Thursday, May 28, 2009

nothing but what is therein contained...

i spent this past week in philadelphia, to install several works in thomas u. walter's 1835 building for girard college. all of the works were installed on the top floor which has not been open to the public for 100 years. i've posted several times about this project which i've been working on for almost two years, so here some images of the first of three works which will be present in the space (the other two include a letterpress text work, and a sound, sculpture, and drawing installation).

this piece is titled "nothing but what is therein contained", which is a bit of text from stephen girard's will, in which he stipulated that the design of the building could only contain the things that he had specifically mentioned in his will... nothing extraneous would be allowed. the first design drawings that thomas walter made for this building were incredibly minimal and titled with this phrase.

for my own work, i took the phrase and translated it into numbers based on the alphabetical sequence of the letters, and then cut pieces of wood accordingly.


these pieces (running from a 1 foot length for an "a" to an 8 foot plus a 12 foot for a "t") were then painted in groups, a different color for each letter.

nothingbutwhat3i then laid out all of the letters as a kind of stockpile, and then laid out the entire phrase.


i then began to build the structure, beginning with the first letter - "n" - and drilling and wiring the consecutive parts improvisationally, essentially using the letter sequence as a score towards determining what piece of wood would come next. it took two days to build, and it is roughly 16 feet tall. you can see the beautiful dome shaped skylights in some of the images, as well as the doorways from one space to the other. the last shot was taken looking down from one of the skylight windows.






some of the color patterns and painting was inspired by the sketchbook of amish deaf mute craftsman henry lapp, who lived outside of pennsylvania just around the time the building was finished, and the sound was composed using the sound of wine glasses being rubbed and struck with mallets in relation to benjamin franklin's glass armonica. the piece is essentially an architectural map or likeness of the text...

i will be out of town this coming week and airforms will most likely be silent for the next 7-10 days.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, May 22, 2009

when drummers have quivering hands...


when all is still and hands quiver, still.
when time so quiet, as stopped.

the faint sound of a drum
remains a whisper
gentleness, an air.

a fading of skin struck, a day
a week
a month

a soft kind of exhale.

and the hand, the quivering
from within.
knocking from the inside
shaking on the outside.

some tiny area at the tip
of a finger, opens.

spirit released.
all blurred edges and shifting forms
upwards. drifting. moving
as if a cloud.

then still.

the hand
and its fingers
of visual vibration and stutter

an image of absolute clarity
without breath-
quiet as a group of small stones
sounding for those
with gentle ears.

certain moments
continue to drift towards us
resting, still, out of breath
upon our shoulders.
sounding softly
as we continue,
to listen.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

when a picture's worth 31 words...

pump organ classroom circa 1890

pump organ classroom circa 1890 detail

caution: steps

work on good prose has three steps: a musical stage when it is composed, an architectonic one when it is built, and a textile one when it is woven.

walter benjamin, from 'one way street'

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, May 18, 2009

when drawings are found on the ground...



two drawings passed over while walking along venice blvd. on saturday on my way to a gallery. fortunately, the camera phone has released me from the need to pick things like this up anymore...

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, May 15, 2009

klee and merton on making and seeing...

"abstract formal elements are put together like numbers and letters to make concrete beings or abstract things; in the end a formal cosmos is achieved, so much like the creation that a mere breath suffices to transform religion into act."
paul klee

"the perfect act is empty. who can see it? he who forgets form. out of the formed, the unformed, the empty act proceeds with its own form. perfect form is momentary. its perfection vanishes at once. perfection and emptiness work together for they are the same: the coincidence of momentary form and eternal nothingness. forget form, and it suddenly appears, ringed and reverberating with its own light, which is nothing. well, then: stop seeking. let it all happen. let it come and go. what? everyting: i.e. nothing.
thomas merton

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

when poets live in mansions

longfellow mansion postcards 1

longfellow mansion postcards 2

longfellow mansion postcards 3

longfellow mansion postcards 4

longfellow mansion postcards 5

longfellow mansion postcards 6

longfellow mansion postcards 7

longfellow mansion postcards 8

here are all of the postcards from the lot of the longfellow mansion. i have no idea if he lived in a few places between the birth-house of the last post or went from there to here, but it's nice to know that poets can also live in mansions.

i find the group of these quite extraordinary in the multiplicity of views, crops, colors, etc. as well as the various treatments of longfellow's portrait...

these cards had a lot more writing on them than the first ones, and here is the best of the found texts:

this is the worst
country i ever struck.
nothing but snow + cold
weather. don't expect
the thermometer will ever
get above zero again.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 11, 2009

when postcards show poet's homes...

will, over at the journey round my skull blog, has recently done a few postings on "photochrom" postcards from the collection of the ny public library. most of these cards are beautiful, relatively inexpensive and easy to find.

one of the cards that really struck a chord with me was an image of the doorway and stairs to a country house owned by the poet henry wadsworth longfellow. of course, i wanted to see in person and hold it in my hands, so i let my fingers walk on over to ebay to see if i could find one for a buck or two (i did, and will post them on friday)...

fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you feel about this week's postings, i also ended up finding a huge lot of postcards from portland maine, which included nearly 75 images related to longfellow, spanning the early years of postcard production to the early 1960's for only $10, so of course i bought it, hoping to find some variations of the coveted doorway image.

