Poodle mouth; a face-without-neck. Rotating before exploding. If Gilbert and George were melted down, if they had long-standing careers on tumblr, if they were ‘tumblr famous,’ then maybe you’d have an angle of approach into “100% other fibres,” Heather Phillipson’s recent digital film-poem, an ‘information milkshake’ (that’s pulled from Helen Marten’s ideas about what modern society iz). But then again, you could just watch it.
There’s always a degree of selfishness and auto-curation when selecting your ‘favourite’ or ‘best’ of a given year. There’s also a degree—always—of uncanny specification. I’m interested in when books stop being books, and when the written thing is turned inside out, especially when it interacts with technology. So, Heather Phillipson’s video-art poetry work is what remains, broiling, assuredly there, after everything else falls away. It’s not regular.
Phillipson’s work comes from text, alludes to it, and also manages to somehow escape from it. Her visual defiance has more hooks trapped in weird video games than poetry books; I think of Lilith’s ongoing Crypt Underworld—a gabbly nightmarish ‘piss simulator’—as coming closest to what Phillipson is ‘doing.’ Text—the spoken and/or written word—haunts and, still, departs from the video. It is a poem. It is not a poem. It is—ahh—’bookish.’
So what’s going on in the video? Overlain, aesthetic, writhing, barking. It is a reassembly of found things that separately are really just things, but together become a kind of rapture. It’s very silly. It’s also kind of spooky. The technique behind it doesn’t try to smooth over the fact that these things have been spliced together from the softcore corners of the Internet—I guess it’s a kind of carnival, punctuated by words—Phillipson’s voice, stattaco, authoritarian. Okokok it doesn’t make any narrative sense. But that’s not what I’m interested in here—I’m interested in its fragmentary composition, its having been ‘made,’ from a mush of found Internetty things. It’s art brut for the digital age. The tools that made it—cutting, filters, loops, layers—being pushed to the surface. A kind of abstract expressionism for weird Facebook, as much meme as it is memory.
What Phillipson is doing, then, is a conscious accidental contradiction; producing mis-directions and dissonance, rubbing different registers and images against one another in order to produce a variety of screened violence that is also, obviously, a kind of joking game, while also grabbing onto Peter Greenaway’s demand that artists must make use of modern technology, that it is actually necessary for them to do this in order to remain in language.
“100% other fibres” implies a thing that is not other; the 0 percent. This garment—a woven-together texture of incongruently and basically disconnected images—celebrates the vitality of an archaeology of the Internet which is glad and open to take risks and to, in her own words, ‘be contrapuntal,’ where ‘opposing elements coexist and conflict within them.’ It highlights the possibility of a writing which is thoroughly present in our day-to-day textures, while remaining astonishingly at their horizon.