From Scribble to Script

Peter Suchin

In January 2009 I was offered a small part in a film by Anja Kirschner and David Panos, The Last Days of Jack Sheppard. The role was that of a hack journalist. In one scene, filmed on Monday, January 26, I was required to look as though I was composing a series of puns. The quill pen supplied was blunt, a mere prop, and it was difficult to keep control of the marks being produced. The pages of text were not themselves in shot, only the action of my hand moving the quill across the paper. There were several takes. In order to make it look as though I was writing in the conventional sense I decided, there and then, to invent a series of lines of text based upon the puns in the script, committing these to the paper, insofar as this "pen" would deposit the ink upon the page. I had to continue scribbling until the filming was complete, and inventing the lines was a way of doing this. What resulted was a kind of automatic writing, an amalgam of text and image taking up 15 - 20 pages. The seventeen sheets reproduced here comprise the majority of those pages. They are not presented in the order in which they were produced.1

This playful, cryptic scribble script fits well within that ambiguous and ambivalent "genre" constituted by certain of the works of Henri Michaux, Roland Barthes, Cy Twombly and Victor Hugo. Less grandly, they are a kind of doodling, frequently turning into what Barthes calls "the signifier without the signified".2 They are also reminiscent of the apparently spectral writing that was claimed as having materialised on the walls of Borley Rectory in the middle of the last century, "the most haunted house in England", according to the man whose name is now most closely associated with it, Harry Price.


  1. Ink on paper (each page is size A4), 2009.

  2. Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes, Hill & Wang, 1977, p. 187. See also: Andrew Brown, Roland Barthes: The Figures of Writing, OUP, 1992; Victor Hugo, Drawings (compiled by Pierre Georgel), Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1974; Margaret Rigaud-Drayton, Henri Michaux: Poetry, Painting, and the Universal Sign, OUP, 2005; Peter Suchin, "Reinvention without End: Roland Barthes", Mute, No. 26, Summer/Autumn 2003; Peter Suchin, "Engaging Textual Spectres: Harry Price's "The End of Borley Rectory"", Miser & Now, No. 7, 2005.