of an absent text.
Adopting the style of technical illustration or the diagrammatic approach of old-style encyclopaedias, Richard Hudson-Miles, in his Piston Factory, has incisively satirised the bureaucratic structures and mechanistic production strategies of the 21st century manifestations of what Frankfurt School philosophers like Adorno termed “the culture industries”.
The Polish artist and film director, Monika K Adler’s series, Coyote, consists of portraits of the artist and her partner made in the style of film stills from a movie. The title references Joseph Beuys’ 1974 action at René Block Gallery, New York: I Like America and America Likes Me, for which Beuys spent several days in a room with a live coyote, resulting in a series of images that were purportedly a performance documentation, but actually completely staged. Adler’s ‘stills’, from a film that doesn’t exist, encourage the viewer to make narrative sense of them by imagining the plot, scene by scene. At the same time, as made explicit through the reference to Beuys’s coyote images, we are confronted with questions of authenticity, appropriation, and the fabrication of narrative in both film and photography.
Steve Dutton’s recent work is concerned with what he describes as ‘internal noise’, the ambiguous interplay of conscious and subconscious thoughts, fragments of language remembered, heard or read, the visual world overlaid with images of it, all of which are constantly at play inside our heads. In what he suggests is a kind of ‘speaking in tongues’, Dutton externalises this ‘noise’ in material form, manifest sometimes as a text on paper, sometimes in larger formats utilising painting or neon, sometimes through a spoken voice or its digital avatar, and, as here, through drawings that emphasise that writing itself is a form of drawing.
Maria Anastassiou, an artist filmmaker based in London, and Isabella Mongelli, a performer and visual artist based in Milan, collaborate on projects that combine film and performance in theatrical interpretations of the nuances of everyday behaviours. In Gymnastics for Everyday Anxieties they appropriate the language of proverbs from around the world as a found script to invent and choreograph performative rituals. These constitute a visual vocabulary of gestures and movements that articulate physical solutions to psychological states.
Phill Hopkins’ self-portraits, of which we publish a small selection from a very large and ongoing series, are deceptively simple. Photographs of his own shadow, they are witty and often playful; but considered in the context of his working practice of drawing, painting and small-scale sculpture that often depicts the trauma of violence as mediated through news media, and its psychological impact on us as powerless bystanders, the shadows also have a darker edge. As self-portraits captured by means of fleeting and ever-changing shadows, they are deliberately ambiguous in their suggestion of the idea that truth, including the ‘truth’ of the self, moves, shape-shifts and is never definite.
In a development that we hope to make a regular feature of Soanyway, this issue includes a self-contained thematic insert, the online equivalent of a magazine’s pull-out supplement. Future inserts will allow us to look in depth at particular themes and to collaborate with guest editors or commissioned artists. For this issue, the insert, Lost In Spoleto, brings together contributions from a diverse range of artists and writers who participated in 2018 in the artists’ books residency and symposium at the former studios of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt in Spoleto, Italy.
Jan Pötter - Recent Work
Birth of Joy
Hühnerbein ging allein
Die Saat (The Seed)
Emma Bolland - Writing Imaginary Footnotes
Writing Imaginary Footnotes for Maria Fusco’s Legend of the Necessary Dreamer 
Maria’s words are elegant, italic. My own are clumsy, straight.
******** Bell persists in duty: May I change to the plural? I am imagining a peal that is inextricable from the sum of its parts. Ropes pulling in all directions. Tangles. Cacophonies. A terrible strangulation. Can one choke on sound? There is an assumption that we should like church bells. I cannot like the ones with which I am familiar. I find their sweetness harsh. A smug, relentless harangue that stinks of judgement and conservatism. An assault. It makes me cry. Up there in the belfry, invisible; the village worthies tugging. They all have their positions. All upstanding. I want to cover my eyes from my own imagining. Abroad, I like the ring. The simpler toll from a single bell that’s open to the skies. I like its modesty, suspended in an airy cage. White stone. I like to walk in sunlight; to look up.
******* An improvised cone: I have a continuously renewed and erased understanding of Bergson and his idea of the durée. I see time unfolding as a scroll, revealing and concealing in its turning. This despite reading that the furl is not a straight one, but is angled to a cone. Time as a funnel through which we fall, sliding against the sides of memory until we drop into the oblivion of forgetting. Sometimes I think that all of time is in slow motion, the hours spent in silent chanting. Nonsense words—an endless ticking bomb. We are suspended in our lives like flies in amber, until one day, we’re gone.
