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)

SMART DEAR PLATITUDES

by Rosanna Albertini

About THREE FUNERALS AND SOME ACTS OF PRESERVATIONS

a film by JUDY FISKIN, 2016

It’s a film because images move, but after months of simmering this art piece in my mind, now I see it as visual music, very much as John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes: simple as dripping water, unassuming textures of reverence for a life we cover as a mysterious distance.

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How not to be elusive about death? How to be personal and elusive, personal and intuitive, wearing a dress of courtesy, some hints of humor. Judy’s film is a visual score. Lines of people moving horizontally and of cars rolling on the freeway. Notes are replaced by stories in a natural flow from which rough edges are smoothed out.
One funeral at the beginning, two funerals in the end, and stories of physical care in the middle: the statues’ maintenance.

That’s Fiskin’s quite unique art: to keep courtesy in the face of death. To clean the artwork of most intellectual rules, making art like a veil lifted from life, tied around her face often laughing at modernist obsessions, maybe at any kind of mental constructions. How long do they last? Is there knowing or believing?

Time is the body of films and music. Images and sounds are surfers in a pond of time, they exist as a savor, a perfume. We can only “integrate that savor into the fabric of our own identity.” George Steiner*

Once we have arrived to a certain life degree, by experiencing and understanding other humans, every relationship, even with our wisest or lovely friends, is only valuable in the atmosphere soaking them completely; and conversations, profound as they can be, have lost the power to give us intellectual happiness; they rather work in us like musical melodies.” Arthur Schnitzler**

 

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In the film, the sculptures by Isamu Noguchi, Henry Moore, Arturo Martini and others artists of the modern era (only with the exception of Charlie Ray), scattered in the gardens of the Getty Center, are washed and dried as if the Getty Museum conservators’ hands engaged in a caress because they must. There is no love, just periodic maintenance. The sculptures are rigid and heavy forms from day one, corpses. Don’t be mistaken. Judy Fiskin presents them as a trickster would: shiny, perfect, wonderful images that vanish through time. Death is the cord that ties them all, one more string of the music. I remember Homer: shoulders and muscles described as the pride of the living hero, seen at once like future shadows, lifeless, as if Achilles and the other warriors were already dead. This was then, in the ancient times, but now? Art history is a strange museum by itself, calling for veneration, offering exceptional and surprising specimens… do we really care?

 

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In the countryside house where I was born there was a bronze, the head of Jesus sculpted by a local artist, maybe Celeste was his name but I’m not sure. Jesus was sad. When grandfather died, I was seven, the family put a pillow embroidered by me under his head and the bronze on his grave. It is still my favorite sculpture. Facing death, Jesus was hiding his deep feelings, had a quiet expression. I can still see that face as I think, my eyes open. Grandfather used to say that life is so marvelous, something must continue after the threshold is passed. It was faith in a non religious artist.

Judy Fiskin lights a dim lamp at her window. People and words and images are a simple parade of acts and speeches we modulate without thinking in our daily journey. Common senses, platitudes. I’m not the first naming the aesthetic of courtesy, George Steiner is the master, but as far as I know very few artists of our time place this secret, inner feeling at the core of their work as Judy does. I love it because it’s not only about her, it unravels with grace the way she addresses the viewers, all of us. We are in her she can be in us. Platitude is not flatness, it is life as it is, true and fake, modest and grandiose, a little scary, mostly impossible to fish by words. Not without values.
Civility, courtesy and kindness in these days more reliable than truth.

JUDY FISKIN,Three Funerals and Some Acts of Preservation, Film, 2016 (excerpt)

*George Steiner, Real Presences, The University of Chicago Press, 1989
** Arthur Schnitzler, Relations et Solitudes, Aphorisms (Original title: Beziehungen und Einsamkeiten, 1967) Editions Rivages, translation from German by Pierre Deshusses, Paris,1988. Translation from French of this quote by R.A.

FROM THE SWISS ALPS TO THE CALIFORNIA DESERT

   MATZA AMBOY – DRYLAND LAB

2016: UNDERGROUNDS : Art, Land Use and Democracy

From July 5, 2016 to an unknown day, at the mercy of nature and other unexpected events.

