The Baltic Notebooks of Anthony Blunt
The Cat is on the Table. A potential neologism
Accustomed to searching for empty spaces potentially suited for exhibitions, San Francisco-based curator Chris Fitzpatrick recently stumbled upon a good looking empty phrase. A group of artists, writers, curators and researchers joined him to see if something or someone was already showing in there. The following names were found on the tape with the recorded conversation: Mirene Arsanios, Deric Carner, Dina Danish, Gintaras Didžiapetris, Marcella Faustini, Kevin Killian, Agnieszka Kurant, Raimundas Malašauskas, Nicolas Matranga, W.P. McNeill, Darius Mikšys, Jacopo Miliani, Kristina Lee Podesva, Post Brothers, Carson Salter, Jennifer Teets, Viktor Tikrai and Xiaoyu Weng.

CF: Thanks everyone for coming, and feel free to wander about how you like. This should be informal. As we’re here now – warbling on the magnetic surface of audio tape – I’ll start by saying that, lately, I’ve been thinking about the phrase “the cat is on the table” and how it sounds similar to other, more familiar, idiomatic expressions, such as “the writing is on the wall,” or “the proof is in the pudding.”
KLP: Or “When the cat is away, the rats get on the table and dance,” which is an expression in Swedish.
CF: Oh, that’s even more awkward than the English “when the cat’s away, the mice will play,” it doesn’t rhyme.
KLP: I think the phrase rhymes in Swedish though.
CF: I see...A lot of idioms shelter cats, and probably in every language. So I was hoping we could all dissect the phrase, as if it were itself a beast, and possibly even dislocate its literal meaning to reintroduce the phrase anew as a neologism – as a new idiom that had always been there.
NM: Where?
CF: Exactly. Somebody asks, “Where is the cat?” and you answer, “The cat is on the table.” Hearing the phrase immediately evokes the literal image of a cat situated in some position atop a table, but to my ears the phrase also elicits some other, still undefined, idiomatic meaning.
PB: But not only one meaning necessarily.
NM: No, I meant, dislocate the literal meaning of what from where? At least tell us what cat and whose table.