Dance of ideas for a woman with a blue guitar

Is this BLOG an experiment? I doubt it. It’s not a reasonable, predictable space. Words can be heavy. Stones, they were called. How to love them?

A place of pleasure, that’s my goal. Encounters and exchanges about art and life. A selected group of people will come and play the thinking game. They will send their thoughts by e-mail. We might be read by the global village. Let’s give them pleasure! Let’s learn to be light. Fleeting and temporary, at least for one year. Personal, fearless, bringing out uncertainties, pauses and hesitations, conflicts and doubts. Most of the artworks reveal idiosyncratic states of mind that are not allowed to writers: no smoking in the toilette during the flight! Unless they are poets.

I was an Eighteenth-century philosophy scholar who turned into a journalist and a maker of hand-sewn books. So my hands give the books a body as the secluded princesses of the old tales, making their lovers’ body with flour and water. None of them have a beating heart. Lack of love makes me sick. Lack of confidence, same effect. Plaintive commentaries about climate and institutional collapse are a black mask on my eyes. Reality is painted black. But The Arts keep me alive. Meredith Monk sings without words, only voice and feelings. I wish we could write like she sings.

No yes, no, I like, dislike, no evaluations. Intelligent kindness. No aggression nor rivalry. Reading, writing, “an exchange of desire becomes possible, of an enjoyment that was not foreseen. Games are not done, let’s play.” (Roland Barthes) Wind and earthquakes shake our landscape. Los Angeles is luminous in the middle of April. We can wear the on-line dress, all the possible colors and shapes, because ideas have colors, if someone cares. The kite needs hands holding the thread as well as the winds and the sky; it needs tension, inside and outside.

“I play them on a blue guitar / And then things are not as they are. / The shape of the instrument  / Distorts the shape of what I meant, / Which takes shape by accident. / Yet what I mean I always say. / The accident is how I play./  I still intend things as they are. / The greenish quaverings of day /  Quiver upon the blue guitar. (Wallace Stevens)

SEWING LIFE AND DEATH: Material Art from China

S E W I N G  L I F E  A N D  D E A T H

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China

at LACMA, Los Angeles, until January 5, 2020

Text by Rosanna Albertini

Here is the thread sewing my mind to the first generation of Chinese contemporary female artists: “my mother was a seamstress.” It’s a recurrent matter of fact in their lives during or immediately after the cultural revolution. I avoid capital letters. I could also say, “my mother was a seamstress, so was her mother, as the other grandmother couldn’t be, having lost four fingers of her right hand cut off by a machine in a factory producing thread for sewing.” Many women were seamstresses in Italy at the end of WW II. Such a heavy heritage didn’t make me an artist. Unless my hand-making books has some roots there, but probably not, the thread that I like to handle comes from the narrative thread in the written book, from the writing tension.

Among many interesting artists at LACMA, four female artists stopped my heart: 

MA QIUSHA    LIN TIANMIAO    YIN XIUZHEN    PENG YU

These artists were all new for me. The more online research I did trying to have a more comprehensive idea of their work, the more astonished I was by their art and by them in person, interviews revealing the struggle of identities as fragile as butterflies fluttering at first, and becoming very steady in the blink of an eye, flying out of the cocoon of collective mythologies mixed with communist ideology, not to mention thousands of years of a powerful civilization. They bloomed by working hard. Still with one foot in patriarchal families and the other crossing one of the fastest social transformations in history. Studying and living in the US for awhile, and going back, to preserve cultural values in the storm of energy that pervades their country. Feeling the pain as well as the positive influence of change. Lin Tianmiao winds thread around bodies and every object she can find, physically changing them with raw materials. She has in mind “a simpler past” while she accepts that her existence cannot be separated from everything around, and not only in China, all over the world. 

“Being an artist is a very personal thing and often a lonely thing” she says.

Sewing, fabric, and the thread itself are just the right materials to portray emotions still on the seesaw between past and future, to keep them flexible as long as possible. The present seems to be faceless for the time being, still veiled, still needing a human blanket over the sharpness of changes that are planned more than asked for.

 It was always a matter of slowing time, with sewing or weaving, from Penelope waiting for Ulysses to the time when Bertha filava, in Italian fairy tales.  The matter yes, but time first, time driven by female hands, the juice for the metaphor. Slowing time, maybe, allows these artists’ minds to pause on the physical world like migrating birds. They need to fly, no matter the risks. And they do. Their wings are large and strong. They cover the human condition, in China and elsewhere.

MA QIUSHA, Wonderland: Black Square, 2016  cement, nylon stocking, plywood, resin, iron, 96 7/16 x 96 7/16 x 23/16 in. Courtesy of Beijing Commune.   LACMA 2019 Photo RA

The Wonderland Amusement Park of Ma’s childhood has slowly disappeared. The rough surface of the road on which the artist used to skate back and forth from her mother’s to grandmother’s house is the solid canvas of the square, covered with black stockings. In other similar pieces of this series colored stockings or clothes soften the same ground. If it’s a map, roads are not traced, there is only a soft proliferation of irregular fragments of nylon, they all had walked slipped on women’s legs, and now they are a body on their own, never flat, petals of blackness. 

