Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tarkovsky Icons

Mimmo Paladino, For Andreij Tarkovskij, State II 2008

"... if, on the one hand, I feel close to Giotto and Piero della Francesca, on the other I pay attention to Byzantine and Russian icons…I believe that the superficial glance is very much in keeping with the fast moving times we live in." Mimmo Paladino

Mimmo Paladino, For Andreij Tarkovskij, 2007

Toru Takemitsu:
"Nostalghia, In memory of Andrei Tarkovsky" (1987)
For solo violin and string orchestra

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Black and Blue

Mark Rothko, No. 1, 1964 [Black-Form Paintings]

Black is like the silence of the body after death, the close of life.
Wassily Kandinsky, 1911.

Mark Rothko, No. 6(?), 1964 [Black-Form Paintings]

When [blue] sinks almost to black, it echoes a grief that is hardly human.
Wassily Kandinsky 1911

Mark Rothko, No. 7, 1964 [Black-Form Paintings]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dusting and Casting

Jorge Otero-Pailos, The Ethics of Dust: Doge's Palace, Venice 2009 [Venice Biennale]
Latex is poured over an unrestored wall of the Doge's Palace. The resulting cast ... a palimpsest of sorts ... or a print lifted from lithographic stone ... perhaps a death mask ... is embedded with the detritus of centuries, the dust, the grime, the dents, the traces of all those flies on the wall, watching ...
The cast, the dust, is an impression, in all senses of the word, bringing to mind the passage from Rainer Maria Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, of that which is embedded within an abandoned space ... "But the walls themselves were the most unforgettable. The stubborn life of these rooms had not allowed itself to be trampled out. It was still there; it clung to the nails that had been left in the walls; it found a resting-place on the remaining handbreadth of flooring; it squatted beneath the corner beams where a little bit of space remained. One could see it in the colours which it had slowly changed, year by year: blue into a mouldy green, green into grey, and yellow into a stale, drab, weary white. But it was also in the places that had kept fresher, behind the mirrors, the pictures, and the wardrobes; for it bad outlined their contours over and over again, and had been with cobwebs and dust even in these hidden retreats that now lay uncovered. It was in every bare, flayed streak of surface, it was in the blisters the dampness had raised at the edges of the wallpapers; it floated in the torn-off shreds, and sweated out of the long-standing spots of filth. And from these walls once blue, and green and yellow, framed by the tracks of the disturbed partitions, the breath of these lives came forth - the clammy, stuggish, fusty breath, which no wind had yet scattered."

And of landscape as the 'state of the soul' ... Paysage-état-de-l’âme

And of the castings of Rachel Whiteread, the creations of solids from voids, paperweights for the volatile memories which drift in spaces ....

Rachel Whiteread, House 1993

Death Mask of Napoleon Bonaparte

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Winter Solstice

Francesca Woodman

The slightest slivers of light, Emily Dickinson's 'slants'. Things become lost in the shadows, and the topography of existence is reduced. Light skimming the high points, the rest a vast ocean of mid-winter gloom.

Follower of Rembrandt

Times for solitude. Introspective inspection. A slow rumination over the gathered words, images. Thinking paced as incantation. Threading together of thoughts, Benjamin's 'rosary bead' conception of history.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Beyond the Frozen Sea

Inhabiting the Sublime .... Scenes of Casa Malaparte (Adalberto Libera ) from Le Mépris - Jean-Luc Godard

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Amidst Light and Darkness

June Pole, June 2009, JB
Ecstasy mingles shadows and sparks in a weird dance; it weaves a dramatic vision of fugitive glimmers in mysterious obscurity, playing with all the nuances of light through total darkness. Nevertheless, this gorgeous display is not as important as the mere fact that it holds and fascinates you. The height of ecstasy is the final sensation, in which you feel you are dying because of all this light and darkness. Especially weird is the fact that ecstasy wipes out surrounding objects, familiar forms of the world, until all that is left is a monumental projection of shadow and light.

E M Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Shudder and the Other

June 2009, JB

And if, "Knowingness is a state of soul which prevents shudders of awe," then, too, "aesthetic comportment is to be defined as the capacity to shudder ... life in the subject is nothing but what shudders, the reaction to the total spell that transcends the spell. Consciousness without shudder is reified consciousness. The shudder in which subjectivity stirs without yet being subjectivity is the act of being touched by the other." Theodor W Adorno, Aesthetic Theory

The shudder is art itself.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Cusp of Invisibility

Ben Cauchi, Loose Canvas, 2007 (tin type photograph)

Anne Noble, Window/Altar, 1978 (gelatine silver print)

Odilon Redon, Profil de Lumiere, 1886 (charcoal)

Bill Henson, Paris Opera Project, 1990-91

William Forsythe, Limbs Theorem

Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than seeing.

