Friday, February 27, 2009

when poets are buried beneath letters...

house where rimbaud and verlaine lived in london 1873

rimbaud/verlaine site in 1966

two pictures of the same site. the first taken by roland penrose in 1937 of no. 44 howland street in london, which was the house where rimbaud and verlaine stayed from 1872 - 1873. at the time the photograph was taken, there was a plaque out front commemorating verlaine, while rimbaud in the late 1930's was not considered important enough to be mentioned.

the second photograph is the same site, showing that the rimbaud/verlaine house was demolished to make room for this mid 1960's post office.

one of the interesting things about this, is that at the time it was built, the post office was a fairly exciting modern building, and i'm sure there must've been some wonderfully heated discussions surrounding the value of a building's history versus the value of a building's architecture.

if the post office ended up becoming a mid level landmark such as libeskind's jewish museum or meier's getty cluster, would it eventually add more to a city than a broken down apartment that was once the home of two of the most important modern poets of the last 100 years; or, would the humble building's history eventually become a kind of pilgrimage site, with a greater kind of cultural value... and which would stand the test of time better.

how on earth would anyone in the mid 1960's have a sense of whether or not a modern post office would be of value and feel modern 50 years later; and similarly who could know if 70 years after penrose made his pilgrimage whether or not anyone would still be reading rimbaud or verlaine.

the magazine i pulled these images from made no comments in the text as to what was lost or gained in this situation... nor do they mention the irony that these two writers had part of their history demolished to make room for a gigantic structure used for sorting small traveling pieces of writing... a building to house words in the midst of their journeys.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

when things suggest and/or resemble... (or when portraits are in the center of scrawlings...)


thomas eakins portrait of rowland

atop is one of the most wonderful and strange cdv's i've ever found. it's from a photograph studio in evansville wisconsin, circa 1890, featuring a strange combination of a photograph of a guy with a horn and a small toy drum, floating in the center of some seriously wonderful scrawlings.

the boy in the center of this universe is clarence baker (at least that is what is scrawled on the back), and the rest of the images are "his chums" (at least that is what is scrawled on the back).

i've never seen a cdv that contained an image surrounded by drawings, and i would assume that the "drawings" are actually scratches etched into the negative. certainly dr. freud would have a field day with clarence's "chums", particularly all the snakes and the man with the horns (oh poor clarence has only one).

i wonder if the bloke in profile with a hat is clarence's alter ego and perhaps the old dude with the top hat pushing clarence forward into life - and oh what a life - is his father. i'm not sure about the strangely scary elf at the top, but clearly the horned guy with the pointed tail in his mouth is the devil - who clearly has clarence's smile...

the cdv kept reminding me of a painting, which i finally remembered was by thomas eakins, pictured below the photo of clarence. since the photo and the painting are from about the same time, i can't help but wonder if the approach of one was influential on the other. eakins painting is an 1897 portrait of henry rowland, who was considered "the highest known authority in this country upon the subject of the laws and principles of electricity..."

it is one of my favorite eakins paintings, not just because of the beautiful notational scribblings on the frame, but also the prism in the center, suggesting not just science, but perhaps some deeper mysteries and alchemical truths...

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Monday, February 23, 2009


from an old ad in fortune magazine 1

sometimes, when looking for four leaf clovers, like a sloth along the grass looking only down, one enters a tunnel of wood and darkness, but searches, still, with eyes now closed, relying only on touch. one lies in the darkness as if asleep, beneath an arc of light-less-ness.

from an old ad in fortune magazine 2

eventually one gives up on clovers and dreams of leaves in trees, in fact, of being a tree, standing silently amongst brother trees and sister trees, without saying a word, looking out from behind this new family, absolutely still, towards all other things. being both insider and outsider at once.

from an old ad in fortune magazine 3

suddenly, a book is placed before eyes, and the gears inside begin to move. the tree disappears. a gaggle of three leaf clovers surround one's feet garnering little attention, while the mind continues to spin and hum as a kind of soundtrack towards being lost in words. eventually, the quiet sound of small gears slowly turning inside the mind begins to feel a bit like music.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

that mirage, or that intuition... (and one more bell...)

bell and shadow

"... the experience must be repeated, lived again, to be of any value; and so one must always start again...the same holds true, for example, for the intuition that is the origin of many poems. somebody says, more or less, "i felt as if the order of the world had been revealed to me" or else "i understood the language of the birds" or "the veil that is normally between us and reality was rent" (which is also the theme in fairy tales). these are, indubitably, facts, of course, experiences (you can treat them as lies, but they happen, nonetheless) - an experience of that kind can take on various forms, but the result is always the same. it has happened ever since man first appeared on earth, and you can find hundreds of examples in mystic, philosophical or purely literary texts. you could object that such an experience is a mirage, but what makes such a mirage possible, and why could it not have meaning, even as a mirage?

that mirage, or that intuition, revelation or dream, sets an order against disorder, a fullness against the void, and wonder, enthusiasm, hope against disgust. is it possible to believe that man's obsession with order in so many different fields could be totally devoid of sense? and do we not have the duty, or at least the right, to listen to that very deep, irresistible nostalgia within ourselves, as if it really said something important and true? is it not narrow minded to refuse to believe in the enigma that attracts and enlightens us? is it more equitable to believe only in skeletons, ruins? let us remain faithful to our immediate experience, rather than be eager to listen to whatever may contradict it from the outside.

