I am intrigued by the great potential within simple/mundane objects, which contrasts with the complexity of society. And sometimes these simple and mundane objects can offer me such meaningful questions that I keep searching for this kind of moment in my daily life.

TETSUYA YAMADA, Magnetic Needle 2014 -Installation at The Soap Factory, Minneapolis - Courtesy of the artist

TETSUYA YAMADA, Magnetic Needle 2014 -Installation at The Soap Factory, Minneapolis –
Courtesy of the artist

A “Magnetic Needle” pointing North, by Rosanna Albertini

WALLACE STEVENS, The Necessary Angel:  “The subject matter of poetry [or of a sculpture] is not that ‘collection of solid, static objects extended in space,’ but the life that is lived in that scene that it composes; and so reality is not that external scene but the life that is lived in it. Reality is things as they are.” 

 The needle, gigantic, points North. Forced to do it with bars, bolds, and ropes. Only with effort the needle connects to the Pole Star, and blindly dreams of the sky. Our hope that we are not losing our bearings on earth, that our intelligence gives us the ability to orientate our steps, doesn’t have a ground. And we call intelligence what, most of the time, is nothing but imagination.

The needle was a tree when roots kept it more or less vertical and free to shake. Not allowed now. Mental directions do not tremble. With no hesitation, they connect this wooden body unaware of its fortune and misfortune to the pulses of a celestial body, the symbol of a universal, natural order for sailors of waters and sky and for pedestrians as well: the time travelers we are, surrounded by aging cities and ephemeral flowers.

The magnetism of this needle is human. It’s the weight of chores and situations that redirect ideals we cherish, and reshape the stories we tell to ourselves. I see Jesus dragging the cross embedded in the needle. Or a wreck of a ship with heavy sails. Things when they are stuck in only one direction, and can’t change. I’ve just learned the Pole Star herself is a variable star. Scientists call her a ‘standard candle’ in the Cepheids stars family. She doesn’t rise, doesn’t move, serves as a marker for distances in our galaxy and other galaxies nearby. And yet, her inner energy spreads pulsations of light and light’s echoes and reverberations. A shining, inorganic heart.

Cepheid star (RS Puppis) imaged by Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990

Cepheid star (RS Puppis) imaged by Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990

The potato eaters

REBECCA CAMPBELL’s  Southern Idaho via Los Angeles

The Potato Eaters series is inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s work of the same name as well as by my own family’s agrarian roots. My mother and father were both raised on potato farms; black and white photos of that time and place serve as inspiration for many of the paintings in this series.

REBECCA CAMPBELL, Big Sister, 2013, oil on board 36 x 36 in. Courtesy LA Louver Gallery

REBECCA CAMPBELL, Big Sister, 2013, oil on board
36 x 36 in. Courtesy L.A. Louver Gallery

This painting is based on a photograph of two of my aunts sometime between 1935 and 1945. Their family lived in the very small rural town of Rupert in southern Idaho. What I first found striking about this image was the joy and tenderness shared between the figures. The resonance that came more slowly as I sifted through family photos was the context in which this moment erupted.

The family struggled financially supplementing their diet with hunting and fishing. Isolation and prematurity led to the death of their youngest brother. The Second World War meant a Japanese internment camp was established at the edges of their community and the loss of their oldest brother and the patriarch of the family as he was shot down somewhere over Austria.

In the end the power of this image for me lies not just in the presence of joy and affection but in the ability of human beings to uncover joy and protect warmth amidst the never-ending cycle of human tragedy.

REBECCA CAMPBELL, Bomber, 2013, oil on board 18 x 24 in. Courtesy L.A.Louver Gallery

REBECCA CAMPBELL, Bomber, 2013, oil on board
18 x 24 in. Courtesy L.A.Louver Gallery

REBECCA CAMPBELL, Dad in snow, 2014, 14 x 11 in. Courtesy of L.A.Louver Gallery

REBECCA CAMPBELL, Dad in snow, 2014, 14 x 11 in. Courtesy of L.A.Louver Gallery

REBECCA CAMPBELL, Perspective, 2013 oil on canvas 12 x 38 in. Courtesy of L.A.Louver Gallery

REBECCA CAMPBELL, Perspective, 2013 oil on canvas 12 x 38 in. Courtesy of L.A.Louver Gallery

Father and son, Oreste and Alberto

From Milan: Alberto Albertini remembers his father, the painter (my grandfather)


ORESTE ALBERTINI, Prato di Cascina Bizzana, 1923. Oil on tablet, 102 x 47 cm - Tryptic

ORESTE ALBERTINI, Prato di Cascina Bizzana, 1923. Oil on tablet, 102 x 47 cm – Tryptic

Stories of Lombardy

2007, Sunday May 20, 2:59PM   No one will ever convince me that I ‘m eighty, although I admit that the oldest memories fade so much that I often wonder whether those facts really happened. As if they had been archived in files I pick up periodically to see if everything is in order, until one ends up remembering files rather than facts.

