Practicing Flight in the Land Where Icarus Runs

James Oscar

  • U+1F453-015


  • Juvisy optic 👓


  • w.n. [H. Claude Rondeau]

    Black print, 4 × 1 cm

  • Annuaire de l’Essonne, p.341


Séjour où des corps vont cherchant chacun son dépeupleur. Assez vaste pour permettre de chercher en vain. Assez restreint pour que toute fuite soit vaine. C’est l’intérieur d’un cylindre surbaissé ayant cinquante mètres de pourtour et seize de haut pour l’harmonie. Lumière. Sa faiblesse. Son jaune. Son omniprésence comme si les quelque quatre-vingt mille centimètres carrés de surface totale émettaient chacun sa lueur. Le halètement qui l’agite. Il s’arrête de loin en loin tel un souffle sur sa fin. Tous se figent alors. Leur séjour va peut-être finir.
Samuel Beckett, Le Dépeupleur

Les œuvres sont à la fois des sculptures, des peintures, des accessoires, des décors, des socles, des assises.
Yoan Sorin, Inteview with Dana Michel and Yoan Sorin, by Marie Bechetoille

A kind of “thingly” contamination of the present was brought about through the division of labour, the industrialisation of production, the processing of information, the specialisation of the knowledge of things, and above all the desubstantialisation of these things. In Western philosophical traditions, things were often ordered according to essences, substrata, qualities, predicates, quidditas and quodditas, being and beings. Precluding anything from being equally “something”, neither more nor less than any other thing, thus becomes a rather delicate task. We live in this world of things, where a cutting of acacia, a gene, a computer-generated image, a transplantable hand, a musical sample, a trademarked name, or a sexual service are comparable things.
Tristan Garcia, Form and Object – A Treatise on Things

slash: the  symbol (/), used to show a range of possibilities, or between the two numbers of a fraction; the symbol / used in writing to separate letters, numbers, or words; to cut with a sharp blade using a quick, strong movement; a large reduction in an amount.
Cambridge dictionary

There is the hunched black woman. There is the Nosferatu entity. There is the Scapino from Commedia Dell’arte. It (the entity) is all constantly changing…shuffling...shuffling…shuffling. It is an opaque yet familiar entity[1]. This creature-human-woman… like a trespasser and (slowed down) flaneur... Her “character” walks with blindfold along lines. She can paradoxically almost completely see through the blindfold. She mimics walking along the outline of a circle. At the interior of that circle, there may be a pentagon-like star. She favors constructing an epoxy star whose lines she walks extremely slowly and silently along. The star is always constantly redrawn.
James Oscar, “ The Crux is Never Human All Too Human: The Many Worlds of Dana Michel”

Une monstrueuse aberration fait croire aux hommes que le langage est né pour faciliter leurs relations mutuelles.
Fortune: forte en thunes.
Il faut mentir s'il n'y a que du mal à attendre de l'aveu d'une vérité.

Michel Leiris, Brisées/Langage Tangage ou Ce que les mots me disent/Fibrilles


Dear Dana, are you caught in this transversal axle, trying to pedal out of it? Are you in a dive further in or diving further into the transversal, caught further and further inside of the cavity. Dear Dana are you relishing in this cavity (True or false?). Face down with a swathe of glass rope slicing right through you? You are face down! Are you regarding the void? Are you looking into and out of this inside of this inside? Are you folding inside of it and folding further inside of it as the spectrum (of “what we see”) changes.

To be sure, the change I see in your Slash Universe moves from a solid state[2] to a bright pastel, and then it seems to move back and forth, and back and forth again and again. Is this the trap inside of the Technicolor dream or something even more? We are caught inside. Already resting inside of this. They (the spelunking divers) dive right into this. Inside of a steel caged cylinder[3]. With all the sideways movement rolling in the cylinder, the pure vertigo of the spinning inside. And somehow within the cylinder and its spinning, is there not the pure heightened liminal sensations that turns all to a spectrum of pastels. Are they[4] caught further inside of this cavity? Do they seem to relish in this cavity? Have they found a means to be other than just in the pastel? You are face down lying inside of this cylinder—the cylinder, the size of your body and the size of all the bodies who lie in their own respective cylinders or do they share one cylinder? What void are they (what void are you and Yoan) looking into? What void can they possibly be looking at face down in this cylinder. Their hands are akimbo and they wait to see and to hear what is below (theirs ears are pressed to the bottom). Are they all lined up for the common faith (the two solitary yet conjoined dancers). Inside, the cylinder turns to yellow, then to orange and then to a mauve paste. They dream of leaving the cylinder, a dream of being side by side sharing it with another, and/or else they dream of being a dyad inside of one single cylinder.

