The Span of a Body

Developments in architecture.

There is a floating bridge. It is made of cardboard, carried by balloons. After a few days, it will fall back from the sky, landing somewhere other than the place from which it left. It will be taken apart, piece by piece.

In an alternative scene, here is a floating bridge made of cardboard and balanced with each of its anchor points in a canoe. It will float downstream to be collected somewhere else for the ritual of its deconstruction.

There are scaffolds floating over the crowds, over the city streets, reflections of themselves over still waters before they move again; serious arches flying like children’s kites, and what could be the point of any of this, except to raise certain questions about some commonly accepted points among us? In their brilliant uselessness, they gently remind us of our own architecture, leaning ever toward the next beginning.

***

Inspired by an article I found this morning about the work of French artist Olivier Grossetête, who gathers fifteen to thirty workshop participants at a time into the communal effort of constructing a floating bridge out of cardboard.

Hunting Days

Aging writers recollect.

Remember the silence of our thoughts where we would wait, crouched in corners with pens poised to catch them, spectral geometry flickering in the shadows as they flew across our line of sight? They appeared and disappeared like bats, to and from nowhere––and us beckoning, show yourself! Our own thoughts, retreating. The nerve. We would tame them. 

We were young and eager to tie them down, to possess the authority of others who had managed to do so, somehow. Only by evading our pens could they find any haven.

Even a small one would be good, we thought––squirrel-sized, perhaps––anything from beyond the veil. If we could just catch one, we could prove ourselves successful hunters of what moved in the wilds of that other place. We could remove the skin, eat the meat, accumulate proud trophies. Others would envy what we had. But it was no good.

Rabid as we were, we didn’t see ourselves this way; we thought we were gentle. But they must have heard us, our pens poised like arrows to fly at them when they dared to run. No wonder they fled. We were starved for what we feared we would forget, but they knew it was worse than that. They knew they had already left us, and they recognized that we were in the stage of those still unwilling to accept the loss, who are willing to do anything to pretend that it is not what it is. 

They would wait until the visions of trophies had left us and we were bald and frail with grief. Then they would come and sit at our feet, on our laps. We would let them build nests where our hair used to be. Okay, we’d tell them, have it your way.

Obsolete

The art of preservation.

What do you do?

I preserve the obsolete. Take this instrument, for example. Plucked keys, no mallets, every note the same volume––rigid, raw, it sounds almost modern.

Why the harpsichord?

Because we always think of music as living. But I am always thinking in terms of loss.

How do you select your materials?

I look for what is unfashionable. I look for what people have turned from. I want to make them think about it again.

Why?

I am constantly stressed about what is disappearing. It’s a kind of chaos swirling around.

Can you describe your process?

I am the last to know the relationships between these materials.

What is your ideal workspace?

I like the idea of a studio that looks like one of those outmoded cubicle offices, where everyone is together but separated by partitions, and everyone is working on their art, but you wouldn’t even know it. 

What do you do?

Usually, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out something that has no purpose. 

When I was a child, I used to mix liquids in containers. I called them potions.

Exactly, that’s what I mean! Ask anyone to consider some of the things they most loved doing as children. Then have them try to find the point.

So, you’re preserving childhood?

That sounds too lofty. Childhood’s an ideal, anyway. I’m not sure what to make of it. Maybe I’m just interested in preserving a kind of sensibility, a space where a kid can just––be, you know? I don’t want this to disappear, this space.

***

I saw a video with the artist Cory Arcangel, whose primary obsession is working with near-obsolete technologies. I encountered him in a video from the Met’s (now discontinued) Artist Project Series.  He was speaking about the harpsichord.  I felt a strong affinity to some of his impulses. The above is an imagined conversation that borrows some of Arcangel’s ideas, but should not be taken as an accurate rendering of his vision, which I have heavily distorted with my own useless play. . 

Time Out of Mind

A quilted retrospective.

After the sand of the hour had spilled from the mantle, I kept watch beside myself in low tide mirrors, the sea at my ankles returning us to the corners of childhood libraries. With bare feet resting in tulip beds, I borrowed confidence from open pages and read to them. Their still-unopened faces swayed in blind brilliance and we held there, unknowing.  

Seasons passed and we were separated until I was alone at the edge of a wasteland. I had a threaded needle and no pattern in sight. I spent a long time dreaming. Once in the warehouse, time’s gears were in pieces on the floor. I held a face in my hands, and it whispered reminders. I would need to fold the fields behind me first, then set to stitching. 

