BOMBLOG: Circuits and Loops: Tom McCarthy & Margarita Gluzberg by Tom McCarthy and Margarita Gluzberg (text)

11 November 2017

























BOMBLOG: Circuits and Loops: Tom McCarthy & Margarita Gluzberg by Tom McCarthy and Margarita Gluzberg 26/05/2012 14:37 Page 1 of 8

Circuits and Loops: Tom McCarthy & Margarita Gluzberg
by Tom McCarthy and Margarita Gluzberg May 04, 2012

Tom McCarthy and Margarita Gluzberg ask whether psychosis can ever be
critical, whether matter can transmit, and what the word fiction finally
From Consumystic, Avenue des Gobelins. All images courtesy of Margarita Gluzberg and
Paradise Row (London) and the MAC/VAL Museum (Paris).
INS Black Box Transmission, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 2009.
Artist Margarita Gluzberg and novelist Tom McCarthy have publicly dialogued several times about
concerns that run through both their work. In Londons Austrian Cultural Forum in 2001 they
discussed their shared fascination with base materialism; at the Hayward Gallery in 2002 they
debated the issues of the double and the monstrous; and at Paradise Row in 2008 they
considered the erotic dimensions of capitalism. Conducting the latest episode of this ongoing
dialogue on the pages of BOMBlog, they ask whether psychosis can ever be critical, whether
matter can transmit, and what the word fiction finally means.
TOM MCCARTHY Your recent exhibition, Avenue des Gobelins, charts a journey into capitalisminto
a space of capitalism which is an imaginative, or imaginary, space as much as a physical one. And
that space has a strong relation to desire. Does that sound fair?
MARGARITA GLUZBERG I think it does. And I think its this kind of territory that drives your novels
tooespecially Remainder. Whether either of our work is critical or whether it just stages a
certain situation is harder to say. Perhaps it describes the ambiguity of the consumer. Its the
consumers position that Im interested inthe desiring consumer, and the desire-filled city that
the consumer sees: like Remainders central protagonist. Its his desire rather than a critical
position on the world of capitalism that were looking at.
BOMBLOG: Circuits and Loops: Tom McCarthy & Margarita Gluzberg by Tom McCarthy and Margarita Gluzberg 26/05/2012 14:37 Page 2 of 8
TMCC My protagonist is such a good consumer that he pushes the system to its absolute limit,
which is the point where it collapses, simply by taking it too seriously. He believes in loyalty
cards, these stupid cards you get in Café Nero or whatever: he believes in them so much that hell
actually buy ten coffees just to get the free eleventh one, and then throw away the ten in order to
relish that reward, that surplus bonus. Thats where consumerism slips into psychosis. You make
the same slippage: in your Consumystic series you have all these double, triple exposures, where
shop windows and reflections are all meshed into a semi-psychotic collage.
From Consumystic, Avenue des Gobelins.
MG Yes and with this slippage the strictly critical position recedes. But you can have a kind of
critical psychosis.
TMCC You can. By withholding one more blatant type of criticality I think you manage to do more
damage, if you like, to the reputation of a particular system, just by enacting and exposing its
internal logic, over and over. And repetition is important here, because thats part of the
MG The loop, the continuous loop. In the Consumystic series theres a slide projection, which is
an 80 image loop. But as it plays over and over, it also highlights the impossibility of absolute
repetition: again thinking of Remainder, where the hero keeps re-enacting things but he can
never get it quite right. So theyre not repetitions but versions, like when you play a record. The
next time you play it its essentially a different sound because the crackle of the dust and the
static has got in the way.
TMCC Weve both become obsessed with records of late: vinyl, blackness, watching needles
snagging . . .
MG Im very interested in the idea of information hidden within record grooves. As when a
photographic emulsion embeds an image: its as though there are images inherently inside a
record that are then activated. With my performance work The Captive Bird Society, I was
collecting 78rpm records of bird songs, and it was as though every time I played them the birds
were released. And in your latest novel, C, you talk a lot about static: you call it the sound of
