Katya Tylevich: Word bites picture
Monday November 4, 2013 – Saturday November 9, 2013
An artist residency as part of the exhibition Being
Espen Dietrichson, The Fog #2
Week 04 / Nov 5 – 9
Word bites picture
About the project
‘Word bites picture’ draws from my work writing about art and architecture, but subverts the idea of expository writing. For the project, I ask an artist, photographer or architect to send me an image he or she has created. In response to that image, I write a 500-word short fiction story. During my five-day residency, I will create at least one short story a day in response to one respective image. Each day, one more ‘companion work’ will join others on the wall of theresidency space, so that the works of fiction act as abstract captions to the images. Though not exactly an exquisite corpse, the spontaneous energy of the project is similar. Viewers will likely find their brains trying to make sense of the resulting art-fiction creatures. It’s necessary for these modular pieces to exist in a public space, so that they can assemble into a whole and face different interpretations. The project further addresses the cannibalism of all art, literature, and architecture: new movements do not exist without predecessors, which isn’t to say that the results aren’t entirely original. Among the people submitting images for the ‘Word bites picture’ -project are artist Michaël Borremans and Vito Acconci.
About the artist
Katya Tylevich is an arts, architecture and design journalist based in Los Angeles. She is Editor-at-Large for arts journal Elephant, Contributing Editor for architecture magazine MARK and art journal White Zinfandel, and frequent contributor to magazines like Domus, Pin-up and FRAME. Recently, Katya wrote the text for photographer Todd Hido’s book Excerpts From Silver Meadows, published by Nazraeli Press. Her interviews and essays appear in books like Pin-Up: Interviews, published by powerHouse Books, and Operations In Populated Areas, which accompanies an exhibition of the same name at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Wrocław. She has essays on Brutalism and Postmodernism forthcoming in a Thames & Hudson book on architecture, and her short fiction story, ‘Sustained Release,’ written in response to three paintings by Michaël Borremans, will be published in the artist’s catalog, As sweet as it gets, from Hatje Cantz in February 2014. Currently, Katya is working on a book for Laurence King Publishing, which examines contemporary artworks in unexpected ways, to be published in 2015. Together with her brother, Alexei, Katya is co-founder of Friend & Colleague, a company producing original content and art projects. She was born in Minsk, Belarus and runs a website called Happy Nothing.
by Katya Tylevich
Michaël Borremans, The Hovering Wood, 2011. Oil on Canvas. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp.
Our family was never very poor, but pretended to be, to keep the evil eye uninterested. Good health was met with knocks on wood. Bad health was welcomed like an irritating houseguest, with a begrudging hospitality. A long night’s sleep was considered suitable for cats and other indulged animals that had nine lives to waste — you know, on rapid eye movement.
The older generations in our home would point to various nocturnal creatures as fine examples of living things with proper work ethics. The daytime sleeping patterns of those animals were struck from record, in lectures meant to motivate and probably shame. I never felt humiliated, however. I was eager to follow instructions and to please, so I took the lectures at face value and tried to emulate those animals that I thought burned the midnight oil, like horseshoe crabs, rats, owls, and opossums.
In short order, my nighttime prowls grew quite intolerable for my family. What did me in, I think, were all the seed and peanut shells I’d left around the home. Also, the rustling I liked to do while everybody else was giving way to bodily weaknesses, shutting their eyes and drifting into apneas, paralyses and other forms of stinky human rest.
For those few nights that I had acted as a rodent, I’d crept around our single-family home, thinking of all the things I could accomplish in my extra waking hours. Mostly, I snacked and watched TV. As morning rolled around, I usually found myself blinking awake in front of the early news broadcast. Perhaps upon waking, I did feel humiliated, though nobody was up early enough to catch me in my disappointed state. I was disgusted by my personal failure to control my sleepy, weepy body, and its susceptibility to routine, and to gum disease, early-onset heartburn and probably, at some point, to some other sort of chronic pain.
My father told me that if my hot prowls were to continue, that in all fairness — literal man though he was, and head of a literal household (those were different times) — the family would have no choice but to treat me like a house animal and not a feral one, because I did, after all, live in their house and exterminating me was not an option. In other words, he said, they’d have to have me immunized and spayed or neutered. At that age, I had already had several vaccinations and was no pussy when it came to needles and blood. But I did have to look the latter threats up in a dictionary. I still resent you for that fucking joke, old man.
