Wednesday, December 31, 2008

getting ready for new year's eve...

tintype of partygoers, 1890's

cdv of musicians 1880's

top, unknown folks or location, tintype, circa 1900; bottom cdv photographed by g.w. jorns, springfield, illionis, 1880's.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

finding the magical correspondences in trying to be a windmill...

men as windmills

nature creates similarities. one only need think of mimicry. the highest capacity for producing similarities, however, is man's. his gift of seeing resemblances is nothing other than a rudiment of the powerful compulsion in former times to become and behave like something else. perhaps there is none of his higher functions in which his mimetic faculty does not play a decisive role.

this faculty has a history, however, in both the phylogenetic and the ontogenetic sense. as regards to the latter, play is for many its school. children's play is everywhere permeated by mimetic modes of behavior, and its realm is by no means limited to what one person can imitate in another. the child plays at being no only a shopkeeper or teacher but also a windmill and a train. of what use to him is this schooling of his mimetic faculty?

the answer presupposes an understanding of the phylogenetic significance of the mimetic faculty. here it is not enough to think of what we understand today by the concept of similarity. as is known, the sphere of life that formerly seemed to be governed by the law of similarity was comprehensive; it ruled both microcosm and macrocosm. but these natural correspondences are given their true importance only if seen as stimulating and awakening the mimetic faculty in man. it must be borne in mind that neither mimetic powers nor mimetic objects remain the same in the course of thousands of years. rather, we must suppose that the gift of producing similarities - for example, in dances, whose oldest function this was - and therefore also the gift of recognizing them, have changed with historical development.

the direction of this change seems definable as the increasing decay of the mimetic faculty. for clearly the observable world of modern man contains only minimal residues of the magical correspondences and analogies that were familiar to ancient peoples...

image, anonymous 1920's snapshot. text, excerpt from walter benjamin, on the mimetic faculty, from reflections, translated by edmund jephcott

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 29, 2008

still life...

1960's polaroid

something so absolutely wonderful and melancholy about this anonymous polaroid from the late 1960's...

Labels: ,

Friday, December 26, 2008

when radios have green eyes...

radiosnapshot 1920's

"a green eye on the radio played coldly and distantly toward him. like the northern lights. bewitching, although it was really no more than a helpless machine. out of the loudspeaker came many different wishes."

1920's snapshot, text from tarjei vesaas (yes i'm obsessed with his writing at the moment), spring night, 1964.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

little tree...


little tree
little silent christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls and chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

e.e. cummings, 1925

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

when santa was small and dressed in all white...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

the computer's first christmas card...

edwin morgan concrete poem

a piece by edwin morgan, from mary ellen solt's seminal concrete poetry a world's view, 1968. "edwin morgan, also of scotland, relies on unexpected, often humorous juxtapositions of words and word elements, as in 'the computer's first christmas card', which is morgan as the computer rather than the computer itself. in his experiments with concrete poetry morgan has remained in close relationship to the mainstream of tradition..."

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 22, 2008

the science of the combination of letters (or alphabet mysticism)

wallace berman 1967

wallace berman 1969-70

wallace berman 1974

"perhaps the most inventive and imaginative explorer of alphabet mysticism was Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (1240-1291), a spanish kabbalist who developed a concept of the use of the hebrew alphabet as an instrument of revelation. he called it hokmath he-tseruf ("science of the combination of letters").

abulafia wrote,"the kabbalistic tradition is divisible into two parts... the first occupied with knowledge of the deity, obtained by means of the doctrine oft he sefirot ("eminations," the ten spheres of the tree of life), as propounded by the sefer yetzirah... the second and more important part strives to know god by means of the twenty-two letters of the alphabet, from which together with the vowel points and accents, those names are combined, elevating kabbalists to a degree of prophesy, drawing out their spirit, and causing it to be united with god to become one with the deity.

abulafia believed that the mystery based at the spine of all things is the letter. every letter a sign, a symbol. the shadows of creation. pen in hand takes up ink and turns it into semen. the mind traces forms that language reveals, the letters clothe the invisible. every letter, within and without, imprints form, souls, minds, bodies, ghosts. into the letter into the word. contained, gathered up. each from each. one from the other.

divine language, the very atoms of reality. according to abulafia, "all things exist only by virtue of their participation in the great name of god." abulafia compared it to music. it is said the the systematic meditational practices he taught produced a sensation closely related to experiencing musical harmonies. hokmath he-tseruf, a music of pure thought beyond thought where the alphabet takes the place of the musical scale".

images and text from wallace berman retrospective, the fellows of contemporaty art, 1978. berman images: both untitled verifax collages, color 1967, b&w 1974. sculpture: topanga seed, 1969-70. text from the spectacular catalog essay by david meltzer. on the long list of things i would love to own, one of berman's verifax collages of hands and radios is high on the list!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, December 19, 2008

two halves of life...

