Shredding is a kind of littering or spreading, as much as a ploy for indecipherability. Coherent material becomes demolished by its consequence. It is a rebuke to capitalist principles of accumulation that rely on the body’s abstraction. ‘The body’ already, abstracted. Shredding disinvests itself of the totalising whole, exposing any blanketing ‘we’ of subjectivity as a ruse. Articulation and destruction, ambiguity and obligation, specificity and dissolution, singularity and collectivity – their various interchanges and struggles, become descriptors for Hannah Black’s ‘Some Context’.
‘The Situation’ (2017) is a book of transcribed, edited and redacted conversations between the artist and friends about ‘the situation’. The universal imposition of the title, ‘The Situation’, immediately cracks open its cause: questioning the Enlightenment ideals of universalism, displaying their ongoing violence and contemporary inadequacy. The conversations prioritise a close at hand analytic rigour, at times diarisitc: ‘My situation also right now is having felt, for the last few months, paralysed by attention … I haven’t written anything that I feel is worthwhile because I feel like I’m chasing some version of myself and what role I perform for people … I just don’t want people to think I’m anything.’ The conversations are peppered with brutal, immediate, facticity. Throughout the size of this situation, the most banal minutiae of cognitive interiority prove essential, with Black rejecting their gendered imposition of frivolity.
20,000 free copies of ‘The Situation’ (2017) are stacked in the centre; the shredded text litters the floor and provides the stuffing for a selection of lumpen, eyeless, cuddly toys – ‘transitional objects’ to be destroyed at the close of the exhibition. Child-like clay sculptures blend imperceptibly with the concrete floor in the form of facial trimmings: eyes, smiles, the occasional vacuous figure complete with anarchic grin.
The conversations show how erasures of difference in a collective ‘we’ flatten the political horizon into spectacle, cajoling the individual into a self-critique of the underlying passivity of our politics of hope. Engaging in a Marxist black feminist framework Black wrestles with pleasure, judgement, the limits of relation and the vastness of unthought.
Shredding as form; illiterate like dust. This decompression goes some way in emphasising the multifaceted nature of identity, as well as its profound instability. So too, does shredding display the potential in the uselessness of art, a dustbin: ‘I like the dustbin kind of dimension of art being this place where other things come for refuge or some to die … it’s terrifyingly open in some way.’
The book exists in a limited sense; the show will be undone, without concrete ownership. In a volatile world loosed from existential moorings, ‘Some Context’ grapples with correlationism and the violence of empty historical category, to, in its close minutiae, express a collectivised assemblage of subjectivities that understand theory can totalise as much as the situation. So, you start where you have access, where your meaning is assembled in a broken whole.