LIN TIANMIAO, Day-Dreamer, 2000, white cotton threads, white fabric, digital photograph, height adjustable on actual site: 196 13/16 x 86 5/8 x 59 in. Courtesy of the artist. LACMA 2019. Photo RA

The artist’s body floats midway from the sky face down, and sends her profile towards a pedestal on the floor. Cotton  threads edge with stitches the flat shape of her figure —a wound marked with no blood— before it falls like vertical rain. The base is empty. Has Lin embroidered the artist’s destiny? limited in time but persistent as a challenge, an impossible dream. 

LIN TIANMIAO, Here? or There? 2002, mixed media  Courtesy Gallery Lelong

LIN TIANMIAO, Endless  2004, mixed media Courtesy Gallery Lelong

Yin Xiuzhen moves Lin Tinmiao’s inner struggle into an outdoor landscape. She doesn’t fear showing attachment to remnants of the past, old and more recent, inexpensive traces of daily life quickly erased from the cityscape. She collects used fabric, clothes and shoes from all over the world, surrounding herself with so many past lives that her personal relevance turns to zero, a molecular, an alchemical function. Through her art, the face the present shows is a texture of multiple times. The most significant threads are invisible, broken like dry branches. They are the same in every human, by genetic or cultural recomposition; and they exist beyond national borders, different languages and food. 

YIN XIUZHEN, Shoes with Butter 1996, color photograph Courtesy Pace Gallery Beijing (Hybrid of spirituality and materiality inTibet)

YIN XIUZHEN, Transformation 1997, B & W photographs mounted on used cement tiles. 7 1/16 x 7 1/16 x 1 15/16 in.  LACMA 2019, Photos RA

YIN XIUZHEN, Transformation 1997, Beijing, Photo Song Dong, Collection of the artist, Courtesy Pace Beijing

With Trojan, at Venice Biennale 2019, Yin Xiuzhen brings back the homeric tragedy as a topic of our own contemporary drama: not only the horse has entered our world, we do more, we enter the horse! And inside it’s strangely appealing, a space of thoughts we would disclose in an empty cathedral, far from conflicts, aware of our fractured ideas. We get ready to crash. Yin Xiuzhen adds Nowhere to Land, always in Venice. I don’t feel like adding words on that. Silence on our folly. She got it all. 

YIN XIUZHEN, Trojan, Venice biennale 2019 (Photo designboom.com)

YIN XIUZHEN, Trojan (inside) Venice biennale 2019 (Photo designboom.com)

YIN XIUZHEN, Nowhere to Land, Venice biennale 2019 (Photo designboom.com)

Peng Yu is perhaps the extreme edge of the boat. Spiritual threads link her to the afterlife humans whose bodies were left behind, buried or forgotten in frozen rooms for medical experiments. Exile is not for them. Feeling our own exile she filled a jar with fat sucked out of those bodies, sort of a lacrimal bottle to collect tears, but gigantic. And she poured the fat into a river that runs around Beijing, to merge with all the other leftovers pushed around by the water. But first of all she sewed visible leftovers of life in the river to a tangible, physical component of death, so completing the circle: never give up with feelings, one doesn’t need to be dead to be nice, affectionate, a gentle dead. One can be gentle, even when living. 

PENG YU, Exile 2000, still from video. Duration: 3′ 12″ Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp-M HKA, on view at LACMA 2019

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : DISASTERS

DISASTERS 

 by Alberto Albertini  

(Father and Son – Oreste and Alberto n.2)

DRAWINGS ALBERTO ALBERTINI MADE AS A CHILD

About the drawing of a falling airplane. Since Alberto was born in 1927, the following events started when he was about ten years old, more or less in 1937, and continued. Besano, Lombardia

The beauty of a disaster is fascinating, upsetting and attractive. Certainly not for the victims, but for us it’s incomparable. Attraction comes from breaking the usual routine, brightening up the attention by a sharply different happening. And something more is there —I believe— something dug up from unconscious or previous mental habits: hidden desires of revenge, failed achievements…

I was fascinated by disasters from my early years, they were in the air. At school we received fascist and military culture: we had to learn about muskets, grenades, anti gas masks and the complete military rank from simple soldier to general! I was never been able to learn it, but in the meantime the subtle pleasure of disaster was crawling in me. 

With Giorgio, who had a lot of toys and a great electric train on which he used to keep apples to dry, we used to produce railroad disasters: they were his trains. Had they been mine — I desired them so much — I don’t think I would have treated them that way. I made up for my deprivation by drawing more innocuous scenes. Giorgio and I also loved to take pictures of tanks hit by cannons. Tanks were the prevailing toys, but I was attracted by the caterpillar tracks, that gave the possibility to go everywhere, even off road. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving forward, I transformed an old little game my father had played with me into a complete military construction. Father used to put a match into a small tube, then using another match’s flame he heated the tube’s bottom and pfff, the first match was shot out of the small tube! Thanks to my inclination toward building, I moved to using bigger brass tubes and made a carriage with rubber wheels from other toys: a miniature cannon that I could drag. Such evolution involved the problem of the explosive substance that I fabricated following the instructions in the Sonzogno handbook. Actually it was a handbook for pyrotechnic work that I had bought in order to prepare the black gun powder: 75-15-10 saltpeter-carbon-sulphur. I understood from this that pyrotechnics could be more interesting, which I successfully undertook showing the blaze to the girls, more than sending rockets into space. I paid special attention to Micky Mouse’s whaling ship that I reproduced in wood in miniature, but this too had a small cannon with a harpoon. 

