Tuesday, September 30, 2008

poor flowers in beds...

1862 cdv flowers

poor flowers in beds in neatly trimmed gardens.
they seem to be afraid of the police...
but they're so good they bloom in the same way
and have the same ancient smile
they had for the first glance of the first man
who saw them appear and touched them lightly
to see if they would speak...

image early hand colored cdv of flowers
text: poem from fernando pessoa's the keeper of sheep

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Monday, September 29, 2008

when wall text begins, and suggests...

wall text in process marfa ballroom

in marfa, our collaborative piece was out in the landscape on the outskirts of town, but the headquarters of the exhibition was the marfa ballroom, who hosted the show. when i arrived at the space, only the first two letters of a very long wall text had been painted in, and it was strange and wonderful to see a large yellow wall that said only "em".

when i arrived home last night, i picked up a dictionary to see potentials on various words that began with em, suggesting trajectories for the wall text, making subjective choices and associations.

here a list, with some obviously known, and others read for the first time...

em - 1. the letter m. 2. printing. the square of the body size of any type, used as a unit of measure, originally an em was equivalent to the space occupied by the letter M in any given font.

emanation - an act or instance of emanating; a coming or flowing forth.

emarginate - having a notched tip, as a leaf or petal.

embark - to set out on a venture.

embayment - a bay or baylike shape. the formation of a bay

ember - a small piece of live coal or wood.

emblaze - to set on fire

emblazon - to ornament richly

emblem - an object or depiction of an object that comes to represent something else, usually by suggesting its nature or history.

embody - to invest with, or as if with bodily form. to make corporeal. to personify. to make part of a united whole.

embosom - to clasp of hold in the bosom; cherish; embrace. to shelter.

embouchere - the mouth of a river. 2. a. the mouthpiece of a wind instrument. b.the manner in which the lips and tongue are applied to such a mouthpiece.

embow - to curve into the shape of a bow or arch.

embrace - to clasp or hold to one with arms, usually as a display of affection. to take in with the eyes or mind.

embroidery - ornamentation of fabric with needlework.

emend - to improve a text by critical editing

emerald - a brilliant, transparent, green beryl used as a gemstone.

emersed - rising above the surface of water, as leaves of stems of aquatic plants.

emerson, ralph waldo - 1803 - 1882. american essayist and poet.

emission spectrum - teh spectrum of bright lines, bands, or continuous radiation chacteristic of and determined by specific emitting substance subjected to a specific kind of excitation.

emmetropia - the condition of the normal eye when parallel rays are focused exactly on the retina and vision is perfect.

emotionalist - one whose conduct, thought, or rhetoric is governed by emotion rather than reason, often as a matter of policy.

empathy - 1. the attribution of feelings aroused by an object in nature or art to the object itself, as when one speaks of a painting full of love. 2. understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts, and motives of one are readily comprehended by another.

emperor - 2. a. any of several brightly colored butterflies of the family nymphalidae.

empiric - one who believes that practical experience is the sole source of knowledge.

empress tree - a tree, paulownia tomentosa, native to china, having large, hairy leaves and clusters of lavender flowers.

empurple - to color or tinge with purple.

empyreal - 2. of or pertaining to the sky. celestial. 3. formed of pure fire or light.

emulsion - 2. photography. a light sensitive coating, usually of silver halide grains in a thin gelatin layer, on photographic film, paper, or glass.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

what a true work of art looks like...


"in his lap he was holding a model of the temple of soloman, made of pinewood, paper mache, and gold paint... it had taken him seven years to build the temple, from the biblical description, and he was now travelling from ghetto to ghetto exhibiting the model... you can see every crenellation on the towers, every curtain, every threshold, every sacred vessel. and i, said ferber, bent down over the diminutive temple and realized for the first time in my life, what a true work of art looks like."

text from wg sebald's the emigrants
photo: circa 1900 snapshot of birdhouses

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

speaking of not speaking the language...

en route to belgium a few weeks ago, i stopped for a few days in paris. i was sitting in a cafe on the beautiful rue blanche having some tea and realized how nice it was to be sitting in public and not understanding a word anyone else was saying. after awhile i started to focus on the people sitting at the table next to me, who were speaking quite animated and loudly. i began to listen to their words and through a kind of "word association" began to write down in english a series of phrases that were suggested by the french that i was hearing (i have no real knowledge of the french language)...

