Reviews, statements,press releases
The inaugural Apiary Sessions
“Dan Hayhurst is the aural half of celebrated optomusical agglomerate Sculpture, known for their tape loop experiments and zoetrope psychedelia. A rare solo performance from Dan finds him performing a mixture of techno inflected dancefloor mutations, aleatoric electronics & tape manipulations.
Spatial presents the second performance of his optisonic project Primitives since the debut at Cafe OTO last July. Primitives is a performance based project using custom made, home coded software to explore sonic and optical intensity articulated by simple geometric figures and extreme frequencies. Projected images drive a sensory assault, consumed by your eyes, then ears and existing somewhere between perceptions. Spatial will also DJ later on in the night.”
Imagine a deadly scenario in which the unfortunate protagonist has been led to a small motel room blindfolded; hazy smells of damp, rusted pipes, sweat, petrol, mortar, singed wires, overheated silicone and cocktails lingering in half remote lucid dream catatonia, the only clues but for flashes strobe-leaking their way through the optic-interrupting fabric. You shiver at the idea of another Eraserhead, “this cant be real” and “I am not a flayed lamb” run through your head randomly, like deep south folk song samples. You can nevertheless just about fathom crucial changes between dark and light, and colour coded pseudo formations. Then you realise you can guess what is out there in the vibrating penumbra, without having to open your eyes, because they have been open and free of any obstruction from the outset, some device implanted around teach eye ball having kept it so, Clockwork Orange style. Some neon sign must be flickering just outside a hypothetical window, while you try to interpret the location…no ordinary motel room. In fact it is a mock up, you have been taken down a noisy elevator that creeks, buzzes, and squeals as it agonises downward and as it does, some other sound begins to creep into the cochlea, the monotonous drone of a bass misguiding you further into the sonic labyrinth. The low tone spills out continuously, the sound of a massive boiler set in the very foundation of a factory where the engine is never turned off. It spews out smoke at regular intervals; it looks like the scene of a B movie, low budget horror show; fog suddenly invades the wonky set design. You guess there was never an outdoor, that daylight was just a giant neon fuzzing your synapses. You have no idea how long it has been since you admitted to yourself you were here rather than elsewhere. You sit on a cold concrete floor; you try to look relaxed in case some uninvited eye spots your discomfort. You are surrounded by shapes that look vaguely human. You are uncertain of your own origin. In front of you, a window…no something that looks out into nothing. But a black circle obstructs the view, a blackout in ‘real’ space.
Then it begins to dawn on you something aphysical, some kind of theoretical pun is trying to reach 3d status. Anemic Cinema by Marcel Duchamps becomes activated once more and triggers Catalog another experiment by John Whitney buried in the collective unconscious, and as art bubbles up like putrefied nutrient in the stomach of time, you reconnect with the discarded products of your self made food chain , and later, You think: why doesn’t somebody remove the black spot so you can tell what’ s what? But this is the weird wild world of semi reality, a web of intrigues lighting up the walls of your chamber of dreams, and you remember the dark queen in Barbarella; you long for those fake volutes of psychedelic bacchanalian inventions. You wonder why chains hang from the ceiling, a sense of paranoia insinuates itself as you become conscious of your ignorance. You think of Piranesi, of the immense halls filled with unnameable instruments of persuasion, a space of moral pragmatic expansion, below the surface of consciousness and perhaps they are there, awaiting someone like you, someone descending the ladder of evolution, irrevocably drawn to the deep sited primitive property of your nature. Were it to have a shape… you shrink away from the thought, a chimera sleeps coiled in the back of your mind dreaming of you. It whistles a familiar tune now a siren exhorting you to her bed of crustacean putti, you have already spent an hour…but then again, when did you last see the sky?
The black sun seems to talk, is it an alien form of life? It hovers, it remains absolutely still, an almost black circle orbited by luminous events and other circles of bright colour, dilating, contracting, shape shifting, vibrating. They are planets emitting distress calls as they fail to resist the infernal gravitational pull of this god of naught, omega, full stop. You wonder if it could be ending the illusion of perfection, an end in itself. You survey the higher planes and notice a circular shape made of matter. It is a mirror receiving and reverberating light beams from projectors. The light signals are sent into space hitting their target at maximum velocity. They carry the programmed manipulations by which the spectacle arrived. Now and then, the vapours filter out of a hole, a shadow intrudes briefly and releases it. Like an electric current, it searches for a conductor. The heat of your body, your breath and your heartbeat all play their part in the mutations of this frequency, the fractal phenomenon arising from the release. You stare at the hyper morphing sample surrounding you, you travel into inter-stellar oblivion, your eyes turn inward, your ears hurt. The pressure of outer space, a meta-terrestrial desolation, absorbs your senses until you reach cryogenic seizure, absolute frozen enlightenment in a mist of nitrogen. You become the heart of an atom, as spots of red, orange and yellow burst into flames or turn into dwarf stars. Some objects cool down and coagulate, others grow out of control, hiding behind the eternal face of a hollow idol, they also entice the traveller. But you are not moving.
Then in a new burst of mist, the circles break down, some other identity unveiled. The shadow has intervened once more and no one bats an eyelid. Innumerable eyes are wide open, reflecting the open field of the screen, the vista into artificial illumination. The shapes that first appeared static are adopting facets as their spherical state changes to a dodecahedron henceforth revealing the hidden motion of the object. You know these geometric entities are hungry for life; they are desperate to jump out of the flat plane of existence. Proteus, the super computer awakens in your mind as it had done in the mind of his maker. You shiver as you remember how once nothing but virtual information and digital interaction, the artificial thought process created its own body, a platonic solid imbued with qualities surpassing all others in the art of seductive colonisation; an instrument at once of reproduction and fatal execution. It revolved at supersonic speed, opened and shut like the claws of a mechanical crab with surgical precision, it bore holes in any material; the harbinger of man’s auto destruction; a non-living organism, immortal and pure, impregnator and murderer, yet the ultimate image of the androgynous whole at the end of days. Was Adam a soulless machine? You wonder. You admire its agility, its absurd beauty. But the objects on the wall will not produce any super human hybrid, you begin to relax, you begin to enjoy the illusion for what it is, and you immerse yourself in a scene that is after all only really in your head.
It is also true that having ben acquainted with numerous squat parties, this environment is not such a surprise, and quaint by comparison. You recall a particular stage covered in fake spider’ s webs and in the centre of a room, shining like Venus, the design of a tessaract, a cube within a cube, the axis around which the revellers sweated their ketamine dreams with the ease of angels while a painted tarantula looked over with the delight of the victorious predator. Why are you not standing up, moving to the dissonance? No one dares, all hostage of a concept. You and them, and each of you, all of us out of them. Now you are a circle on the retina of a mind, you are a black circular mirror resonating in the radio active belt of a comet, you are the fission process of an imploding neutron star, you are the sidereal motion of a cyber galaxy on the verge of collapse, you are an endless space trapped in an infinitesimal particle and you sit here in a gallery, imagining all this while a guy pushes a few buttons and the premeditated mobile designs entertain forty more of you, a faceless audience enjoying this ephemeral anonymity in the peaceful haven of neo soma-cultural experience. You get up and a brief exchange enters your mind. A man tells another before the ending of Cloud Atlas: “No matter what you do, it will never amount to anything more than a drop in a limitless ocean”. The other man answers “what is an ocean but a multitude of drops”. You wish to ask a different question: “what is a drop but another ocean?” This was just a demo. Time for the loop.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014
At Hand and Far Away, an exhibition of new work. Originating in the study of Hindu Temples whilst artist in residence at the International Institute of Fine Art, Modinagar, India in 2012, Silverman’s new paintings focus on the power of symbolic architectures and their exploration through the process of painting.
While in conversation with the artist, it was inevitable that, art history still in the making, contrary to postmodern epitaphs, certain names would be mentioned, primarily Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Paul Gauguin, Francis Bacon and Peter Doig. Since neither the individual, nor the artist is an island, it was no surprise the painter would acquiesce the references spanning a few centuries. These ancestors of ours wander in the conduits of collective consciousness, tracing the lines on the palm of a universal hand, itself pointing at the 13th hour, the element of surprise at the heart of this work. Jonathan would agree with Guston when the latter affirms it is illegal to understand the working out(of a painting) in time, intellectually. He is repelled by the possibility of cracking an age-old mystery, reducing it to a psychological act, or a logical hypothesis. The interesting thing about Guston was his U turn from abstract to figurative painting in 1967, for which his followers condemned him to eternal shame. On the other hand, Paul Gauguin, also a renegade abruptly left the cool solace of Europe ‘s art’s hub for the hot haven of the Pacific island of Tahiti where his days ended among works we now admire for their remarkable bluntness, their sculpted colour, their invention, although Gauguin had doubted in the validity of his own quest. Then there is Francis Bacon who sublimated a continuous desire for the ultimate pleasure, sharing his name with a philosopher whom Voltaire called the father of scientific method, our first empiricist, an antithesis of his 20th century alter ego of sorts, but also the writer of New Atlantis, a utopian novel surely based on pious fears of divine grilling for his uncouth attractions. Bacon, the artist was ferocious and merciless in his experimentations, stretching the form to its limit and breaking away from the consternation of applied observation, intently opening the way for a hybrid, abstract figuration or a figurative abstraction , depending on whether you see the glass half full or half empty. Lastly, Rothko, having pursued the last visible layers of self in the expanse of pure colour, and unable to sustain the pressure of his own untranslatable illumination, was swallowed in his entirety in the void he had invoked perhaps absolutely lucidly.
Jonathan has created temples from the verso. He is treading conscientiously as he lights a path thwarted by moral misconceptions, violent politics, and traditional booby traps, yet, his is a quasi spiritual endeavour, and like Turner painting the Houses of Parliament on fire, he is not making any social statement but imprinting our memory with the nuance of personal history touching the edge of a world, that for all its divine potency, remains in peril. And this we feel, as we let the traces of his journey penetrate the shadows of our stasis. We are immobile before these scenes, as they turn to skin, to bones, to meat, and to stone, yet, we ponder still, immersed in the lactose evanescence of contemplation.
The view is obstructed by a shape. It embodies Jonathan’s words about the organic, the sensual and the physical. Despite the evident exotic abundance of this apparition, I sense the truthful simplicity of Christ’s teaching, prior to the corruption of the Catholic Church. Incidentally, the prophet was said to have traveled to India and this would have altered his views on the culture he had been born into to the point of irrevocable conflict. The word made flesh is what I mean, and no specific faith can lay claim to this occurrence. In this image, we see the body desiring to reclaim the spirit. This edifice is a temple of flesh, and blood will flow in other worlds. We will encounter the warm syrupy vermillion throughout his series of images, the bloodline of the pilgrim in search of the authentic. We follow henceforth the initiatic steps of a painter who asks us: can the unknowable incandescence of divinity inhabit visceral truths, can they co exist? The medium of paint itself seems to fathom an answer. Here the architectural construct is understood as a body, more so, I see it as a severed head speaking of unspeakable lands, where no man has trod. The mouth is open and we witness the silence as we gaze into the oesophagus while standing at the base of a stairway. The steps are quasi absent; their substance appears to us as part of a diaphanous structure, the subterranean translucent glimpse of an entry into the entrails of wisdom.
Jonathan leads us inside the enigma of Shiva. This God is the most mysterious, his nature being far more complex than his brethren; destroyer and dancer in the hall of consciousness, he embraces the male and the female in his ‘oneneness’ while devouring ego to transmute all forms into the joyful energy of universal love. Of all the gods he is the ultimate unpredictable transformer, the stroke of inspiration, the accident, the blessing in disguise that attains its goal with the precision and speed of an arrow. The Himalayan Nandi is no longer a physical presence; its abode resides in the greys we find in vapours and clouds on the outset of dusk awaiting the glance of a poet. Yet, Nandi is the rock that supports the sky, the bull that carries the god. Vegetation pierces through and melts in the heat, in ways echoing Gustave Palmer and Paul Gauguin. Shadows are filled with the weight of Earth, blood spills into the sky that coagulates into flesh, and the stones become sublimated into an infinite shade of greys. A fire rages behind the sited figure in the doorway. We wonder if here lays a faith in doubt, or if another holly bush has burst into flames.As I review this journey, I move against the clock, but the tide is leading the eye according to the painter’s logic.
The Nizzamudin Tomb defies gravity. It is a celestial meeting point anchored in the phantasm leaking out of a zoom lens where forms, people and walls are distorted, giving an impression of optical illusionism. The black stripes that constitute an elegy to renaissance perspective reminiscent of St Mark’s body brought to Venice by Tintoretto are integrated into a game of cat and mouse on the pre-ordained board of rationality. Jonathan turns the notion of inner space and outer space inside out by shifting the composition out of the linear scale while exploiting it, as Vincent Van Gogh did in his own cataclysmic way to the horror of his contemporaries. Space on this plane of manifestation, the canvas, becomes a point of departure towards non-space, a state of quiet meditation. The dome harbours an alluvial alliance with the firmament where one cannot help noticing the sharp pale gold reflection of a setting sun on a minuscule cloud. One figure in the left hand corner looks eerie, almost alien, perhaps an old man leaving the last scene. Friday Dargah looks like an altered colour negative of the Nizzamudin. Is this an after image left on the retina after staring at it for hours?
Jonathan called Devi Jagadambi Temple the jelly. But I see the jelly mould too. Its plasticity contains the recurrence of corporeal (de)formation. It incorporates space while simultaneously inhabiting it. As the painter I once was, I recognise the love of pigment impregnating the oil medium, like a personality defining a face either wise expressionless. This union between transparent liquid and coloured dust is primeval. To make sense of the world, artists create new ones. Jonathan has captured the evanescence of the sky in perpetual motion adding some kind of slower substance to the combination, as if heavier molecules of air had crystallised in mid flight. He economises on detail. He is aware too much information contrives and hampers the clarity of our imagination
In The Ghat of Changes Jonathan takes a risk of a different order. Despite widespread knowledge of a Buddhist and Hindu tradition in our western society the symbol of the Swastika is inevitably associated with the advent of the 3d Reich leading to the second world war. Yet, seeing it upright and accompanied by the crucial four dots painted delicately on the side of a stairway points to C.G Jung’s analysis of this symbol. Jung saw it as a psychic quaternity, a design of dynamic wholeness, and in this he partly described the original meaning of this ideogram: auspiciousness, good fortune and well being. It was also associated to tantra, the creation of calendars and the image of the labyrinth amongst other things. It is once more ironic how easily we forget our ancestral language, on which our cultures are founded. The sign that was found as a carving from the late Palaeolithic period takes on a new life also because it has infiltrated the fabric of a place, thus relocated and re-contextualised, in a sense restored to its original potency and primordial potential. But this is the painter’s invention. The figures feel real. We know as Jonathan pointed out that these paintings were realised later in his London studio, from photos and drawings made on site. Yet the paintings feel more present, more there. How can this be? This painter demonstrates the power of the emotional content of memory giving rise to a variant of reality. Nevertheless on close inspection, he plays optical tricks as part of a game of ironies.
To the far right, an orange background seems to have been left unfinished, the original veil of time in the unfolding scheme of creation. The colour is not a coincidence, orange is the colour of the second chakra and reoccurs in several works (but no deliberate symbolism is at work, this is an intuitive response), yet his use of primaries is the more intriguing for the way in which he subdues their primal intensity with a sensitive and strategic placing of secondary and complementary hues. There is green, a formidable conveyer of natural force, of birth, of floral immersion, but Jonathan keeps it in check, it is sparse and calculated, a corner event, essential and succinct. Green is the colour of the heart chakra. Temples are places of worship and the heart features, but not as an open wound, as a romantic instance or a personal token. It is evanescent and omnipresent. In this work, it resides in the left corner while orange resides in the bottom right corner. A strategic spiritual annotation, perhaps not, but I get a new sense of what a painting can be, a map extending not only on the surface but in the degrees of colour and tone. A depth is created that relies on tactical points of reference usually hidden from the viewer. Were there a didactic intent, the spell would vanish.
I end my journey with The Jain Temple, an embodiment of the idea of worship. We view it from the standpoint of a devotee. The pure sensuality of this vision, approached more closely in Sand Stone Figures is entrancing. Jonathan explained that in order to emphasise the material presence of the temple, the only way was to contradict painterly representational rules and in place of say dark purple for shadows and interstices, use Sienna brown. Further more, details are submerged by impression. What we are left with is the sensation of a place, an atmosphere in a shape that we somehow recognise as an architectural form. Green has become darker, deep olive shades on each side of the elongated dome that stretches to the zenith, as if pushing against the limit of the frame. It is still growing like an organism; the sculpture of a prayer lifting the mind into the celestial realm while retaining full consciousness of its material vehicle. I purposely did not read Jonathan Silverman’s statement until now and having written this review can attest to the veracity of his words and the realisation of his thinking. This is surely proof painting will always be with us, and will outlive our age of cyber politics. Because what is at stake is what the alchemists called the great work, art being a crucial recipient of this process. Jonathan indeed is working it out for real.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014
Jonathan Silverman at Serena Morton’s gallery, Ladbroke Grove, London
The Mystic 8 Ball, a show of Joe Skilton’s work:
Better Not Tell You Now
at Doomed Gallery
Review by Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
Joe Skilton is mad about ‘print’. What does it mean in an age where paper is only good enough for toilets and MacDonald napkins? Joe sees his work in this medium. He wants to push it out of orbit, out of the downsizing of walled up neutral ground into the realm of life size, the outer limit of visuality, and even off the wall, leaving the book format and the predictable white cube behind. He sees it as being, in his own words, “below the radar”. That’s where super jets fly to avoid enemy detection.
It starts with the unavoidable web presence, basic and informative, to attract the bulk of the audience. He is after all also the editor of Blood of the Young Zine, an internet mag. It is not about the images, but more to do with how people react to them. And what do photos say on face book or anywhere else anyway? But all pictures of us tell something about us, whether we like it or not. This is the untold story…not that there is one…. In this case, the Russian roulette is put in action, anything goes, it could be you, it probably wont, it was taken yesterday, or 4 years ago, you forgot who took it…but these are taken by one dedicated traveller. This is a bet or an accident. Joe wants to take the decisive moment out of it, this is what he says. And it almost happens…but you still have to make a decision. This is random!
So, how random can it be, now we have to experience randomness in the confined space of a doomed volume, the eponymous gallery!? “They are a one way ticket”, Joe says. Most people would agree at face value, with no thought attached to the object other than a fresh take on old fashioned cynicism…not really! Let’ s not forget this is an invention, that it could be easy to mistake for an auto biographical display. It is however a fragmented kind of bio, he admits this, how else could it be? Joe is there, the focus of his attention is there, tagging the empty space. It could also be an accidental encroachment on the serenity of meaninglessness by the affirmation of a random mutation, itself the product of a coincidental derivation outside our social understanding of meaning to re-appropriate the post-modern socio-pathological obsession for the void, the death of authorship, the compulsive cannibalism demonstrated in the presence of an original. But once again, Joe plays around with opposite possibilities.
The images are grouped….and this is not as random as it seems. In fact, the sense of aesthetics is astute. A skeleton in one image points to a girl about to scream in a different image…or is she yarning, or trying not to throw up? Below, an image of a narrow street…In another group, two hands hold on to a triangular magic wand, a pale Bull Terrier walks by a Bull Terrier, a hand picks a strawberry from a cake tin?, a text says “ the next rainy day will be lucky for you”, a quote from the 8 ball? …somehow, we can make sense of it, because no matter what, we will see a meaning even where there is none. This reminds me of a visual painterly exercise we were given in Art school. Paint a page in two complementary colours. Then look at it. The chances are, you will detect a spatial dimension due to the relationship of one colour to the other. It creates an illusion of depth where there is only one plane covered in two hues. Our mind adapts and re adjusts. We do this with everything. And our subjective apprehension is what imbues life with meaning, not history, theory, or morality.