BOMBLOG: Circuits and Loops: Tom McCarthy & Margarita Gluzberg by Tom McCarthy and Margarita Gluzberg 26/05/2012 14:37 Page 3 of 8
Captive Bird Society, performance-installation, MAC/VAL Musée dArt Contemporain du Val-deMarne,
Paris, 2009
TMCC Yes. Thats where Serge, the hero, is listening to the radio. But theres another bit in that
book where hes playing a record and he lets it run on after its finished to listen to the static at
the end, and he hears a huge amount of information in all that silence.
MG And radio signals are also so much part of the ongoing project youve developed with your
semi-fictitious organisation, the International Necronautical Society. You send out lines of poemcode
from galleries over the radio, these Burroughsian cut-ups made by mixing and repeating bits
of other media . . .
TMCC Im taken by the idea of transmission and of code and of things being buried. The word
encryption is linked etymologically to crypt. Thats why I love records: because theyre just so
black, theyre like death. I was very struck by your performance where you played old illegal
Samizdat records from the Soviet Union, when they couldnt get proper vinyl to make their
bootlegs so they used old X-ray acetate sheets; youre literally watching a piece of somebodys
MG The Soviet nations bones were being pressed with the sounds of degenerate Western music
like jazz. Thats phonography as cryptography completely: an actual body is embedded inside the
grooves of the record, so that the X-ray plate, the sarcophagus, becomes staticbecomes illegal
TMCC Theres an amazing bit in Kafkas In the Penal Colony where he describes this
Guantanamo-type place where prisoners are punished by basically becoming records. Their bodies
are strapped into a massive recording device and this needle writes on them and what it writes is
the law. And the prisoner, as they die, reads their wounds, this beautiful encoded calligraphy.
Theres something almost sacred about it: youre beholding the tablets of Moses or something.
MG Youve written recently about Kittler. I love that bit in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter where
he talks about Rilkes notion of running a gramophone needle down the suture of a skull, or, in
fact, over any surface . . .
TMCC You could run it on the pavement or the table . . .
BOMBLOG: Circuits and Loops: Tom McCarthy & Margarita Gluzberg by Tom McCarthy and Margarita Gluzberg 26/05/2012 14:37 Page 4 of 8
Captive Bird Society, performance-installation, Distance and Sensivility, Calvert 22, London, 2010
photo credit: Thierry Bal
MG Thats another kind of psychosis that I think attacks both Serge and his sister in C: the
potentiality of each thing to contain, to resonate, to transmit.
TMCC Yes. Hes flying over the trenches in World War Onewhich, of course, are also grooves
BOMBLOG: Circuits and Loops: Tom McCarthy & Margarita Gluzberg by Tom McCarthy and Margarita Gluzberg 26/05/2012 14:37 Page 5 of 8
cut into a dark surface, tracings and diagrams full of death and buried things, which hes reading,
calling into sound. He uses his machine gun like a needle, angling it till its right over the trench,
and crackle rises up from the enemy guns . . .
MG So its sounding, but also drawing.
TMCC Thats right. This is something thats really strong in your work, too: the sense of what a
line is. Youve done these amazing huge drawings of close-up gramophone grooves, at which
point the lines arent representing gramophone grooves any more, but rather are just marks, the
act of making marks on paper. Its like a meta-commentary on drawing.
MG I saw each line as a time recording of an eventalso as an activation of matter, or an
expulsion of it. For me, images never operate in metaphorstheyre actual material
TMCC Right now were sitting in front of these black paintings of yours which are of designer food
and theyre utterly disgusting. Theyre so black theyre like tumors or something.
MG Black is the color of shiny consumer goods: the Chanel compact, the lipstick case, the vanity
caseshop interiors themselves are always black and shiny.
In C, Serge has a blockage in his stomach after his sisters death, black bilewhich is also part of
the four humours I presume: melancholia?
TMCC Yes. Mela chole means black bile. I wanted to play out melancholia in an un-romantic, unspiritual
way: for Serge, its not an affliction of his soul or of his imagination but of his stomach.
