ALBERTO ALBERTINI : CASTLES IN THE AIR

Alberto Albertini :  CASTLES IN THE AIR

August-September 2019  Alberto is ninety two

from Milan (Italy)- DRAWINGS AND PHOTOGRAPHS by Alberto Albertini

 

 

Note of the editor and translator, Rosanna Albertini

Alberto’s father was my grandfather, the painter Oreste. The family gave us a common humus in the same village and a pull of genes, but this blog is the place of our reciprocal discovery, challenge and collaboration. To be part of the same family is a coincidence, whereas to think and write together is a double journey, the way to question our attachment to the arts through the knotted branches of our lives. 

Each time Alberto sends me a new piece, I know that this project makes sense. The whole blog, not only the single chapters. Why? Fernando Pessoa already wrote it better than I could: 

“The simplest —but really the simplest— things, which nothing can make semisimple, become complex when we live them.” 

A sort of “shame of existing” most of the time shuts my voice off in public situations, as if having to speak out loud implied audacity. The blog doesn’t make any noise. Through the blog Alberto and myself listen to each other’s secret voice. I truly feel at home, if he also does I don’t know. I hope so. 

“The /constant/ analysis of our sensations creates a new way of feeling that seems artificial to anyone who analyzes it with his intelligence instead of with his own sensation.” (Pessoa) 

That’s why I open this post with a few lines Alberto wrote about infinity. They interestingly connect to Kuitca’s sensation of painting, in the post that precedes this one. And they perfectly fit in my vision.

The surface.

The canvas in tension immaculate.

A provocative portion of infinity, the infinite power to represent ideas on canvas. In front of the surface the dismay of tracing an essential sign that could express by itself not ideas, rather the act of opposing infinity, a sign containing every thing.

Fontana, with a slashing cut, hits this power that the surface gives off.

The surface is still there, and is not. The slash broke infinity as well as its power. It tells us the gesture, the extreme attempt at expressing by only one sign another infinity, unfathomable, of the artist.

Alberto’s canvas is his life slashed by the war, and lightened by simple things, like the castles. 

CASTLES IN THE AIR

by Alberto Albertini

I was nine years old when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released, in 1937. I believe it was the first time I saw a castle. It grew bold in the sky, arousing my fantasy, in the movie it didn’t have to be rooted on the ground. Despite the boring songs and the shaky images, a sort of hitch, the movie revealed a dreamworld that could be extended afterwards. My brain started to produce its fancies, and I tried to draw more beautiful castles, more daring.

Having the right conditions, maybe I would also have built a castle as Ludwig II did in Neuschwanstein. I only dreamed of castles by making drawings. But drawing is a privileged activity: while you do it, it allows you to travel beyond the drawing, fancying romantic stories of young women in the clearing of the enchanted wood. That’s why maybe I couldn’t learn poems by heart; they were not fantasies produced by me! In the end, to stimulate fantasy is the true meaning of reality. Why should we stop reality in one click?  To preserve the starting image of a journey. 

Castles, castles, castles…

Castles in the air, as when I dreamed of having a camera I couldn’t buy and drew it in a project, taken by the illusion I could build it; or a little later, in 1945, I was struck down by the ERMANOX, Salomon’s fotocamera from the twenties, it was already vintage. In order to buy it I wanted to make an amplifier and sell it to have the necessary money. The amplifier was made but not sold: it ended being rented by the improvised after war ‘balera,’ an unpretentious dance hall nearby. 

Heart-wrenching mazurcas, tangos and waltzes, sounds reaching us from afar as she and I leaned out of the window of our room trying to absorb the pleasure of that sadness. Desire and imagination are also good for building and inventing as I eventually did: dreams in a drawer from which sometimes one takes something out. Because an intense activity of imagination requires time, if one doesn’t have enough time, it happens that his brain follows two directions at the same time: taking care of the job with the mind away from it, thus running the risk of losing the job. It happened to me just when I was beginning to go back up.

My conversion, nevertheless, was never complete. The business trips were a perfect opportunity: I could quickly abandon my contact person to get the train to the airport, glad when I saw from the window a profusion of broom flowers. I could breathe! And what about brooms near Lake Trasimeno?

Such alternative work can be also practiced quite late in life, but it’s less satisfying of course, one can’t throw himself too far and eventually makes do with sensations, atmospheres. Not memories! I detest memories. What are they for, to be stirred by happiness again? Certainly not. Facts existed, there they stay. Atmospheres are something else: a smell of wood’s sawdust instantly evokes the sawmills of the alpine valleys, the pinewoods. For a moment one feels there. Or the smell of the sea…

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Roofs in Corso Garibaldi, from his window.

I take my time reading the newspaper, then I stop and start looking at the objects around me: bookcases, books, photographs, memories piled in containers that I will not open; boxes, playthings scattered on the shelves blocking the access to books I don’t care of looking for, or on hold to be shelved. It will not happen. My big screen PC contains a life, my life taking photographs: I have in mind to select them by subject, to make virtual albums. I will certainly do it. There are also the paintings but I don’t see them, on the side walls. Their presence is enough to keep my mind at rest. The sun makes a square of light on the wooden floor that reverberates heat in the room, the window open, the morning air still pleasant. 

Twenty, twenty-two years in such an intimate island so much inside the city, almost unreal, to go down and communicate, to go up and meditate. How much more time? Not so much, it can’t be, yet I take it in wanting to exalt sensations that age is wearing out. What can be done in order to have such a long life? a lady asked me while waiting for her number: to have a project, a destination, a purpose! still I have some projects, if I don’t hurry I can keep them to prolong my life. 

I know I’m not eternal, I’ve started to feel my years a while ago and yet I also feel I’m eternal, who knows. Who knows who I really was, some remorse resurfaces, is it possible to live with nothing to regret? I can stand the stains spread on my consciousness.

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Outline of the nocturnal city, from his window

Late in the night, from the window I see the street, it’s almost empty. Somebody comes by. A few windows are lit: didn’t they go on vacation? What are they doing still on, at that time? 

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Looking out the rear windows of his building

Bibliography

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, composed by Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon. Translated by Alfred Mac Adam, Exact Change, Boston, 1998

 

YELLOW MOON – LENZ GEERK

About LENZ GEERK  “Mixed Blessings”

at Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, September 2019

 

LENZ GEERK, Untitled 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 70 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

LENZ GEERK, Croissant 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles CA

YELLOW MOON

by Rosanna Albertini

No, says the child, the moon is white. That is not the moon, it’s a croissant. 