Then in an act entirely out of character, I screamed that, if that’s how they wanted it, then fine, then, fine, that I would turn myself in at an animal shelter so that a better family could adopt me there.
That may be memory playing tricks on me, actually. When and where this childhood took place, there were no shelters for used, abandoned animals, only streets and garbage dumps and alleyways and pounds. It’s probably more likely that my act, entirely out of character, was screaming that I was going to run off to the streets like an outdoor cat and wouldn’t they be sorry when I didn’t come back home that night or ever, even though I could remember our address, and would for the rest of my living days. To which my family, phlegmatic but in unison, knocked on all the wood available to them in that very wooden house.
Speak to a representative.
by Katya Tylevich
Otmar Thormann. COWBOY, STOCKHOLM 1968.
We had good reason to resent each other: our respective fantasies for how to fill the days had little in common. We were able to get a good night’s sleep every night, and they chose not to; we ate three different meals a day at regular hours, and they began their mornings with a coffee and a cigarette — they ended their nights, also in the mornings, with a coffee and a cigarette, and, this time, whiskey. We had never been in a fist-fight, and they hadn’t either, but they acted aggressively, as though they could stop clenched hands without elevated heart rates, with only a few, well placed, attractive bulging veins. We were healthy, but jealous. They were ill, but satisfied.
We decided that we would rather be ill and satisfied, too, so we invited them to join us on neutral territory — how about the woods? — for a kind of workshop, in which they could teach us how to be more like them. ‘And vice versa,’ we offered, but the bargain was declined. Our broader invitation, however, was met with an affirmative. We were surprised, and had a tough go of trying to contain our excitement.
More or less, we communicated by way of polite bows and cordial turns of ‘would you please’; we also shuffled our feet as a form of active deference. They responded with crude gestures, abbreviations and colloquialisms. One of them stuck a tongue between the index and middle fingers — you know, one of those. We tried to mimic their manners and motions, but failed to seem confident doing so. They said, ‘The woods are fine with us, but it will have to be east of the train tracks,’ a geographic symbolism that sent cold shivers down our spines, as expected, but still we nodded in agreement, not wanting to sound ungrateful or, god forbid, afraid.
We arrived on time, and they were a no-show. We built a fire, following exactly the written instructions we had packed the night before. We made shish kabobs (pork, chicken, and vegetarian), and cooked potatoes over an open fire. Despite our diligence, the potatoes were too raw when we bit into them, a failure that brought us all close to tears.
We wondered aloud to each other, whether this wasn’t part of our desired learning process, this failure and abandonment, and then I did the unthinkable, by excusing myself from this passive self-criticism — ‘What is this, North Korea?’ I yelled (and some of us shrugged, because what’s from stopping this from being North Korea?) — and I tore the written instructions in two, kicked the dirt up with my feet and tried hard to lose my temper.
That’s when they came in all swagger and cocked index fingers. ‘Lesson number one, losers! Never be on time.’ But I had already learned my lesson. I started packing my bags vigorously, so that the gesture couldn’t go unnoticed. We shouted for me to stop, while they shouted for me to keep going. I kept going, overcome by the desire to please, more than to leave.
Naturally, I was having trouble sustaining my temper at a simmer; it usually flat-lined, as if the stove had never been turned on at all. But I was somewhat determined, so I weakly put on necessary airs: ‘My blood is boiling, everybody! Don’t make it overflow!’ I tried to recreate some of the lewd gestures that they had always made look effortless. But I probably raised the wrong fingers or had the wrong tongue. My gesture was like a starter pistol firing: As if on cue, they attacked us, we tried to defend ourselves, and in a matter of minutes, all found a singular easy target and a common ground. They turned on me with their combined list of sniveling grievances and empty threats. I said, ‘What is this North Korea?’ They either told me I was not a patriot or overly patriotic, I didn’t ask them to repeat, and don’t care to remember.
Mostly, I was disheartened by the fact that I had no black eyes or central bruises to show for such a corporeal experience. My clothing was a bit scuffed up, but then again, I was wearing an outfit suitable for woodsmanship, wear, tear and otherwise. What was the use? I repatriated with the like-minded, but it was never the same between us again. They couldn’t trust that when I closed my eyes at night, that I was actually sleeping soundly.
Scheduled to arrive.
by Katya Tylevich
En route to a chipped shoulder.
by Katya Tylevich
Epsen Dietrichson. Second Construction #1.