ROBERT BARRY’S Installation at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mid Compton, Los Angeles.
A Thomas Solomon exhibition


by Rosanna Albertini


Acrylic words on canvas by John Baldessari, 1966-68. I would love to replicated them today, but I can’t. They would become:



Conceptual art and minimalism have been the thread sewing my philosophical training in contemporary art, still they light in my mind either the joy of understanding or the certainty that understanding as an abstraction has exploded, and more and more words have become images. Ideas themselves might be hung in Plato’s cave, obscured by a big rock blocking the entrance. We want to live first, think sometimes, maybe, and replace explanations with sensations. The artworks, enhancing our conflict between reasonable goals and inner demons, reveal the immense variety of possible worlds, and signal at the same time the power to regenerate, to expand the very idea of language.

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church, Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

If the page is no longer the privileged garden, other sensory experiences expand the conceptual struggle in different mental spaces. The term conceptual sounds odd because it’s mostly an aura, a breeze around the translation from vague intuitions to physical signs, from calculations to a possible visibility: the new planet, ten times bigger than the earth, has not yet been seen: conceptual astronomy? Why not?

Capital letters grouped into words appear like phantoms on the walls of Los Angeles Bethlehem Baptist Church. I don’t know whether those white words on white walls are a text or not. They climb the walls and seem to be there to be seen, not read. Reading is possible, not mandatory: the art piece has been conceived and realized by artist Robert Barry. The displacement it creates in the visitors, quietly, indirectly, is of the best conceptual texture. Come, recreate yourself in the piece.

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

The small church was built by Rudolph Schindler in 1944, abandoned and recently restored by Thomas Solomon to become, temporarily, an art temple. The original building was painted red, blue and black; now it’s white. Words turn around the corners, walk up or down in diagonals, or enjoy being upside down. They become luminous limbs of light, while the church functions as a buffer space between the age of books and the time of a phoenix which is still difficult to describe. A virgin landscape in which the idea herself of a church is condemned.

This church is a house, an open place bringing in from the windows the other houses around, flying birds and airplanes, trees, street noise and voices: the opposite of the isolating, hiding place of the past. The human signs on the walls aren’t very different from frescoes, or from the little white hands painted on the walls of a cave by the vanished Anasazi. (See in The Kite https://albertini2014.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/little-white-hands/) Nevertheless, these almost flying words so light, so out of grammatical or syntactic order, are a pulsing image of our beautiful thoughts in a day of freedom, having lunch on an urban soil. Scattered, luminous shadows of the mind’s children, they show the absurdity of our days: vulnerable and obstinate, broken up but shining like the tail of a comet. After all, as the food plates of Allen Ruppersberg’s Cafe made with dirt, leaves and pebbles were uneatable for the mouth, although devoured by the eyes, Robert Barry’s words slip into the eyes to be chewed by the brain, maybe reinvented.

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory                   Photo: Joshua White / JW Pictures




an art/film by Edgar Honetschläger, 2001-2016

by Rosanna Albertini

LOS FELIZ. The scroll has become a film, a Babel of spoken and visual stories sometimes shed like tears in the form of raindrops; images struck by sounds or submerged in silence, dragging fears and fights for control along with a deep sense of how meaningless they are. And yet LOS FELIZ is an art piece gnawed at its heart by desire. An art piece longing for a space in which BEAUTY escapes the torture of being used to seduce the public, and becomes lively and lovable in a pot of grass.

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The visual stream built by the artist stretches and transforms reminiscences of Edgar’s journey between three faraway pots of civilization: his personal experiences in Rome, Los Angeles and Tokyo. His own displacement in the back of his mind, he fills the screen with an undefined space of waiting, searching for and letting go, as if the few persons involved in the fictional trip were figures wrapped around an inner empty hole, measuring the distance that keeps them far from their own lives. Symbols, only looking like humans.

