Crossing Out

Peter Hall

For Re-Write, I’m interested in the practice and connotations of crossing out. This is partly inspired by Bruno Latour’s idea of the “crossed-out God” of the Modern era, whose existence has been called into question: which in turn has left Him “relegated to the sidelines” — and yet still present in the cultural structures around us. I was reminded of this when Jonathan Barnbrook explained his use of crossed out type on a David Bowie album as having something to do with existence. When we cross things out it’s because we are embarrassed by them,  consider them incorrect, or want them — in some way — removed. Yet unlike the deleted text, crossed out words retain an insistent presence on the page. Could rewriting gain from the embrace of crossing out? I’d like to try a rewriting activity that includes crossing out and overwriting, to see how much room there is to add historical dimensionality and ambiguity to a text.

It would be interesting to connect a typographic & textual crossing out activity at DI to an essay that connects it to the well-known topic of the palimpsest. When writing substrates were expensive and hard to come by, it was common practice to reuse them, overwriting obsolete or heretical texts with new ones, thereby creating a sort of time machine with potential to reveal secret, hidden and subversive words that might even undermine present day certainties.