In this creative, collagic essay, Kathryn Cutler-MacKenzie writes with and through the words of Virginia Woolf, Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristeva to convey the freedom of writing and kinship felt when reading their works.
In writing ‘I have fused my many lives into one’, existed through many bodies, spoken in many tongues, (be)come through many words. Like writing, ‘I appeared in puffs of air, in fragments, in sorrows, and I think that’s the way one writes: discontinuously. Then…one reassembles, pastes together, puts it all in order’. But this order is ‘a form hidden in disorder’, in history, in that space between my many lives, my many tongues, and my many words. Across space. Across time. Lost, but found. In history I (be)came and through history I have (be)come. I am, like the planets, in revolt, ‘in the sense of return, displacement or contestation’, from the Latin revolvere: reflecting upon, considering, happening again. Like writing, I am difference: that is to say, revolt.
Within my body there is an organ, and another, and then another – somewhere over there, under that etc. – by which I mean, within my body there is a journal, a means of communication, a passage, a propagation…and of course a tongue, because without that I could not speak, and of course a brain, because without that I could not be, and of course a skin, because without that I could not puncture – and to cross one’s body, into two, next into many, is to be. We are all bodies made of organs: on our skin is written, and from our body/ies spoken. One ‘must write her self, because this…will allow her to carry out the indispensable ruptures and transformations in her history’; her body, multiplying, between words, un-capturable, escaping, is in writing. As Cixous says, ‘Write your self. Your body must be heard.’
Because in writing ‘she had a great variety of selves to call upon…and these selves of which we are built up, one on top of the other…have attachments elsewhere, sympathies, little constitutions and rights of their own’; they exist in books, and in films, and in artworks – that is to say, in those texts without which these selves would not survive, and without which we would not be able to meet, for the first time, ourselves, as we are/were becoming. Indeed, these selves know us before we know ourselves, and as such they allow us to remain unknown – in the process of becoming – for in writing the word unravels, escapes, then alludes us. In writing, thus, we remain unknown, and so it is that in writing we can be free, together, but apart. Re-organising – somewhere over there, under that etc.
‘In fact, though their acquaintance had been short, they had guessed, as always happens between lovers, everything of any importance about each other in two seconds’; that is to say, they had partaken in the process of writing, that it was out-with words that love is formed. They loved what they did not know; in this space of not knowing they could be(come). They loved writing. They loved writing together. They loved outside time. And, as such, they were never alone. They had, which is to say, they would, fuse/d their many lives into one.
Cixous, Hélène, ‘The Laugh of The Medusa,’ in Signs, Trans. by Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, 1., no. 4, (Summer, 1976), pp. 875-893.
Cixous, Hélène, Stigmata: escaping texts. Trans. by Catherine A.F. MacGillivray. (Routledge, 2005).
Kristeva, Julia, Intimate Revolt: The Powers and Limits of Psychoanalysis. Trans. by Jeanine Herman. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).
Woolf, Virginia, The Waves (London: Random House, 2016).
Woolf, Virginia, Orlando (London: Random House, 1992).
About Kathryn Cutler-MacKenzie
Kathryn Cutler-MacKenzie is an artist and art historian, in her fifth and final year of an MA Fine Art at The University of Edinburgh. Her primary research interests are collage, cinema, contemporary art and feminism. She is currently producing a body of work that explores the olfactory history of womxn, and researching the value of historical reenactment to the study of (art) history. Her artistic portfolio can be found at www.katcutlermackenzie.squarespace.com
This piece was commissioned for Disembodied Voices: Friendship during COVID-19
How we think of friendship, intimacy and closeness has radically altered during this period, perhaps irrevocably. Lockdown and quarantine has left us relishing time with friends and family, or dealing with feelings of isolation, anxiety and abandonment. WhatsApp, Zoom and social media are our new lifelines, changing the tone, register and channels through which we communicate. We’ve reached out to old friends and been turned away by new ones; rekindled old bonds and discarded others. There are friends who inspire and those who infuriate; there are relations we’ve failed and some who’ve come through for us, and shown love in a way we’ve never experienced before.
We want to curate a series of essays, interviews and stories on friendship, experienced during the time of COVID-19. We are keen to hear from marginalised perspectives, underrepresented voices and communities significantly impacted by the virus.
We are also open to submissions and pitches on the representation and concept of friendship more generally. How friendship is represented on television, film, and social media; in books, music and videos, before and during the pandemic, is also important. Are there representations of friendships that have given you hope (such as I May Destroy You or Broad City) or those that have appeared toxic to you (such as that recounted by Natalie Beach about Caroline Calloway). If so, we want to hear from you too.
For the full Call Out and details of how to apply, click here.
Submissions are open until the end of February 2021.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Aysha Abdulrazak and Samaya Kassim, Guest Editors of Disembodied Voices.