“Caught in this transversal axle, are you trying to peddle out of it? But yet when you dive further in or at least when you say you are diving in, does the transverse feels discombobulated? And are you then caught further inside of this cavity, but yet you seem to relish in this cavity—true or false? You are face down—face fucking down with this rope slapping (slicing) right through you[5]. What void are you looking into? What void can you possibly be looking into? Your hands akimbo and you wait to see and hear what is below you?” “Dwelling” (and being) is threatened, attacked, excised, reduced, excoriated, thrown to the side, trampled, spit on (with the imploded diamond shards laying all about “the stage”)… An entire access is made through two ropes that are swathes of glass rope slicing right “through you and through him”. This splicing of the glass ropes that splice between both of you. Arms and hands just spread out and looking all lovely through it all. The white glass rope is spread out like some buttressed dove having fallen, like some split open orange, white and yellow Icarus having fallen, like some spread out swan having fallen deep into the atrocity of a gaping whole. “Get the fuck off up the floor with your burnt out cigarette head”[6], But then again she might not be any better with this rope thing all tying her up? Yeah, Slash[7] kind a liked that shit—the heavy beat, the deep dive, and the measured contraption which show buttressed arms of ascent even as they (the arms) flow.

There is no flailing[8]. You are both lying down, both replaced by a “game” where in the present context instead of humility and sincerity we have… (not sure what to call what we have on the present to be honest.) “Dwelling” (and being) is threatened, attacked, excised, reduced, excoriated, thrown to the side, trampled, spit on… “Caught in this transversal axle, you are trying to peddle out of it, but yet when you dive further in or at least say you are diving in the transverse and its eels discombobulate and you are caught further inside of this cavity, but yet you seem to relish in this cavity—true or false?”

Dear Yoan, And you partner (Dana), her whole access is within these two white glass ropes. You two are kind of dyads—that is to say you think as one but yet you are one plus one equals one—not the two[9], best here in this imbalance, her hands are spread apart with these ropes tying them but yet she makes the best of them—her wing span recalls that of a justified yellow bird not so much in flight but rather a yellow and white bird that is practicing. Hold on, is that it? Are you both birds that are practicing (flight) and to be true what does that really mean? That is to say, What does it really mean “to practice flight”? I mean I guess the slash is best done by a bird in flight and sometimes as with Icarus, one is struck down in “mid flight” but you two, you two are on the floor, you have never flown.

