alongside "Bearing correspondence"


(Bearing correspondence was an installation on view at the Poetry Center from June 2 – July 2 that invited people to take a moment to themselves and/or to write to no one)





What follows are notes on absence, grasping solitude, and the relationship between what or who is and is not here.


1. Riding my bike through the West Loop in Chicago in 2015, I came across a demolition site that carried a banner on one of the fences demarcating the area that no longer held the building formerly there with the company motto: “We Make Space.”  I remember thinking, “You cannot make space, space is already here.” Space can be displaced, compartmentalized or reconfigured due to placement or movement of objects through space, but it cannot be made.


2. Absence constitutes the world around us; space between you and I that holds us both.


3. Absence and presence are codependent. One can only exist if the other exists elsewhere.  Like two separated lovers in want for each other; their existence is based in their separation, yet this separation also connects them. What is not you approximates you in your coexistence.


4. In Ways of Seeing John Berger wrote: “Images were first made to conjure up the appearances of something that was absent.”[1] The same can be said of words. Every word is the presence of something not (visibly) here. Anything put into words may have been there before, though the particularity of the moment or feeling which fueled the urge to put it into words has passed, or if still present it only is so invisibly, in the mind or in the heart. How much writing then is documenting and archiving of what might otherwise go lost?


5. I have never quite understood the materiality of language. Or, I may understand it; it as understood by some as being completely detached from both its utterer and its referent, and therefore language becomes an object itself. Words live on their own, words are objects, etc. And, although I can follow this logic, this is not how I feel language. To me language will always remain, however loosely, tied to its speaker and its meaning. Objects then because acknowledged as such? Like space, the formation of language brings what is absent into perception, to our shared presence. Words can stand on their own in context. Language becomes material in that it is between materials––user and meaning. A fold in the fabric of the social and cultural structures of our world.


6. Bearing correspondence became a concrete essay that functions as a table and attempts a correspondence with absence, with no one. The words carved into the surface––a negative space composed from language––are and imagine what is not there. Literally erasing the wood with a chisel made the language visible. It began with a question about missing (a) home, and whether that could possibly be found in language. Perhaps it is a realization of a heartache for a home left behind.


7. Language separates, opposes and unites us. As of today, we have spent 65 days apart this year. How can we stay in touch without touching?


8. The table says: “In absence we become context. Contours.” This does not mean that context is not meaningful, it is. Are we ever without context? One can ignore their influences, the affect of others, but we can never be fully alone. Disconnected, yes, until an ear, an atom, or a thought reaches the edge of us and the conversation, in which we alternate between and as text and context, I and you, you and I, continues.


9. When absence collapses with presence it hurts. It is difficult to breathe without space for oneself.  We sleep next to each other yet the accumulated emotional distance makes us absent to each other. We are together, yet we are without. A feeling of not … Not what? Is this a human condition? How we are only half complete until we find other halves, again and again. How we need multiple perspectives to get only a sense of self. Presences alongside each other, touching each other, acknowledging each other. A collapse is an overwriting, unacknowledging, text on top text, i.e. appropriation as a means of oppression v.s. a means to emerge from oppression, in case of the latter one takes their own space back.


10. “What is the sound of 100 Chinese grocery stores that no longer exist?” ask Brandon Shimoda in ‘On the Bring, Unconstellating: Messages from Tucson Poets’ an evening of readings and conversation at MoCA Tucson referring to Chinese stores and businesses that were located in the area that now houses the MoCA, the Tucson Convention Center and the I-10.


11. Absence is not non-existing, it is out of touch. A temporal ghost state. Not now perceived but able to transform into material, verbal and states of feeling. Possibility of presence through connection.


12. The world is built on bones and stories, and although the dead cannot be brought back to life, stories can be heard if we listen and make institutionalized History open. If even the hardest of stones is fluid on anatomical level, why do narratives remain ossified. A discourse is a sedimentary process formed by voices.


13. From the foreword of the new edition of Mat Hekid O Ju / When It Rains edited by Ofelia Zepeda: “During the 1980s federal law required many reservation schools to provide funding to support students’ efforts to transition from their Native language to English. […] This extreme shift to English and the loss of Native language has created to an urgency to write the language down, to document it in all forms of media, to use it daily.”[2] Losing a language is more than losing a language.


14. Is this an investigation in my desire to be alone; is to be alone a personal method to reverse a passive position into an active position; disconnect to reconnect with my own agency; understanding the choice of moving away from a place or a moment; understanding the privilege of choosing.


15. Productivity can be invisible and equally meaningful. Process does not have to become the product, but value can be attributed.


16. I cannot answer my own heart, you used to do that.


[1] Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. Penguin, 1972: 10


[2] When It Rains / Mat Hekid O Ju, edited by Ofelia Zepeda. Sun Tracks, 2019: ix-x

Lara Schoorl is a poet, curator and art historian from the Netherlands and lives in Los Angeles. She is the publicity manager at The Green Lantern Press in Chicago and works at the Museum of Jurassic Technology and Hat & Beard Press. Her recent writing can be found in The Conversant, The Huffington Post, Tique Art Paper, The Los Angeles Review of Book, and the anthology Sisternhood. She is a co-author of the end of may.