Letter writing is a sporadic, but important part of our working process. Sometimes we pick letters to post. Sometimes they're interesting, but maybe mostly for us.
* For 2012/2013 we have started a workbox to which we are contributing monthly. You can subscribe and receive a sweet handmade portable desk/box with your subscription then new writing monthly in your postbox for 26 months. Details HERE.
This is a passage from Walser’s Helbling’s Story:
“When I hurry home at midday, as twelve o’clock strikes, from the bank where I am employed they are all hurrying with me: this one is trying to overtake another, that one is taking longer strides than another; yet. still one thinks “they will all reach home,” and they do reach home, for among them there is not a single extraordinary person who could happen not to find his way home.”
And this is what I heard on the radio (emphasis added):
“Before a controversial homeless policy goes into effect on Monday, City Council members questioned whether the city has the proper state approval to implement it. The policy would require single adults to demonstrate they have no other place to go before being considered eligible for staying in a shelter.”
The city is New York.
And this is the question I naively asked while listening to the radio:
“How does one prove they have no where to go?”
I've disguised the attribution for the quote below so that for a moment you can consider the statement broadly, not within the context of the source.
"I [redacted word] assembled the [labor] of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed. So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable. To teach that a comparatively few men are responsible for the greatest forward steps of mankind is the worst sort of nonsense."
(-- HXXXeXXXnXXXrXXy FXXXoXXXrXXXd)
This could be said, I think, of anything, right? Not only industrial or entrepreneurial innovation. A complex context was needed for organized labor to have any success, and that context cannot be simply created. Vision could then be either, 1. working to inform the popular imaginary with newly-available radical concepts - perhaps despite any ability to implement those concepts - or, 2. perceiving which combinations of the previously radical have begun to form new foundations for incremental progress.
Then, sometimes the historical narrative can comfortably incorporate incremental shifts and progress, and sometimes it cannot. When it can't, it is called a leap. The lack of narrative continuity and its 'natural-progression' logical undergirding render developments antagonistic to some class. Leaps in consolidation and management of capital antagonize labor, leaps in the generally accepted understanding of social responsibility (vs material individualism) antagonize capital. A radical democracy seeks such leaps, creates space for such antagonisms. It doesn't not plow them over in service of the currently prevailing 'common sense.'
Doris Kearns Goodwin argued that Abe Lincoln was a visionary of the second order. I would argue Malcolm X was a visionary of the first, MLK the second, Ronald Reagan the first (his was a short loop, he was also able to do the second), and LBJ maybe in the second order. Sez JBJ on after signing the civil rights act of 1964, "We [democrats] have just lost the southern vote for at least 50 years." (paraphrased)
Buffalo Bill was a visionary of the second order too. Which then begs an evaluation of the term progress, its different qualitative differences, or different senses, no? Another time maybe.
An idea for part of a uniform. Attached.
As I walked over to the library tonight, I noticed my ears still had some water in them from the swim we took in Willard Pond this afternoon. Feeling the pressure in my ears change with each step, I imagined the water finding its way into my brain, settling into some inner fold, and forming a small puddle in my head. It was at this moment that I thought “this is how I will take Willard Pond back to Chicago with me.”
And now, thinking about that walk, about that thought, I picture myself walking around Chicago with this little Willard Pond in my head, it’s reflective surface rippling with each step forward in time. I picture a day when I am in bed, sick with a fever and the pond vaporizes, finds it’s way out into the air. The vapor gathers into a small cloud which hovers over my sweaty face. A beam of light passes through the cloud and splits into a hundred beams of light revealing a collection of ponds – a collection of worlds. These words written by Jacques Roubaud come to mind: “He who remembers is at once Argos, the giant with a hundred eyes, and an octopus, a creature with a hundred arms.” And now the words that he wrote two pages later:“ I said to look at an image of the past is to be Argos. Certainly: but Argos struggling to capture Proteus.”
I would like to propose that we add my head –containing the puddle – inside a cardboard box to our archive. What does this mean in terms of moisture control?
I want to try and say something about inside and outside, and the symptomatic myopia of being irredeemably inside while wanting to be outside. I read the Agamben essay The Archive and Testimony today and he said this: “The archive is thus the mass of the non-semantic inscribed in every meaningful discourse as a function of its enunciation; it is the dark margin encircling and limiting every concrete act of speech.”
He also, usefully, tries to define the two other senses that are most often meant by the term The Archive. 1. “ The storehouse that catalogues the traces of what has been said, to consign them to future memory”, and 2. “The Babelic Library that gathers the dust of statements and allows for their resurrection under the historians gaze.”
A subject position will always be inside the known, looking out at the un-kown all around. Inside looking out at the limitless unknown. I am inside culture. I am inside nature. I am inside The Archive. But all the time I say things that imply that I position myself outside, objective, like when I just said “a subject position will always be inside the known”, or when I say, “That was the best dance move ever in the history of the whole big fucking universe.”
I am definately writing this letter at the edge of what is sayable for me, or at least trying to.