You are just practicing for flight! I must say, Yoan, as an additional comment, that her arms are placed with such prowess, striding arms and her legs just so well placed. Why can’t you fly like her, my friend? You might be showing us what might be called, “The ideal flight!” I mean sure you might fall back first into the void but at least she has practiced the flight and the sense of flight!/There you both are—her arms seem to be caught “in it all” but sure there is one rope tying her to the regions of this wall[10] and the other rope tying her down but somehow she seems and looks relaxed. And you, I see you rolled up in that envelope, so peaceful, so much disquiet but quiet, so posed, so much resolve, so much pent up desire[11]. You are sitting on your back—you are now looking at the Other after having seen the void and god knows you deserve to rest after having looked into its molten eye (the void’s molten eye that is)—that is you need a rest after having looked into the molten eye—“of the void”. You both rest, both have a moment, both talk (of) time out to understand what you had once see, and what you had once done. I know you both want to stop the repeat, that you both want to crouch deeper into this dyad you have, but to be true, to contemplate, to contemplate—that is always enough—more than enough—to contemplate is more than enough, I mean to say!/Your different roles: You lie down pounding into it. She is deep listening to it, listening for just that right time. That is to say as a scientist might say it, she (Dana) attends to an ecology of listening that can tune us right—tune us into the right time, the right moment, the right movement, the right everything! So, is this what you two are up to—“An ecology of movement?” Well at least, we see her in this “deep listing”. She is pushing it, pushing it, pushing deep into this other region of time. She steadies it, she pushes it, she handles it, her sights are on it. Just the right move, just the right attention to reach that final attained sense of the goal of this dance. And the question, one might ask is whether all of this might one day amount to something (and does that matter?). That is to say if all these tasks (in the slash universe) might one day add up to “something”. He is a person inside of person inside of person, and the thinking of what the outside must be like from that region of being inside a person inside of a person inside of another person. The question Yoan (and “his character”) might ask is, “How can I possibly think what it might be like to be on the outside?” and some might ask even more poignantly, “What it might mean to be on the inside of the inside of the inside?”, but yes he ponders all this he ponders the interior in the interior (in the interior). I guess the main question might be to ask, “What does it feel to be living inside the landscape inside the landscape of the inside of the landscape?” “How can it be in the in the…yes how might be inside of the inside of this pastel slash universe?.” That is to say how might it be to live inside of—“dans un paysage intérieur”.

And the ultimate scene of you both jostling dans une tauromachie de cigarette et cylindre. You both stand up and dance this corrida dance after the whole tawdry epode, alive again, alive again and no longer (just) in the hole, no longer just in the cylinder. The landscape you have flailed in. All is jostled inside of this world you both inhabit/occupy – there is a half shell on a tire, a flower growing out of an ass, and a sunshine ray emergent from multiple pastel genitalia whose ultimate goal is to become several sun-genitalia—this is what we see! The slash universe is askew—the pink shirt hangs from nothing and the wall is in all its various pastels of pastel. Each pastel is a pastel inside of this slash universe yet there is also the sharp marine blue, there is the pastel orange, there is the pastel purple, there is the pastel maroon—all splotches and torn pastel drapes adorn the walls and on the other side more of these squares of pastel pink, pastel peach, pastel orange, pastel brighter yet pastel blue—all hangs around a trough, and on this trough which appears like a large white bone and like a white pastel painted gas pump[12]. Both you and Yoan can at any moment turn into another palette of colours with a swift turn, all colours can spread and implode at any moment within the slash universe. A white table sits on its oversize black clown feet or black tiger claws and the white Ikea table itself has spots of leopard black—in fact this is a leopard table, a spotted white and black leopard table that is to say, and who else can become table, who else can become pastel, who can become an empty (beer can), who else can become the gorged brain-teeth that rests on top of the spotted black and white Dalmatian leopard table[13]? And there is the slash guitar (Slash’s guitar[14]), the guitar which tunes the universe. This pastel blue guitar you both crawl amongst is in a kind of rusted blue and it rests on its proper pedestal off of a semi-circle stand with blues, yells, oranges, greens and the whole nine yards of more blues and greens. And above hanging like a wonder of time is this spin dial which is green pastel. Pastel bright pink and orange and white stripes. I have heard that in the slash universe if you spin this wheel, the whole color plate can suddenly change. And on the wall hanging on its surface, the dripping blue, purple, yellow, lime more lime, a yellow strip, green, and maybe all dripping down the calking into that path of the bright blue slash guitar into the pedestal made of… and into the leopard spotted white and black table with the at once black oversize clown feet. The shoes and or the black solid black paws of the white and black leopard spotted table. You can lie down on this flattened flesh coloured penis-couch, you can take a drag of the oversize cigarette resting and being ashed out in this oversize mauve purple ashtray and all of this on this flush white fur carpet—all the pastels and mauves and skin tones and cigarette ashes and the mat painted mauve, lime green and corduroy maroons, all here jump into this. All of this jumps into the pastel Panavision world. Jump into this peeled chroma-colour world—romp and dive right into the colours and their states of being and of course you can always lie back and relax on the flesh coloured penis-couch. A sock on the wall, a pedestal white and green spotted pedestal with what is left of the imposition of it all. On the pedestal, shards of gray-matter from brain or other deposit and behind the green pastel, green and pastel green all being the backdrop of this Quixote lime scene notes, purples mauves, and all that hangs about like an imploded carnival scene. And a side view of a totem gives to a white screwdriver oversize or is it a big white finger that might come touch our toilet?  There are oversized cheese and potatoes for supper. Hanging illuminati pastel discs hanging from a palacio. The stuffed patina green medical glove. A piece of the left-over rotting and cheese red meat. The huge white wooden African face with the fucked up teeth. The pastel green anvil which moves right into the rainbow coloured pile right below it. The orange pastel pedestal with the famous mysterious rock found by the red spelunking divers resting on the lime green plinth. The white African face in orange, lime, and yellow pastels painted half of it on the pastel wall. The whole drawing down of the greens, lime, orange red, yellows all bleeding into each other—all forming a skirt around all. The memories of the pastel. The office site with a half chair and a bunker that you are inside of. That fake real white rock that bleeds its own whites and blacks like it is in continuous receipt of flowing water from below and above. The spin dial on top of the upside down white pastel trumpet, the pink pastel fluffy coat that you wear to play it all, that African face—white and wooden with the leaked nose and no eyebrows over the slit eyes. The pink shirt hanging from just a thread. Whose shirt? Yours or Yoan’s? That brown faced girl with the dark hair and other trophies from this pastel rim world. That massive pink pastel palm leaf. White pastel plinths that are also guitars that are also white pastel mops melding into pink pastel blobs of a square and then all of it being held down by this pastel chained formaldehyde white pastel puppy. We see a well-deserved white pastel puppy in the middle of it all that keeps pulling on all that we see in this slash universe. Dear Dana, you and Yoan crawl and then dance, dance and then crawl among it all in the slash slash slash universe.


James Oscar (2020)

Invitation made on the occasion of the exhibition Slash Universe.


[1] The remarkable change in all the (her) work is always the switches from a hunched Kafka like hunched body to a cooler walk and strut, which often looks like a cool sway. Robert Farris Thompson refers to these moments of the sway as “the cool” as evidenced in Afro diasporic culture.

[2] Solid is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being liquid, gas, and plasma). The atoms in a solid are closely packed together and contain the least amount of kinetic energy. A solid is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to a force applied to the surface. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire available volume like a gas. The atoms in a solid are bound to each other, either in a regular geometric lattice (crystalline solids, which include metals and ordinary ice), or irregularly (an amorphous solid such as common window glass). Solids cannot be compressed with little pressure whereas gases can be compressed with little pressure because the molecules in a gas are loosely packed.

[3] Cigarette- a fucking disregarded cigarette that just rolled over on its own and just rolled right through until it (the cigarette/ you) rolled onto its face and you and her and them inside of this burning cigarette. You are an empty fucking cylinder- a fucking disregarded cigarette cylinder that just rolled over on its own and just rolled right through until it (the cigarette/ you) rolled onto its face and you the cigarette now rolled onto its face (hey do cigarettes have a face and an ass, and tits and all that- dam we smoke that shit)- anyways, I see you lying there - YOU FUCKING CIGARETTE, yes just fucking lying there. What do they say, Ceci n’est pas une pipe- and comes on I know you ain’t a cigarette but hang hang on, hang on, Ceci n’est pas une cigarette, but then again you my friend are a fried flat blob of a cigarette! Yeah there I said it. Yeah keep looking down into the nether below with your cigarette head (yeah with your cigarette head).

[4] The “they” I am thinking of I see as the population of Beckett’s Dépeupleur: “Séjour où des corps vont cherchant chacun son dépeupleur… Il s’arrête de loin en loin tel un souffle sur sa fin. Tous se figent alors. Leur séjour va peut-être finir… Elles se parcheminent. Les corps se frôlent avec un bruit de feuilles sèches. … Ceux qui se mêlent encore de copuler n’y arrivent pas. Mais ils ne veulent pas l’admettre. … Les seuls bruits dignes du nom proviennent du maniement des échelles et du choc des corps entre eux ou d’un seul avec soi-même comme lorsque soudain à toute volée il se frappe la poitrine. Ainsi subsistent chair et os.