1931-32. Pecetto-Macugnaga. It is as if the house in which we lived hadn’t existed, only the door with a few steps in stone and a not very distant stream. OA used to put me in charge of washing his brushes. They had to be rubbed on the soap, then on the hand’s palm until the color dissolved; and in the end rinsed in the stream.

While posing for the painting: Sotto l’ombrellone, I used to complain about pins and needles in my legs.

Beside the stream, OA was playing with me throwing pebbles against a stone placed on a bigger stone. While walking by the lake Lugano, instead, if I threw pebbles into the lake OA was telling me: it’s forbidden, because you make Italy smaller!! Such a convincing statement, though, left me perplexed. But it brings up the atmosphere of fascist nationalism…OA was clearly joking.

Painter Moretti Foggia was at times in Macugnaga. He owned a professional wooden view camera and a wooden tripod. I don’t know if such a special tool was for landscapes to be retouched in the studio, but I do know he made a beautiful family picture of us, and the most impressive operation, to me, was that, to click the photo, he squeezed a small bulb connected to the view camera by a thin rubber hose…

Before, it must be 1929 because I learned to walk in Pera di Fassa [on the Dolomites], in the fields of Ciampedie, we lived in the house of the very famous mountain guide Tita Piaz. They told me -I can’t remember that- that Tita held his baby son out of the window to make him familiar with the void, and prevent vertigo.

It was the place where certain a priest, father Gilardi, lived; often mentioned in the family for his new habit of leaving his priest dress at home and stopping to look for women. In civilian dress, he had a mistress. It was never in my mind to ask for more explanations. More interesting, instead, something I found later in a book: that he, collaborating with Piaz, had helped Cesare Battisti’s widow to emigrate. In the same book was mentioned Orazio Marotta, commissioner in Porto Ceresio. He is a person I met, who often came to our house in Besano to look at the paintings; he even built a decent connection with OA. He was actually the OVRA* local informer, in search of those who went in exile to Switzerland. His interest in art was for, surely, political control of the socialist OA.

*OVRA: Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism, the equivalent of German Gestapo.


When I was little, OA told me that while he was in Grigna, painting alone in a canyon out of the way, a wolf appeared in front of him! He picked up a large, flat stone and, holding the stone in his hands like a shield in front of him, he stared at the wolf for a long time, until the beast went away. If it is a fact or a story I couldn’t tell, but the clue I see is the challenge, what it must have been for him in relation to his favorite interlocutor, the landscape.

The bending tree. Father tells me: I saw such a well shaped tree that you could sleep on it. I started to be very naughty, wanted to sleep on it that very night. He grabs a pillow and the son, and they go out together. I was scared of the dark, we went back.

Going out to work on the paintings, vague memories. Playing in the garden, I swallowed a coin and was about to choke. Pinetta [the maid] lifted me by the feet and shook me. The coin came out.

During carnival time father sullied me with coal on my face and went with me to visit Pinetta’s mother -the post-woman of Viconago- who pretended not to recognize me.

In a nearby village, Arbizzo, there was a murder. A corpse was dug up. Pinetta wanted to see the corpse and dragged us with her. She was staying with us while our parents went to Milan. I remember the road, the wall, and on the other side a long mass was lying, entirely covered with brown soil. I was less than four, because when I was four we moved to Besano.

Pinetta used to burn the hair of her legs with blazing newspapers. The poor woman wasn’t pretty. She died young, in the early sixties.

It was the time, during my childhood, that people talked about Lindberg’s son kidnapped and about Sacco and Vanzetti.

Father, returning from Milan, took the train from Varese to Marchirolo and from there to Viconago. His shoes were soaked with water and we were allowed to undo the laces.

From left to right: Rosa, Lori, Alberto, Oreste

From left to right: Rosa, Lori, Alberto, Oreste

Storie di Lombardia.

2007, Domenica Maggio 20, 2:59PM    Nessuno riuscirà mai a convincermi che ho ottant’anni, tuttavia devo ammettere che i ricordi più vecchi si affievoliscono a tal punto che spesso mi chiedo se quei fatti siano realmente accaduti. Come se fossero stati archiviati in fascicoli che, periodicamente vengono estratti per vedere se tutto è ancora a posto, finchè si finisce per ricordare i fascicoli anziché i fatti.  

1931-32. Pecetto-Macugnaga. È come se la casa in cui abitavamo non fosse esistita, solo la porta con dei gradini di pietra e un po’ più in là il torrente. OA mi incaricava di lavare i pennelli. Si strofinavano sul sapone e poi sul palmo della mano finché il colore non si fosse sciolto, poi si sciacquavano nell’acqua del torrente.

