Towards a Three-Dimensional Literature, Part 1

Review by Kara Hansen


Artist and writer David Colosi recently self-published the first book in a trilogy under the title Towards a Three-Dimensional Literature. Part one is a means to approach his neologism—Three-Dimension Literature (3DL)—with the necessary theoretical armature, though Colosi pre-emptively reassures his readers that if, at the end of part one, a definition is not lucid, we will at least be urged “towards a direction,” conveniently printed and bound in the forthcoming unreleased volumes two and three. Colosi’s ambition for part two will be to provide a historical undergird for the development of 3DL. With part three he intends to recount his ongoing artistic and writing praxis, swaddled by the terms and conditions that semblance 3DL. At no point is part one narrated in the tone of an inventor, as Colosi and his conception of 3DL have predecessors, at whose time such lengthy nomenclature was mute and unpatented.
Partitioned into ten chapters, the book’s table of contents is organized via decimal numbers into a cryptic system. The abstruseness of this direction alludes an officious pretension, like the ideas that swell Colosi’s convictions for 3DL which amount to a lengthy roster of literary and art theorists. Alain Robbe-Grillet, Gerard Genette, Raymond Roussel, and Umberto Eco (to name a few) appear in the first half. In the latter, art theorists Nelson Goodman, Joseph Kosuth and Arthur C. Danto cover the dematerialization of art objects; therein, the readymade, institutional critique and conceptual art practices.

At the outset, Colosi indicates that his intentions for 3DL are not new, and do not amount to a reaction; he simply wants literature to stand in space, in lieu of its conventional linear impressions, oft on the surface of a plane—the book’s back cover dramatizes the aforementioned paraphrasing in a hot pink and whole hearted plea, “I am asking Literature to think outside the book, step off the page and read its way into space.” Colosi cements 3DL in the vein of Edmund Husserl’s wish to get “back to the things themselves”, as well as Alain Robbe-Grillet’s desire to return to objectivity through the nouveau roman, which aimed for a portrayal of experience at the brink of perception, one devoid of interpretation.

Impelling the restrictions of language further, Colosi raises Gerard Genette’s notion of “aspectual” in combination with Umberto Eco’s “Model Q Theory,” propositions that mobilized semiotics with potential, redeeming the shackling stereotype of signification. Instead of rendering meaning as static, words could be stripped, and circulate nomadically amongst a network of infinite vernaculars, crossing at varying intersects, and combining at disparate nodes to form especial understandings of things. According to Colosi, these networks, intersects and nodes are the sites in which 3DL demonstrates its faculty to orient things on a temporal axis, rather than an ontological encounter. 3DL does not so much animate autonomous objects, as it adheres them to literary schemas wherein objects either supplant or insinuate a genus of pathetic fallacies.

Through briefly mentioning Jorge Louis Borges’ “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” Colosi abandons authorship and applies for the position of a scribe, “(…) part of the definition of Art,” he says, “includes invention, and ‘newness/ is something that cannot be avoided, even when its modus operandi is appropriation.” Colosi then replaces the subject of the cinema with 3DL and uses word-by-word a quotation of Robbe-Grillet’s, directions included: “Read the above citation again taking as its subject Three-Dimensional Literature.” With that, my eyes glossed back to the previous page to read Robbe-Grillet’s quote once more. The conflation of an emphasis on appropriation, as well as his insistence on ushering the reader, Colosi endows words with the repetitious force of a hammer.

Flipping through 3DL’s textual template, Colosi flops to its physical enactment, from proof to play. Recounting installations by two exemplary artist duos, Emilia and Ilya Kabakov as well as Ed and Nancy Keinholz, he applies two notions “literary linearity” as well as “literary simultaneity,” respectively. “Literary linearity” means spatial structures that emulate physical relations akin to reading, such as the imposed order that narrative work generally beseeches, while “literary simultaneity” gleans traits corresponding to an experience of seeing architecture or visual art, where focus is formed according to the viewer’s order. Colosi deconstructs the Kabakov’s various edifices, employed in works like The Corridor/My Mother’s Album, where viewers are cajoled by a particular chronological order through a sequence of mounted texts, but he is quick to clarify that a work of 3DL need not mime and is not curtailed by these characteristics borrowed from conventional structures of reading. His understanding of the Keinholz’s work proves a more agile interest. Using the mechanisms of tableau, the Keinholz’s are able to balance a milieu of juxtaposing surfaces perceived as a panorama, displayed frontally and without a vanishing point. Made visible through The Jesus Corner, the crux of their literary quality is the accumulation of what we see “all at once,” objects are exposed full frontal and are more about who, than the what, what for, or here and there. These glimpses into the operation, as opposed to principles of 3DL show a compassion for things as they become self-conscious and more themselves than ever.

This is the love I look for, here is where I’d like to stay, but after a tender attentiveness to the very subject that necessitates naming (3DL), I am jettisoned back into theory that asks obligatory but immense questions, i.e. Chapter 1.1 What is Literature?, followed much later by Chapter 1.2 What is Art?. The beginning of each chapter asserts a familiar and cringe-worthy tendency to state what one is going to talk about or will talk about. While his interspersed future tense strives to balance the density of difficult concepts with a promise, it fails to ease indelible head scratching. At the end of the book, through Sentences on Three-Dimensional Literature, Colosi covers all his conjectures and terminology in thirty-six terse replies, resembling a manifesto rather than an afterword. Despite demonstrating a well-composed collage of resources for a recondite genre, the book gave me grounds to ponder the form of a manifesto as closure for a motive that “proceeds with indifference” (his word choice) and is toned by dry scholarly rhetoric.

David Colosi, Towards a Three-Dimensional Literature, Part 1 (Self-published, 2012)


Images: Cover and interior of Towards a Three-Dimensional Literature, Part 1