entry under ‘G’ in Performance Research 11.3 ‘Lexicon’, June 2007, pp 64-65, ISSN 1352-8165


And making a mark the tool touches a surface, the pen cuts through the surface opening a black beneath, scratches the surface disturbing the palimpsest. ‘The white of the word is my only holdfast.’ (Noordzij, 14) The clean(ed) slate carries dust or scratches of other scribings, echo or fall-out. Where the shadow falls, the mark of the letter breaks the ground, darkens the white. ‘Writing rests on the relative proportions of the white in the word.’ (15) The white of the page surface on which the ink sits, or the white unsound between words spoken or sung, or the pale dust of words fallen in layers over earlier words.

The white supports but is also contained by and cut through by the letter, by the stroke, by the word, by the block of text that lies there or is punched through.

My word, my // desires: / Upheld by / ground // of peculiar grace, […] (Johnson, 53)

Ronald Johnson in Radi os carves a new figure out of the ground of Paradise Lost, a text that is open to reading in the space Milton had occupied. Milton’s words are figured on a seventeenth-century ground, worked over an earlier classical and Biblical base. A version of Milton’s pages is etched through [like devoré velvet whose (cellulose) plush ground is eaten away by acid to leave a new figuring held in place by a fine net of supporting (protein) textile].

And porches wide, // both on the ground and in the air, / As bees // the Sun / about the hive / In clusters; / to and fro […] (Johnson, 19-20)

The reformed text is a scattering of words among the openings made by Johnson’s etching, new organisms/organizings are brought to light. Here is a writing founded on the ground of Milton’s text, of Milton’s page, a writing whose organization is now provisional as different orderings of the clusters are formed where the reader’s eye moves to and fro.

David Melnick’s Men in Aida works over the ground of another epic, resounding the text of Homer’s Illiad to create a tonescape that echoes queerly in a modern setting. The page of the Greek epic becomes a tympanun to beat out a hi-NRG disco swirl that scatters the surface into tesserae.

[…] All on men cape pee ache his sack. Women know ‘tis a pater.

Ooh titty on pro tear us tong. Eh, set I you tan trope on?

Oh deck ego nap, an youth tit he on at the low mean weigh sigh.

Mate, is you taut? A ache as Daddy air you may deem a tall a.” (Melnick, 23)

Spoken in an American late twentieth century voice, the sound text material redistributes on the page to form an epic of urban gay life; the paper support dissolves leaving the sonic fabric to cruise untied.

Is toned, is toad o.k., pale Lassen proton noise in hoof fend his? (Melnick, 18)

The tones of the Homeric song are recut, heard by a different ear Ancient Greek is listened to as contemporary English, attention to the noise ground particles reordered.

In Excavations by Peter Riley, layers over- and undercut each other revealing parts existing on the surface displayed to the reader in their mixing.

As thin a strength as a phrasal verb, that stakes a house where the wild ash courses. And the final shape of his life laid over him in the form of an earthen mound, its entire surface burnt and five bodies set into its hollows, calcined, palled script on prepared ground. (Riley, 181)

Taking as its ground the reports of nineteenth-century English archaeologists, the writing digs through these, and earlier and later strata are folded in to result in a complex text.

showing as a line of lighter substance in the clayey matrix whose belief sinks into its own history an inner chalk mound forming a new ground surface through whichthe eyes Distracted spirits survey the traces, […] (101)

That which is not only figure, a surface upon which are performed or (dis)played the elements of composition, against which is read the matter, the narrative, the ground offers support so something may occur.

A pattern or rhythm of returns, remains unnoticed, unrecognised without an other base. The ground allows the possibility of my knowing that there is something, that there can be something other than it, and yet does not close all difference down to such an opposition. It is not black or white, sound or silence, always a trace predates the written mark, the pixel, the dot. To be available to receive that dot a clearance has occurred, the ground is skimmed detritus of other traces.


Johnson, Ronald, (1977) (2005) Radi os, Chicago, Flood Editions

Melnick, David (1983) Men in Aida, Book One, Berkeley, Tuumba

Noordzij, Gerrit (2005) The Stroke theory of writing, Peter Enneson, trans., London, Hyphen

Riley, Peter (2004) Excavations, Hastings, Reality Street