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It’s hard to tell if there is or there was Amboy, in the middle of the Mohave Desert (CA). It was an expanded station for travelers journeying on Route 66 by horse, by car or by train since the late nineteenth century. They called it a town because it had a train station, a post office, followed by a motel, a gas station, a church and a few houses. For awhile also a school, that died in 1999. Never more than eighty people were brave enough to spend their life in Amboy over a hundred and a few more years. The local monument is a volcanic cinder cone, bare as a Richard Serra sculpture cooked in the earth’s  belly, overlooking the driest land one can imagine. The whole town has been bought and sold as only one urban body more than once, maybe by charming the newcomers with a faded, modernist look.

“With the opening of the DRYLANDS LAB in 2015, Matza Amboy dedicates its program to the question of water and its distribution.”

ONCE A YEAR FOR FOUR WEEKS it “brings together a selection of artists but also researchers in social sciences, engineers (solar energy, water) and architects.”

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This is the exhibition I saw in Amboy, a population of art pieces shrunk by heat, covered with dust, transformed by the place. Maybe it also happened to the artist this year, more connected to the sense of loss and abandonment inspired by empty distances around the town, a space devouring the meaning of any direction except maybe imaginary lines between Amboy and constellations, planets, moons and meteorites so similar to the surface of this empty land that, at a distance, shines with salt.

There is no water on the moon”, writes Katharine in a beautiful text pinned on the wall. She describes the desolate rooms of the Amboy School, left as they were at the end of a normal morning, books on the tables and drawings and something written on the blackboard, as if a sudden disaster had forced everybody out, out in the sun, out of the inner spaces in which breath and perspiration were spread and absorbed by the skin, escaping the cruelty of being dispersed in open air. I should see Katharine’s textile banner twisted by the wind; it’s not there. School books, drawings and cyanotypes on display aren’t safe neither, the sliding back of the display cabinet is open: some papers move around on the floor. Peter and I felt entitled to put them back, definitely captivated by open doors, and lack of edges, while the heat sucked our brains out of the skull. Not completely though, we could still enjoy the ideas behind the desiccated or altered bodies of the art pieces. Our and their nostalgia hung to almost nothing, just enough to click on our cultural sensitivity.

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The six white rooms of a defunct motel open their door to the art of visionary strangers with a warm heart. Concepts turn into feelings, giving form to physical awareness of common challenges for all humans: the suffocating protection against global warming in a room; white curtains flying through the windows in another room, the white room that breaths and invites us to look beyond the walls. There is the Post Office in front of the cabins, on the other side of the road. An artist, Delphine, paints a white crosswalk. Illegal! For sure she didn’t know it. Now her white stripes have been covered with black paint. They remained stripes, not very precise on the sides, as if painted with a broom.

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Five weeks of solitude after the artists left, and the nails of democracy brought by Séverin have probably given to the locals the wish to be actively part of the installation, for better or worse. Although the Rain Book was stolen, somebody partially replaced it with two pages for a new rain book: writing about a day of rain near Amboy, and adding two photographs from her backyard. I can’t tell for sure, but I believe it was a girl. It’s great when the art expands beyond the initial, limited object, expanding the idea in other minds, through other fingers.

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Half of the art pieces are outdoors, not easy to identify because some local sibling keep them company. Dear friends from Switzerland, you have followers!
Maybe they didn’t grab the beauty of the Ghost Drops and even stole the water jar from the excavated hole, it doesn’t matter. The order you brought into the desert doesn’t belong there. That’s why it is striking to touch it, with long fingers from the eyes. The pyramid in small size, the windmill, the hole, the bridge are as basic as the wheel, one would believe that time has vanished, you remade in the American desert symbols of a culture exposed to failure, silence, misunderstanding. Maybe without wanting you all approached Allan Kaprow’s idea of un-art, almost becoming un-artists, “the offsprings of high art who have left home.”

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Jardin å la Française, the only piece the goes directly from the mind of the artist to the visitor’s mind, is a revelation in the landscape, not less than the vision in front of a French castle’s over designed garden. There was a moment, after driving guided by your instructions, when I almost screamed “stop!” “It’s here!”
Maybe I was wrong au pied de la lettre, yet I was sure the whole dryland, the bushes and the far away mountains had assumed a sense of order, an imperfect geometrical perspective around an unpaved road whose end could only be imagined. Yes! A sense of enthusiasm made me almost forget the 110 degrees of the air, wind and dust. Not for long. A grumbling noise from the road woke me up. Twelve Harley Davidson’s with their riders covered in black leather stopped in front of the white little cabins, perfectly lined up. Language was French. Laughing, my midwestern husband exclaimed: “order is only cultural.”  Maybe art is not, not completely, and it is for the best.