Andy Warhol wrote this:
“I believe that everyone should live in one big empty space. It can be a small space, as long as it’s clean and empty. I like the Japanese way of rolling everything up and locking it away in cupboards. But I wouldn’t even have the cupboards, because that’s hypocritical. But if you can’t go all the way and you really feel you need a closet, then your closet should be a totally separate piece of space so you don’t use it as a crutch too much. If you live in New York, your closet should be, at the very least, in New Jersey. Aside from the false dependency, another reason for keeping your closet at a good distance from where you live is that you don’t want to feel you’re living next door to your own dump. Another person’s dump wouldn’t bother you so much because you wouldn’t know what was in it, but thinking about your own closet, and knowing every little thing that’s in it, could drive you crazy. What you should do is get a box for a month, and drop everything in it and at the end of the month lock it up. Then date it and send it over to New Jersey. You should try to keep track of it, but if you can’t and you lose it, that’s fine, because it’s one less thing to think about, another load off your mind.”
And Marcel Duchamp said this:
“I was quite happy to feel like [an uprooted person], precisely because I was afraid of being influenced by my roots. I wanted to get away from that. When I was in the USA I had no roots at all because I was born in Europe. So it was easy, I was bathing in a calm sea where I could swim freely; you can’t swim freely when you get tangled up in roots.”
And finally, while we’re on the subject of roots, which implies a personal archive, Nicolas Bourriaud said this:
“Neither identitarian enrootedness nor modernist radicality imagine that a subject - whether individual or collective - could be constituted without some kind of anchor, without a fixed point, without moorings. And yet the immigrant, the exile, the tourist, and the urban wanderer are the dominant figures of contemporary culture. To remain within the vocabulary of the vegetable realm, one might say that the individual of these early years of the twenty-first century resembles those plants that do not depend on a single root for their growth but advance in all directions on whatever surfaces present themselves by attaching multiple hooks to them, as ivy does. Ivy belongs to the botanical family of the radicants, which develop their roots as they advance, unlike the radicals, whose development is determined by their being anchored in a particular soil. The stem of couch grass is radicant, as are the suckers of the strawberry plant. They grow their secondary roots alongside their primary one. The radicant develops in accord with its host soil. It conforms to the latter’s twists and turns and adapts to its surfaces and geological features. The adjective Radicant defines the subject as an object of negotiation.”
I think this seems to be how you and I are addressing the sublime of The Archive, of the biggest libraries, the smallest collections, by wanting to invoke, simultaneously, the suffocating weight of the archive, and the inexplicable pleasure it makes available. Universality is absurd, the complexities of translating ideas into varied and heterogenous contexts is a more prescient project. From our position as a pathetic subject without the capacity or time to survey everything that has come before, or to conquer the implied vast unknown, and also totally unable to objectively approach what has come before, there is a pleasure and freedom in the miniscule creative act of postulating connections and traversing rather than mastering The Archive.
I have already wanted to understand much more than I will ever understand., but can still revel in the shear pleasure-through-exposure The Archive allows, however incomplete, stilted, and subjective. We are assembling an archive self-conscious of its incomplete and pathetic constitution, and making it the site of a performance where we will struggle with the cacophony any archive enacts. We will decide on the performance’s roots and then perform the application of sense as a pleasurable creative enterprise that implies the phantasmic Real in how our approach betrays us. The Archive, in almost all ways, is an excuse to strive to create new sayables. Like Agamben’s historian, we are performing our hopeful searching gaze, aimed into a void of beautiful, hopelessly fragmented, non-semantic dust, and making the meaning we were looking for, happily.
Here are some items that I would like to include in our archive.
1. A box containing all of the gum that we chew while we are in New Hampshire sitting next to all of the gum we chew in Chicago.
2. The bag of lost keys that I have been picking up on the streets of Chicago.
3. A piece of paper with these words, bound to disappear form the mind after a reading, from Bouvard et Pecuchet written on it “No one even knows the strength of the heart.”
4. A shoe box containing many handwritten notes titled “things not to forget before going on stage.”
Things not to forget before going on stage:
Things not to forget before going on stage
A trip to the bathroom
Spit out breath mint
Tail for horse costume
Things not to forget before going on stage:
5. A collection of photographs which document the name and location of each individual freckle on my body.
6. A box with broken glass and a cassette tape inside. The tape has a note attached, the note reads:
The other day I took a short walk down the path to the ampitheatre to record some words that I wanted to sing over the sound of my footsteps. While I was on my way back to the studio, still recording, I heard a loud crash that seemed to come from the back porch of our studio. Before I left for my walk, you were not there, in the studio, so I assumed that you had returned and probably just knocked something over. I finished singing and entered the studio, set my tape recorder down and forgot about the crash.
A little bit later in the day, you left the studio again and I picked up the tape recorder rewound the tape and listened to what I had done earlier. As the singing neared its end, I heard a noise that was not my voice, or my feet, or the wind blowing through trees, or birds but something more like a distant crash and I remembered. And a little bit later in the day I went to throw something out – I can’t remember what exactly – and when I looked down into the opening of the trash can I saw shards of glass with swatches of dried paint on them. I started to piece it together in my head– the crash, the broken glass, you on the back porch shaping a big ball of clay when I returned to the studio after my singing walk–and I began to imagine what had happened.
8. A list without any entries titled “Places I’ve been to twice.”
I write with nine things I want to collect and add to the small archive we’ll use to discover this performance. I’m interested in what ways this little archive can embody the idea of archive.