Quando posavo per il quadro: Sotto l’ombrellone, mi lamentavo per il formicolio alle gambe.

Poi, sul greto del torrente, OA mi faceva giocare a colpire con i sassi un sasso posto sopra uno più grosso. Invece quando passeggiavamo lungo il lago di Lugano e lanciavo sassi nel lago, OA mi diceva: è proibito, perché fai diventare l’Italia più piccola!! L’argomento era convincente ma mi lasciava qualche perplessità. Questo rende il clima del nazionalismo fascista, anche se evidentemente lui scherzava.

A Macugnaga soggiornava il pittore Moretti Foggia che possedeva una camera fotografica da studio in legno con cavalletto in legno. Non so se usasse cotanto arnese per ritrarre paesaggi da eseguire in studio, so che ci fece una bella foto di famiglia e la cosa che mi rimase impressa è che per scattare la foto, premeva una polpetta collegata all’otturatore con un tubicino di gomma…

Prima, a Pera di Fassa nel 1229 forse, perché lì ho imparato a camminare, precisamente sui preati di Ciampedie, abitavamo presso la celeberrima guida alpina Tita Piaz. Mi raccontavano, io non posso ricordarmi, che il Tita, esponeva dalla finestra  il figlio in fasce perché si abituasse al vuoto e quindi non soffrisse di vertigini. Lì soggiornava certo don Gilardi, di cui si è parlato spesso in famiglia, anche in ragione del fatto che lasciava a casa l’abito e non faceva più il maniaco. Cioè vestiva borghese e usava l’amante. Probabilmente sul posto ignoravano la sua posizione. Non ho mai pensato di farmi spiegare meglio la cosa. Più interessante il fatto, invece, che in un libro l’ho trovato citato come colui che, con la collaborazione del Piaz, aveva contribuito a far espatriare la vedova di Cesare Battisti. Sempre su quel libro ho trovato citato il commissario di Porto Ceresio Orazio Marotta. Costui, che ho conosciuto anch’io, veniva spesso a Besano per vedere i quadri e aveva instaurato un discreto rapporto con OA. In realtà era l’informatore dell’OVRA* per la zona e sopratutto per gli esuli in Canton Ticino. Sicuramente il suo interesse per l’arte era in realtà un controllo politico del socialista OA.

OVRA: Organizzazione per la Vigilanza e la Repressione dell’Anti-Fascismo. L’equivalente della gestapo in Germania.

Oreste Albertini, Neve a Besano, anni '30, oil on tablet

Oreste Albertini, Neve a Besano, anni ’30, oil on tablet

Quand’ero piccolo OA mi raccontava che in Grigna, mentre dipingeva da solo in uno sperduto canalone, gli si presentò un lupo! Raccolse una pietra piatta e larga e tenendola tra le mani davanti a sé, come uno scudo, rimase a lungo a fissare il lupo, finchè questo non se ne andò. Non so se sia proprio vero tutto e lo raccontasse come storia, però rende l’idea della sfida, quello che doveva essere per lui il rapporto con il suo interlocutore privilegiato, il paesaggio.

La pianta storta. Il mio papà mi dice: ho visto una pianta cosi ben fatta che ci puoi dormire sopra. Mi sono messo a fare i capricci, volevo dormirci quella sera stessa. Allora lui prende un cuscino e il figlio e insieme escono. Avevo paura del buio, siamo tornati indietro.

Si andava fuori a dipingere, ricordi vaghi. Giocavo in giardino, ho inghiottito una moneta e stavo per strozzarmi. La Pinetta mi ha sollevato per i piedi e mi ha scosso in giù. La moneta e uscita.

Per carnevale il papà mi aveva sporcato col carbone sulla faccia e mi ha portato dalla mamma della Pinetta -era la postina di Viconago- che faceva finta di non riconoscermi.

Un delitto nel paese vicino, ad Arbizzo. Un cadavere dissotterrato. La Pinetta voleva vedere il cadavere e ci ha tirato dietro. La Pinetta veniva quando i genitori andavano a Milano. Mi ricordo la strada, il muro, e dall’altra parte, disteso, una massa lunga coperta di terra tutta marrone. Avevo meno di quattro anni, perché quando avevo quattro anni siamo andati a vivere a Besano.

La Pinetta si bruciava i peli delle gambe con i giornali accesi. Era bruttina, poveretta. E`morta giovane, nei primi anni sessanta.

Erano i tempi, quando ero bambino, che si parlava del rapimento del figlio di Lindberg e di Sacco e Vanzetti.

Mio papà quando tornava da Milano prendeva il tram da Varese fino a Marchirolo e da lì fino a Viconago. Arrivava con le scarpe bagnate e noi gli slacciavamo le stringhe.

