To the Next Attempt

Experiments in style.

Reconstruct. The world is shaped by art. Also, by protest. Challenge the world, the art, the protest. One artist, revealing her best kept secret, confessed I have none. When it comes to the crisis of creating anything, style attempts to negotiate some resolution. Even so, the thing is perpetually unsolved. One devises systems based in numbers, another according to stars, another traces bodily systems, weather patterns. Others make their own instruments, new forms; move the frame, alter the angle, change the lens. Apply the medium upside-down. Apply the medium while suspended from the ceiling. Apply the feet to handheld instruments, lend the ear to color, taste the next note.

Yes, but to what end?

To not ending.

What Resists

Instruments for fluid forms.

When the source of the moment is the vessel and not the stream, and the tool at hand is a knife and not a cup, it’s so difficult to harvest anything. All I wanted was a coherent paragraph, some excerpt to offer a guest. But I’m all vessel today, and have perhaps absorbed too much, and attempts to slice water are studies in futility. 

I will say this, though. It is frustrating insofar as I continue trying to cut anything. Abandoning this, the continued movement of the knife becomes a way to trace the resistance of fluid. My cutting impulse begins to still, and what replaces it is something else. Whatever it is, it won’t be named. 

I think of the wonder on an infant’s face when she first discovers the resistance of the surface of water. The slapping and splashing that follows, cooing between laughs. Over and again, she brings it down to feel what pushes back, as the echo of her laugh reverberates into any nearby vessel, shaking all that is barely held, now spilling again.  

In Defiance of Taste

For the wild uglies.

What crawls and flies far from clean in its joy is often the subject of revulsion, but some forms of rage are raw enough to keep a crawling body painted with mud, and ripe enough with love to offer flight. One held nothing back of substance and much of detail and familiar story lines, to keep each mouthful tasting fully of itself. Eat, she said, there is enough for everyone, but cautioned that some would find at first bite, something raw enough to break the heart. It broke mine, she said, but then came a challenging joy. This angered some, but creatures of the earth are often hated for not making themselves more pleasing, more beautiful, for living just as they are.

The Staying Power

A conversation on creating.

She explained that none of this will offer any useful defenses against death, health, or inclement weather. That it has nothing to do with a feeling of faith, that the time to stay often happened when faith was shaken. On the task at hand, she said hold. She said, create.

By way of encouragement, she said no, you will not get over it and no, you will not decide that you can go on.

Why, then? one of us asked. She laughed. I invite you and now you need a reason?

Shaking her head, she turned and walked out, leaving the door open. 

Meeting in the Mist

The art of looking.

Each body has its signature, each a mystery. I know only awe for these, and nothing else of faith. Expect no unveilings here, no grand revelations. Only the presence of someone with nothing of importance to say, breathing between bouts of getting lost. Are you looking for something? Me too. I am trying to remember what.

In answer to your question. About art. No, I don’t think it’s necessary, but it is a means of survival. I hear there are other ways. Maybe if I spent less time in the folds of this fog and more among the purveyors of proven practices and ten-step solutions, I would be able to tell you what these are.

Instead, here I am, without even an explanation for this body’s central sacrament, which is listening to a cloud. All I can offer is this ritual: wait, wander, listen, repeat––and this open hand.

***

Notes while reading the opening to Carl Phillips’ My Trade is Mystery. What a beautiful gift.

Elsewhere’s Space

A meditation on making.

There is an elsewhere here. It breathes in the margins of activity and swims among the vessels of the plans we forever work over––arranging the sails of this one and that one, checking our courses and whether the knots will hold. Elsewhere is indifferent to all of this, or else amused.

Elsewhere can’t hold the music she holds if she keeps the door open for every cacophony that presumes to invade. She thrives in forgotten spaces and in dreams that dissipate before we can fasten them to words. Her only allegiance is to the country of lost countries. There are no flags.

Without Elsewhere, there is no one here. How may anyone name this central element of a life after the moment of recognition that it is not yours at all, but something possessed entirely by some other out there, in that nowhereland between continents, beneath these vessels, behind these words and all things seen and named; arranged and rearranged?  

But even this final recognition of futility offers no freedom from the impulse toward making the worlds we keep creating as offerings, tempting her unmaking, her not-naming music, her long-shadowed disappearance of all that seems. 

On Writing

What it’s worth.

Overheard: Yes, but what can writing even do in a world? Or with one, for that matter? 

Other than explain, it might make a likeness. Or dream a new one. Or transform.

Most of us have glimpsed the silvery back of something flickering beyond time and space, entering and exiting with continual unpredictability, why not the pen? 

If the beginning was the word, where is the continuance, except here, in this ongoing fraught attempt to dream it forward, repair the torn fabric of the cosmos through which we slipped from something elemental into something else? 

What else does one do, but stitch new wings for some eventual return, word by word, and keep a record in the meantime––of how we fall?

An Invitation

From the artist.

Come in here, through the glass. After this, find a smaller room

If you come this way, there might be a form you can follow.

Now an oak door, old and it will not open. But it has windows!

Most shrug and walk away.

Next, an exhibition, but in the dark. Visitors can carry flashlights,

but these only help if they shine them in the right places.

What is the opposite of a need to proclaim? A need to stay silent.

In the tension between these, so much is tangled.

***

Inspired by the work of Marcel Duchamp.

Ordinary Noise

The role of contrasting elements.

In art, dreams are realized––and the worst, not to be measured or weighted, but lived. Counting may follow, anguished measurements in the unflinching face of midday, when anyone with living ties to memory is susceptible to affliction by the pretense that all is well and as it seems, amid the noise of countless machines, distracting from a vast hum in the background.

This is why mornings and evenings are so much kinder, because the dominant noises are more obviously birds, revelers, and other wild sounds, none of which pretend any allegiance to standardized notions of good sense, which routinely kill without making any noise beyond those that have become so ordinary and expected, they may easily go unheard.

Service Work

Artistic practice as an act of devotion.

Here is a riddle, one said. 

And who do you think you are? asked another.

Only a servant. He was making films. The answer is unimportant.

Why ask, then?

There is a code in here somewhere. It is the mystery.

Which mystery?

The usual ones: possibilities of transcendence, rebirth, levels of existence. The role of ritual practice.

Such as?

Such as this one. Right now, I am filming a liturgical text. Contemplating the sacred frame by frame, but I am just beginning. He had been at it three decades.

Are you praying, then?

I call it excavation. I am a social worker with a background in archaeology.

But why?

The idea is to resuscitate the present. This is my devotion.

***

Inspired by an interview I read this morning, in BOMB magazine, with the filmmaker Ashish Avikunthak.