holderlin's halfte des lebensholderlin's the half of life

the original german and english translation of friedrich holderlin's poem - halfte des lebens / the half of life, from "some poems by friedrich holderlin, published by new directions in 1943, and translation by frederic prokosch. this copy belonged to a poet who underlined and re-translated or corrected several of the poems, such as this one.

in the german original he circled the word "wo", which i'm guessing from the translation means "where". the strange thing is that the word "und" which means "and" is actually missing from the english, but that word is not circled.

as the english poem begins with the word laden, the english version of this particular poem is also laden, but with corrections rather than pears. in the third line the word "lies" is crossed out, and indeed it seems it does not exist in the german original, but was added by the translator.

in the fourth line the word "beautiful" is crossed out, but in german it says "ihr holden schwane", which google translate tells me means:"sweet her swans". next he moves the word "you" down from line five to six, and the words "in the" down from line six to line seven. in line seven, he also crosses out the words "saintly sobering", and ignores the german "ins heilignuchterne" completely.(which google translates as "into heilignuchterne").

in the bottom half he also makes a number of changes, most interesting is the repairing of the line "the light of the sun" back to the original form in german of "sonnenschein" which i assume means sunlight or sunshine; and lastly the deletion of the word "banners" and replacing it with the words "weather vanes" - which clatter more than banners anyways.

in all of this it's quite wonderful to see the original german, and to be able to compare it to the final printed translation, and then to see the poet reading and thinking and shifting things one more level to bring them closer to the german orginal's intentions - as if things had gotten lost in the first translation and found in the second...

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

i dreamt the devil blew my horn while i was holding a cat and a birdcage...

tintype devil 1880's

on the rare occasion when our dreams succeed
and achieve perfection (most dreams are bungled)
they are symbolic chains of scenes and images
in place of a narrative poetic language;
they circumscribe our experiences or expectations
or situations with such poetic boldness and decisiveness
that in the morning we are always amazed at ourselves
when we remember our dreams.
we use up too much artistry in our dreams -
and therefore often are impoverished during the day.

text: nietzsche, the wanderer and his shadow
image: tintype, 1880's (my favorite of all that i own.)

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

slow burning silliness...

recordio wilcox-gay home recording disc

here a recording by an unknown "frankie" performing a commercial for an undertaker and a song. it was recorded on a wilcox gray home recording 'recordio' disc (note the motto: slow burning material), probably in the early 1940s.

i buy a lot of these discs, and they are generally pretty darn dull - usually home recordings from a radio broadcast, etc. i've posted a few of the better ones on airforms over the past few years, but this recent find is a doozie.

here we have silliness in all its goofing off glory, and i can't imagine anyone who experiences the fullness of frankie's horrible high pitched singing finding it both hilarious and life affirming.

click here to listen.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008



"the nearer one approaches pure art,
the more purpose falls away from the thing,
until it stands there alone,
to fulfill itself."

rainer maria rilke, 1914

as seen in a tiny mexican restaurant in marfa texas, september, 2008.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, December 15, 2008

when little spirits fall from the sky and land upon guitars...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the exhibitionist on the road again...

exhibitionist 1890

today i go to las vegas for the opening of the exhibition LA NOW at the las vegas art museum. should be an interesting show curated by the la times critic david pagel, and featuring a gaggle of artists from los angeles. i will show 3 recent paintings, but unfortunately will leave the tuned wine glasses and glowing chimes at home... airforms will be back on monday.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

listening to the sky...

listening to the sky from a 1940's linen postcard

a detail from a 1940's "linen" postcard (so called because of the texture of the paper), of some military men with an incredible listening device to hear approaching airplanes. i suppose it is the equivalent of a telescope for ears. it would be nice if one could use such a device to listen to the stars or the sky, not for planes and bombs, but for voices that have somehow gotten lost, dawn or dusk stars perhaps, or the quiet breath and motion of clouds... i wonder how birdsongs from a nearby tree would sound coming through such a contraption, as well as someone in a treehouse whistling... does the moon make sounds as it drifts in orbit... and what about singing or playing records beneath this thing and projecting the sounds up to sky. i think the sky would like that.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

a short manifesto of unknowing and a building...

stanley brouwn pavilion

a short manifesto

4000 A.d
when science and art are entirely
melted together to something new
when people will have lost their
remembrance and thus will have
no past, only future.
when they will have to discover everything
every moment again and again
when they will have lost their need for
contact with others .....
.... then they will live in a world of only
colour, light, space, time, time, sounds and movement
then colour light space time
sounds and movement will be free

no music
no theater
no art
there will be

a short manifesto by stanley brouwn, from bulletin magazine, london, october 1964. image is quite a wonderful building for temporary exhibitions designed by brouwn, his first realized, from earlier this year. the scale is based on his own modular measuring system. more info here.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, December 08, 2008

when the condition of the photograph mirrors the condition of the man...