I am not in the mood for fighting, words assume they are right, so does the child. 

I keep seeing the moon wearing a puffy dress, looking kindly at the people of the house. 

They look at her or keep her in their minds in an uncanny way, even when the moon-croissant, the crescent moon, is off stage, or he looks as if he is wondering where she is, the man about to pick up his briefcase or maybe only passing by through the corridor. His thoughts, heavier than the bag, make him greenish. He might be a tree man growing out of the bag like a Houdini. It’s a painted reality, at the mercy of the marketplace.

 But the artist knows that and he is conscious at the same time, deeply conscious, that he makes people and rooms and objects in his paintings “the only way that he is able to get the picture to exist.” Therefore the story doesn’t have to be necessary,  “it has to exist but it doesn’t have to be necessary …. because the minute it is necessary it has in it no possibility of going on.” 

LENZ GEERK, Pearl Painting and Pearl Necklace 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 49 x 35 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

Gertrude, you are welcome. Did you notice the woman adjusting the necklace underneath her hair, she only has a portion of an arm, maybe she is a statue. Her pearl is so powerful that turns into a giant pearl, a mother pearl? floating between painted waves in another painting. Mystery grows, for the two figures, the woman statue and the painting, float in the dark emerging from the canvas like Venus from the ocean. The painter, I wonder, maybe the painter is realizing he doesn’t have the soft, absorbing surface of felt underneath anymore, he is painting on canvas, not so easy, not so welcoming. He stops remembering the felt. He chops the arm, acts anew and lets the brush make the job.

Pirandello would call the figures six characters in search of their author, so lost in their own nature that they barely deal with the density of the living. Geerk’s painted creatures are not even completely human. They stand rigid, or slightly folded on themselves like leaves, or fall down in a strange angle as flowers do in a vase when the water has soaked the stem and petals dry up.  Impossible to imagine them in a less empty space, less anonymous. A man leans toward the crescent moon on the table, can’t reach her. His woman companion on the chair seems suspicious, keeps her distance.

LENZ GEERK, The Croissant 2019, Acrylic on canvas 80 x 115 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

 Another woman in a small gray painting looks at the yellow presence from afar, half hidden behind the doorway. That is the epilogue of the mystery story, the same that unfolds in five views of the same place: one of the two corners of the moon has been eaten, or stolen. It’s a croissant, not a moon anymore. Exactly as in an old Inuit tale: the house was flying, people inside asked the house to stop, they were cold. The house stopped and the people put some light snow in their lamps, the snow burned and gave them light. Someone from the street went in and said, “the snow is burning!”  And the flame disappeared. 

In our story the flame remained lit in the painter.

An interesting closeness to Morandi’s palette, and to the soft edges of his painted cups and pitchers, goes along with the quiet intensity of the figures locked in themselves and unrevealed dreams. If the crescent moon is their dream, it’s obviously unreachable. But the painter ate it. 

LENZ GEERK, Untitled 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 150 x 200 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

 BIBLIOGRAPHY

GERTRUDE STEIN, Look at Me Now and here I Am,  Writings and Lectures 1909-1945, Penguin Books, 1967

Inuit stories in Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, Third edition, University of California press, 2017

MORANDI, Catalogue of Giorgio Morandi, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1981. The catalogue I consulted belongs to Lucas Reiner, painter. He lent it to me with trepidation because it was one of his mother’s favorite books. Thank you Lucas, both the book and myself hope to see you soon.

 

JENNIFER NELSON : “From Zero to Gold”

JENNIFER NELSON: “FROM ZERO TO GOLD”    

                   

Myths are the soul of our action and love. 

We cannot act without moving toward a phantom. 

We can only love what we create.   

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

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

JENNIFER NELSON  at the National Bank in Athen (Greece)

 

THE LIVING CARYATID, by Rosanna Albertini

 

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

of climbing eternity and rather emerging from human turmoil 

like a white lily from the mud

for Jennifer Nelson is an adhesive substance attracting 

as a magnet the needles that four years ago History scattered 

in Greece giving the country entropy in a broken vase leaking 

disorder and randomness feelings of pain and dreams of hope

that usually remain buried for us looking from afar

under the surface tension of the news

and sink and disappear in the ocean of human despair

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

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

 

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

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

stifling them under neutral computation as if numbers had ingested 

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

International Monetary Fund European Stability Mechanism

 

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

 mythological politics where time present and time past are only one

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

 [and with her generated the Minotaur]

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

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

[The referendum brought up 61% of NOs]

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

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

the cradle of European civilization.”

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

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

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

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

to obey a power stronger than his philosophical approach to life

this contemporary prime minister would have known he was only

postponing his poisonous drink …. nine months after

“Europe offered Greece 86 billion euros of loan in exchange 

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

pension cuts tax increases privatizations labor market deregulation”

and Tsipras said YES

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

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

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

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

 

Nothing grandiose or expensive was possible for Jennifer Nelson 

American artist who moved to Greece to discover she was married 

to the place with “heavy commitment and light material” 

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

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

 

Greece 2015 – Austerity time

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working Hands, Photo by Athena Stamatis

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

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

Jewels of Debts

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

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

“Internal darkness, deprivation

And destitution of all property,

Desiccation of the world of sense,

Evacuation of the world of fancy,

Inoperancy of the world of spirit;

This is the one way, and the other

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

In appetency, on its metalled ways

Of time past and time future.

T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets 

 

And Jennifer Nelson:

Of egg opportunities lost

and debt that won’t be forgiven

naked to your math,

I loved I love I will love 

The Alchemist’s Account (four line excerpt)

JENNIFER NELSON, Democracy is a Party, 2019, videostill

 

Bibliography

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

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

 

Lenz Geerk : MAGIC SOLITUDES

In the exhibition ‘The Table Portraits’ at ROBERTS PROJECTS, Culver City, CA – September-October 2018

 

LENZ GEERK. Untitled, 2018 Acrylic on wool 60 x 40 cm
Courtresy of the artist and Roberts Projects

MAGIC SOLITUDES

by Rosanna Albertini

“I like the way the art world is changing in the last few years, especially since Trump and #Me Too, there is more focus on relevant topics, psychology, society – which for me is often more meaningful than art about art.”  Lenz Geerk

 

The sky is flat and gray over the rain. As gray as the pages of a book Geerk painted with no words inside; only a small branch with leaves  appears, it might be an alien presence. 

