Sunday, 2 March 2014

Gumming up the works

The artist and writer Joanne Lee kindly sent me the latest offering from her own Pam Flett Press, ‘Gumming up the works’. It begins as a meditation on those blobs of chewing gum that dot across urban pavements. I learn that the common Lecanora muralis has the vernacular name ‘chewing gum lichen’ because it is ‘a dead ringer for discs of trodden gum’. And that in 2012, the French state-owned rail company SNCF ‘commissioned a huge sculpture of green gum, around which passengers had to navigate to access the entrance of Marseille railway station. It formed part of a campaign titled Il n’y a pas de petites incivilities that sought to deal with a variety of antisocial or aggressive behaviours, including the littering of gum and discarded cigarettes.’

Like its predecessors, though, Gumming Up the Works is also a series of riffs on Lee’s extensive reading from Jarvis Cocker to Carlo Ginzburg. I felt some sympathy with this little lament halfway through:

‘I fail to achieve objectivity: my projects are way too personal and autobiographical for peer-reviewed publication, but too cluttered with footnotes and academic debate to find a place in a publisher’s non-fiction lists. My investigations are deficient in a formal academic methodology and instead oscillate between a series of temporary critical alliances, chance encounters, and obsessive fandom … I easily forget the bigger picture, instead getting sidetracked in juicy digressions, fixated upon all kinds of minutiae or enjoying the jewel-like quotations I’ve mined from unpromising sources.’

In fact, what I was sent is really a companion volume of footnotes to a spoken word recording which you can listen to here: