Magazine article Art Monthly

Lawrence Weiner: National Maritime Museum

Magazine article Art Monthly

Lawrence Weiner: National Maritime Museum

Article excerpt

Lawrence Weiner National Maritime Museum London March 22 to December 9

The Reverend Wicks Cherrycoke, silver-tongued narrator of Thomas Pynchon's 1997 novel Mason & Dixon, opens chapter 35 with a digression: 'Facts are but the Play-things of lawyers,--Tops and Hoops, forever a-spin.... Alas, the Historian may indulge no such idle Rotating. History is not Chronology, for that is left to lawyers,-- nor is Remembrance, for Remembrance belongs to the People. History can as little pretend to the Veracity of the one, as claim the Power of the other,-- her Practitioners, to survive, must soon learn the arts of the quidnunc, spy and Taproom Wit,-- that there may ever continue more than one life-line back into a Past we risk, each day, losing our forbears in forever,-- not a Chain of single Links, for one broken Link could lose us All,-- rather, a great disorderly Tangle of Lines, long and short, weak and strong, vanishing into the Mnemonick Deep, with only their Destination in common.' This is one of many diversions that punctuate the meandering review Cherrycoke delivers to family by the hearth as he recounts his travels with Mason and Dixon, the astronomer and surveyor who in 1763 drew a very straight 343-mile line establishing the factual border between the slave state of Maryland and the free state of Pennsylvania.

The words I quote are not intended as a justification of value: not for themselves, or my own reading and writing, or for Lawrence Weiner's endeavour in the exhibition 'Inherent in the Rhumb Line'. Those lines resonate with understanding in regard to statements Weiner has made himself concerning history, justification and value. But this is not what brought each initially to mind. That was sound--of the voice, a vernacular and then of the sea--and the way each text is also written for voice and not merely the eye.

The aspect and function of sound in Weiner's art are rarely acknowledged or given appropriate weight and attention. I am not thinking primarily about the collaborative CDs and recorded songs, or spoken word and performances that constitute a part of his non-institutional production, but of his public works that thrive in competition with the aural and visual noise of an urban setting which is sonically social. I have often felt children handle Weiner's art best: they deal with language as proper materialists and invariably read it aloud with none of the inhibitions fostered by library, church or gallery. …

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