There must be something personal I share with Geerk’s paintings. And it is not only a sense of familiarity with a painted world explored by Italian modern artists from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century, such as  Massimo Campigli, Mario Sironi, Filippo De Pisis, Giorgio De Chirico, Carlo Carrà and others – even Amedeo Modigliani. Their sceneries were often called ‘metaphysical.’ Big word in these days, I let it go. Perhaps these Italian artists only preserved an ossified gallery of figures and buildings to replace a landscape of ruins dominated by wars and misery — humans and cities under the same spell —  with imaginary monuments of their minds. Artists avoided resemblances to reality, bringing to life new under-cover mythologies wearing beauty and distance.

LENZ GEERK, Study for Gray Flower, 2018 Acrylic on wool 30 x 40 cm  Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

LENZ GEERK, Bee, 2018 Acrylic on wool 40 x 60 cm    Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

LENZ GEERK, Blue Flower, 2018 Acrylic on wool  50 x 40 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

Although holding some vague echoes from the past, Lenz Geerz figures belong to this present time, and are completely physical. I meet him here. And  I need to keep his painted images as soft as the compressed wool on which they appear. I want to see them through the body of the painted world, many steps before understanding. 

They are all equal in their lack of gaze. Their eyes are closed or they look down, absorbed by the body itself or by it’s action: eyes focused on a gray flower became gray, maybe thinking of a dirty look. Pupils lost among gray pages are opaque, inert like felt. It seems the act of throwing the gaze around, or looking far, is deadly dangerous. The grabbing is questioned: long fingers more like flowers stems than bony limbs, touch  without trying to possess, to appropriate. Yes, reality as we know it has become a disturbing, invasive machinery. The artist isolates his creatures from the ordinary, tired visual language of our time, he lets humor and tenderness take shape apparently without effort, a blue flower on his belly. He is not protesting nor letting go, he calls for intimacy, introversion, and pensiveness. 

These bodies  expose themselves and in so doing they conceal their own secret. Folding, throwing the arms in odd gestures, or magically sitting on the water, birdlike, in a space out of time, they could be boneless figures finally free from  the renaissance myth of the man bringing the whole reality into the measure of his mind, and replicating the fruits of his intellectual power until he can’t control them anymore and starts devouring them, like Chronos with his children.  There is the pressure of reality, but Geerk’s painted images resist, their secret untouched. I don’t want to break it, do not know what the artist had in mind, but I have to the impression to breath a secret pleasure of solitude. 

LENZ GEERK, Pressed Leaf, 2018 Acrylic on wool   60 x 40 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

 

“They are more than leaves that cover the barren rock

They bud the whitest eye, the pallidest sprout,

New senses, in the engendering of sense,

The desire to be at the end of distances,

The body quickened and the mind in root. 

They bloom as a man loves, as he lives in love.

WALLACE STEVENS, The Poem as Icon

 

LENZ GEERK, Beach Scene, 2018 Acrylic on wool 24 x 30 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

 

Each painting is filled with interrogative figures, they are human and yet, they seem to miss something. Their state of mind is sucked into their body. A head, her long dark hair and the hands turn into silent, physical language: while she heavily lays her jaw on a table her hair and hands expand, growing bigger as cats know how to do. It’s a humanscape shaped by sleep’s heaviness, an island smothered by a coat of snow. 

LENZ GEERK, Sleeping, 2018 Acrylic on wool   20 x 30 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

I see myself as one of those figures, a twenty-seven year old woman turning her eyes inside her own body dumped in a large chair surrounded by palms, in the hall of a Parisian student housing. Daydreaming, she was lost in the palms’ movement: hands with more than five fingers, too weak and floppy to grab anything around. In Paris she was completely alone for the first time in her life. She was confused. Suddenly the barricades of books she had physically built in ’68 during the student upheavals, and the imaginary ones she had constructed in her mind, trying to make sense of an incomprehensible decision her parents had taken when she was ten, fell apart all at once.  Dust from the Berlin Wall made her memory even fuzzier. Almost twenty-eight years old! Life doesn’t solidify in the twenties; the only thing one can do is to move on. Her desires had been chopped as well as her hair since she was ten. They both grew again. Not immediately, not fast. I look at her embraced by the chair. I see an immaculate conception taking shape in her mind puzzled by a bundle of feelings. During that daydream, she received a desire of pregnancy she had never had before. I don’t know where such grace came from. From the absence of immediate pressures? From solitudine, perhaps. A few months after, a new life was in her. 

Lenz Geerk is twenty-eight years old. 

LENZ GEERK, The Lovers, 2018 Acrylic on wool   80 x 59.9 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

Bibliography

WALLACE STEVENS, “The Rock” in  The Collected Poems, p.525,  Vintage Books Edition 1990

FRANK MASI : The Remote Life of Images

FRANK MASI : THE REMOTE LIFE OF IMAGES

after his recent journey to Japan

 

 

 Rosanna Albertini to Frank Masi — Los Angeles, December 2018

Dear Frank,

Your photographs of Japan are a dream of unreality. They are beautiful in an odd, almost disquieting way. I look at them and think, maybe Japan is not the point. The man I met many times in the past is a well organized, a practical person in love with the arts, and a very interesting collector of art. But these images that you grabbed and printed: the partial opacity of a window through which you saw the uncertainty of a blurred garden, and the frame of leaves tickling your curiosity; your oblique gaze through another window big this time that seems to protect from intrusion the peace of an inner space; the silent observation of manufactured clay cups waiting to dry – you call them ‘quiet’- these are works of a dreamer. A less mercantile term than the word artist.

Did you ever meet Fernando Pessoa?

