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Posthuman and categorically nebulous art writing.

A Fortnightly Review

These Wonderful Spring Days
by Jeremy David Stock

Repress | 100 pp | £10.00 $15.00



IN JEREMY DAVID STOCK’S new collection of prose poetry These Wonderful Spring Days, he sets up a theatrical scenario of human beings, or “intelligent life” as he prefers to call it, transitioning from planet earth into deep uncharted space. But the narrative theatricality is constructed from the driest, most undramatic language, as if the exodus were the logical development of a speculative philosophical project, rather than a post-apocalyptic technological feat. Stock’s verbal palette is narrow, repetitive, yet precise, eschewing jargon, a sci-fi purged of lurid affect; so therefore no alien monsters erupting from a crew mate’s abdomen. At the same time paradoxically, Stock doesn’t enlist standard philosophical terms or professional vocabulary either, his disembodied voice articulated in intensive outbursts of pre-Socratic reflection
The branches of knowledge are not branches at all, they are vortices, eddies, whorls, the conceptual descriptors of turbulence – of the careful and considered dissipation of energies- of the disturbance of a too rapid flow- of deceleration, detour, delay.”
“”This statement comes from the section entitled “Impacts/Exchange”, and its abstract quality is typical, for there are no heroic characters in this extraterrestrial plot, and very few proper names to speak of apart from Ariel Field, Dresta Trench, and Holloway Road! but more on that shortly. Divided into eight parts or suites of writing, TWSD begins with a prologue called “The Two Londons” which establishes a mood of lucid dreaming, or drone surveillance that owes a debt to Thomas De Quincey’s somnambulistic scans. Apparently this introductory section is woven from remote dreams of London Stock has had in Australia since 2008. This is taken further in the Rimbaudian-sounding “Departures” which reads as a long-forgotten episode of trespass and vagrancy in which Holloway Road figures as a boulevard of broken dreams (today it is a notorious hot spot for moped crime).
I place a square of cardboard against the broken window pane, tear some masking tape from a roll and stick it in place. I drop a cloth onto the floor and push it along with my foot soaking up the stream of water and the pool at its end. I sit back down in the chair.”

[This is] a book that delves into outer rather than inner space, oneiric rather than factual, but always driven by a desire to be free of intractable problems.

From then on, the suites follow in chronological order. Stock now lives in Melbourne and is a successful graphic designer, but in the late 1970s (during the worst years of Peter Sutcliffe’s evil campaign of murder) he was a student at Leeds Polytechnic, taught by the counter-cultural painter/poet and People Show founder Jeff Nuttall. In “The Solid State Universe” he describes a room where a chest of drawers has been moved, leaving a slot “where the wallpaper is darker, its colours more intense” and a few scraps of paper are revealed “folded and squashed against the skirting board”. This demonstrates how Stock’s writing can also function as a mysterious script, schematic for a Mike Nelson-like installation, or celestial film score in some instances, perhaps the ghosts of unrealised art projects finally being exorcised? Ultimately though TWSD is a book that delves into outer rather than inner space, oneiric rather than factual, but always driven by a desire to be free of personal hang ups and intractable problems, free to travel telekinetically, and in Brett Easton Ellis’s unforgettable phrase “disappear here”.

Yet physical discomfort is never far off, and Stock informs me he uses a fine Mitsubishi Uniball Protech pen to write in Spirax A5 recycled wire-bound notebooks, typing everything up into book format via InDesign. This sounds laborious and likely to produce mistakes, but again the issue is covered, as he evidently keeps his texts in strict chronological order and though a ruthless deleter, allows for “infelicities”. This is rather too modest, as TWSD flows and is a coherent composition. Evidently the title was sourced from a 2014 ABC radio interview he half-heard while driving, in which a student from Kiev used the phrase historically, just before the Crimea was annexed and MH17 was shot down. Despite these dreadful outcomes, Stock believes the student’s optimism remains valid if for the longer term.
Nevertheless post hoc, the title does seem shot through with tragic irony and sometimes Stock manages a Kafkaesque note, a “plasticity of consciousness”:
The cure is painfully slow. Each day that passes seems to prolong its course rather than bring its end any closer. The announcement that was promised, informing us of its progress, is itself postponed and is apparently more distant every day and this too is part and parcel of the cure.”
It is one of the book’s several merits that it enables the reader to take this sort of nightmarish aperçu in stride, and never once fall back into mere stoicism. Ultimately though the first half of TWSD is a vehicle that launches the second’s deep probe, a journey away from the failed industrial project that was Planet Earth, where “all is lost”, into boundless space and “towards” a Theory of Everything. This involves facing “the insoluble problem of turbulence in the dynamics of non-solid media” whilst recognising how human intelligence is co-evolutionary, embedded in the universe as a means of its progressive destiny through endless cycles of intentional destruction. In “Transitions”, the final section, both narrative trajectory and order collapse in favour of the quantum world, or rather the impossible task of conveying its fluctuating phantom nature originally by means of language. In what sounds like a manifesto, Stock avers
Work should always be piecemeal, fragmented, partial, precisely unfocused, vacillating, equivocal, hesitant, humble, always aware of itself being not a great work.”

Stock’s voice scours life, navigating a theoretical field in case there might be a gift overlooked in dreams…

Here he adopts the role of neo-virtuoso, dabbler, hobbyist, minor poet pursuing a relentless Parmenidean investigation without any obvious telos apart from the softback covers binding his complex suites of writing. His voice scours life, navigating a theoretical field in case there might be a reward at the end of the night, or rather a gift overlooked in dreams, a surprise payoff in the form of an afterlife or cosmic time travel. The book’s full-bleed cover photograph of a NASA Hubble space telescope view into a stellar breeding ground in 30 Doradus in the Tarantula Nebula signposts the interdisciplinary, categorically nebulous identity of TWSD. Published by, predominantly an academic philosophy imprint, its credentials as both a piece of distilled art writing with sublime timbres, and an adaptation to deal with information overload and political turbulence place it among a growing corpus of important posthuman literature, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood (2009), and Daisy Hildyard’s The Second Body (2017); a distant cousin to his old tutor Jeff Nuttall’s iconic account of the 1960s: Bomb Culture (1968).

Michael Hampton is a writer and critical theorist based in London with a special interest in artists’ publishing. He has contributed to many magazines and journals including The Blue Notebook, Frieze, Geschichte, The Penguin Collector’s Journal, Rapport, Schizm, /Seconds and The White Review. He writes regularly for Art Monthly and in 2015 his revisionist history Unshelfmarked: Reconceiving the Artists’ Book was published by Uniformbooks. Sharon Kivland recently published his speculative essay “Beyond Walter Benjamin’s Paris & Kenneth Goldsmith’s New York” as a limited edition in her series The Good Reader: Beyond Walter Benjamin’s Paris & Kenneth Goldsmith’s New York (Anagram Books). He is currently working on a collection of psychogeographical writings about London.

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