SCREEN: Wild Coast, Wild Coast by Boru O’Brien O’Connell

Artist: Boru O’Brien O’Connell

Title: Wild Coast, Wild Coast

Curated by: Ana Iwataki and Marion Vasseur Raluy

Screening: November 8 – 29, 2017

Year: 2017

Duration: 22’03”

I can be a brushstroke

The slurping, seeping lap of waves fades before you see the frame rise on an image, already waning. A swimmer retreats into the onset of a lush and swaying scene. The stage enters. If Macbeth ends with the advance of Birnam wood, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017, dawns with the animation of the forest, the stage arriving —as would a character — in verdant, sun-dappled tableau. Shots flip, fade, elide, to catch water through trees, light’s play over broken grass. Scene after deserted scene only increases the viewer’s sense that the stage is an anticipation, the certainty of an entrance. Across these lonely theaters, the narrative writes itself in objects —voices— that move in and out of uncertain relation.

A man and a woman. A hand and a pen. Dancer, author, writers?[1] In 1912, Vaslav Nijinsky starred in the Ballets Russes, choreographing the first interpretations of L’après-midi d’un faune, 1912, and Le Sacre du Printemps, 1913; by the end of 1913, he had been dismissed from the company by his lover and director, Sergei Diaghilev, following the dancer’s marriage to a Hungarian actress and aristocrat; between January and March 1919, Nijinsky would compose a diary resonant with his longing to write and to be read, an impulse surpassing satisfaction. Later that year, Nijinsky would be diagnosed with a schizophrenia that would keep him from dancing professionally for the rest of his life. However, this is not his story. Nor is it that of author Hob Broun; who, in 1980, underwent a spinal surgery that would save his life, but leave him wholly paralyzed, able to communicate and to write only by means of an oral catheter — the Sip and Puff switch. Broun was dependent on a respirator, which would fail in 1987, before he could publish the short story collection Cardinal Numbers or give form to a third novel, Wild Coast, Wild Coast.

At first consideration, the place of Broun and Nijinsky within this narrative is clear. Then again, who does this history really belong to? Shifting with landscapes to tie themselves to sunset mountains or the gingham planes of manicured lawns, voices play across scenes to find physical presence in literal locatedness. Though unidentified, these objects become their own characters, somehow more tangible than their disembodiment, made concrete by the alternate incarnation of sound.[2] A voice can be a body — it too ages, withers, cracks. Speech finds rhythm in coincidental inflections or the concentrated pressure of exaggerated enunciation. Spelling words. Speaking writing. Sounding speech. How to push words to be other than themselves? Its something seen more than read.

Carved stark white against the dark of disparate scenes —the lethargic pull of water, the industrious dash of a pen— fragmented letters appears out of logic or sequence to fade with a thrill back into black.[3] I want my manuscript to be photographed, because I feel that my manuscript is alive. I will transmit life to people if my manuscript is photographed. Nijinsky lived the stage; when he lost it, he turned his world into one, his diary into a new life.[4] The dancer deprived of performance, the author without use of his hands. A page: the only possible form. Writing is memory, the rehearsal of a duet by pen and hand, a choreography limited to the letters and words of all the languages of the world.[5]Brouns obsession with the hand was tethered to his memory of his hands use. How does the performance become part of the notation, the labor that we cannot see in words but that might be inscribed in the jitters of a pen?[6]  If: the white of the paper is another surface across which to dance, the pen a new leg on which to leap and arabesque; then: the Sip-and-Puff becomes a way for lips to breathe speech, to sound into a quiet reverberating with the typewriter’s beat, the crackling rain of tens of tiny arms.

The pressure of a fountain pen does not give beauty to writing, and therefore there should be no pressure.  The typewriter and the pen demand something of their users. Steadily, the hand is supplanted, growing increasingly far from the page. Do we write with the pen or does it write us? A longing to write —the touch of the pen on the skin between thumb and forefinger, the shaking of the pen as it crushes to surface— that surpasses satisfaction. To write a need. Writing is like golf if youre good at golf its easy.  The voice of the tool is the space between the pithy comment and the painful slowness of its expression, between the words and the beauty that the pen refuses to bestow. Did Nijinsky dream of an alphabet of sighs? Or did his closed eyes watch a machine dance his words on the inked tip of a single, rigid digit?