 In dealing with any object, the dreamer should try to feel the clear indifference that that object, taken as an object, inspires. The dreamer should know, with an immediate instinct, how to abstract from each object or event anything in it that is dreamable, leaving for dead in the Exterior World anything in it that is real — this is what the wise man should seek to achieve in himself.”  The Book of Disquiet

Still drying Kutani clay / quiet tools / no wind no fire / waiting

Haiku by Frank Masi

It seems to me that’s exactly what you do, whether the object of your attention is a river, a branch, a stone in a forest or an old wooden house falling apart, or a pair of pink gloves hung behind a glass door of a simple house, a daily routine sanctuary. Don’t mistake me, pulling the door of history shut behind you makes you free from the devils of History, objectivity and documentation.  But then, is Japan as a real country the center of your work? And, does it matter? Problem: the questions come from a limited experience that came to me via Japanese artists and friends in Los Angeles. My gardener Eto is my largest source of information. He was born near Hiroshima. He is reader of old poems whose language is today obsolete, forgotten.  He remembers trucks filled with corpses passing by his village, and stories of his life as an after war child, when he and his school friends worked in the countryside cutting vegetation with machetes. By accident, the head of one of them was cut along with the leaves. See, History is a bitch, a cutting weapon against art. 

Fact is, looking at your photographs I didn’t think of Japan, I mainly tried to unveil your perception while you captured moments that became images and in so doing mutated, moving from the surrounding reality to your instinct that hunted for silent meaning in a dreamed landscape. Photography is a surgical act, images are cut out from the body of reality. And yet it’s an act that guides me to your own sensations. Your images are the two faces of the same human reality: preservation of nature and urban variety of dignity and decay.

Forest shadow moss / mountain child rock / river clouds / sky somewhere

Haiku by Frank Masi

Visually omitted, the human presence is embedded in the scape of the land. And your eyes through the camera seem to rediscover fragments of a remote life in places and objects, a life that escapes time as well as control. Objects and landscapes are more foreign than national identities.  Maybe I felt something similar on a beach in Turkey, such a pristine and isolated site that I almost forgot about civilized life.  There was no sand, only red pebbles with round shapes sculpted by the waves. Not rocks, they were remains of pottery from ships sunk to the bottom of the ocean during ancient storms. I was walking on naked bones. 

Nature is not mechanical to that extent for all its mornings and evenings, for all its inhabitants of China, or India or Russia, for all its waves, or its leaves, or its hands. Its prodigy is not identity but resemblance and its universe of reproduction is not an assembly line but an incessant creation. Because this is so in nature, it is so in metaphor.”  Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel 

The true poem [or painting, or photograph] is not the work of the individual artist; it is the universe itself, the one work of art which is forever perfecting itself.” Ernst Cassirer,  An Essay On Man 

I must tell you, your photographs of Japan brought me into a cloud of nostalgia, reopening themes that never leave this blog, like termites attacking an old piece of wood. Nostalgia not for Japan, where I’ve never been, I’m thinking rather of an intellectual paradise with many comfortable chairs and humans sharing, comparing ideas, sometimes fighting to the death around the objects of their efforts, hoping to understand and to enjoy tremendously, face to face, the mysterious disconnection between images and words. How many times do we really feel the power of our voice, a sound which adds time and physicality to the bunch of words that we call ideas? Once more, writing eliminates sounds. Thoughts for eyes, strange as they are.

We are not far from Christmas, maybe the tail of The Kite will turn into a comet, and lift your images in a luminous constellation. 

I wish I had a kimono / and walked with others /wearing kimonos

Haiku by Frank Masi

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Translated by Alfred Mac Adam, Exact Change, Boston, 1998

Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel, Essays on Reality and Imagination, Vintage Books, New York, 1942-1951

Ernst Cassirer, An Essay On Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture, Yale & New Haven, 1944

 

 

 

E’wao Kagoshima: WHITE AUTUMN and other visual stories

E’ WAO KAGOSHIMA

at THE BOX, Los Angeles, June-August 2018

After his exhibition, the artist started a mail art communication with the gallery and Mara McCarthy. 

E’wao Kagoshima, White Autumn 2016. Acrylic, pastel, ink, and collage on paper, 15″ 1/2 x 18″3/4 (framed dimensions)  Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BODY BOX BINDING 

— about E’wao Kagoshima’s world of physical language —

By Rosanna Albertini

Maybe the autumn wants to be white. A flood of summery red brightness fills his memory, he can’t get rid of it. Dryness is drifting across his eyes. The place is real and inscrutable. Shrunk to the bones or happily swimming in water, fish pull my hair and push my brain into an unfamiliar space, as if “rejecting the idea that everything is in its right place; there isn’t any.” (Robert Rauschenberg) A tree grows from a bone and a pink branch from a woman. There is no land or sky, we see an abstract space of transformation. The artist’s duty is to an absolute living, out of time or common sense.

Let’s pretend the alphabet starts with B. Art, area, affection, affliction, adoption, adulthood would disappear from language. Same kind of displacement wrings the world of physical language, E’wao Kagoshima’s pictorial world, out of any expected grammar. Every thing, and each form, have a mind of their own. Humans along with butterflies, toys, birds, plants and words communicate with the living landscape they are in as they like it, as they dream, without rules or restrictions. The same happens to humans, animals, objects or undefined figures.

Everyone is right. Things become true as soon as someone believes in them. Reality is within us; our mind creates its truths. And the best truth will not be the one sanctioned by reason.”  

André Gide, The White Notebook

Kagoshima’s colors might be the prevailing message, they fade or intensify like the daily mood. The artist has absorbed the natural beauty and sends it back as luminous islands from his brain: sometimes dry, often wet images, can he feel his brain is wet, as neurobiologists have discovered? They didn’t see red fish though, with smiling lips after swallowing dreams of government (John Kennedy), a cat, now part of their aquatic body — red fish looking after a red human baby.  But E’wao did. 

E’Wao Kagoshima, Parallel Case 2012. Pastel, colored pencil, ink, graphite, and collage on paper, 10″ 3/4 x 13″ 3/4 (framed dimensions)  Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery  

E’wao Kagoshima, Breathing Skin 2012. Pastel, colored pencil, acrylic, ink, and collage on paper, 10″ 3/4 x 13″ 3/4 (framed dimensions)   Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

It’s a space beyond limits where some artists like to be. John Baldessari taught a plant the alphabet in 1972. He showed the plant the letters with patience, repeating their sound to make sure that the plant’s brain could grasp and memorize. And Nico Muhly composed I drink the air before me in 2010. Sounds and atmosphere of the living environment enter his entire body, not only filtered by the ears. Steve Galloway placed American alligators walking on the clouds in mid-air. Many other artists can probably be added, but these I know well, as well as Haruki Murakami’s books in English translation.  

