text scores // 2015-present
Koan #4 (on further refection)
Koan #5 (for piano, for Rolf)
I started writing these text scores in 2015. At the beginning they were, rather than pieces or even scores, lines of questioning that seemed to me vital to explore personally and existentially––questions that countless other artists and thinkers have asked for a long time. In their first incarnation as text scores, I utilized them as tools for my personal meditation practice. As such, I never thought of giving them the labels of "works", "pieces", "expression", "creation", etc. To do so would have implied––as per my rigorous conservatoire training, rooted in the Western notions of tradition and individuality––putting them under the scrutiny of terms like "originality", "innovativeness", and even "skill". On the contrary, I am fully aware that these are not "original" questions. I am not the first, nor will I be the last to ask them. But as the Mexican philosopher Luis Villoro writes:
'It is true that wisdom is also shared in the form of common knowledge. There are poems, myths, moral apologia, religious discourses that, from generation to generation, preserve the wisdom of the ancients. But that knowledge is in vain if its message is not confirmed in each person's life. Each person must repeat in their own experience the truth that the wise man once uttered.'
But to repeat that truth (or, rather, I would say that question) in one's own experience necessitates more than just reading about it, more than having an understanding about it and being able to conceptualize it. It means actualizing that question(ing) fully in the ground of being. To let it unfold at one's feet, to open up as an abyss of questioning in the kernel of one's experience. To doubt until one has become doubt oneself. Nishitani, quoting Zen master Takusui:
‘The method to be practiced is as follows: you are to doubt regarding the subject in you that hears all sounds. All sounds are heard at a given moment because there is certainly a subject in you that hears. Although you may hear the sounds with your ears, the holes in your ears are not the subject that hears. If they were, dead men would also hear sounds…. You must doubt deeply, again and again, asking yourself what the subject of hearing could be. Pay no attention to the various illusory thoughts and ideas that may occur to you. Only doubt more and more deeply, gathering together in yourself all the strength that is in you, without aiming at anything or expecting anything in advance, without intending to be enlightened and without even intending not to intend to be enlightened; become like a child within your own breast… But however you go on doubting, you will find it impossible to locate the subject that hears. You must explore still further just there, where there is nothing to be found. Doubt deeply in a state of single-mindedness, looking neither ahead nor behind, neither right nor left, becoming completely like a dead man, unaware even of the presence of your own person. When this method is practiced more and more deeply, you will arrive at a state of being completely self-oblivious and empty. But even then you must bring up the Great Doubt, “What is the subject that hears?” and doubt still further, all the time being like a dead man. And after that, when you are no longer aware of your being completely like a dead man, and are no more conscious of the procedure of the Great Doubt but become yourself, through and through, a great mass of doubt, there will come a moment, all of a sudden, at which you emerge into a transcendence called the Great Enlightenment, as if you had awoken from a great dream, or as if, having been completely dead, you had suddenly revived.’
To listen in this way––to doubt in this way––implies a radically different conception of artistic practice that leaves aside the all-too-familiar notion of asking questions and striving for answers. We enter, rather, into the field of a praxis of questioning. Let us understand praxis not as a synonym of practice, nor as an antonym of theory. Let us speak of a praxis that directs our thought to the point where both these fields meet and can never meet. That blind spot––utterly unthinkable, unimaginable, unconceptualizable. One does not ask the question and strives to answer it––rather, the question is asked and, through praxis, is constantly renewed, continuously asked again from moment to moment, experientially. In this way, rather than directing the question down the stream of one of various possible resolutions, we ground it firmly in the field of all possibility––the field of emptiness.
It began to seem to me, then, that these tools for my own personal meditation and philosophical exploration could perhaps also serve as tools for a collective one. Presenting work in a public context almost always requires the use of handy labels and categories. If it were up to me, no labels or categories would be used. My name would not appear anywhere as the creative agent behind the action. There would be no attempt to define what the event is or is not. The event would not fall into the usual format of an artistic presentation, in which the boundaries of the categories of "audience" and "performer" are not only clear but often inviolable. There would only be questioning. A questioning to be approached by anyone and everyone, on equal terms. A great mass of doubt.