"the text of heads
the moustache of snow
the boy is a girl
the condescending tone of laughter
like reading with a helmet on
stepping on your face
seagulls are like a crutch
but the birds are like this
like a field of quail and questions
sitting, sitting in the afternoon
she is truly enchanted
circles and churches of laughter
humming and singing endlessly
invisibly carried by a plane
tending to see more slowly
she prefers a wall with hands on each end
a voyage of looking, like a line
like the mother of jesus breaking
being pushed down a drain
trees, sure, in certain zones."

i've been working with this kind of intuitive translation for years now, but i recently read e. canetti's the agony of flies and found this wonderful related gem:

"and what if the words of different languages had some secret connection to one another."

on many levels this "what if" is the foundation of all my work and working process.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

a prehistoric observatory...






"notice the small circular window in the upper left potion of the west wall. the opening aligns with the setting sun on the summer solstice (jume 21), the longest day of the year. the square hole in the upper right wall aligns once every 18 ½ years with the setting moon at an extreme point in its cycle. other windows and doorways in the upper part of the building also align with the sun or moon at significant times of the year.

it appears that the hohokam devised a calendar system based on the motions of the sun and the moon, and incorporated that knowledge into their architecture. like england's stonehenge, the casa grande may have served as an astronomical observatory and calendar."

images of casa grande, the big house, visited en route to marfa, traversing arizona. the ruins sounded interesting because of the mud skin on the architecture, but i was surprised to find the relationship to the moon and sun cycles. the quotes are from some signs posted by the national park service. the structure and history were quite amazing. it was built sometime between 1300 and 1400...

Monday, September 22, 2008

ferris wheel sheet music cabinet...

jordans ferris wheel sheet music cabinet

jordans ferris wheel sheet music cabinet 2

a cabinet card from the 1890's of a ferris wheel sheet music cabinet - one darn amazing cabinet of curiosities. at 9 and a half feet tall, this must've been an imposing object, particularly weighted down with so much paper, as it supposedly held 4800 pieces of sheet music inside it... talk about an archive! i love the mix of different type faces and sizes on the back, which tells you everything you need to know.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

aby warburg's little soul animals...

seelentierchen in neuchatel

"he practices a cult with the moths and butterflies that fly into his room at night. he speaks to them for hours. he calls them his little soul animals [seelentierchen] and tells them about his suffering..."

"the most beautiful butterfly i have ever pinned down suddenly bursts through the glass and dances mockingly upwards into the blue air... now i should catch it again, but i am not equipped for this kind of locomotion. or to be exact, i should like to, but my intellectual training does not permit me to do so... i should like, at the approach of our lightfooted girl, joyfully to whirl away with her, but such soaring movements are not for me."

two quotes from aby warburg and the image in motion, by phillipe-alain michaud, the first from aby's time in bellevue due to melancholic depresion circa 1920 and probably an account of a doctor; the second from a letter by warburg. photo of 'seelentierchen neuchatel' from my iphone.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

the desert music...


well, i've never had a schedule like this, but once again i'm leaving town for a week and a half. this time the destination is the texas desert, in the form of marfa, home to donald judd's chinati foundation and the marfa ballroom for 'the marfa sessions', an exhibition performance event opening on sept. 27. i will be collaborating with stephen vitiello on an installation as well as a performance.

the installation will be based on field recordings we made in the desert a year ago, and will include a cabin size structure built in the landscape with the help of liz chaney. the performance will be inside one of the large buildings of judd's sculptures, with the sound being piped outside to the audience looking in as the sunset begins.

there will also be installations also by Emily Jacir, Nina Katchadourian, Christina Kubisch, Louise Lawler, Inigo-Manglano Ovalle, Kaffe Matthews, Angel Nevarez and Valerie Tevere, Dario Robleto, Steve Rowell and Simparch, Deborah Stratman and Steven Badgett, Julianne Swartz; as well as a talk given by david toop. the whole thing has been curated by regine basha, rebecca gates and lucy raven

because blogger now has the ability to "schedule" posts in advance, i have pre-posted a few gems, so fear not, airforms will be working it's magic virtually, while i'm driving through the texas desert. if with any luck i have wireless in marfa i'll try to post some images of the installation in progress.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

when sleeping beauties multiply in norwich...







an early theatrical montage of actors from the play, the sleeping beauty, by h. goss and w.j. gaze, presented in norwich england circa 1900. the photograph has a beautiful silver sheen to the borders, suggesting the chemical process is still not totally stable. the interesting thing about the image is that it is as if every scene of the play is being performed simultaneously - like a footrace, everything starting at the same moment, with the shorter scenes slowly stopping first, and the few actors in the longest scene remaining animated until the end. there is something uncanny about seeing the same people in various positions on the same stage at the same time, as if they have multiplied, to build an acting troupe of a variety of themselves. the image disrupts a theatrical notion of time, destroying a traditional trajectory of narrative. within a single glance, one can glean every facet of the entire story; and there is something strange and wonderful to see both the beginning and end at the same time - as well as all that has happened in between. once one begins to scan the entire surface of the photograph, with little knowledge of the intended storyline, there is a kind of permission given, to move from image to image in an intuitive way, to feel the potential of building a variety of new narratives, like cutting this picture into pieces, and pulling them out of a hat, creating a number of entirely new stories from the same parts in different combinations, ordered by chance.