E’wao Kagoshima, Saving Diaspora 2016. Pastel and colored pencil on paper, 15″ 5/8 x 18″ 3/4 (framed dimensions)  Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

But in the end, I see what I see, missing Japanese language and Japanese life experience. I don’t understand Kagoshima’s images, like a blind woman talks of colors never having seen them. Simply, I love them. There is a stark naked reality in his painting and drawings: a spellbound territory, completely personal, that seems to me distant from either Japan or New York, where E’wao  moved  in 1976. My illusion? Could be. I hoped to learn from Japanese literature, only to realize that many characters and situations of Murakami’s books also belong to the Western tradition; they circulated all around the world in fables and stories for centuries. As I would like to pick out some Japanese evidence in Kagoshima’s images of Saving Diaspora, I could cry like his blue mouse, my mind lost and taken by the transparent lines of a butterfly, almost invisible, which to me is the feminine organ — as my grandmother called it since I was able to understand language. Of course I loved to detect the butterfly in such a claustrophobic room where a face cries blood and memories are petrified on her forehead.

 Storytelling is a universal art, each artwork by Kagoshima is a visual story. A woman slips out from the elephant’s trunk, maybe the cats dancing around her came from the elephant’s nostrils. The elephant seems happy to throw a shower on her and the cats. There is no separation between the three different species.   They bear the same light colors of nakedness and celebrate their closeness.

E’wao Kagoshima, Distortion One 2015. Acrlic on paper and pencils, 24″ x 19″ 1/4 Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

E’wao Kagoshima, Nose and Tails 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 80″ x 60″ 1/2 Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

Breathing Skin opens an incongruous series of dialogues: a fish with a crab, a bird to a fox, a woman to another identical woman, an undefined human creature bubbles water in a tank that could be a head. An exquisite gentleness permeates the drawing, lines are smoothed by water. It could be mist, or a layer of air flattened on paper.

Kagoshima’s life wasn’t easy at times, his art congealed feelings into poetry of distortion, and open-eye dreams. In his personal new world fish are bigger than the Statue of Liberty, and Sleeping Beauty floats in a miraculous clarity in the middle of an intestinal maze. The forest around the castle grows in green spots so powerful they cannot be contained, and spread on the frame. Happy birthday E’wao, it’s so good to meet your dreams. 

E’wao Kagoshima, Sleeping Beauty 2017. Mixed media on canvas, 24″ x 20″ Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

“It’s all a question of imagination. Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine. 

It’s just like Yeats said: in dreams begin responsibilities.

Flip this around and you could say that where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.

Just like we see with Eichmann.”         Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore                  

Kagoshima was born in 1945 in Niigata, one of the 4 cities destined to become a target for The Atomic Bomb in Japan. The town was spared in favor of Nagasaki.  We are both children of the war sprouting from the same year, new leaves in a time obscured by lack of imagination. Only one Italian scientist around Enrico Fermi in his laboratory imagined the scientific monster they were pursuing. He was a Neapolitan dreamer. He quit, and disappeared. To write it now, it sounds like a fairy tale. Our little brains born then did not know anything and yet kept growing as if their souls had been wrinkled by the fears and destructions around. To these days, any personal deception is linked to a primeval spot of darkness in human hearts. As an art student, one afternoon with friends E’wao was enchanted by the sunlight going through the beer falling from the pitcher into the glass. He had the idea of two metal sculptures that made him one of the few pop artists in Japan.

At the Box I saw his artwork for the first time during the summer, a one person exhibition. Immediately after, E’wao’s mail art to Mara started, almost weekly, from New York to Los Angeles, sending little by little fragments of his life to a place of trust, of friendly reception, a sort of harbor.  

                                           

 

 

BELLINI and MANTEGNA : FAMILY LIFE

having derives from another’s possession

Transformation, where true possession takes place,

Transformation, all transformations, man’s furnace,
crucible of patience,
I say all waiting is pure patience
If these words be spoken at the crossroads of space!
(The voice of the Karaw,  African praise poem)

ANDREA MANTEGNA, Presentazione di Gesù al Tempio, c. 1453, tempera su tela, egg tempera on linen, 77.1 x 94.4 cm  Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
   © Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

GIOVANNI BELLINI,  Presentazione di Gesù al Tempio, 1470, olio su tavola, oil on wood panel, 82 x 106 cm
Fondazione Querini Stampalia di Venezia   © Fondazione Querini Stampalia Onlus – Venezia

HAND OF THE FUTURE

by Rosanna Albertini

Pure patience in me had evaporated. It was early June and Venice was as hot as Africa. Yet I was cooking patience in my crucible as if my love for Venice were floating on the laguna, waiting to reach at least one place, one image calming my senses. Eventually I found two. Right now Venice is a theater for lost souls, a market of cheap, repetitive masks and glass beads to feed the savages, a park of shaggy grass surfaces, Chinese Cafes and bridges and floors trodden by a million feet. My self was an empty basket quickly filled with nausea from lack of space between humans, and disgust in front of German kids filling their mouth with water and spitting it brutally on the pigeons. The charming place where I had lived in the early 70s was gone.

“One participates in things (understands their language). In this condition understanding is not impersonal (objective), but extremely personal, like an agreement between subject and object. In this condition one really knows everything in advance, and the things merely confirm it. Knowing is reknowing.” ROBERT MUSIL

You have been here already, haven’t you, you know where to go, right?” I crossed the entire third floor of the Querini Stampalia palace, the art gallery, as fast as possible, attracted by a magnetic force toward two paintings, or the same painting made twice, the first by Andrea Mantegna, the second about twenty years after by his brother in law Giovanni Bellini. Noticing I was spellbound, the museum guard, an old Venetian, couldn’t wait to tell me the story.

 

PREMISE: The two versions of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple were painted when Venice was at the peak of its power and splendor: 1453 and 1470. Venice was the second biggest European city after Paris and the richest. Jacopo Bellini, Giovanni’s father and an artist himself, who was the head of the most interesting and successful “bottega” in Venice, will be my principal narrator. His slightly strabic, dark and piercing eyes, look at us from center of the paintings. He is a grumbling man, for good reasons.

