Thursday, April 30, 2009
"Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable."
Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium, 1993
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
to the blue
bird and man
Dawn, Lake Hawea (2009), JBowring
The Venetian stain had remained for months now. A certain moment held in the mind, encountered again, in parallel, elsewhere. Dawn's pale light, Hejduk's crossing from black to blue, the chill, the water, the waiting for light. Doppelganger landscapes, experience doubled, and looping around, so that here in the high country is Venice, the stain, the taste, an essence, a homeopathic drop. Like Henry James's Spencer Brydon, one encounters one's self again, yet somehow removed, "He had that feeling that here, at last, was something to see, to touch, to take, to know -- something all unnatural and dreadful. The dense penumbra literally screened a figure which stood still in it. It loomed gloomily in the dark, it was something, it was somebody, the prodigy of a personal presence ... He was standing before someone who converted his I into another personality." The schizophrenic sense of place, here as there, is unsettling, disturbing, yet also delicious. Beyond the limits of sensibility, it enters the domain of the sublime, the rush of feeling out of place, ungrounded, out of this world. The Venetian dawn carried in the mind, then released in small doses, a contamination, a scintilla, a susurration, of else where.
"Water equals time and provides beauty with its double." Joseph Brodsky, Watermark, 1992
Monday, April 27, 2009
"A melancholy man discovers in spite of everything that our existence is fragile and that thus there exists in the world some mysterious depth ... and this discovery is immediately dissolved in a reverie isolating him from despair or dread." Wojciech Balus, 1998
The world brings coincidences of almost chilling resonance, and the return to studying Balus's article, in the early morning, immediately following the Dawn Service, was one such breathtakingly uncanny moment. The small crowd gathered on the dam for readings, wreath laying and the bugle call of the Last Post. Above the high mountain ranges the first rays of sun coloured the few feathery clouds, while at lake level the mist swirled in haunted swathes, concealing, revealing, re-inventing the sublime topography for a fleeting moment ... The sounds, the chill of the dawn, the pause, silence, looking backwards to loss, moist eyes behold the luminous, numinous, enveloping mise-en-scene...
Sunday, April 26, 2009
This thoughtful and sensitive book remains a survey of the scene rather than a definitive study. However, Bowring has succeeded in her aspiration to create something like an Observer's Guide to melancholy. Melancholy assumes many guises, she explains, each anatomised here: religious melancholy, love melancholy, the melancholy of nostalgia or of boredom (acedia), and a whole tradition of "heroic melancholy" of which Batman is a recent exemplar. There is even what Walter Benjamin called "Left melancholy", whereby a leftist with a mournful attachment to a dead idea becomes an in-activist.
Read the full review here
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Unité d’Habitation, Jan 2009, JB
Marcel Proust, The Remembrance of Things Past (1913)
Unité d’Habitation, Jan 2009, JB
"And these things that live,slipping away, understand that you praise them; transitory themselves, they trust us for rescue,us, the most transient of all. They wish us to transmute them in our invisible heart - oh, infinitely into us! Whoever we are."
Rainer Maria Rilke (C. F. MacIntyre, translation) "The Ninth Elegy" Duino Elegies (1911-1922)
Unité d’Habitation, Jan 2009, JB
David Malouf, An Imaginary Life (1978)
Sunday, April 19, 2009
“I entrust my individual life to the lifeless form, just as I do with another living person. Only ostensibly do I remain the same although the object remains an other. I seem merely to adapt and attach myself to it as one hand clasps another, and yet I am mysteriously transplanted and magically transformed into this other.”
Robert Vischer (who invented the term 'empathy' - originally in German, Einfuhtung, in 1873)
“Aesthetics is born as a discourse of the body. The vital distinction the term signifies for its inventor, Alexander Baumgarten, is not between art and life but between the material and the immaterial: between things and thoughts, sensations and ideas, what is bound up with our creaturely life of perception as opposed to what belongs in the mind. It is as though philosophy suddenly wakes up to the fact that there is a dense, swarming territory beyond its own mental enclave, threatening to fall utterly outside its sway. That territory is nothing less than the whole of our sensate life – the business of affections and aversions, of how the world strikes the body on its sensory surfaces, or what takes root in the guts and the gaze and all that arises from our most banal, biological insertion into the world.”
Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic, 1990
Anselm Kiefer, Die Sechste Posaune (The Sixth Trumpet*), 1996
*The sixth trumpet is sounded at the Apocalypse by an angel - it is a signal to bring on the calvary, to destroy one third of humanity.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
I am afraid of cities. But you mustn't leave them. If you go too far you come up against the vegetation belt. Vegetation has crawled for miles towards the cities. It is waiting. Once the city is dead, the vegetation will cover it, will climb over the stones, grip them, search them, make them burst with its long black pincers; it will blind the holes and let its green paws hang over everything. You must stay in the cities as long as they are alive, you must never penetrate alone this great mass of hair waiting at the gates; you must let it undulate and crack all by itself. In the cities, if you know how to take care of yourself, and choose the times when all the beasts are sleeping in their holes and digesting, behind the heaps of organic debris, you rarely come across anything more than minerals, the least frightening of all existants.
Jean Paul Sartre, Nausea
Sunday, April 12, 2009
"The Beautiful Form: I may find that in some icon, and sometimes in a still life -- both help me to see how something as found its form -- but also in a common or garden tool, in literature, in a piece of music."
Peter Zumthor, Atmospheres, 2006, who has just been announced as this year's Pritzker Prize winner - a triumph for beauty, for an architecture of the body.
[And for the non-New Zealand speaking readers:
"Beauty" - as in the Collins Dictionary, sense 6: "(N.Z.) an expression of approval or agreement"]
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Mark Rothko, No. 1, 1961
Ammi Phillips, Woman with Pink Ribbons, c.1831
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
"Dark space envelopes me on all sides and penetrates me much deeper than light space, the distinction between inside and outside and consequently the sense organs as well, insofar as they are designed for external perception, here play only a totally modest role."
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
In the countryside outside Paris is the landscape garden of Ermenonville, within which is the Temple of Philosophy. At a glance the temple appears to be a ruin, an example of the eighteenth century cult of ruins, the predilection for picturesque moments of decay. The temple is not, however, in ruin, but in a state of incompletion. It bears the inscription (in Latin), “Be this temple unfinished like the science [philosophy] whose name it bears”. This allegory of the imperfection of human understanding is further represented by symbolic manoeuvre of having six whole pillars of the temple standing, each of which bears the name of a philosopher (Newton, Descartes, Voltaire, Montesquieu, William Penn and Rousseau), and a further column lying in the grass, engraved with a question: “Who will complete it?” A further three uninscribed columns lie on the ground, emphasising that this is, in fact, a building site.
In Passaic, New Jersey, 1967, a highway was under construction, a process requiring some demolition, as Route 21 had to slice its way through the centre of the city. Staring at the processes of demolition and construction Robert Smithson imagined the whole as a kind of "unitary chaos", not the tumbling ruins of a picturesque scene, but “ruins in reverse". This uncertain and poised condition, a confounding of the temporal, comes about because “the buildings don’t fall into ruin after they are built but rather rise into ruin before they are built." ('The Monuments of Passaic', ArtForum December 1967)
In the City of London the IRA bombings of 1992 caused massive damage, curtains flapped from the facades of skyscrapers, glass and paper rained down onto the streets below for days. Scenes fused into my memory, from the years of working in London. Scenes revived by Patrick Keiller's film London, where the static shots linger at several points of the devastation, and the narrator is perplexed by the spectacle, since the piles of rubble look as much like materials yet to be utilised, and he muses that it is difficult to distinguish the bombing sites from the building sites which had been so numerous just a few years before.
2009, just near the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia a large building site is simultaneously a site of demolition and construction. Piles of rubble, building materials, salvaged stone from historic walls, reinforcing steel seemingly sprouting from walls ... a sense of the cyclical, the riddle of the fragmentary, ruins in reverse ...
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
"The other or eastern end of the isle was whelmed in the blackest shade. A sombre, yet beautiful and peaceful gloom here pervaded all things. The trees were dark in color, and mournful in form and attitude — wreathing themselves into sad, solemn, and spectral shapes that conveyed ideas of mortal sorrow and untimely death. The grass wore the deep tint of the cypress, and the heads of its blades hung droopingly, and hither and thither among it, were many small unsightly hillocks, low, and narrow, and not very long, that had the aspect of graves, but were not; although over and all about them the rue and the rosemary clambered. The shade of the trees fell heavily upon the water, and seemed to bury itself therein, impregnating the depths of the element with darkness. I fancied that each shadow, as the sun descended lower and lower, separated itself sullenly from the trunk that gave it birth, and thus became absorbed by the stream; while other shadows issued momently from the trees, taking the place of their predecessors thus entombed."
Edgar Allan Poe, The Island of the Fay