Monday, September 28, 2009

when the gold rusher was walking and sounding...


here, an image circa 1850 by currier, depicting a man rushing to california to find gold, from a 1964 los angeles county museum bulletin. it's a beautiful image, and it also reminds me of joe jones, the fluxus artist who makes instruments out of things like baby carriages and rolls them around with strings and motors. somehow this gold rushing gent reminds me of joe's bells and metal things, and in his rushing and his "tools" he seems to be preparing for a performance of sorts, or perhaps even his walking with such things is performance enough as he rattles and clinks along the path to gold, a portable gamelan sounding with every step...

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

three gentle nudges...



"however, he had no lack of enchantments, and no cause to regret that it was not the russian knight-errant ruslan but ruslan's occidental brother that had awakened his imagination in childhood. but then, what does it matter whence comes the gentle nudge that jars the soul into motion and sets it rolling, doomed never again to stop."

text:vladimir nabokov, podvig, 1932
images: anonymous snapshots, 1960's

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Monday, September 21, 2009

55 ways to save 3 eggs...


1. hold them in your hands. 2. put them in your mouth. 3. put them in your nose. 4. put them in your ears. 5. put them in the pocket of your blue checkered apron. 6. put them inside your white blouse. 7. let them rest in the part of your hair. 8. wrap them in your red ribbon. 9. bend your head back and balance them on your eyes and mouth. 10. paint one yellow, and two light blue, and hide them in the background. 11. roll them off the table. 12. use them to replace the S's in ways, save and eggs. 13. hide them in the rolled-up right cuff of your blouse. 14. let them nestle around your neck like small pets. 15. teach them to fly so they are just out of reach. 16. paint them a light grey purple brown so they cannot be differentiated from the table. 17. spin each one very fast on its own axis until they are moving so fast they cannot be seen with eyes. 18. talk to them often so they know you are friends. 19. tap on their surfaces gently so as not to break them. 20. sing to them often so they begin to like your music. 21. throw them in the air so high that they never come down (be careful because they will break if you fail and are not able to catch them). 21. count them over and over again, even though there are only three. 22. teach them a new language, from a foreign land or make it up yourself. 23. pause often so they hang on your every word. 24. stand them end upon end, so they resemble the rattle of a snake. 25. set them clearly against the light blue background so they are mistaken for clouds. 26. teach them to make the sounds of dangerous animals so others will be afraid to come near them. 27. polish their surfaces so they can become mirrors that reflect the world. 28. put them in the mail so that they are gone for a few days and then returned to the table. 29. instead of looking to the left, look down and let your gaze rest upon them. 30. smile so they know you love them. 31. as they sleep, put your ear upon the surface of the table so you can hear their dreams. 32. cry so they will never leave you. 33. hum to them softly and often, as if you are withholding a secret. 34. dream of them often (and perhaps they too will dream of you). 35. ask them questions they cannot answer. 36. tell them you are their mother and they must do as you say. 37. cut off your hair so they may have a nest to rest in. 38. give them two a's, two e's, two g's, three s's, and one w, y, t, o and v, and ask them to make a phrase that should be familiar to them. 39. keep rearranging them so each can be in the middle at least once. 40. stand still in silence, as long as you can, to see if it will be you, or the eggs, who moves, or speaks, first. 41. touch them gently with your fingertips. 42. paint them like globes and use them as maps. 43. juggle them constantly around your head like a halo. 44. tease them often but don't make them mad. 45. tell them they are the best eggs in the world. 46. eat them for breakfast and keep them inside of you always. 47. paint their portraits (together or alone). 48. simply ask them to remain. 49. tell them to make as many words as they can with the letters that make up the phrase "55 ways to save eggs"; such as: eave, wages, stage and sway. 50. pretend they are onions and be afraid to cut them for fear of burning your eyes. 51. take them outside, climb a tree, and return them to a nest. 52. kiss them with your lipstick covered lips so that they appear to have big red mouths. 53. close your eyes and open them again to be sure they have not moved. 54. place them in a small birdcage and hope. 55. try to fit all three of them inside the can of royal baking powder that you rest your hand upon, making sure it is otherwise empty, and remembering to cut a small window so they can continue to see you always...

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Friday, September 18, 2009

when the thing itself needs not words (when ropes form geometric figures)


from kites by watt brummitt, illustration by enid kotschnig, 1971

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

the shadow on the white wall at sunrise and the sea and the honeycomb...