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ARTISTS OF MATZA AMBOY 2016

Marie Velardi, Frederick Choffat, Katharina Hohmann, Thierry Maeder, Delphine Renault, Severin Guelpa, Delphine Renault, Thierry Maeder, Maxime Bondu, Daniel Zamarbide, Leopold Bianchini, Laurence Piaget-Dubious

http://www.matza.net/matza_amboy_2016.

Photographs: PETER KIRBY

RICKI DWYER : THE WEAVER

THE GIANT LOOM – THE SECRET TENSION – 8’ x 9’ x 3’

Text by Rosanna Albertini                               

Photographs by Faythe Levine

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It was not a warm room with fireplace, nor a group of chatting girls moving their needles in small stitches weaving their feelings, or one would say, waiting for their life to begin. The giant loom was placed outdoor, tied to the strongest trees in a clearing in the woods. The weaving work, performed by young human bodies, males and females, transformed an inert structure into a vibrant machine, almost an animal slightly moving on the ground under the pulling of the ropes, to separate the two layers of parallel threads (the warp) and pass other threads in between. And the weaving proceeded over hours and days until rhythm and sounds became the breathing of the loom, until the machine’s mind got numb, stopped resisting. The woven surface grew like foam on the seashore, completely white, in a regular shape that no water would try to spit out, unless a dream could congeal…

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In that wood, artist Ricki Dwyer hung her frustrations in the sky, along with the images of a feminine life locked into frames of intimacy and resilience, tied up by needles and timbers. She moved to the industrial scale of collective collaboration. The days of weaving were the real art piece, hands and legs serving the monumental machine as if it/she/he were the ogre in a fairy tale asking for the right tension, threatening failure at every movement.

The giant loom was the impersonal god setting up the conditions for a piece to be done. The artists, the makers, had to adapt and accept. Oh, isn’t the thread of life very similar to the weaving work? We spend our living time searching for a key to get rid of  frames in the slice of history we happen to be in, as if we had unlimited time. Even more terrifying is the accomplishment: it throws the artist into despair. The finished work looks at her from an alien space. Free from her, in the end. The key has disappeared.

It was not death, for I stood up,
And all the dead lie down;
it was not night, for all the bells
Put out their tongues, for noon.

It was not frost, for on my flesh
I felt siroccos crawl, –
Nor fire, for just my marble feet
Could keep a chancel cool.

And yet it tasted like them all;
The figures I have seen
Set orderly, for burial,
Reminded me of mine,

As if my life were shaven
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key ;
…………………………………………….
EMILY DICKINSON, XXXVI. Poems, Third Series, 1896*

The loom itself, or her/himself, is a vehicle, a boat with an horizontal sail. The fabric spread on his legs, at the two sides of the vertical spine, will be a texture of movements helping the human tension to shape, maybe, the motionless memory of the thread: half inch three ply white nylon rope tightly stretched and interwoven. Such fabric could be a transparent wall that allows the light to slip into the woven forms as if light herself would sew, in and out, making her own daily work.

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I wonder if it was the dynamic nature of this art piece that made me think of Ricki Dwyer as a colporteur, otherwise called pilhaouer, pilawer, chiffonier. Men from extremely poor mountain villages in France used to travel all over the country trading pots, or painted objects, for unusable clothes or fabric they could sell to be shredded by the mills, for the factories of paper. Four, five centuries ago, until the 1950s. A survival effort. Their life on the roads, not really what they earned, gave to their figure a special, respected quality: for they had met new people, crossed unknown cities and rivers, learned languages, songs, had stories to tell as they went back home.

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The artist doesn’t sell the giant loom, she moves with her giant from one to another place. Work in progress. The loom becomes “the stage for an experience to happen,” she says, and the weaving hours are cooperative learning, a spring of energy. An object will be made in the end, and yet it is not the major goal. Contemporary ritual of equal giving and receiving. Working and common effort are the values. The artist offers to activate energy through her presence and tools. That seems to be her point.

Her life, and lives of the other participants, share time and space outdoors with the natural mood of the day: the tongues of the sun, the needles of wind, and the layers of light. Instead of producing many more objects, a lot more than mother earth can tolerate, she installs situations. Can she breathe without a key? That I don’t know. I believe she tries to. And it is, it is indeed a survival effort. Not only for her, also for the art world.