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I travel, instead, through the remains, I would say the ruins of his spiritual and intellectual digging for thirteen years into the solid ground of places and people, until he resets and expands in the now their visual presence through a different story, in a rarefied as well as imaginary world. The question: “Does what we see or understand have anything to do with things as they really are?” wears certainties away. I better avoid truth as a word. I can’t avoid seeing the display of episodes in and out the blue car like parts of a long painting, mostly gray: the remains of a feast on a long table, they make me think of André Derain’s late still lives.

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The image of the three ridiculous cardinals each standing on each other’s shoulders while turning the wheel of the entire story, shifting gears while not much happens in the characters’ inner journey, throws humor over the process. Guns and violence look as absurd as the false teeth of the prelate blocking the gears of a possible new story. Nonetheless, although feelings are vanished from the thread of the story, images and sounds hold on them, strongly.

(Looking at the next image try to imagine an orchestra of insects in summertime:)

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Writing itself, unfortunately, has driven the aforesaid paragraphs into the film logic. I don’t regret it because in LOS FELIZ the artist has embraced the film format in the first place, 102 minutes of a hybrid creature. As God is generated by it’s own name, a bunch of letters makes an absence. My head has been cut off, Edmond Jabès lent me his words for a short while. The world is sound, sound like a head. “Drive,” he says.
Emptiness is your face
Emptiness is your trip
You must carry the film as a sin.
He is talking to Edgar, and to me if I don’t stop writing about the film.
As if it were only a film. It’s also a piece of theater, using the backdrop of ‘miles’ of Edgar Honetschläger’s black and white drawings: the spare profile of the land of freedom as lonely as the universe. It’s a river of music and singing birds and silence and water merging into each other. Almost floating in time, a sequence of accidents in and out the blue car pretending to move from one station to another – the strongest illusion in LOS FELIZ – gives rise to a development that doesn’t go anywhere, very much like in Pat O’Neill’s experimental films. Since the beginning, the idea of a story (Deus ex machina) hovers over the blue little car like a flying stork holding a baby who won’t become an adult. Why the grass? “Oh, it’s NECESSARY,” says Edgar’s shinto goddess. “The necessary angel,” Wallace Stevens would say, and he corrects my Italian vision of angels with wings sitting on clouds. Life is a disturbing storm around, but the artist “merely enjoys existence.”

“The way we live and the way we work alike casts us out of reality.”

“I am the truth, since I am part of what is real, but neither more nor less than those around me. And I am imagination, in a leaden time and in a world that does not move for the weight of its own heaviness.”

Wallace Stevens spoke these words in 1943. Honetschläger’s feeling of flatness is the equivalent, today, of Stevens’ feeling of heaviness. In his art piece in motion LOVE, FAME, FATE become mirages. The more humans rush toward them, the farther away they move. After all, they are nothing but words.

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La vie est plus belle que les idées. Life is more beautiful than ideas. Music and sounds are stronger than words: they convey the infinite vibrations, sudden changes, weaknesses and pitches of living things; they adhere to the artist’s body like a second skin made by past and present others: beauty is sharing. As for images, beauty pervades them when they become flat bodies of a moment, sparkles of time asking our senses to embrace them and let them go, in a river of emptiness.

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from:   Sankofa, 2006

Leiden: John Outterbridge’s installation at Naturalis, The National Museum of Natural History, The Netherlands. 





Photos: Peter Kirby

John Outterbridge’s statement:  Nature in the city, the city in nature: rocks, gnarled roots and tangled twigs, bicycles and plants, dried and desiccated bones, a sailing ship of old, birds and animals, sprouting potato and yams, together beneath a glowing orb (is it moon-ness, the female?)

It is a microcosm of our environment, a fertile garden from which we can harvest ideas and reflect on our history and our present existence, on our connectedness and the spirit that informs it all. It is a metaphor that speaks of change, of fossils in dormancy or in transition, as well as of the organic that germinates and nourishes. All of this together signals the living future.


to:   JOHN OUTTERBRIDGEs assemblages and sculptures in RAG MAN at ART + PRACTICE,

Los Angeles 2016,  until February 27.

