In Part II of this ‘Interluding Monograph’ there are two pieces of writing that serve to represent the dialogue between art and the discourse about it and are endemic to both the concerns of the journals’ Double Dialogues and In/Stead.
The first,‘Fear of Representation,’ by Ann M. McCulloch opens up the conference in New York. Its purpose is twofold. Firstly, to set the scene for how art in the academy is situated in societal and political terms in 2018, and assess progress made since the first Double Dialogues conference in 1996 when the issue of its standing was introduced. In particular, attention is drawn to the ways in which research is measured in the academy whether in the Sciences, the Humanities and the Arts. Integral to this discussion is how the Arts have fared since joining the Academy in the 1990s and whether the latter has been able to receive comparable funding and the extent to which the meaning of research has had to be re-configured to be considered relevant as ‘research’. Of course, the Arts have been funded. However, this keynote address questions whether the tendency to seek funding via a scientific methodology has served the Arts well. Secondly, to connect the theme of the two conferences ‘Why do Things Break?’ with the contention, ‘The Fear of Representation,’ this article gives an overview of the papers given at the New York conference and thus demonstrates the value of ‘representation’.
The second, House of Flowers by Jennifer Rutherford, is a short story representative of the best kind of creative writing that Double Dialogues has published in its 22-year history.4 Furthermore, the story embodies not only ‘Why Things Break?’ but also how a creative piece is ‘research’ at its best, drawing as it does on philosophical, psychological and aesthetic thought and creativity. Rutherford prefaces her story with:
Floraville. Fleurville. Florville. Where is the ‘I’ in this story of shifting vowels? That is what I’m thinking as I stare into the devastation of my mother’s skin, blossoming crimson as she lies in a room overflowing with flowers.
This is a story about being devastated by simply being in the world as a woman whose mother pines and wastes away in hospital and whose daughter leaves for Paris. Thrown into the mix is the loss of five startlingly beautiful chooks ravaged by a fox; the story thus transforms into one that encompasses the sheer weight of living in a world in which loss occurs, yet where one dares to love, dares to name, and driven to celebrate with flowers. As surely as the chooks, so the mother and the daughter are seen as vulnerable, if not to the fox, to something, someone, time itself. The narrator embraces flowers and the poetry of their names; she is obsessed with naming, owning and not being prepared for the price of naming and loving. This story somehow has the power to bring one to tears whilst smiling in recognition of the power and beauty of words, with names, with memory. The chooks, each named so precisely, acknowledged in their antics, admired for their adventures, are reflective of the spirit of the writer who is devastated by thoughts of losing loved ones. And as she surmises the worst of possibilities, within the same time frame, the slaying by the fox occurs. What and who is this fox that can rip away one’s moments of joy or even peaceful reconciliation with an imperfect world? At the heart of the story lies the need to believe in happiness despite the impermanence of abiding love. Accompanying this need is an expectation of devastation because things happen to prized dolls, gloriously feathered chooks, departing daughters, not only in life, but also in characters, in books, about life. Can the choreography that this story is directed by lead to resolution? Perhaps there is a hint of an answer.