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“We witness the advent of the number. It comes along with democracy, the large city, administrations, cybernetics. It is a flexible and continuous mass, woven tight like a fabric with neither rips nor darned patches, a multitude of quantified heroes who lose names and faces as they become the ciphered river of the streets, a mobile language of computations and rationalities that belong to no one.”

MICHEL DE CERTEAU, The Practice of Everyday Life, 1984

*Republished in Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, Gramercy Books, New York-Avenel
Special materials @ 1982 by Crown Publishers, Inc.

GIANT LOOM WEAVING by Ricki Dwyer, work in progress, in its venue of 2016 performed at the Black Mountain School, Near Asheville, North Carolina. Overall installation approximately 8’ x 9’ x 30’

PHILIP GUSTON’s touch on MY BLINDNESS

Something happened in New York City, May 21

By Rosanna Albertini

This is a piece on the physical status of painting and the dominant illusion that intelligence is not physical: rather an immaterial spark of infinity that makes humans different from monkeys… If such a deceiving idea has a comfortable room in your mind, listen to the story. Maybe you will stop recalling theoretical or historical stereotypes when you look at a painting. You might feel like a bird, perched on the artist’s shoulder, rolling your eyes into the display of wet colors.

PHILIP GUSTON, Untitled, 1967 Brush ans ink on paper, 18 1/8 x 23 1/8 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Untitled, 1967 Brush and ink on paper, 18 1/8 x 23 1/8 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

For most of my life as an art writer I have not been able to respond to Guston’s paintings. It was like having a locked door in front of me. There was no reason why. His paintings, those with figures, were flooding me with sadness, a fog in my brain. Reading essays and books did not rift my clouds. I couldn’t understand what was really going on, if it was me or Guston’s manner of operation, raising a barrier.

“It is writing of course it is the human mind and there is no relation between human nature and the human mind no no of course not. … oh yes the flatter the land the more yes the more it has may have to do with the human mind.” Gertrude Stein

Also Gertrude’s ‘of course’ was to me a matter of doubt. But her writing and thinking have something  of the painting’s flatness, they do not do not climb geometrical logics. On May 21, in New York City, my stubborn brain had to give up: I had to admit she was completely right: Guston’s paintings as probably any other great paintings for that matter don’t have much to share with human mind. I realized it after my head, on May 21, was seriously knocked down by a biker who hit my body like a balloon. I was crossing the street. For weeks each step has been painful, I’m still not my usual walking self. The day before the accident, I had seen Philip Guston’s exhibition of abstract paintings and drawings (1957-1967)  at Hauser and Wirth.

PHILIP GUSTON, Accord i, 1962 Oil on canvas 68 1/8 x 78 1/2 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Accord I 1962,  Oil on canvas 68 1/8 x 78 1/2 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

Prisoner of a bed for hours, days, I started to revisit his paintings, those that are called abstractions, with new sympathy. They were inside my body along with bruises and changing colors around my left eye; they kept me in a state of questioning, about the human sites Guston had laid down carefully, layer by layer, but he didn’t clean them, nor idealized them; they are painted as messy  as they are: until a state of painted harmony is reached between strokes and colors.

PHILIP GUSTON, Untitled 1958 Oil on canvas 64 1/8 x 75 1/4 inches @ The Estate of Phiip Guston - Courtesy of Houser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Untitled 1958,  Oil on canvas 64 1/8 x 75 1/4 inches
@ The Estate of Phiip Guston – Courtesy of Houser and Wirth

As still lives do, these paintings block in a configuration that is not allowed to change the most undefinable nuances of a daily conversation: bodies and sounds and gushes of wind in their invisible, constant mutations. Guston could feel them, he paints his own sensations through the moment and place he is in. His feeling of existence.

He wrote in 1960: “I think a painter has two choices: he paints the world or himself. And I think the best painting that’s done here is when he paints himself, and by himself I mean him and his environment, in this total situation.”

Give a look to The Year, 1964: it has two empty pupils, black. Each of them is beginning and ending. Hadn’t the tormented fury of time crossed their holes already, they wouldn’t be  looking at us announcing a quiet end of the day after all; actions or changes continue not to be compatible, and yet The Year keeps all the chopped stories together, floating in the same gray light. White and pink still peep out gently, they are not foreground.