1. A Microscope
2. A small vase or vessel, something we each can dream of filling.
3. A notebook, blank except for the lines on its pages, also something we can dream of filling.
4. A refrigerator magnet from each town you have lived in.
5. A refrigerator magnet from each town I have lived in.
6. A copy of an unfinished book, like maybe Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pécuchet.
7. The Gilbert and George video, Bend It.
8. Something you’re good at, how about a hoola-hoop.
9. Something I’m good at, how about a chair.
10. A folded up piece of paper with a circle drawn on it, an arrow on the inside pointing out, and another arrow on the inside pointing in.
Late last night my mobile phone was on the nightstand next to the bed charging. When my phone is being charged it has a little blue LED on it which blinks in that slow, rhythmic way, like slow breathing, letting me know my gadget is sleeping peacefully. There is also a lamp on the nightstand, and the pulsing blue LED was casting the lamp shade’s shadow onto the ceiling.
I woke up in the middle of the night, and in the just-woke-up disorientation I didn’t recognize the lamp shade shadow on the ceiling. I was paralyzed by it, my heart started racing. Fear maybe, or confused maybe. In my panic I thought, maybe there is a light outside my window on the blink, getting ready to die? Maybe there are emergency vehicles outside the building whose lights are flashing in through my window? Maybe somebody is outside turning their flashlight on and off? Maybe this isn’t happening at all, maybe I’m dreaming it? Maybe it is a phantasm? Maybe it’s a sort of morse code that I’m dreaming, maybe I should try to keep track of the pattern so I can know what my subconscious is trying to tell me using morse code and blue light and the ceiling and making a shadow of a lamp shade and if I can make this a waking dream where I can remember the pattern, then I can look it up on the internet tomorrow and then I’ll know exactly what is going on here, you know, I’ll be able to enunciate the thing the subconscious is trying to tell me and say it and then know it, but wait, hold on just one minute, it’s a really rhythmic pattern, not a complex pattern of longs and shorts, wait, is that SOS? Long, short, long, is that what this is, and if that’s what this is, why is my subconscious sending my conscious mind an SOS using a lamp shade shadow? Am I dying in the sleep in which I am dreaming this blue light SOS? Maybe I fell asleep with the magazine on my face and then started drooling which made the page of the magazine wet, which then formed an air-tight seal over my mouth and nose, and now I’m sitting here in a dream seeing SOS in a lamp shade pattern, blue light, but really being suffocated by my own drool by a magazine ad for nike shoes. Just do it. But then I just looked at the nightstand, and then knew it was the phone, and then went back to sleep.
Riding my bike to breakfast the next morning I felt impressed at my ability to project meaning onto this flickering shadow, and how the meaning I ended up with described my helpless death.
The following passage you’ll recognize from Bouvard and Pécuchet, describing their foray into mnemonic memory systems in order to be able to remember major historical dates:
“To make things clearer they took as the mnemotechnic base their own house, attaching to each of its parts one distinct fact, so the yard, the garden, the surroundings, the whole region no longer had any other sense than to aid memory. Boundary stones in the countryside delimited certain periods, the apple trees were genealogical trees, bushes were battles, the whole world became a symbol. They looked on the walls for a lot of things that were not there, ended up by seeing them but no longer knew the dates they represented.
“Besides, dates are not always authentic. They learned in a school manual that Christ’s birth should be brought back five years earlier than is generally reckoned, that the Greeks had three ways of counting Olympiads, and the Latins eight ways of beginning the year. These were all so many occasions for error, apart from those resulting from different zodiacs, eras and calendars. From this carelessness about dates they passed on to a contempt for facts.”
This is dear Flaubert, continuing his book’s project of attacking the truthiness of what is known by presenting the fallibility of what is known and the subjects who know it. By working these two characters through every branch of knowledge, and with each pursuit finding a similar end, he wants to destabilize the archive, disrupt the perceived rigidity and universality of what has already been said.
I bring this up because I want to say something about the unknown. I’m not sure what, but I’ll start with a question: Is it impossible to represent the unknown? And if it is impossible, then how would it be fun to fail trying? If the unknown were considered to posit anything, it would be relative to the known. The unknown is probably as much as what is known, and then some, which leaves us with the uncomfortable task of staring into the vast space of the phrase “and then some”, a phrase more like a void than a quantity. But the unknown can’t really posit anything, can’t stand in real opposition to the known, it is mere logical contradiction, a negative magnitude, the not-known. I’ll use Matthew’s quote again, “It presents us with the frightening possibility that learning only takes place in the presence of the unlearnable.” and then I’ll use a cliche, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
I would like to characterize the unknown as a phantom surrounding and permeating the known. The unknown surrounds fragmented, rhizomatic islands of the known, creating borders which may look like a sort of volatile gradient. A ghost-like presence that cannot be seen, but like the Real, can be intuited within our time-based experience of a fact. What is becoming sayable is discovered at the edge of a known, as if from nowhere, but a nowhere with a spectral peripheral presence, felt as immeasurable gaps between our perceived facts, and easily ignored.
Finally, a quote from Steve Reinke’s new video, which I resend because I like it so much:
“Both memory and archive embrace death, but from contrary positions. The archive is a mausoleum that pretends to be a vast garden. Memory is an irradiated zoo in which the various animals are mutating extravagantly and dying slowly.”
Reading a book is like operating a two-man saw because I say so.
Operating a two-man saw is like reading a book because when you are holding the a book open, you are splitting the book with your two hands.
Operating a two-man saw is like reading a book because if you look away you might hurt yourself.
Operating a two-man saw is like reading a book because the sound of my snoring sounds like some other people operating a two-man saw.
Operating a two-man saw is like reading a book because your eyes are very careful about which order they look at the words.
Operating a two-man saw is like reading a book because one must happen for the other to happen.
Operating a book is like reading a two-man saw because you and the author of the book need to work well together.
Operating a book is like sawing a two-man reading because there are only three actions involved in each.
Operating a two-man saw is like reading a book because I can point at the sky and you can point at the center of the earth and we can agree to meet somewhere in the middle.
I ask you, how is operating a two-man saw like organizing your books?
Did I ever tell you the one about the two-man saw? Neither of them saw anything at all!
I write with just this question:
How is reading a book like operating two man saw?
Looking forward to you response,
Travelocity just sent me another fare sale e-mail– the subject header: Flights from Chicago $138 just popped up on the lower right hand corner of my screen as I began writing this. I wonder if you just received one too but that isn’t really the reason I write. I write because I am trying to figure out if I have any backward senses and if I do what those senses are. This thought occurred to me this summer while walking through the forest in northern Wisconsin. It came to me because while I was walking, what I was seeing in front of me didn’t quite match up the greatness of the image I had in my head of my place within it (specifically my being deep into it and surrounded on all sides). I thought maybe this lack of connection was because I couldn’t see what was behind me, and that if I could complete the forest around me with my imagination or memory that I would have a greater sense of the forest. I don’t think it is quite right to call the imagination or memory backward senses as they go forward too and I don’t think they can, in any official scientific way, be classified as senses... But wasn’t I sensing my place within the forest that was surrounding me with them? I was in fact sensing my being surrounded without seeing it. I am interested in trying to develop a balance between my forward and backward sense in the coming years. At this moment I am sitting in a chair facing out into a room that ,as it appears, is missing a corner because it is behind me… but just now the room has all it’s corners because I have sensed the one behind me by way of my memory of it as it was 30 minutes ago. The mind is a muscle one can build rooms with. Of course, I suppose I could turn around one day and the corner could not be there huh. That would be something.
Entering a forest has been on my mind. When I say “ entering the forest” I have an image of a field that leads into a wall of trees and I am watching someone enter that wall of trees with there back to me… and with that image in mind I enter a forest myself and think “ this isn’t anything like I thought it would be by the look of it from over there watching someone else do it”. I’m not saying they should be the same, obviously not, but I find this thought kind of interesting. When watching someone else it kind of seems like my entering the forest should feel kind of like entering a pond I should feel engulfed by it… but that isn’t the case. What if one day I were to mistake the reflection of the forest on the surface of a still pond, would my experience of the moment of entry match the image of myself in the forest that I have in my mind? Of course I don’t think I could ever trick myself into mistaking a pond for a forest, and would I really want to? There is a perpetual game of tug of war between the experience of the things around me and the concepts I hold of them in my head… maybe this should have been my definition for polarity in our Dictionary.
Have fun in Omaha this weekend. Say hi to your folks for me.
Have you heard the one about the binder clips and the pianist? Me neither.
I write with words for you:
And this: perhaps the desk we build for the dictionary should be a standing desk without a chair, and perhaps it should have two drawers. One for cards and pens, one for the source dictionary. It will be complicated for us to build, but we can do it. It won’t be more complicated than the chest.
I like the idea of a standing desk not only because of the standing part, and not only because I have a predilection toward such desks… but more because it - slightly - emphasizes the task, and because it helps make the two pieces of furniture an efficient unit. Then again… maybe the desk and the chest should be the same thing? Like a chest’s back and standing desk’s back sharing a common set of back legs. Or, I suppose, a sitting secretary-style desk with a massive set of drawers on it. Maybe that’s better. I love the idea of a standing-secretary-style desk with the 24 drawers on it… but perhaps that’s a bit overdone.
I’ll have you know that for whatever reason, I particularly enjoyed making breakfast this morning. And that breakfast was followed by a particularly satisfying shower. I moved around the table in my NU studio the other day. Maybe that’s why.
And that’s a short letter. I’ll still check it off my list for today.
Happy Lancaster to you. Chicago has been keeping us guessing. I don’t imagine lancaster has done the same for you. Warm, rain, then rain, then chilly?
I have an action for our new show. There is a step stool (ha, ha! Step! stool), or something to stand on. There are these objects; a pitcher of water, a cardboard box made into a sieve and full of tiny pieces of paper fake, some dry tree leaves, and a heat lamp. One of us stands on the stool, and we (and the audience) watch 5 years pass. A year is one cycle of water poured on the other’s head, heat lamp beamed onto the head, dry leaves dropped on the head, and and tiny bits of paper sieved onto the head. Then, we gather it all up, collect it, put in something and refer to it as 5 years.
I was at Nat’s yesterday, I was trying to learn that Arduino microprocessor’s programming language, and Nat was trying to make a watch run off the processor. He’d bought a 10 by 10 LED array, and was hoping to use that as a display. The way the pins on the array lit varied patterns on the array was confusing. We tried to determine the simplest way he could create a functioning watch. One idea was to ignore traditional ideas of time and instead only divide the day into the simplest fraction possible. I proposed 8ths. This way, he would only need 8 of the 10 lines to light up. Easy programming. I would like to get up at 2/8’s, read during 3/8, go outside for 4 and 5/8, then have a nice dinner and activity (chess, movie, music) for 6-8/8. Or, on a day where I work, know that I have to be at work at 6/8, giving me 4 full 8ths of the day to org.. this would deal with my counting down to work problem. I think culture might’ve lost it’s way when our clocks got so complicated we needed the microscopic vibrations of crystals, or insanely complicated microscopic gear systems, in order to time our lives to the second.
