LUCIA DELLA PAOLERA
For the first iteration of “Instruction Manual,” I recorded and transcribed every directive I was given in one day, and ordered the demands chronologically—constructing what amounted to a 369-item list poem. On January 1, 2012, I began production of a year-long version of “Instruction Manual”: 365 days of continuous recording culminating in a text comprised of every directive I was given during the calendar year. The first part of the work, a performance that ended on December 31, was an extensive act of self-surveillance—the accumulation of thousands of hours of daily audio recordings and video screenshots of my computer usage. The next stage will be the massive undertaking of sorting and transcribing these recordings—transforming them from a shapeless archive into a pressurized text.
“Instruction Manual” explores language’s expanding role within larger spheres of production and power. The work’s identity as poem provides an active architecture that is paradoxically both the separation and enmeshing of labor and language; and the year-long act of recording performs the participation of aesthetic production in the exercising and experiencing of these networks. On the one hand, the poetic process, by common definition, is a space to consider language outside of its utilitarian function; the pragmatics of poetry are distinct from those of material production at large. On the other hand, language is the primary material of the poet in producing an object for aesthetic consumption—the poet’s work is language. Meanwhile, language is increasingly integrated and implicated in material production at large. Within the transformation from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, the focus of human labor is shifting to the management and coordination of language; language is becoming the machinery of production. Language is simultaneously the vehicle for communication and the issue at stake—a loaded gun.
The performance, together with the text, monitors and metabolizes, centers and redistributes the multiplicity of voices issued by the demanding social, sexual and technological bodies of daily life. The piece aims to reorient our engagement with language, and to explore possibilities for unveiling and unhinging the networks of power we constantly navigate. Meanwhile, through the performative process of recording a year of language—the surveillance of every public and private sphere that I engaged with in 2012—my inherently powered role is implicit in the very networks the work seeks to deconstruct.