“I don’t know why the loss of faith in the known image and symbol in our time should be celebrated as a freedom. It is a loss from which we suffer, and this pathos motivates modern paintings and poetry at its heart.

PHILIP GUSTON, Group II 1964, Oil on canvas 65 1/8 x 79 1/8 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Group II 1964, Oil on canvas 65 1/8 x 79 1/8 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, The Year 1964, Oil on canvas 78 x 107 1/2 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, The Year 1964, Oil on canvas  78 x 107 1/2 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

At work in his studio, Philip Guston looks like a fisherman. Aquatic density in his compositions, floating of perceptions maintaining their chaotic and movable quality. Never twice the same. Never rigid, either. Known images and symbols are gone. What remains, then? The physical status of painting.

Finally, now that my body has been wounded, and my mind absorbed by pain, I see how great is Philip Guston’s art. I needed the loss of faith in the image of myself I had met most of my life: positive, invulnerable, independent. I became one of the many anonymous black holes Guston repeated  and repeated inside the bundle of matter, the formless nest of our daily situation. His paintings of the sixties are not images of anything one recognizes, nor portraits of ideas. He looks down. The narcissus he sees is a black spot on the asphalt where I bumped my head.

He does nothing to fill the blackness, his own or others’. And if sameness is everybody’s destiny what can he do? Paintings will carry it; vertical objects lifting an horizontal scene, so the angle is changed. There are not forms, not hierarchies, only a common ground.

PHILIP GUSTON, Painter III 1963 Oil on canvas 66 x 79 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Painter III 1963,  Oil on canvas  66 x 79 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

The extremely simple drawings assembled on the same wall brought tears to my eyes: the line is not Paul Klee’s vein reproducing nature’s growing energy, memory and identity are not in these marks on paper.   Each sign says ‘I’m here, now. I am unique, not sure what I’m doing here, and yet don’t be mistaken: I am the language the Guston artist practices to tell himself he is alive, the marks of his human nature, looking hesitant as well as strong.’ Existential beauty, no need to explain.

Philip Guston in his studio, New York, 1957 Photo: Arthur Swoger @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

Philip Guston in his studio, New York, 1957
Photo: Arthur Swoger
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

THIS IS MY ITALY: A RADIANT, ABANDONED GREEN LAND

by Edgar Honetschläger and Rosanna Albertini

Conversation between an Austrian wanderer from Vienna and an Italian native who lives in Los Angeles

PHOTOS OF ITALY by Edgar Honetschläger

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EH      This is my Italy. You might see it like a dream world, but this is the Italy my eyes see. Japan was dreamland too for me: Tokyo, or the breathtaking countryside, never appeared real to me. Ghosts and spirits everywhere, and people who believed in them. I guess the two cultures are strong enough to allow it.

The beauty I encountered was almost unfathomable: the intact landscape, the colors. Flowers blooming all over, butterflies, birds everywhere. At Bolsena lake the water played all the blues of the scale, then the rain came and the isola Bisentina vanished within minutes. For a while the lake looked like the sea, with no end to it.

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RA      Not the usual images of Italy. They are thick and secret, a texture of vegetable history intertwined with ruins, fountains, grottos that are for ghosts, figments of our mind. Impenetrable walls of plants: one can play with them in a reversed metamorphosis: unraveling our body through branches and leaves that are as hungry as the three-headed dog the Romans called Cerberus. Lost in Central Italy’s greenness, I was never able to separate mythological images, or the Etruscan smile, from valleys looking as if time hadn’t passed and ancient eyes could look at me from open caves pierced into the mountains.
But, it’s real landscape, not a dream.

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EH      To me it is a dreamland: I’ve always seen Italy exactly as in these photos since 1999; I went down to Italy regularly. I guess I make it that way as I do not like reality. I am simply not willing to live in a purely empiric, rational, only driven-by-science world. That’s my privilege as an artist. I embrace all things that cannot be seen: the birds that twitter their hearts out, the spirits in trees, the ANIMA, the animistic that is only to be felt, the alchemia of a seemingly untouched landscape that mankind has formed over milleniums with respect for all creatures so desperately needed to keep a natural equilibrum.