bill hodge front

bill hodge back


when rain, (sings light)rain has devoured my house
and wind wades through my trees,
the cedars fawn upon the storm with their huge paws.
silence is louder than a cyclone
in the rude door, my shelter.
and there i eat my air alone
with pure and solitary songs

while others sit in conference.
their windows grieve, and soon frown
and glass begins to wrinkle with a multitude of water
till i no longer see their speech
and they no longer know my theater.

rivers clothe their houses
and hide their naked wisdom.
their conversations
go down into the deep like submarines:
submerge them, with their pale expressions, in my storm.

but i drink rain, drink wind
distinguish poems
boiling up out of the cold forest:
lift to the wind my eyes full of water,
my face and mind, to take their free refreshment.

thus i live on my own land, on my own island
and speak to god, my god, under the doorway
when rain, (sings light) rain has devoured my house
and winds wade through my trees.

image: RPPC, circa 1920, of bill hodge
poem by thomas merton, from the tears of the blind lions, 1949.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, December 05, 2008

some snails...

snail head

they have brought me a snail.

inside it sings
a map-green ocean.
my heart
swells with water,
with small fish
of brown and silver.

they have brought me a snail.

me han traido una caracola

dentro le canta
un mar de mapa.
mi corazon
se llena de agua
con pececillos
de sombra y plata.

me han traido un caracola.

my hand traces an artichoke

dented like a song
a mark on a map.
my heart
yearning for water
peculiar colors
of sadness and purples.

my hand traces an artichoke.

1. federico garcia lorca, snail, translated by william jay smith.
2. federico garcia lorca, snail, original language as written
3. federico garcia lorca, snail, translated intuitively...

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 04, 2008

trying to remember the sky...

trying to draw all the stars in neuchatel

trying to draw all the stars
in the sky,
while lying on my back
on the floor
looking through an open window
from a darkened room,
falling asleep,
with quiet breath,
one night
in september...

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

eternity, lifetimes and instants...

ernst juenger's diaries

"the classic authors always said, 'if you spend something in an instant, eternity cannot bring it back to you'... the decision is up to you. you can do stupid things that can never be made good again. on the other hand, you can have a fortunate encounter, that will change your life forever."

ernst jünger, from: the details of time - conversations with jünger, 1990. image: jünger's diaries cribbed from this great blog...(i would also highly recommend jünger books 'on the marble cliffs', and 'the glass bees.')

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 02, 2008








some stills from alain resnais' stunning film muriel, which i watched twice this past weekend. resnais clearly understands the loneliness one holds inside of them. i can't think of any clear definitive connection, but for some reason, i kept thinking of two filmmakers whom i assume were totally outside of resnais field of vision at this point. one was harry smith, and in particular his masterpiece 'mahagonny'(which hadn't yet been created), and the other was ozu.

certainly the ozu connection came about through a kind of visual sense of color in the mid 1960's, reflected in muriel in the night shots of bars and city streets taking on the vivid colorings of night light similar to ozu's films of the same period with many scenes taking place in tokyo bars and small restaurants. in muriel, resnais also uses static shots of objects - particularly doors and doorways - similar to the way ozu used static shots of objects to speak about the interior of characters. just as a small vase alone on a shelf in ozu suggests loneliness or solitude; in muriel, resnais fills the main setting of the story in an apartment, with antiques that are for sale, reflecting a kind of temporariness or unsettled - transient - nature of the characters. in both cases, the objects and people reflect each other.

the harry smith connection is a difficult one to articulate, and probably stretches things a bit too much. nonetheless, the movement of mahagonny has a similar kind of feeling to several scenes in muriel, particularly near the beginning where a few characters are walking along the street and then eating dinner. the jump cuts and visual shifts are disorientating, and mess with one's sense of stability in the same way the movement of mahoganny does. as a visual experience, they both kind of pull the rug out from under you. and then there's the sound. in both cases there are moments (much more so with harry smith's film of course) where the sound and visual are not connected in a literal way; and in muriel, resnais does this beautiful thing where a conversation will end visually, but continue on the audio track into a new scene, which is essentially silent. there's a drifting back and forth in both films. resnais' muriel, of course, came years before smith's, but i would guess it would not be inconceivable that smith could have seen muriel, at some point in new york.

regardless of my fabricated connections, i would definitely recommend muriel to anyone who hasn't seen it, and i'd recommend seeing it two, or three times in a row...

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 01, 2008

the sound of the ecstatic flute...


"i know the sound of the ecstatic flute,
but i don't know whose flute it is.
a lamp burns and has neither wick nor oil.
a waterplant blossoms and is not attached to the bottom.
when one flower opens, ordinarily dozens open.
the moon bird's head is filled with nothing but thoughts
of the moon.
and when the next rain will come is all that the
rain - bird thinks of.
who is it that we spend our entire life loving?"

text: kabir, "try to live to see this", translations by robert bly, 1976.
image: RPPC, circa 1910, unknown man with flute...

Labels: , , ,