On the Threshold : Allan Sekula

In memoriam  

Doorway for Allan

Doorway for Allan


The end was written down by destiny for August 10, a few weeks from now. Waiting for Allan I leave the front door wide open, and raise the music so high that silence is defeated. Appearing on the threshold, he takes me by surprise: legs and arms kicking the air, each limb for itself, the whole body shaking. I can’t avoid seeing the accurate work of the sickle on his flesh, there is only skin.

“What’s this?” Allan asks. “Mozart, piano sonata K 533” I answer. As he walks in, stepping into the music, he stops shaking. The notes rush down their stream, float, almost gurgling in a long quiet laugh at the bottom of the throat. If lady Death laughs she’ s right, we are more surprised than scared by her. Spreading consonance and harmonic balance, the piano sonata brings the three of us in place, like trees that have found the good spot for planting their roots.

“Are you still working at The Lottery of the Sea? I thought MOMA had bought it.” “Yes, but I want to make sure that the sound is good. Peter will help me.” “Before you start, would you like a tea?” “That would be nice!”

Definitely, sounds are tuning the day.

At the kitchen table, I wish my sight could trace gently, by pencil, the plain, banal tapestry of normal gestures, hopes, art exhibits, books and flowers on the tablecloth, all surrounded by an invisible fog: the unknown. No inner vision, no vision at all. Only kindness. I’m stuck watching a cup, a spoon, and Allan’s fingers struggling with a yellow little bottle of pills. Nothing’s hidden, either. We really smile, both of us, we enjoy talking of the next openings. Life feels so strong that a breath of doubt passes over me, did he defeat the lady? Wrapped in his kindness, she might vanish away, along with the music, transformed into a black cloud of butterflies.

On May 3, 2014, at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Simone Forti and Jeremiah Day performed a short replica of Allan’s gesture of throwing steaks on to the highway, to be chewed up by the cars’ rolling teeth. 1972.

Did he know the “Poets hitchhiking on the highway”? Gregory Corso wold have liked to meet Allan and not for kindness, in a contest of absurdities:

“Of course I tried to tell him / but he cranked his head / without an excuse. / I told him the sky chases / the sun / And he smiled and said: / ‘ What’s the use. ’ / I was feeling like a demon / again / So I said : ‘ But the ocean chases the fish.’ / This time he laughed / and said: / ‘Suppose the / strawberry were / pushed into a mountain.’”

Not for moral superiority or protection of good feelings, Sekula’s photographs and films depicted colors and shapes of our capitalistic disorder. Not because Herbert Marcuse had been one of his teachers. “To include himself with others,” this is his art. Because “Acts of kindness demonstrate, in the clearest possible way, that we are vulnerable and dependent animals who have no better resource than each other.” (Adam Phillips)