A third group shows a clock and a barometer stuck between one vertical tattooed arm and another arm, this time horizontal…yes, there is rhythm too, a cadence , I would even say, a meter in this assemblage of clusters of life pinned or stuck haphazardly, but not. It is orchestrated pretty acutely.
All these photos were taken with out of date Fuji films Joe bought at an auction. A whole trolley of them.
But this work demands and offers a solution to the stagnancy of linear ‘vernissages’, to the viscous spread of first Thursday circuit elitist gossip. It digs its flat rubber heels into some Baudrillard, no less than “The ecstasy of Communication”, to verify and substantiate despite the fact of its inherent accidentality. We cannot analyse the meaning of a chicken bone stuck in a dog’s oesophagus without feeling overwhelmed with a sense of pointlessness. Why is this picture connected to that one?…and here, Joe makes use of a design trick we have seen countless times in reviews and magazines and on the net, targeting ATDS generations, and in the same breath, making an ironic comment at didactic enterprises now plaguing museum exhibitions for special need population, most of us coming under that rubric apparently from an institutional perspective. This is unusual of course, most galleries would hesitate in letting a new kid on the block scribbling on their pristine surfaces with markers, words drifting in and out of the frames, that is, the unframed photos scattered in the incidental ’context’. Joe has a quasi endless collection of photos on http://joewebs.tumblr.com/ collection . This is really where it’s at. You drift down and muse at a life in the making. It is the same in Doomed now, with arrows pointing to the next picture, writing on the white paint, graffiti and cellar tape, as if he had recreated his bedroom wall, and the next itinerary for a major trip…somewhere.
What we can notice, also looking at images like the large black and white poetic looking scenes of sea -scape and dark tunnel with light at the end, on zip posters, is the care in not caring for the printing outcome, the paper quality…the smooth glossy digital final product our age is compulsive about. Doomed Gallery is just the place for it, a place to perform some DIY a la Punk! This contradiction sits at the heart of Joe s work. He shoots on film! He handles a real camera. He pays for the materials. He gets it printed at Boots for example. He does the footwork and the research. He lives and learns and shares it. In the end, the image is shown in the lower spectrum of display and presentation, on cheap paper, in batch printing. Sometimes it works beautifully, sometimes it fails. And when it fails, it is better for it. Because as Joe Skilton reminds us quoting Robert Adams( Why people photograph), “smart is okay, but lucky is better”.
He asks us several questions, one being: “Why is form beautiful?” And presentation being everything( in gist), we can expect theorists will savour their next opus on the problem addressed. For example: Why is the work on the wall? Why do we want to know why it is on the wall? And is the wall as important as the work on the wall?…besides these questions, one resonates deeper…”Why do we want to know the future? His weather forecast woman is a point in case. Do we use photographic images as maps, like satnav technology, with the voice of the oracle telling us the way forward, how we should feel at the next cross road etc? But we had agreed this is a one way ticket, and nothing comes out of nothing, which means precisely not much more than what has just been said. When we stand in front of a photo, do we expect an answer? Is it an expectation or is it the result of a primitive urge to find a sign in every piece of garbage that falls in our path by pure chance?
This is not to criticise the work, on the contrary. It is tongue in cheek. This work is after all a pseudo-domesticated intervention on the sluggish establishment of the art world, the kind that ruffles a few feathers in the luxurious sugar cages of the Frieze fair, I’ d call the frozen fair or the half bitten mouldy half baked pie that releases endless streams of rancid air, (f)art (f)air. A better name for it.
So, all in all, this is a good rant, a good little kick up the flaccid oily arse of the institution of so called contemporary art and Doomed Gallery caught this golden 8 ball opportunity to demonstrate its position.
But why should we know anything about a project based on the denial of meaning? I guess we want to know something, how it came about physically, how it was made, how it was assembled…our hunger for ‘hows’ is greater when we get squashed in a cold room with a mass of intruders nosing into our own private circle, holding a beer in one hand and …is this an Iphone? Take if of my face.
How did that get there? Watch out mate…this is my hand under your filthy boot! Couldn’t you see I was picking up my price list off the floor?
And that’s what this show is about, a set of incongruous chance encounters with something we may not want to know. What of the mystic 8 ball, do we really need it? I heard later some twat smuggled out the magic trick in his hat. This of course is only a story. Doomed Gallery will have plenty more to tell.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2013
A Narrative of Objects
Objects lie still; we know this from a phenomenological standpoint, until we move them. In this work, the possibility arises for the viewer to place him/herself in the house of an object, the house being the photograph, to arrest the motion of the eye and reflect. Where is the object? What is it? What is it made of? What is behind it? Who does it belong to? Where was it before someone put it there? Will it stay there? … The viewer perceives a story the object is hiding within its concave opacity. It is the oracle still obscured by the mundane, tilting on revelation. What language does it speak? Why do we reminisce as we become ensnared in the charm of the secretive form that despite having a contour will not yield all its significance to the public eye? It should be simple, it is trapped in a frame, it is embedded in the chemistry of the image, it is static and mute. It is our prey, humbled, and apparently recognizable.
There is a definite revolt against abstraction. The object sits as a figure, in many guises, playing a part in the amphitheatre of our gaze. But here, the photographer has travelled inside the life of the object, to follow the thread of a narrative. Each object can be a phrase, a verse, punctuation, a word in this story. May be a single letter, a sound that leads to the sense of a place rather than the function of a thing. In certain ancient civilisations, objects were recreated as miniature versions, sculptures of the originals to accompany the deceased on their journey beyond functional interaction. These were therefore not usable by common mortals, but symbols of a relationship between one form of existence and another.
The objects I suggest in this work are similar. The context of their utility and previous meaning has dissolved in the past but they have gained the position assigned to amulets such as Ushabti in Egypt, also known as answerers, tiny replicas of the buried bodies, guarding the necropolis of the photograph until the stillness of an audience exhorts a spell, a narrative, not of nostalgia but of immanence “existing or remaining within” as Deleuze put it, deriving the idea from Spinoza’ s “single substance”. The object therein, despite having no physical form, is in fact complete within its inaccessible realm; it has become a new substance. A substance through photographic emulsion added to paper or any other chosen medium. As it was the case with Egyptian books of the dead, the images are based on a personal vision, a private moment, the reality of life on Earth. They do not speak of a remote ideal.
I have extracted them from several projects, such as, Le Monde de la Chose where a collection of personal souvenirs has been placed on a micro theatre stage, Metapocryphal Chimera where ancient stone beasts have become embedded in the sense of modern apocalypse…in colour, black and white, digital or analogue. There are no restrictions imposed on the presentation. The internal wordless narrative alters the context. The object is the photograph; the photograph and the object are one.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
Emergence/immersion, mnemonic city
About the Magma collective multi gallery project 2012
visual/sound digital multi media event
Emergence/immersion, mnemonic city
About the Magma collective multi gallery project 2012
visual/sound digital multi media event
According to Aristotle The Plot of a tragedy is immitative of an action while character retains a secondary position. Order, appearance and magnitude will follow logically. We see that such a model would leave no room for evolution other than technical amendments. The scope of psychological enquiry having increased through the ages, we now must observe new forms of theatre have emerged as off shoots of conceptual art and interventions: Dan Graham wrote “the culture in the 60s was about immediacy and presentness. The present was detached from historical time. It was thought that one was to experiment in the here and now: thus life was a perceptual experience… it wanted to not have a lasting material existence, but to exist only as a catalyst, to change and help to deconstruct or to destroy existing material, established icons.” (Two-way Mirror Power selected writings by Dan Graham on his art). The catalytic nature of contemporary performance is based on the intense acitvation of the mental space existing between the audience and the actor/performer/artist who will enact in a sense the background imagery of a definite collective consciousness, that is, determined by the plot and the cultural language chosen by the artist. This space is almost literally electrified, in the case of Magma. We can speak of a galvanisation of memory and the imaginary.
In his book, Creative Evolution, Bergson analises the principle of the “Elan vital”, one could equate to the “will to Power”, from a Nietzschean perspective, or to Prana, an aspect of Cosmic energy in Hinduism, one of five “organs of vitality” constituting our living being, each an essential sense without which our connection to the world and other human beings would be impossible. He “addresses the question of self-organisation and spontaneous morphogenesis of things”(consider ‘morpho’ as a constituent of ‘epistemological being’, not as biological being). This appears to relates to “ a body without organs” in Deleuze’ s work, derived from Antonin Artaud’ s radio play “To Have Done with the Judgement of God”, the term initially refers to the “virtual” dimension of the body. “In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari say: “The body without organs is an egg: it is criss-crossed with axes and thresholds, with latitudes and longitudes and geodesic lines, traversed by gradients marking the transitions and the becoming, the destinations of the subject developing along these particular vectors.” This is the potential/virtual body of what they(Deleuze and Guattari ) call “Phase Space””. The nature of performance is intricately linked to this conjunction of natures by which disparate physical and emotional organized elements construct an image, a common space which becomes an internal metropolis of sensations, a ‘Mnemopolis’, city of remembrance, where ‘anasubstantial’ interconnections take form and language turns back into a primordial sign. The character of the environment thus reflects the development of the rapport established between the phenomenological process taking place ‘on stage’ and the perceptual response of the members of the public ‘off-stage’ in which these very ‘on/off’ dividing rules become interchangeable and indistinguishable. “Morphogenesis” in this case is also the by product of flux, that is the experiential duration of the art or the “subjective experience of time” to follow Henri Bergson’ s hypothesis. At no.w.here , a film studio/workshop in London, curator Maxa Zoller hosted a seminar on what she names “ the cinematic body”. She affirms that“ In the last decade film and video installation art has produced a new set of critical ideas about our attraction to immersive film environments and the desire to experience the engulfing quality of virtual reality…”.
In this project, the fundamental principles of an ancient form of creative expression are evident. We may speak of a nascent shamanistic culture through which any given space becomes a cave, an alembic that will contain a moment of illumination, and as the participants pointed out, a mirror of the outer city itself, beginning with London. It is Orphic in nature, in the way of an oracle. This is not a deliberate aim but the result of an organic communion of ideas and their ramified manifestations among the performers whose devices interact electrically and electronically during the show. From the concept of the city, Magma moves to the concept of the cave and in doing so triggers a descent rather than an ascent, in correlation with a process C.G Jung called “involution”. Once more, the cave opens to show the dark motions of the mind traversing territories of ancestral memory having embarked on the ghost ship of mythology.
Orpheus himself embodies a tragic journey into the unconscious, his demons are not comprehended, only charmed; his soul personified by Eurydice succumbs to the second death as he denies the gods of the underworld by inventing a virtual copy of his experience, the music acting as a camouflage vehicle saving him from a sensory impact. Thus there is no revelation, his head is severed, in effect rendering all experience obsolete, prefiguring the dilemma of 21st century hominid, whose presence is rent asunder by the age old divide Reason/Nature, his body torn apart, a fragmentation equated to that of the modern personality, split into multi-personas but also into a world of multi-functionalities where focus is lost as much as identity for the sake of uninterrupted integration into the societal system. Finally, his psyche swallowed by the shadows is reflected in the alienation of the singular mind into the innumerable patterns created by digital networks. In this myth we find an echo of Plato’s cave, although Plato does not imply a tragic ending but merely makes a philosophical observation without definite conclusion. The metaphor has gained more relevance as the layers of human existence have accumulated. There is a chain of events based on a hierarchy no longer determined by external agents such as the gods, for in this place of perdition, mankind alone must decide its fate. God indeed is not a guiding principle, nature is no longer a distant notion or a well of resources, it is a womb and a stomach all at once, an egg expanding with the power of the gaze, and Plato implies that the eye of the mind ( the philosopher’s eye)can comprehend the light outside the cave, the glow from telluric flames only symbolising a state of semi consciousness where shadows become more palpable than reality.
The cave has also been associated with the labyrinth, or the centre of the maze, the place where one meets their destiny or falls into a state of utter forgetfulness. One cannot escape the Labyrinth, one can only dream of escape, and this is precisely where the solution might reside or arise, for the labyrinth is a dream; it epitomises a psychic reality in whose theatre all of our complexes are played out. Malpertuis (Maleperduis or Maupertuis, place of evil but also place of the forlorn), written by Jean Ray, is such a place, the name of an ancient house covers a world of intricate passages and insoluble situations, the product of one mind, its owner whose death seals a testament to which his descendants are bound until their last breath. In this labyrinth, the gods of Olympe have been sequestrated, their essence entrapped within the body, moreso “inside the skins” of common mortals. Stairs in particular stretch from impossible heights to cavernous depths. Groteque characters conspire with monstruous shadows. The players must remain to discover why they cannot leave. This discovery however is not salutary but the crowning of a sentence. Essentially, the characters cannot find an exit to a place which does not really exist, and furthermore, none of them realise the extent of their affiliation with the deceased patriarch until their own fate is administered with the relentless precision and punctuality of a clock. It can be surmised they are all in fact aspects of his own depraved soul, all but Jan ( in the eponymous movie by Harry Kumel), whose purity ressembles that of ‘the son of god’, a tragic resemblance pushed to its logical conclusion. Here, the story of Plato’s cave takes on a Shakespearean tone imbuing the faceless penitents with personal characteristics, a past, aspirations and intentions. There is no real opposition between good and evil; no real possibility of a world outside of Malperduis exists. The cave in this sense is a living nightmare without end, in fact, it is an inferno.
Magma’s own artistic evolution defies Plato’s argument, since the work at hand affords the audience a form of knowledge through sensation rather than through the exposition of form as an idea to be unravelled by the intellect. Magma in this set of scenes, on screen and in space, through sound and visual interrogative realisations, creates a dramatic interlude from an eschatological condition. Yet, the cave can become the source of vision itself, no longer filled with projections of latent fears mingled with soporific illusions, it can resound with instants of truth, it can become the place of creation itself as Isabel Hilton describes in The Search for the Panchen Lama.: “Lhamo Latso . . .in Tibet [is] a brilliant azure jewel set in a ring of grey mountains. The elevation and the surrounding peaks combine to give it a highly changeable climate, and the continuous passage of cloud and wind creates a constantly moving pattern on the surface of the waters. On that surface visions appear to those who seek them in the right frame of mind.” The electrified chamber Magma engineers shows us how the cave can transmute into a lake, the retina of an interior gaze remembering a history in the making, a parallel story, putting an emphasis on the transmutation of the meaning of this word, i.e. how what is purported to have been seen can become a fiction, and how this fiction can be the direct result of an experience leading to a new kind of perception, in which case we could call this spectacle ‘Histerautopsy’, a narrative founded on what has been sensed in real time, not by proxy, on what has been sensed in real space not with remote viewing. From this position, the artist and the viewer can be said to fulfil a new part in the context of the phenomenological universe, that is, a “proprioceptive” (“one’s own perception” )state, not only in relation to the physical body but to the spatial projection of the body, and as such we can deduce space and time no longer reside outside our vital perimeters but constitute an essential body intertwined with our own, a natural antidote to virtual amalgamation. What needs to be noted is the irony of this inversion, that is, how artists by integrating digital mediums into a complex set of creative expressions disable the homogenic apparatus of the state, such works alluding ‘regular’ incorporation. What marks out this new ‘insurgence’ is not a political direction but a metaphysical impulse within the shell of a philosophical dialogue. We are no longer staring blankly at a shallow pond, this ship is taking us to the ocean…”for those with the right frame of mind”.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012 2
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
REVIEW OF EACH PERFORMANCE
22D SEPT 2012
The Magma collective visual/audio/live performance finally arrives with MnemonicCity at Doomed Gallery.
The event opens with Roberto Crippa, sound artist, composer and improviser, Electroacoustic Improvisation.
The artist stands behind the mixing deck like a musician throwing spells at a machine that seems to contain the last microwaves from the big bang, reaching us, the audience through his finger tips. Beside the electric apparatus, and plugged into it lay a harmonium which now and then Roberto presses and extends, like a lung inspiring and expiring inhuman plaintive notes. As intriguing is the use he makes of a metallic plate, pushing, turning and disturbing its equanimity, a trivial object out of context, claiming the position of a musical instrument, but then perhaps it is, and sending waves of gaseous white noise, to confuse the assemblage of signals already emitted into the air filled by the silence of the audience. It is loud yet never cacophonic, surprisingly seductive, simply because of an overwhelming sense of submersion into the secrecy of an incomprehensible sound. We are not outside of it. I could imagine a trip in an alien space ship generating a similar experience.
Ines Von Bonhorst, director and Yuri Pirondi, cinematography, invite us to their performance/video screening The Guise accompanied by music duo, musician Mauricio Velasierra, singer Heidi Heidelberg, in the garden. It is already dark and as we gather, the flutist and the singer/sound artist have already begun. A woman, performer Sofia Figueiredo is entangled in a set of strings attached to the branches of a dead tree, she stretches them to the limit and in so doing also stretches her life line up to the point of breathless extenuation. This is reflected in the strident effusions of the flutist and the pseudo screams of the singer, who both have become the ectoplasmic voice of the prisoner. For this is what she is and those elastics to my mind symbolise the rules of the outside world imposed on her freedom, subjugating her flow, restraining each movement, and never allowing her enough space or time to speak out; but it is also a sign that her existence is intricately linked to nature, this dead tree, a tragic embodiment of our own nature escaping from itself, yet incapable of subsistence in complete loneliness. She speaks only through her body, the momentum receding, and forwarding, yet with no real progress, an illusion of change, of hope even. She is Sisyphus. And we have become the mountains surrounding this human being, like gods turned to rock. We observe the pain without emotion for to us, this is mere entertainment; a possible interpretation. The separation between the eye of the public and the woman who falls before us is vast, despite her physical self manifesting among us and dragging itself confusingly on the ground rolled into a dark shrine, inhumed in mental alienation.
Insights Allein, a mime act in which we find the protagonist shrouded, waiting for a sign. Riccardo Atanasio is prostrated before what looks like a shrine covered by a membrane of cellophane. He contorts himself out of his second skin and soon rips the membrane which he wraps around himself. Left there on the floor are a spade and a transparent head made of glass or Perspex. He picks both of them up and makes his way to the exit, disappearing through the door into the dark. We follow him with our gaze and soon, each of us walk out into the dark to find out what happened. We follow the pipe piper into the garden. He is mute, but his gestures are telling the story. He hits the earth with the shovel, digs a hole in the ground, stops, looks around and quietly picks the head he has enveloped in the cellophane, to place it in the hole and finally, without ceremony, buries it. He stands still. He carries this stillness within. We wonder. It is an ending. Ricardo’s main body of work also includes graffiti art and poetry, music and painting.
Adolfo Healer puts his helmet on, reversing the title: A Cave in the Head, a square box painted with geometric shapes that will soon move, distorted on the screen, and launches the live projection. He is acting as if possessed, his accomplice also under the spell of some disjointed automated pulse. Images appear, geomantic allusions, intruding on the angular order of one another, with saturated stripes, bleached out lines crossing the straight and regular trajectory of their neighbouring figures. The chaos of mathematics is released in the mind of Healer by electronic magic, reverberated on the wall for all to ponder while sounds are extracted out of entropic objects, his accomplice, musician Cementimental brutalises with a passion. They dismantle physical truths with improbable solutions made out of a symbiosis between unpredicted sound waves colliding with one another and de-calculated forms, flattened, stretched, inverted, reversing the brain lobes of the population watching transfixed this metaphysical experiment.
The artist hidden in the box is Jaime Valtierra, a multi media painter, who expresses his deeper philosophical questions through inventive electronic constructs as much as through traditional oil paint. He ends the event suddenly, almost unexpectedly.
The Outside Puppets trio (before the last performance) begins with a lesson of what seems like a mixture of religious doctrine, phonetics and body language.
The great teacher is impatient with the two young puppet students who keep scratching their heads as the master shouts out his wisdom. He is certain of his message, no matter how incoherent it sounds to everyone else.
2 more characters are brought on the stage in succession as the other three hide backstage.
Incredibly eerie and expressive, both are hooded and play their part alone. The hood is suddenly pulled back to reveal a face that looks horrified, astonished and perplex all at once, the eyes wide open like those of victims in horror movies, yet a mouth turned into a rictus proper to the psycho about to achieve his end. This face/mask is the recipient of a complex balance of emotions that fit each act equally well. We believe it. It is scared, trembling before the unknown, then it is horrified, then disgusted, then mocking…we are taken on a hell ride through the deep psychological transformations of these ‘creatures’ risen from the shadows of the collective unconscious. When both stand side by side, they engage in a discussion about the audience and laugh at us; a brilliant inversion of roles.
In fact, the puppeteers are a collective of multi disciplinary artists, (and so are most of the artists involved in the Mnemonic City event), who believe in the cathartic value of their work with good cause. One of their events advertised on their site called “The Thinker” is introduced thus: “If you accept the shadow…then you can reclaim the light”.
The Entire show, echoing memories of Commedia dell‘Arte, an experiential exploration of the Myth of the cave by Plato, organized by the Magma collective and Doomed Gallery was founded on this principle…to reveal and expand the deeper psyche through the liberation of visual poetic and philosophical creativity; a principle gallery founder Ken Flaherty, and curator Pascal Ancel Bartholdi are applying in their choice of artists and their own work. This therefore could only lead to a fruitful collaboration the result of which was a magnificent spectacle that will now travel to main cities in Europe beginning with Madrid.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
Nothing will come of nothing speak Again
A theatrical collaborative project produced
by Charlotte Law and Jonny Liron
22d August 2012,Situation Room, Fountayn Road,London
“…is it not better abort than barren?…saying again”…so goes Samuel Beckett’s verse in his poem Cascando(1936). And here both Artaud and Cage would agree, or would they? ‘Barren’ can entail silence, it is a desert, a potential unfulfilled and some would affirm, impregnable. Nothing comes of nothing…other than chance. In Krapp’s last tape, by Samuel Beckett, the character is alienated from the public by a single device: a tape recorder to which he incessantly comes back. It is a destructive compulsion. A life backwards, as he rewinds, plays back and entraps himself in this shrinking loop. We listen to his monologue and still wonder, as we believe his person, did he make up the other one?
The audience is ushered into the situation room. We enter the stage unsuspectingly. The wheel of destiny has been stretched on the ground, a circle of signs, the I ching resounds through the playing field of a stage unsettled rather than set, a system of psychological divination that John cage included in his musicology. It seems to revolve in slow motion around the electric bulb, releasing a pattern that cannot be deciphered by the living. Above hangs a hammock made out of thick cardboard tubes that look like a flexible pan flute, it is held up by the counterbalancing weight of a red wheelbarrow. The object brings to my mind, by the tricky games of free association, the visual concepts concocted by William Burroughs, a symbol for the beat generation along Timothy Leary who wrote in the book The Psychedelic Experience “A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions, and of the ego or identity.” On the hammock sits a figure bare chest, his face painted white. He is an oracle that suffers from unpredictable interferences, all of which compete for exposure. The man, a floating Pierrot speaks and forgets. He turns in his sleep, wakes, closes his eyes, glares at the light, asks a question “you write music or would you…” as he locks eye with me, and as suddenly disappears mentally from this impossible connection…” “touched by the emanation of emotional thought”. On each side of the central light, Charlotte Law has placed a curious object, each lame, useless, partially destroyed. One is a broken mirror. The other, the curvy leg of an antic table, reminds me of a similar piece of furniture that had been thrown on the street a few days prior to the event. I recalled one of its legs was missing. An uncanny
‘Ghost in the Machine’ was a term first heard in 1949 coined by the philosopher Gilbert Ryle as a sarcastic reaction to fear of inhuman intrusions ravaging our inner life. This spectre would nevertheless become manifest in the re emergence, in the early 20th century of a certain Romanesque spirit, where organic movement, chimera and the grotesque, Saturnial impulses and the cult of harlequin would mount a resistance to “the age of mechanical reproduction”(Walter Benjamin) . Later in 1961, Marcel Duchamp who had been a fervent participator in this resistance concluded at a talk in Philadelphia:”The great artist of tomorrow will go underground.” This affirmation however could not be more relevant today. We should remember that art is alive within a great ecology of culture; a cyclical evolution also governs its migrations. Roland Barthes pointed out in his book Camera Lucida : ” History is hysterical: it is constituted only if we consider it, only if we look at it-and in order to look at it, we must be excluded from it. As a living soul, I am the very contrary of History, I am what belies it, destroys it for the sake of my own history.” This describes quite vehemently the condition of the ‘sub-cultural’ artist. And this condition was exemplified in the theatrical performance at the Situation Room.
”why do I write music” asks John Cage, and ‘sound’ is the answer, echoing the ‘voice of a scream’ Artaud was intent on liberating from the fashionable milieu of artistic etiquette. The protagonist here is using air, space and light to exorcise the silence in which the scream is perpetually sequestrated, distorted, extended in the realm of breath, struggling live against the extinction of vocal emotive power. Yet, Johnny Liron extracts the sound out of every motion, every limitation of motion. He vacillates precariously above an abyss, and his eyes stare as if into the enormity of the void, perhaps the dark liquids of an ancient ocean, the manifestation of a mind revolving on its own core of lead and sulphur, an alchemical instance. According to certain quantum theorists, we must now look at antique thoughts depicting the universe as a living coherent entity. According to the idea of ‘noetics'(to perceive with the mind) based on nous(mind), traces of a connection between present particles and the supposed big bang from which we all derive are beginning to be detected. It means, each molecule, each sub atomic particle knows every other, thus behaves non randomly but according to this ‘inner’ knowledge, this also implying an action or a thought will affect the very nature of the field we interact with and more specifically, will interact with distant objects with which we share a past. The actor and the public are interwoven in their intentions, anticipations and apprehensions. In his floating ship wreck, the forlorn character of the play battles with his memory and the possibility of a future elsewhere. This future is metaphysical in the sense that as a potential value, its only access is through a process of imaginary recapitulation. Who is this man? Who or what has he been? Is he only a man, or is it a child, an exotic object? Why is he suspended in mid air ? Who is he talking to? To himself? The harsh lighting of a single bulb flays him when he approaches it like a moth, his face almost a blank, yet, reverberating an emotional narrative, to no one and every one. He swings, an ape above the lions, a grin of satisfaction, then as suddenly, his eyes become obscure pools, he trembles, he pivots, and belongs for a moment to yet another dimension. But he is a prisoner.
Like Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola, he knows the shape of his destiny in the arrival and mission of his assassin (the shadow)(or the public eye), and wills its accomplishment. The hero is not a hero; he seems to reign from the depth of a cave, his mind impregnating the walls of his enclosure. When he finally addresses the Captain whose motives begin to elude him, Kurtz engages us all in his monologue, from the edge of a world inhabited by no one, that is, by a ghost who despairs in finding peace. For our anti hero, the voice of Artaud’s words and the spatial expression of Cage, mortality is not an issue, but as in the case of Kurtz, his soul is the goal. The expression of this soul is problematic since the soul is associated to the moon and nature, an element of revolt and a crater of insanity. “Space action, time action”, caught in the phrase, uncertain of the difference between time and space…because there seems to be none after all. The tempo brakes into a cataract fall, the monologue turns into a dialogue into which we are implicated, still we remain excluded. In this epitome of insanity, we discern the product then of metaphysical solipsism, a state in which the sole existing principle is or resides in the self outside of which no world is coherent and all worlds by logical extension become a manifestation of the self, although this does not guaranty it will resemble us. This insanity is human; furthermore, we cannot be human without it. “the void was already within me”, “I no longer want to be one of the deluded”, “perhaps we would say we are going mad-we are certainly aimless”…”Schoenberg’s method is analogous to a society in which the emphasis is on the group and the integration of the individual in the group”…the contradiction of those phrases reveal the nature of the paradox in which human society immobilises the spirit of individual revolution. We are consumed by the comfort of anonymity, by the uniformity of our habitual environments while we hunger for freedom, for distinction and solitary fulfilment.
The character is also close to ZarathustrafromThus Spoke Zarathustra A Book for All and None by Friedrich Nietzsche. The ascetic delivers truth from his isolated sphere, and denies morality as much as the cause of it by claiming “god is dead”. He represents the anamnesis aspect in the sense of the decent of the soul to earth but also denotes a remembrance that reaches beyond perceptual knowledge, pre birth, the birth into reality. Here, truth as a living form is placed above dogma and idealism, a comparison Nietzsche would however probably abhor since it also suggests the body as a guilty element to be purified by reason and quintessence. “Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.” Nonetheless, katharsis through sensory memory lies at the heart of Artaud’s theatre and animates the theoretical core of Cage’s work in so far as it pushes the boundaries of experience as an epiphanic spectacle, finding and cleansing a channel between the outer realm of the senses and the source of emotion. The Pierrot, the foul summons his incarnations from his febrile throne of straws. The Naked god, Ubu Roi stands up and hangs, his head up side down, in the corner of the universe, like the lost demiurge painted by Hieronymus Bosch in his panel painting the Third Day of Creation. Ubu sprang to life as a mere puppet, and the actor seems to lose control of his body as if a puppeteer had left the strings dangling in a moment of oblivion to remember abruptly and lift the limbs into action in a disorderly manner. It is burlesque and Ubu is present in as far as one must confront the absurdity of his egocentric procrastinations and his absolute autistic containment.
We arrive thus at a point in the play-performance where the actor has integrated an intricate series of characters all of which emerge and dissolve with the tide of his enactment which is re enacted several times in one show. There is therefore no focus, no designated personification; we are presented with multiple personality disorder where one character will subside below the weight of another with no recollection…and we watch the nightmare unfold, although our protagonist unites all of them in his temporal peregrination with maturity and grace. He swims between them, disentangles them, dissects them, immolates them. He is all of them as he recovers from an epileptic feat, or as he drowns into slumber, as he stands upright in empty space or as he lights up, and we believe him as we watch each one unravel their incomplete story… “When I got there I explained it had all been a mistake”…And there, Jonny Liron adds in a way and at a particular pace I found particularly moving, just once, “you don’t believe me”, not really posed as a question but a terrible revelation of his status, of the entire social structure in the grip of which his personal version of the story had lost all credibility and meant nothing.
A body without organ in a Thousand Plateaux by Deleuze and Guattari presents the ‘corporeal’ as a series of phases or a phrase that will continue to extend beyond the condition of oppression it describes; a string where bids have been collated some sealed by heat and cumulating of dirt. This body is what Artaud would call the scatological form of primal being, along the ideas formulated by Alfred Jarry in Ubu Roi. Artaud also asks “of certain terrible microbes-which are-other human bodies. Where are they?” As if any eye could locate them, these figments of atrophied conscience. In The Theatre of Cruelty Artaud states: “But the demon’s world is absent. It will never meet with evidence. The best way to cure oneself of it and destroy it-is to complete the construction of reality. For reality is not completed, is not constructed yet”. Cage thus meets Artaud on the stage itself, not as a musician any more than a choreographer, but as a personal vindication of the voice in action, the voice of dissent, dissent against breathlessness, against predictive melody, against the arbitrary censorship of the emotional modulation of being. Both Cage and Artaud emphasise the percussive element, the heart beat of the stage although Cage’s perspective is rather mathematical and textual in its initial stage, a possible direction towards scientific mirage. They exchange places, they call for sweat, gut, natural gesture, non linguistic methods. They appear to grow from the same stump, a stump rejected by conventions. Yet, the gap is vast between them. A discrepancy Johnny from his perch will not attempt to correct. No reconciliation is possible between the rational inventor and the visionary. Who is Johnny’s character? A construct, a composite creature whose existence is fictional but whose presence is
This reality is not repeatable; it will live on in our memory which will act, if I may say, as a new stage in the theatre activated by emotional content, the dynamics of a mobile composition. In his invented cloud, the actor defies gravity, he embodies Anti-gravity, angel and demon at once, he materialises the idea of the push-pull/ Beat/ trance/ mobility/ audience/ act/ entanglement/ gesture/ skin/ motion/ alchemical division, and the disintegration of role play/ captive audience. The stage and the arena around the stage are entered through the act into a form of unconscious dialogue. This was what Guy Debord described thus: “to wake up the spectator who has been drugged by spectacular images…through radical action in the form of the construction of situations…situations that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics, art”. And how Bertolt Brecht described his theatrical politics: “…a living spectacle…artistic, where everything, from the written creation to the accomplished representation are conditioned by the necessity to place the spectator in a state of freedom…in relation to the theatrical act”.
Lastly, we may wish to remain unaware that our act of partial participation in the ‘act’ contributes in the perpetuation of a slow motion eroticism based on the optical relation with the object playing before us. Being a relation of opposites, this amounts to a coniunctio oppositorum through which an erotic equilibrium oscillates like a metronome. Georges Bataille writes in Eroticism, Death and Sensuality: “in its vicissitudes eroticism appears to move away from its essence, which connects it with the nostalgia of lost continuity”. It can be supposed that nostalgia will be displaced by the re-formation of a continuity, not as an immortalisation but as an ephemeral affirmation of self within the elevated sense of consciousness engendered by the ‘magic-circle theatre’, the personal implication acting in direct response to that of the performer. Bertolt Brecht writes in Le Petit Organon: “Each isolated event possesses its own fundamental gesture”. Each gesture holds and withholds a sign, a punctuation by the activation of which the eye will open to the essence of the act, an act we may all wish or fear to perform ourselves, and as such, we gaze at ourselves in the actor, at this tragicomic object of destiny contained in the field of our vision.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
To belong or not to be
A poetic and philosophical response to a vital project of cultural rescue.
“Belonging is dedicated to exposing abuses in tops-down ideological planning and architecture. Whilst creating architectural responses that empower marginalised, segregated and displaced communities and people.”
1) Architecture as ideology
2) The consumable Heart
3) Absorption, centrality and Object-places
4) Sacred walls also reverberate transient politics
5) Antinomy in the urban body
6) Denuded ego and the virtual impulse
7) The perfect instrument of power
8) Nation, identity, memory, battle of the Self
9) The Supremacist process, erasure of the sanctuary
10) Space to language, language to space
11) Medina of our soul
12) Planetary motherboard, death of the intimate imagination
13) Hylomorphic relation(ship),from symbol to emotion-interrogation
14) Passive intervention, system/people dilemma
15) Democracy versus voice
16) Alchemy of the imagination
1) Architecture as ideology
Before architecture, there were mountains and heavens. It was not long before a bridge was established between them. Bridges exist in nature without the application of logic, geometry or arithmetic; even between star systems rivers of hydrogen fill the void with underlying currents of potential life. Translated in architectural terms, such a bridge seemed to have been realised by Le Corbusier through the concept of the Radiant City. The grand plan was to use a city to link two states, in this case Punjab and Haryana. This was to serve as a city planning model called the UnionTerritory, the name of the city was Chandigarh, the first nation officially unifying capital in India and in the world. There was a problem which was intrinsic to all architectural ideologies. It did not include human interactional sensitivity. This was caused by the intrusion of functional morality in the planning of the city itself. Mussolini, the man renowned for his Fascist dictatorship was not averse to the arts, one of his obsessions being architecture on a quasi divine scale. As Louis Philip before him, Mussolini’s dream of power was intricately linked with the ideal of the perfectly ordered city. Ludwig the 2d hoped for architecture to mirror and to contain the essence of mystical joy he found in the Music of Wagner. Given enough man power and resources, any leader will be tempted to construct what to the common mortal appears as an aberration and a folly, but to them, as a materialisation of an essential state, that of supreme inviolable sovereignty, in other words, architecture as the embodiment of god’s three inherent properties: omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience. From the inaccessible centre of this maze, I.e. removed from visibility or/and decipherability, where political intrigues reflect the complexity of the spatial environment, the leader will define himself as a guardian of the treasure he inhabits and as a mediator to those who never will be granted a right to it thus justifying their status with the fatal logic of a Caligula.
Chandigarh was a daring and dangerous experiment, playing with cultural habits, antagonistic traditions, religious disparity, people’s lives. Architecture also evolves according to technological means and will therefore soon or later contradict certain archaic instincts, as much as archetypal psychic realities haunting the human entity. All humans by their mere presence on the grid participate in the inhuman machine of progress. But occasionally, a resistance occurs against the one directional current and opens a gap, prompts a journey leading out of the grid into a universe where technology and power are obsolete.
2) The consumable Heart
ManyCities were built around the monarch or around the idea of the spiritual centre, the God to be worshipped from all spheres, as it is described in Paradiso by Dante, although this is not evident in the more ancient settlements of the Palaeolithic age considering our earlier dwellings could then be equated to simpler organic structures, without a distinct nucleus. This is not to say the typical layout will resemble an actual cell, although centres are present in towns in the form of an emptiness, the vacant portent of a message from the divine realm inhabited by the priesthood or the highest dignitaries. There, markets bustled too, for life would manifest itself as a sudden entanglement of transactions and negotiations; at other times, in the same place, under a different sky, executions attracted the morbid populace eager to relieve itself of the shadows of the Scythe man. In this sense, the centre was an area of potentiality designed to host a promotional platform and a subsequent selling point for a particular product. In one case, food and varied useful products, in the other, the penitent, each a ‘consumable’ in its own ‘right’ surrounded by crowds, walls with eyes, all roads leading to them, all roads ending with their possession and their assimilation, an antithetical mirror to the position of grace upheld by the highest in command. Interestingly, city or town centres are now associated with the past, the heart of their history where one can trace back their evolutionary path, where, we could imagine, their soul has been stored in the aged stones, the ancient structures, the artistry encrusted and engraved in their remains.
3) Absorption, centrality and Object-places
Nevertheless, this opens up a new strata of debate for such ‘objects-places’ most often come in the form of a ruin, and as such turn by virtue of their uselessness into a work of art which thereby must reside under a different set of laws, all of which deal with archives, meaning, heritage, reliquary, antics and restoration, archaeology and history to name a few branches attached to the preservation and analysis of these latent metropolis ‘mysteries’. Their relevance is acute but their validity precarious since they occupy a space generally regarded as a deficit in the sense that it is not an active currency on the market, their property value being nil. Such strange ‘objects’ represent a risk and may under a different (political) agenda lose their symbolic value thus, by logical (economical) extension, becoming susceptible to displacement and deletion, dissolved into the process of modernisation; a fate common to other sources of trade loss such as entire human communities (ruins of human resources) which regrettably cannot even benefit from the rules protecting sensitive ancient artefacts.