Oreste Albertini, Alberto col cane, 1931-32 oil on tablet, 30 x 38 cm.

Oreste Albertini, Alberto col cane, 1931-32 oil on tablet, 30 x 38 cm.

Oreste Albertini, Dopocena a Viconago, 1930, oil on tablet, 40 x 30 cm.

Oreste Albertini, Dopocena a Viconago, 1930, oil on tablet, 40 x 30 cm.


A perfect tense

Rosanna Albertini about Judy Fiskin’s 

I’LL REMEMBER MAMA      2014, Video:10′

JUDY FISKIN, I'll Remember Mama, still from video, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, I’ll Remember Mama, still from video, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

Present, past, future at once. It’s a memorial, and yet nobody has died. Judy calls it a “pre-memorial.” At this point it’s a mystery novel, a story immersed in taste, courtesy and good manners. They are not junk. Mother and daughter are both strong, passionate women, with the occasional tart tongue. Between them, despite the normal lack of seeing who’s who that is maybe a natural, evolutionary condition for humans of the same family, there is

the issue of civility – a charged word whose former strength has largely left us – towards the inward savor of things. What means have we to integrate that savor into the fabric of our own identity? We need … a courtesy or tact of heart, a tact of sensibility and of intellection which are conjoined at their several roots.*

Think of painted flowers woven in a tablecloth: that’s life. Willing or not, we are one of the threads of the fabric and we will bear visible and hidden features of the family texture while our body is around. Even broken, the thread tickles the brain, wraps the curtain of feelings. It never extinguishes, it’s irritating.

Time and tenses don’t really exist in real life, they are just grammar, and this video is free from measurements or directions. Seeing and not seeing, looking through the dark, the artist’s eye comes to a stop in front of specimens of a living space. Already they have lost their meaning, many frames are empty. Little by little the sense of distance deepens, and the house becomes a doll house, which it was from the beginning but we didn’t know it. Big fingers touch the miniature furniture, les meubles, rococo curly objects made to be moved, constantly, from the winter palace to the summer castle and back. Had they tongues they would speak their own mystery story, the real life of Cecile so carefully hidden by the order of things around her. But these same things, only apparently irrelevant, also protected her. Despite the historical distance, and showing the distance between the two women, the artist shares with us the touching part of the story, she reveals her “taste,” as the eighteenth century people defined it:

Taste is nothing but the art of knowing ourselves in little things and this is very true, but since it is through a texture of little things that life becomes pleasurable, these kind of concerns are very far from being uninteresting; they are the way we learn to fill life with goods that our hands can reach, for all the truth we are able to grasp in them.**

*George Steiner, Real Presences, 1991 ** Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762






Los Angeles, at the Hammer Museum Biennial: “Made in L.A. 2014

The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination

 MICHAEL C. MCMILLEN from Paris via Los Angeles

Dear cousin Rosanna,

Greetings from France via Los Angeles,

As you know and can tell from the photos below, I’ve just returned from a month long project in Paris where I have finished a new work, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination. The curator has said it was the nucleus of the exhibition All That Falls.

It is at the Palais de Tokyo until September 7, 2014.

The labyrinth-like installation features 4 recent short movies and is built entirely from materials I collected in California for over 40 years.

The ancient car is a 1930 Citroën ‘Rosalie’ which belonged to a friend’s grand father. It had been sitting in the woods of the Loire valley for many decades until we hauled it back to Paris for this final appearance. The installation is being well received and has the effect of ‘taking you out of Paris’ as soon as you walk through the doors.

It was an exciting and intense month (3 week install) and Lauren joined me there for the opening and a week of being ‘tourists’ and visiting friends in and outside of Paris.


Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen Photo: André Morin.

Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen
Photo: André Morin.

Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen Photo: André Morin.

Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen
Photo: André Morin.

Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen Photo: André Morin.

Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen
Photo: André Morin.

Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen Photo: André Morin.

Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen
Photo: André Morin.

Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen Photo: Michael McMillen

Michael C. McMillen, The Entropic Taxi; Final Destination, 2014, courtesy Michael C. McMillen
Photo: Michael McMillen

 Exhibition view “All that falls”, 2014, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, (France).






I’ve been struggling for the last couple of years to understand the concept of sharing and how to teach it to our young son Zeke. We have a lot of questions. Why should we share? When should we share? How much should we share? Are we acting consistently? If sharing is a value that we should all embrace, then why is there so much poverty in our very rich country? 

As we’ve been wrestling with these questions, I’ve been talking to experts in philosophy, evolutionary biology, psychology, history, anthropology, economics, politics, and education. 

A conversation with the anthropologist David Graeber is one of the many that continues to resonate. He described how the Nuer in South Sudan share food and other necessities freely with members of their camp, but they never share their cattle with each other. Indeed, they will literally defend their cattle with their lives. 

