Wednesday, August 31, 2011

from aztec to english, from definition to poem...

ruby-throated hummingbird:
it is ashen, ash colored. at the top of its head and the throat, its feathers are flaming like fire. they glisten. they glow.

amoyotl (a water-strider):
it is like a fly, small and round. it has legs, it has wings; it is dry. it goes on the surface of the water; it is a flyer. it buzzes. it sings.

bitumen (a shellfish):
it falls out on the ocean shore; it falls out like mud.

it is white. one is large, one is small. it is spiralled, marvelous. it is that which can be blown, which resounds. i blow the seashell. i improve, i polish the seashell.

a mushroom:
it is round, large, like a severed head.

the cave:
it becomes long, deep; it widens, extends, narrows. it is a constricted place, a narrowed place, one of the hollowed-out places. there are roughened places; there are asperous places. it is frightening, a fearful place, a place of death. it is called a place of death because there is dying. it is a place of darkness; it darkens; it stands ever dark. it stands wide-mouthed; it is widemouthed. it is wide-mouthed; it is narrow mouthed. it has mouths which pass through. i place myself in the cave. i enter the cave.

from the 11th book of bernardino de sahagiun's "general history of the things of new spain" (florentine codex) translated from the aztec into english by charles e. dibble and arthur anderson, 1963, via "some/thing" issue 1, spring 1965, titled "found poems" by jerome rothenberg.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

ruscha on photo books and small fires in 1965...

What is your purpose in publishing these books?

To begin with – when I am planning a book, I have a blind faith in what I am doing. I am not inferring I don’t have doubts, or that I haven’t made mistakes. Nor am I really interested in books as such, but I am interested in unusual kinds of publications. The first book came out of a play with words. The title came before I even thought about the pictures. I like the word “gasoline” and I like the specific quality of “twenty-six.” If you look at the book you will see how well the typography works – I worked on all that before I took the photographs. Not that I had an important message about photographs or gasoline, or anything like that – I merely wanted a cohesive thing. Above all, the photographs I use are not “arty” in any sense of the word. I think photography is dead as a fine art; its only place is in the commercial world, for technical or information purposes. I don’t mean cinema photography, but still photography, that is, limited edition, individual, hand-processed photos. Mine are simply reproductions of photos. Thus, it is not a book to house a collection of art photographs – they are technical data like industrial photography. To me, they are nothing more than snapshots.

Is there a correlation between the way you paint and the book’s?

It’s not important as far as the books are concerned.

Was it necessary for you, personally, to take the photographs?

No, anyone could. In fact, one of them was taken by someone else. I went to a stock photograph place and looked for pictures of fires, there were none. It is not important who took the photos, it is a matter of convenience, purely.

What about the layout?

That is important, the pictures have to be in the correct sequence, one without a mood taking over.

Do you know a book called “Nonverbal Communication” by Ruesch and Kees?

Yes, it is a good book, but it has a text that explains the pictures. It has something to say on a rational level that my books evade. The material is not collated with the same intent at all. Of course, the photographs used are not art photographs, but it is for people who want to know about the psychology of pictures or images. This (“Various Small Fires”) IS the psychology of pictures. Although we both use the same kind of snapshots, they are put to different use. “Nonverbal Communication” has a functional purpose, it is a book to learn things from – you don’t necessarily learn anything from my books. The pictures in that book are only an aid to verbal content. That is why I have eliminated all text from my books – I want absolutely neutral material. My pictures are not that interesting, nor the subject matter. They are simply a collection of “facts”; my book is more like a collection of “readymades.”

You are interested in some notion of the readymade?

No, what I am after is a kind of polish. Once I have decided all the detail – photos, layout, etc. – what I really want is a professional polish, a clearcut machine finish. This book is printed by the best book printer west of New York. Look how well made and crisp it is. I am not trying to create a precious limited edition book, but a mass-produced product of high order. All my books are identical. They have none of the nuances of the handmade and crafted limited edition book. It is almost worth the money to have the thrill of seeing 400 exactly identical books stacked in front of you.

excerpts from a 1965 conversation between ed ruscha and john coplans from the february 1965 issue of artforum, regarding ruscha's second book, various small fires.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

when land is like sea...

the wind rises, screaming faintly, intensely against the north side, and the old house creaks.

"the hemlock shakes in the rafter, the oak in the driving keel."

and in a letter, he (melville)

"i have a sort of sea-feeling, here in the country, now that the ground is covered with snow. i look out of my window in the morning while i rise as i would out of a port-hole of a ship in the atlantic. my room seems a ship's cabin; & at nights when i wake up & hear the wind shrieking, i almost fancy there is too much sail in the house, & i had better go on the roof and rig the chimney."

and again, at another season,

"in summer too, canute-like: sitting here, one is reminded of the sea. for not only do ground-swells roll the slanting grain, and little wavelets of the grass ripple over upon the low piazza, as their beach, and the blown down of dandelions is wafted like the spray, and the purple of the mountains is just the purple of the billows, and a still august noon broods upon the deep meadows, as a calm upon the line; but the vastness and the lonesomeness are so oceanic, and the silence and the sameness, too, that the first peep of a strange house, rising beyond the trees, is for all the world like spying, on the barbary coast, an unknown sail."

paul metcalf, quoting herman melville (his great grandfather), in genoa, 1965

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

music and image as an instantaneous process...

"performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles:

pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest.

turning over an hourglass and watching the sand slowly run through to the bottom.

placing your feet by the sand in the ocean's edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them."

text: steve reich's music as a gradual process.
images: first picture to come up in a google image search for each reich's 3 descriptions.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

more wind to listen to...

i was recently invited by the wire magazine to do a small web exclusive related to my recent book from dust to digital (i listen to the wind that obliterates my traces).

click here to see a few images that i received too late to add to the book, and several 78's from my collection that didn't make the cut for various reasons...

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

some fragments of an introduction...

"a remembered event is infinite, because it is merely a key to everything that happened before and after it."
w. benjamin

"he could find himself in the only environment in which he could live and enjoy the essence of things, that is to say, entirely outside of time"
m. proust

"the fairy in whose presence we are granted a wish is there for each of us. but few of us know how to remember the wish we have made; and so, few of us recognize its fulfillment later in our lives"
w. benjamin

"proust listens attentively for the echo of the past; benjamin listens for the first notes of a future which has meanwhile become the past"
peter szondi

"technology is the mastery not of nature but of the relationship between nature and man"
w. benjamin

bits from translator's forward and introduction to walter benjamin's berlin childhood around 1900, belknap press, harvard, 2006

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