Recently, in a short autobiography in third person, Alberto wrote:

We consider superfluous to talk of the early years, our childhood because, although embryos of the future are already there, (at age five he conceived and made a net of trenches to gather chestnuts without bending his back) we believe that this is what normally happens in everyone’s childhood.  Only the stubborn time of adolescence brings the steady intention to proceed with a project. Which one? He, at that age, loved to say that he was a renaissance man four or five centuries late. And for that reason it would have been impossible for him to embrace all the arts and sciences that were possible in the renaissance, provided one had a special desire and a lot of brain. 

I hope you get the irony. My uncle Alberto is 92 and lives and works in Milano, Italy.

ADIA MILLETT : The Gold of Silence

ADIA MILLETT : THE GOLD OF SILENCE 

  Adia Millett : Breaking Patterns

California African American Museum Los Angeles — February-August 2019

 

ADIA MILLETT, Section 8 2016, Fabric/textile 140″ x 120″ Courtesy of the artist, Photo RA

Be broken into a million pieces.

Only then will your heart no longer be confined

by the precious delusion of your own identity.

And perhaps you will stop being a house

with a few windows for the light to pour in.

Instead you will be the ground and the sky.

You will be the echo of your mother’s cry 

and the imprint of your father’s feet.

You… will be everything!

ADIA MILLETT

Edmond Jabès:

ECRIRE, C’EST RENDRE LE SOMMEIL AUX MOTS. LA PAGE EST LE DORTOIR; ALORS LE REVE PREND LES RENES ET TU PEUX BOIRE A L’ETAPE.

TO WRITE IS TO GIVE THE WORDS THEIR SLEEP. THE PAGE IS THE ROOM FOR SLEEPING; WHICH IS WHEN DREAMS HOLD THE REINS AND YOU CAN DRINK BEHIND THE LINES.

 

THE GOLD OF SILENCE

by Rosanna Albertini

Neither words nor images are easy. They only expand in a visual body moments in which the writer, in our case she’s also the artist, has lost memory, explanations, even the measure of time, and holds her breath in hope that a new world will appear on each page, in every art piece. And I would like to wrench more from Adia Millett about fabric and deconstruction, her pacing and undoing to the point of forgetting the heaviness of the house, both object and word. But, more words would pass through the intersection between her life and mine. I stay with the silence of her art as I see what she drew from history or natural events and remade, maybe skipping lightly and quickly, from afar, the ‘precious delusion’ of her own identity.

Daydreaming is the secret. A golden needle was held by Millett’s neurons, escaped her brain, became the vessel of a thread: a thread of breeze or light, and yet strong and farsighted. My, our daydreaming can only be different from hers when we look at her quilts, but we breath the air between the 8 sections of the house, whose door is there? Does the house wrap the artist around her body or live inside her, recombining layers of fabric with untold stories by many steps preceding words?

ADIA MILLETT, Medicine Wheel 2018, Fabric/textile 120″ diameter Courtesy of the artist Photo RA

Ancestors’ spread a monumental asymmetrical wisdom from a temple with one white window at the center. Fabric adds softness to the timeless speech. Adia Millet brought here, now, the ancestors’ voice gripped in stitches, for our eyes’ soul. She went through the magic of a natural environment: the grass sleeps in the green, birds rest among the clouds, the sky sleeps in the blue, the sun blows insomnia from an orange eye, time sleeps in the wheel. Perhaps humans didn’t really step in. 

ADIA MILLETT, Ancestors 2017, Fabric/textile  65″ x 73″ Courtesy of the artist, Photo RA

Darkness is the not seen, an unknown fable obnubilated by lack of light. A wound was necessary, red like a horizon. A golden rain falls down from the wound, it’s the fable crying gold.

ADIA MILLETT, Golden Shower 2016, Fabric/textile 104″ x 92″
Courtesy of the artist, Photo RA

Then tiny houses scattered on tables. Millett doesn’t stop making houses, gloves for explosions of feelings that ask for shape, protection maybe. Metaphors materialized in illuminated small inner spaces from which, once more, what emanates is silence.

The white, luminous center — one or many minuscule lamps —  regulates shadows and meanings, the infinite meanings each of us can imagine. If we are not delusional, we may feel the same in front of a closed door of a neighboring house. Beyond the door museum rooms with no labels, cabinets of daily wonder. We can only guess, make up stories. 

ADIA MILLETT, Blind premonition (flowers) 2009  Mixed media assemblage, 12 x 13 x 14″ Courtesy of the artist, Photo RA

ADIA MILLETT, Capital Gain 2011 Mixed media assemblage 12 x 9.5 x 26.5″ Courtesy of the artist, Photo RA

ADIA MILLETT, Rolando’s Ancestors 2011 Mixed media assemblage 22 x 12.5 x 9″ Courtesy of the artist, Photo RA

When a long history of human traffic and money is included in a tunnel ending with a vanishing point, with ships sealing the void and money growing on trees instead of apples and pears, I saw the power of tales, the more absurd, the more revealing. A popular Italian story brings up the belief that trees with coins instead of leaves would grow when planting a coin in the ground. Poor Pinocchio, blinded by the beliefs of the poor who dreamed of a new life. Capital Gain is a clever, shameless piece. So are the other miniature spaces. Erasing time, including feelings in a niche, the artist invites us to open heart surgeries. Bleeding becomes gold, if you let your heart explode into a million pieces.  

