Thursday, May 28, 2009

Way Finding

Portal, Dunedin North Cemetery, May 2009, JB

In the passing of things is also a liberation. Even that which is most loved can weigh heavily. An idea, a theory, a place, a person. The realisation of absence brings a certain latitude within the compass of the self. The passage of that which is loved is thus both a pit and a portal.

The liberation that comes with absence is vertiginous. But the gift is in what you give away, what you allow to depart. Whether the old cliché of love ('set it free') or in the setting aside of the manacles of theory, crossing the threshold is fearful. To lose something and to be lost are not necessarily one and the same.

Losing follows loosing. The occlusion of one oculus, the closing of an o, leads elsewhere, another way. Exceeding a diffident disengagement, the committed contemplation of absence is not for the fainthearted. The way through leads to other realms, not to nothing, or at least to a kind of 'nothing' that is something, that which ripples with the numinous, within underground seams of awe...

Absences are new presences.

[For an Absent Friend]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Beauty of Loss

“…this film is my dream about New Zealand, this make-believe country that seems almost empty of people, where love stories are played out in silence and loneliness ... where the land is like a vast quilt of fields, where life seems perfect but we find ways to make ourselves unhappy…” Harry Sinclair on The Price of Milk

Otago, May 2009, JB

"... melancholy would not be so much the regressive reaction to the loss of the love object as the imaginative capacity to make an unobtainable object appear as if lost..." ... "the strategy of melancholy opens a space for the existence of the unreal..." Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fire Redux

Fire is the ultra-living element. It is intimate and it is universal. It lives in our heart. It lives in the sky. It rises from the depths of the substance and hides there, latent and pent-up, like hate and vengeance. Among all phenomena, it is really the only one to which there can be so definitely attributed the opposing values of good and evil. It shines in paradise. It burns in hell.
Gaston Bachelard, The Psychoanalysis of Fire

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Depth of Surface

May 2009, JB
The depth of surface ... and the surface of depth. Within lies that which is ineffable. A simple surface belies a depth. The Brunelleschi 'frame of mind' finds itself quickly fixed in space, while the mind that lies behind, the place of other presences, enters freefall velocity. Extreme seeing, in the manner of extreme sports, is a whitewater ride into the black space ... the 'back of beyond' as is colloquial hereabouts ... the black of beyond, the unknown depth, sublime, terrifying, terrific ...
A photographic surface is a kind of meniscus. Apparently flat, yet sitting slightly raised above the real, with a universe trapped between ... admission requires mental shapeshifting, a recognition of the vastness that lies within ...

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Submersion (River Murray), October 2003, JB

The temporary erasure of the datum places the experience of the world outside the normal shape of existence. That which is familiar becomes reconfigured, obscured, poignantly adrift. The intrusion of water, sand, ash, or burying by earth, or the slow accretion over the years, alters the fixed point of the plane upon which we exist. Like Pompeii, like Ninfa ... like Bath. The sedimentation of the ages, of the sudden and tragic, and of prolonged accumulation of dust, debris, slowly strands the things of the world just outside it. Like the liminality of the fragmentary, the ruined, there is a melting of boundaries with submersion.
Submersion (Halswell), May 2009, JB

Friday, May 22, 2009

Luminous Darkness

May 2009, JB
Mystical ascent - separation from error, evil
- [separation] from world of appearances, sense attractions
- "the divine dark” – “luminous darkness”

Ad Reinhardt in Mark C Taylor, Disfiguring: Art, Architecture, Religion

What lies within those dark zones? The penumbral places? An ascent into "sacred darkness" is towards a zone where one can move beyond the "less is less" and the "more is more" and encounter the Less that is More ...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Imagined Monument #1: Water (New York, March 2009) JB

The dark, penumbral zone is embedded, embodied, within shadow. It is here that the sublime 'je ne sais quoi' resides, and it is here that the darkness of melancholy presides, in the call and response between the lost object and the dispossessed, the haunting lament across the abyss.

Imagined Monument #2: Fire (London, June 2006) JB

In shadow is Minkowski's "dark space", an "opaque and unlimited sphere wherein all the radii are the same, dark and mysterious." Within the shadowy zone is an endless night, a plummeting space, a temporal passage.

Imagined Monument #3: Earth (Southland, January 2008) JB

The casting of shadows, or their rippling across a surface to find form, is an alchemical moment. An opening up of a vast, dark hole in an otherwise whole object. A sudden shift in the apparent edges of space, shadows excavate the shallows.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The Music of Clouds, May 2009, JBowring

Aura inheres in elusivity. In its necessary distance lies a certain paradox, circled by Walter Benjamin in his evocation of the moment when, "If, while resting on a summer afternoon, you follow with your eyes a mountain range on the horizon or a branch which casts its shadow over you, you experience the aura of those mountains, of that branch." Aura is seductive, and the pursuit of the affective can be treacherous, as Anne Noble cautions, one should not "hurry an image into pathos." Such an affectation of the affective is, as Anthony Vidler observes, there in the "turn-of-the-century Jugendstil photographs that used 'penumbral' tones to try to simulate the aura of an earlier time." And it is within the shadowy illumination, the paradoxical nearness of distance, that aura is issued forth ... at once pushing and pulling, intimate and immense, a withdrawal from the world of things and presencing of that very world, and within such doubling a realisation of what Bachelard has termed a "penumbral ontology."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Intimate and the Immense