A FULLNESS OF LIFE      by Rosanna Albertini 

Sankofa was the dream of a sower, il seminatore. I looked at Outterbridge for a week while he was preparing the installation, and the key moment wasn’t the display of bones and animals from the museum’s collection interspersed with tiny bicycles, it was the final throw of white beans all over the floor of his fossilized garden, the accurate positioning of yams and potatoes, some already sprouting. Only then did we sit down, as gardeners do, waiting for the natural growth as an infusion of living into the dryness of history. For the first time we spent a considerable length of time together, letting the talk veil curiosity about one another and the many things art can be. I was writing portraits of women artists then, a bunch of interesting flowers indeed, and John gave me as a present one more flower to discover after, back in Los Angeles: Dominique Moody. “Legally blind, she goes by bicycle” -he said, and laughed remembering that his attempt at being a real dutchman on a bike along with the many swarming through Leiden like mosquitoes, had just ended in a spectacular fall.

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Caged, 2008 Mixed media

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Caged, 2008  Mixed media   Courtesy of the artist and Tilton Gallery, New York    Photo: Peter Kirby

Never is his art separate from the feeling that living things and people could be lost and broken down forever if there isn’t somebody caring for them, presenting them in a personal, surprising way, as if art were an offering to life asking for clemency, or inclusiveness. Universe isn’t an audience, doesn’t listen, cares even less. If it wasn’t for humans, lady earth wouldn’t have a face, the many faces she shows to the sky who still cries tears and storms over their eternal separation.

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Rag and Bag Idiom II, 2012, Mixed media

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Rag and Bag Idiom I, 2012, Mixed media, The Eileen Harris Norton Collection    Photo: Peter Kirby

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Rag and Bag Idiom VI, 2012. Mixed media, 14 " x 12" x 6" The Eileen Harris Norton Collection Photo: Peter Kirby

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Rag and Bag Idiom VI, 2012. Mixed media, The Eileen Harris Norton Collection Photo: Peter Kirby

As an artist making assemblages, John Outterbridge is the sower who picks up, and takes in, debris left on the ground by rush and forgetfulness. Some debris were recently wrapped up in small bags: soft, irregular forms of a self  contained visual idiom.  We don’t  know exactly what they are, sometimes they became pillows, three of them placed on top of  a rag almost a flying leaf that carries bodies bigger than she. If the leaf is a soul, I can see the artist painting the heaviness of the burden with the colors of a fruit salad: yellow, orange and green and a touch of watermelon.

Colors, fabrics, shapes, are the harvest of thousands of years chewing them till they mutate. Art works become dust and dirt despite the efforts of the art conservators. Yet an artist like John doesn’t care, his creatures were born old, they look old, already damaged at birth. Like the Asante Adinkra symbol in Ghana, he is the bird turning his head backwards to take an egg off his back. Sankofa: go back and get it. You don’t forget that a couple of wings are not enough for a machine to fly, they rest in a box almost protected by the lives they had, folded tenderly against their skin. Rags and bags? So are we.




This post is first of all addressed to John Outterbridge, as a token of mine and Peter’s affection. I just received from Dominique Moody two evocative photos: the first is a bicycle made by an African boy, donated to John in South Africa during a trip that followed his visit to Leiden-the city of bicycles; the second is a picture of John Outterbridge and Dominique Moody taken by Tami Outterbridge at the opening of RAG MAN, December 12, 2015.