[5] “And after all of this, a final sequence harkens a sense of a concentrated eternity. Michel stands akimbo; she rocks and rolls while steadying a mysterious triangular contraption that resembles the ropes of a sailing vessel. Here, in Michel’s remarkable finale, we see a glimpse of not ‘hope,’ but rather after having witnessed a torrid hour of jilts, juts, effusive cruciform positionings, fits of exasperating discomfit, slow dances, slips and slides and failed architectural plans, we finally see the arresting final ‘image’ of an architectural and sculptural surprise. As she finally belays the rope completely, it raises from underneath an unsuspecting sheet a structure that resembles something of a makeshift house or perhaps a sanctuary for an exhausted being” James Oscar, in “Performing Radical Sincerity”:

[6] At Dana Michel’s first and only workshop, “No Fixed Positions” at ImPulsTanz 2019 in Vienna, when asked to assume the identity of an object that best described our present state, Yoan Sorin chose that of a cigarette since, as I can roughly recall, allued to the fact that he felt his smoking (which he wanted to quit) felt for him and asumed for him the form of a morbid and decrepit and dirty excess that he felt started to assume his own physical form.

[7] “Tout d’abord, Slash c’est le guitariste de Guns N’ Roses, un groupe qu’on a écouté enfants Dana et moi. Ce musicien est une figure importante, une icône africaine-américaine à laquelle on pouvait s’identifier en dehors du sport ou du rap.” Entretien avec Dana Michel et Yoan Sorin, par Marie Bechetoille, Juin-Août 2019, booklet of the exhibition “Slash Universe”, CAC Brétigny, 2019:

[8] See Titian’s 16th century painting The Flaying of Marsyas (1570-1576).

[9] “Two beings who love each other, or think they love each other, can think that they are alone together in the world; nothing is more false. They are together in their love, and each of them is alone in the world. For the fact that each of them is alone in the world is precisely what allows them to be together in something: specifically, in the idea of their love, in an isolated, withdrawn place, in a bedroom. On the other hand, their love, since it is something, is alone in the world. ... In the case of their entanglement, the lovers are together in the envelopment of their love, of their relationship, separating them from the world, like a layer giving them a unique form. They are together in this love, and this love is in the world as a unique thing. In the case of their distinction, each lover is in the world, and the other lover is thus entangled along with everything else in ‘everything which is not the first lover’. To be in the world is not to be in things, and therefore to lose the distinction of things which are all entangled in ‘everything which is not me’, being loved, being hated, and being indifferent.” Tristan Garcia, Form and Object - A Treatise on Things, p. 57-58.

[10]C’est dire le silence des pas. Les seuls bruits dignes du nom proviennent du maniement des échelles et du choc des corps entre eux ou d’un seul avec soi-même comme lorsque soudain à toute volée il se frappe la poitrine. Ainsi subsistent chair et os. Échelles. Ce sont les seuls objets. Très variées quant à la taille elles sont simples sans exception. Les plus petites n’ont pas moins de six mètres. Plusieurs sont à coulisse. Elles s’appuient contre le mur de façon peu harmonieuse” Samuel Beckett, Le Dépeupleur.

[11] “Séjour où des corps vont cherchant chacun son dépeupleur. Assez vaste pour permettre de chercher en vain. Assez restreint pour que toute fuite soit vaine.” Ibid.

[12] We might be directed here to the universe of Raymond Roussels’s Locus Solus and in equal measure we might look to Joseph Beuys’s sculpture Das Paar (1952/ 1953) and Torso 1949/1951.

[13] “We live in this world of things, where a cutting of acacia, a gene, a computer-generated image, a transplantable hand, a musical sample, a trademarked name, or a sexual service are comparable things.” Tristan Garcia, Form and Object – A Treatise on Things

[14]Could it be said that Slash (Saul Hudson) is himself a slash in his hybrid identity being a mixed race African American/white musician (who passed for a white musician during his career with Guns and Roses) occupied a secret role of powerful métissage in the seat of his role as guitarist for one of the most listened to “white” rock bands in the world?