The two paintings are family portraits. Bellini enlarged the group with two figures. From the right: Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna are the young men (self portraits), Simeon the priest not identified, Jacopo Bellini the father, Jesus is the baby boy born from Mantegna and Jacopo’s daughter, the Madonna a symbolic figure with no name, at her left Nicolosia, Jacopo’s daughter and Mantegna’s wife, the last woman at the left is Giovanni’s wife. 

Because both these paintings underwent five centuries of transformations in the restorers’ hands – Mantegna’s background was probably blue, hard to imagine now – I will avoid conjectures already deployed by art historians and experts of technology, often contradicting one another. I will stick to the story. Not long ago Venice was still permeated by whispers and talks in Venetian, flying around like a wisp of wings. We are in Bellini’s bottega.

 

Jacopo (father)          Would you close the curtain please? I saw the usual shadow coming up from campo Santa Margherita. Yes, I know you like him he is a good artist, but I don’t want Nicolosia to see him and besides, I do not want to scuffle with her.

Giovanni           Cossa vusto, father? What do you want?  Antonello da Messina gave us access to the oil color making he learned from the Flemish, so we learned to make more luminous works, almost sparkling. He is charming, has curly hair and big eyes. Think of the business. 

Jacopo          I do, but, Nicolosia is my daughter, she just gave me a boy to adore, Mantegna’s sun. Maybe a son of ambition rather than love, with marriage Andrea bought his freedom from his adoptive father Squarcione and got his own studio in Padua. It’s true the family painting he just gave me as a thank you present is still mat, quite sculpted on linen with perfect proportions —he always loved the colors of ancient sculptures, and the stones’sensuality. He is so good he doesn’t need oil paint. The other guy from the south instead uses every kind of trick. Tempera, you know, is still my favorite. He likes pretty much to slip under the skirts…That’s why he came to Venice, our putee (unmarried girls) are wonderful. Oh, the boy painted by Mantegna is a mummy, a cocoon. Antonello could give me another grandchild… can I be a collector of grandchildren from the most talented painters of these days?

Giovanni           True enough, Mantegna is the master. Perspective! You are good father, and have been innovative, but he is like anybody else. Too much work in Mantua. Nicolosia is young and lonely. Did you notice his self-portrait in the right corner? A tired face. He is so meticulous. Admirable, no stencils, no cartoon. I keep learning from him. Who knows if in a far away future people will understand the emotional depth of each detail, his ability to make lively figures out of lines and brush strokes, almost revealing their souls’ precision with egg tempera!

Gertrude Stein          I am thinking of attacking being not as an earthly kind of substance but as a pulpy not dust not dirt but a more mixed up substance, it can be slimy, gelatinous,  gluey, white opaquy kind of thing and it can be white and vibrant, and clear and heated.

Jacopo       Whose voice is this? It makes me nervous. I’m talking about men and women. Not my language. 

Gertrude Stein           I begin again with telling it, the way I feel resisting being in men and women. It is like a substance and in some it is as I was saying solid and sensitive all through it to stimulation, in some almost wooden, in some muddy and engulfing, in some thin almost like gruel, in some solid in some parts and in other parts liquid, in some with holes like air-holes in it, in some hardened and cracked all through it, in some double layers of it with no connections between the layers of it.

Jacopo           Who is she? Stein? Never heard of her; familiar though, she sounds like a painter. We were saying of master Mantegna that each of his painted characters is locked into an invisible hole, inside. Six bodies together, in the family portrait, and the bottom of them is somewhere else. 

Giovanni          Starting with you, father, What were you thinking? 

Jacopo          Oh, I was jealous, I wanted to kill him for being so young.

Giovanni             For the same reason would you kill me and my brother Gentile, like Chronos did with his children? I’m for sure your son, although I heard rumors about my real mother. I don’t blame you, and I love Gentile, we often put our brushes on the same painting. Did you call him Gentile because of your apprenticeship with Gentile da Fabriano?

Jacopo           We all share the same passion. First I want to see what you are able to paint. Maybe I will save you for the business.

1470 – Seventeen years later

As the former baby is already searching a mate, Giovanni remakes the family portrait adding himself and his wife to the scene. Same structure, same figures, not at all the same imaging: this family is not sacred anymore, halos around the heads have disappeared. Mary and Simeone look at each other, Mantegna sends an oblique gaze toward his wife, Giovanni looks obliquely out of the painting, his wife and Nicolosia seem to share a secret, pensively. Jacopo looks directly at us, is he thinking of his death, that will happen one year after? And the baby is the only one speechless, probably hoping to reach his mother’s breast. 

Dresses are more simple, and colors are dominated by a light bouncing on them from the outside world. Not anymore contained in each figure like the mystery of life. “The image of each [painted] object becomes a wordless experience; and the description of the symbolic face of things and their awakening in the stillness of image belong without doubt in this context.” (ROBERT MUSIL) Then undeniably symbols move out of the hands, like the growing baby, in a world of conflicts, of doubts and uncertainties. As if by accident, or accepting fate, the painter had left the invisible hand of future modernity posed on the painting, transforming its message.

Willem De Kooning           When I used the newspapers in the paintings, it was just an accident. When I took it off, I saw the backprint of the papers, and I thought it was nice. That’s about all.

Bellini                         Mantegna

 

A legacy by Giovanni Bellini: the most remarkable students of his studio were Giorgione and Titian.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bellini Mantegna – Masterpieces face to face – The Presentation Of jesus to the Temple, Milano, SilvanaEditoriale, 2018  and Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venezia (Italy)

Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans Being a History of a Family’s Progress, 1906-1908.  Something Else Press, Inc., 1966

Robert Musil, Precision and the Soul, Edited and translated by Burrton Pike and David S. Luft, The University of Chicago press, 1990

The African praise poem from Technicians of the Sacred, edited by Jerome Rothenberg, University of California Press, third edition, 2017

Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists, Oxford University Press, 1991

Emile De Antonio and Mitch Tuchman, Painters Painting – A candid history of the modern art scene, 1940 – 1970  New York, Abbeville Press, 1984

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHILIPPA BLAIR : her book of painting

Philippa Blair’s

Pictographs – Ideograms

by Rosanna Albertini

 

When a human abandons the world of senses, his/her/its soul gets demented.

Quand l’homme abandonne le sensible, son âme devient comme démente.

