Jacob Wren makes literature, performances and exhibitions. His books include: Families Are Formed Through Copulation, Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed and Polyamorous Love Song. As co-artistic director of Montreal-based interdisciplinary group PME-ART he has co-created the performances: En français comme en anglais, it's easy to criticize, Individualism Was A Mistake, The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information and Every Song I've Ever Written. He travels internationally with alarming frequency and often writes about contemporary art.
BOOKS, PUBLICATIONS, PROJECTS
I wrote a book whose title I withheld from the book for a long time as I wrote it and slept on it and not because I didn’t want the book to know itself (I had no influence on that), rather, because I feared that once I put the two together they would go on without me.
– Renee Gladman, Ana Patova Crosses A Bridge
This book is not reality. No book is reality but this book especially so. Things that happen in reality are often extremely obvious and just as often utterly counter-intuitive. This might also well be the case within the pages of this book but this fact for some reason does not bring this book any closer or farther away from the reality which it is not. Even as I write that this is not reality I have to admit to myself that I don’t actually know what reality is, I don’t know what freedom is, if it is something I want or something I’m only afraid of, I don’t actually know how to change anything but suspect so many things so deeply must change.
When I think what exactly is the problem, I always, almost immediately, have the opposite thought: that there is in fact no problem. There are social climbers, people of unfortunate integrity, people of great efficiency and others who are able to generate so much space around themselves. There is as much devastation as we can bear and there is always more. There are so many problems and in the same way there are none. There is a fairly specific idea I wish to express as well as a fear I might never exactly get at it. The idea is also too simple and no problem: that time goes in circles like the seasons and forward is just another empty word. My desire is to speak as clearly as possible.
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In one hundred years it will be 2222. That is the first side of this mirror. On the other side: one hundred years ago it was 2222. This year has been chosen at random due to its repetitive beauty. The iconic year 1984 was famously chosen by reversing the last two digits of the year it was written: 1948. But this book has all taken so long that I can no longer guess when it began or finished. I have already missed the year I wanted to catch, perhaps in the same way that one misses the future when you try to predict it, or the way one has already missed or forgotten the past. At different moments we are different creatures, or not, I don’t know. Or I do know, what I don’t know is if this is the most helpful or useful way to describe it. There might be a more simple way: at different moments we are different, from ourselves and also from others, also from the other that is the self. There are others and others and others and others, and all of them are also us, if you want it, or if we try. I’m the other and everything I do is adding others.
Guilt is conservative. We are all implicated in more ways than we will ever know but shouldn’t feel guilty. We should be angry, must become open to an anger that experiences possibilities everywhere, that opens towards genuinely other ways of seeing our predicament and where it might first or most crack.
Most of the changes that might concern the contemporary reader took place many ages before my time. One of these changes concerns the fact that time is no longer so carefully measured, therefore I can no longer accurately state how long ago each of these changes took place. But knowing how many years, decades or centuries have passed since a given event no longer seems of primary importance. More immediate concerns dominate. Another change: the further in distance one travels the less it is possible to know. There might be other places, on this continent or further, living as we do or living in completely other ways. We don’t know. Some have set out to find more but either found nothing or have no way of sending their findings back. Very few set out. We live here, in the ways that we live, and find other ways of travelling, movement both more and less precise, each movement an echo from somewhere else. In writing this down, in this way, I am directing my energy towards maximum clarity, whether or not you notice or noticing means anything. The steps taken that brought us here are steps we all took together. Can you see what makes this statement such a direct one?
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Clarity, to speak clearly, to convey what I experience in ways in which it might timidly be met by your experience, neither one overpowering the other, in which reality might shift through and within this meeting. The year 2222 has been suggested, but closer might be 3333 or 4444. We are in the future which is also a past. This is the thing I’m most trying to understand, the trance I wonder if I’ll ever be able to properly express. The repetition of a single number, three or four times, or five, is a way of suggesting other, more confusing, repetitions. But when you experience them they are actually not confusing at all. They are timeless. I wanted to write something completely different than I’d written before and instead I’ve hit this dead end that doesn’t yet know in what way it may or may not be the future.
Here, when we travel we transform. That is a kind of trick, where you trick yourself to experience other sets of knowledge, becoming a meeting place where diplomacy might occur, in the same way these words might become a meeting place between you and some shade of exhaustion, the exhaustion of the reality which this book is not. Every trick has a place to hide and a truth on which it might snag.
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We don’t count the years but we do count each other. There are about two hundred of us not including children. This writing is a trick, a trance, a song and a game that at least all two hundred can play. It is a book in a room. You go into the room and you write in the book. You go in alone or with others. You take turns writing or you write together. You read what came before or you start from scratch. When the book is done we will read it aloud and then start again. We have made a life for ourselves that we now want to share, speak as clearly as possible, also further mystify. Later I might edit it, or I might not let you. This might be one book or it might be many. It is not reality.