... start from uncertainty. take nothing for granted, for is not all that is established paralysed? uncertainty is the motor, shadow the source. i walk because i have nowhere to stay, i speak because i don't know, to prove that i am still alive. stammering, i have not been struck down yet...if i breathe it is because i still don't know...

text: philippe jaccottet, seedtime (a great big giant huge thanks to woolgathersome for directing me to jaccottet for which i am most greatfull). image, of course, an anonymous RPPC of a bell ringer in what appears to be a relatively isolated place - "i ring because my ears are hungry, and while i know this bell, i find something different in the ringing each time i pull this string..."

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

when showered becomes shorewed... (and more bells)

3" cd cover for release on ferns recordings

this week will be released a new soundwork - "ecstasy showered its petals with the full peal of the bells" - in the form of a 3" cd by ferns recordings. you can see the cover here. it is the first proper release i've used a photo from the collection as a cover image, which i'm quite happy about. the entire work was made using a very very special small bell as the only sound source, so the image of old ringers seemed perfect.

as you can see there is a new word we've added to the english language - "shorewed." this word is an inversion of the word "showered", and neither myself, nor seb - the label man, nor the designer who ultimately made the typo, noticed the misspell (kind of miraculous that i wasn't the one who did it as i am always inverting letters when i type!).

when seb wrote to me to apologize, i said i thought people would probably think i did it on purpose... but poor georges rodenbach, whose text the title comes from, is now rolling over in his grave wondering how ecstasy could be shorewed instead of showered... perhaps it is the kind of sound that begins in the sea and is somehow "wed" to the shore as it drifts from water to land... at least that's what i'll tell people...

for more info contact ferns recordings -

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Monday, February 16, 2009

when one returns to find bells in their mailbox...

bigbell cdv 1890's

well... wyoming was incredible, and i will probably post some of my doings on flickr at some point. the other good news is that my post office box was overflowing with airform goodness, which i will be posting over the next few weeks. here we see a cdv from germany circa 1890 featuring a very large bell and two little people.

i have a feeling since the old guy is touching the bell with his pointer he is saying, "a bell is a bell is a bell...", while the little boy in the sailor outfit is perhaps imagining what it might be like to turn the bell upside down and try to float it out to sea like a boat...

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

when you get to be in a show you didn't get to be in... (kind of...)

i'm sure everyone out there who is an artist or music person or writer, etc. has felt they would've loved to have been part of something curated because the idea behind the show, compilation or anthology, was so close to their interests. for myself, there's certainly been a number of show's i would've killed to be in because of the context or concept, and oranges and sardines that recently closed at the hammer was one of them. the idea was relatively simple, ask a few painters to curate a room of paintings that would include a few of their own works as well as whatever else they wanted their work to converse with. it must be obvious to anyone that reads the blog regularly that i do a lot of conversing with history, and would love to have such an opportunty... in fact just to curate a few rooms of things i love even without my own work present would be a dream!

well... i got an email a few weeks ago from tyler green who runs modern art notes, asking me if i would be interested in doing a kind of virtual version of the show with him - basically if i would be interested in making a list of paintings i would like to share a room with, and then he asking me a few questions about my choices.

on some level it was better than a real opportunity because i didn't have to worry about the musee d'orsay not being willing to lend the redon pastel, or how much space i might have. it was incredibly difficult to narrow it down, but i think anyone who knows my paintings in particular will find the choices of interest.

i am leaving wyoming and will be away from the computer most likely until monday, but tyler will be posting our interview along with some extended dialogue with mark grotjahn, who was in the actual exhibition, on modern art notes over the next few days, so check out his site if you are interested - here

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

when birds and machines are in sync...


i walk outside and the wind is high and the sky is white with cloudiness, but as a sheet, no forms. i see two birds flying - one perhaps a pheasant, low, moving fast, stuttering wings, and in an instant is gone. the other, distant, a kind of silhouette as if a shadow, circling and falling, drifting, perhaps an eagle or a hawk. this higher bird seems to be riding on the current of the wind and drawing the contour of the mountain as it moves back and forth between the left and right peaks and into the low pocket between them. there is some kind of generator humming from the house. i don't know what it is, but the tones are quite beautiful, and it seems as if the sound is also carrying the bird. the bird continues to move back and forth and the overtones of the generator seem to be connected to the bird's flight. suddenly, the bird drops out of view, behind the mountain, disappears; and as if on cue, the generator stops sounding. as i walk into the studio, the vision and tones still fresh upon me, i begin to sing the tone with my throat. it comes out sounding a bit in the gutteral way that monks chant. i record the sound of my voice to remember this sound at this moment, so that perhaps at some point in time i can "learn" it, as a kind of bird call - not to call forth birds when out in nature, for indeed it would surely scare them away; but a call to bring these birds of memory, back to the mind...

Friday, February 06, 2009


with different kinds of stones i knock open
the locks of snail shells that none
of my keys fit.

and the word i find in the form of a drop
or a bubble's fragile shape,
not in running water.

stones have their roots within themselves:
thin threads of heaviness twisted tight
into indissoluble knots.

tommy olofsson, stones, 1979, from elemental poems

Thursday, February 05, 2009

when every tree a word...

"nature was still speaking to him... every grass-blade, every flower, every tree, every vine and ivy leaf was a word in a speech that issued from the primeval source of all being, and that even in the deepest silence spoke with a titan's voice. never had any music so permeated his being..."

gerhart hauptmann, the heretic of soana

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

when nature makes sculpture...

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Monday, February 02, 2009




two snow lines, made by nature...

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