People I met there are outstanding individuals, the landscapes pure and virgin like churches and medieval houses positioned as if Leonardo da Vinci was looking at them, no change.  People more courteous than in most European countries: for me Italy is the last refuge in Europe, Italians are simply more humane.
Therefore your reaction shows me that one only gets to see and experience what one wants to see…

RA      I’m so distant from you: old stones and medieval churches are paradoxical sites to me: elegant, calm and harmonious, often shiny with gold and painted decorations. I’m only grateful that the rain of time washed away all the blood spread by centuries of violence. Italy has been invaded more than any country in the world. Clearly, I try to justify our misfortunes. That’s why we are kind, but with sparkles under the ashes. Your images, therefore, are true to the place more than you believe. They are the wild, secret face of Italy. My Italy for sure.
My dear friend, this is morning rumbling of my brain. Tell me please: how do you think in German language? Is it visual thinking?
See, when I think in Italian, Americans say it’s poetic language, and I laugh, for I do know we think and speak in a strange Italian way: animistic, metaphors are instinctive, idiomatic. It’s a primitive manner to feel like an ant among ants, a tree among trees, human animals among all the animals of the world. Think of Francesco’s Cantico delle creature, sister moon and the stars, brother wind and the air. And, if you can, follow me through idiomatic expressions in which I see the deep irony of an agricultural country forgotten and abandoned in these days. Yet, it is stuck in our words and sculpted in our minds.

Piove sul bagnato
Ha mangiato la foglia!
Che cosa aspetta / Forse di candire?
Ci resto di sasso
Ammazzo il tempo
Cercando il pelo nell’uovo

It rains on the wet
She ate the leaf!
What is she waiting for / To dry up like a candy?
I react like a stone
And I kill time
Looking for a hair in the egg

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EH      Oh, German is a philosophical language and a very political one. No other language I know can pin down a fact so well.
Japanese is fuzzy, it is like the food. There is no center in Asian food many small dishes, no climax, like their stories: you have space to think and make up your mind.
German language is not very visual.
There is quite a difference whether you grew up with HÄNSCHEN KLEIN or HUMPTY DUMPTY, the surreal element is missing. I grew up with the latter.
For German speakers Italy is the land of dreams: Goethe [Johann Wolfgang von Goethe] gave us something to look for: while doing research in Sicily for my movie Il mare e la torta, [The Sea and the Cake] I realized that Goethe had visited Taormina and had painted the Greek theater in a watercolor (the same theater is in one of Woody Allen’s movies). Looking into tourism catalogues from the German speaking world, it’s impossible not to notice that the photos taken are exactly the same angle —more or less replicas of Goethe.
In other cultures, promotion about Taormina looks different. Leoluca Orlando [ Mayor of Palermo] once told me: “Goethe did good and bad for us at the same time; he brings us tourists still today, but they come with a preconception.”

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RA      But Goethe*, humane as he was, understood the modern world in its early beginnings and still enlarges our perception of it. Look at this, he could have joined John Cage: (please forgive my lack of chronological faith, I learned it in the eighteenth century.)
“We find that in observing objects our attention takes on a definite direction, that scattered data can be learned and retained more easily by comparison, and that in art we can in the end rival nature only when we have learned, at least in part, her method of procedure in the creation of her works.”
John Cage used to call it “her manner of operation.” And his own manner was not far at all from some of Goethe’s wishes:
“Everything is subject to constant change, and when things cannot coexist, they thrust each other aside. The same goes for knowledge, for practical training, for modes of representation and for precepts. Man’s objectives always remain very much the same; men still wish, as they always did, to be good artists and good poets. But the means by which these objectives are to be attained are not apparent at all, and there is no denying that nothing could be more agreeable than achieving something important without really trying.”
Isn’t it what you did with your photos?

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Introduction to the Propyläen, 1798 in Goethe on Art, edited by John Gage, University of California Press, 1980

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A SPARKLING GOODBYE

JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL’S  Photographic Plenitude

from Chatenay-Malabry (Paris) FRANCE

LE BOUT DE LA TABLE ― THE EDGE OF THE TABLE

1998-2010

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A Sparkling Goodbye   by Rosanna Albertini

A mental distortion, perhaps caused by my American life, shows me at a small scale the photographic representation of a big historical ending: European good manners’ last sparkle, humble objects in a splendid farewell.

Goodbye to the Age of Empire and to flaking off dreams of primacy that European countries had thrown like blankets over distant, different civilizations. It doesn’t matter that a new globalization has replaced the first one, built at the end of the nineteenth century. Each European country, the people in them, grow the arts and self awareness out of a specific state mind: a silk thread still holding the civilized road, despite the absence, today, of Eurocentric illusions. The notion of style, maybe, is stronger than political or intellectual empires. Bossuet and Pascal, longer lasting presences than Foucault and Derrida.

