Finger Praxis & Zaum

Tuesday 10th of April, 2012, 6:00 pm, Spike Island

Featuring Rachel Lois Clapham  and Caroline Wilkins.



by Rachel Lois Clapham

George Bataille wrote about the agency of the BIG TOE. John Baldessari pointed at paintings pointing at conceptual art. Somewhere between these two notions is the praxis of the FINGER as a simultaneous form of writing, or diagramming, and physical gestures as text.

My presentation OF FINGER talks from recent scores, readings and live performances and presses on embodied acts of (w)reading and writing, finger(ing) texts and pointing to pointing at things. Participants will be able to read and buy a selection of publications, including a special (travelling) edition of (W)reading Performance Writing : A Guide (Live Art Development Agency).

Rachel Lois Clapham produces writing on and as performance as part of UK collaboration Open Dialogues and curates radical writing with the Arts Council partnership In a word…. Her own practice points…, punctuates movement and presses on physical gestures as text.  Work includes Re- (PSL Gallery, Norwich Arts Centre and John Latham Archive), WORK TRY HARD (Kaleid Editions), (W)reading Performance Writing : A Guide (Live Art Development Agency) and WRITING the SPACE (Wild Pansy Press).  In 2012 she is performing and publishing with The Other Room, Lemonmelon, Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, VerySmallKitchen and Open Dialogues


Zaum is the name given to a non-syntactical language invented in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Coined by poet Khlebnikov, the word zaum means beyond mind in English. It describes experiments in sound symbolism and linguistic creation stemming from Russian Futurist writers of the time such as Alexei Kruchonykh, whose Zaum in Tiflis (1918) will provide the basis for some of my discussion. There is a direct historical link between the trans-rational language or ‘words-in-freedom’ (Marinetti 1909)of zaum and parallel inventions of electronic instruments such as the theremin, both insisting on sound and noise as liberating factors that challenged the aesthetic confines of words and music.

I shall draw on Gerald Janacek’s translation of Kruchonykh’s poem and trace some contemporary explorations of zaum by both a Russian sound-poet and a theatre-composer. Finally I’ll refer directly to a sound theatre work made in collaboration with electronics composer Oded Ben-Tal, illustrating how Kruchonykh’s text becomes integrated into the piece.

Gerald Janacek – translation of Kruchonych from Russian to English:

Zachàr Laskewicz – theatre-composer:

Valeri Scherstjanoi – sound-poet:

Caroline Wilkins/Oded Ben-Tal – Zaum: Beyond Mind



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