During a sweaty hot summer, the ‘o’ key on the keyboard stopped working and simultaneously started adding o’s to all the other keys on the same row left of it. Suddenly in everything written there were jumping o’s. Disappearing when typed, appearing when not. I asked why this had happened. “It was probably just an accumulation of humidity and dust” they told me.
A few weeks later, a small black spot with red skin around it appeared on the belly. Again, I asked why this had happened. “It was probably just a combination of sweat and dirt.”
The eyes started sweating during the sweaty hot summer, taking baths every morning after a night of pulling off the sheets and taking sips of water, moving with each push towards the bedside table on the slippery wooden floor. In the morning the sheets were found crumpled next to the bed. They started to get stretched by heat to ease their creases, but the steam coming out of the pores of the iron before even touching the sheet made the skin already crumble. The sheets got sprinkled with water to shrink the crisps, drying up on the floor next to the bed, crumpling again because the night was too warm and the bed on wheels. The back leaning against the side of the bed started writing on the sheets, moving with the wheels and wrinkles. The mornings that followed, the sweating eyes started to take the sheets of paper into the bathtub. The text started falling into the water and sticking to the legs. The words started moving into each other and creating others. The sentences started stretching out over the length of the bath and the fingers following them.
The processes and problems that sparked the writing are also in the writing itself. It is not there to understand the processes or fix the problems, but instead to add complexity, to feel the writing alive with tension and trembling potential. How to write while constantly resisting language as something linear, causal, and representational? How to write when all the concepts want to pop up at once and there is no clear feeling of sequence? How to write when the processes start with porousness, water, feeling lost, and the writing needs techniques of holding together? How to write when processes time and time again prove that life is full of contingencies, paradoxes, tendencies, multiplicities?
Gilles Deleuze knows how to hold two thoughts at once. When he takes up Henri Bergson’s concept of fabulation, he denotes the “powers of the false” (1989: 126-155, 247-275). He changes the notion of false from simply being an opposition of true. Instead, he tunes it toward the not-yet, to its force to produce truths. It attunes to both in a novel way: “The break is not between fiction and reality, but in the new mode of story which affects both of them” (Ibid., 150). He sets in motion a collective storying.
A collective storying constantly feels the many at work even while writing alone. That is why this is not a discussion of the philosophical concept of fabulation. Deleuze’s concepts, like many others that stay unnamed, can however constantly be felt. That is what happens when the many fabulate: words get lost and found in a movement of relaying traces. Experience does not start and end with finding the right names and narratives, which means that concepts and moments of experience that stay unnamed or are unaccounted for are completely part of the reading and writing (and walking and making and dancing and dreaming and and and). Not everything is found in the form of a word. To write and make so there can be written and made again, so that there is always room for more. To half-thought-write, to let other thoughts emerge alongside, to open the text to contamination of other words, other thoughts, other worlds.
The o has to be unseen where it appears and seen where it does not. Blinking in reverse. The o’s pop up, emerge from the dust-dirt-sweat-moist-meetings, and squeeze themselves into the words written. The jumping o’s make that the typing starts to stutter. The stutter shifting and tending, alive with potential in its not-yet but already-almost-almost-almost-almost-almost-almost-not-yet.
The o’s are the refusing of words or worlds appearing as solid units, uttering gasps and chuckles that are not-yet articulated blocks of sounds, colours, movements. An o quickly moves into a dot, with the blink of an eye, with the falling of sand out of a stone with holes, with the stutters that will become the seeds for novel stories. The three dots when just-not-completely-sure what is being said, written, heard, seen, felt, and not even sure who or what is talking, writing, hearing, seeing, feeling. Those dots, in all their suspension, utter that which is imperceptible, in need of a pause, too painful to tell, indefinable, or able to understand without the need of mediation. It sweeps the event up and drifts it towards what is not yet there but already, or what already was but not anymore. What was felt in the drifting of the dots and to relay that feeling, to feel the felt, again, differently.
The fabulatory is necessary for survival in a world where relationality and non-linear temporality are constantly backgrounded. It means to always carry the more-than in what is done, to not close it, to be part of another kind of conversation. To carry the more does not mean there do not still need to be ways of crafting conditions so things can land, have the chance to emerge, can be thought-felt in all possible ways. While writing these words, the world starts with feeling lost, with feeling less in a world that is too much, with all the words, smells, sounds, colours, tastes during the toughest days just falling on top of me. But it also starts with being certain that writing and making art do not stand or fall with my individual senses. Instead, with being certain that words, smells, sounds, colours, tastes already produce variations in the world. Processes constantly produce differences. By trusting the world to produce variations on existence, it allows a way to feel the shifts of variation. Then language does not become a mediator of those shifts, but instead a practice, a way of doing, an active participator in the encounter of word with world.