John and Dominique


Fiona Connor

FATHER DIGESTING THE NEWSPAPER    ―   New Zealand, January 2016

“One of the things that is very interesting thing to know is how you are feeling inside you to the images that are coming out to be outside of you.” (Gertrude Stein with one alteration: images instead of ‘words’)





Courtesy of the artist – Photos: Peter Kirby

Gertrude Stein’s portrait writing (from “Portraits and Repetition”)

“We in this period have not lived in remembering, we have living in moving being necessarily so intense that existing is indeed something, is indeed that thing that we are doing. And what does it really matter what anybody does. The newspapers are full of what anybody does and anybody knows what anybody does but the thing that is important is the intensity of anybody’s existence. Once more I remind you of Dillinger. It was not what he did that was exciting but the excitement of what he was as being exciting that was exciting. There is a world of difference and in it there is essentially no remembering.

And so I’m trying to tell you what doing portraits meant to me, I had to find out what it was inside any one, … and I had to find out not by what they said not by what they did not by how much or how little they resembled any other one but I had to find it out by the intensity of movement that there was inside in any one of them. … I must find out what is moving inside them that makes them them, and I must find out how I by the the thing moving excitedly inside in me can make a portrait of them.”

“Portraits and Repetition” is one of the five lectures Gertrude Stein wrote in 1934.
They were originally published in a book called Lectures in America, New York, Random House, 1935.


– The Sharing Project –


By Joel Tauber

 I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community in Boston that felt both nurturing and stifling. If anyone in the community struggled financially, they knew that tzedeka (or charity) would be raised to sustain them. If they needed emotional support during a crisis – or even if they didn’t – they knew that people would gather around them to comfort them with meals and conversation.

Yet, all of this support had a cost, which I felt in quite a pronounced way during my Bar Mitzvah. One person after another gave me a volume of Talmudic text and encouraged me to follow its many laws. The mountain of Talmudic tomes that I received that day and the expectations that they embodied felt overwhelmingly oppressive to me.

Years later, I live a secular life with my family in Winston-Salem in a house that was built by a Moravian couple whose heritage seems similar – in a number of ways – to my own.

As historian Michele Gillespie explained to me, Moravians migrated to what they called Wachovia from Central Europe – via Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – in the 18th century in order to escape persecution and to establish communities for their pietistic, Protestant sect.

The Moravians were communitarian. They shared property, work, and responsibilities. Everyone was educated at the same schools, and no one had to fear going hungry. They were defined by their status as single brothers, single sisters, or married couples; and they were treated similarly within those groupings.

The Church was paramount, while individual choice was somewhat limited. The Moravians were expected to dress similarly and to leave certain decisions – like who to marry – to God.

Over the course of the 19th century, the Moravians’ communitarianism faded, and they became more individualistic. They stopped speaking German, grew more similar to other Protestants in the American South, and even adopted the abominable practice of slavery.

Then, in 1913, Salem, which was the largest Moravian community in Wachovia, was asked to merge with its neighbor, and new economic powerhouse, Winston. Even though the Moravians in Salem had long been successful artisans and merchants, they didn’t identify with the textile and tobacco entrepreneurs, like R.J. Reynolds, that had settled in Winston. They felt that these businessmen were too greedy and individualistic and that their ethos threatened whatever remained of their communitarian culture.

Nevertheless, the merger occurred, and the communitarian lifestyle of the Moravians continued to fade away. What they had built in Salem became a relic of the past, frequented by tourists.

I was thinking about all of this, when we went to Wachovia Bank to open an account. I knew that the bank had Moravian roots, but I couldn’t see them anywhere other than in the name. As I glanced around the shiny walls, I wondered what the communitarians who had settled here in the 1740s would have thought of the powerful instrument of Capitalism that their descendants helped create.

My mind continued to wander, as a banker offered me bottled water. I thought about how the Moravians had come to this fertile spot with abundant creeks and rivers with the intention of sharing those resources collectively. Could they have imagined that anyone would offer water from across the globe as a gift when there was such wonderful water right here?

As I watched Zeke and Ozzie chase bubbles one day in our backyard on Robinhood Road, I wondered what it would be like if we shared more of our resources with each other, like the Moravians once did. The possibility felt beautiful to me; and I prayed that we could achieve it, while restraining ourselves from imposing the types of shared expectations that I experienced in my childhood.