I was thinking about the Nuer and my conversation with David when Zeke invited his friend, Zev, over for a play-date. At the time, Zeke’s prized possession was his guitar. Zev wanted to play with it, and Zeke, quite reasonably, refused. I asked Zeke to share his guitar, even though I had made it clear to both Zeke and Zev that I was not willing to share the camera that I was using to film them. Indeed, I would not even let them touch the camera, fearing that they might damage it. Zeke, probably sensing my inconsistency, clung to his guitar as if his life depended on it. Zev grabbed it too, and they spun around the room. Eventually, Zeke relented. Zeke and Zev took turns playing the guitar, and they both seemed happy. It was beautiful, but I was left feeling like a hypocrite. Why should Zeke share his most special possession when I was not willing to do the same thing? 

I want to be a good man, an ethical and generous person, but I also want to make sure that our family is comfortable. I want my wife Alison and our sons Zeke and Ozzie to have easy and happy lives. How do I balance those two quite different desires? 

This is not an easy question, especially if Darwin’s theory of multi-level selection is correct, as Alex Rosenberg and others now believe. Group selection encourages us to share and behave altruistically, so that we will be part of stronger groups; while individual selection encourages us to behave selfishly, so that we can advance within those groups. We are fundamentally conflicted on a genetic level. We have impulses to both share and to not share. 

I feel this conflict in myself, and I sense it in Zeke as well. Zeke loves his tools. They’re part of his identity, as a “worker man.” When Ozzie started crawling and messing with his stuff, Zeke responded by hiding his tools in secret compartments to safeguard them. A big part of him clearly does not want to share his special tools. They are too intertwined with his identity. But, Zeke also loves building things with Ozzie, and he is often willing to share even his most special tools with him so they can complete their projects.

Christian Miller talked to me about how philosophy may not be able to tell us precisely how much we should share. There are too many ethical theories, and they all may be flawed in some way. At the same time, all of the models – or at least the dominant ones adopted by Western Civilization – suggest that we aren’t sharing or giving enough.

The notion that we aren’t sharing enough may be the root of the anger driving all of the protests in North Carolina right now. I went to one of the protests with my camera recently, and I talked to Zeke about it afterwards. It proved to be a very confusing conversation, especially because of all of our previous conversations about sharing. How am I supposed to teach Zeke to share when I also have to explain to him that we slashed unemployment and healthcare benefits precisely at a time when there are so many people who are suffering?

There were moments in our history when we had a far more expansive view of what should be shared by everyone as part of the public domain.

was thinking about how far we’ve moved from that perspective, when I stumbled upon the forgotten Socialist Jewish commune of Happyville. As a Jewish guy who recently moved from the Big City to the Carolinas, I immediately felt a lot of kinship with the 50 Russian Jews who left New York to start a Socialist commune in South Carolina between 1905 and 1908. And, it seemed quite clear to me that the Happyville pioneers could teach Zeke and I a lot about sharing. While it’s too late to speak to the Happyville settlers, perhaps some of what they discovered about sharing is buried in the traces of their utopian community.

Zeke and I have been exploring the 2200 acre site of Happyville, determined to uncover those mysteries. I’m not sure how much we should be sharing or if we’re capable of living like the Happyville settlers, but I’m saddened that we’re so distant from the forgotten utopian past that it represents. It may be absurd to try to restore Happyville, or even the dream of Happyville, but Zeke and I are trying to do so anyway. Zeke selected his most special tools, and he offered to share them with me. Now, we’re busy in Happyville, working away: probing and digging, prying and tweaking.

Joel Tauber is an artist and filmmaker who is developing the video art program at Wake Forest University. His current undertaking – “The Sharing Project” – will be presented as both a sculptural video installation and a feature film.

JOEL TAUBER, "Attempting to restore Happyville" 2013, photo from the art installation and movie "The Sharing Project" -Courtesy of the artist

JOEL TAUBER, “Attempting to restore Happyville” 2013, photo from the art installation and movie “The Sharing Project” -Courtesy of the artist


Mi sono rotto la testa, negli ultimi due anni, per capire cosa vuol dire condividere e insegnarlo a Zeke, il nostro figliolino. Le domande sono tante. Perché dovremmo condividere? Quando? Se condividere è un valore per tutti noi, allora perché c’è tanta miseria nel nostro ricchissimo paese?

Lottando con gli interrogativi, ho parlato con esperti di filosofia, biologia evoluzionistica, psicologia, storia, antropologia, economia, politica e educazione.

Una conversazione con l’antropologo David Graeber non smette di turbarmi: nella sua descrizione i Nuer del Sudan del Sud condividono liberamente cibo e altri beni necessari con i membri dell’accampamento, ma in nessun caso condividono il bestiame. Anzi, letteralmente difendono il bestiame con la loro stessa vita.

