Regina Dürig


On Thursday, 28 September 2017, I embarked upon my Journey to Alice Kober: 48 hours in trains taking me from New York City, where she had lived all her life, to Austin, Texas, where everything that she left behind is stored today. 48 hours of shades of green and mustardy yellow, 48 hours of train whistles, drip coffee and blunt panic attacks from being tucked away under the plastic roof of the compartment at night. 48 hours of hope and expectations regarding the archive material, of finding what has been lost. My journey to Alice Kober’s archive, to her still-existing traces, to her home, but also to her as a character, as an obsession, as an idea which is the setting and material for this project, which circles around the in-between, the absent present, and explores writing in the conditions of silence. My research is a literary exploration of American classicist Alice Kober’s archive. Literary in the sense of embracing fabulatory strategies, of working within language rather than using language as an instrument (cf. Barthes: From Literature to Science). I propose silence and the space to disappear as method-metaphors of writing, thinking and teaching writing within language, based on Foucault’s concept of Heterotopia and the Oulipian conception of constrained writing. I am a writer with an extensive artistic practice and I think and write, including when doing research, with my writer’s body. This is to say, I follow my hand to examine Barthes’ juxtaposition of the bodies of literature and science, which are, roughly, represented by Alice Kober and myself. I will, in writing, inhabit her ever-so-distant body to experience what cannot be known. Revisiting the available documents with artistic means is, given the limitations in source material, a consequential approach to deepening our knowledge about Alice Kober. To substantiate the importance of not-knowing and partial, local narratives, I draw on poststructuralist and feminist theories which also feed into my poetics of absence. I discuss the idea of writing within language from different perspectives, including writing projects I have realised during the research process. By exploring Alice Kober’s life in a collection of prose fragments featuring unpublished excerpts from her correspondence, I strive to foster creative writing as a method in artistic research, celebrating Luce Irigaray’s idea of silence as the first word that we speak to each other.

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