Joel Tauber, "SHARE" (photo direction: Joel Tauber, shot by Kristi Chan) from the art installation and movie, "The Sharing Project"

Joel Tauber, “SHARE” (photo direction: Joel Tauber, shot by Kristi Chan) from the art installation and movie, “The Sharing Project”


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



Los Angeles artist John Eden, his grandfather W.M. Burgess of Gilmore, Oklahoma, and fathers and mothers and children before them and after them.

by Rosanna Albertini

Let’s go backwards, “from the adult to the open-eared attentiveness of the child: expanses, solitude; being led; letting reason grow out of things and into man [and women]; a more universal, more conciliatory, but less precise mode of thought.” (Robert Musil, 1922)

Johnny on poarch

Johnny on The Porch

As we grow up, the child never disappears although we couldn’t say where it is; inside the body, or looking at us from afar?

JOHN EDEN, "Hell's bells" 2006. Bronze bells on lacquered aluminum 7.5" x 54" x 8"

JOHN EDEN, “Hell’s Bells” 2006   Bronze bells on lacquered aluminum   7.5″ x 54″ x 8″ Courtesy of the artist.

Johnny looks at John Eden working in his studio from a photograph that was shot by grandmother, who is the shadow on the left. He doesn’t seem comfortable, nor is he aware he is looking toward the future. “What are those forms he is making?” – Johnny wonders, “so perfectly shaped and covered with a skin of color that keeps eating images of passers by as if hungry for living. They are reflexions, sure, but how could I know what’s happening inside those forms? Likely, the same as in human bodies, what’s contained by the skin is a surprise, a gush of blood scares me. Is art alive? I want to be sure that John is always Johnny. In a sense, I’m him.”

Johnny’s physical existence blocked in his image won’t ever be replicated: his corpus is what we see and nothing beyond: but his nature guided his limbs and neurons into an adult life, and genealogical history, instead of lingering  near him in fading images printed on paper, migrated into John Eden’s art: forms charged with meaning, quality and feeling: “Embodiment is the central effort in art, the way it gets made, very much something out of nothing. It’s impossible to express a feeling without a form. It couldn’t be said or seen.” Donald Judd 1983. Luminous surfaces are calls for thinking, reflections bring my perception close to the artist’s, become evocations. Some of his sculptures introduce into our time simplified forms of irons, and a washboard on which mothers and grandmothers in the 20’s and 30’s consumed their fingers by hand washing: they are votive objects to honor incommunicable lives erased by history but not in our memory or feelings, temporary as they are.

WillPBurgessTouchedupCroppedW.M. Burgess (John Eden’s grandfather): I was given away just as one would give a dog away. I was taken by the Indians to Talihina [Indian Territory, present day Oklahoma].  They were full-blood Choctaw. We had good feather beds and lived very comfortably. … I was very anxious to learn the white man’s ways and when I got to be 18, I worked for a man and earned $1. With this money, I got all the schooling I ever got. I attended the sessions at Postoak Grove school for 20 days. I learned to read myself.

Oreste Albertini (my own grandfather) did worse: he went to school only one day, and decided he was going to learn to read and write by himself. Which he did, and became a painter.

Rosanna Albertini: I was myself given away at age 10, to blue-blood aristocratic ladies in Milan, who changed the fearless countryside savage I was into a refined young lady. In 1955 the post war conditions of life in Italy were not very far from the American Great Depression for those who were poor and jobless. My bed wasn’t as comfortable as the Indian bed.

William and Annie Burgess, my mother's parents just before he died. Early to mid '30s

John Eden: William and Annie Burgess, my mother’s parents just before he died. Early to mid ’30s.