In Paris the Cathedral Notre Dame defines the character of that central point as well as the original and primordial character of the city. It was built upon the Temple of Jupiter erected by the Romans and facing Kilometre Zero, the geographical heart of a city once known as Lutetia. During the Aztec empire, complex cities were built around a temple core where religious celebrations and rituals would take place, the king’s palace being located on its periphery. In the 6th century BC, the Etruscan civilisation had amassed enough wealth through trade to build cities which in turn would absorb neighbouring towns. Renowned as the tower people, their society revolved around multifarious gods inhabiting nature and objects alike. Their culture too was to become effaced by Greek and Roman History. Around thirteen thousand years ago, settlements were organized as communal areas “proto-urban”, slowly developing towards the separation of food, tools, women with children and men. There is no evidence of hierarchy, as humans had to protect themselves from animals and elements more than they had to defend their interests from the invasion of other humanoids at least until about 5000 BC. The priority was thus not pleasure or even territorialism, it was plain survival making agreement, coherence and cooperation vital. All would benefit equally, (we see this way of life developing as a neo-urban philosophy within small communities of like minded people in large cities such as London and Berlin but also in reclaimed villages)reflecting a parallel evolutionary reaction to what may be regarded as the most devastating predator of all times. Or can we speak of a sociological mutation manifest in the new Promethean tribes denying the status quo imposed by the gods ruling our metropolis through creative exchange? Each civilisation rises and falls, each seeks a different solution to project itself into the future.
4) Sacred walls also reverberate transient politics
What would bring our ancestors together was not only an instinct of self preservation safeguarding the continuation of the species but rituals. As populations increased, villages expanded, houses evolved from single chamber to multi room and multi level constructions. It was during that transformation from communal feeding storage to family unit autonomy that ‘temples’ emerged, as if a central principle of identity was manifesting itself outside the laws of biological sustenance. Gobekli Tepe exemplifies this tendency towards architectural and spatial creative expression, as a bridge linking the mortal being and the entire community with the unknown; what could not be hunted, stored or eaten, an inexpressible power that ruled over or passed through living things, a mysterious force that conventional or rather functional architecture could not channel. These were immobile inter stellar ships, pioneering the sentient exploration of invisible dimensions. Without this spiritual impetus, architecture would not have excelled. On the other hand, these new edifices and their management stood in synchronisation with a social mutation where hierarchical systems emerged. The fundamental alliance between the use of intellect for the purpose of pleasure fulfilment and the controlled use of resources had begun, reflected in the division between those who could convince and those who were convinced, between the manipulator and the manipulated. With this division arose a need for spatial structures through which these new social differences would be erected and displayed. Orders to that effect would be sent out from the inner sanctums of temples, and would be non negotiable. Although temples and palaces represented the heart of urban life, these were not only built in the middle of cities but either above or on the outer limit (a set up exemplified in Metropolis by Fritz Lang, Citizen Kane by Orson Wells or Blade Runner by Ridley Scott), over looking the lower margins of the nascent sedentary society which in turn encircled (policed) the expendable work force.
5) Antinomy in the urban body
We see cities developing in the manner in which the micro components of complex cellular organisms organize themselves devoid of a conscious intervention. In this sense too, the temple in particular is not only a place of devotion and prayer but the repository of knowledge reserved for the initiate, a source of coded information that will be deciphered by specialised micro cells only and sent out towards each outer strata of every single cell with a restorative, purgative and transformative mission .In urban terms, we notice such a development manifests itself through a double process of specialisation and homogenisation; the first lay in the economic status and functionality of the citizen within society, the second lay in their moral and biological ‘duty’ towards the species. These deep instinctive mechanisms of a ‘motor-cognitive’ nature alien to ‘conscious intelligence’ seem to have led to the implementation of a technology not only integral to urban planning but intrinsic to the mutation of Homo sapiens as himself an integrated part of the body of the city. I use the term “conscious intelligence” as an antinomy to the term “motor-cognitive”(not in the neurological sense but in the socio-anthropological sense), this latter composite suggesting the fusion of survival instinct with reason, a false contradiction in itself.
6) Denuded ego and the virtual impulse
One could venture ego has mastered the world (as in the squaring of the circle) because the world is nothing but a mere projection of it. Beyond the tentacular invasive propagation of civilisation, ego is powerless. Architecture has not only been the recipient of an obsessive enquiry into the cosmos, the mind, and the strange properties of space, it has and progressively became the bed rock of egoistical expression. We stare at those grandiose monuments, towers, arcs of triumph, obelisks, palaces, and remember that Le Corbusier himself did not have people in mind as much as a philosophy based on invoking harmony and proportion when he planned the perfected body of new architectural invention. Interestingly, the dome which had soared as a solution for an increasing number of religious and civic buildings during the Renaissance edified by Philippo Brunelleschi and Bramante for instance, was somehow ironically transformed into the idea of the all seeing eye of the state upon imprisoned criminals in the shape of the circular Panopticon elaborated by Jeremy Bentham towards the end of the eighteenth century; not so much an eye looking out as an implosive inescapable gaze. We find it also propped upon ‘presidential’ mansions, no longer associated with the divine but simply as a symbol of secular glory, returning thus to the public essence of Roman design but also as a sign of mankind’s domination over nature, the dome resting like a maternal breast upon the structure of power that supports it while feeding from it. The dome structure however has been with us for millennia, a natural extension of the mind’s eye, used to cover graves, temples, and even communal baths. It flourished during the Baroque period, reflecting a desire for limitless knowledge, eternal beauty, and above all glorification of the rich, epitomized in the frescoes of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo as in the ceiling painting The Allegory of the Planets and Continents at New Residenz; a circular erotic apotheosis. The arts of that age betray the first inklings of a virtual will in our species, a will to access the infinite through reason alone, but equally, a will to surrender to vertigo in the safety of divinely adorned palaces. Through the advance of technology, the effect such places , spaces and their artistic visualisation generated in the mind of the viewer have been converted into digital experiences, in my view an inevitable ‘ontological’ outgrowth of the beatific artifice of the Baroque age. These occur in apparently private environments although the experience itself entails the publicising of this enclosed chamber of dreams where ego becomes inadvertently the emperor with no clothe.
7) The perfect instrument of power
The Futurists will burn books as Marinetti exclaimed…, perhaps they set fire once to the great legendary library of Alexandria. Perhaps also were they aware that, as it is written in Eccentric Spaces by Robert Harbison (Books of Things: Topographical Fictions) “Though historical novels always start with material somewhat inert, a special class could be made of those in which history is seen primarily as a spatial effort to bridge the gap between individual consciousness and the suprapersonal idea of whole civilizations.”
Their manifesto was founded on the absolute negation of the past, memory, tradition, aesthetics derived from ancient notions of beauty generally associated with nature and the divine. It was also foremost the result of a fixation on death, time, and passivity in the form of ecstasy, contemplation all of which were embodied in woman they viewed as the seat of chaos. In sculpture this materialised in grotesque aberrations supposed to evoke speed, another essential component of an age thriving on instantaneous progress, where technology seemed to be the saviour from confusions secreted by feelings and emotion. The painters on the other hand dealt with space and light, ensuring our perception would be segmented and re-ordered through the systematic application of division, hence the name they adopted: Divisionism.
It was now time in the early 20th century, while machines began to wake and men to toil in their shadows, to form a consensus so as to embrace the ‘future’. The Supremacists would surely achieve this ideological aim. Their mission was grandiose yet apparently humble. It was a revolution where the main players would ignore the masses and the politicians, yet, through their cultivated input, reflecting the infrastructural explosion and the industrial acceleration, would influence the world we live in literally. These were brutal modernisers, but stoic, impeccable, and utopian. By this is meant that as a result of the implementation of rules set out by supremacists such as Mondrian and Malevich, the Cartesian grid began to find a support in the agenda of city planners and architects, despite its apparent failures. There would be no heaven on earth, quite the opposite was true…but for the very few. And therefore the utopia was not only a double edge sword held high in esteem by fascist leaders, it was in fact a dream come true, for it would be assimilated and implemented through the medium of architecture allied with pervasive and intrusive technology thjat would become absolutely instrumental in the subliminal dissemination of mis-information. Such a scheme however had indeed already been put in place throughout history. But it was now expanding from the religious and physical dimensions into the neurological and hyper-spatial dimensions.
There were several benefits to a ‘flattened’ view of the world, that means in effect, the grid locking of personal space through which not only would physical itineraries be arranged but also and primarily mental pathways. Motives and patterns needed to be simplified and de-symbolised, more so, those symbols if they should remain would become signs ( ancient markers found in all cultures, ornaments, talismans, pottery, furniture, tapestry, relief, frescoes, alcoves, columns, refrains, verses, melodies, proverbs…, systematically de-constructed, deformed, sanitised and re branded, appearing in images and objects promoting a meaningless product gaining meaning from the moment they are seen, associating a wondrous view of nature with a speeding auto-mobile, or a quasi extinct feline with Cartier jewellery, a Mozart sonata with a Barclay mortgage…leading the eye, the body and the mind in the fuzzy direction of the originator of urban dreams, I.e., the dogma inseminator, the ghostly puppeteer behind the advertiser: the state, not as a political institution but as a propaganda mogul, a monarch flaunting his right of veto and a liberal economical legislator, informing or more over educating the audience now passivated by perfected signifiers about a paradigm greater than life itself, the survival and happiness of the nation, an idealised re-presentation of a flawless society.
8) Nation, identity, memory, battle of the Self
The nation therefore must be replicated in the city, and the city must become a perfect machine. City State. An increasing number of extravagant and gigantic examples of lavish metallic buildings latticed and adorned with glass vistas parade as they overlook the murky labyrinthine streets of our metropolis, the aftermath of Le Corbusier design. In London, in Tokyo, in New York, in Dubai, in Bangkok, and elsewhere, the sky scrappers dig their heels in the flanks of seraphim; one imagines them armed with a transparent set of blades racking the biosphere indiscriminately. In lands where the land no longer breathes, the lifeless giants grow out of proportion, the irrefutable reverberation of an ego-psycho-social will to survive and dominate, but also to materialise the sublime. They echo the glorious soaring of cathedrals, but instead of a priest praying behind the altar with blind allegiance to the absurd, a receptionist monitors the lobby, armed with closed circuit digital media, the cross road of executives making their way to the top floor to savour the panorama of their inflatable property. The elite of the sacred has turned the divine into a marketable commodity, offices multiply inside the translucent womb of the modern temple. But these are not the cause of the trouble, only a mere effect. Their shadows are cast in stainless steel, filled with promises of an improbable future. Causes of trouble arise in the estate, in the building sites that erase the walls of our childhood, in the cranes and the bulldozers that pillage our playgrounds and green areas, but also the virginal land, the wild expanse of our planet, in the evictions of old locals, families, communities who disintegrate, lose means and direction and die isolated and disorientated far from home, from their past, from their memory. The trouble, the distemper, the disruptive cause of our ills lay with the impoverishment of our past. For in the memory breathes the root of our self, of our identity.
Le Corbusier set a paradoxical trend in motion. Based on the renaissance ideal of the ‘perfectly’ proportioned human body, which Leonardo da Vinci’s famous encircled model exemplified, the edifice was to follow simple rules of balance and volume, also guided by the supreme rule of the golden section. Incidentally, Anil Korotane initially designed the name of his company around it. The paradox emerges from the notion of an ideal human design being imposed on a real human body, i.e., on the prospective inhabitants of these grandiose intellectual monuments. In the shadow of the Second World War, architects took on a quasi messianic role through their active participation in the rebuilding of the nation. It was not only a question of rehousing the displaced but of social rehabilitation and thus of a kind of annihilation. Magnificent structures would rise thus from the ashes left by useless battles, ready to encase the common man and crush any desire to expand through mind or matter. Global spatial repression was henceforth set in motion. This process was summed up in a few words by the founders of the Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne “It is only from the present that our architectural work should be derived”…“The most efficacious production is derived from rationalization and standardization”, in other words, functionalism and homogenisation. As the walls with tiny windows rose, they absorbed light and people, gazes and breath ending behind dwarf doors. This new form of habitation devours the psyche of the population.
9) The Supremacist process, erasure of the sanctuary
“Suprematicism has advanced the ultimate tip of the visual pyramid of perspective into infinity…. We see that suprematicism has swept away from the plane, the illusions of two-dimensional ‘planimetric’ spaces, the illusions of three-dimensional perspective space, and has created the ultimate illusion of irrational space, with its infinite extensibility into the background and foreground.” so El Lissitzky claimed. The notion of the perfect sphere at that particular juncture in the history of our civilisation was not an indication of miraculous creation or an emblem of artistic beauty but the first inkling into the field of inhuman symmetry, echoing the transparent obscene universe Baudrillard dissects in his poetic philosophy, and the monstrous now ubiquitous arena of infinite self espionage, the closed circuit circular mode of city dwelling so well adapted to our auto-erotic way of life. This was no doubt preluded by Jeremy Bentham in his idea: The Panopticon mentioned earlier, a prison model, embodying a wider ideology, utilitarianism. This latter concept was not new, not any more than suprematicism or futurism. It was nevertheless a prelude to both.
An increase in population would demand more organisation. As in any organism, evolution does not only engender greater complexity but also larger amounts of waste and the division of types would allow for certain elements to govern others via the administering of a code understood and accepted by the majority. These needed to expand into the spatial realm in order to monitor, stimulate or desensitise humanity once it had become artificially separated into functional units. This was no longer a question of inhabitation, of sedentary dwelling, of communities…this was a question of simple and plain population control and utilisation, slow, planned, rigorous and merciless. The shape of a house, the width of a door, the amount of light passing through a window, the amount of space between the pavement and the threshold, the narrowness of the corridor, the thinness of the walls between rooms and separate accommodations, the set order and position of kitchen units, of sanitary facilities, of plumbing, and electrical outlets, the colour of the walls, the imposition of immovable furniture, the type, location and direction of electric lighting, the heating, the noise generated by fans that come on automatically, the doors that we are not allowed to keep open naturally, the smoke alarms, all of these details belong to an architectural design created for the purpose of mental and psychic manipulation and rehabilitation.
This process cannot take place however until all traces of a place of safety, where the fugitive mind may hide, have been erased. This place exists in the form of a building, in the form of a garden, a space where real voices mix and minds mingle in an environment free from alien intervention. It also exists in the images created through artistry, in music, in all forms of beauty and expressions of deeper thought. And this depth where imagination and memory evolve at a pace unknown to the coloniser is the enemy of the supremacist, that is, the enemy of corporate ideology now being enforced throughout the modern world via exhaustive political conflicts, but also via exuberant projects such as ‘irrational’ wars against quasi invisible armies like Desert Storm, worthy of featuring as the title of a cheesy action novel(“ultimate illusion of irrational space”), the Olympics, wiping off ancient quarters of cities and sending thousands of people in exile as in Rio de Janeiro’ s slum population in preparation for the 2016 games, not to mention the forced removal or intimidation to this effect of communities in the vicinity of the Olympic Dome in London, a case Anil Korotane considers essential to the mandate of Belonging, or the advent of the European Union and the ruthless purging of natural resources parallel to the devastating homogenisation of trade. We are confronted with the faceless enemy, the black square so central to the supremacist philosophy, so far from the lofty circular pupil of the dome and its enlightening cupola letting the divine rays in so the interior can be inundated by diffused light, yet admittedly an illusion only fit for kings, popes and the ever ascending merchant cast.
Because this virtual denaturing process has invaded the language of space, words no longer correspond to what is around us. The world is being consistently patented by the structure of global morality, i.e. a tendency to evaluate individual lives according to criteria external and detrimental to their individual being. This process has infiltrated our daily lives and our culture in general. The term: ‘community’ is a point in case. It does no longer correspond to a cultural alliance, or to the idea of solidarity between workers or colleagues, families or friends. The reason is that these ‘tribes’ have been shattered by the effect of extreme hardship, their new priority set by economical pressures and their location determined by the source of their basic survival dictated by the employer. New artificial communities have replaced them, supposed to embody the new spirit of integration confined within the offspring of Brutalist architecture. This means the single mind no longer exists, it must coalesce lest the small universe revolving around it in the shape of a house, a family, a town etc. is razed to the ground annihilating all life in the process. This morality, a vague derivative of religious dogma intermixed with communitarianism has now set a precedent for the justification of mass exodus, relocation, deforestation, uprooting of ethnic populations, negative discrimination, segregation, alienation and starvation.
10) Space to language, language to space
For Anil Korotane, the future must be solved now, and his awareness of spatial meaning is astute. Language is our medium, it imbues our movements, bodily and mentally, it springs from the desire to be heard. Long before our tongues catch a word, an impression will rise from our mind and will through the most primitive apparatus land beyond our means, in the mind of our chosen interlocutor. We will trace a line, we will pick up a stone, we will make a promontory from mud and straw, we will cut out a rock and stand upon it, we will carve the bark of a tree, we will begin to delineate an area in which we may begin to cultivate the sense of privacy. We will set out a wider plan in which some members will evolve freely while others pass by. Entrances and exits are erected in place of words to describe the relationship between outside and inside. We will build steps to guide those who have led us to believe they are closer to the stars and therefore by natural spatial extension must be allowed the privilege to hover above the common mortal and doing so find the time, since space affords it, to relay messages from the gods. We will extend our vision of sacred spheres, the difference between sky, earth, water and fire, by inventing new structures, columns holding domes, architraves holding cathedrals. Thus, the corner stone is no longer just a joining device but a holly grail. Soon, walls are covered in glyphs, letters are engraved, cartouches hold the significance of a Pharaoh, dynasties are imprinted in the structures of temples. History is carried like an embryo inside the evolution of our environment, our cities; the stones are placed in very particular ways around us, they contain, like libraries, the language of our common destiny.
They, in the form we have given them, sustain meaning. Like a skin around a skeleton, and a skeleton inside that skin, they make sense to that body only. Robert Harbison writes of Dreaming Rooms: Sanctums: “If one takes architecture as the expression of an individual life, one starts at the centre rather than at the face, asking what space is created rather than what plot is filled. Places thoroughly lived in become internalized in a series of adjustments till they represent a person to himself”.
11) Medina of our soul
There is another apparent contradiction. Most individuals as they begin to fathom themselves simultaneously shed skins from the past, those having been glued on by our own direct environment, primarily our family circle. It takes a life time to peel them off often partially and painfully. Yet, it is essential for psychic growth. No one else can or should remove these skins from us, for it is in the act of flaying our own psyche that we find the clues to the centre of our own inner city, the old quarter, the Medina of our soul. And this is why what is happening in Liftabut alsoin many other towns including as is mentioned earlier, London, is criminal, an absolute violation of our primordial rights as living beings and as human beings; because it rips the only way back to the self out of us. It is in fact equally a terrifying metaphor, since it is so real and unequivocal, for the second death, the annihilation of the soul. Having been deprived of their common history, people of different cultures who had lived in peace for years are forced into disarray, divided, lost, and without present, as the walls that in the end had contained their unity fall around them. They also at that moment lose the language they shared.
12) Planetary motherboard, death of the intimate imagination
Our age contains all that was before although time and again we have fashioned an ark (following Noah’s binary model of selection allied to the Darwinian model of discrimination) in order to escape our traces and the potentially disruptive emotional baggage attached to them. Entire villages in remote parts of Spain and France are being emptied of prior life, wiped away by the tides of industrial and mercantile progress; one might feel the remains of ghosts, these shells have become the counterparts of cities boiling over with the trepidation of industry, yet both anti-types stagnate, infused with the reliquary sanctity of instituted sedentary meaning, a meaning imposed by the holders of capital who set the limitations within which each citizen will have to abide by these rules or survive on the margin, I.e. outside of the mandatory protection of the designated (patriotic) land. The land then becomes a national formula for identity; a nation becomes the repository of tradition and morality imposed and perpetuated by the very members of this blanket ID who will subside and adhere to the terms of their own incarceration but foremost, who will righteously inflict the terms by which their freedom has been systematically robbed onto any person or group of individuals appearing to denigrate or criticise this process of passive self annihilation. ; quite an ironic twist.
Many cities were razed to the ground by the injunction of technocratic necessity, ensuring the deletion of corporeal traces of personal existence as much as that of sensitive records relating to the management of citizens long before the ‘artificial’ disaster struck(catastrophe management is one of the most crucial political strategic developments), be it through war, famine or disease. For all cities have an executive arcane, a secret network of passages below the chaotic surface of the structure where numinous classificatory monitoring is performed. These mountains of files mask the presence of subterranean rivers that still carry ancient memories of home. That is to say, as it is for language itself, the understanding of a particular architectural structure will have to include each existing strata of human thought and its manifestation. There must be for each exegesis a reading of the esoteric sub text. As Gayatri Spivak purports, you cannot access universality while traces of the “(con)text” remain. Taken from the angle of ‘de-spatialisation’ however, this process has become the fundamental principle of the universal economic reformation implemented by the global ownership members who constitute the ‘shadow world’ haunting the collective unconscious of a slumbering population; an image recalling the relationship between gods and mortals in Homeric epic tales.
Having begun to engender a European system of monetary alliances in the momentum of the crusades in the 11th century, which found a more legal appearance with the birth of the Magna Carta, the seed of an invisible and indelible corporate infrastructure was planted and later would be fully demonstrated through digital technological assimilation into all departments of society. This universality in this sense is not to be viewed as redemptive or graceful but as an impartial force of monotonous purification. New city planning, although designed according to simplified models reflecting Hellenistic architecture, also incorporates idealised vistas and edifices sharing their structural characteristics with internal computer hardware. In this regard however, hardware computer design may be said to be borne out of a direct mimesis of ancient city layout and architecture pointing to the inherent presence of an original artificial intelligent plan emerging, disappearing and reappearing through the development of a succession of civilisations. Gayatri ‘s notion of universality is in opposition to what I have just described, hers being of the nature of imaginative abstraction, in effect, absolutely subversive since it denies the development and proliferation of binary reproductive repressive systems now regaining momentum throughout the world.
We must reside in the hub of mercantile enterprise or perish…we must follow the synthetic mode to the letter, a letter torn out of a series of verbs training the urban mind to produce linear futile and inconsequential diagrams. Our cities once a promise of prosperity and happiness are cemeteries where the migrant and the native pretend to join forces for the good of the majority when each guards the door to their dungeon with murderous intentions. why? Because the pathways that allow free circulation of feelings, thoughts and vital energy have been blocked up by governmental decree to safeguard the security of the land. The land means, property. Property means oligarchs. Intimacy can no longer reside in the heart of our living quarters; instead, we are blessed with a distorted vision of the world we in effect know less and less. Post-moderns de-constructed what the Moderns had constructed, and now, we must admire the melodramatic birth of a brand new world, a smooth soft edged carpeted re-construction of a past we are led to confuse with mythology. The imagination of Piranesi has been erased, the earth turned over, sifted, denatured, and entirely covered by the circuitry, the modules, the processors, and the cosmos of a planetary motherboard, the “global village” Mac Lahan prefigured in the 1950s, manufactured in 3d to fill every gap in our field of vision.
13) Hylomorphic relation (ship), from symbol to emotion-interrogation
As Anil affirms however, the essential of architecture for him resides in the reality of “place” rather than in the general concept of “space”. In his own words, “place means user, user means place”. In Mapping the Future by Jon Bird, David Harvey writes as the 3d point of his introduction to From space to place and back again “A recognition that the dimensions of space and time matter and that there are real geographies of social action, real as well as metaphorical territories and spaces of power that are the site of innumerable differences that have to be understood both in their own right and within the overall logic of capitalist development. Historical materialism, in short, must take its geography seriously.” This notion of place is essential also for the richness of its meaning extending in a plurality of human states and activity, as Jon Bird attests by calling this word “one of the most multi-layered and multi-purpose words in our language”. In a sense, the spirit of Heidegger has impregnated the masonry of Anil’s project. It is evident in my eyes that in the arts as in architecture, theory has superseded the practice in so far as the mason no longer understands the wall he put up with his own hands, let alone the building he faces once it has been completed, so far from the root, so lofty in its embodiment of an ideal. People cannot live in the projection of a corporate dream.
However, it is paradoxically the inherent sentient significance of “place”, that lends weight to any rescue enterprise in the area where meaning is most acute, in Heidegger’s words ” that open, cleared, yet bounded region in which we find ourselves gathered together with other persons and things, in which we are opened up to the world and the world to us… . [With] a dynamic character of its own … a unifying, gathered regioning — place is, in this sense, always a “taking place,” a “happening” of place…something that contains space in potentia”.
From a different and complementary perspective, Belonging as an enterprise, and its intrinsic voice, Anil’s, form a bridge in Heidegger’s sense:”a manifestation of the fourfold which is at the base of all dwelling. A bridge collects and unites all aspects of the fourfold, earth, sky, mortals and divinities into a “thing”.” He has inadvertently become part of a larger structure, the existence of a deep chasm between the dispossessed and property owners, but more so the proponent of a de-structuralism that converges towards what he calls the dismantlement of existential language. And although this mission seems to contradict the image of a bridge, as all complex forms, it also invites the mind beyond the boundaries of politics, ethics or rationalism.
What is existential language?
Can we talk of the moral imposition of a nation state upon the vulnerable channels of popular communication as an existential language? How does the functionality of architecture fit into this scheme? Can we associate this idea with Aristotle’s theory of Hylomorphism? I.e., the conjunction of form and matter in a coherent whole, such as a psyche, seen by Aristotle as a set of properties giving meaning or direction and motion to a thing, I.e., a conglomerate of material particles either wise ineffectual.
And how can this be achieved without negating one’s own language…without negating language itself? One would succumb to archetypes; one would seal their fate to the polarised faces of a war whose roots go deeper than those of our ancestral idioms. Would we assume the role thereof of a corner stone? Such an object would seem abhorrent to the uninitiated, an alien intrusion at worst, an incidental utterance at best. Being the voice of the people, people may be driven to silence us. For people often understand simple ideas, war and the enemy being simpler to grasp and support than dialogue and comprehension.
How can such profound aberrations, such epistemological discrepancies be remedied? How can we exhume human nature from its cultural grave in the certainty this will be a resurrection rather than an excavation of bones? Bones of contention, relics of knowledge lost, barren, useless or radio-active?
Objects hold breath from the outer chamber of their being, responsive to our touch, they inhabit us, we are the house they live in. they play the counterpoint of place where we evolve, where in effect a stage is set from the moment we situate ourselves, a centre being erected ‘in place of’ a vacancy. In Theatre and its Double, Antonin Artaud writes in reference to the manifestation of our free voice, the sensual psyche demonstrated via stage presence: “this double is more than an echo, it is the memory of a language of which theatre has lost the secret.” in his vision, objects held a silence more alive than any superfluous scream. These were talismans as equally as unadulterated souls, metaphors in the flesh for the alienation of the persona in the desert of the stage. On the other hand, an object will not move until it is moved, not by a god as Plato suggested but by the political will of an oppressor…or the will to surpass this oppression. Concerning the former, one would, In order to demystify this oppressive kinesis, have to enter in personal contact with the situation of the object and as such also become a point of contact between the force of displacement and the victim of displacement.
One therefore would have to play two distinct and outwardly contradictory parts. Not exactly a corner stone, for it is mobile and interventional. An interpreter of signs.
14) Passive intervention, system/people dilemma
This double identity, the dilemma arising between addressing an idea or addressing an individual, and equally troubling, the issue of individual versus community, is present in this ideological venture where an organisation bares the face of a single individual, the voice not only of a pragmatic philosophy but also and occasionally confusingly, the voice of a non-nation, a community whose identity is no longer defined by place or time, status or culture, but by its passive struggle which to all intents and purposes has been managed by international agencies such as human rights organisations.
In this regard, Gayatri Spivak said “the impatience of the human rights intervention joins hands with what I have just described: the general will for exploitation in the subalterned is too present”. Gayatri defines the initial subalterned as a position without identity and more precisely, “people without access to the lines of mobility”. She later modified her definition having studied the consequences of a culture of institutional rescue imposed by corporate bodies under humanitarian mandates and more often than not endorsed by the state acknowledging henceforth that “indigenous knowledge systems”, had undergone a forced and insidious conversion into data, thus leading to “the transformation of subalternity into property”.
Both aspects: lines of mobility and transformation of subalternity into property are fundamental to the global homogenic re-structuring of society. Cities once organic static organisms now contain the seed of a live network of subliminal indoctrination enabling this re-structuring along the patterns that had once emerged in the minds and opus of the Supremacists. Lines of immobility would describe more acutely the condition of the contemporary non defined citizen, accumulating useless paraphernalia and filling up with useless food, stuck in a shrinking space, a brain logged into the droning sludge of useless data continuously spreading across the blinding screen. These people are also homeless, since they have no roots, no memories and no culture.
One could argue that as passivated agents of a system driven sedentary society, we are not only robbed of material property or of the deeper strata of meaning in the communication models we have adopted or adapted to, we are also subjecting ourselves quasi willingly to the erasure of more subtle properties, having signed up to a rigorous program of rehabilitation and modernisation whereby all traces of private emotions and memories constituting the atmosphere of our personal sphere have been displaced by encoded information replicating our selves in a manner appropriate to the techno-civic grid accountancy of the ‘homogenopolis’.
15) Democracy versus voice
To come back to the project set out in Belonging, the aim being the implementation of a safeguard against the loss of a unique identity through the implicit justification of spatial personalisation, that is the validation of place as the natural inheritance of the people who occupy it in the sense of home as opposed to property, a grave obstacle seems to loom. Whereas other players in the field of ethnic conflict wear a mask, or more appropriately bare no single face, Belonging has one, clear and unequivocal. Anil Korotane is a spokesman for Belonging and for the situation at hand, for the people and for those groups who have joined his rank.
In the case of organized massive socio-political structures, the language is impregnable; the ideology is waterproof and the funding often unmatchable. All criticisms are distributed over its elegant façade and diffused through delegated conduits, losing momentum and sense along the way. This is not a barricade but a thick smooth rampart protecting a high signalling citadel. We have in effect the equivalent of an opposite to the vulnerable broken bastion of a dissolving language epitomised by Lifta and other places of conflict, reflected by the personal human response of Belonging. On this last point, Anil Korotane is not addressing an abstract notion of freedom but the remnant population the members of which may have already submitted to the will of national sovereignty, hence the fragility of any loyalty towards a cause he believes in while they hope for redemption or possible compensation, which he cannot offer.
This echoes for me the difficulty of Albert Camus’s own position faced with the inevitable reaction of the people who had not understood ‘his’ battle. Algerie under colonial rule was unacceptable to him and this prompted him to spend most of his adult life criticising the French government or the media attached to it. Nevertheless, he feared independence predicting an exodus of French Algerians like himself as a result of ethnic political cleansing. Camus wrote in response to what he considered an incurable illness afflicting French society and the world at large: “both tyrannies and monetary democracies know that in order to reign, work and culture must be separated.”
This exodus has evidently happened, not only to Pieds Noirs, but to People caught in civil wars as in former Yugoslavia, In Rwanda, in the middle East…and here comes one more stumbling block because those who suffered this fate are not and never will be those who govern the fate of nations. The plight of the displaced is a gashing scare on the face of our supreme modern ideal, democracy. Yet democracies continue to benefit from international crisis.
In the light of such a discrepancy, how can any movement for freedom of dialogue and reconciliation be validated? Does it need to be? Can it be reconciled to a wider discourse, i.e. the possibility of a philanthropic partnership between productivity and creativity for example?
Is political language invalidating any effort to bypass certain interventions prompted by economically charged powers and by the works of which such a language arose? Can such a linguistic tyranny be overturned or undermined, or better still, can we negotiate a deal in the eye of the storm?
Is there an art to the formation of a marriage between architecture and philosophy that would therefore facilitate a journey beyond measure, beyond the walls of the city, beyond the artificial womb of the nation and beyond the field of land mine paradoxes cultivated by the barons of political subterfuge?
Can we create a new world out of our own unspoken history and weave pathways to a past , our worm hole into the reality of the self, rendered increasingly inaccessible by the tanks and the bulldozers of progress?
16) Alchemy of the imagination
Rome was conceived by two brothers saved and nurtured by a she-wolf so the legend tells us. Romulus, built Rome on the back of a fratricide, thus the great city Roma came to be erected on the bones of a mortal conflict, a violent instance of disequilibrium. But it is described as the Quadra Cita, (not Quadra grand city Surabaya, Indonesia, the hi-tec mall as it is known); for some say it was designed as a circle divided in four quarters, one for each season or each principal stages of the alchemical process: the quartering of philosophy, and for each quarter of a complete day, an ironic reflection of the Mandala, symbol of unity, completion and harmony. Such is the kind of paradoxes human history is scattered with; all roads lead to her, not only the heart of Italy but the symbol of the human quest for a centre. Nevertheless, were we to remove Rome from the map, another would have to be invented. No city is born in a day however; in the years it takes to enrich the life and culture of such a place, one life could turn into many, memories would grow fade and evolve, populations would roll in and out, mix and divide, the ecology of combined minds would induce new changes in the arts and daily life. Re-inventing a centre of self discovery to compensate for the sudden loss of another is therefore futile. Yet, this is what we are promised. An immense expanse of complex thoughts is being slowly but surely erased in front of our very eyes, on our very door step, in our very sleep, right into our backyard. The systematic destruction of what constitutes common heritage, but also and even more importantly the disfigurement and dislocation of the rotunda, the psychic and emotional point containing the deep transformative symbols of our connection to the world and to other human beings, continues to affect an environment which soon will be entirely drained of all quintessence. This environment holds within it the live imprint of our memory, like a map, but it is not flat, and we travel through the pathways that no one else can see, illumined by emotions, asters in the obscure canyons of the night city. We become like whales following distant songs through the liquid universe. Whales too lose their way, they are robbed of their channels, they can no longer recognize the song guiding them home. That is to say, we as human beings may find a home anywhere so long as we find a way home. ‘The way’, the process of remembrance, the form of a feeling, an object full of personal meaning, these are the essential elements of human existence now under continuous attack. We see sacred land in north America vandalized, Indian tribes broken and decimated, their language a mere dialect too useless to survive, in Australia, Aborigines losing their history confined to museums and entertainment, Iraq, once the famous Persia land of ancient Babylon vilified and ransacked, Tibet, its great temples soiled and razed to the ground by the Chinese army, its traditions forbidden, its people displaced. Then, the tidal ripper comes into our streets and bares the contented grin of democracy.
The river runs deep despite vertical mining, deeper than the ocean and an irresistible current propels the individual to immerse him/herself in the interior cosmos where all is possible for there beats the heart of our imagination. But as Anil points out, the momentum arises in mediation, not opposition, in the patient construction of an intelligent network, a two way bridge and perhaps the recognition of a value in what may first appear so mundane, in effect, allowing for the emergence of Art in place of the indistinct zone of a black hole.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
KULA RING event, The Projection Gallery +Guests, 17May2012, Netil House
The evening was thus introduced: “The Kula is a ceremonial exchange system conducted in Papua New Guinea. All Kula valuables are non-use items traded purely for purposes of enhancing one’s social status and prestige”.
I can see relevance in the ‘exchange system’ via the multidirectional communication between a carefully selected set of mediums all of which were ‘live’. There was little if no ceremony, but rather a sense of ritual derived from an archaic need for unison. Unison with other human beings as much as with the environment in which they, on that particular evening, evolved from the mundane and the primordial to the conceptual and the ‘technosavism’ of our age. “Non-use” is a term I regard as ambiguous and ambivalent in the same sense as the more provocative derogatory term: ‘useless’. This latter adjective has interested me since it has become ‘practically’ synonymous with art. But of what use can a Titian be after all?
This is where we find ourselves now, in the midst of an ‘amoebic’ battle between values and units, nomads and sedentary entities constituting our social fabric, a chaos of self censorship and soft dictatorships imposed on all aspects of our civilisation. But culture indeed grows outside the Petri dish. That is, as an indefinable passage existed between the Byzantium and the Gothic ‘movements’, an era most of us overlook, the Romanesque, so it appears to be today, as humanity dances on the edge of a precipice. This counter reactive current embodying the will to imagine, the desire to transform, to break out of the established intellectual continuum to manifest a realm where rules reflect the newest and most insane quantum theories, where even quantum strings shatter under the infinitesimal weight of their inadequacy, was evident in the Kula Ring.
A strong anthropological link appeared to resonate between Two pieces: “ROPE” with Johnny-Lee Leslie on the accordion, Michael Baur on the guitar and Sofia Figueiredo performing live and a video about birth, life and death by Ines Von Bonhorst accompanied by musician Jez Houghton.
Both ‘stories’ relate the existential journey of a woman, perhaps of woman as the anima, the muse and the Sibyl, following the trace of a mental labyrinth, exposing it, and closing it as we close a book, yet more akin to a dream, the pages withholding the significance of their content within undecipherable glyphs. The pale body emerges hesitant… maybe blind. As the Rope woman, Ines’s feminine being is entranced in her own internal revelations. We are left gazing in awe as we would before the spectacle of a waxing moon over a territory where liquid and earth are indistinguishable. The redness of the bed enhances the visceral suffocation inherent to the brutal emergence of consciousness in the world of matter, it impregnates the walls of a cell that expands beyond the frame. By contrast, the rope unleashes in its unwinding the endless hopes for a resolution, a loop, an access into a parallel state of being. Despite this, we are confronted with the affirmation of loss, the end of the rope does not lead anywhere, more so, it arrives entangled, lose, abstracted in the increasing de-coordination of the performer’s movements who had found for a brief instant a path to the centre, and a path to the edge. This edge, Ines’s foetal woman never quite reaches. She in fact is the edge. All other elements revolve around her, silent, as if she was imagining them in and out of existence. The room is not a room, the air is not air. This being is not yet conceived. It dreams of touch and smell. It curls back on itself like a rose that almost blossomed.
The interplay between Techno Widow(Madelena Pinto)at the microphone, Yuri Pirondi, visuals and Etienne Decroux using “dynamorythms”, or one could add “diamorphism”(passing through form), deploys a regalia of childhood inventions and emotive fixations, possibly provoking in the audience a kind of subdued embarrassment as much as a disarmed reverie. Yuri’s camera focuses and blurs alternatively across a panel of toy figures, the colours and composition of which are strangely reminiscent of 1950s cinematography and advertising. They warp until all detail is lost infusing the toy stage with the aura of treasured memories while the widow intones her cat mourning ode, a sorceress at the deck. Absurd and beguiling.
Presanth Guru invites us to draw with the mind alone. Would his name infer the idea of divine cause, or Govinda presence in the objects and their shadows? Govinda after all also meant “master of the senses”. This performer acts out the psyche of a personal cosmos as if it was entrapped in a whirlpool. His pen captures waves then disconnects from the surface having engendered a cosmos out of the regions of terrestrial physics, alluded to by Mandelbrot and Cornelis Escher, inaccessible to mortal beings. Yet his body chases after the line and the gesture pursues the thought via the electro carrier of sound and image, unpredictable yet repetitive, asymmetrical yet quasi homogeneous. Protector of the land they say, but here, Presanth unravels the invisible land as he lets the senses master him.
Lastly but not least, the strangest and in my view most powerful performance: “Life visual projection” by Adolfo Healer in collaboration with sound artist Roberto Crippa.
