Emergence Implied in the Unsaid
Myung Mi Kim
On March 15, 2007, Penn students and Charles Bernstein interviewed Myung Mi Kim as part of Bernstein's "Close Listening" series. Michael Nardone has now transcribed the entire discussion, for publication, later, in Jacket2. Meantime, here is an excerpt:
You mentioned yesterday how each reading is different and how you would have other people come up and read your work. If you could just elaborate on that and how would someone who doesn’t speak another language experience repercussions while reading?
Let me start with the second part of your question first, because I think it dovetails nicely with what I’ve just been saying about what are the demands on sense and sense-making that are politically and socially and culturally driven. So, when you ask that question about, well, what about a person who doesn’t speak, you know, another language, and what kind of condition would be produced for that reader, my question always, whether out loud or implicitly, is can you produce an approximation of the condition of language again unhooked from the demands of communication and communicability and transparency, and can you somehow suggest/evoke/amplify/proliferate different ways of being inside and listening to and activating the space that we call language, which doesn’t belong to any one language group, doesn’t belong to any one particular idea of how basic things that benchmarks of language like rhythm, syntax, intonation, inflection, taking all those things as resources for meaning, as resources for experience. So, in other words, even if there were no identifiable thing called the second language, there’s something produced about an experience of language, and I think everyone has access to that.
So, you think that when phrases can’t be translated, so these other limits of syntax, that this is actually more resources, is what you’re saying?
Yeah, I think the whole notion of untranslatability, unsayability, the unsayable remains a profound interest again both linguistically, culturally and politically. The what isn’t there, what isn’t, that can’t be said. The kind of immanence and the emergence implied in that state of the unsaid, I think, has to be a certain kind of social force.
In listening to you last night and then a reading you did at Buffalo, I guess, before Commons was printed officially, I was noticing a lot of differences in what you were reading and what I was reading along with in the version, so I was wondering speak a little about versions of text, and when you do or don’t think something is finished. Also, you mentioned last night about conceiving of your works as one long continuum, and sort of how that might play into how you think about a finished product.
When I finish the text, in fact, that is the finished text. However I feel that when I’m giving readings from the finished text, it’s almost as if the text literally re-presents itself to you. Even if you are the maker of that particular text, there’s a way in which you’re greeting it and reading it. So, the occasion of the reading creates a space in which that re-listening and re-making initiates itself, and sometimes that happens, say, before the event, that I’ll sit down and wonder, in a sense, out loud to myself, what will I be reading. In that process, something gets kicked up, something is, as I say, re-initiated. Sometimes it happens literally in the reading itself, in the performance itself. I don’t think of them necessarily as revisions at all. I do think of them as reformulations, re-takes, re-assembling, which is a lot how I work in the first place, a kind of process of accretion and assemblage and reconfiguration and there are many mobile parts. So, in a way, every time you come back to the text, the process can re-kindle itself. That’s been of some interest to me simply because it opens up the question of what is real time, what is compositional time, and what is the time of making a text. I think they are all different sort of filtrations of what it means to produce a written text, which is not to refuse or in any way empty out the meaning of the book or the text that might come to some kind of rest, right. So, these are things that are being held in some kind of complicity and conversation with each other so that no one part of that, processually speaking, forecloses on any other part.