His dead sister has been lodged in his stomach; as he watches her being buried he feels
something raising up and sticking there. Theres something almost cannibalistic about it: incestocannabalisticdigesting
his dead sister . . .
MG : Or failing to digest her, so she just amalgamates formlessly inside him . . .
TMCC Aha: the formless. Weve both raved in the past about Batailles notion of linforme: matter
which wont be placed within some taxonomic system or Aufgehobtlifted up, sublimated into
refined concepts or objects of representationbut instead just gets itself squashed and messed
everywhere. Similarly, in these paintings, the food is oozing beyond its taxonomic limit, its rotting
across the plate. I was reading this Agamben passage, in The Coming Community, where he says
that what is truly divine about things is precisely their refusal to transcend. He uses this weird
Christian imagery: the fallenness of things hangs about them like a halo.
The Consumystic IV (handbag and spheres), platinum print, 60.3cm x 38.6cm, 2011
BOMBLOG: Circuits and Loops: Tom McCarthy & Margarita Gluzberg by Tom McCarthy and Margarita Gluzberg 26/05/2012 14:37 Page 6 of 8
MG : I like fallenness, flaws. On all my images there are flaws . . .
TMCC Glitches . . .
MG Ruptures . . .
TMCC But then I think in your paintings and photographs and drawings, and in my books, theres
also a kind of ecstasy, once that rupture has taken place: once the grand system has collapsed,
once objects and people are released into this orgy of materiality.
MG There is definitely an ecstasyespecially at the end of C, where theres a literal orgy in a
tomb, with body parts alive and dead all falling over Serge. A scenario for which I think Bataille
still presents the most compelling conceptual model!
TMCC The question of pornography arises here. In that same book, Agamben claims that if
pornography, and the pornographic imagination, could be liberated from its containment by
capitalism, then this would be a magnificent thing. He even says that the task, the aesthetic and
erotic and political task of our generation, is to do that.
MG Talking of our generationI mean ours (were exactly the same age)a real symptom of it,
as this conversation is so aptly demonstrating, is that we keep referencing theory when we talk
about our work. More than that: theory informs the making of it.
TMCC But thats always the case, even for people who claim not to have theory. Not having
theory just means having crap theory, i.e. adhering to a humanism that has erased all traces of
its own constructedness.
MG Yes, of course. For me, theory (by which we mean continental philosophy) is embedded in
the art-making process without being imposed on or illustrated by it in any way. There are these
brilliant thinkers who spend their lives negotiating ideas within the world and as an artist it would
be really weird to ignore them and their propositions.
TMCC This idea of the proposition is a good way of thinking about stuff in general. I saw you do a
performance once that you started out by denying was a performance at all, and you framed it
like a lawyers opening speech. You said, I have here a set of briefs, and each one was a
proposition: you were making a set of propositions. And the fact that you were standing there
talking didnt seem to mark a huge shift of category from when youre painting, in a way.
MG Exactly, theyre propositions made through different materials. Propositions are very
important because if someone makes a proposition I think you cant ignore it. Propositions and
TMCC Or manifestos. For me these are all forms of fiction. You told me a couple of years ago that
when you started teaching drawing at the Royal College of Art, you proposed to get not only your
job title but your entire department renamed as Fiction.
MG Yes. I like the idea of fictional operational modes. And I do tend to think of lots of different
modes as fiction that people dont really describe as such. I think psychoanalysis, particularly
Lacanian psychoanalysisand Im sure Ill get kicked for thisis actually fiction. But by being
fiction, it doesnt mean its fake. Lacan invented a fictional structure in which to deal with the self,
in all its reality.

TMCC Which is incidentally all about circuits and loops, isnt it?
MG Exactlyand desire, the orgiastic, everything weve just been talking about.
BOMBLOG: Circuits and Loops: Tom McCarthy & Margarita Gluzberg by Tom McCarthy and

Margarita Gluzberg 26/05/2012 14:37