Present Attendants

Stillness in motion.

Weave. Unravel. Burn. Engrave. Lift. 

Horsehair, denim, parchment, wood.

Here is material, here a task. 

Each focal point becomes a counterbalance 

to the surrounding immensity.

Who are these people at these tasks?

They are attendants.

What are they doing?

They are present.

In what? I ask and no response.

In their work.

Why, though?

Because it is theirs to do,

because they are with it.

***

Inspired by some of the installations of Ann Hamilton, featuring attendants engaged in simple, repetitive tasks, which the artist sees as representative of the presence required of art.

Object Lessons

On conditions for finding.

When the act of making is an act of finding, there’s a question whispering in the walls: have you set the conditions for finding what you need?

Here’s a figure: old and worn, with clothing torn and stained, holding. The figure waits, returning the gaze, its wooden hands a reminder that it is possible to become any gesture.

This body was never created for a museum. It was meant to be handled, enacting a story. And when you move it, other questions enter the room about who and what you are moving towards, limbs animated by a story long denied breath, finally stretching––out, out. 

***

Inspired by, and with borrowed phrases from, artist Ann Hamilton’s description of the draw of a Bamana Marionette.

Transference

What we carried when we were listening.

The cities of our arrival, abundant with unknowns, wonders––offered moment by moment possibilities for our annihilation and station after station for our becoming. There was so little we knew, and now we knew it. Knowing we lacked the words, we opened ourselves in these new cities. We became vessels carrying music and walked forward, holding.

Until when? Someone asked. Until the rhythm invites us. What rhythm? said another, and it was time.

Mapping in Music

With Abel Selaocoe.

Common knowledge says that you may do one or another, but not both: be a cellist or singer; a section player or master of ceremonies; a body traveling outward, or a body returning. But you say, all of the above and all at once.

Someone watching you with listening ears might hear a suggestion, that the answer to the question about finding home has something to do with floating above some commonly accepted boundaries.

What guides you, then? The voice, you said, guided by the music, will do what the body cannot imagine. Its music begins in deep time, the voices you draw from those listening become threads weaving us into its fabric. 

Where now? We wondered. You offered a future, but to find it we have to go back, you said, way back to where the long-departed hold the seeds of another time. When you hear the music you will know, you said. It is singing you home.

***

Inspired by the music of Abel Selaocoe and the process he describes in this New York Times article, “Abel Selaocoe Finds a Home in Improvisation.”

Against Silencing

On the question of how to respond.

A common complaint of today’s sighted: I can no longer bear to look. Someone proposes the role of the artist as scribe, as ear for the abused, writing backward into the dream, imagining that if one speaks the horror aloud, another might be released. From what is uncertain, but any horror is magnified when suffered alone. 

The sounds a body makes in distress are the sounds it holds before language. Where pain shatters language, perhaps it is still possible to pick up the pieces, assemble some makeshift wordhouse again. To the challenge of yes but is it true, the only answer is a reminder back to an earlier truth about the basic needs of a body. One is shelter.

***

Inspired by Philip Metres’ description of the work of artist Daniel Heyman and others in response to torture.

Power Objects

Art of communion.

Here’s a mysterious object. Its spectral shape has gravity and time, revealing little of form, origin, or the familiar external markers of skill. Its power is largely hidden, like the passages within it. What passes through is sacred. More than a sculpture, here is an instrument, a vessel. The hands that shaped it are many. It formed like a snowdrift, over time, the result of many forces acting independently. And yet, the mythical connection between art and the divine inspiration of a single individual persists.

***

Inspired by Nayland Blake’s discussion of Boli at the Met Museum.

Look Away

With Jean-Luc Godard.

I prefer to work, you said, when people are against me. You embraced the struggle and resisted the embrace. They called your work a high energy fusion of jazz and philosophy; you confessed hot emotion, cold truth.

Your work grew in subtlety, complexity; your audience faded back to the diet they knew. Rumors that you had died made financing a challenge and you lamented the loss of doubt in an age with no past. No one knows anyone from before, you said.

You wished more would take the time to discover before they tried to please; to discuss before trying to convince. But it only takes a click these days, to find the previous shot. There’s no unspooling the reel; no moment-by-moment reversal. It takes no time to go back, so time is lost.

For you, the real story always revolved around the twin questions of your obsession: was it possible to tell, and where to begin?

***

Adapted from from Richard Brody’s New Yorker feature An Exile in Paradise: How Jean-Luc Godard disappeared from the headlines and into the movies, reposted last week in honor of Godard, who died on the 13th of this month at the age of ninety-one.  

Within Reach

Dreams in motion.

We can’t help ourselves, making languages and stretching limbs, stretching the language of our limbs. Done with demonstrating, now we suggest. Can you see us? If so, this show is for you.

The winds sweep our loves into rage and down the power lines until renewal floods again. Our prayers melt into play, a precise improvisation in real time, and we emerge from cocoons of private anomalies onto this collective stage––bending to remain unbent by those who cannot recognize a deliberate dance because they are trained to see only the march.

Fly, turn, arabesque, we fling mustard seeds into the bags at our waists, wasting not an ounce of what we saw beyond the veil, behind the curtain where they thought they were keeping us, while we were only waiting for our cue. Yes, we are still here.

Incandescence

All that glimmers.

The first rule of mosaic is the play of light. An irregular surface invites its dance. A photographer writes volume after volume in light. It’s an ambiguous form. Are you making or finding?

It’s one of those questions that sounds more absurd out loud than it probably did in a theoretical dream space. Sight is impossible without shadow. Still, there’s a common impulse to drive them out.

As in, are you here or do you remember? Is your home private or in the public space? Same questions apply to your body, your books, your truest confessions, the ones you wrote in light across the faces of strangers that stopped for you. You wrote the same letter over and over again, and each time you picked up your instrument to look, you began with the first light of the world.

Inspired Interference

The urgency of destabilizing symphonies.

Here is a signal and here is noise, interfering. But what happens when the noise is the signal, calling us back to the fire? When everything is permitted, nothing is necessary. Now the artist becomes the cacophonous jester to unmask and unmake the quiet throb of lies from the seat of power.

What is unpredictable is not random. Consider the rhizome, its growth an explosion of connections. What’s real is not the direction but the becoming. In a world of free-floating signifiers removed from context, an artist makes noise to negate the negation of life.

To navigate the soundscape, a listener will learn away from selection and discrimination of important from unimportant sounds and learn to maintain a continuous span of listening. The art in this is how such surrender makes it possible to read meaning where it seems to be gone, when all known categories collapse into an unknown being, distant and familiar.

***

Notes while reading the opening section of Joseph Nechvatal’s Immersion into Noise.