Jeanne Graff is a writer and curator. She is the author of Vzszhhzz, which came out last year from Semiotext(e)/Native Agents. Since 2014, she has been curating an “art space without walls,” called 186f Kepler, named for an alien earth-sized planet, and inverted to appear like an imaginary address. Artists showing there have included Juliana Huxtable, Anne Imhof, Mai-Thu Perret, Sabrina Roethlisberger, and Gaia Vincensini. This month, Graff will begin a series at the Canal Street space Lee’s which will take place the first Tuesday of every month, among the performers will be actor Jim Fletcher.
Fletcher is a member of Bernadette Corporation, an actor, and among the founders of New York City Players theater company with director Richard Maxwell. He is currently on stage in the eight hour Gatz, showing at NYU’s Skirball Center. Graff and Fletcher recently took a walk in Central Park to look for birds and discuss their respective practices. The two have been working together on a play titled, (to Sylvère) The Birthday Play. Below is a field recording of what transpired that day, a hybrid of written sound, digital emoji and French-English mashup. Like the title, of Graff’s book, it plays with the amorphous nature of words spoken aloud into the world.
Central Park, near W 81st St entrance. Raining.
schinck tssching tschunklink pschunk pschlink pintxh plintsch tschinck tssching tschunklink pschunk pschlink pintxh plintsch
Jeanne et Jim emerge from under the footbridge.
bip bipbip ibp
Jim stops walking. Jeanne stops walking. They are looking at a bare tree.
JIM: It sounds like a…
JEANNE: Do you know what kind of bird it is?
JIM: American Starling.
JEANNE: Which one?
JIM: That’s a… it’s not really about what kind of bird.
JEANNE: That’s a dove. That’s a mini-tree. T’as vu? Il est tout petit.
JEANNE: Do you watch birds a lot?
JIM: Aaalll the time.
JEANNE: There is one that I like a lot. It sounds a bit tropical and I don’t know what it is
JIM: How does it sound?
JEANNE: Hmmiiii hiii hiiii
JIM: You know we have parrots in NY.
JEANNE: Ah ouais?! It’s one you hear in Asia, too.
JIM: It sounds like a big bird?
JEANNE: Yeah, like hiiiiiHhhhhhhhhh hiii hiieuuu.
JIM: Very big and loud?
JEANNE: Ouais, louder than this: Wiiiiiiii. My godfather he shoots them with fake bullets because it’s dangerous for the grapes in one minute they eat all.
JIM: One minute? Hahaha.
JEANNE: Yeah they can eat all. He has a gun that makes sounds, and he walks around the vineyard and protect the grapes and watch birds all day.
JIM: All day?
JEANNE: When it’s the migration season, yes. C’est trop beau c’est comme des poissons. It’s like fishes.
ouhouhouhouhouh hou hou hou h ouh oho u hou
Bp ibibipbiipib bipb
JEANNE: He has sounds that he plays that they make when there is a danger, that are recorded, so they don’t come it’s true.
JIM: Hhahaa I believe you.
vrrr vrrr vrrrr vrrr
They continue walking. They slow down and look into a tree on the opposite side of the footpath.
JEANNE: And? Y a quoi dedans?? Hahahaha, ouais.
Vrooooom Vrooooom Vrooooom Vrooooom Vrooooom
Bip bipppp bippp
Brrr Brrr Brrr Brrr Brrr Brrr Viiippp vipppp
JIM: What’s inside?
JIM & JEANNE: Hahah hahahahahhahahaahahahahahhahaah
JEANNE: Maybe it’s war between squirrels and birds. There is a big one. It’s like a buzz you see this one? They eat mouses. Des petites souris.
Bippp bippp bippppp Vrrrrrrr
JEANNE: Tu vois les nids? There are nests. Do you see nests?
JIM: These are squirrels nests
JEANNE: They make nests?! Oh! J’savais pas !! ? How do you know? But there are birds around it!?
JIM & JEANNE: Hahahah hahh hahha hhahahahhahahaha hahahaha hahaha hahahaha hahahhah
JIM: There is a bird in a squirrel nests!! That was a bird in a squirrel nest!!
JIM & JEANNE: Hahahahahaha!!!!
JEANNE: Birds hinn hhiiiiiiinnnn.
JIM: Yes, where else are they gonna live?
JEANNE: Squirrels live inside the trees.
JIM: Squirrels make nests.
JEANNE: Arrêtes j’te crois pas. I don’t think so.
JIM: That’s the French Embassy.
JEANNE: Maybe we have to vote again.
JIM: For what?
JEANNE: For the president.
JIM: Of the United States?
JEANNE: For France.
JEANNE: Uhu uh.
JIM: Oh really?
JEANNE: Not sure, but I want to make sure I can vote, so I need to register at the New York Embassy. Ok, euhhhh.
JIM: There’s a lot of protest?
JEANNE: C’est jamais arrivé un truc comme ça… depuis la Révolution Française c’est pas arrivé. There’s been nothing like this since the French Revolution.
JIM: Oh, really?
JEANNE: Uh huh.
JEANNE: Ha a squirrel!! on va voir s’il va dans son nid! Let’s see if he goes in his nest.
JIM & JEANNE: Hahhhahahahahah
JIM: Never seen a squirrel in a nest.
