Talks and Essays
Distributed for Semiotext(e)
On the ongoing project of writing about grief; Zambreno's addendum to Book of Mutter.
I came up with the idea of writing these notes, or talks, out of a primary desire to not read from Book of Mutter, and instead to keep gesturing to its incompleteness and ongoingness, which connects, for me, to the fragmentary project of literature, and what I long for in writing.—from Appendix Project
Beginning on March 16, 2017, the fifteenth anniversary of her mother's death, Kate Zambreno gave a series of talks on and around the material in her Book of Mutter, which had just been published. Book of Mutter, a tender, disquieting meditation on the capacity of writing, photography, and memory to embrace the shadows while in the throes of grief, was composed over thirteen years. Many things Zambreno explored in the process of writing that book were left out. In Appendix Project, which was written much faster, during the first year of her daughter's life and in a state of exhausted “aphasic openness,” she picks up these threads.
Everything, in this state, is at once blurred and frozen in time. It's no coincidence that Appendix Project begins with a brilliant consideration of On Kawara's Today Series of 3,000 paintings that bear only the date. Investigating the ongoing project of writing about grief, Zambreno considers the nature of time, memory, the maternal, and death over the course of her daily life, and through her readings of other writers and artists. In Appendix Project, she comes close to the heart of writing itself.
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'But still it interests me'—so writes Kate Zambreno in Appendix Project, a powerful, necessary, and defiantly untimely defense of what Richard Howard, translating Roland Barthes, called continuance. By way of the books she persists in reading and rereading, the mother whom she is still mourning, the questions she keeps on asking, rephrasing, and finding new ways of asking, Zambreno claims her right to stay with what is not yet exhausted. This is a book about how things—interests, attachments, experiences, projects—don't finish; in Zambreno's hands, this means it is also a book about openness.
I love these talks, these essays set in the specificity of a day, this generous thinking about photography, sleep, time. As much a form of artful reading as of writing, Zambreno makes an exhibition of the text, a space you can walk through with her, inhabited like a conversation. I am grateful for the chance to mark time with this writer, to move through the world of the appendices with this original and surprising thinker.
T. Clutch Fleischmann