Therefore, fabulation is taken up as a material practice. To approach it as such is to try to make it felt by its material qualities. By resisting language as a mediator of experience, by attuning to its materiality, it can carry the traces of the fabulatory. The fabulatory does not happen when it is recounted. It can happen in the telling of the story, but it is rather what the telling of the story sets in motion, how it makes the relationality of experience felt in this instance, in its feeding forward of future-past traces.
Rip some paper
Take a sip of water
Cough three times
Make a note
Like a jotting
Err a bit
Take a sip
Take three sips of water
Three drops of water
Dots of ink
It took two weeks for the lily pad to dry... can one believe that? And the picture has already been wet for weeks now
Some enters, a few jumps
To hold on
To put on hold
To err in the hold
Sweating in a sheet, folding it back; moving an o, unrolling a piece of tape; finding with a drop of water; holding on.
There was never a huge draw towards circular movements, but o’s started jumping, ironically, exactly in a period of writing a lot of letters. Yes, yes, the letters of licking stamps on cloudy fall days have been read before, but what drew these letters was not the fall, rather the falling that comes with fall, a spreading, an expansion, a thread dropping from a ladder and not bouncing back up. A landing. Half a circle, like a c, each time someone else cc’ed, an o opened, blinking backwards, many c’s turning into a spiral.
The jumping o is always there, in whatever words are (not) written, still lurking when another keyboard is used, and only appearing after a while when writing with the clogged one. The jumping o’s need some time to warm up, move more easily when the weather is hot or the heating up high, when the keyboard starts sweating and gets chased by any kind of trace – dust, dirt, stories, images, colours, lullabies, footsteps, file names, buttons fallen off a favourite coat – floating around in the air like pollen. The thought of it cranks up the feeling of a sneeze. Dust moving like water, dried particles rebelling against the weight they floated away from, light enough to flutter, as a fine mist, ignoring where one thing ends and the other begins. The floating of dust that moves across and sticks to whatever is moving with it, responding to all different rhythms around.
During the summer’s heatwave a pool appeared to ease the sweat. Wet writing and reading started to happen. A few months later, when the melting stopped and the freezing started, when all the sheets had dried up, the wet reading traces were found in again.
To sew with last summer’s wet reading, found with a dip into the compost, that carries whatever caught onto it - a little red sticker. To splash with each tap like the reading in the pool. To work with what breaks. Not do undo but to follow the lines of what stutters in the sewing, each stich of thread as a hyphen-tending like the search for lost and found o’s.
Wrapping words in o’s, wrapping worlds in o’s, bubble wrap, pillow-plush, not to keep it away from everything around, but to unwrap until it is happening again. Not unwrapping until something is discovered, no, maybe like spiralling back in the opposite direction to see everything that has moved meanwhile; or like threading back the needle to notice all the dust that has been caught on its track; to ask the same question with a different set of letters.
The rip of paper, the drop of water, the stutter of the jumping o, all carry the potential to create a shift of rhythm. Importantly, in their quality there is always a certain movement: the paper rips, the water drops, the o stutters. How it rips, drops, stutters, is not known in advance and perhaps not even afterwards. Rather, its way of moving is felt in its creating of suspense. It creates a shift, a producing of difference. A change of colour, of texture, of taste. What happens is an activation of the unknown. It shifts what is moving and opens it up to other rhythms, to make and unmake the story repeatedly.
Language in the making, where it is carrying something but does not knowing how to register it yet, where words do not get wrapped and in their tending to iteration attune to what else is moving in the suspense of words that not-yet or already-did arrive as words, needs other tendencies, other ways of registering in the midst of producing together. The ways words can take are not predetermined. Not being able to shift-along does not mean the world miraculously stopped producing shifts and variations. It rather means new ways of registering those shifts and modes of existence need to be found. Not to try to create them. They come into themselves through the processes that call them forth. But to try to make the contrast of the different qualities of words and worlds felt. To believe in contrast, is to believe that new sparks always have the chance to pop up. The suspense of emergence of o is then no longer something to be denied, but a way to craft techniques to participate in the not-yet. To compose with the o’s is to feel lost even though recognizing every feeling, to keep unmaking language in the making, to feel what else is moving and getting swept up into it.