ADIA MILLETT, When I Was a Little Boy 2011 Mixed media assemblage 9 x 13 x 18.5″ Courtesy of the artist, Photo RA

ADIA MILLETT, When I Was a Little Boy 2011 Mixed media assemblage 9 x 13 x 18.5″ Courtesy of the artist, Photo RA

Bibliography

Edmond Jabès, Le Livre de Yukel, Paris, Gallimard, 1964

ALBERTO ALBERTINI: A ROOM OF SURVIVAL

ALBERTO ALBERTINI — A Room of Survival

Text and images by Alberto Albertini

  Nobody cares if someone dies provided he is unknown and far.  Eugenio Montale                                                         

 The story started when Alberto was sixteen, around 1943, in a Northern Italian village. The same story is told in words and images, 16 images for his 16 years. He is now 92.

                                                     

Everyday life in time of war

War is disquieting, the most inhuman manmade activity! Disheartening to think that, at a short distance from destruction, while destruction is happening, there is a calm, quiet state. Such was our condition as adolescents, not yet at the age of being butchered, but mature enough to understand it. It happened that prealpine valleys were crowded with people evacuated from a half destroyed Milan and mountains were the partisans’ refuge. Only some distant exchange of shots caused us to remember. Small towns were under fascist and German control; we used to go to school in Varese by bicycle, ten or fifteen kilometers wouldn’t have been a lot without steep slopes and descents, we went anyway, trains couldn’t go because of the machine guns firing from the allied airplanes. While crossing the town we met squads of black brigades that marched singing hymns of death. Although tragedy was palpable in those moments, we were able, at that age, to get rid of it very quickly.

A secret bubble around him, his entire life

Dear friend of my sixteen, I must confess I arbitrarily used you as a secret room of survival. This door that I quite often opened, and it allowed me to evade the heavier pressures of my existence, represents my unresolved inmost being: that age full of dreams, desires, aspirations, contradictions and disappointments. While we changed, the world also was changing. The war, the loneliness of being antifascists, the golden cage whose privilege we could perceive through the anguishing feeling of what was happening far from us, was an intangible weight on our unprepared mind. The freedom we enjoyed wasn’t deserved, and yet we held her tightly while creating our stories, the first emotions. Nobody —I believe— will hold on so much. Those who came back from the camps, from the war, only have terror in themselves, humiliation and a torn consciousness. We were not able to imagine how much beyond humanity human beings went, but we had unconsciously absorbed the war into the arcadia of our bare fields and chestnuts trees with no leaves on whose branches we rehearsed for the life to come; our magic bubble could hardly contain the overflow that had happened in our most charming and mysterious age. This marvelous nebula floated around me over the years and still does even if I don’t call for her, I feel her presence, and it’s sweet for me to drift away…

Alberto Albertini, Partisans in Varese

Alberto Albertini, Partisans in Varese

                                         

 

Alberto eating grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My companions and myself were guiding some friends in the mountains to reach the Swiss border, still open for a few days. September was sultry. Growing hot, we took our shirts off. … A woodland behind us was expanding toward the fences at the border, and it was one of those moments in which a stop brings awareness of what was happening to us: separation from friends, a future about to grab either them or us, and meanwhile we were surrounded by an enchanting beginning of autumn, a sort of laziness that starts with leaves looking tired, and fading colors. As the group began to walk again, a girl was still leaning on a tree. Small, with an exuberant breast, she gave off sweat, heat and pherormones, maybe only tired, maybe available. This is something I will never know.

 

The train to school – before the bombs –  was the place for meeting students of other villages.

 

It’s strange, I entrust my memory to the photographs: I don’t remember at all where and where I made the photo. For instance: the photographs of young people I sent you, I don’t remember I was there making them; one day instead I had talked to the father of a girl about antifascism and Jewish people expatriating and after that I went out with her for a walk on the meadow without taking pictures. And this I remember! AA in 2019

ARTISTS’ TALES – GUTSY STORIES N.1

A R T I S T S’  T A L E S — G U T S Y   S T O R I E S 

N.1

 

with the participation of ERIN COSGROVE (Los Angeles), SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON (Los Angeles), GUILLERMO KUITCA (Buenos Aires, Argentina), ROSANNA ALBERTINI

(Sylvia Salazar Simpson’s foot has free access to this page. A wax creature, the foot pretends to be invisible and moves from the sidewalk to my studio in the most silent way. Photos: Hannah Kirby)

I go first only because this blog is my house. I must open the door. Also because history and unanswerable questions around the mutant forms of her body, transformed into strange alphabetic flooding of signs on tablets or pages, has been my research island when I was a scholar, for twenty years. My head must have been bigger than my whole body at that time. Now I am a woman who writes with the tips of her fingers, and thinks better when her feet move on the outdoor pavement, without studying, waiting for words coming by themselves. Laughing, they sometimes come with one of my old aunt’s expressions: “ego et ego,” that I mutter watching the garbage spread on the street. Little aunt never studied Latin, but mess was egoetego. A word as inscrutable as the birds’ songs hidden in the lilac in front of her window. The meaning was clear to me before I knew about languages or dictionaries. 

The other women I knew in my family look back at me from the mirror: my mother’s shoulders, grandmother’s Rosa jaws, my southern grandmother Giuseppina’s mole in my clavicular left cavity, and god knows how many other spots of heritage from older branches I never met. My body is history! My voice is a concert: every single word I utter or write are history pebbles, their conglomeration is monumental, like an enormous midden. 