The equilateral shape conducts the orchestra. It is a mask and below lies what lives in the secrecy of the Gods, as Homer or Euripides could have seen it. The darkness is obliterated by light through the intertwining game of grids overthrowing the pretensions of Piet Mondrian who loathed the unpredictability of nature or Jackson Pollock who once exclaimed: “I am nature”. What stares from the bar-coded caelum is the face of tragedy in the Greek sense as the poet Horace would enunciate a few hundred years later: caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt, “those who run across the sea change their sky but not their state of mind.” The fearsome mask moves like a snake; with it forms integrate and disintegrate, the universe is nothing more than a convulsive and schizoid amalgam of prototypes, the Platonic Solids, latitudes and meridians , flat lines, ghostly dismembered cities and the sound echoes this sense of dead beauty, this perdition in no man’s land. The dice are cast and roll effortlessly across planes attached to nothingness. The mask seems to inquire, then retracts. It is a sphinx awaiting its prey, yet it embodies the hunger for knowledge. During the festival of Dionysus in Athens, theatre not gladiators would enliven the arena. Actors would enact the gods wearing enormous masks, two holes for the eyes one for the mouth. Thus, the public, too far to recognise a human face would know their characters and follow the plot. But here, there is no plot to follow. There is no narrative. The performer acts in the corner of my eye, his intention almost moulded into the impression that moves on the screen. The mask is the face of an act we all perpetuate. This one contains ancient mythology, Ulysses, Achilles,Penelope, Perseus, Medea, Agamemnon, Orpheus, Ariadne, Oedipus… but also technological lunacy, scifi delirium, digital exponential expansion, identity deletion… it is grotesque and alluring; hypnotising and yet absolutely enlightening. I might as well be sitting in the amphitheatre 500years BC.
I may have missed a performance, a girl torn between a sun flower and a motherboard. This in its simple way describes our dilemma. Will this play turn out as a tragedy or a comedy? Even time I suppose, will not tell.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi ———————————————————————————————————————
Beauty is only Skin Deep
Stuart Duff- Ken Flatherty
Notting Hill Arts Club
14/03/12 – 30/04/12
pV wed 14 March
6.30 to 9 pm
The title of the show leaves no illusion and follows from the mere facts of our biological status in a world abundant with romanticised notions of survival, progress and immortality.
Urban Primitivism, vacant ritual, desexualised fetish…
A good based on the elevation of what we regard to be ugly, disposable, untouchable touching on a question the artist Judith Barry posed in her practice in relation to the Hellenistic tradition, the display of the post war bounty: “Who possesses whom?”
These are trophies of the dispossessed and disfigured prey the artist has not killed or apprehended but reconstructed and displayed as a value object to be consumed with the gaze. The fetish has been separated from the live origin and therefore from its subsequent murderous end, its sacrifice. It has become an idol leading however not to the spheres of natural divinities but to the temples of a market thriving on the homogenous scintillating currency of post production de-mortalized phantasmagorical appetizers.
Offal, deathly foreign elements we associate with barbarism, nightmares, psychosis, guilt and gore are redressed to enable the viewer to become reacquainted with the original sin, the inevitable preserve of the flesh through a high market design rendering, thus removing the shadow dimension of the object of abhorrence and replacing it as a fashion accessory.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
Analogue recurring produced by Bea Haut.
Film screening hosted by Lo and Behold March 2012
Bea Haut has brought together a bestiary of moving image makers who revel in the beauty and the organic unpredictability of the celluloid medium. This is a wide cross section inviting the viewer to marvel at cinematic exploration that has in no way disappeared…on the contrary. We must be amazed at the phenomenon of analogue rebirth. But so long as we will sense the world rather than just estimate it, we will return to the forms of expression most appropriate to contain, solve and solidify our vision in the fullness of physical life. This event demonstrates this primordial artistic impulse.
Out of 15 works, 8 were especially striking to me.
In chronological order:
Bea Haut Arm, Flexion, Extension 16mm, B&W (2011)
A white surface is turned into a black zone. It is however not a smooth process. The method is somehow antiquated in so far as it echoes the priming methods of old masters rather than the modern decorator’s. It evokes the archaic quality of celluloid as opposed to digital high definition. Although the ‘domestic’ is referred to, one is struck by the wilderness of the encounter, of something more instinctive if not partly reminiscent of the Interventionists, as a revolt against the perfect virginal white square with a few defiantly imperfect strokes. It occurs thus, the ruff sweep of darkness, the unknown; across the emptiness of the screen as if to register the imprint of a germinating idea still intertwined with chaos, upon the blankness, the absorbent neutrality of the medium. A relationship develops between the braking substance of the forms, the body of the protagonist and that of the film itself, the vigorous uncertainty of the strokes, the struggle of each movement and the thick dark pigment catching the grainy texture of the wall. This appears as a poetic drama embodying the act of creativity as an act of sarcastic pseudo-vandalism through the conceptual osmosis of two apparently conflictual mediums, the painterly and the filmic.
Helen Nias A Version of Us 16mm, B&W, optical sound (2011)
Here, stills awaken, as they do in dreams. They come to life while being pushed almost disorderly into and more so under the skin of celluloid. What happens is not a film running as a story but a broken narrative, motion arising as if by accident from their symbiosis. The sequencing is made of repellent frames, it feels disjointed, and this is accentuated by the optical sound. The once immobilized now galvanized souvenir speaks a language that differs from the vulgar linear book ended memorabilia of the photo album. The substance of photographic memory is deconstructed, disparate frames sewn up together to approximate the actuality of a moment. In this, it is so much closer to a live memory; savage, ephemeral, elusive and practically unreadable.
James Holcombe Grim’s Dyke Two 16mm, colour (2010)
Death, tragedy and irony imbue the process of film making as the artist reveals a story through the environment of its invisible characters as much as through the experimental journey the audience witnesses. We are reminded of several previous experiments (“In camera techniques”) as those devised by Orson Wells in F for Fake. What we see are the entrails of the medium where a suggestion of a tale is made. It creates a captivation line as we become entranced by the division, subdivision and redistribution of the medium. Don’t look now flashes through my mind and vanishes instantly.
Lucy Harris Sideways 16mm, B&W, sound (2006)
The pace is crucial. It begins slowly, images match the sound rhythm which accelerates until walls, bricks, concrete angles imbricate with one another, and the street cacophony. All of these elements once distinct participate in the re-building of a synthesised city on the recurring brink of dissolution. I think of The crowd (1928) by King vidor and Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie camera (1929).
Jenny Baines Tipping Point 16mm, B&W (2009)
Plates alternate, balanced, rotating, tilting and falling, again and again. In this particular take, the medium resonates with its own natural peculiarity. A soft glow permeates the objects, the space and finally the material these elements are migrating upon. It seems all are made of one substance despite their evident distinct qualities and functions. One might call this the quintessential atmosphere of the medium; Antonioni’s silvery glow as it is so present in his early movies such as the Eclisse and 52 Spaces in which the added Eclisse sound track has been altered to sinister effect only recently.
Vicky Smith Scratching, sobbing, spitting 16mm, B&W (2011)
Is this a case of poetic e-motional memorabilia, or its opposite, a de-memorizer? Man Ray comes to mind with his film Le Retour a la Raison (1926). The live quality exposed is founded on the partial and transmigratory disintegration of the medium; a contemporary parchment of anti-cinematic literacy where letters have been distorted and words have been dismantled to arrive at the essence of analogy.
The screen becomes a surgical theatre where chemicals merge and battle with unfinished scenarios.
David Leister Headgear 16mm, B&W, sound (2002)
A man sits apparently content, being measured, drawn on and quartered. The Dada influence can be perceived; echoes of man Ray once more on the one hand, in particular his solarizing experiments and Chris Marker La Jetée while the ghosts of phrenology drift into the de-synchronized narrative. This endless set of calculations is vain and the repetition of tracing, assessing and measuring lends an obvious sense of absurdity to the situation.
Sophie Micheal 99 Clerkenwell Road (2010)
What looks like a bubble floats from one side to the other, up and down, in all directions and multiplies as the film progresses. We become aware this space is real rather than two dimensional and question the solidity and the function of those forms. Are they balloons, invented shapes…windows? Other such form and space explorations come to mind, Marcel Duchamps, Anémic Cinema (1926), Tacita Dean in her latest piece, Film, another ode to the magic medium created after the closure of the last UK 16mm production lab in UK. Besides this, one is tempted to think of Andy Warhol factory products, Mondrian and Kandinsky, blown up Lichtenstein Bridget Riley…a whole array of photogenic abstractions simplifying the shape of consumer desire. Yet, these were indeed only lamps, window shutters and other animals belonging to an abandoned shop.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
REVIEW OF EACH PERFORMANCE
After finding this page…
“patterns. The Greek goddess of poetry unveils the goddess of nature: Science (from meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organises knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world. An older and closely related meaning still in use today is that of Aristotle, for whom scientific knowledge was a body of reliable knowledge that can be logically and rationally explained “
I once suggested the scientist in their quasi blind pursuit of logical truth was also at the moment of inspiration close to the artist and perhaps even one…but the scientist, my interlocutor rebuked me while acknowledging the potential viability of a rapprochement in the instant we call eureka. In his opinion the gap was too wide to be bridged. I may agree on this basis: First, the product itself, i.e., the result of the work, the materialisation of the idea….a theory will find a recipient in the phenomena being tested and replicated. Here, the art product does not and should not find an easy translation of its manifestation. How it occurs will remain a mystery, despite much research in its neural whereabouts. The opus is not a dogma or an axiom. No equation will lead to Van Gogh’ s Sun Flowers, Dante’s Comedie Divine or Mozart” Magic Flute, but they may lead to each individual as he might occur in certain given conditions… as far from his predecessor as the next season is to the one that preceded it, that is, unpredictable as a totality, but quantifiable in sections.
Secondly, the word as opposed to the number. Art can be turned into numbers but numbers will not amount to the sum of its parts since numbers, as it was discovered by excelling mathematicians incidentally falling into madness as they peered too deeply into the abyss of infinity, reveal the very fabric of their universe while omitting the exponential spatial delay at the root of their sequence. This pebble can be measured, the flux of the river, the resistance of the water, the friction , the tensility of the materials , the weight of the body, the mass and velocity…a wondrous array of hypothesis, observations, classifications…then the application resulting from this synthesis. But the nature of the relationship between all of these belongs to the poetic , where metaphor will stretch the limits of our imagination to fashion as it were a parallel universe; the universe between numbers: the smaller the number, the larger the universe.
Thirdly, the scientist’s aim is functional and practical. The purpose will serve society. It’s first principle is usefulness. Art has never been applicable to any utility. It is useless. It accompanies the useful in certain cases, as in the instance of manuscript illuminations or inserts itself into the social patterns of the community as we have seen with graffiti for example. But its true function is to remain afunctional…to counteract the institutional stagnancy of functionality before all is the effect the truest art will inevitably promote.
Lastly, it is almost a truism to say the artist’s inmost desire is to express the inexpressible. The scientist will not waste time with such a vague adage. The primary goal is to dissect the expressible and whatever cannot be expressed will become a value X to be fathomed by calculus induced physicians. Quantum brought the scientist closer to the artist. To pull time and space into the predictive control of the unpredictable assuming all universal choices are random has opened the way to science as the new ‘art’; the ‘art’ of predictive mimesis. Assimilation of the potential value of the ‘real’…In any case how can anyone express the inexpressible?
The self is the greatest mystery of all and the final knowledge derived from the search for this ‘form’ was named the Philosophical Stone by the alchemists, including one of the founders of modern science, Isaac Newton following in the empirical foot steps of Francis Bacon’s methodology. But perhaps this is where the scientist differs from the artist most. That he or she will discard the emanation in favour of the evidence and that the stone most reviled will be broken into fragments to spell out its secrets…while the artist having found it in the corner of the eye will let it emanate from the core of his or her own being, and as such in a sense rebuild the stone in one singular totality. Yet the unifying principle of the universe stands as the holly grail of the scientist, wondering like a Martian robot collecting samples he/she has pre-separated for analysis. To conquer the world is the scientific mission; to devise a way to utilise every resource at our disposal. That of the artist is to divine a way to themselves, to answer the beauty of the world, of nature, of other creations, of the soul.
“As a man I conquer for such is the strength of my desire. Yet what I have then, as an artist, I forsake, I relinquish for the desire to fulfil my nature is not of man, and what is built thence will not perish”. A.B
Evening at the Troy Bar, London, 2d of November 2011
The Ligeti Quartet plays
György Ligeti: String Quartet No. 1
Anton Webern: Sechs Bagatellen, Op. 9
Gabriel Prokofiev: String Quartet No. 1
Mark Simpson Plays
Steve Reich The New York counterpoint
As a musically orientated non musician, life without music is unthinkable.
Throughout my years in this metropolis, music has therefore not only accompanied me but inspired my work. It is as a visual artist therefore that I now relate the event at the Troy Bar on a warm autumn night.
It seems from my perspective as an avid listener of more ancient music such as, Guillaume Dufay, Hildergarde of Bingen, Josquin des Prez, the Chansons Trouveres, Gilles Binchois, Guillaume de Machaut, who used monophony, rondeaux, cyclic composition, polyphony which was regarded as evil at the end of the medieval age, motets, where poetry and music were playing equal parts in a play of incessant tonal and tempered responses, that contemporary composers returned to a source remote from the grandiosity of complex orchestral works of the classical era, which followed from the lyrical imperatives set out in the symphonic style. The spectacular had not yet overwhelmed the senses. Those composers became fascinated by counterpoint, as in Steve Reich’ s New York Counterpoint interpreted later at the Troy bar by Mark Simpson, and the canon technique as in the work of Arvo Pärt. Most of these musicians remained obscure to me until fairly recently. I recall my first serious encounter with Béla Bartók during a session at the National Gallery, passionately played by a duet.
I suggest that up to the Baroque, which one may argue degenerated into ‘painterly mannerism’, compositions still presented a looser fibre, a fluidity of style around a rigorous yet humble frame, allowing for space where silence could expand, breathe and phase in and out of the living structure, the harmonies reflecting the aspirations of the age. This silence and its subtle echoes were displaced after Mozart who stands alone as a link and a gap between one continent of thought and another.
This displacement was propelled by the romantic élan whose momentous aftermath is slowly disintegrating despite modern and post modern assaults. A crisis of the monumental crashing into its own centre left a crack deep enough for a new generation of artists to defy the linear logic of history. This romantic mantle absorbed the decaying by-product of urban hubris. Musical expression became inflated by lyricism moulded around obscure and grandiose definitions rather than evoking a form only definable through music itself, subjugating it to the role of emotional illustration; a battle of giants ensued, a senseless symphony galloping towards a merciless opera. The land became a pastoral scene, a landscape of intellectual leisure; sounds carried the picturesque to its portentous extreme beneath the shadow of Caspar Friedrich’ s sublime melancholy.
One could attribute an abstract nature to the plain chant, the perpetual canon, even the cantata. In this sense, contemporary classical music or neo classical as it is coined, has turned full circle. Composers like John Cage whose research led to the integration of choreography and visual arts, György Ligeti whose work embraced fractal research and kafka, expanding in the realm of what he called micropolyphony, Arnold Schoenberg who developed the dodecaphony, Philip Glass who made ample use of counterpoint, circular repetition and antiphonal ‘dialogues’ in Einstein on the Beach for instance having also tapped into Indian harmonies and philosophies, all have re-abstracted the landscape to seek out the missing sonic space, re-claiming as much as invoking its inherent multi-cellular expansion.
In the womb like venue of the Troy bar, red hot, right up to the white furnace of boiling metal, somehow reminiscent of my own kitchen darkroom when the lights go out and processing begins, the Ligeti quartet, Richard Jones (Viola), Val Welbanks (Cello), Mandhira de Saram (Violin), and Patrick Dawkins (Violin), takes its position in front of a red curtain. The curtain never rises, the voices fall instead. The players have begun.
This is not what one expects of a classical ensemble. It defies the parameters we place around what we call high brow entertainment. They have turned their instruments to the highest pitch, their bows exclaim as they hit the strings, staccatos follow; the mind is overwhelmed with a flurry of unpredictable sonic interventions. As one possible image emerges from the composition, another resurges from an impossible angle to erase all traces of the former, yet, none remain because we are not witnessing the figuration of a form, but its atomic disintegration. In the corner of the eye, they appear like cavaliers, slicing invisible enemies with their sword. The atmosphere has become almost expectant; no one knows what we are waiting for. Suddenly, the harmony brakes; a string has bitten the surface of our bubble. It snapped and with it the tension of the audience. Mandhira has shot the arrow. The quartet soon resumes. György Ligeti: String Quartet No. 1; Percussion of cords, winter, ice braking, swarms of inverted crows, Escher: Development 1, 1937, dark hardened earth covered with a mirror skin, translucent wolfs darting, golden bats shooting in and out of a cave, the unpredictability and nauseating beauty of (human) nature in the eyes of the solitary migrator. Angles of a cube entrapped in a tightening sphere, a movement recurs as if reversed, a motion circles to meet its end. silence again is primordial. Anton Webern: Sechs Bagatellen, Op. 9, Nordic atmosphere, a dark fairy tale. A forest made of human synthetic inventions, rising from a state of latency. Gabriel Prokofiev: String Quartet No. 1, Neo classical par excellence. Harmonics stretched towards melody to be dissociated violently from any sense of preconceived order. These were the thoughts I caught a glimpse of as I listened.
The performance was however divided in two chapters. The soloist Mark Simpson performed works on the clarinet, including Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint and Berio’s Sequenza.
Tall impregnable glass walls are pummelled by swarms of electrons, taxis’ klaxons burst out, suddenly driving up the walls, making yellow lines as they speed against gravity before making a sharp turn. Mondrian grids collide with Le Corbusier structural plans of blank facades while the ghost of Gaudi’s Sagrada Família resounds and fragments.
The figure moves behind a chair, it feels like it is attempting to catch something, something that moves faster than itself. It escapes the figure which in any case relentlessly evolves towards an unknown point…or rather, the point resides nowhere exactly. The musician is surrounded by the refraction of his quest. He uses a magnetic field and his signals reverberate as if captured inside a malleable mesh representing a heavenly vault where angels are made of compressed oxygen. They divide until critical mass is reached. They melt spontaneously to reform according to the apparently intuitive pattern the musician leaves behind as he creates it also simultaneously ahead. He is the player answering his own modern litany. It echoes within the chamber, a conceptual chamber where one note is distorted to the point of dissociation. How can one note contain the deep drumming caused by a panic ridden herd of elephants as it flees, or the humming of a subterranean river, below hollow aluminium plates? Mark Simpson explained his clarinet was based on the model that inspired Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major, K581 and Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K622, the Basset Clarinet which offers additional keys, therefore extending its range.
“What we have to re-conquer is the weight of lost reality” said the painter Alfred Manessier in the 1940s.It seems to me the momentum leans towards what was known prior and leading to the Renaissance as Ars Subtilior as Daniel Albright(editor of Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources) suggested. For the love of music beyond social self, the contemporary musician does not feel the need to reject or forget original sources of inspiration, and the input of their closest predecessors. Instead, they have augmented the scope of their experiments through multi-media exploration. Thus, indeed, the complexity first encountered at the end of the fourteenth century finds a natural field of experience in the novel use of tone, rhythm, and scales marrying visual sensation with musical elaboration. To end this, I would have to mention the irony of syncopation by quoting Guillaume de Machaut: “my end is my beginning and my beginning is my end”. Thus the puzzle of existence grows. Can we read life the same way in both directions? Music answers us with perpetual motion.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2011
Evening at the Apiari Studios
No.W.HERE events: UNCONSCIOUS ARCHIVES #2 Tuesday 13th September Apiary Studios, 458 Hackney Rd, London, E2 9EG
The room feels almost empty. All cinemas do. This is not a cinema. A room open to the viewer expectant of a timely occurrence, a fleeting moment; passengers take their place around the central area, closer to the walls, directing their gaze consciously towards the screen.
They know it will begin, at some point, it will continue for a time undetermined…then it will end. This is the nature of life as it is of a film projection. The light begins to flicker. A voice had spoken, the project was introduced, the artists were unveiled…or the opposite could be as true. In the sudden darkness, the bright waves still surprise the night bather. Doubt is extinguished, replaced by extreme anticipation. We read our neighbour’s face like a script. It jumps, it pulsates, it vanishes with each unpredicted motion of the light and each accentuation of its absence.