J W Goethe

Knowingness is a state of soul which prevents shudders of awe.
Richard Rorty

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it 'the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.' The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of 'Artist.'
Edgar Allan Poe

Within the vast, unknowable, ineffable darkness of existence, there exist glimmers, moments. On the cusp of invisibility the scintillas dance, light strikes an edge, a surface, a visage, a limb. A match is struck, phosphorescence. Lux et Nox. Fleetingly surface and depth inflect, the subtle bend of the meniscus, the tenderest touch. The cavernous blackness of the unknown pulls at the presumptions of light and knowledge, of seeing and knowing. Always already on the verge of swallowing the visible whole, the invisible, the dark, the deep is that which induces the shudders of awe, the beauty of the unseeable, that which exeeds mere imitation. To dance in the abyss, to reach into the distance, to touch the depth of darkness ...

Bill Henson, Paris Opera Project, 1990-91

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Evening of Things

Evening St Petersburg, June 2007, JB

Each one stands alone at the heart of the earth
Pierced by a ray of sunlight
And soon it is evening.

Salvatore Quasimodo

Evening Christchurch, February 2009, JB

Over stubble-field and path
A black silence lurks in fear
Purest sky amid the branches
Only the brook runs silent and still

Fish and game soon slip away
Blue soul, darksome wandering
Soon severed us from loved ones, others.
Evening alters sense and image

From George Trakl's Autumn Soul

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Landscape as State of Soul

June 2009, JB

Paysage-état-de-l’âme: 'landscape as state of the soul', setting as mirror of self...

June 2009, JB

"Doesn't a life leave traces, traces that can attach themselves to others who pass through the aura of that life? Doesn't a place absorb the events it witnesses ...?" Dionne Brand, What We All Long For

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Weakness, Decoration, Monumentality

Theatre, Oamaru, January 2008, JB

Three ‘dirty words’ all at once: weakness, decoration and monumentality. Yet they are aspirations. Embedded within these terms is the most elegant of art, architecture, landscape. The lithe manoeuvres of Ignasi de Sola-Morales might seem mere semantics as he excavates the arcane brilliance of weakness and its attendants - decoration and monumentality. Sola-Morales's somersaults land deftly, however, delivering at once a cutting critique of the muscularity of modernity and a lyrical vision for a 'way out'.

Weakness first. As a critique of ‘strong’ thought, weakness represents an elusion of the domineering, fundamentalist dogma of modernism. Rooted in the writings of Gianni Vattimo, ‘weakness’ is proposed as a position of ironic strength, a critique of the monolithic nature of modernism. Rather than promoting the schism of subject and object, the most pronounced fall-out of the modern age, potency is found where the subject and object are continuous, are ‘fused’ -- within the work of art -- the most potent apprehension of the ‘aesthetic’.

‘Weak architecture’ is unswervingly ‘aesthetic’ -- which in itself may toll alarm bells. Aesthetic, like decoration and monumentality, has toxic overtones. Aisthesis simmers under the surface stain of the merely aesthetic, steering a course straight into the heart of the fully sensory and beyond, into the unknown terrain on the other side. Juhani Pallasmaa's weak or 'fragile archtitecture' is “contextual, multi-sensory, and responsive, concerned with experiential interaction and sensual accommodation. This architecture grows gradually, scene by scene, rather than quickly manifesting a simple, domineering concept.” This architecture of ‘humility’ is in marked contrast to the contemporary architecture he criticises as existing in a “climate of arrogance,” with an emphasis on “individual genius” focussed upon the “marketable image”.