From Nicolaus Cusanus (1401-1464) to Michel Foucault (1926-1984)*

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Pioneers 2015
card, paper, ink, gesso, graphite   21″ x 36″   Courtesy of the artist

Los Angeles, May 2009. The trip to Philippa’s house in San Pedro by bus and train was three hours of damnation. But Philippa was there at the bus stop, waiting for me, the exact moment I arrived. Looking at each other’s face, we could read it with no words as Maori do in New Zealand. Accidentally, we are the same age, she is one month younger than me. Although Philippa isn’t a Maori woman, like them she can go through human or material density as if bodies weren’t obstacles. In her mind, the buildings where she lives are bodies around her own person, or sometimes scattered parts of her.

She is a painter.  

Like birds, she migrated from Ponsonby NZ to San Pedro, from Los Angeles to Australia and Europe, and now she is back in Ponsonby. Her nest on the hills. Paintings and drawings help her keep track of life, as if a bird could rub the feathers on the narrow space of a canvas, depicting and revealing vectors, figures, the intensity of the flight, the frequency of the heartbeat.

As Robert Rauschenberg would say, she can’t make life or art, and has to work “in that hole in between, which is undefined. That’s what makes the adventure of painting.” Almost ten years after our first encounter, I happened to stop my eyes on Philippa Blair’s works on paper she made in 2015. This post is dedicated to them. 

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Language Barriers 2015
card, paper, ink, acrylic 23″ x 36″ Courtesy of the arti

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Terrain 2015
card, tape, paper, wood, acrylic, ink, netting   28″ x 40   Courtesy of the artist

 

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Shelter 2015
paper, card, ink, wood, graphite   21″ x 36   Courtesy of the artist

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Gridlock 2015
card, paper, tape, acrylic, wood   21″ x 30″   Courtesy of the artist

Little by little, surprised at every piece, my brain is revived by the reasonable, friendly closeness, in the same space, of broken parts removed from any functional duty —as it happens after an earthquake, or social turmoil. Different languages in the same brain raise unpredictable barriers one against the other, producing stuttering or silence, or a closed door. Yet each piece is one place, the visual configuration of only one ideogram.

Each place gives support to what remains of an implosion: because they were blotted out, lines and colors readjust themselves on an irregular landscape as if learning to smooth down tensions or pain. Soft is the white, spots of color reassert a new explosion of beauty: maybe self-sufficient, I’m tempted to say ‘natural’ in a physical process, but words fail me. They can’t replace the secret of perception. 

Is the artist blowing underneath the paper’s fragile surface the breathing that inflates her chest? Paper can’t hold it so it needs rolls or sticks or cardboard filling the space, sculpting a landscape. Wind inflates a forest: the trees are curved, while the carriage of light following the hours stretches fragments of color between the branches. (Terrain) 

Oh no, not abstraction at all. They are paper works, basically black & white. Black lines break and disconnect, they are the opposite of lines of words looking continuous even when thoughts are not. Although the grid of life is always there, it is at times crumpled, other times rigid, never imposing a predictable order. The heartbeat prevails. Paintings? They could as well be visual songs of a mind burning edges, borders, and final forms, in favor of fluid sceneries sucked into the artist’s black hole inside her, to be emotionally reconfigured. They can’t be flat. 

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Return to sender 2015
paper, card, gesso, ink   27″ x 17″   Courtesy of the artist

They are flashes of life with some hope of love for the crazy world we share. 

PHILIPPA BLAIR, Armour/Amore 2015
card, paper, tape, acrylic   23″ x 21″   Courtesy of the artist

Philippa Blair’s painted books, almost pictographs,

 and here THE PAINTED BOOK  by  Nezahualcoyotl**  (1402-1472)

1….

Your heart is a book of paintings,

You have come to sing,

to make Your drums resound.

You are the singer.

Within the house of springtime,

You make the people happy.

2

With flowers You write,

O Giver of Life:

with songs You give color,

with songs You shade

those who must live on the earth.

 

Later You will destroy eagles and ocelots:

we live only in Your book of paintings,

here on the earth.

With black ink You will blot out

all that was friendship,

brotherhood, nobility.

 

You give shading

to those who must live on earth.

We live only in Your book of paintings,

here on the earth.

3

I comprehend the secret, the hidden:

O my lords!

Thus we are,

we are mortal,

men through and through,

we all will have to go away,

we all will have to die on earth.

 

Like a painting,

we all be erased.

like a flower,

we will dry up

here on earth. 

Philippa’s life precipitates in her paintings without blocking in permanent forms the fleeting, indistinct movements of the visible world. The paper can barely contain her effort of breaking chains, melting objects, building broken castles for feelings and tracking the rhythm  of a perpetual change, which is never the same, but not for a change of time and space. It is the artist  floating in her own boat, through her own spirit, the one who makes them new.  She gives to her figures of paint the freedom of material presences quickly disfigured by their own variation, she lets them go. It’s a flux of time that only happens, and is present time. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rosanna Albertini, New Zealand with an Italian Accent, Oreste & Co. Publishers, Los Angeles 2010

*Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Gallimard, Paris 1966

**Technicians of the Sacred, edited by Jerome Rothenberg, 3d edition revised and expanded, University of California Press, Oackland 2017. “From Mexico & elsewhere in Mesoamerica arise generations of pre-Conquest poets & books: a written tradition that reenforces & expands the spoken one. … Above all, Nezahualcoyotl (1402-1472), author of more than thirty surviving compositions & chief of Texcoco for over thirty years. While the tradition would still seem to be oral, the writings/paintings enter as a real presence: on stone monuments, fired vases, & painted books or ‘screenfolds.’ “(The Commentaries, p. 543)

Leo Steinberg, Encounters with Robert Rauschenberg, ©2000 Menil Foundation, Inc.

SCRATCHING SOUND OF DESPAIR

SCRATCHING SOUND OF DESPAIR

 

excerpt

  Ivan Mrsic : N G A  H E I H E I  O R C H E S T R A

At Te Tuhi Center for the Arts – Auckland New Zealand, on Saturday, August 13, 2016

and human chickens click their feet in the dust, apparently with no clue

(Nga Heihei is a Maori word for a cacophony of sounds or the commotion of kicking up dust. Chickens are called Nga Heihei because of the noise they make stirring up the dust. And the word Nga is a suffix used to change a verb into a noun, especially to denote a tribe of people. As a noun, moreover, it means ‘breath.’)