"it was a hot day in june when i came to s. quirico. the midday gun had sounded half an hour before; all the world was sleeping. half afraid that i should disturb a siesta, i knocked at the door of the of the canonica and presently the priest himself appeared, a sever yet kindly man who little by little beginning to smile was content to show me what treasures he had. one of thm at least i shall never forget. for after uncovering, not without much trouble and many dim mutterings, the madonna of the place, a picture perhaps by domenico puligo, where mary holds christ in her arms who has just grown weary of playing with s. giovannino, he led me behind the high altar where there was hidden one of the most beautiful of those giattoesque crucifixes which i have so loved. how weary one grows of all of the realistic pictures in the world; sometimes they press upon one in the galleries where they are prisoners like an immense crowd of outraged people who can never die, whom we have imprisoned to stare at and criticize at our leisure. it is only of those pictures, half pattern, half the impassioned gesture of a dream, of which we never grow tired or weary whatever they be, and then it is most often alone in some forgotten place like this church at rubella that we find them. and for what have we forgotten them: for the discontented tireless genius of the world. what sort of man is he who could hope to live in the presence even of so lovely a thing as mona lisa, or who could bear to stay always near the assunta of titian? these and such as these are too subtle or too strong for us, we look at them as we look at the sun and pass into shadow. but those pictures of the annunciation, or the nativity, or the coronation of the madonna, those early crucifixes too, full of an exquisite pattern of line and colour, mere multi-coloured shadows on the wall, we can bear all day long, they seem to fall in with one's mood, to be content to minister to us, and will never thrust themselves upon us or compel us to suffer some strong and profound emotion that to know for a moment is pleasure, but torture to endure is for ever. who indeed could bear to sleep beneath a picture of the crucifixion by any later painter; but under such a thing as this cross in s. quirco one might be content, not to sleep only, but to die; it is just a beautiful symbol, a shadow on the white wall at sunrise and sunset, of the thought that is in our hearts. and then if you want reality, look you, there are the hills and the gardens: and if indeed you would see the madonna, as perhaps she was, why there she sits - is it not so? - under the cypresses in the cool of the day not far from the house, singing to her little son. when will art again as in duccio's day free itself from the convention of reality, and return to the convention of beauty."

edward hutton, country walks about florence, 1908

"paradise lost is a good example of the long poem. milton is always there, holding his hand beneath you. he doesn't want you to fall. when angels appear, he suggest the proper attitude to take toward angels. in short, he tells you what to think. he has a a huge hand underneath you. in a brief poem, it is all different: the poet takes the reader to the edge of a cliff, as a mother eagle takes its nestling, and then drops him. readers with a strong imagination enjoy it, and discover they can fly. the others fall down on the rocks where they are killed instantly. the poet who succeeds in writing a short poem is like a man who has found his way through a stone wall into valley miles long, where he lives. he walks back up the valley, and opens a door in the wall for an instant to show you where the entrance is. the more imaginative readers are able to slip through in the twenty or thirty seconds it takes to read his poem. those who expect the poet to give them ideas see only a vague movement on the side of the mountain. before they have turned all the way around to the face of the poem, the door has closed. readers of ancient poetry are used to staggering along under lines swelled with the rhetoric of philosophy courses, experiences under mind expanding drugs, new criticism - in short, the world of prose. they find it hard at first to concentrate on a short poem, but eventually they learn to find some value in being dropped."

robert bly, introduction to the anthology: the sea and the honeycomb, a book of tiny poems, 1971

two long quotes about the benefits of abstraction and brevity, from two books randomly picked up at a local library sale (one was a dollar, and one 50 cents...). both quotes directed towards the deeper immersions in art and poetry, neither without problems, yet both entering territory of the utmost importance, at least to my eyes and ears... and for some reason they felt, to me, quite connected.

the photograph (a snapshot from the 1920's), was also found sunday for a buck, and as if the glue that binds all things, seems entirely an image of bly's "open door" and in feeling, hutton's "shadows on the wall"... bly's words regarding the difference between long poems and short ones also seems quite relevant in relation to the collecting of snapshots as opposed to high art photographs, certainly in relation to the latter being seen in an art space with a capital A, and the former, a gem usually discovered in a dusty box amongst a thousand unremarkables. its beauty, probably accidental rather than intentional, also speaks volumes in relation to hutton's ideas around abstraction, where image is never completely gone, but one can still wander amongst the patterns within an image based composition. it's a world, or perhaps a netherworld, hovering between the "convention of reality" and the "convention of beauty".

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Monday, September 14, 2009

before bernd and hilla becher...





it was quite good hunting this weekend, and i will be posting numerous finds from a local library book sale and the rose bowl flea market. one of the nicest finds was this group of snapshots of industrial towers. of course, these reminded me instantly of the serial imagery of the bechers, who photographed industrial architecture in series and presented them in grid forms. while these are clearly snapshots, whomever took the photos seemed to have known what they were doing, and like the bechers the images are both beautiful and somewhat cold - similar to the structures themselves.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

when sebald discovered the new ocean...

“how often, i thought to myself, had i lain thus...with my hands clasped under my head, listening, not to the stillness, but to the roar of the traffic, with a mounting sense of panic. that, then, i thought on such occasions, is the new ocean. ceaselessly, in great surges, the waves roll in over the length and breadth of our cities, rising higher and higher, breaking in a kind of frenzy when the roar reaches its peak and then discharging across the stones and the asphalt even as the next onrush is being released from where it was held by the traffic lights.”

w.g. sebald, vertigo

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

when earle brown wrote "is and as it is it is"...


