Writing on the blank: from desert incisions to 'deserted' surfaces

Julian Moyle (Nottingham University, UK)

My paper explores the hypothesis that writing as an act of inscription on a surface has a biomechanical relationship with acts of colonization. Writing will not, then, be considered in the abstract terms of Saussure's theory of communication, but more in the light of Chilean poet Cecilia Vicuña's claim that 'writing is opposition: the plane and the incision, ink and paper, light and shadow, knot and cord'. Reference will be made to Roland Barthes's essay 'Cy Twombly: Works on Paper' to explain how a writer projects a metaphorical 'blank surface' onto a literal writing surface in order to emphasise the opposition between presence and absence, print and page.

I will show how, under certain biomechanical conditions, this opposition can be dialectical and 'beneficial' to the writing surface; it will then be seen that, under different conditions, writing achieves its presence through the exploitation of a writing surface, framed as negative and 'other'. The colonizing potential of an act of writing differs according to writing techniques and may be affected by a writer's particular employment of graphic space. Examples of writing to be considered range from lines on the Nazca desert in Peru, to the poetry of Ezra Pound, Susan Howe, and bp Nichol.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Casablanca Conference

Last modified: 7 May 2001