John Eden: Flora Mae Burgess-Eden, my mother, was born in Eastern Oklahoma, into a sharecropper’s family of seven children. Her father was raised speaking Choctaw and only learned English later as a second language. My mother was just shy of twelve when he died in 1934 from blood poisoning, leaving his widow and their seven kids to fend for themselves during the height of the Great Depression. One year later, FDR’s “New Deal” administration decided that ‘excess’ livestock across the nation should be destroyed for whatever political reason, ‘they came out and shot the cow’ leaving my grandmother’s family without their only source of milk. This was the major contributing factor for their ‘Okie Diaspora’  journey to California.

1934 around the world: The night of long knives in Germany -June 30-  officially began Hitler’s attempt at the massacre of European democracies. In China the Red Army marched for 370 days to rewrite in name of Mao thousands years of history. Several dictators surfaced in South and Central America, Stalin was already dominating in Russia. In the U.S. Albert Einstein visited the White House, Bonny and Clyde were killed in Louisiana, and Cole Porter’s Anything Goes premiered in New York City, November 21. It was the worst year of the Great Depression and the world economy hit rock bottom.

Rosa Maserati Albertini (my grandmother): I was fourteen when they put me on a big boat, all by myself, to cross the Atlantic and go to Pittsburgh to work in my uncle’s drugstore. One year after I was sent back to Italy because business wasn’t good, worked in a factory’s night shift, the four fingers of my right hands were completely cut off in a factory accident.

These are not really ‘facts.’ They form a texture of family mythologies, in a mysterious way circulate in our blood, they are our humus. Why do I still hold my right hand with the left, as if I were covering the missing fingers? If young readers are patient enough to read these stories, they should know they all had positive endings, despite (or because?) of hard beginnings. Our present time, so strongly based on fulfillment, seems to rush away from the personal face of our days.

John Eden’s art will not change the general trend, but gives to us silent bodies so filled with feelings that emotions spill from them and spread in the room, and become matches turning other emotions on, from our own personal stories. Try to see the sculptures for real, images are not them.

JOHN EDEN, Stupa AKA Larry's Bell, 2008-2009 Heavy chromed solid aluminum rod 12" x 12"

JOHN EDEN, Stupa AKA Larry’s Bell, 2008-2009  Heavy chromed solid aluminum rod   12″ x 12″ Courtesy of the artist.

JOHN EDEN, Flora Mae's Magic Circles, 2010-2011 High-polish solid brass 24" x 12.5" x 1.5"

JOHN EDEN, Flora Mae’s Magic Circles, 2010-2011
High-polish solid brass 24″ x 12.5″ x 1.5″ Courtesy of the artist

JAMES AGEE, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1934:

“All that each person is, and experiences, and shall never experience, in body and in mind, all these things are differing expressions of himself and of one root, and are identical: and not one of these things nor one of these persons is ever quite to be duplicated, nor replaced, nor has it even quite had precedent: but each is a new and incommunicable tender life, wounded in every breath, and almost as hardly killed as easily wounded: sustaining for while, without defense, the enormous assault of the universe:

A man and a woman are drawn together upon a bed and there is a child and there are children:

First they are mouths, then they become auxiliary instruments of labor: later they are drawn away, and become the fathers and mothers of children, who shall become the fathers and mothers of children:

This has been happening for a long while: its beginning was before stars:

It will continue for a long while: no one knows when it will end:”

Post scriptum:

Sometimes when a peasant moves with the plough and the oxen
Over the broad surface of the field,
It is as if the vault of the sky might take

Up into itself the peasant, the plough, and the oxen.

Animals lead silence through the world of man.
The cattle: the broad surface of their backs…
It is as if they were carrying silence.

Two cows in a field moving with a man beside them:
It is as if the man were pouring down silence
From the backs of the animals on to the fields.

MAX PICARD, The World of Silence, 1948 (in Annie Dillard Mornings Like This, found poems, 1995).