And it is for me the most exhilarating discovery to see that from the Papua in New Guinea to the northern Netsilik Inuit to my old friend from the Eighteenth century, Rousseau Jean-Jacques, the mind resides somewhere in the larynx, the memory in the belly, and the force of magic “does not reside in things; it resides within man and can escape only through his voice.”* “Songs are thoughts, sung out with the breath when people are moved by great forces & ordinary speech no longer suffices. Man is moved just like the ice floe sailing here and there in the current.”**

When words shoot up of themselves, there is a new song, a new song from my porous bones. It might have holes of undefined shapes. It might rise like fog around human monuments, it’s only words. “Confusion will be my epitaph,” and that was Jim Shaw. I think he made a nest in my liver.  RA

 

HISTORY — historical origin of the word: it comes from wit, old English witan from Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit “Veda” (knowledge) and latin “videre” see. The passage from wit to Hist is clearly phonetic. It belongs to the spoken more than to the written language. 

 

       THE MARCH OF HISTORY by Erin Cosgrove

 

 

ERIN COSGROVE, The March of History 2012. Live action video 15′ 17”

Before you enjoy watching the whole video, let me pay a few words of introduction; please listen to them with your ears. I’m the mocking bird who repeats all the possible sounds, who can sing some snoring out of your window. My song simply repeats some of Cosgrove’s words. The March of History is an art piece, spoken words go with the actor’s body language. Like me, he also walks, like history we all float through horizontal currents … of time? of air? mainly keeping our feet on the ground. But our mind is disrupted by disturbances: questions, centuries of conjectures and ideal constructions, interpretations, philosophical frames: which are histories, maybe rather stories, with people trying to give their present lives the proper ancestry from recent and ancient past stories rewritten and manipulated ad hoc. An endless work, worthy of Sisyphus. If there are truths making history’s rock too heavy, too painful to absorb, a new revisionist version will be entrusted to the words. Voilà! A march of lies. Erin Cosgrove is a conceptual artist who tears to threads any scholastic disguise. She is not immune from sarcasm and allegoric representations. Her art melts stories into romance, drawings, tapestry and animated films.

Here she deals directly with the big monster of History, a creature as fragile as Polyphemus who is one more symbol of single vision, the railroad of unidirectional thinking. She throws her pole into his unique eye, HISTORY’s single name, although hélas, not without pain for her. As in Camus’s Sisyphus descending the cleavage to recuperate the rock and push it back to the top of the mountain, an infinite sadness appears at the end of the story.  Erin knows too well that lady History, altered and imperfect as she is in her verbal dresses, is our inevitable backbone, no less mysterious than each of her conscious and unconscious performers. Losing History, no doubt, we would lose our shadow. Come to the march!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of Erin Cosgrove’s words, moved around by me in a cloud of thoughts:

The past refuses to die

even if there is a past, history is falsified by everyone

let’s face it; memory is malleable, even in personal history

plausibility?

is history different from fiction?

Abba Eban: “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely only once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”

It is part of the very warp and woof of life that the poor do not appear in history. As the African proverb goes, until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter. Is it so very surprising then that a brilliant few will be valorized over the many? We cannot undo the past. To think you can demonstrates a fragility of mind. The very price of understanding history is an impotence to do anything about it.

 

SYLVIA’S FOOT

(One of 20 feet exhibited in the water of a big pond at Barnsdall Park, Los Angeles, CA, 1978. An installation for The Great American Foot Show, Junior Visual Arts Center.)

Here Sylvia’s foot meets one of Erin Cosgrove’s paintings on wood:

 

It’s a foot, it’s a candle. The replica of the artist’s foot cut off below the ankle was born in 1978, 41 years old. Nineteen identical siblings didn’t survive the fire of Sylvia’s house. 

It is a base without pillar, maybe he forgot the body he came from. It has become a mental thing in my mind, abandoned by name and personal history. The foot belongs to the realm of death secretly swallowed into the silence of wax, colors also were lost. Only for one day the foot floated in a pond of water at Barnsdall Park in Los Angeles. Children were allowed to grab the feet as if they were fish. “Oh, sea,  what fish is this / so tender and so sweet? / -asked Gregory Corso, his boyish soul-  —Thy mother’s feet.” 

Words are absent minded. They often abandon us mid-way.

Wrongly or rightly, reb Souassi drew the logical conclusion that death was nothing but a coarse distraction of life. Hélas! It was fatal to us.

It is far from the shore that books have a shipwreck, like improvised boats knocked down by the storm.  

Whiteness, by distraction, found herself without color. Unless it was the color that, suddenly, discreetly, found its whiteness again.

EDMOND JABÈS

Jamais le sang ne connaitra la blancheur      Blood will never know whiteness

GUILLERMO KUITCA, one part of Missing Pages 2018, Oil on canvas 285 x 380 cm 18 parts, 95 x 63 cm each.
From the catalogue published by Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles for the Kuitca’s exhibition 18 march-11 August 2019

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Guillermo Kuitca, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles 2019

Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Paris, Gallimard, 1942

Gregory Corso, Mindfield, @ 1989 Gregory Corso, New York, Thunder’s Mouth Press

Edmond Jabès, L’ineffaçable L’inaperçu, Paris, Gallimard, 1980 (transl. of the quote by RA)

*Statement by Trobriands, Papua Nuova Guinea, in Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, University of California press, 2017

**Statement by Orpingalik, Netsilik Inuit, in Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, University of California press, 2017

JENNIFER NELSON : “From Zero to Gold”

JENNIFER NELSON: “FROM ZERO TO GOLD”    

                   

Myths are the soul of our action and love. 