The light beam is a carrier of memories, memory views, coagulating on the liquid surface of the rolling celluloid where we have no time to grasp any of the moments tattooed into it. We run along side it as along a stream, a small object having fallen into the water. No time to retrieve it but with the eye and the ability to travel back to the very instant of its loss. A Milky Way one cannot trespass upon.
It harks back to the days of cosy if not claustrophobic cinemas, the red velvet chairs ridden with cigarette burns, smoke volutes rising with the opening credits, falling with the epilogue, the audience’s breath held between takes…the small cinema would heat up in a cloud. The dialogues, on a par with the rumbling projector would turn fuzzy on the edges, like old leaves, the image crackling as it passed through the hard metal wheels would warp, cease up, atrophy and resurrect like a flame eaten by a draft. We sit in our own heads, looking into a giant eye ball; the microcosm of a distant galaxy. But the images here have become worn through artfulness. They are twisted, cut up, torn, repeated, manufactured, distorted, distended, dyed, blotched, bleached, superimposed, fused, until a new era is extricated, born in situ, in the ‘vitrail’ of the retina, under the eye of the contemporary public.
A Girl slides on the ice ring. She falters, vacillates, falls over, while the light fails, the grain disintegrates, the colours bleed and melt. She comes closer to us, she recedes, she falls, gets up, falls but not really, not as often, for real, only once, then before take two, she never reaches us, only the edge of the screen. She moves to the beat.
This is no longer a film about a girl that learns to skate whose dream comes true. This story is secondary to the narrative which has no narrative logic. A story told in reverse, inside out, dislocated from rational predictability, from the world of history, from reality as we know it. It is a fragment looking for another piece, for a counterpart; a pattern left by some uncontrollable recurring incident. It occurs as we wake from deep sleep, on the crest of the wave, some disjointed accumulation of memories and fantasies dragged out of the night.
It is not even a film…not in the sense of a pre-digested account, or a tale. No direction, no mise en scene… but instead, composition, editing, and disintegration. We are in the land of poetry without rhyme. This auto unravelling parchment is a testament to the beauty of the medium, an experiment in the uncertainty principle present in the nature of the material. It dazzles the viewer; it overwhelms the imagination with aesthetic extravagance. One can only be seduced, mesmerized almost hypnotised by the inherent quality of optical mysticism, that is, the witnessing of an incomprehensible apparition leaving an indelible impression…this film parades like a nymph in a forest, just about to vanish, incandescent, unreal, mercurial, yet moving, and as she does, leaving a trail of impressions and reminiscence behind her.
The girl wavers, shifts to and fro, turns around, disappears, re appears. The spectacle seems mundane, turns to glamour, from colour to monochrome, invention to documentary, souvenir to actuality. It escapes definition. The image of the girl conjures up a sensation of precariousness and awe. Is it nostalgia or loss? Most of us sitting here have not experienced the era alluded to. But we know the human face. We know how children move. We recognise the essential or perhaps we are led into a world where the basics of perception are superseded by a new form of aesthetics. Should we ask if it contains meaning, if it generates it? Or can we assert the object; the prima materia is the meaning in itself?
Of course, this type of cinematic experimentation was explored within the context however, of a more traditional method applied to and intrinsic to the film medium after the extravagances of the Dada and Surrealist era, Kiki of Montparnasse by Man Ray and Fernand Leger, Ménilmontant by Dimitri Kirsanoff, or works by Hans Richter and Jean Cocteau for example. Godard, Passolini, Antonioni (Red Desert), Chris Marker (la Jete), David Lynch (Eraser Head), Even to an extent, Stanley Kubrick (2001, Odyssey) …not forgetting other cineastes who employ animation techniques such as Swankmayer and the Brother Quays all have contributed to the continuation and renewal of exploration in the primeval time based medium.
Cinematic narrative leaves us generally in no doubt. We follow from introduction, through development to conclusion, the story which unfolds and reveals a particular point of view. It is not the case here. Despite the evident time sequence, we are not informed of any specific order, our comprehension of space and time, since it is no longer linked to the duration or the structure of the novel we expect from the medium under scrutiny, is challenged if not erased.
This projection is followed by three other pieces all using an aspect related to the film medium.
One of them, a performance, utilises the actual physical element of film, acting as a sonoric fishing line. It transpires the “film perforations identify the material as a film strip…the projector’s optical sound head reads the perforation as a sound” the film reel emit sound. White noise in the margin. The protagonist, HANGJUN LEE, pulls it out as he walks about and out of the room. The films tenses up, the noise increases, the film breaks. The protagonist returns; starts again from that point, the accidental editing cut. He pushes it back, quite brutally, slips the end through the gaps. The film is caught once more. He pulls hard on it. No images, no light. Only sound, similar to that of a moppet that slows down or accelerates.
The driver is the motor. His motion is an engine. The action is borne out of his atypical apprehension of the medium. It denies the primary purpose of film. It silences its nature by enhancing a subsidiary property most of us have up to this point been ignorant of. We are invited in the margin. There, we must question the notion of relevance, appropriateness, means or meaning, and the relationship between the tool, the maker, the viewer and the product. Something is unravelled literally. The metaphor becomes redundant. It makes no sense. Meaning again will not be passed as a message. It occurs in the obsolete passing of time. An absurd momentum enters into equilibrium with our absurd expectation. Nothing to wait for; anticipation is defied. Nothing really happens. The end of the film reel is ripped out of the projector. The protagonist stops walking. We clap. Minimal interactive art, disinstallation, gestural rhetoric; we must invent a title to justify our interest, our status as spectators of an ‘expression’ that blatantly contradicts the sanitised utilitarian inanity of visual art. We have become accomplices to subterranean forces…unconscious archives…the inevitability of the tide. The atmosphere is turned into static fog.
This piece seems to stand in opposition to Cristo Wallers’ Gillian, in that ephemeral beauty is banished, displaced by operational evaluation. Yet in both cases, truth to the material is of the essence.
Both works therefore stood out in my view. On the other hand, my evening at the Apiari studios would not have been complete without the presence of HUGH METCALFE and BEN HARPER. Their review however I leave to another pen.
“Embodied Beams. Disembrained Sound ::: Habituation of Unconscious Archives Lab noise burp, rotten retina digestives to save our souls”. Supported by Apiary Studios apiarystudios.org, Netaudio London http://www.netaudiolondon.org, Penultimate Press penultimate-press.blogspot.com
no.w.here and the contact printer at the Filmbee lab in the Star and Shadow, Newcastle. http://www.no-w-here.org.uk
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2011
Two Figures in a Cityscape
Saturday 24th September
Sitting on a bench, the traffic noise enveloped by the sound of guzzling fountains, we watch the walls coming alive; lights switch on behind the window panes, balcony plants in silhouette, the edifice rising from the grayness of concrete, transformed into a shimmering stone scattered with translucent jewels…city buildings waking from the slumber of business days. But this is not any architectural growth. Our backs to the church of Saint Giles on the grounds of an ancient cemetery now integrated within the design of the estate, within the cultural construct of the Barbican. There we meet, almost by proxy, across the green water pond, two literally brilliant individuals whose walk and stature are the only source of our acquaintance.
What could be said of them?
Firstly from this angle, a gap of what appears to be four to five meters separates them, although my friend affirms it to be closer to ten meters, and gives the strong sense that, by their respective insular stance, it could never be bridged. This we agree on.
The two human forms could never meet, their path leading towards destinies of a different nature.
What is noticeable? The figure closest to us is unmistakably feminine. She walks with a straight spine, proud, confident and swings her hips on an imaginary cat walk. She carries it everywhere in her head. Doors open more easily because of this glamour propulsion into a bright future. She almost levitates; perhaps she wears high heels, but not a dress. Her clothe are like a second skin revealing every shape. They inform her surroundings of her glorious form. We could expect her to have finished hostelry school while anticipating the release of her first single. She has a good voice and little patience with the middle man. Her aim is certain and her targets within reach with direct access to the executive plane. Being a woman is tuff, but being the right woman in the right place is like nothing else. She takes advantage. She is a winner. Her purpose is clear, no confusion. Thus, her trajectory is defined, straight and expedient. She has no time for heavy thoughts…she takes on Dan Brown and dismisses Sylvia Plath …who de hell is that anyway? The arts…yes; useful, social, amiable, crowd pullers, artifice, a spectacle, no irony. Stage sport in sequin. Entertainment is her virtue, absolute ambition a small vice. She goes to the gym, she goes to Mac Donald, she runs, she clubs. Smokers are evil, drinkers are silly. Drugs…in small dozes, and only the purest white lady. We make our own destiny, but she still gives to charity. Her sister is a pain in the neck, too young, too wild, too envious. Her step father is an arsehole, lascivious, lazy, unhelpful. She salvaged a few old photos of her real father. She cherishes them, keeps them in her hand bag, a talisman. Her mother is a traitor. She sees herself as a black sheep, a survivor…that old song still buzzes in her mind… “I will survive” it says, and she does, so successfully. She makes an instinct into a mission. Her hands are open to receive. She might as well be holding the keys to her mansion in the country. A year from now, she will be there. She already knows this. She knows herself. She woke up one day, having surveyed the territory allotted to her at birth, and considered it done. Church is not an issue. One value she admits into her life despite the stamp of her mother. Marriage is on her map, further on, and the church will provide the seal of this sacrament. She has a penchant for Catholicism. This is the nature of her rebellion…her mother in the end will not forgive her this, as a Presbyterian…
My interlocutor disagrees. She accuses me of snobbism. She sees in my description the symptoms of class separatism. Because a girl moves proudly, does it mean she is not cultivated? Why assume she has no interest in classical literature, originates from a modest background and has no taste in good food just because she walks without shame, without fear, without guilt?
“Look at him. The figure in the back. Is he hiding something? She cuts an attractive figure, but this guy is unlucky. Her idea of a bad dream. For me, he is a drab office worker. But you see him as middle class, involved in the media industry, pretending to be a bit of a lad.” Introverted, shy or cowardly, careless yet a bit too meticulous, blaze or aimless, sentimental with his next girl friend, cynical with his mates. He is walking to the corner shop, nothing much to think about, just needs a pint of something. A pack of twenty Winstons, a can of larger, preferably red label. He fancies himself as a renegade, a lout in disguise, a double lifer, besides second life that is. A TV man, a motor man, a great guy. A lout maybe, but not a hooligan. She agrees with a reservation: She thinks I instill too much complexity in his psychological profile. Why would he be a middle class boy pretending to be a hoody…without the hood? “Your interpretation grants too much depth to his character and too little to hers” my friend protests. “But look at him”, I say, “he loves parading the track suit and the Strongbow with the Battersea gang. He reads the Sun on the tube especially on his extended journeys up Tottenham. He reads financial times in bed. He has developed the Liverpool accent which he enjoys practicing on his dumb down “night-outs” as he calls them to his jolly good chums at the gulf club…in Surrey…he wishes it were Miami. It’s not the cash flow, just not profitable right now. But next Sunday, on the wedding of his best mate, he will eat plums and carry a silver spoon in his mouth.”
In his bachelor pad, in the secret of the blue twilight, he shouts at the wide screen…his team, Chelsea United, could be a give away. Still, he is not shouting at that. He is watching rugby and the all Blacks are a pet hate of his. That can’t be helped. His book collection is intriguing. Don Quichotte, first few pages only…just to impress. Shakespeare, complete works, it sums up his allegiances, one must support the national identity. A bit of a crisis and a sore point. He takes it out on the immigration policy. Richard Dawkins, a big plus, makes the shelf into a high brow sanctuary. Then Agatha Christie, Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Don de Lillo…even Norman Mailer, a present from an ex who had big plans for them, big deal, tuff shit. Too bad.
Many more where that came from. We must safeguard the prospects of our family jewels. What takes up space on this wall…Encyclopedia Britannica. His pride and joy. Virgin territory. Can look but don’t touch. He has no inclination towards the Arts, save for a bit of delinquent graffiti, then again only Banksy, bloody good and it looks cool on a poster above the leather sofa he just purchased from the brocante on Essex road. He is quite keen on a bit of ruff antiques. But art…what does that mean anyway, not much use, takes space, money for nothing, people who laze about with obese egos and a matching bank account…what about starving kids in…where was that again?…then , his dad has left him a little Dali, some scribble worth gold. Twisted ladies on a sandy beach. Twisted mind, another crackpot who only had to curl his moustaches to make a million. He could try it out, new art savy on the block, move over Damian, the graying spoof maker. La(t)er. He prefers his 1960’s Jaguar any day. In his family garage, out of town, out of sight, nobody’s business. How old is he, older than her, late twenties, she, early.
Yes, they seem far apart but not so entirely different, may be a generation thing, no hope for planet x, lets make it to the next one, how much do we need for a space trip…Not so far apart, a few meters, not even, a few years, a few ideas away.
You would think gender cuts an abyss between them, but they like it this way. Life with no sex, no politics, no friction, how boring that would be. Who came up with this trans business anyway ? You are either one or the other. This makes them feel good. Genetics, genitals, biology, anatomy, this is reality, the rest is codswollop. After all, in a nudist camp, it shows us up. Cunts and dicks. No argument. Yes, they talk about something called the psyche. And so what. The species wasn’t built with fruit and veg. Who said that? They would agree on that. They are self conscious. But this makes them aware of their potential impact on their environment. She is cool headed but full of anger. He is an inverted snob, contemptuous and disinterested. They are opposites yet the same. Uncanny match in the midst of a static bunch of blind witnesses. She is led by a dream and touches the edge of it. You can feel it. He is an old man before his time. Dreams to him are a waste of time…like art.
“How strange too, they walk at the same pace” my friend points out. They walk on going nowhere. Or at least nowhere as we know it. We suspect nowhere exists. But where is it?
This does not concern them. They could be archetypes in our heads. Someone dreamt them up. Computer generated models. Sampled from a wide cross section of types. But they have personality. They are specific and specialized.
They shine in the dark, animated neon, a bit like ghosts on a conveyer belt. “They are the same height”, my friend adds. “They walk in the same direction” I remark.
People sit around them oblivious. They look as conspicuous as they are invisible. They merge with the cityscape. How can that be? I ask myself. We are silent. Watching the relentless motion of the sleep walkers, the illuminated figures plugged into the grid.
My friend notices the schism is there, but superficially only. As it appears to be between all of us…not quite. Some gaps are treacherous, imperceptible, yet, incommensurable. Within them, senseless battles rage. We sit here, others sit closer together but will not ever know one another. What connects all of us ? Walking nowhere.
Digital programs made real. Reflection or invention? Work of art or didactic performance ? Generic humans some would say. Who isn’t in the eye of a stranger ? Yet these are pulled out of the virtual woodwork. They most definitely belong to a particular category, a culture, a milieu. Not in the middle, not a composite. Straight out of the instruction manual. “Where are the others?” my friend asks.
They are about, around, here and there, filling space, sipping tea, having a bite, surfing, gaming, ipoding. Cramming truisms in between. Coming and going. Faceless, like Jil and Jo; typical or not, type casted, molded, plaster casts, c types, resin coated, Gyclee, 14 thousand pixilated and uping. They fit in a role, they play it, they believe it. “We do”, my friend corrects me. Passing the time, passing on, passing away. Walking on.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2011
Review. Sexy 100.My favourites
P.A Bartholdi, in collaboration with editor S. E Wanguard
There was only one way of approaching this enormous collection…or it seemed that way to begin with. But random is the word that comes to mind as a post modern explanation for the weird and the coincidental.
The stairway beckoned. Then an indefinite succession of cubicles, finally a panoramic reception where a performance, ‘le clou du spectacle’ would unwind in gloomy lighting conditions effacing all traces of atmosphere left by the sardonically gracious presence of the protagonist, Anne Pigalle. This senso unico had to lead to the centre stage persona, the live performer and to an extent ended there, one’s mind filled with intervening episodes of obscure creations. We could detect the emotional content animating the general assemblage, yet, what to my mind, superseded this common characteristic was the intellectual design made manifest with exquisite craftsmanship.
We tell it as it is.
We, my assistant and I are first greeted by the magnanimous personage enthroned above the stairway, a large colour print of the humorous self portrayed Ingrid Berthon Moine. If there were any glimpses of other works prior to this apparition, they were erased in one elegant brutal sweep. We are confronted by the obviousness of the event snapped and exposed with self restraint added to flagrant mischievousness. In this work, The references abound in the glory of their uselessness. What matters here is the tension in the image between ground level and gaze, between personal grit, cultural pun and social polemic. After which chronology and order become satisfactorily irrelevant.
A chess board by Ea Byrn. There are a few travelling the market…burps from undigested Dadaism. This one is an example of subdued tragi-comedy. On one side, Tesco’s ‘Finest’, on the other, the monopolising supermarket’s ‘basic’ products. Between…the gap each side cannot or will not bridge; a gap that is not as fixed as a chess board design, or is it? It widens, but it is set and here to stay.
Behind us a large scale monochrome print. The most abstract piece here. Or are we missing something too obvious to be comprehended with logic? Kate Kotchoff’s pale mushroom shape is a ghostly creature emerging from the darkness. It looks like a cloud cluster, or perhaps a cellular implosion, the firmament no longer containing the catastrophe of the vacuum now tearing at the fibre of space.
We quickly forget ourselves in this tornado of cerebral interventions. We follow no guides, no itinerary. But once again Ingrid Berthon Moine grasps our attention. The little scintillating monument revolves slowly, a jewel…a family jewel in the vitrine of the public arena. It is ludicrous, absurd, hilarious, shameless, auto-erotomaniacal, a useless axis around which no satellites parade, an impossible source of delight, a clown armoured and naked all at once encircled by de-captivated eyes. The statue demonstrates its own faceless hubris and makes the viewer into an accomplice to the derisory panache on display. This is also surely a tongue in cheek response to D.Hirst’s diamond skull, as useless an object as it is pretentious, a symbol of death, not so cheap any more. This is more complex, for the supreme biological life giver turning on this promontory is also an usurper whistling in the wind. It is whirling endlessly, giving nothing but false promises. The skull is real, a trivialized relic, the other, a real toy replica of the real deal. A parody of a parody.
As we enter a narrow alley between tiny rooms, I catch a series of intriguing prints. Jennifer Taylor has invented a disturbing world, partially desaturated, the colours have turned cadaverous, objects have merged, some impossible to identify yet precisely defined. Tubes, pumps, balloons ( one questions their presence), cell structures…what the unknowable inside of the body is made of to the alien in search of sordid sensual secrets. These are ominous and claustrophobic places, backrooms of a forlorn space ship, oppressive, immutable and entirely synthetic. If a sexual dimension resides here, it is nightmarish, inhuman and necrophiliac. Yet the pictures themselves are strangely alluring. We are lured into the visual huis clos of infinite and indefinable repression.
We hasten, hearing the performer has began. We are late.
