They will call butter yellow

Janet Laurence

Tacit. They will give consent. To the structure of a language. She. Does not judge. Is butter. Is?

I am. A female cultural worker. , Rachel Blau DuPiessis uses that designation to incorporate the politics of her (re)valued body.

Out of ash.

And sand, eroded. In segments. Of zinc, straw, wood. Is an arbitrary alignment. A remnant of yellow . For Janet Laurence the work/painting/not yet word investigates the materiality of the pre-linguistic realm; that is, the palpability of those intonations-rhythm, laughter, fluid, breath-which may be observed "in the first echolalias" uttered by the subject prior to the accession to a language proper.2 Such an exegesis poses the question of why it is that a dominant culture might seek to cover (elide) the traces of such a corporeality; the prospect of a material existence which requires sustentation (honey, yellow, art) and yet is liable to a physical disintegration (rust, erosion, ash).

What is imperative for the female cultural worker in this morphology of the prior-to-speech is the material (bio-maternal) relation to signification. Janet Laurence assembles a somatic field (as did Rothko) containing a residue, grain, imprint as analogue of the lived body. Nevertheless, an ordinate art historical practice is unable to account for such a libidinal category as that of the somatic. What is required therefore is a semanalysis, that Kristevan procedure which draws attention to the physiology (mark) of the sexual subject. Which signifies. Does. Make sense. As in the work/words of Gertrude Stein. Stein wrote Three Lives in 1909 and Tender Buttons in 1914. James Joyce wrote Ulysses in 1922.3 It was she who gave the unconscious a body. Her writing is necessarily elliptical (segmented) accounting as it does for the materiality of language. Omitted. Which it is. A gap, hollow or vacancy. Is wood. Or fur. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.4 In which no such agreement is accepted. How else might such a contiguous, non-binary relation be articulated? In her texts the pulsion is that of the bio-psychical. He enacts, his method notwithstanding, that other agreement:

"What is an argument. What are forensics. What are masterpieces. What are their hopes.” 5 She chose to live. His genealogy (Joyce, Kerauac, Bukowski/De Kooning, Pollock) constitutes the stream of a masculinist consciousness (maintained by the mechanism of the anthropocentric or transcendental). As Helene Cixous remarks in "The Laugh of the Medusa", there is such a thing as marked writing (painting); that, until now, far more extensively and repressively than is ever suspected or admitted, writing has been run by a libidinal and cultural-hence political, typically masculine-economy ... and that this locus has grossly exaggerated all the signs of sexual opposition (and not sexual difference), where woman never has her turn to speak."6Stein said the unsayable. Having burned. What is unlawful. The actions of a cultural worker. Between 1928 and 1931 Stein wrote "Forensics": "Forensics are a plan by which they will never pardon. They will call butter yellow. Which it is. He is. They will call birds attractive. Which they are. They will also oblige girls to be women that is a round is a kind of hovering for instance." 7 Given as a forum pertaining to law and medicine the forensic is a writing which maintains one side or the other of a particular question. Stein argues for that version, necessarily oblique, in which linguistic structure itself is brought into question in regard to the practice of textual recension.

Rust and pigment. Breath. She assembles a work out of sediment. This is not a dilemma for the woman. Janet Laurence segments the proposition (abstract) of a material body. The dilemma of a language which is, not yet, and already, signifiable (Mo-th), unable to relinquish, what-the relation to the maternal, the pleasure of matter (liebte) fluid and air? A loving hostility. Of benevolence. Or a discrete violence: "What did she do with fire. She almost put fire to forensics. As useful. As usual. As vagrant. As appointed. As veiled. And as welcome".8 After burning. Remains sand. The other side-curve, dome-returns. The pronoun she speaks of the indelible surface of the word, upsurge of language (whelm) over which signification proceeds. The linguistic pulsion is obdurate and prophetic. How otherwise might one acquire language under threat of (non)sense except in those rhythms (colour, tone, shape) which are known to us as subliminal impulsions towards speech eventually becoming verbal patterns and yet retaining the impression of that fleshy indentation, so that the one fought against the other. It is in contemporary poetics that one locates that palpable acuity which established the veracity of Roman Jakobson's thesis that "the word is never uniquely the sign".9 Poetic language demands that one recognize the fundamental materiality of the word-object, that is, that words in a poetic sense are not merely denotative in function but have the status of concrete objects.

Obstacle. He says of this text. Empty. Of painting. Go back into his version of science, language, art history, the attempt to transcend or occlude the material status of language. Excavate the ruins. To find what follows late-capitalism.

Contiguous, next to, a panel or segment-in this manner of installation Janet Laurence breaks up linguistic structure: here the (feminine) forensic explicates the relations between matter and art practice. This asocial act produces a work which is intersected-a becoming, a mo-th. To what end? What is at stake in such a transposition? And why is it that an artist, a woman, might seek to avow that which simultaneously sustains and depletes itself?

Surcease. 10

Indicating that irrational alternation of the Arcadian: zone of surplus or plenitude, a promise of fertility (pollen, honey, pigment)-and the postapocalyptic: or what ceases (burnt, oxidized, rusted) to be. The process of mortification. Of a lived body and the rhythms peculiar to it. That which is also contained in the promise. Does it disappear? Under ruin, the sand and rubble of an ungenerous empire. Franchise. Of your own abundance.


1. Rachel Blau DuPiessis: "Woolfenstein", Breaking the Sequence: Women's Experimental Fiction, Ed. E. G. Friedman & M. Fuchs, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1989, p,100.

2. Julia Kristeva: "From One Identity To Another", Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Ed. Leon S. Roudiez, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1980, p,133.

3. Blau DuPiessis: op.cit, p 9~114.

4. Jeanette Winterson: "Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit", Vintage.

5. Stein, G.: "Forensics", How To Write, 1931, New York: Dover, 1975, p, 385-95.

6. Hellme Cixous: "The Laugh of the Medusa", New French Feminisms, Schoken, New York, 1980, p, 250.

7. Stein, G. op.cit.

8. Stein, G. ibid.

9. Roman Jakobson: Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1985.

10. Janet Laurence: Sur-cease.