Events & Reviews

Selection from Q.E.D. – Part 1, “Things Unsaid”

The MAK Center Schindler House, Los Angeles
11 April 2012
Compiled by Chris Hershey-Van Horn

Context Note: In April, May, and June of this year, Les Figues Press hosted a short series of long conversations on queer art and literature. Titled Q.E.D., in honor of Gertrude Stein’s novel by the same name (and one of the earliest coming-out stories), each Q.E.D. event explored the constructions of speech, art, literature, materiality, and sex.  The conversations were  moderated by Vanessa Place at the historic MAK-Schindler House, L.A.’s original nod to green architecture.

Q.E.D. Part One featured Melissa Buzzeo, Patrick Greaney, and Simon Leung.


“What happens in a work of art when it seems like the artist does nothing?”—(Patrick)

“These questions are questions of time, and not of the moment, which is what makes these questions so hard…the before-fire-burning…How to speak in gesture, how to speak in want…to want what is not there. How to desire or receive, knowing it is impossible in some way.”—(Melissa)

“All books are containers, all books are portions of time afterwards…The negative space is the non-book, and writing itself.”—(Melissa)

“My memory of 25th anniversary Stonewall celebration was walking down, I think 6th or 7th Avenue during the middle of the day, with many naked people, towards Central Park. We eventually made it to the great lawn in the park, and there was a concert. I think they kept saying there was a surprise guest and somehow people knew it was going to be Liza Minnelli. She came on, and I was mesmerized by how as she spoke every sentence every word every gesture every draw of breath was so flawlessly and completely choreographed that when she went into song it was a perfect transition. I remember thinking to myself, ‘she’s got show business in her blood.’’’—(Simon)

“They say that day turns into night, that it turns in an instant. But a day does not turn, I turn. When language meets matter in a noun (a line, a square, a cube, an I), is when selves are remade, the world re-learned…It lives only as a word, but I do not know the word…What one cannot know is that the care of the self begins with an injury older than the self. Space contained or all-around, only buttresses the question: “am I someone, or am I a thing?” Am I…anything…to you? You do not know, but I am nothing to you. I am a picture in your surround, but I am nothing to you. I do not know myself: I step back, shapeless. I have no proposal: I do not know my self. What good is a self that does not know its own Good? There is no good, we’ve lost the ground.”—(Simon)

“What hits the gaze of others—that’s what confirms in the end…solitary strides, a unity of men…The stranger’s face is familiar. It falls into a grid of thought—silent, but already a sign, each face a grid.”—(Simon)

“One of the things that interested me was, when I was setting this up, in terms of, what is unarticulated, the relationship between…the unarticulated—in my mind being that which is not spoken, the inarticulated—being the thing which is spoken badly, the articulated—the thing that is spoken the way one would want it to be spoken, the overarticulated—being the thing I’m doing now, which is over-explaining, and then the hyperarticulated—which gets to the point where the articulation exceeds the content, where the articulation itself becomes too excessive to actually convey anything.”—(Vanessa)

“All those things…are in a way, a part of a continuum, and could very quickly turn into each other. There’s no difference between extremes”—(Melissa)

“Hyperarticulation is also the protest, the riot…Whatever you want to think of as hyperticulation is hyper because the too much is not coherent…in that sense, it is always outside of history, in only so far that historical time presupposes some kind of linearity.”—(Simon)

“Beckett wrote his masters thesis on Proust, and he compares Proust to a dog eating its own vomit…What I realized is that Proust and Beckett are essentially doing the same thing. But what Proust does is hyperarticulation, he dilates the moment to the point where it can’t be held anymore. And Beckett contracts the moment…But it has the exact same effect, it’s just from a different valiance.”—(Vanessa)

“The fact that we are historical remains largely unarticulated…the fact that we are unnatural remains unarticulated.” (Patrick)

“Art and literature articulate the fact that we are historical. And art and literature do that through speaking badly…it articulates this thing that remains, for the most part in our everyday lives, unarticulated.”—(Patrick)

“Because there’s no need for it to be articulated…there’s always some sort of motivation for the lack of articulation. But what remains interesting for me is this notion of the source. With the quotation works that you deal with Patrick, the source of the source becomes really interesting—it’s the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain sort of thing…”—(Vanessa)