And then to decoration. Abhorred by the modernists – Aldolf Loos’s dictum ‘ornament is a crime’ comes to mind – decoration is more than meets the eye. Sola-Morales performs an archaeogical dig and finds 'decorum' within decoration. Not the decorating of things -- not the ‘home décor’ and such -- but that thing itself, the architecture, the landscape, assumes a position of ‘weakness’ through acknowledging its place as decoration. This is in distinction from those things, those buildings, those thoughts, those narratives, which impose, which are relentless in their monolithic nature. A weak and decorative artwork assumes a position of decorum, of being dignified and considerate in behaviour – what Pallasmaa terms ‘humility’. Accepting a fragility in this way is not the same as acquiescing, but for a work of art, of architecture, it allows for an inhabitation of the work by the mind and the body. This softness, weakness, decorativeness, for a work “may possibly be the condition of its greatest elegance and, ultimately, its greatest significance and import.” (Sola-Morales)

And finally, monumentality. Not the monumentalising that is about setting colossal ideals into stone, the vision of the demiurge, or as Sola-Morales puts it, the imago Dei. Rather it is a resuscitation of the etymology of the term, to salvage ‘monitu’, recollection. Evoking Goethe’s words via Heidegger, Sola-Morales infuses the monumental with the sense of that which occurs within, rather than that which is imposed from without: “It is not necessary for the true always to take on material form, it is enough that it should flutter to and fro, like a spirit, promoting a kind of accord; as when the companionable pealing of a bell rings out, bringing us some little measure of peace.” In the artwork it as much the barely imperceptible reverberation that is telling as the impression of a strong visual presence. Monumentality is not about insistence and permanence, but is “bound up with the lingering resonance of poetry after it has been heard, with the recollection of architecture after it has been seen.”

Weakness is a position of strength, in the sense of strength as discipline and humility, rather than imposition and muscularity. The richness of being in place is not in the ‘aggressive and dominating’ but in the ‘tangential and weak’. It is about saying More with Less, about The Void, about the leap of faith ...

Shadow/Reflection - for Dan Graham, Central Park, March 2009, JB

See Ignasi de Sola-Morales, 'Weak Architecture' in Differences: Topographies of Contemporary Architecture
Juhani Pallasmaa, 'Architecture of Humility' in Encounters

Saturday, June 6, 2009

We Also Live in the Night

"... we also live in the night. Isn't it necessary, perchance, to turn our eyes toward it? ... I no longer have the black night, complete obscurity, before me; instead, it covers me completely, it penetrates my whole being, it touches me in a much more intimate way than the clarity of visual space."
Eugene Minkowski
Images: Passing in the Night, May 2009, JB
In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.
We enter the circle after dark and are consumed by fire.
[Palindrome in Latin, on the ways of moths].

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Search for a Clearing

Holzwege, June 2009, JB

“Wood” is an old name for forest. In the wood are paths that mostly wind along until they end quite suddenly in an impenetrable thicket.
They are called “woodpaths.” [holzwege]
Each goes it peculiar way, but in the same forest. Often it seems as though one were identical to another. Yet it only seems so.
Woodcutters and foresters are familiar with these paths. They know what it means to be on a woodpath.

Martin Heidegger, Holzwege

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On Loss

Ohio Impromptu, Samuel Beckett, 1980
Directed by Charles Sturridge, 2000
Reader: Jeremy Irons
Listener: Jeremy Irons

So the sad tale a last time told they sat on as though turned to stone. Through the single window dawn shed no light. From the street no sound of reawakening. Or was it that buried in who knows what thoughts they paid no heed? To light of day. To sound of reawakening. Buried in who knows what profounds of mind. Of mindlessness. Whither no light can reach. No sound. So sat on as though turned to stone. The sad tale a last time told. Nothing is left to tell.
Samuel Beckett

Reader reads to Listener, a tale of loss, of the enigmatic 'dear name'. Listener attempts to avert the inexorable descent towards an end, to somehow induce an eternal pause, through his tapping, knocking, to require Reader to re-read, an infinite re-telling of the tale. The looping back, re-stitching, backtracking, spirals in a suspension of time, until the close, the sudden jolt ... a knock ... 'Nothing is left to tell' ... ... terminal, black, the words hollow into a pit.

The complex of melancholia behaves like an open wound, drawing to itself cathetic energies ... from all directions, and emptying the ego until it is totally impoverished.
Sigmund Freud

[Thanks Bruno]

Monday, June 1, 2009

Remote Sensing

Ascent of Little Mount Peel, June 2009, JB
This new bright day is the twentieth of February 2108, and these men and women are members of the New Zealand Re-Discovery Expedition to North America. Spared by the belligerents of the Third World War -- not, I need hardly say, for any humanitarian reason, but simply because, like Equatorial Africa, it was too remote to be worth anybody's while to obliterate -- New Zealand survived and even modestly flourished in an isolation which, because of the dangerously radioactive condition of the rest of the world, remained for more than a century almost absolute.
Aldous Huxley, Ape and Essence, 1949