"i have always found that the most enlivening thing about art, or anything else, was its mystery and its being beyond my particular experiential conditioning, and therefore, understanding. there is of course, no such thing as complete understanding but there comes to be a familiarity and acceptance of something which one spends time with which might as well be called understanding. when this occurs, the mystery and the real poetic life go out of it... not out of the work, but out of my response to it... and what is left is the form, the technique and poetry which is not longer vital. there is a great deal of admirable form, technique and non-vital poetry which i can admire as such intellectually but find completely unrewarding poetically."

"i have always been drawn primarily to magic and mathematics... in that order. to magic in the sense that everything is and as it is it is magical----i don't understand it... the impenetrable infinite complexities and connections of all things."

earle brown from his notebooks, 1952-1955

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Monday, September 07, 2009

a la lumiere d'hiver...


a winter evening... sometimes space
seems like a panelled room,
blue curtains darkening,
the fire flickering out
while a cold lamp
of snow shines against the wall.

or is it the moon already rising
cleansed of her dust
and the breath of our mouths?

philippe jaccottet, from winter light, 1977
image: 1910 snapshot of train in snow, negative

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Friday, September 04, 2009

when sound suggests architecture

transformer audio magazine 1963

monsanto house sketch 1957

thumbing through some old AUDIO magazines circa 1960-64 i came across the top diagram picturing "a practical combined stereo output and crossover transformer", and my mental rolodex immediately brought to mind concept drawings (and the final built structure) of the monsanto house of tomorrow, that was installed in disneyland end of the 1950's. the concept sketch pictured below the transformer, comes from a rare "comprehensive engineering analysis" of the house and in particular, it's fibreglass parts. for more on the monsanto house, there are numerous images and articles about it online; but i am interested in the seemingly random association of these two things that my mind brought together unconsciously.

i'm always surprised by the suggestive nature of images, and their ability to bring to the forefront of the mind other images, visually related, yet seemingly disconnected in terms of conceptual or intellectual logic. what i love about these situations is that they tend to suggest a re-thinking about certain things individually, as well as opening new avenues of conversation between things that previously seemed unable to speak to each other.

when i first saw the transformer image, which was part of a larger group of related articles for hi-fi geeks who wanted to build their own equipment, i stopped to stare because formally it felt familiar. certainly, at this point, the number of pathways towards my own exploration of sonic and architectural conversation is relatively vast; but at no time had i ever thought about the physical objects of electronic sound generation (i.e. a home stereo system) in relation to the larger structures that generally house them (i.e. homes). a simple moment of eye wandering suggesting suddenly an un-thought-of relationship between amplified sound and the larger enclosed space of its listening.

in this slight slippage - pausing to look at a new kind of stereo transformer, and instead of "understanding" its meaning, being reminded of an experimental architectural structure - there begins a small thread, potentially tugged at from one end, towards new conversations birthed from a sudden and unexpected place. in my own past, similar "accidents" (such as seeing, in a work by joseph cornell, the circular presence of the moon as an audio speaker) have generated artworks, as well as deep internal conversations.

in a text from his book of hours, rilke says "hands must be simple and good to accept the offering". of course, he's talking about god and god's voice; but at the same time he seems to be suggesting a kind of openness, that i find quite related to cage's ideas regarding music and listening. if one's hands, or perhaps ears, are open to experience without expectation, then seemingly closed definitions and dead end discussions will continue to open and expand.

two eyes, two hands, two ears... sometimes it is the body of the seer, the thinker, or the listener, that is the connective tissue between two sounds that don't seem in harmony with each other, or two surfaces that feel a part of different worlds, or two images that don't seem, at first to have anything much in common.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

when pat suggests raymond

recordio box

queneau exercises in style

here's a home recording from the 1940's that i've been somewhat obsessed with since it arrived in a lot of 1940's "wilcox-gay" recordio discs.

it's a pretty simple minute of sound from a birthday party of young "pat", with everyone in attendance saying happy birthday.

this beautiful litany brought to mind raymond queneau's exercises in style, a book in which he tells the story of a simple incident in 99 different ways (dream, narrative, anagrams, spectral, passive, telegraphic, etc.)

the sound and the book, both strive towards a perfect evocation of a single event, and at the same time become evidence that imperfection and all its wonderful disconnects is the stuff of life... no two similar things are ever exactly the same.

there is no perfect "happy birthday pat", any more than there is one perfect way to tell queneau's story; but each individual iteration of both is something pretty gosh darned wonderful to behold.

there's a great quote by louise bourgeous that i could not find in this mess, regarding stone carving and the repetitive nature of such a process, the repetition of the action and trying to get something right.

in some ways, the repetitions in queneau and "happy birthday pat" become a similar kind of meditation... repeated sutras towards a kind of enlightenment, similar indeed to carving a stone, as one hammers away at it until something, within the stone, is revealed...

click here to listen

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