I wore fire against the rain and cut a new dress from the remnants of the last harvest. Gorged on ripe losses, my scalp sang anemones. Hold, I whispered to the new blooms, that they might stay until the hour returned. 

***

Inspired by images in this article about the work of Ukranian artist Oleg Oprisco, known for creating surreal settings from everyday elements.

Cornered

From a tight space.

Call it a threat––back against two walls, but some dream best from spaces like this. If I wanted to hide, I could walk in the open, but only from here can I bear witness to being, the intricate choreography of shadows, swinging between the arms of a branching angle. Turning from one wall into to the next, I find the other half of this shell, enough to negate the noise of a universe with its effusive unknowns, and hear, between breaths, the song of a single house finch. 

***

Inspired by, and using borrowed phrases from, the chapter “Corner” in Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.

Mechanical Issues

Looking for a few good ideas.

I was having some mechanical difficulties, so I decided to do some research. A body with issues of an uncertain nature may sometimes find relief by revisiting certain fundamental tenets of the physical world.

To be sure, greater minds than this one have long considered these questions––which may concern, among other things, the action and reaction of bodies at rest and in motion––not to mention acoustics and optics. Also, heat, friction; details related to magnetism, electricity. Astronomical matters may seem remote, but these, too, are not to be discounted, considering how profoundly any number of factors may govern aspects of the visible and invisible world. 

In conclusion, it’s complicated. 

There are a number of implications for these findings. For example, while I am still entirely unsure about the origins of that squeaky grinding noise that sometimes but not always happens when I make a right turn, it is reasonable to conclude that while the stereo system remains functional, it should be possible to avoid hearing it until a more appropriate time. 

As for this other thing I am trying to write, I am no more certain of my approach than I was before this brief foray into certain essential principles of structure, but at least I’ve found myself in good company when it comes to my ongoing bafflement regarding the proportional significance of any number of factors in a given system.

***

Inspired by a chance encounter with Mortimer J. Adler’s chapter on “Mechanics” from The Great Ideas: A Lexicon of Western Thought. And some other things. 

Minding the Gaps

A shadow land winks.

Even as the tutued dancer balances on a tightrope of sidewalk cracks, minding the squirrel’s tail, a careworn mutt holds up his end of the line in unfashionable duty, watching out. Elsewhere, a grade-school gremlin sneaks a bite of manhole cover between meals. Later, a mouse in PJs reads Proust in the lost light of a terracotta pot, and from the oldest brick wall in town, the youngest new dragon peeks from a weep hole by the light of a small flame at the end of her tail. It becomes clear that a penguin of unknown origin has led a young hedgehog through the end of the garden hose, into the South entrance of the tot lot on Broadway, and there’s no putting them back now. In related news, another pig is flying, on wings transplanted from the rescued organs of books. 

***

Inspired by this article in My Modern Met: Street Artist Turns Entire City Into His Personal Canvas With Whimsical Chalk Drawings which features the work of David Zinn in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Wait

Coming soon: some idea.

This is what they say you should do if you want some sight to come in.

Insight?

That’s it. So, I’m waiting but all I see is this ant river following the sidewalk lines.

Well, do you hear anything?

Just the leaf blower in the distance and those kids counting hide and seek.

What about the wind, you don’t hear that?

In the trees, sure. But––

There’s a swarm of bees down the hill.

I know, driving up that way I didn’t want to open the window.

These squirrels are something.

Sorry, guys. I don’t have anything.

They’re kind of insistent, aren’t they?

Awww, look! Baby sloths! 

Where? 

Someone posted them. I’m in this Animal Lover’s group. Those faces, look! They don’t even look real!

I thought you were waiting in stillness.

I know, I know. Just had to check something real quick.

It’s getting dark.

I wonder what it would be like if it got real dark.

You mean without all these lamps?

Yeah, let’s go inside. Look at all these moths right here. Don’t let any in. 

Look. Even now, with all the lights off, all these glowing things inside.

Like an indoor constellation, practically. Check out this cat.

You’re in bed less than a minute and there she is, on your chest, doing that pizza dough thing.

I know, she won’t let me move. I was gonna keep looking, you know–

Notes on Form

Old tools in a fallow field.

There is an exuberant history of forms to be found in these fields, compelling a witness to show how surfaces of knowing can be tilled with the tool of some adopted custom or cadence which, once discovered, can be carried solidly as a birthright through corridors of memory still in blueprint.

The challenge is measure, balance––and the joyous enterprise pains with enthusiasm, the center of any nascent art.

***

Inspired by and using borrowed phrases from the introduction to The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland.