Ilse van Rijn: Musing Memory / Diffractive Writing. Or how to get rid of “embarrassing graphic markers.”

This talk is grounded in my collaboration as a writer with visual artist and photographer Martine Stig. Starting from our shared interests in the relations between memory and imagination in a digitized world, we send each other snippets of our work reacting on each other’s material. This open process, in which writing works with and along the images in a non-hierarchical way, will result in (a) work(s) to be presented in September / October 2021. Delving into my experiences of the process, this paper aims to present the notion of diffractive writing I developed over the course of the months with Stig. It builds on Karen Barad’s understanding of diffraction / diffractive reading, and her understanding of the notion of the performative as intra-action. I will investigate what it means to be a ‘sentence-thinker’ (Trinh T. Minh-ha) and to actively engage with dis/orienting, haunting times and forms and/as matter. How can encounters between different entities and phenomena, and traditionally separate categories such as photography and writing, between matter and meaning, but also between makers ‘cut together/apart’ like Stig and I be translated? How to present writing that stresses its transversality, its movement (Manning) and processual becoming? I am wondering what forms text does and can take. And to what effects? Delving into materialist feminist readings of the relationships between text and ‘the world’, the discursive and the material, I aim to offer insights into what I perceive as the ‘telling flesh’ (Kirby) of contemporary writerly-artistic projects. Situating my work on the crossroads of theoretical study and practice, I will present experimental writing as a form of resistance, a means to subvert and transform a still reigning patriarchal discourse ‘from within’ (Cixous, Kaiser).


Ilse van Rijn is a writer and art historian. She researches the relations between image and language, practice and theory, nature and culture. She received a PhD from the University of Amsterdam (The Artist’s Text as Work of Art, 2017). Her current research concentrates on materialist feminist affinities with(in) contemporary image/language practices, writing and/in memory work, and writing through orality.