FIELD WORK: Frances Richard

On the occasion of Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field, SFMOMA curator of public programs Frank Smigiel and poet and playwright Kevin Killian co-organized a small chapbook of poetry, beautifully hand-produced by Andrew Kenower and Lara Durback. We are posting selections from FIELD WORK on Open Space throughout the fall.

Composite Emptiness
Frances Richard

About a container ship. As structured
composite emptiness with interstitial
walls, a heavy floating

massively expensive emptiness, as a regularized
concealment-honeycomb or tabulated
grid-belly of group need. Stacked

need. I reimplore

the upper and lower language, I put
“emptiness” in scare quotes but this barely
addresses the us-ness

of a group, of minute plastic and metallic
things, of t-shirts, amalgams, copper wires perfectly
soldered and thinner than a hair.  Of pulses

that are money and floating or positing
separate-yet-fused bodies of ultra-not-
based-on-anything but we figured

out how to make it and to need
what we can make. Gathering “we”
from under the curved horizon meltingly

made silver, of droplets of summer-afternoon
fog made of ocean. Of Styrofoam, of
fireworks, steel, satellite, of money. Admit also

need is not wrong. Composite, skillfully
contained, able to float its very heavy body, empty, steered
across vast turbulent deep changeably

silver intervening… wilderness
of language mirrors. Standing here chilly
in a light jacket on the windswept side or

edge as Hanjin then Cosco ships
enter the bay. Trying to watch continuously, attentively, their
serene apparently-hardly-moving juggernaut

toward the port where temporary wholes
are disassembled. Fog lightly
undoes mid-distance edges. About “these natural

eye-filling patterns.” “A proposition is a picture
of a structure.” About “the need
for resolution-by-paradox” or “(examination

by exhaustion)”



About a similarly ethereal pronoun-free
zone, as if I might be standing
slightly between reflections of myself in this

fog-silvery field below onramp construction, adjacent
to the engineered saltmarsh, uneven
drop-off of the continental body, landscape

pushed again through the sieve of
language but language is “that unpitying
material.” As if the ships

pixelated in the fog. As if the view dissolved not
as I look, not as I am made of it and
co-dissolving, but as “the special-case rareness

basic to the ego is nullified.” As similar
to what should be filled in “as double-unbounded
infinity (off to the left, off to the right)” but also simply

similar. About the littoral

between high- and low-water marks, where some far-traveled
garbage washes up. Its inks
leach particle by particle into the waters

to be transduced as neural signals for the curved
“we,” as our permeable group absorbs the smoothed
bleached washed-up garbage-body minus

particles we all also absorb. A container ship
as a “play-flex,” a “myth pattern.” A need
for co-dissolving stacked up, slipping

past. Or “a probability mesh surrounds

every event—”


Phrases in quotation marks are borrowed from Mark di Suvero, Dreambook (University of California Press, 2008).

Frances Richard is the author of Anarch. (Futurepoem, 2012), The Phonemes (Les Figues Press, 2012), and See Through (Four Way Books, 2003), as well as the chapbooks Shaved Code (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2008) and Anarch. (Woodland Editions, 2008). She writes frequently about contemporary art and is co-author, with Jeffrey Kastner and Sina Najafi, of Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Fake Estates” (Cabinet Books, 2005). She has been a visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and is the recipient of a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and a research grant from the Graham Foundation. Currently she teaches at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

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