“The qualities of the spirit are not something we acquire by habit, we can only perfect them; from which we will easily see that delicacy is a natural gift, not at all acquired by art.”

“To be attached to one thought that doesn’t change, tires and ruins our spirit.”

Pascal, Discours sur les passions de l’amour

Delicacy, maybe, is Jean-Louis Garnell’s secret style.

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Objects are dumb by nature, they have no speech. Not so their images, changed in spirit by human senses. Viewers indeed won’t stop wondering about their fantastic transfiguration, spreading thoughts like dead leaves on the ordinary life they come from.

George Steiner* wrote that poems, statues, sonatas, and we might add visual poems, “are not so much read, viewed or heard as they are lived.”* Did he open the magic gate? An invisible grid of feelings and intuitions, a crowd of unsettled thoughts produce in human lives a space for the arts. It is so boring that words must be precise trying to pin down such an uncertain matter.

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Intimacy, through this changeable texture, is a molecular cohesion of humans searching for aesthetic forms they can love, maybe understand, if they accept that their thoughts are exhausted by life, and discolored by light. Only in embracing death as a fact can an artist bring the most mundane, fragile glass to an instantaneous, elusive smell of infinity. Words won’t catch it.

Shaped by daylight, stories we tell to ourselves are temporary and movable, like the dance of reflections the artist has captured, expanded life already flat and colorless. But among the lines and flat bodies around the edge of the table and the images of glasses and leaves on the table, of more leaves printed on the tablecloth, spreads the beauty of freedom. Visual joy as it might come from meeting a new, glorious day.

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Jean Louis Garnell lights a candle, puts up an electric lamp. “An apple after Cézanne? more than one. Repetition isn’t only time, it’s also a new feeling of light that plays with human thoughts and contemplates them.”

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The foreground, a devalued surface that seems to be the land of nobody because there is nothing beyond le bout de la table, is his secret planet. There, Garnell is a petit prince, inevitably grown up.                

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*GEORGE STEINER, Real presences, Chicago – London, 1989

(A different version of A Sparkling Goodbye is published in the volume JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL, Centre photographique de Marseille, 2016)

THE OLD MAN AND THE PAST

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : the beginning of an adult life

INTRODUCTION
by Rosanna Albertini

Photos and drawing by Alberto Albertini

10 ROSANNA

Alberto’s stories restart after the end of the war; the treasures of his adolescent ‘expanded life’ put to a very hard test by the frenzy of despair and enthusiasm that was stirring everyone’s life.
     Missing regular school training, and following his father’s path in teaching himself what he needed to learn (Oreste Albertini never went to school – his sisters told me) he built his own way through life and now revisits the past almost curious, rediscovering a figure of himself he had lived in, at times unaware, other times building a brilliant career almost against his wishes.

To recuperate the lost time is a complex desire: it runs after fantasy images hoping that some of them could improve the wish of an expanded existence.” AA

Dreams had cracked up, sinking in the snow. Chance and necessity blowing cold wind on his neck, reluctant and rebel by nature, the only things he never gave up were his family, his passion for photography and his spirit as an inventor, call it smart tinkering if you want, something that, despite himself, always worked.

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School training having been irregular and incomplete, Alberto looked into his level of ‘incompetence’ as realistically as possible, and filled the holes studying by himself everything that was connected to filmmaking: chemistry, photography, radio technique, physics and mechanics, often supported by friends.

1946: an attempt at going to a film school in Milan – a poor school in a basement – did not fulfill his desire of exploring camera work, scenography, costumes making.

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1947-48: Alberto had a job in a company for film development and printing: FILMSERVICE. His naive enthusiasm for free political speech after fascism had just turned around the corner put him in serious trouble. Reported and fired when his very young companion, who will be his wife for seventy years, had symptoms of pregnancy. “The darker time of my life – says Alberto – from which I got out for the simple reason that it was pointless to stay in it.”

