Friday, August 29, 2008


"The great mystery of the world is not the invisible, but the visible." Oscar Wilde

The presencing of things, their announcement of themselves, quietly, phenomenally, can be extraordinary. As though always there, yet un-captured, un-assailed, these fugitive elements are momentarily held, crystallised. Even then, their ephemeral nature means they are always already departed. An instant, from the corner of the eye, then gone.
Abelardo Morell, Umbrian Landscape Over Bed, Umbertide, Italy, 2000

Abelardo Morell's photographs make manifest such evanescent presences. Converting interior spaces into camera obscuras he then photographs the ensuing scene. Entering the room through a tiny pin prick in the blackened out windows, the light forms an inverted image upon the interior scene. A small pinhole creates a small yet highly focussed image, and a larger hole gives a more diffuse image. Remarkable coincidences are limned within the space. Surreal, ethereal and fleeting ...

Abelardo Morell, La Giraldilla de la Habana in Room With Broken Wall, 2002

The images which enter the darkened room through the tiny hole are then gathered into the photograph, with exposures of around 8 hours, recalling Hubert Damisch's words on the phenomenology of photography.

Morell reveals the magic secret behind the small dots of light that fall upon the ground under trees. The dappled sunlit is made up of multiple pinhole images of the sun, making their way through gaps in the foliage above. At times of eclipses this becomes even more mysterious, as the miniature views of the sun become crescent shaped, showing the shadow of the moon.

Abelardo Morell, Shadows During Solar Eclipse, Brookline, MA, 1994

Images from Library of Dust, by David Maisel

Another set of photographs which is phenomenally alive, inflected with the mysteriousness of metaphysics as much as physics, is the project The Library of Dust, by photographer David Maisel, and including the writings of Geoff Manaugh. The eerie images are of the cremated remains of patients from a mental asylum which had been kept in copper canisters. Left unclaimed for decades, the canisters began to develop eerie, uncanny surface colourings. Surreal micro-landscapes of psychedelic flora, phosphorescent efflorescences. One imagines a re-writing of Breton's declaration:

"Beauty will be CORROSIVE or will not be at all!"

David Maisel, Library of Dust

“He deepens a seam or fault line, in the night of the inapparent, in order to extract, lovingly or more often by force, with strokes and patches of color, blocks of the visible.” Jean-Luc Marion

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Mists of Time

"Memory ... often strikes me as a kind of dumbness. It makes one's head heavy and giddy, as if one were not looking back down the receding perspectives of time but rather down on the earth from a great height, from one of those towers whose tops are lost to view in the clouds."
W G Sebald, The Emigrants (Ambros Adelwarth), 1996

It has been raining for forever. Deprived of vitamin D, suffering from SAD, memories of pleasant past times are fuel for the fire. The gloom has its own gorgeousness though, closed in, isolated, while the land slowly becomes water, changing states. Sea level rise hardly seems the problem, as the water table is now the equivalent of ground level anyway.
And so, memory's mists lay beneath this vertiginous position, from up upon the tower. Sometimes, memories condense on window panes. Drawing pictures on the window, writing words, suddenly the layers of time all come into sharp tension. The immediacy of the drawn line, the amorphous condensation, and somewhere beyond it, the wild blue distance of time and space. Returning later in the day, it has all gone. The message, the moisture, and only the view remains. Michel Foucault comes to mind, as he speculated on the fragility of the constructions of things - of instistituions, of knowledge - " man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea..."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mirror / Mirror

A Pair of [Very Dark] Glasses. JBowring, August 2008. (Mirrors, Paper)

With Dr Dee and Claude Lorrain in mind. Two mirrors, two glasses. One concave, drawing in the swirling prophesies that drift in the unseen. A scrying glass. The other convex, forcing a particular pictorial composition on the scene. A Claude glass. Together, a peculiar synergy. Dr Dee's inverts the image, what is seen appears upside down. Thus what is encountered with this strange device of my own making is peculiarly poised between altered states, between orientations.

Hovering between the scene and the unseen apparitions swirl across the surface. Laid upon a surface near the window, a bird flies first upside down though metaphysical space, and then inverts itself across the Claude glass to become an unwitting player in a scenic composition. Akin to what was called 'staffage' - those stock figures deployed in the foreground of picturesque scenes, surrogates for our selves, references for scale.

The glasses should, of course, be darker. But obsidian is hard to come by in these parts - despite living on a volcano. The blackness is vital, for both Claude and Dr Dee. Investigations are ongoing. Coal and copper are also possible, both of which, when polished, would give the reduced tonal spectrum required of the Claude glass, and the vertiginous depths needed for Dr Dee's divination.

"I saw in my [Claude] glass a picture that if I could transmit to you and fix it in all the softness of its living colours, would fairly sell for a thousand pounds." Thomas Gray in a letter to Thomas Wharton (1769)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Heaven and Earth

Flying in late tonight. The city delicately poised upon the black plains, a lacy matrix. Above, the vastness of the sky, similarly a-glitter, lights against the darkness. The map of the night sky, purchased this morning on the way out, as a support for the day's designing, was deployed with joy, its glow-in-the-dark graphics surreal, and other-worldly ... a guide to the terrestrial and celestial, at once ...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Little Blue Guide

I. The Little Blue Light

The writings of EM Cioran plunge into the sublimity of being. Beaming into elusive, darkened corners, his words are revelatory, delivered with biblical gravity. Such is the weight of Cioran's works, that they bring you to your knees, a state wherein it would be possible to abandon hope. But here is that divine line. One that straddles the depths, and the lights. Samuel Beckett pointed to this line when he wrote that Cioran was not a "writer of despair", as those very depths were alleviated, illuminated, by the little blue light. The beauty within sorrow.

II. The Little Blue Flower

Novalis sought the little blue flower, through the travels of Henry von Ofterdingen, in pursuit of the elusive, ineffable bloom. Gaston Bachelard stared into Novalis's little blue flower, and found it not timid and cool, but the seat of heat. Novalis had written to Schlegel, "You can see in my tale my antipathy for the play of light and shadow, and the desire for bright, hot, penetrating Ether." The little blue flower smoulders with this impulse towards heat, where the seeming coolness belies a tumultuous being. Bachelard declares, that to go down into the subconscious is to see the truth, "the little blue flower is red!" The blue flower, the cipher of romantic longing, of elusive ineffability, struggles within the strictures of technology. Walter Benjamin lamented the fate of this vulnerable ideal in the face of modernity, that "it no longer feels right to dream about the blue flower..."

Blue Tulips, jbowring, august 2008
In progress ...