one example, spiraling out from the center:

the devil asks the beauty for her heart, and she curiously instead shows him her dress, a man warns her, and she finds herself embracing yet another man, a woman in black tells her of some foreboding, and a woman in white welcomes her with some secret to tell, a field of women all tell the beauty different sides to the same story, until the beauty gives her heart to the nearest kneeling man, he fights with three men in hats who try to steal her away from him, until she is taken by two men with large staffs, hearing about her difficulties people are sad, while she hides herself dressed as a man, the king and queen are beside themselves until the beauty is lost in a series of couplings, when finally she meets again the first man, who this time begs her to be with him, while above them, the three large floating heads of the gods with lonely eyes, who have brought this whole story to life, think quietly amongst themselves...

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

when books are like butterflies...












some images of one of the sound installations i presented in kortrijk belgium for the happy new ears festival, which opened a few days ago. the piece was installed in the old beguinage in the center of town on the second floor of the st. anne's hall, and is titled 'when books are like butterflies'. it was loosely inspired by georges rodenbach's book bruges-la-morte, not so much the story, as the atmosphere of the text. i began by notating every sound in the book as well as every color in sequence, and then used the lists to generate a sound work, a text work, and a set of images. the text and images appear in the form of dust jackets, which frame the speakers playing a 13 minute audio piece through 15 speakers (and the images are mostly from the backgrounds of some of the old music photos i typically run on airforms). rather than create an illustration of the text or a work that conceptually fits cleanly into a single resolve related to the text, the piece presents numerous paths through the same information, allowing the sounds in the book to manifest themselves in different forms (i.e. as sound, text, and image). my main interest is in creating a space of intimate wandering, where one has to get close to the books not only to read and see, but to begin to approach the activity of listening with the same intimate response to reading and looking at small things. even though they are birthed from the same source, the text sound and images do not inform each other as much as they offer different paths of experience.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

rest ye weary traveler


the weary traveler returns to find life relatively unchanged. he sits in darkness with the secret objects that signify his journey, recently taken, each thing significant in invisble ways to the world, perhaps because this significance is not in them, but truly inside him. these things can never be navigational for us, for we are the outsiders. yet he is anxious and able to cover them with his eyes and hands lovingly; and then, with eyes closed, fingers strumming, he visualizes everything he left behind - every moment these claimed objects really speak of. he relives these moments through these objects, and he sings songs that replicate their original atmospheres, his hummings suggesting spaces, lighting, and feeling of there and then. through song and object, images grow in his mind, and they are as difficult for us to navigate as the objects themselves, because we are not allowed to enter... but within his mind they are clear and potent: a small bell, a train, a fruit market, a lake, an apple tart, stars, daguerreotypes, spiders, and finally after much seeking, printed on the page of a book the word 'aufblitz'. the smile on his face conveys the depth of his connection to these things he now holds inside of himself with great strength and longing, his memory as a series of beautiful moments, small pools of light strung together as on a chirstmas tree. these things bind him. his face also betrays a sadness in his heart, maybe his eyes, maybe his smile, but his face still remains a kind of premonition of the tears that begin to fall just after this photo was taken, as if the bright flash and the shutter click had finally broken him, forcing him violently to go from there and then to hear and now... but he seems an unwilling traveler... still his back remains upright, and his knees stiffly crossed, his face still staring, and solidly mute. the photograph has been taken, but he has not gotten up and wandered away. he remains still, even now, in this state, existing in that strange netherland of threshold where one must stand at the precipice of here, and at the same time long to be there. he is either a stone, or he evaporates... i'm guessing that at some point that beam on the right of him will soon collapse. it will either fall upon him and crush him, or it will fall right past him, through the floor, and he will quietly crawl through the passage to find all his of his seekings....

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Monday, September 01, 2008

when men fly...

circa 1900 photograph of a man flying

this afternoon i too will be floating off into the sky... landing in paris, and then belgium for the happy new ears festival. i'll be installing two new sound installations, both inspired by rodenbach's bruges-la-morte, in a nun's house from the 1200's in kortrijk. i will post some documentation when i return in a few weeks. if i have wireless access i might post some findings along the way, otherwise airforms will be a bit quiet, so check out some of the folks listed in the links.

the above photograph is circa 1910, and i have no idea how, what, or why... but it is truly amazing, clearly the gravitational pull of something or someone has got him floating off into the luminiferous aether.

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