Maybe searching for light, he rushed headlong into making his version of fluorescent lamps (a novelty after the war), and patented them, only to discover that commercial development was not in his range. Here’s a drawing:

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History of his adult life is also the history of film sound technologies in Italy after the war. Alberto was also involved in film making as a popular service, in some ways like the agitprop train set up by Dziga Vertov in 1917, when Vertov was twenty two. Equipped for a complete film process, from acting to editing and projecting films, the train had the mission to encourage soldiers and simple people during the Bolshevik Revolution. The Italian experiment instead happened in time of peace. It was called CINESERVICEFILM: a trailer completely equipped for film making and projection was pulled by a Jeep. The little caravan: a trailer, a car and a Lambretta went through the Northern regions of Italy for two years (1949-50) filming peoples’ lives and projecting the film at the end of the day for the ‘actors’ to see. It was a celebration of life and joy after many dark times. Like Dziga, Alberto was in his early twenties. 

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7 ROSANNA

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CINESERVICEFILM and the flying song of a nightingale

By ALBERTO ALBERTINI

9 ROSANNA

Between 1949 and 1950 Mr Vallerga, about whom I only knew he had been a fascist, had a pre-realityTV intuition: a vagrant film studio shooting people’s lives and projecting the shots the day after, in the same location. The person supplying me with chemical products pointed out this operation to me, and I introduced myself offering my initial services for free. A good way to take part in the birth of those things. A trailer equipped with tools for developing and printing 16mm films was pulled by a Jeep, one of the war left overs. Operative issues weren’t less interesting than the technological adventure. At the beginning we were three: Mr Vallerga, a driver and myself. Vallerga and myself used to spend the day walking through the village or town where the show was supposed to happen, shooting places and first of all the local humans! I developed the shots during the night and after editing directly the negative, printed and developed the positive. In the meantime Vallerga was placing a 16mm projector in the local movie theater and, using a tape recorder, was adding a musical background. In the small towns the success was remarkable: everybody came to the theater to see themselves or the others. The general mood was joyful.

To make me independent from the trailer and the car used by Vallerga, I was given a Lambretta. Between moving from one place to another, developing and printing, there was no time to sleep. The sheet metal wrapping the lab was an oven fed by the sun, to more or less 40 degrees centigrade. To avoid laziness, I added a photographic service taking pictures of cafes and customers. The pictures, always developed and printed by me, were given away as presents. More workers were added later, and I tried to organize a fair anti-stress division of labor, but costs weren’t catching up with benefits.

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How did it all start? Vallerga was a seller of Fumeo 16mm projectors to the parishes. It was probably in a parish that he met the Luciani family, owners of Dreher and Pedavena beer factories and of Pizzolotto liquor. He had convinced them to finance his project as a brilliant idea to promote their products. The only advertisement, in reality, was the announcement that the show was offered by the Pedavena or Dreher beer, and maybe something was written on the trailer. We had scoured through almost all Northern Italy when the news arrived, near Ravenna, that the party had ended: the Lucianis had stopped investing money in us!
Montebelluna, Treviso, Pedavena, Bassano, Romano Lombardo Trevalcore, Bondeno, Trecate, Borgomanero, Varese Rho, Marostica
and so many other small and bigger urban centers, some provinces. A world on its way to waking up, to restart moving, but still structurally intact, especially in agricultural areas. We had shot a factory for weaving cotton, it was terrible: an enormous shed with weaving looms, an unbearable hubbub… and women at work… We found a spring of mineral water where bottles were filled by a tube, and bubbles were created by gas; the prosecco producers, the carnival in Pedavena sponsored by the beer cellar. Many memories? Not at all, there was not time to breath: in Treviso, a night spent fighting mosquitoes, and in Verona, never seen such a hot weather! At noon in Bondeno one could hear the knife chopping tagliatelle at every, every day.

In Bassano del Grappa, late night, I had finished installing the projector at the movie theater for the following day; it was two, three in the morning? I walked out on the small balcony. Through the deep silence of a space made infinite by darkness, I heard the flying song of a nightingale. It was powerful, solitary, and limpid. Distant reverberations nailed me into my own solitude. Magic moments happen in this way. For him, maybe, it was already wake up time!

And I can only conclude with two images from Wikipedia: the agitprop train for Bolshevik Propaganda in 1917-19, and Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poster WANT IT? JOIN.

Dziga Vertov produced weekly film series and the first newsreel series in Russia for the Moscow Cinema Committee (Kino-Nedelya). He had on the train actors for live performances, and equipment to shoot, develop, edit, and project films.  “The trains went to battlefronts on agitation propaganda missions intended primarily to bolster the morale of the troops.” (Wikipedia)

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