Pensavo ai Nuer e alla conversazione con David quando Zeke ha invitato a giocare con lui a casa il suo amico Zev. La chitarra, a quel tempo, era la cosa piu preziosa che Zeke possedeva. Zev voleva giocarci e Zeke, in maniera ragionevole, disse di no. Chiesi a Zeke di condividere la chitarra, benché avessi chiarito a tutti e due Zeke e Zev che non avevo nessuna intenzione di condividere la cinepresa che stavo usando per filmarli. Per paura che potessero rovinarla, non volevo nemmeno che la toccassero. Zeke, forse consapevole della mia incoerenza, si attaccò alla chitarra come se la sua vita dipendesse dallo strumento. Anche Zeb la afferrò, e si rotolarono nella stanza. Alla fine, Zeke mollò. Zeke e Zev suonarono la chitarra a turno, e parevano felici. Bella cosa, ma a me rimase la sensazione dell’ipocrita. Perché mai Zeke avrebbe dovuto condividere il suo gioco più prezioso mentre io non ero disposto a fare lo stesso?

Vorrei essere una brava persona, morale e generosa, ma anche vorrei essere sicuro del benessere nella famiglia: vorrei una vita facile e felice per mia moglie Alison e i nostri figli Zeke e Ozzie. Come equilibrare la diversa natura di questi desideri?

Non è una domanda facile, specialmente se la teoria darwiniana della selezione a livelli multipli è corretta, come Alex Rosenberg e altri ritengono. La selezione di gruppo ci incoraggia a condividere e ad essere altruisti per rafforzare il gruppo, mentre la selezione individuale ci spinge all’egoismo, e a prevalere nel gruppo. Il conflitto è dentro di noi a livello genetico. Entrambi gli impulsi ci appartengono, condividere e non.

Sento il conflitto dentro di me, come lo sento in Zeke. Zeke ama i suoi attrezzi. Fanno parte della sua identità di “lavoratore”. Quando Ozzie cominciò a muoversi carponi e a far confusione con la sua roba, Zeke rispose nascondendo i suoi attrezzi in un posto segreto per salvaguardarli. È chiaro che buona parte di lui non vuole condividere gli attrezzi speciali. Sono troppo intrecciati con la sua identità. Ma a Zeke piace anche fare costruzioni con Ozzie, per cui spesso mette in campo anche i suoi attrezzi più speciali per completare un progetto.

Christian Miller mi diceva che la filosofia non ha modo di dirci con precisione quanto dovremmo condividere. Le teorie dell’etica sono troppe, ognuna con qualche difetto. Nello stesso tempo, tutti i modelli di riferimento -almeno quelli adottati dalla civiltà occidentale- suggeriscono che non condividiamo o non diamo abbastanza.

La nozione che non condividiamo abbastanza potrebbe essere la radice della rabbia di tutte le proteste nel North Carolina in questo momento. Sono andato di recente a una di queste proteste, con la mia telecamera, e tornato a casa ne ho parlato con Zeke. Specialmente dopo gli scambi verbali precedenti sul problema del condividere, questa conversazione fu molto confusa. Come posso instillare in Zeke il valore del condividere quando devo anche spiegargli il taglio dell’assegno di disoccupazione e dell’assistenza medica proprio mentre ci sono cosi tante persone che patiscono?

In altri momenti della nostra storia abbiamo avuto una visione più larga di quanto bene pubblico ciascuno dovrebbe condividere.

Pensavo quanto lontani siamo da quella prospettiva quando mi sono imbattuto nella comunità Ebraico-Socialista di Happyville. Da ebreo che si è trasferito da poco dalla Grande Città alle Carolinas, mi sono sentito intimamente vicino ai 50 Ebrei Russi che lasciarono New York per avviare una comunità Socialista nel South Carolina fra il 1905 e il 1908. Ho anche avuto la chiara impressione che i pionieri di Happyville potevano insegnare molto a Zeke e a me sull’importanza di condividere. Mentre è troppo tardi per parlare dei coloni di Happyville, forse qualcuna delle loro scoperte sul condividere è seppellito fra i resti della loro comunità utopistica.

Ho esplorato insieme a Zeke i 2200 acri del sito di Happyville, con la determinazione di scoprire quei misteri. Su quanto dovremmo condividere oppure se saremmo capaci di vivere come i coloni di Happyville, non ho nessuna certezza, però mi rattrista che siamo così lontani dal passato utopico, dimenticato, che Happyville rappresentava. Anche se può essere assurdo cercare di restaurare Happyville, o anche il sogno di Happyville, Zeke e io stiamo cercando di farlo lo stesso. Zeke ha scelto i suoi attrezzi più speciali, e mi ha offerto di condividerli con lui. Adesso, abbiamo un sacco di lavoro da fare a Happyville: sondando e scavando, strappando e torcendo.



