In the 1980s I spent a lot of time reading and thinking about Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, while, over the same period, listening to the music of John Cage and reading his books. The two came together in a few performance projects which, for a variety of reasons, have never been realized. They were published by the The Abiko Quarterly in the early 1990’s. Versions of both can be found on bend of bay’s “projects” page.
bend of bay is now setting up realizations of Projects Finnegans Wake. We are starting with Section II. This section calls for participants to read assigned sections of the text at a specific time. The reading is performed at a location of the participant’s choosing. Participation doesn’t require any particular knowledge of Joyce or previous experience with Finnegans Wake. All that is required is interest in taking part in an event that attempts to bring Finnegans Wake to the world in as inclusive a manner as possible. Its premise is that Joyce meant the work to be read and enjoyed. Participants will also be asked to provide some form of documentation of their performance. This should be submitted along with an indication of the location at which the reading took place. Documentation will be made available here.
If you are interested in participating, please leave a comment on this page. Please note that comments will not be published without your permission so feel free to ask as many questions as you like. You can also use bend of bay’s contact form or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have never read Finnegans Wake, the full text is available here.
For reference, the full text of PROJECTS Finnegans Wake as it appears in bend of bay’s projects section is copied below.
PROJECTS Finnegans Wake
PROJECT Finnegans Wake to expand the book and condense it into a small space, scatter and compress its sounds, draw together and separate readers and listeners in space, time and sound, reread the book in its entirety.
Critical attention has been placed on the structure of Finnegans Wake and hundreds of hours devoted to structural exegesis. Criticism frequently emphasizes structure in a manner which is reductive and risks trivializing the book. Joyce used structure and method as a means to an end and not for their own sake. His book cannot be restrained by structure or the meanings in language: They are free.
PROJECT Finnegans Wake brings the book to the world in as inclusive a manner as possible. Its premise is that Joyce meant the work to be read and enjoyed.
I Sequential Reading in Different Locations
You have chosen or have been assigned a number of pages and start time and select a location from which to read. At the appointed second, read this section then go home. Envision readers positioning themselves on street corners, in supermarkets, airplanes or anywhere else where they would be reasonably conspicuous. The only positions preselected are the first (riverrun) and the last (the), which take place before Rauschenberg’s Bed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
II Simultaneous Reading in Different Locations
The difference between this version and version I is that in this case everyone reads their passage at the same time. The sounds are compressed in time but not in space.
III Sequential Reading in the Same Location
For this version a large hall is rented and the public is invited to enter and leave as desired. A carnival atmosphere develops in and around the hall. This is the microcosm, the counterpart to the carnival of the world surrounding each reader in version I.
IV Simultaneous Reading in the Same Location
For this version, the hall is filled with readers and at the appointed tunw everyone reads together. The public is invited to listen.
The four readings can be performed in any order. For example, IV can be performed as an overture to III, but this is not essential. All or some can be performed simultaneously. Each can be performed more than once.
Manifesto on Structure: Time
Time rigorously applied includes all aspects of the physical universe. The readers move the work through space and time.
The details of time are worked out in advance by the organizer. The organizer establishes the time it takes to read a representative page aloud without performing exegesis of each word and motif. The number of readers determines the length and duration of each passage. Each reader is assigned starting and ending page and line numbers, a start time, and duration. Each reader fills this duration exactly. Readers practice their sections to ensure each performance is in fact sequential or simultaneous. The personality of the reader is not essential. The blank of this page, and those appearing at the break between each chapter and book, is included in each duration. The duration applied is the time it would theoretically take to complete the page if words appeared. The silences are as important as the words.
Manifesto on Structure: Space
BegIN in this space or in any other space.
Manifesto on Structure: The Readers.
Here Comes Everybody
The scenario for these performances of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce were developed in 1980 and a slightly different version appeared in the Winter 1992-1993 issue of The Abiko Literary Rag.