We cannot act without moving toward a phantom. 

We can only love what we create.   

(Paul Valéry, A Fond Note on Myth, 1928)

Jennifer nelson as a living Caryathid under the lintel of the National Bank of Greece

JENNIFER NELSON  at the National Bank in Athen (Greece)

 

THE LIVING CARYATID, by Rosanna Albertini

 

This is a story of time going in a circle and art losing the pace 

of climbing eternity and rather emerging from human turmoil 

like a white lily from the mud

for Jennifer Nelson is an adhesive substance attracting 

as a magnet the needles that four years ago History scattered 

in Greece giving the country entropy in a broken vase leaking 

disorder and randomness feelings of pain and dreams of hope

that usually remain buried for us looking from afar

under the surface tension of the news

and sink and disappear in the ocean of human despair

which remains untold because life collectively doesn’t have commas or periods

those only belong to single humans not so clear about their meaning

 

her family life in Greece was blessed by motherhood a spring of joy 

while austerity appeared like a collective disease invading the citizens’ soul

stifling them under neutral computation as if numbers had ingested 

a secret justice held by the clock of the European Central Bank

International Monetary Fund European Stability Mechanism

 

July 3, 2015 Alexis Tsipras  OXI Speech NO to the EUROVULTURE

 mythological politics where time present and time past are only one

 “…it was from this very place that Zeus abducted Europa.

 [and with her generated the Minotaur]

It is from this very place that austerity technocrats want to abduct Europe again

from its democratic traditions. NO. We tell them NO on Sunday. 

[The referendum brought up 61% of NOs]

Our NO will make History. Whatever happens, we are the winners. 

I urge you to ignore the sirens of terror. Greece is and will remain

the cradle of European civilization.”

From LINKS, International Journal of Socialist Renewal. July 31, 2016

had the prime minister mentioned the small man in the streets of Athen who 

revealed some time ago in the past the beauty of human conversation 

including lack of illusions and ended his own life Socrates drinking cicuta

to obey a power stronger than his philosophical approach to life

this contemporary prime minister would have known he was only

postponing his poisonous drink …. nine months after

“Europe offered Greece 86 billion euros of loan in exchange 

for a tightly policed Greek government implementing a package of reforms:

pension cuts tax increases privatizations labor market deregulation”

and Tsipras said YES

We were at that speech in Syntagma Square. It was quite moving as we got off the train, we couldn’t get out of the station, there were so many people. 

And everyone was amazed. We’d all thought we were alone in our thoughts and then suddenly it was clear that we were a massive democratic block standing against this insane policy. 

As everyone looked around in surprise to find that people of all stripes and persuasions were agreeing with this resistance, a chant of “No” broke out in the metro.

The square was, in fact, a huge party that night…But democracy didn’t help us. The banks were more powerful. (Jennifer Nelson)

 

Nothing grandiose or expensive was possible for Jennifer Nelson 

American artist who moved to Greece to discover she was married 

to the place with “heavy commitment and light material” 

“wind in and wind out breath and sound and voice held by the lungs 

ingesting the seeds of grief from which one gets coughs and bronchitis”

 

Greece 2015 – Austerity time

Pointless to add that any country could fall into the same pit. 

Debts: the way they become visible, is on paper. People read them as if they were a natural outcome of the banking machine, “instead they are constructed, games of power, art isn’t any different,” says the artist. One has only to decide what kind of game, who are the participants. Jennifer wanted to be fertile despite every challenge, to do something out of nothing. 

An artist friend who had been close to Joseph Beuys, Soulis Moustakidis, showed her the way: ZERO CAN BE GOLD. Moustakidis made an underground press carving messages in potatoes and used potatoes to stamp on papers he stuck under unknown cars so when the cars moved all the papers flew around like leaves. This action took place under the Junta dictatorship.

 

Jennifer Nelson’s ART piece: UNTITLED ( MESOGHEIA) 2016

The Caryatids Porch of Erechteion, Athens, 421-407 BC (Wikipedia image)

Intricate hairstyle of a Caryatid, displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens (Wikipedia image)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing between two columns underneath the lintel of the Greek National Bank,

Nelson embraces the posture, silent exposure and stillness of the feminine statues   

holding the ceiling of the porch that sticks out of the Erechteion, a temple placed on an Acropolis ledge facing an ocean of petrified waves. Poseidon’s rage after throwing his  trident against this temple? This is the city of Athens. The six Caryatids, steady and quiet, lift a knee as if starting a step to fly out of their temple. If they go, the porch doesn’t have any more reason to be.

JENNIFER NELSON, Untitled (Mesagheia), 2016-present, Bills, Home made glue, Gold paint (from Germany) Work in Progress,  Photo Panos Kokkinias

A PAPER WEDDING DRESS. Jennifer’s phantom is in her mind. The idea moved her knee towards an art piece born in Greece, wrapped by the stone walls of her husband’s family house. The PAPER DRESS  was her reaction to the hours spent in long lines in front of the banks’ doors waiting for the weekly money, like everyone else, in a dignified solitude. Banks were shut down. It was like “being taken prisoner of the contingent numbers and times” Jennifer says, “you can loose house, electricity, commodities, but also something bigger. Dead end has been experienced individually, in secret and in shame, within each small family unit.”