Reminds me of the line in Petimal about the house plant by the southern window that threw a shadow on the guy’s living room, and so his day became organized according to when the shadow hit the things in the room, like a sundial. Couch o’clock. Coffee Table thirty. etc.
Today, the wind was blowing hard. It was very hot, and all the windows were open. I was making lunch at the stove and having some chips as I did so. I set the chips on the table. The wind blew the bag over and onto the floor. Chips spilled into a little pile. I told myself I’d clean it up after I was done cooking, picked the bag up and put it back on the table. Not a minute later, it happened again. A new little pile in a different place. I had the same reaction. A minute later, again. Then again. Then again. In the course of 5 minutes, I had 4 little piles of chips scattered on the floor of my small kitchen. I was in the kind of mood where I took the chips falling off the table very personally. I think I said something like, “of course they did.” By the fourth time I wanted to go back to bed. Then I tip-toed around the piles to sit at the table and eat my lunch. As I ate, I looked at the little piles. I eventually decided they didn’t have anything against me. I’m clumsy with a chip bag on windy days and need to find a better attitude. Then, I wondered if Bouvard and Pecuchet ever tried to study the conditions in which it became unsafe to put the chip bag on the table. Wind speed and direction, dimensions of the opening of the window, placement on the table, that sort of thing. In my case, I think it takes a wind from the southeast of at least 15mph, with both kitchen windows open. I should start a list of this sort of thing, heh? By the time I’m 200, I’ll never have anything non-agreeable transpire, as long as I don’t leave the house (although that would be rather disagreeable.)
Today, I finished Gogol’s Dead Souls. It was in two volumes, and they were published years apart… but the second volume was never actually finished. The second volume was really fun to read because he often left spaces where extremely specific adjectives were needed, but hadn’t yet occurred to him. There were also two pages missing from the manuscript, and one place where he left a large space for a description of a landowner’s estate, to be filled in later, but then continued the story assuming that bit would be filled in. In the book, the landowner’s the hero meets are always very descriptive of the yet to be introduced landowner’s way of being. In this case, we had a very mannered landowner but lacked the set up and I tried very hard to work out how Gogol might’ve described his landscape. I thought I had it worked out. Arrid, broken down, deserted, shafts of grain long gone to seed, harvested grain rotting for want of the mill, muzhik’s without clothes to cover themselves, overgrown forests asking for a fire… that sort of thing. He was an old man, lost in household luxury, forsaking the outdoors.
Well, how’s that for a scattering of strangeness.
Hope you win a few at the Yorkie.
[I wrote this to myself late NYE night. Yes, it's embarassing, but what isn't?]
I perceive it, and it is only my perception, but it is MY perception... and if it feels important I can tell you about it, and you will have a perception of my telling, and it is something too.... this is what we should aspire to... not truth but a series of inspired meanings.
milton invented the modern term: space (outer not inner). imagined not physical.
Greetings from 2008. A year that was as long as most, but not longer. I have suffered some success with equal parts failure, been in command of little, and generally stumbled my way through it trying to remain standing. The smudges of earth on my pants betray my confident posture.
I look to 2009 now, as we are on the verge of it, and cannot help but wrap myself in the balm of new plans to stave off this year’s disappointments… set the table for next years happiness. No doubt I will fail, I can only hope for more admirable failure, and I know there will be many moments of joy for me to cling to. Cookies, spied smiles, shared meals, and good ideas that spring others and so on.
Ah, the post-industrial grind. The lost frontier of a day opening up in front of us as the sun shines. The want of something to look forward to. Some sun, nice clothes, not-land to look at, and the smell of this other place in the air (salty.)
I’ve been thinking about Rimbaud poems again. About bewildering the senses, but not with drink. With displacement. Or with the end of a path. Senses tuned to plod, to sort the acceptable course from the worser, to make time for joy in stolen moments. Bewildered by impassable expanses (water), a new place after so much of the same places (inside this room, now this room, now back.)
It’s been the holiday break now for weeks. I haven’t had many plans, many scheduled appointments. Today, I have to work at the bar at 10pm. All day, I’ve felt the presence of that work at the end of the day. Like a ghost. My day proceeds with each potential task being weighed against the time remaining till 10pm. Even a cup of coffee at noon. This is silly. But, this means I have something to look forward to. The end of my shift, 2am, and bed before coffee tomorrow. And two bottles of champagne in the fridge, tomorrow night, midnight, and so on. I’m not sure what I’m trying to talk about.
I bought some stationary today. Not like a set, but some nice paper I think will go well with some nice envelopes. I wrote a one page letter to my parents. I didn’t write anything of consequence. I’ve resolved to write letters. I’ve resolved to write letters before. I write a few. It’s sad sort of. Pastiche? I’ve been reading Band of Rivals. Lincoln. Obama. Christmas present. The words don’t come to me in a letter the same as they would in an email. And I’ve been feeling less inclined toward email these days. I sound much better in a written letter - there is more working out and less stating.