Broun never stopped performing, never stepped away from his audience. Echoing the rhythmed breath of the dancer’s exertions, the writer learns to trace letters in air. I cannot read a writer whose next motion seems to me to be discrete from his prior motion. It would be like watching a graceless dancer. Trust in the —pace, trace, breath— of an unbroken line. Transcribing the phrase held in memory, the writer moves through different registers of time, existing in the delay between reception and conception, output and articulation. What is the difference between a break and a pause?

Follow objects through a narrative, trace her outline, be led astray. Autobiography is never documentary; the first rehearsal writes the play.[7] If it is there, it is impossible not to hear text in a voice, not to order the words on a page, invisibly, transparently prompting articulation. It is the rehearsal of sincerity, the seduction that you wish to believe. Remembering, rehearsing, reenacting. We turn ourselves into characters to play.

Nicole Kaack is an artist and writer from Northern California, currently based in Queens, New York. Kaack is the Dedalus Fellow in the Museum Archives at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and co-director of prompt: and of missing out. She is the current Curatorial Resident at Small Editions where she has organized a series of exhibitions addressing the intersection of language and visual art. Kaack’s writing has been published by Whitehot Magazine, artcritical, SFAQ / NYAQ / AQ, and Artforum.

[1] R wrote, “Hello, writer. That is what I want to say.“

[2] B: “my voice has a voice.”

[3] Find more ways to see what is not there in the eating, etching shadows of acid and rust. In the archive as on a body, the history of an object is written in scars, the staining traces of rusty puncture wounds and tears.

[4] “I know that if I show my handwriting to someone who can read the future, he will say that this man is extraordinary, for his handwriting jumps.” Vaslav Nijinsky, The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky: Unexpurgated Edition, ed. Joan R. Acocella, trans. Kyril Fitzlyon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000), 80.

[5] J told me that there is a theorem which states that a creature with no comprehension of language, given time and means, could write all the plays and of Shakespeare and more. Though J told me that Borges wrote it, Borges tells me now that he was preceded by Aristotle and Cicero, Pascal and Swift. Months before, N spoke the story of “a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.” Can a dance strike life point for point? Can a video?

[6] Is the mark of the pen a stain? Pens are not allowed in the archive; we have decided that these documents are paused in time. Boxes are the curtains on these bodies burning up, as they are, with age.

[7] When you dream, do you see yourself as if from a distance, a pawn on a board?


Boru O’Brien O’Connell is an artist based in Brooklyn, NY. He primarily works with video, photography, writing, and performance.

Recent commissions and published projects include Reaching for a Soft Structure for Oberon Journal, Paperless, an publication curated by Nicole Kaack for the exhibition Enveloped, at Small Editions in New York. His most recent solo exhibition was at The Kitchen, NY.

His work has also been shown at Murray Guy, Los Angeles Public Library, MOCA Tucson, The Walker Arts Center, MCA Chicago, BAM NY, Night Gallery, Invisible Exports, Triple Canopy and more.  He has been an artist-in-residence at EMPAC at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, The Walker Arts Center, Lighthouse Works, MOCA Tucson, and others. His work has been published by Blind Spot, Triple Canopy, Dis, Vice, WAX, and written about in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Bomb, Art in America, Frieze and Gallerist NY. He received his MFA from Bard College Milton Avery School for the Arts.

Wild Coast, Wild Coast


Erika Marozsan
Gordon Lish
Matthew Dipple
Liza Corsillo
Martin  Benson
Sergiy Barchuk

Great Spruce Head Island, ME
Tuscon and Phoenix, AZ
Brooklyn, NY

3D renderings:
Luba Drozd

Special thanks:

Kinga Nijinksy
Tamara Nijinksy
Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson
Jocko Weyland
Jamie Chan
David Winters
Gordon Lish
Johnnie Greene
Luba Drozd
Ana Iwataki
Marion Vasseur Raluy
Joshua Schwartz
Matthew Porter
Nicole Kaack
Nova Milne
The Casual Studio
Small Editions
Adam Kremer
The New York Public Library
Andrew Musson
Jacques Louis Vidal
Meredith James

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)

Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Wild Coast, Wild Coast, 2017 (video still)