“The source or the origin is always a myth.”—(Simon)

“There’s no ur-MacDonalds, or ur-Starbucks.”—(Vanessa)

“The chasm of pre-language”—(Simon)

“Origin is a type of necessary structure, rather than a place or reference that is outside”—(Simon)

“Does anyone know that YouTube video that I love? This is how I teach nowadays. It’s these two babies next to a refrigerator having a fully engaged conversation without words but with gesticulation and phrasing and feeling and jokes…fully communicating with each other. Even during the pre-symbolic level, there is artful mimicry.”—(Simon)

“In a funny way you’re making a really Aristotelian argument, for the best art is the most camouflaged, it’s the most mimetic, it most exactly replicates what is. But in the history of avant garde-ism, what’s most mimetic is what’s most upsetting…because it’s the camouflage against the wrong backdrop.” –(Vanessa)

“Identity is always overcompensation”—(Simon)

“The source is such a persistent structural device…There is a built-in desire for that sense of ‘where is this emanating from, where do I emanate from?’ It’s not inside of me and yet it is, it’s not outside of me, and yet it is.”—(Vanessa)

“In William Sewell’s work on the French Revolution, he shows how, at a key moment after the storming of the Bastille, the rituals of the Ancien Régime are repeated—and that’s how these revolutionaries know they’re historical, they’re revolutionary, precisely by repeating these rituals that belong to the society that they’re overthrowing, but there’s something revolutionary in the mere fact of repeating it.”—(Patrick)

“It’s ‘I didn’t rape her, and the bitch deserved it’…I’m making this thing that expresses the complete lie—the fact that I’m doing it already betrays my argument, and yet I’m going to keep doing it.”—(Vanessa)

“It’s like the Abramovic piece, the “Staring” piece—talk about endless repetition of nothing. Is it generative? Then perhaps there’s another question: why does it have to be?”—(Vanessa)

“I can also say that I’ve never wanted a penis for myself, and so there is the fact too, emptiness is generative.”—(Melissa)

“Often object choice is not articulated. Can you say more about that?”—(Simon)

“It makes me think of the readymades for Duchamp…The readymade has not just reduced his power to just choosing…it’s more complicated than that, because the readymades were the things that he wanted to become indifferent to.”—(Patrick)

“Something like Fountain, the urinal, it was lost. Between 1917 and 1950 there was no Fountain…”—(Simon)

“There’s a way of looking at it where care descends, and then another way of looking at is as betrayal…Care comes in along with care, but along with care is the betrayal of the indifference. Once you start to issue editions of your readymade, you’ve entirely upended your original ethos…it’s a joke. Or better still, it’s a gag.”—(Vanessa)

“The art of aesthetic engagement is leaping into a trap over and over and over again”—(Vanessa)

“I think a lot about the idea of economy, and the idea of object choices…maybe there can’t be too many…For a while I wanted no objects at all, so I just stopped writing.”—(Melissa)

“There’s been this thread of there is no object, even when there is an object, that there is some emptiness in the thing being quoted. What happens when the thing being quoted, or the source material, actually, at least for certain people, is very real, and had some very real effects on their lives?”—(audience member)

“I don’t know if want has anything to do with repetition…I think we repeat with or without wanting…I repeat with or without subjectivity”—(Simon)

“One of the things that’s fascinating about transcript is you get bored. There’s no horror that after a while doesn’t become really boring.”—(Vanessa)


Chris Hershey-Van Horn a program assistant at the Alpert Award in the Arts, and a recent graduate of Middlebury College. He has written for Gaga Stigmata, is a close friend of Les Figues Press, and assistant to Vanessa Place. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

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  1. Anonymous

      Vanessa Place is missing from the list of authors in the beginning of the post

      I wish I understood this more:

      ““In a funny way you’re making a really Aristotelian argument, for the
      best art is the most camouflaged, it’s the most mimetic, it most exactly
      replicates what is. But in the history of avant garde-ism, what’s most
      mimetic is what’s most upsetting…because it’s the camouflage against the
      wrong backdrop.” –(Vanessa)”

  2. Anonymous

       whoops, it’s there just not hyperlinked