Did you read David’s wave? The burnt ones? This is a remarkable demonstration of our Sea. People abandoning their lives for it. The Sea taking, but not by aggression, by the burnt ones active leaving rather than passive letting be taken. This is hope? Or a kind of more complicated and real one-place-passing-into-another?
I read about Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring today. Red earth covers the stage. The dancers, through the movement of the piece, are covered by it. What if the Sea where there to clean them when they were through?
Werner says, there is a camera on the moon that is automatically panning from left to right. It's 1970 and he is wishing that he could grab it. He says that todays civilization lacks adequate imagery. He says that he has the impression that the images that surround us today are worn out; they are abused and useless and exhausted. They are limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our civilization.
I like it when Werner says stuff like this, but he doesn't seem to make any suggestions for how one can go about finding the adequate imagery that out civilization so desperatley needs. He travels to Antartica or the Jungle or the NASA archives to find new images, he becomes an explorer on a quest for new imagery. But does one really have to travel to the moon or Antartica to find new images? something is missing. He seems to be talking about one side of an interaction. I realize his focus is on story telling, but it seems to me that in order to find new images it would be helpful to examine the way one looks at the world surrounding them, because I do think that the potential for new imagery surrounds us in our daily lives if we keep ourselves open to it.
The beginning of a letter addressing some assumptions about a rainbow:
Thank you for the picture of the rainbow arching over the sears tower. I have to say that I was surprised to get it, that is surprised to get a picture of a rainbow from you. I think that I have looked at rainbows for some time now through a number of filters. Rainbows have always been attached in my mind to things of mythical status: leaprauchans, pots of gold, unicorns, Sir Isaac Newton, Keats. For some time now , I have been walking around with these images or thoughts in the file titled "Rainbow" located in my head, and when the many rainbows have appeared in the sky, I have often said to myself " i do not care for rainbows". This is the tragedy of assumptions, we carry them around with us, we look at things through them and often times they inhibit our experiencing the wonder in the complex details of the world. So it seems I have always looked at rainbows through my assumptions; in a way my assumptions have always looked at the rainbow for me. So I am going to take note of my assumptions, and I am going to look at my assumptions looking at this rainbow that you have captured with your camera, in hope of moving beyond the mechanical process of my mind
The middle of a love letter to a rainbow with the helping hand of Elaine Scarry:
I love you rainbow. It's the strangest thing, I feel as if you have been with me all along, but it wasn't until recently that I noticed how beautiful you are. That's one of the things about beauty, were always making errors when it comes to what is and is not beautiful. In this case I have made the worse of the two errors, I withheld beauty from you rainbow, and I have been the worser off for it. But I would like to make it up to you I have come up with a list of things that I love about you in hopes that you will forgive me.
List for loving the rainbow
Your the visible spectrum.
Your ROY G BIV
You point out that I can only see part of a broad spectrum, that much of the world is invisible to my eye.
My image of you is mine, no one else sees you the way I do because they are not standing where I am standing. And the person also with their back to the sun, standing next to me, loves you just as much, but you are a different rainbow to them.
How you play hard to get. I can never reach you.
You never tower over or look down on me, even though your very tall.
You inspire a longing for truth within me. You have introduced me to a state of certainty that I have never known, but the beauty that leads me to that sense of certainty also leads me to error, and thus you do not end my desire for certainty.. You have introduced me to the feeling of conviction, and have created within me a willingness to labor towards other sources of conviction- towards truth. I find in you a starting point for my education.
The end of a letter about looking:
In need of new images, I found beauty in the rainbow that did not come from its worn out image, but from the place I chose to look at it from.
All the best,
Looking forward to getting started on Monday. Some scattered thoughts apropos of the start, perhaps, but also regarding the images you sent, hopefully.
We see the world at work in the patterns of rocks. Slowly, and with a method, the work of the world gets done and its progress is like a prolonged chemical reaction. And the moments make patterns in the rocks. And we look at the rocks, and see a map of the world's work and understand the beauty of the place we occupy right here, right now, and this happens between our ears - this series, these thoughts, and they happen in a way that needs our eyes and our memories. The world (nature) knows that when making something, what the thing is should never overtake an obsession with what the thing does. And if you will indulge me I'd like to substitute the word "does" with the word "means." What the thing is should never overtake an obsession with what the thing means. Because when it's ideas, what it does is what it means.
On June 19, 1878 Sallie Gardner ran a track in Palo Alto, California. Sallie was a horse, and every 27 inches a camera took a picture. The photos represent the 25th part of each second. The shutter on the camera that took the picture was open for 1/2000ths of a second. 27 inches had been pre-determined to be the natural length of Sallie's stride. From this series of photos an array of 12 photos was made showing some isolated moments from her naturally fluid movement. The photos, by Eadweard Muybridge, where some of the first made showing a continuous movement isolated into individual frames. This was, more than a scientific effort, a spectacle. Our looking produces few stills full of fidelity, our memories are so quickly colored by our feelings. We can examine what we remember of what we witnessed, not what we saw. And what we witnessed was that of what was felt, heard, seen, understood, recalled, and remembered. At times, it is best to consider the place where performance happens is in the viewers body. Not the performers body, not the stage, not the place, not the look of the thing; but rather how those things come together with the people it's given to.