If we could analyze impressions and images of immensity, or what immensity contributes to an image, we should soon enter into a region of the purest sort of phenomenology -- a phenomenology without phenomena; or, stated less paradoxically, one that, in order to know the productive flow of images, need not wait for the phenomena of the imagination to take form and become stabilized in completed images. In other words, since immense is not an object, a phenomenology of immense would refer us directly to our imagining consciousness. In analyzing images of immensity, we should realize within ourselves the pure being of pure imagination. It then becomes clear that works of art are the by-products of this existentialism of the imagining being. In this direction of daydreams of immensity, the real product is consciousness of enlargement. We feel that we have been promoted to the dignity of the admiring being.
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Images - Experiments in Peripheral Vision: Non-objects

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Out of Sight

Unconscious peripheral perception transforms retinal images into spatial and bodily experiences. Peripheral vision integrates us with space, while focused vision pushes us out of the space and makes us mere observers.

Juhani Pallasmaa (2005) Towards an Architecture of Humility

[T]here are -- as I shall show -- images of matter, images that stem directly from matter. The eye assigns them names, but only the hand truly knows them. A dynamic joy touches, moulds, and refines them. When forms, mere perishable forms and vain images -- perpetual change of surfaces -- are put aside, these images of matter are dreamt substantially and intimately. They have weight; they constitute a heart.

Gaston Bachelard (1983) Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter (originally published 1942 as L'Eau et les reves: essai sur l'imagination de la matiere) (and arrived in my letterbox today)

All images from Experiments in Peripheral Vision, J Bowring

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Envelope, please

Joseph Cornell, Verso of Cassiopeia 1, (1960)

Donald Barthelme on Joseph Cornell (Overnight to Many Distant Cities)

I put a name in an envelope, and sealed the envelope; and put that envelope in another envelope with a spittlebug and some quantity of boric acid; and put that envelope in a still larger envelope which contained also a woman tearing her gloves to tatters; and put that envelope in the mail to Fichtelgebirge. At the Fichtelgebirge Post Office I asked if there was mail for me, with a mysterious smile the clerk said, "Yes," I hurried with the envelope to London, arriving with snow, and put the envelope in the Victoria and Albert Museum, bowing to the curators in the Envelope Room, where the wallpaper hung down in thick strips. I put the Victoria and Albert Museum in a still larger envelope which I placed in the program of the Royal Danish Ballet, in the form of an advertisement for museums, boric acid, wallpaper. I put the program of the Royal Danish Ballet into the North Sea for two weeks. Then, I retrieved it, it was hanging down in thick strips, I sent it to a machine-vask on H. C. Andersen Boulevard, everything came out square and neat, I was overjoyed. I put the square, neat package in a safe place, and put the safe place in a vault designed by Caspar David Friedrich, German romantic landscape painter of the last century. I slipped the vault into a history of art (Insel Verlag, Frankfurt, 1980). But, in a convent library on the side of a hill near a principal city of Montana, it fell out of the history of art into a wastebasket, a thing I could not have predicted. I bound the wastebasket in stone, with a matchwood shroud covering the stone, and placed it in the care of Charles the Good, Charles the Bold, and Charles the Fair. They stand juggling cork balls before the many-times-encased envelope, whispering names which are not the right one. I put the three kings into a new blue suit, it walked away from me most confidently.

In Memory

Venice, January 2009, JB

"Memory is like a stupid dog: you throw it a stick and it fetches something different."
Ray Loriga (1999) Tokio ya no nos quiere

[click on image to enlarge]

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

FGtM in Emotion, Space and Society

"Ambiguous and ambivalent in shared measures, melancholy is a disarming emotion. Conceptually exposed to multiple interpretations, it nevertheless has a distinguished history, from Durer’s celebrated ‘‘Melencolia I’’ to the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, which attests to its close relation to the genesis of art. Thanks to this relation, melancholy delivers itself from the inertia of depression and establishes a culture in its own right. Alongside this enigmatic history as a muse to artists, however, the medical history of melancholy means that it sits somewhat uncomfortably beside its aesthetic dynamics: is melancholy an aestheticised mode of depression? If so, does this degenerate either melancholy as a mode of affection, or, aesthetics as a branch of melancholy?"
A Field Guide to Melancholy, Review by Dylan J Trigg

Full text available at Emotion, Space and Society, Elsevier (requires subscription)

Monday, May 4, 2009


The Leavings of Leaves, May 2009, JBowring

‘Leavings’ are melancholy doubled.
First, leavings are poignant actions: departures, abandonments, desertions.
And second, leavings are those things which are left, the remnants of something previously whole, detritus, residue.
Each has their own poignancy, and in some cases are intertwined in a narrative of displacement. There is implied in the residue -- whether it be a note, a trace, an object now lost -- a tender violence. Ruptures and cleavings are the subplots of leavings. The departure of things, of wholes, of lives, of loves, leaves the pain of residual stains, of that which remains.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Right to Dream

This evening I shall sit down at the edge of dusk
And swinging my feet above the waves
I shall watch night fall; night will think herself alone
And my heart will say to me: do with me something
That I my feel whether I am still your heart.

Jules Supervielle, Gravitation (in Gaston Bachelard's The Right to Dream)
Image: Lake Hawea at Nightfall, JB