Los Angeles, Susan Silton writing the reading – by Rosanna Albertini

Still it is handwriting, a noisy, mechanical concert for fingers and old typewriter. And the keys, angry or hungry hard to tell, bite in the paper like chisels. No ink, only shadows of words and a whispering voice, the artist’s voice.

SUSAN SILTON, And from this first "we" 2014 Courtesy Thomas Solomon gallery

SUSAN SILTON, And from this first “we” 2014
Courtesy Thomas Solomon gallery

In the late seventies a winter walk on the small mountains at the shoulders of Pisa, in Italy. I walk with a geologist, my lover at the time. Rocks are exposed by the natural sweeping of the wind. Having mapped and named every trail, my guide knows the place like nobody else. He points at a large rock: “See what happened here? The waves shaped the surface; it was underwater in prehistoric times, and you are reading the forms of the waves.” My breathing stopped. As if being underwater, I felt the currents making love to the water, and the waves making love to the sand, and the sand carving undulations on the hard skin of the ground. He had named our trail Ho Chi Min. His father had dug whale bones out of the same mountains, and invented the carbon 14 technique to measure their age. The physicality of this story still strikes me. Liquid time for the wet part of our brains. (Google Nobel Prize Roger-Charles-Louis Guillemin).

Let’s move to human writing. Susan Silton’s manual typewriter and her fingers on the keys, along with other fingers involved in her project, carve signs on paper, instant marks, punctuation is particularly violent and digs holes. Despite the mechanical tool, marks are chiseled like the ancient Persian cuneiform characters on the stones, natural forms of fish or grass becoming words, our brainless conventional marks.

We really needed an artist blowing her feelings into the dryness of pages. Bringing us back -it seems to me- to the fluid story of invisible hooks from each word, written or uttered. As we read, listen to, the hooks loop our hidden, undetermined threads together, they knit our inner colors, the coarse or thin flow of the human bundle. They induce a new awareness.

Susan Silton: “It all began in 2006; I’d been very distraught about the Iraq War and wasn’t sure how to process all of it. I decided to reread Heart of Darkness, as an action of sorts against the war. Around the same time I picked up a manual typewriter at a garage sale. The machine was in stencil mode when I found it. I knew then that I would reread Heart of Darkness by retyping it without ink. It made the reading physical, intimate. Plus I have a really difficult time retaining what I read, and sometimes will even hyperventilate; so I found that the concentration required to type took the pressure out of me, the typing took over.
From the beginning I’d imagined organizing a collective typing, which I was able to realize last fall. Ten people at a time signed up to type for an hour from The Grapes of Wrath. For the most recent work (see video), I went back to typing alone. Even though you don’t see me, or my hands, I’m filmed typing a section from The Grapes of Wrath that’s especially meaningful to me. At times, I whisper a brief excerpt from another novel, Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson, which speaks to the way love imprints on the body. Together, written and spoken word bring the wounds from injustice (political, social, love) back to a more primal site, as if they were written on the body.”
And the body writes back.

George Steiner (Errata): “If there is in ourselves sufficient room for ripening, sufficient openness to eventuality, these mutations of audition, of vision, of cognition, these new imports into remembrance and aspiration, will translate into action. … The core of response, of reaction is one of compelled freedom.”



Le cheval du vent – The horse of the wind

JEAN – LOUIS GARNELL  from Chatenây-Malabry (France)


…Ayant fait surgir le cheval du vent (traduction du tibétain lungta.”Lung” signifie vent et “ta” cheval), nous pouvons nous accommoder de tout ce qui se présente dans notre état d’esprit, sans problème ni hésitation. Ainsi, en appelant le cheval du vent, nous accédons au fruit de l’invocation du drala secret, qui nous est l’expérience d’un état d’esprit exempt du bavardage mental, dénué d’hésitation et d’incrédulité. Nous faisons à l’instant même l’expérience de notre propre état d’esprit. Cet instant est frais, jeune et virginal. Il est innocent et authentique et ne contient ni doute ni défiance. Il est naïf, au sens positif, et complètement frais...

Chögyam Trungpa Shambhala, La voie sacrée du guerrier.  Editions: Points Seuil 1990 Pages 116-117.  Shambhala, The sacred path of the warrior, Shambhala Publications Inc. 1984

 Langage un peu ésotérique, mais une belle résonnance avec le Thinking fresh, n’est ce pas?  J-L G  Exoteric language, and yet a it resonates nicely with ‘Thinking fresh,’ doesn’t it?

…Windhorse is a translation of the Tibetan lungta. Lung means “wind” and ta means “horse.” Invoking secret drala is the experience of raising wind horse, raising a wind of delight and power and riding on… Having raised your wind horse, you can accomodate whatever arises in your state of mind. There is no problem or hesitation of any kind. So the fruition of invoking secret drala is that you experience a state of mind that is free from unconscious gossip, free from hesitation and disbelief. You experience the very moment of your state of mind. It is fresh and youthful and virginal.