We can think about Sallie, and examine the photos. We can examine little moments in time in the slight detail the medium offers. And still these are thoughts based in time not following a perfect continuum. And if we look for long enough, if we follow where our mind wants to go, we might wonder what Sallie was thinking as she ran with a person on her back, as in charge of her as a person is of anything. Was she thinking about where her feet went, and in what order they went there? Was she considering her speed, whether it was comfortable and felt good, good like when after a good nights sleep I don't think about getting dressed while I'm getting dressed?
Was she concerned with her grace, how graceful she looked to any observers? Or was she just running and thinking of what she'll do when she doesn't have to run any longer, when she gets back home to pasture? I could develop my preferred subject of her thoughts as she ran, as she had her picture taken every 27 inches, as her rider felt the delusion of control over his situation, as the wind played through her hair, as the rider considered his wife, his couch, his evening plans, the smell in the air (musty), and the rate of his pay.
And this is me looking at her photographs, arrayed as her photographer, Muybridge, wanted them arrayed. I'm given what could be called an unnatural look at a natural occurrence. A cutting open of the jumping bean. But, this is not a dead end. There is more poetry of form to be discovered here, more jumping beans. Upon magnification the jumping bean reveals itself to be inwardly infinite. I prefer those in the set where horse and rider are floating, or at least resting on just one foot.
And this is me looking at her photograph and processing the form of the frozen moment, and remembering having galloped a horse in Arizona, in the mountains of Arizona, and the grass to my waste, and my hat flying off, and the freezing crisp air, and my uncontrollable giggle as the horse ran faster than I was comfortable going and realizing my lack of control and then feeling the joy of participating in the world with this horse.
And this is me looking at her photographs, and nothing I want to see after my initial interest in the form is in them. I like looking at these images, but what I love isn' the array of photos; it's what the photos trigger in me (the location of looking at the photos is in my body.)
Ok. Someday let's go ride some horses fast enough we have to giggle.
The wind is hiding somewhere inside of me. Sure, the wind can be cut open like a jumping bean, and that would be interesting, but I'm with you. I'll go on knowing that the trees do not have voices, and imagine their voices. And they are unique, and I can hear them, and the hearing of them gives me something I cannot find by cutting open the wind. They can get loud, all of them speaking up together, sounding yes; like white noise.
Further, separating the experience of hearing the voices of the trees from your ears and locating the happening of the sound at the tree is less fun than remembering that the location of the sound for you is in your ears and that the sound you hear is at a distance from the action, and that the quieter sounds between you and those chatty trees are present, if less noticeable. It is different to say I hear the sound of the trees, rather than I hear the sound of the trees from this apartment in which I am sitting comfortably in one of its rooms with something hot to drink in a white mug within arms distance and a book open but sitting on my lap and with one arm of my reading glasses almost in my mouth, and with my eyes closed, and with the cat on the counter in the kitchen looking at me (but I don't know that listening to the sound of the room which includes the sounds of the tree-chorus I can see out my front window. This, I'll offer, is a more contemplative a space?
Breton: Everything tends to make us believe that there exists a certain point of the mind at which life & death, the real and the imagined, past and future, the communicable and the incommunicable, high and low, ceased to be perceived as contradictions.
Other things that came to the party without a costume: the heat of the oven in my kitchen, the future, the tension in the ground, the desire of the dust on the ground to be set free on an adventure [to fly, to fly far from here and see how the other dust lives.]
Are the people being attacked, or is the ground being set free? Taking a chance to grab its ambition of occupying its vast "other", the sky. I think it is interesting, for the time being, to put aside the destruction and aftermath and focus instead on the fact of nature's unemotional taking of our stuff, and the agents of that taking: the dust and the water.
To imagine emotion in a spec of dust as it lives eternal, dependent on the will of nature (which strikes a tragic note I think) is to draw a parallel to this line from W&P at the end: "Like we need to renounce our feeling of being still on the earth to realize the truth of the earth's rotation, we need to renounce our feeling of absolute individual freedom to realize the truth of our dependence."
(Also, it may be that the sea and dust storms are comfortable for us to appropriate and exploit because they usually only destroy Stuff usually, and as far as natural disasters go, are relatively harmless to human life in the way we are looking at them; dust storms and shore erosion.)
I think it's the dust that's happy to serve the wind as its party suit, and the wind is present at the party because it cannot be otherwise.
Weird letter. Sorry about that. Have I already sent that Tolstoy quote?
The wind is present and on my mind today. The trees outside my apartment window have been dancing and singing thanks to the wind, when it blows gently the trees sing sweetly, and when it picks up its pace the sound approaches white noise. If one listens closely, each tree has it's own voice - I've decided to think of it this way.. I'm okay with the idea that it may be silly to give voices to trees- and carries out a one sided conversation that requires an attentive listener to make it so.
When I look at the pictures that you've sent, it seems to me that the wind is hiding somewhere inside of them. It seems to me that the dust gave the wind a face, and these photographs represent the winds American face from 1930 to 1935. It is not to be confused with another mask it has been known to wear- the one made of sand- this face was different and new to the people of the great plains. While standing in front of the first giant cloud rolling across the great plains, towns called the national weather service for help with defining what exactly was moving towards them. I guess from a distance it is hard to tell that it was dust, but one would have had to have known that there was wind involved. Without the dust the wind would have just been its invisible self at a party without a costume.