Besano 1939 plow002

1065 foto eseguite da OA

Besano, Italy, in the 30’s – Two photos by Oreste Albertini

Post post scriptum: The text of this post was inspired by the many days spent reading Orham Pamuk’s novel A Strangeness in My Mind, 2015


The Dryland Motel Lobby Lab

Haut-Valais (Switzerland) – Amboy (Mojave desert California)


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Head and feet in the dust. Clean air. Only a few clouds draw convergent lines in the sky, the tails of the airplanes. Dust and dryness quickly split the gray matter of my brain disjointing the mind from my physical person: the crust of the earth is salty, whitish. Apparently no other animals around except my husband and me, two bipeds with no wings. In the distance, undulations that are hard to call mountains. We walk on a crackling dry lake where the only shells are blue wrappers of bullets, signs of human presence along with shards of glass, and a glove already fossilized by dust. The earth is here, unfamiliar as the moonscape could be. We walk toward the black mouth of a volcano looking down, more shells, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center is not far, unexploded projectiles could be on the ground. Not even a bush of creosote, no phainopeplas nor mockingbirds singing -or speaking?- a small dictionary of bird songs; only a few tumbleweeds. Tumbleweeds are angry clouds tangled in branches that Zeus threw down from the sky in a moment of rage. Gods are moody.




I’m stretching a mental feeling of dryness as if we had become ghosts, pointless combinations of minerals and bacteria with no identity and no history.

Emptiness. Things look far but they are not. The road is visible, so is her crossing with the railroad. A long white train arrives, the horizon gets in motion, white dashes run toward the right. Road and railroad become a white acute angle pointed to a small group of houses: Amboy. Are there ghosts there? We are, say the locals, “The Ghost Town That Ain’t Dead Yet.”
The ROY Motel on Route 66 was certainly alive before it died at least twice. The six cabins were empty, open mouths and broken windows, until ghosts from Switzerland arrived, painted them white and filled them with a surprising art project.





















DRYLAND MOTEL LOBBY LAB: MATZA Amboy, open from September 2015 to February 2016
N 34º 33.64’ ― W 115º 44.70’

A group of artists, urbanists and architects from Switzerland’s glaciers, lakes, and rainy valleys brought to Amboy their humid minds inquiring about the desert’s climate, inventing various ways to import real and imaginary springs of water.

GUILLAUME de MORSIER and VALENTIN KUNIK (architects in Lausanne), Bungalow #3 GLACIER Machine condensing water on the surface of cold blades, the water becomes ice in 6 hours: the first glacier in the Mojave desert.

GUILLAUME de MORSIER and VALENTIN KUNIK (architects in Lausanne), Glacier
Machine condensing water on the surface of cold blades, the water becomes ice in 6 hours: the first glacier in the Mojave desert.     Photo: Peter Kirby

JEROME MASSARD, (artist) Bungalow #1 California Water Infokiosk

JEROME MASSARD, (artist)  California Water Infokiosk   Photo: Peter Kirby

JEROME MASSARD, (artist) Bungalow #1 Route 66 Holly Salty Spring

JEROME MASSARD, (artist) Route 66 Holly Salty Spring    Photo: Peter Kirby

SEVERIN GUELPA, Mobile Drinking Water System

SEVERIN GUELPA, Mobile Drinking Water System   Photo: Peter Kirby

ARIANE ARLOTTI, Recycle Me - Recycle You

ARIANE ARLOTTI, Recycle Me – Recycle You  Photo: Peter Kirby

ARIANE ARLOTTI, Recycle Me - Recycle You

ARIANE ARLOTTI, Recycle Me – Recycle You  Photo: Peter Kirby


MARIE VELARDI, Rain Book    Photo: Peter Kirby







Participants: Ariane Arlotti – artist, Séverin Guelpa – artist, Valentin Kunik – architect, Jérôme Massard – artist, Guillaume de Morsier – architect, Matthias Solenthaler – urbaniste et Marie Velardi – artist.