Can Mannix’s Atomic Book Fill Swedenborg’s Oven?

Dr Gareth S. Jenkins

Thursday 29th April, 1pm-3pm

Bon Marche Studio (Bldg. 3, Lvl. 1, Rm. 105)

Presentation: 20 mins.
A theoretically poetic filmic performance for many voices. A critical fiction. Creative theorising in and around the experimental art-making of Anthony Mannix: Outsider writer and artist, schizophrenic, explorer of the unconscious, locked up lunatic, displaced shaman, builder of psychotic cosmologies, architect of mental sculptures, anthropologist of altered perspectives, playboy of the garbage tin, binder of books, madman.

I have always considered my engagement with Mannix and his work to be a dialogue and my Open Fields performance will emphasis this approach. Who is Mannix already in conversation with? Who can I bring him into conversation with? Where have my conversations with him and his work lead me, theoretically, creatively?

Antonin Artaud is here, in this conversation, and Unica Zürn, the anti-psychiatrist R. D. Laing, Michel Foucault, Shoshana Felman, Deleuze and Guattari, Carl Jung and his ‘Shadow’ and his ‘Anima’ and his ‘Persona’ and his ‘big dream’. Psychiatry is here with its monologue about madness, the one that seeks to silence Mannix’s psychotic experience through re-narration; the one that stands in the corner shaking its head as Mannix turns and says ‘there IT is again – surely you saw IT that time!’

Mannix’s IT takes many forms, goes by many names: Rosey Spite, They, The Obstacle, small-radio, the Beast of the Unconscious, Mordrol – bloody dark fish, Christina Farsight, ageless horse of psychosis, Untuck, luminous lighthouse, Milestone, the Lotus, the Little Voice, ghosts of the eternal suicides, The Terror, The Tyger with No Eyes, The thin Ball-Bearing Man, The Giant Pink Fish, Gruesome, The Doctor, The Eggmen, The Honey-Eater and The Magnificent Oscillating Vision. Collectively referred to as ‘appearances’ by Mannix, they are his friends, collaborators, lovers and enemies; they inhabit his unconscious, which he physically travels through; they populate his chaotic ‘speculative’ narratives, speak through him, are spoken, their cacophonous voices scoring the pages of his many artist-books.

Making hand-written artist-books created by an unknown, unpublished, Outsider art-maker the focus of a literary PhD pushed the boundaries of conventional subject matter. However, no matter how wide I sought to stretch the doctoral mode there was still material I gathered from this experience that was excluded from my final text – primarily regarding the relationship I formed with Mannix himself. Because Mannix’s books were unavailable to the general public I was required to meet with him at his home in order to take digital images of them. He eventually trusted me enough to take a selection back to my own house and document them there. My visits became more social, a chance to talk – often about his work, mine too. We hatched plans for collaborations and even realised a few. The documentation process took two years and the result is ‘The Atomic Book’, a digital archive I have complied containing 72 Mannix artist-books (5000 images) and 21 sound works from his radio appearances and collaborations with musicians. One video work is also included, created by Mannix, the inspirational John Blades and his Loop Orchestra, and myself.

My Open Fields performance will include texts, images and sound works by Mannix, but will also narrate the experience of meeting with him and the relationship we developed. Such a relationship problematises the notion of so-called ‘objective’ research, but ‘objectivity’ is a construction that benefits from destabilisation. In my performance I will illuminate the vibrant, productive nature of my interactions with Mannix, but also fold into the conversation my own creative impressions and inventions – for instance:

Last night from the corner of the room Anthony Mannix told me about the information paradox – that Black Holes are machines for eating information – how I love that. Mannix’s voice radiates from his artist-books, which inhabit the lime-green hallway I use as a study: catalogues of ‘appearances’ captured between hinged wooden covers decorated with children’s paint, with the essence of a frantic psychosis. Archiving these books I build another, a digital book, an Atomic Book. This archive is growing, a Black Hole of its own perhaps, eating the information I feed it, pixelating the materiality of Mannix’s craft – collapsing 30 years and 5000 pages into Swedenborg’s oven: the one that roasted the heads and could never be filled.

Maybe I am the machine at the heart of this archival Black Hole eating, eating up space in Open Fields; deterritorialised fields perhaps, ones that are mapped out only so outs can be located and departed through.

Dr Gareth S. Jenkins: Gareth teaches experimental writing practices at various Sydney-based universities and was awarded his PhD, which explored Outsider writing of Anthony Mannix, in 2008. His theoretical work focuses on avant-garde literature and art-makers that have experienced schizophrenia – he holds a Masters degree in Psychology and has presented his research in Australia, Europe and the U.S.A. Gareth’s creative work includes poetry, prose, digital media and performance. He has performed, exhibited and published in Australia and internationally. Gareth is on the editorial board of the journal Vitalpoetics, where he writes regular blog posts.


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A two day forum of creative research, experimentation and practice held from April 28-30 at the University of Technology, Sydney, and Serial Space Gallery, Chippendale.

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