unfortunately, there were no images of the doorway, and a lot of the individual cards were relatively uninteresting until i realized that the repetition of three sites over time was quite extraordinary.

so today i begin a week of a five posts related to images related to longfellow with images of the house he was born in. you can check the wikipedia link if you want any info on him, and if you do, please note that the image they have of his birthplace is from one of these cards. they are pictured here in intuitive chronological order of publication.

i'm certain that there are even more variations on these, but i am hoping that if i post them now, i will NOT continue to seek more... time will tell...

longfellow's birthplace postcards 1

longfellow's birthplace postcards 2

longfellow's birthplace postcards 3

longfellow's birthplace postcards 4

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 07, 2009

when shamen make boxes...

lucas samaras box#53 1966

lucas samaras box#47 1966

lucas samaras untitled 1963

i recently picked up a small group of exhibition catalogs from the early 1970's, one of which was from an exhibition of the boxes of lucas samaras from a show at the museum contemporary art chicago, 1971. i've always been a fan of samaras's early box pieces, particularly the ones that are covered with pins and the ones that use colored yarn to generate patterns. i hadn't seen the two above with the birds on them, which obviously connect his work with joseph cornell for reasons beyond the sharing of birds and box forms... mainly how their works feel so completely personal, hermetic, eerie, homespun, and genuinely weird (and they were also both pretty darn good at being genuinely creepy.)

while cornell's boxes have had a wonderful resurgence of relevance of late, i haven't heard many folks talking about samaras's early work in relation to younger contemporary artists who seem to be exploiting a lot of the same materials and aesthetic - beads, feathers, pins, yarn, craft, funk, mirrors, etc. i think it's high time for this seminal work to be considered in relation to a lot of what is going on now, as well as taken on its own idiosyncratic terms. like ree morton's work, samaras's boxes seem to have come out of nowhere (and remember, frank stella didn't start using feathers and glitter until the 1980's). i have to admit i think these things are pretty great.

here some of samaras's words from interview excerpts in the catalog:

...samaras had wanted to be a priest "and be in contact with death, ghosts, shadows, churches, oil, icons, jewels, costumes, music, punishment, incense, bones, devil, angels, magic." in the boxes are deposited memories of childhood illness which he can also recall verbally: "stethoscope, oral-anal-armpit thermometer, antipyrene pills, emetics, douches, rubber tubes, glass vials, flouroscopes, cotton, steel contraptions, scissors, tweezers, operations, smells."

..."artworks must have more than one side or presence. i find high erotic content in things iridescent, sparkling, fragile, sharp, oily, hairy, pimply, fluffy, dendritic, elastic, pulsating. i love mirrors, shadows, vortexes, lightning, razzle-dazzle, twistedness, and nausea, but all of these things with control."

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

hans's and dagmar's alphabet...


some images and text from a tiny 1955 book called hans christian andersen's alphabet, pictures by dagmar starcke. i picked up the book initially for the cover design, which very much reminded me of joseph cornell; but starcke's illustrations to andersen fragments are quite odd and wonderful. i initially thought they were quilts, but i think they are paint and collaged fabric on some sort of linen...


though the elephant's weighty, his outlook is bright.
his foot may be heavy, but his heart it is light.


the moon at times a cap must wear
to guard her eyes against the glare.


the earth is our mother, so round and so great.
we shall all return to her, soon or late.


a lofty human brow may hide
worlds of thought beyond time and tide.


though the kettle ranks as a lowly thing,
like the silver tea-urn, it too can sing.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 04, 2009

the power of guitars and roses...


it is not magic now, the world. alone,
you will not share the clarity of moonlight
or the placid gardens. now there will be no moon
that is not a reflection of the past,
mirror of solitude, a sun of sorrow.
goodbye now to the touch of hands and bodies
that love brought close together. nowyou have only
your loyal memories and empty days.
we only lose (you vainly tell yourself)
what we do not have, what we have never had.
but, to learn the fine art of forgetting,
it is not enough to put on a brave face.
some sign - a rose - can tear the heart from you
and a chord on a guitar can kill you.

j.l.borges, the self and the other, 1964

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 01, 2009

until they fade away completely...

albumen photo banjo-uke

"it seems like a rhythmical process, like inhalation and exhalation; waves of disturbance run through the sun sphere, stream out and stream back again, gradually lessen in strength until they fade away completely."

the text is from l. kolisko's gold and the sun, an account of experiments conducted in connection with the total eclipse of the sun of 20th may, 1947. kolisko's experiments dealt with "the influence of various heavenly bodies on earthly substances" by exposing "filter paper" coated with various solutions of gold and silver nitrate to the sun during a solar eclipse.

the abstract images presented in the folio are indeed quite beautiful and certainly demonstrate the amazing abilities for light and chemicals to react to each other towards creation, but instead of kolisko's evidence, i present one of my own: an albumen photograph of a banjo player (or in actuality a banjo-uke player) circa 1880. as you can see, the sunlight has done a beautiful thing with this image, creating something along the alchemical lines of some of strindberg's camera-less photographic experiments, and expressing the kind of inner electricity of some of strindberg's texts (i.e. inferno).

since kolisko's experiments had more to do with anthroposophy than science, it seemed only fitting to use an image of a man who seems to be in the midst of being consumed by his own energy and aura. the image seems as much of a psychic or emotional state as much as the physical portrait it once was... thought forms never looked so good!

Labels: , , , , , ,