I look at the pictures that you have sent and I think of a drastic transformation of a landscape. Once a great open plain with nothing to look at but the ground and the sky. When the storms began the earth took over the sky, and the open plain took flight and collapsed around it's inhabitants. Before the storms one could have stood with eyes set on the horizon, now one couldn't even see the friend standing a few feet away. I'm struck by the two landscapes - one of ground and sky, the other some sort of collapsing subterranean burrow- existing in the same place a few minutes apart from each other.
I write today with little more than a couple thoughts.
1. Is there something for us in being ruined?
2. Is there something for us in the tractor plow?
I do think there may be something for us in the plow. Could be the difference between the dust from Kansas making it to New York or not on May 11, 1934 - and we both know the dust wanted to go. The dust of someone's field, or foundation, or mud-brick; the particles of someone's parish church comparing their new situation to what the remember from before.
I like looking at the pictures of the dust clouds and trying to see what I can trick myself into seeing.
Nature Moving Into Designed Space
When I look at at the sea I do not see arches to lay beneath, I do not see such places. Standing on the cliffs of Hallsands we looked down on the ruins of a town. A place where people built there homes in an effort to stop time, but the sea moved off the edge of its stage and into the land of its audience, where it wandered their rooms washing over the objects and memories associated with them. Does the sea need a home? Is it wandering, homeless, swelling in hopes of finding a new corner to inhabit, or does it just want to create new space in which it can move into?
Quoting Georg Simmel's " The Ruin" at length here.
" ...The ruin of a building, however, means that where the work of art is dying, other forces and forms, those of nature, have grown; and that out of what art still lives in the ruin and what of nature already lives in it, there has emerged a new whole, a characteristic unity. To be sure, from the standpoint of that purpose which the spirit has embodied in palace and church, castle and hall, aqueduct and memorial column the form in which they appear when decayed is a meaningless incident. Yet a new meaning seizes on this incident, comprehending it and its spiritual form in a unity which is no longer grounded in human purposiveness but in that depth where human purposiveness and the working of non-concious natural forces grow from their common root."
".... it is the fascination of the ruin that here the work of man appears to us entirely as a product of nature. The same forces which give a mountain its shape through weathering, erosion, faulting, and the growth of vegetation, here do their work on old walls. Even the charm of alpine forms- which are after all, for the most part, clumsy, accidental, artistically insipid- rests on the felt counterplay of two cosmic tendencies: volcanic eruptions or gradual stratification have built the mountain upward; rain and snow, weathering and landslides, chemical dissolution, and the effect of gradually intruding vegetation have sawed apart and hollowed out the upper ledge, have cast downward parts of what had been raised up, thus giving the contour its form. In this form, we feel the vitality of those opposing tendencies, and- instinctively sensing these antitheses in ourselves- we notice, beyond everything merely formal and aesthetic, the significance of the configuration in whose serene unity they have their synthesis."
Moving out to sea:
" All Joshua and I wanted was to be left alone with ourselves. Any other thing did not exist, had never existed. You do not ask a tamed seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that's all, and it is as simple as a ray of sunshine, as normal as the blue of the sky." (Moitessier)
"Were the world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could forever reach new distances and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that , some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed." (Melville)
I just watched Abbie Hoffman make Gefilte fish.
My cheeks are still puffy from wisdom teeth removal. From the removal of my wisdom teeth. I've had lots of ice cream, and very little else.
I watched Deep Water, and a quote from Moitessier that was well used went something like this: "I would look at the pictures of my children and my eyes would get blurry... and so I knew I loved them still." It's like science, but way better. (Deep Water is at my apartment in the change dish by the bathroom if you want to pick it up.)
The elevator in the hotel I'm staying at here had a plaque that told me it was an elevator that was used in 1993's film, True Lies. An Arnold vehicle. Stacie and I stayed here last summer and were woken from an afternoon nap by gunfire. We looked out the window and saw a bank surrounded by a SWAT team and many police officers, the glass of the bank bullet-ridden. They were all shooting. Then we saw the cameras. In the morning, the glass was fixed and there were no bullet shells.
Nature is after us. It's intruding, reminding us of it, of its power, while we try to develop our way away from it and into designed space. Looking at old churches, being in some old churches in the UK, I'm usually struck by the rustic fit of the building to the body. Comfort seems somewhat secondary to the fact of the building, that there could be a building. And today, we build with a growing contradiction between permanence and an ignored but certain temporary perfect-fit.
Looking at the sea allows a gloss to come to my eyes. Looking at the sea lets me look in me in ways I cannot when I look at the bookshelf, or the kitchen table.
LA loves you. It told me so.
Starting again here in Chicago. Wanted to put together a small list of a few things that might, over the next few weeks, give us points to enter into or depart from where we are at at this point.
Some things I would like to think about, watch, do:
The way the sea shapes things in its own image. A worn rock that is tossed up on the shore by the sea is in some way it's reflection.
Solaris: I would like to go back and watch this Tarkovsky film. The presence of the ocean covered planet, it's affect on the crew, and the dealings with the crews inner life all make me think in some round about way about the line in our text thus far where we speak of looking at the horizon not to see something, or perhaps something it saw, but something inside us.
Looking at the sea from land
Looking at the sea while in the sea.
Looking at the sea while returning to land.