Delving mind and hands into the bills’ paper our Jennifer artist captured the numbers negative energy, and touched the paper’s resilience, to readdress them into a new life of opposite sign. She collected as many papers she could and used them to make a replica of the traditional Attic wedding dress, symbol of fertility and richness, mostly embroidered with gold and covered with jewelry. Around her, with her, many other hands -children, women and men- worked and are still working to accomplish the artwork. The enormous neckless is exclusively made out of paper bills whose fibers were broken and made flexible again by human tips of fingers, also by her son Nasos’s fingers.

Working Hands, Photo by Athena Stamatis

Her long hair braided exactly like the Caryatids’ hair, Jennifer Nelson has made herself a Caryatid of our time. Nameless and voiceless. Except for her dress that spreads a j’accuse louder than thunder, and brings the feelings of shame to a glorious, collective ending.  

As she wears them, all those numbers printed on paper, credit cards, bonuses, bank symbols, are changed into embroidery, decorations, become talismans. But the art is not the dress by itself. It is the dress around the artist’s body, touching her skin and bones, keeping her flame alive. 

Jewels of Debts

Fragility turns into strength. Such a delicacy is probably the best adhesive substance. It gave to the makers of the piece an uncertain space in their minds through which a personal dream could appear, for a second or perhaps forever. We don’t know. Socrates again: the value of thinking, and of exposing thoughts to the public. Ancient myths were based on the belief that, when we think, we touch something despite distance and separation. Our mind’s eyes have fingers. Sensations from our physical life are saved inside the mind, their energy can be replicated and amplified. 

This PAPER DRESS is the kind of art piece I would like to see as the prototype of a generation of pieces, all over the world, the talisman to get out of a misery that is not from lack of money. As T.S. Eliot’s words put it:

“Internal darkness, deprivation

And destitution of all property,

Desiccation of the world of sense,

Evacuation of the world of fancy,

Inoperancy of the world of spirit;

This is the one way, and the other

Is the same, not in movement; while the world moves

In appetency, on its metalled ways

Of time past and time future.

T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets 

 

And Jennifer Nelson:

Of egg opportunities lost

and debt that won’t be forgiven

naked to your math,

I loved I love I will love 

The Alchemist’s Account (four line excerpt)

JENNIFER NELSON, Democracy is a Party, 2019, videostill

 

Bibliography

T.S.Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950, Harcourt Brace & Company New York, San Diego, London, 1980

Rosanna Albertini, Technological Rituals, USC Annenberg Center for Communication, 1999

 

TRULEE HALL : a story of baskets, women and eggs

A STORY OF BASKETS, WOMEN AND EGGS

About THE OTHER AND OTHERWISE by TRULEE HALL

an immersive installation at Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles 2019

TEXT BY ROSANNA ALBERTINI

When a new form appears, it isn’t to express a new content. … We must turn over the object as if we were turning a log over the fire. Than the object can be perceived as if it was the first time.” (Viktor Sklovskji)

 WOMAN CHICKEN EGGS   Trulee’s installation spreads out in two rooms as big as a plaza: painted, sculpted, in videographical stories, partially contained in incomplete rooms, the main theme seems to reproduce itself endlessly, each time with a different configuration. It’s one body with separate parts, each of them a story of woman, chicken, and eggs. Despite the cold isolation of limbs, as if a 3D computer graphic had been transformed into a physical, surreal landscape, the interaction with each part is compelling, absorbing, disorienting. 

Baskets are everywhere, even hung on the ceiling, mostly empty, gracious, useless, decorative. I wonder about baskets, they might be the core of the site. They might be the artist’s offering, silent mask of her personal self. Just filled with life. She can be in a basket, and be contained. She, and all of us, only believe we lead our journey. The eggs made us, the basket transports us to the end of days and our stories with us, until we disappear and the stories remain, as in the Maori legendary tales. My brain is pulsing, just a fleeting moment. Something new fills Trulee Hall’s space,  it could be that it makes me think. For an artwork of these days, a rare trove.

Viktor Sklovskji of 1976 helps me to keep my distance from intellectual temptations about art. Trulee Hall is my present antidote.

“Oh yes. Another of those intellectual passions — new perception, new ways of displaying, and you go on dreaming that reality will change. In 1916 we invented a poetic practice centered on estrangement. I was personally so involved that much later I wrote about art pretending art is not an object, nor a material; it is pure form, arithmetic relationships. I wrote it with passion, but I was wrong. Art is pulsing thinking. We just produce a parallel imaginary reality in which, as Albert Einstein said, ‘We transfer the center of gravity of our spiritual life to find a peace that does not happen in the storm of life.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE OTHER AND OTHERWISE    A fictional conversation between Emmanuel Levinas, Trulee Hall, Plato, Rosanna Albertini

RA      Otherwise?  

EL      “Otherwise than Being!” To be human very simply means that we live as if we were not beings among beings.” “You forget – Emmanuel Levinas continues –  that you began somewhere when your existence started. Your being alive, on earth, is not disembodied.”

PLATO,      untouched by idealism:  “Humans are bipeds without wings.”

RA      And here the artist invites us into an enchanted palace where both bipeds, with wings and without, share the eternal ritual of giving birth, producing eggs and being stupefied in front of the sexual essence of every body. The immaculate conception is such a beautiful fable, je vous salut Godard! 