****** By constructing its own memoir: That part of me that refuses to return desires nothing other than returning. The corner of my eye is twisting me a spiral. Screwed and torqued in an anxious distraction. The smell of red stone pervading everything. Always cold, always damp. The pews I had to polish gleamed with fury. My father told me once that during prayer he merely counted roses on the roodscreen.
***** I realise now it is only the new material that appears old: this fresh desire is entirely different, though built on the same foundations. What is it that is wrong with the sentimental? Shall I tell you something? I’m jealous of this writing. I’m jealous of this cool white stone. The emptiness.
**** So, the tremor dreams of icebergs: but icebergs are indifferent to the tremor. I’m longing for the coldness to be warm. Stupid me. How do you put your arms around a wall?
*** I carry miniscule particles: they are in my skin like unburned coal. They ink my fingers with the words that are not written.
** A governing obstacle, which must be negotiated in the darkness: I put out my hands to see you.
* Today my friend died.
** Love’s time is borrowed: What grief there is for all the time that’s passed.
*** I would be the one who is lost: After they have gone, I must find something to hold on to.
**** What happens in the places I can’t see? This loved one. When love comes late it’s hard to tear your eyes from its horizon, to look down and see your feet upon the ground.
***** I am expecting to see the mirror: but there is just the wall, the door. Right now, the one seems as impenetrable as the other. Opacity. Will you help me? Where is the key? Will you help me with the turning?
****** I am angry with the people who brought these birds here, who left them to work it out for themselves: When one is reduced to the contemptible object, both desired and disdained, one can only ever disappoint. I was never quite what you wanted. We came from generations of neglected decoration.
******* Power devises and secures its outward face: it does so in its churches and its palaces. It does so in its village halls and pubs. It does so by demanding the impossible from those both within and without its walls. Success feeds on failure like the rich feed on the poor. When visiting unfamiliar places, I perform a double being. Once I stayed at a ‘Grand Hotel’ (its luxury, at that time, dirt cheap) and frozen, watched the poverty from the window.
******** I count the living. The dead are dead: Can I remember what hope is? While I was there you could never have me and remain unseen. How could I look at you with my eyes closed? How could I use my presence to make the room empty? Such magic tricks were beyond me. You made me impossible. Did I mention that I was jealous of this writing? You catch me at a time when I am heavy, when all words are sad and when reading is a prick behind the eyes. That night, I felt ashamed. White stone, white stone; gradations of cool light. There’s not a line goes by that doesn’t echo. I like to walk in sunlight; to look up.
There is a church in the village where I spent my youth wherein my name is inscribed in a fading calligraphy on a cradle roll that goes back to the 19th century. A litany of the baptized—month by month, year by year. My sisters are written there too; my brother; my father. The last time I had been there, to the church, the village, the home, was for my mother’s funeral. I watched her placed in the grave. Tears more of confusion than of grief. I walked away from the dome of earth: bewildered. Ten years after her death, I returned. I had become preoccupied by her gravestone, its shape, its texture, its typography. It was a stone I had never seen (likewise the stone for my father). In those interim years, I had never even been to the county in which the village lay. On maps, it was a blind spot, a blank I didn’t see. But, now, the decision had been made. Driving there I feel the curious vertigo of recognition. At fifteen miles, at ten, at five, the incremental ensnarement of the strange-familiar. Uncanny is an often-misused word, but as the car draws to a halt it is precise. I go inside and read the cradle roll, and sign the visitors book in a doubling of my name. I wonder, will they see it? The last part of my name will be familiar, still to be reckoned with in that village. Still present in the home where I’m not welcome. I feel I am a thief, alone in the empty church. The dimness hurts my eyes and I am shivering. I walk up through the graveyard, past the tomb under the yew where lie my grandpa and his wife, a cousin and an aunt, to a lighter patch of grass, unshaded and so startling in its sunlit green. There is the stone. Why had I thought there would be two? To my shame, my only emotion is relief that it is tasteful. Golden-grained, plain and oval-topped. Here lies… and also… I touch the solid stone which is so empty.
 Maria Fusco, Legend of the Necessary Dreamer, London: Vanguard Editions, 2017
This piece was first published in minor literature[s] in 2017.