(Translation discrepancies are the way ideas take a ride in different minds, and they are interesting.) RA


The Diggins

Julie Shafer – THE MALAKOFF DIGGINS  (about one hour and a half from Sacramento, CA)

JULIE SHAFER, Conquest of the Vertical: 300 miles from Eureka! Silver Gelatin Pinhole Photograph 2012 88”x 40”

JULIE SHAFER, Conquest of the Vertical: 300 miles from Eureka!
Silver Gelatin Pinhole Photograph
88”x 40”

The Diggins are amazing.  They are located deep, deep in the woods, and the man-made crater is one mile deep, and about three miles in circumference.  In the pit it looks like a Southwestern Desert canyon, and at the top and all around the crater is a lush, thick, dense forest.  All along the rim are tree roots that are exposed, and stretched thin, desperate to find earth to hold onto.

I had never heard of hydraulic mining before, but immediately saw how devastating this type of mining is.  High-powered hoses, more like canons, were pointed at a mountain washing away everything.  All of the run-off was funneled to a man-made ravine, and it is there that the gold, silver, copper, zinc and any other valuable mineral was sorted from mud, trees, roots, branches and rock ore.  Mercury and arsenic are magnetically attracted to these other highly sought metals, and so they were used to separate the valuable from invaluable ore.  This type of mining is the most lucrative, and the most destructive.

I walked into the pit, and thought I should walk the entire loop.  My heart was racing.  I was a sitting duck in this bowl.  Do bears hunt during the day?  Would a mountain lion think I was threatening or a good sized meal?  If I blocked the sky and top of the pit I was swear I was walking through a slot canyon in Zion National Park.  I could feel this space.  I could feel the destruction and the pain.  I mean really, really feel it deep in my bones.  The sides of the pit were scarred, and scraped.  I could see where several high-powered water canons sliced into the mountain, eventually inverting a mountain top into a deep, raw pit.  Reddish, brown earth covered the bottom and sides.  In some places it felt stretched thin, in other places smooth, but most of all I saw jagged, rough slices weaving in and out of the sides of the bowl.  I saw the tunnels that were used to direct the run-off into a ravine where the valuable ore was collected.  The tunnels could fit three of me side-to-side, arms stretched wide, and another of me sitting on my shoulders.  I imagined I was like one of those human pyramids cheerleaders make at high-school football game half-time shows. I was shaking.  Years of rain-water collecting at the bottom of the bowl meant there was a little pond, and really thick brush.  It looked a little bit like a nature preserve.  I walked the most of the length of the bowl, but at one point the brush was so thick, it was impossible to navigate through.  I didn’t worry about getting lost since I was in a circular space, but every step I took deeper into the bush made me start to feel like it might be my last.  I honestly thought a wild animal might be hiding in this brush waiting to pounce on me.

“C’mon.  You are being stupid.  There is nothing out here.”

One more step

“Look Julie, you want to walk all three miles of this bowl, and you’re probably about at the half-way point.  So, whether you turn around or keep going you would end up walking the same distance. So, keep going.”

“Let’s count our steps.  I wonder how many steps I will take during the remainder of this walk?  My guess would be 7800.  Where did I get that number you say…”

At this point my own voice was swallowed by the sounds of something I have never heard before.  An animal was sending a signal, either to me, to a pack, to a predator.  It was one long, low register howl, followed by about 10 short howls in a row.  Silence.  Repeat.  Silence.  I could hear and feel my heart beat in my ears.  I have no idea whether or not the sound was coming from inside the bowl or from the rim.  Had I been stalked this whole time?  I don’t remember anything about my walk back except for the fact that I walked quickly, stood as tall and as big as I could, I tripped a lot and that I repeated something to the affect of,  “Everything’s fine.  Every – thing – is – going – to – be – fine.  I am going to take a few more steps, and then I will be closer to the end.  I’m good.  Just be cool.  Be very cool, and all will be good.”

This place scared the shit out of me, and was absolutely going to be the next place I would shoot.  How I was going to carry a 6 foot by 40 inch plywood box, and a darkroom a mile into this pit was beyond me.  I couldn’t use the U-Haul like I had before. There’s no way it would make it on the drive to the Diggins. I was going to have to carry everything into the pit, and set-up from there.  This shoot seemed ridiculously elaborate.  I seemed to really be teetering on the edge of reason with this one. Heroics aside, I didn’t feel safe.  Why was I willing to return to a site whose history terrified me, and physicality terrified me, whose remoteness chilled me to the bone.  Why I would spend a week shooting here is still something I am asking myself.