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.

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.”

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.

Glass, Looking

Rites of passage and perception.

No one goes around throwing parties for unwelcome ghosts, but here’s a toast. I confess a special fondness for these swaggering apparitions who sashay their uncanny specters in and out of formerly familiar rooms, as if they existed––or played at this uncanny form of existence–– for no other reason than to complicate certain over-easy senses of belonging; of exclusion; of the ins and outs of everyday occurrences, where Munch’s screamer runs from Kafka’s ghost wearing a feather boa and dropping glitter dust all over the floor. When the seams of a mind start stretching, it is sometimes rare that the forms in any given mirror are familiar, are human, are known entities––even before the mirror shards itself into these scattered slices of being, reflecting.

To a Young Magician

Regarding those dreams of flight.

I know you all want wings but try this. Reach only one arm up and keep the other here, palm flat in the soil, feeling what moves. Here’s the cup, the instrument, the elements. Here is the snake at your waist, tail in its mouth. Is the magic real yet? 

Look, the buds are opening to meet the bees. Watch these visitors fly to their welcome. Let them move you to remember. In all your dreams of flying, to whom did you ever return? It was always up, up! and out, away! without a passing glance back to the buds or the roots, or even the open windows.

You missed the treefrogs waiting among the fern leaves thick with eggs waiting to drop, and the octopus hiding in a coconut. You never gave a thought to the white-throated dippers on the rocks perched to dive, or the stag stopped in a snowstorm, looking back. You missed the burrowing mole and the sloth crossing the road after the flood.

I’ll fly away, you kept singing, your focus ever on what you flew from and the relief of oblivion by altitude. Is it really any wonder that someone had the insight to deny your constant request?

***

Partially inspired by these images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.

What Dreams

Journey on the river.

Imagine a world of your dreams, people will say, as if to conjure some vision of attainment, as if this is not the world that stops you in the night to hold you in its grasp, its hot breath in your ear, a ceaseless whisper.

There goes Death again, walking into the sea. Meanwhile the clock tower burns, the sleeper exits through the window, the hermit takes a first step. At an altar, lovers wait. Now comes a covered chair above the river, bodies pulling it in opposite directions. The cloaked rider holds a small flame straight ahead.

It’s a wonder the rider continues. Wouldn’t it be easier to walk than to reconcile these opposites, using nothing but posture, mind, and force of will? But this is how it happens in the world of dreams.

***

Inspired by an encounter with the surrealist photography of Nicolas Bruno, particularly his Somnia Tarot.

Let There Be

Notes at twilight.

New world, lens flare: the beginning of light is the beginning of time, and who controls it moves the vision of the moment––and its form. What difference is there, at any genesis, between making space and shining into it? 

Seeking, some found light until the dark begat seeking again. A hard time for thinkers, some say, though others object. Reason’s luminescence, which progressed by co-opting fire and then the lives of those deemed fit for its fuel, can only know its debt in waning radiance.

In this twilit hour, something comes. Lurching through a forest of shadows, flickering through an expanding dark, it speaks in long silences now. Given the limits of this human form, and the limits of a word designed for pointing to a nonexistent boundary between itself and other life, only when I begin to know the fullness of my nonexistence as human can I begin to say, I am.

***

Inspired by Digital Light, ed. Sean Cubitt, Daniel Palmer and Nathaniel Tkacz.