TH      What happens in my sculptures? Legs and feet are fragile, the bust has been reshaped by thousand years of history. Altered like the mountain excavated  in their veins and with limbs mutilated by cannonballs, bullets, hurricanes and diseases, rebuilt out of remains. Still, personality and energy swirl around the body revealing their physical movement. They have colors and shapes. 

“The other” of my piece is female. She is a double her: the one we think and the one we see, the one I belong to in my body, and the one who happens in my brain. A computer image along with her technically generated other, a clay mate.   

RA      Are you saying that we forget we are animals among animals? Content to carry a brain prisoner of a box, an object easily seduced by the book of faces and links without roots? It’s true that your chickens also have their double. 

TH      It’s hard to see ourselves as human animals. We get lost in our head.

EL      I am actually filled with my materiality, she makes who I am. Not true that spirit and mind fall into the body to become prisoner of a deadly box. My freedom grows and expands through and out of my physical life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I write about the whole body of this palace of wonders I realize that names are not included, except, maybe, as eggs of multiple names. Moving between small rooms with no doors or ceilings, walls that are  paintings and paintings that are walls for video images, clouds under the ceiling tickled by a population of swaying baskets, islands of colors keeping paintings, floor and walls together in the same atmosphere, I don’t have any doubt, this is not a place for pure forms, or intellectual distinctions. It’s an art piece giving a body to real feelings of our time, about the female figure in her entire natural power, stripped from propaganda of any kind. The artistic effort and accomplishment are monumental.

 

 

TRULEE HALL, Side By Side By Suggestion, single channel excerpt from a 2 channel video in an immersive installation. First shown at Gamble House in 2016, and in 2019 at Maccarone Gallery Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery.

 

Trulee Hall builds a  monument for the female beast, turning beauty and the beast (the old story) upside down. The male was a cursed monster, the female a model of beauty, patience, and devotion. Female existence in Trulee’s art seems to be extricated from cultural stereotypes and brought back to a sweet common destiny: to be a vase for eggs. No different from a chicken for the same purpose. In one of her fantasy video stories a chicken is asked to understand if the ear of corn offered to her is edible or not. The chicken’s eye looks like a piece of glass, petrified in a dilemma. John Baldessari did the same teaching a plant the alphabet. 

TRULEE HALL, Serene Vulnerability 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Oblivious Baskets 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Showing the Rooster 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Chicken Lap Lady Portrait, Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

A hand made fairy tale. Surprising, disorienting like a forest with many trails. We don’t know where they go. Being more and more under the spell of looking at art in museums or museum like galleries, we are driven to thinking that space and objects in it are the point. Here instead, obsessive variations around the same theme connect every part of the installation with an impeccable logic structure. Threads are invisible. No directions. One has to perceive the invisible connective texture. 

Oh, Simone Forti’s freedom in letting her body talk to the place! With her in mind I follow my body, ignoring where I am. But at every corner, in front of every call for attention, I realize that each stop is time, the time of a face to face with the organs of a scattered female body. Not the kind of time that doesn’t belong to anybody, the banality of proximity, nor time measured by the hands of the watch. Nope, it is the face to face with my own physicality displayed in front of me: funny, playful, ridiculous. Curious as a child who discovers her own flesh, I don’t blush. It’s an orchestra, and I’m part of it. 

A choreography for the same forms: woman, chicken, egg, holes, rooms for living mutate into different entities. Dots on the fabric fly toward the ceiling as white snow flakes, expand in the clouds, solidify in eggs. Between forms, no need of words. Conversation is only visual. The spiraling forms could be snakes, roots, or nothing determined, like a trace of energy in the air. In some cases, their end blooms with an ear of corn. Sexuality and fantasy aren’t separate. Which makes harder the task to mention them, or to identify them with only one single name. It all depends on the way our imagination works.

Perhaps, once more, words are getting separate from things, disconnecting from books, and similitudes are reinstated between forms, from one to another image. The difference with the ages preceding printed books is the man made nature of contemporary images. We read the outcomes of human labor. We read for instance Trulee Hall’s visual statements. Only my passion for writing convince me to put words on them. A group of birds drawing their flight in the sky would be more appropriate. Whether the artist is aware or not of these many implications of her art, is not something I know. 

Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

A celebration of giving birth.  Female breasts expanded into golden ears of corn?  Not only that, entire bodies of many women are sculpted, almost encrusted in the thick, golden wall at the entrance. Surprising, shiny and painful. To step into the round hole between two active breasts spreading a small, white fountain of milk, opens a hole in my stomach as if I were bringing my present body into the birth space I knew well when I brought my daughter to the light. Like then, I feel my animal nature taking over any other part of me; no identity card, just a female beast.

 

Bibliography

Viktor Sklovskji, Theory of Prose. Translation Benjamin Sher, Elmwood Park, Ill. Dalkey Archive press, 1990

Emmanuel Levinas, Le Temps et l’Autre,  QUADRIGE/PUF, @ Fata Morgana, 1979

Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, Published the first time in 1974. Translated into English by Alphonso Lingis, Springer, Dordrecht, 1991

Simone Forti, Thinking with the Body, Edited by Sabine Breitwieser for the Museum der Modern, Salzburg, Hirmer, 2014

A.W Reed, Maory Myths & Legendary Tales, New Holland Publishers (NZ), 1999