A floor up, people are gathered. Anne Pigalle sings and moves inside the placenta of her story. It is a poetic story reminiscent in its form of the 50s Paris caves hay days but also pre war Europe, when Dada and ‘les années 20’ encompassed the spirit of rebirth, the rebirth of a certain freedom of expression. A friend told me he was there…but this was circa 1987, café de Paris, a last breath. Yet, this private spectacle is antithetical to nostalgia. Behind the black veil, Anne travels in her imagination, not into the past; a transfigured widow, liberated by the realisation of a godless universe. Now instead of bricks, mortar, stone, the context is an assembly of plastics. This is a typical office space, carpeted throughout, de-atmospherised. A platform for art products on the fast track. I feel anachronic, as anachronic and out of place as the performer and her pianist seem to be. She is oblivious to us, masked; her body evolves according to the vast penumbra surrounding her, her eyes invisible to us. She stumbles in the inner sanctum of a lost era. The words are severed from their habitual meaning with visceral precision. The drama persists in echoing the creative luxury of the ‘fin du
Siècle’. She makes use of regret only to rebuke it with sarcasm and the evident will to initiate a renewal, a resurgence of substance. It is a long pink glove slap in the snout of the mundane. I think of Suzanne Valadon, Anis Nin, Isadora Duncan, Leonora Carrington, Colette…
The Piano falls silent. The show is over. The crowd breaks down, each human particle regrouping, separating, dissolving…behind a wall.
There are wooden curved shape-structures hanging from the ceiling. They are organic, amibous, cell like, their outer frame held by strings guarding the entry to an invisible layer of being. Fine muslin feels like the upper membrane of the skin lifted from an unidentified part of the body. There is pain in the tension of the plastic wires. This array of armatures floats above dark frozen waves, mountains of red velvet. My assistant reveals this work by Nicole Barclay is an allegory about the atrocity committed on girls in African countries and in secrecy, worldwide, in private clinics, at a price; excision, the female genital mutilation equated to male circumcision. An odious comparison.
Across the alley, Inesa-Barrington De La Roche’s Dark theatre Hominaticum, is what it purports to be, a dark kind of theatrical display played out on two main walls inside a deem lit room impregnated by red light , a sex parlour for the Goth imagination. This is the master room, more precisely the masturbator room. A crucifix is adorned with a crude micro sculpture of a pudendum. Facing it, a TV screen flickers, red shot eyed, blasting a fuzzed out scene of in your face female masturbation in full action. Distorted sighs leak out. No one is in any doubt about the provenance of these sounds. But what greets the spectator is quite unexpected. It is Tongue in cheek, lugubrious and burlesque. A red district with no actual sex on offer, pornography turned on its ugly head and making a volte-face armed with a grimace and insane laughter.
Further on and further in, Shan Kate Moony has installed a set of three filing cabinets, side by side, some drawers open and exhibiting their scabrous erotic memorabilia, some prosthesis like such as the wooden shoe stretchers and the baseball glove in which two doll’s eyes have been dropped or a teeth collection undoubtedly real and thus, imbuing the rest of the paraphernalia with the chill of death, of a past unforgotten and unforgiven, by association, inescapably drawing in the history of our inhumanity as much as the inevitability of our fate. These are antiques, fetishes, suspicious toys…golden high heels, luxurious pipe cases inlaid with red velvet, reminiscent of Cathy de Monchaux’s invented limb containers. In another drawer, we find espionage novels(Fleuve noir). Among them, mini furniture, doll house size, is used as a prop for some unknown movie, the actors hidden in the wood work. Two chairs, one bone, one table, one chest of drawers, both red; an evocation of the domestic surroundings we engineer in the back of our mind. I suspect a certain randomness, yet, order reigns around unstated or understated chaos.
We pass a doorway and wonder what we are looking at. A tool, an invention, a trick, or a plaything…This is quite worthy of Dada; tiny, witty, uncanny, sweet nightmare. Natuka Hourubia has constructed a dysfunctional toy. Half a doll, blond hair, a mouse on her head, eating faeces…or what else could it be? The doll sits on a pivot, her legs replaced by an upside down spoon. A very useful looking design, although absolutely useless. Nearby, nipple sweets, very 18th century decadence are wrapped in pinkness. Perversion in comic-strip format. Another ‘objet insolite’ placed elsewhere in the building, is bewitching and inspires instant laughter. Plastic green fingers have grown out of a bathroom crocodile with a pink winder nestled below, in a porcelain soap dish with a stainless steel plug attached. This I admit is sexy.
A very different universe lays in wait across the room. Eleonore Arkelli has fashioned a wondrous volume, an object in which small altered photographs have been framed, almost grafted in, as if viewed through small windows cut into the thick card of each page. This feels like an ancient manuscript originating in the culture of Japanese print display. Its antiquarian quality is partly challenged by the addition of two zips sewn into the spine. If it seems a crude allusion to sexuality, it also derives from a culture in a deep state of socio-sexual repression. The images seem to have suffered from natural old age as much as from natural disasters. They are reliquaries embedded in the linen of each page, like scars, traces of the past in the deeper skins of the body…the book. The object could have been found, but it was not. It was made from head to toe, a novel without words, new, worn and ageless.
I recall another chess board, found in a gallery, off Brick Lane; a design kit. Impossible to locate the next move, a uniform board of veneered wood, a delicacy for the eye. This one however transports the mind to a world which could have been Earth like, its inhabitants very unlike us. The pieces are all individual creations, having, as it were, sprung up from the base, tendrils of new shoots. Semi aquatic pink plasticin, the ‘crustaceans’, are contorted and aborted, extracted and distorted. The embryonic collection echoes the imagination of Salvador Dali allied to that of H. R Giger, “Alien” designer in the eponymous movie by Ridley Scott. One suspects some movement in this fauna. They may have been sampled from the gaseous planes of Neptune or dug up from the deep crust of prehistoric magma. Perhaps made from live pig flesh, perhaps cloned from ‘instant cells’. Real and unreal, they float in the interzone of this contradiction. The little sweet moulded forms should not be ingested.
There we meet somebody. A sense of recognition. She takes us to a room ‘below deck’. A micro planetarium also hosts what appears to be a healing session. Someone lies on a couch, the ‘healer’ is bent over, massaging an ear. We move among irregular plaster spheres. Each harbours an ear. Each one of them is different. An assistant provides a small torch and invites us to look into the ear protruding from each globe while holding the light behind it. Through the tiny hole, an image appears. None contain the same. Do we see what each individual can hear, which cannot be heard by anyone else? Miyuki Kasahara has assembled this galaxy called His/her personal sky. They are figments of private (hypothetical) memories held in suspension, a sound crystallised , a song may be. They hang by a string, at different levels. How many hours, days, years separate them? Can we hear the music of the spheres as well? Our accidental guide leaves. I had not had the audacity or the opportunity to unwrap Anne Pigalle’s expressionist kitsch art, the ultimate perverse bonbons to be coveted but never tasted.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2011
EDGE OF EXTINCTION .
By Sebastian E Wanguard. XartX, The Invisible Magazine.
Lo and behold, a well hidden secret has once again opened its doors to reveal the workings of an underlying vision. This in itself is not uncommon; a seemingly simple exhibition gathering ten artists all delving in the mystery of monochrome from rather disparate perspectives.
we enter the inner sanctum, or what one might associate with the chamber of illumination in the Great Pyramid, having manoeuvred through the entrance and the following passage, to be led into a narrower dark antechamber where the traveller receives guidance from above. In fact, the hypnotic humming of a 16mm cine-projector will paradoxically call you back to reality. On a single sheet, a human shape, that presumably of the artist, Bea Haut, in Housedust intrudes upon and brakes up the white plane with the fluctuation of another sheet. She waves this flexible element and in doing so engenders chaos, a swarming horde of unreadable signs. These although born out of physical traces have become part of the grain, a quasi bacterial component of the surface of film. Yet they seem to flood space with electrified animosity. There is no frame but strategic framing of space. The dark shape is in itself an intervention upon the blankness, a sign among others, linking and separating two given dimensions; foreground and backdrop. All throughout, armies of derelict and disfigured letters, so they appear to this viewer, vibrate, then fizzle out and disintegrate instantaneously; language of an invisible presence, of the corporeal condition of a medium in the throes of birth and decay. A storm of undecipherable punctuation has been unleashed. But this is also an intervention on space, it invites us in the experience of a mental structure, the projection having become a catalyst for the coherent crystallisation of an architectural fiction. A subtle instance that disturbs the laws of physics in our mind as we walk on through the veil of Maya.
To my left, I am assured, the journey continues…clockwise. Two A1 prints resound with the translucent limpidity of archetypal composition. Ryuji Araki has created Mandalas from single 35mm negatives. From a reasonable distance, the design is alluring. These are ancient symbols of oneness, the self having incorporated ego, the divine and the human mind having fused into a seamless yet complex ontological entity. They evoke the essential quest of the soul for the centre of itself. As we approach however, this truth turns out to be elusive if not illusory. A sinister reality emerges from this serenity. The mandalas, Crucifix and Human Systems respectively named, are constituted of minuscule stills all cemented into a coherent pattern. Each one contains an organ. Added to this detail, symbols known such as yin and yang and unknown, invented as a code, some resembling viruses viewed through a microscope, are deliberately arranged. These organs are not placed in sacred urns to be protected or sublimated, but exposed to the eye of the onlooker like a temptation. Beauty has on this earth been founded on a ‘masquerade’ where the social creature gains solace through consumption and where sacrifice is our only salvation. The organs are themselves placed at the centre of a plate. They have become an integral part of the design. In order to abolish this infernal cycle, we must then dismantle the entirety of the composition. We must de-construct the myth.
Between the macrocosm and the microcosm stands an effigy. A video work by Kate Elliott entitled Urination-Liberation. Among voices, the sound of a piano, a nostalgic tune by Bach can still be discerned. Two ink figures, representing each gender following the typology of the lavatory door, seem to dance with melancholy to Air on a G string. They are precariously balanced in their assumed affirmation of difference between eternity and obsoleteness. They dissolve in the water flow, flushed like vulgar waste, and in doing so merge into one misty appearance on the brink of disappearance. The loop effect ultimately carries meaning since we, as social beings entrapped in conventions, must be caught in this relentless cycle where the act and the persona have displaced self knowledge. The two figures symbolise in this petite dance macabre the superfluity of an unbridgeable divide.
Beyond this pillar of Dualism and between two black curtains, a micro theatre awaits. Three small prints each made of a sequence of three stills almost float on the surface of the wall, ensconced inside deep white frames, their presence is that of an object rather than an image. They look like three ladders reminiscent of cinematic successive stills. Action glanced from the perspective of a passing witness. Tofu Wall by Masayo Matsuda is a tripartite assembly generating a combination of emotions ranging from outrage to resignation. The images are almost abstracted, blurred, denying conventions of sharpness and documentary punctiliousness. Once more, what we see is far from what we expect to see. An impression of violence rather than an illustration of brutality, a suggestion of motion rather than the replication of a moving entity. The stillness is ghostly yet close to the skin, like a shiver . It echoes that of the mandalas, a miniature world we must approach gently, and look upon silently. There is here a vast space dedicated to intimacy, yet if a sub-text escapes, it is that a suspended thought, a glimpse into the meaning of a hand moulded into a fist, turning a wall into a malleable paste, can brake a barrier between worlds and people alike.
From Masayo Matsuda’s graceful display, we converge towards three distinct images forming a triptych by Pascal Ancel Bartholdi, Extinct formations in Indistinct Environments. We may find these difficult to decipher as we face a singular association. Two dramatic perspectives of a building site are flanked on each side of a central image, the portrait of a man whose handling and tenebrous quality affords a connection ; a common textural heredity. Were there to be a blood line in an object, these would have the same ancestor, and one might venture, thus is the artist who made them. In these constructions, despite being hung on a wall like photographs and paintings, the object therein and the atmosphere invoked become almost palpable. We wander in the arcane of history, smelling the dusty clouds of smoke as they rise from apocalyptic catastrophes. An erosion of the rocks speaking of extinct oceans, of winds and rains, of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. These are sensations we are touched with. The images seem almost incinerated or ravaged by a natural cataclysm , a ship wreck abandoned on its side on some craggy reef… post war solitude where the counter tenor voice of Klaus Nomi can almost be heard. We are partly remembering the attacks of 9/11, the recent tsunamis and the nuclear disasters that the world has suffered in the last decade. The smoke surging in the images leaves an ashen taste in the mouth and the framing used, with dark stains and traces of dust, reinforces the suffocating effect of the images. These are lost and found objects, from an unidentified era, yet in the profound muted history they unearth, we find a place to be, to contemplate. These photographs offer a sombre vision of the world that may or may not be on the edge of Extinction. Extremis, ephemera, melancholia and an unashamed quest for beauty form , it seems, the core of their philosophy.
Four great squares nailed to the wall, four anonymous faces look out from the depth of the under world, and stop the viewer in their track. Patrycja Basinska has created Far Between, a gigantic bestiary. There is no shine, no sheen, no grandiosity in this continent of portraits. The faces belong to a world far from the reach of the common ogler…the laboratory of the embalmer. Animal gazes seem to look back into themselves, leaving us frozen in the moment of an unexpected thought. One of them, the tortoise, has triggered laughter. A menagerie of sad countenances emerge from the grain of the film, magnified by extreme printing enlargement. Another, the double headed deer, feels like a tapestry or a photograph of a painting. All have been elevated, risen from oblivion, their lifelessness intertwined with their life through the taxidermist’s and the photographer’s chemical memorisation. Two dimensions enter in symbiosis, recorded onto the matt surface of a c-type print. Death here appears alive with the trace of a journey. This is an impression one retains from these images, imbued with the morbid majesty of their subject who refuse somehow to become an object.
We are now called to muse at the intricate lace of Tania Dolvers‘ compositions ; Zeotrope 1,2. One figure evolves in two different environments, each a set of stills showing the progression of the figure in space. Although evidently inspired by Eadweard J. Muybridge‘s studies, these images offer a sub narrative. A mythology is alluded to, and the inescapable aura of Victorian photo-montage in the top piece influences our perception while the long bottom piece opens up the treasure box of mid twentieth century horror movies, bringing the return of Dracula into the arena of conceptual pictorial invention. Viewed from ten steps away, the rectangle comprising 32 frames gives the impression of an old irregular glass pane, a ‘vitrail’ effect. The figure, a woman in white dress and black cloak, leaves a trail of sacred angst. It seems appropriate to think of it as a sacerdotal phantom turning in its alcove, yet fixed within it; a figurine, a statue some external agent has positioned then repositioned .This stands as the epitome of fiction where every element of the creative process has been altered, made to appear as what it is not, what is was, or what it might be. An ironic play is in action, a comical impression of nostalgia, a film that never was, a photograph that is not really a photograph and so on. Yet the artifice stares at us as we stare at it, actualizing itself in the full apparel of illusionism.
Perpendicular to this vision, a miraculous and grotesque apparition grants the audience with a sense of the sacred reversed, transfigured into the defiant golden calf dragged down to the ground, the hidden god revealed, his name spelt out thus placing him on the earth as a minor creature, a naked truth, a profane appendage to the history of our species. The designated object, and it is in this work, Denudations its status above all, is subdued by the attention bestowed upon it. By virtue of its social history, the anthropologist would be obliged to dig out archaic notions of self-hood appropriated by the male counterpart in the aftermath of the victory of Marduk over such a godless as Tiamat in the Babylonian myth. The traditions all lead to the principle of hierarchy in which the phallus has acquired centre stage pathos. No matriarchal system has challenged the status quo, quite the contrary. But this is not propaganda. It is in a sense, evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The female equation, removed, gazes at the male with humour and pity. The image is primordial, absolute, vivid and devoid of sexuality in the obvious way.
It has translated the pornographic apparatus of the erect protrusion into the domain of poetry , zoological classification, pantomime and conceptual dissection. No one will deny its archetypal presence. But we look at it through the particular dissimulated and acerbic angle of an artist full of sardonic wit. What is on display is so, not on account of its panache as the perpetrator of carnal acts or the conqueror of reviled regions, but as a demystified symbol of dominion, a thing to be exposed as a museum article, a relic, a disregarded utensil, in this specific piece comparable to some exotic marine plant eaten in Korea. There is something unwholesome, and risible about the organ of reproduction, be it male or female, and wars sprang most often from the root of our Edenic expulsion. It contains the secret of our failure as humans to be human. It is ,here, in its perfect state of belligerence and pride, the alter ego of other iconic figures, such as the Catholic emblem to which even Duchamp has referred in his legendary “Fountain”. We are hit by the absurdity of our obsession. We are repelled by the reflection of our fascination. If Ingrid Berthon-Moine‘s images offend the conventions, they also enlighten us, the viewers who seek an entrance into a new era.
By the side of this carnivalesque epitaph, three graphic images demand scrutiny. They are humble yet impossible to identify. Each, an individual piece invented then demolished, exists in the past, the imagination of the maker, and having recorded them, in ours. They are called The Useless Machines by Lee Milne. This title intended or not, reflects on the status of art itself. They are real in the sense that they have really existed by virtue of the artist’s translation of a functionally useful object into an afunctional object. It serves no purpose other than our appreciation of uselessness. Turning the superfluous or the redundant into an aesthetic comment is per se the pitfall artists have to trick themselves out of in order to assume a valid social position. We make a statement about nothing: the weirdest and most valuable contribution that has enabled our species to substantiate our argument for existence on a plane other than purely material. For nothingness is so hard to define even Jean Paul Sartre would have to admit defeat despite the accomplishment of his thesis” Being and Nothingness”. In this series too we find an example of the metaphorical aspect intrinsic to the work transcending the artist’s message or intention. It is fair to research the motivation behind a work of art and gain access therefore to the theoretical background which will partly enrich our perception yet, it may also flatten it. Those pieces contain the political, the social, the anthropological, the personal, the conceptual and the magical. Three constructs reminiscent of Lego, of the doll house; souvenirs of a lost industrial era. Assembled, they are disassembled to be forgotten and relocated somewhere in the archive, small taboos gathering dust.
Facing all walls from its spatial magnanimity, the metaphor has now become three dimensional. Jessica Mallock‘ s Stacks… to abbreviate a very long title and accentuate the relevance of the term ‘stack’ is a noble enterprise in the original sense of the word. It is uncanny in a way differing from “Far Between”, Crucifix” or “Denudations” for example. It’s peculiarity resides in its actual edges, in the hard, cutting, uncompromising materialisation of the process by which it arrives into our viewing field, having become a tangible organized and sculptural phenomenon occurring any time the artist (re)constructs it. It denigrates the power of walls as transmitters of meaning and repositories of images. It claims space, internality, weight and volume as a receptacle and emitter of an idea while parodying the photographic materials it is formed of. This is a pun made flesh. The idea is based on the notion of the photograph as a flat surface to be observed from one stand point, secondly on the idea of a photograph being ‘indefinitely’ reproducible. Thirdly, on a system of tonal classification Anselm Adams ‘officialized’ as the zone system. Ideas of what constitute a photograph have been made into an object supposedly devoid of any meaning other than the method, the components, the chemical reaction, and the general properties of the photograph. This piece however resonates with equanimity and poise. A statuesque quintessence pervades. It is first of all a sculpture beyond any theory or ideological formula. Uselessness with a capital U turns out to uphold Beauty with a capital B. The singularity of beauty lay in its complete uselessness, yet it is absolutely indispensable. In this piece, we see the quasi geological formation of the print from its origination at the top of the pile to the final product at the bottom of the pile. We see it as an elevation model of the birth of a photographic print where the plinth has been entirely integrated. It unravels the chemical mystery and punctuates an endless discourse. It magnifies the controversial physicality of the photograph. From the white sheet yet untouched by light to total blackness , this is a distant answer to Bea Haut’ s blank sheet folded and unfolded in an infinite loop as some multi lateral opposite.
An impression of unity is left despite the disparity of creative approaches not only because of the monochromatic theme but because of a strange experimental accordance, giving rise to a communion of voices in harmony. If a message can be underpinned, it is not through the word that speaks to the intellect but through the nature of the image in all its forms, to a deeper stratum of the psyche, untranslatable, uniquely positioned, and irreproducible. We leave with an instinctive understanding of a unifying principle, a sense of having partaken in the experience of a collective and equally deeply personal vision far from the edge of extinction.