JEANNE: They live in trees, squirrels.
JIM: They lives in trees, they make nests.
JEANNE: You’re making fun of me. Do you know how old are these trees? Like two hundreds? J’sais pas ah wait: turkey oak.
JIM: I got to go to the embassy. In ten minutes, wow.
They walk onto a new path that intersects the one they’ve been walking.
JEANNE: Ok merde, bah we need to cross. Ca c’est bien passé la pièce t’es content? Is the play going well with the new actress playing Lee Krasner?
JEANNE: Et la poupée gonflable? The inflatable doll.
JIM: I don’t see how we can do without it. It’s even worse now.
JIM: I do more with it.
Biipppp bip bip bip bip bip bip bip
JEANNE: C’est dommage pour la pièce. For you, for her.
JIM: I took her clothes off.
JIM AND JEANNE: Hhahahahahahaha.
JEANNE: Ah, tu l’as déshabillée eh bah bravo!! Tu voulais voir ce qu’il y a dessous, hmmmmmmm!!
JIM: You said it wasn’t working, so I tried something new.
JEANNE: Non mais en plus, it’s like the good wife and the whore. The mistresses are the whore and the wife the good woman.
JIM: He’s also very drunk.
JEANNE: Ah t’as ton lacet défait, watch out, you want to fix it?
Vrrre vreeee vre vre vre vre vre vre vre
JIM: I like how dirty it is in the language it’s really dirty it’s fucked up. There is nothing in the play that is going to say this guy is ok this woman is ok and art is ok. It’s just really awful but it’s also… it’s art. It’s not noble.
JEANNE: Yes, but this object is very particular.
They walk faster.
JIM: Yes I know so my only solution is to make everything in the play like the object, instead of getting rid of the object.
JEANNE: Ah ouais!! Donc toi tu l’as déshabillée!! ! J’y crois pas ! Bah Bravo!
JIM & JEANNE: Hahahaha hahahahaah ahahahahah hahahaha ahahahahahahaaaa hahahahahahaha hahahahhahaha.
Vrrvvrvrvrvrvrvr [Feet sounds]
JIM: Oh wow look at that.
JEANNE: C’est quoi? Wow it’s like a bush
Vrrrrr vrvrvr pgggggg ffffff
JEANNE: Do you know how to hunt berries?
JEANNE: To find berries?
JIM: Look how purple it is. Look at this it’s like neon.
JEANNE: It’s like silver.
JIM: Like Sylvère. Look at this it’s like neon : )
JEANNE: Ouais c’est trop beau. It’s like a luciole. Things that shine in the dark.
JIM: Glow in the dark.
JIM: Luciole? Li li? Li?
JEANNE: Lu lu it’s like you You glow in the dark : )
JIM & JEANNE: Lu-ciole Lu-ciole Lu-ciole Lu-ciole Lu-ciole Lu-ciole.
JEANNE: Oh, t’es chou t’es comme une luciole tu brilles dans la nuit. Quand il fait nuit on te voit briller. The new year is coming. Ca fait une année qu’on se connait, it’s been a year, can you imagine?
JIM: Yeah, that’s true.
JEANNE: J’ai entendu que des oiseaux vivent sur le toit du Metropolitan Museum I’ve heard birds live on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum. Like birds nest no squirrels nest.
JIM: What kind of birds? Falcons?
JEANNE: Ouais des grands. Big birds
JIM: Like big birds that eat other birds? There is a lot of falcons around here last day I was going to the Met and I was just walking and a hawk.
JEANNE: Yeah!! a oak, exactly!
JIM: Comes down and flu right in front of the Met and screaming right in front of the Met HIIIIII HIIIIIII HIIIIIIIIIII
hiiiiih hiiii hiiiiiii hiiii ahhaaa AAAAAAHHHHHHHH AHHHHA
JEANNE: Oh really?
JIM: HHHHIIIII Hiii hiih hiiih iiii hiiiiiii HHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiihhhhhHHHHHHHHH
JEANNE: I think they live on the Metropolitan Museum. An oak screaming in front of the Met. Oak sounds. Oak tree. Luciole, you remember?
JIM: Brruuauuaaaaw wwoooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa BRRUUUUUU OOOOOOWW WWAAAA AAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAA OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. [Burps]
JIM & JEANNE: HHHAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahaaaaaa-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
JIM: When somebody burps, it means last thing wasn’t true.
JEANNE: C’est vrai you glow in the dark
JIM: I’m not saying it’s not true but I did burps. When you… [he gestures to his rear end] it means it’s true. Only if you hear it.
JEANNE: Only if I hear it? Not if I smell it?
JIM & JEANNE: HAhahaaaaaaa!!
JIM: If you smell it, it means it’s a paradox, both false and true.
JEANNE: I’m looking forward your first paradox.Oh, it’s a squirrel!!
pip hip pip hip hip hip hip hip hip hip hip hip
Hip hip hip hip hip
JIM: Perfect rhythme. 🎵What is this sound?
JEANNE: It’s rain from the tree on the umbrella.
JEANNE: Look! Jim we’re going to my country! Je t’invite dans mon pays.
They walk into the embassy.
The authors wish to thank Sylvère Lotringer, Hayden Bennett, and Stephanie LaCava.