Saturday, May 31, 2014



I USED TO by Sarah Sanders
in: The Dark Would Anthology of Language Art, edited by Philip Davenport
(Apple Pie Editions, Manchester, U.K., 2013)

(Photo by Nick Leyland)

 "I used to carry a heavy bag." She is moving downstairs in the stairwell of an old house. (The house could be in Budapest where I write this, or Manchester, or some "anywhere". Dark Would lays open in my lap.) She moves backwards, on all fours, and she draws chalk marks in the floor. "I used to do meaningful things." The chalk marks are neat, all in capitals, they are not sharp but easy to decipher. The tonality of the photos is dark, the only light filters from downstairs, the grey walls are crumbling (there might be signs there too or are those the cracks, I don't see it clearly). She wears dark clothes, she concentrates on her work (she is immersed), the chalk marks are white. "I used to hate that." General and specific statements mix as they emerge (here and now) in the stairwell. Memories flash through the dark mind; those accepted are equally accepted, therefore the dominant mood is acceptance. "I used to have more time." "I used to have more time." Some sentences are repeated. But of course they don't necessarily relate to the same memory-flash. Language equalizes them, and lets us notice they’re simply there. (Getting there as she goes "ahead".) And the plan is now to go to the next one and if everything goes well, the next moment will be spent doing that. Is anybody moving "ahead" at all? Or "used to"? How did we not remain where our deeds used to be? The chalk is the same (the chalk used to be the same) and the stairwell tells you where to turn left. "I used to be free." "I used to be free." The only way to move ahead is: backwards, kneeling, leaving however transient notes. If there's irony in it, it is self-irony – the irony of having a self.  She is going downstairs (katabasis), from the memories of the past to the memories of the future. But we are not in a, let's say, classically conceptual box of Robert Morris' (telling the story of how it was made), this paradox is more lyrical: we can try again to catch the moment (although it will probably be in vain). The ritual of repetition (carefully and playfully doing our job, being in it) makes things less menacing. How can a sequence like this be completed? Several ways, I guess. In the first volume of The Dark Would anthology the final photo of the performance is blurred, only the stub of the chalk is definite. It has lost most of its material during the real time of the performance. "Blood welled up /among the roots, on its way to the world of men,/ and in the dark it looked as hard as stone." We used to be here. Immediacy is a tricky thing, it likes detours, it is even grateful for them.

PS.: On May 3, 2014, Sarah repeated her performance at the fourth international Text Festival, in Bury, UK. To find out more about this exciting gathering and the ongoing exhibitions and other events, go to:


Marton Koppany lives in Budapest, Hungary. He has been dealing with visual poetry, language art, intermedia etc. since the beginning of the 80's. His latest book in print is Addenda (Otoliths, 2012). His new ebook, Hungarian LangArt, can be downloaded here:

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