Ivan Mrsic during the concert

by Rosanna Albertini

“The real is a closely woven fabric. It does not await our judgement before incorporating the most surprising phenomena, or before rejecting the most plausible figments of our imagination. … Truth does not ‘inhabit’ only the ‘inner man,’ or more accurately, there is no inner man, man is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty*

NGA HEIHEI is a music from the inner core of an artist, and a splinter of War and Peace in our time, that hits the brain like a storm. Facts and images of facts around us shriek in our consciousness, piercing our dreams. One child on the beach, dead like a shell out of water, we only see the nape of his neck, grateful his face isn’t visible, sucked into the sand. Another boy on the ground was abandoned, a lifeless doll embracing flatness, crucified without a cross. They stayed in me like symbols of sacrifice for a long time, those two boys, and yet, as much as I would like to avert the very idea, I know the massacre will not stop. I’m waiting for the next. Hordes of refugees escape wars and poverty, they are treated like new barbarians. None of us owns an ideal truth. We have music instead, if nothing else, as an act of devotion.

And through Ivan’s sounds, history takes the form of a huge storm including Napoleon’s cavalry, canons and machine guns from World Wars I and II, and recents battlefields like big mouths vomiting voices and falling mountains, tsunamis, angry gods of the oceans, and an endless lack of meaning, what is it for?  Instruments, especially the digital alteration of natural sounds produced, at times, with a simple kitchen metal bowl, translate languages and stories into one long impersonal lamentation, the mediterranean expression of grief.

In such a bewildering human landscape, half gardened half destroyed, the artist, Ivan Mrsic, and the four performers next to him** become an island of resistance. Torn between his native Croatia and the new homeland he found in New Zealand, Ivan’s feelings float in both places. Transpierced like everyone else by things perceived, he/it/she shows the strength of resilience, and spreads around not intelligence -almost impossible- nothing more than the fastest beats of a heart.

 

The imaginary war in his head could not be expressed through words, or images, it’s a long river of steps on the ground, screams, trees shaken by winds, bombs, fountains of blood, and singing birds, despite the horror. Because our sense of dismay isn’t disjoined from an equal awareness of joyful attachment to this absurd world. Arts of our time merge into the living. No more illusions about the brain, our friend enemy personal engine, emotions come first. Physicality, sounds sometimes. We are not right, not wrong, not saints, not monsters.

Non-involvement, so far, has replenished the holes of the old wars.
As Hone Tuwhare*** wrote in his Haikuku

To reach the dizzy heights
of non-involvement
one must be unattached

In order to reach the peak
of non-attachment (ah yes)
one must be dissolved.

Ivan Mrsic dissolved himself, for a limited time, in a piece of music.

 

All the stills from a piece of video documentation commissioned by Te Tuhi, Auckland.  

https-/vimeo.com/181915486.webloc

BIBLIOGRAPHY

* MAURICE MERLEAU PONTI, Phenomenology of Perception, translated from French by Colin Smith, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1962

**The performance of Nga Heihei Orchestra premiered on Saturday, August 13 2016, at the opening of the Te Tuhi exhibition Share/Cheat/Unite, Auckland, 5.30 pm. With Ivan Mrsic, the performers were: Hermione Johnson, Pat Kraus, Jonny Marks, and Andrew McMillan. John Kim as a sound engineer and a performer.

***HONE TUWHARE, Deep River TalkCollected Poems, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1994, p.77

This text was published in SHARE/CHEAT/UNITE VOL. 3, online catalogue edited by Anna Hodge and Rebecca Lal. Curated by Bruce E. Phillips. Te Tuhi, March 2018, Auckland, New Zealand.

 

MORE CHALLENGES for Alberto

MORE CHALLENGES, AROUND THE WORLD (Fragments of memory)

by ALBERTO ALBERTINI

Photos: Alberto Albertini

The seventies were a time of violent events in our country, and because I traveled a lot, it wasn’t difficult for me to find coincidences between my movements and those episodes. It’s also true that such coincidences are easier to remember than all the other travels that went smoothly.

Philips was a technological company: manufacturing, selling, researching; it was not by accident that the CD was born from the Philips-Sony collaboration. But earlier Philips big commercial success was the magnetic tape audio cassette. Born as a small portable recorder with battery, the tiny Philip cassette entered into the high fidelity circuit among builders who produced recorders/players with unexpectedly high quality.
The pioneers in the commercial distribution of audio cassettes had started to duplicate tapes using banks of consumer recorders and at real speed. Considering the demand, someone started to produce machines able to duplicate at high speed. Very quickly cassettes became more popular than the 45 record. It was also market in which the production of audio cassettes was not always legitimate.
One of my clients had made enough money, thanks to “his” productions, to address his mind towards building a recording studio in order to complete the production cycle: from the singer to the finished cassette. This client was so incompetent, and not only in the details of production, that to explain to him the quality of my machines seemed to me not only an impossible task, but also a pointless one. And yet my competitor, who had the advantage of providing duplication machines, had infinite patience trying to introduce data into my client’s brain! My tactic was: to also have a lot of patience, so much so that one day I brought my client to London, to visit a fabulous studio and see a recording console that was the best at the time . It was the winning move. A challenge, always!
The studio for him was completed and I was on vacation at the beach, reading the newspaper under a big umbrella. On the inside pages I saw the picture of a person who looked familiar to me, yes, for sure! it was him, my client. But his presence in the paper was also certifying his absence from our world: he had been killed by a gun shot! Uncertain gossip told me that it hadn’t been a story of jealousy, rather a failure to reimburse the expenses to his wife’s lover, which he had agreed to pay if he would end the affair.
Mah!

PARIS

March 14 1972, coming back from Munich (Germany), I was struck by the news that a corpse had been found underneath a tower carrying high voltage electric cables: it was Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the publisher. I had met him at TTC in 1969.

The chief exists but is invisible. Only in some rare occasion he shows up, and not for lack of time, just because this is required by his role. So was the founder of Fonoroma, and so was Willie Studer, the creator of the Studer factory. I don’t believe Studer was formal, he seemed to me a reserved man, maybe a little shy, not very communicative for sure, and probably aware he had created the biggest and more perfect factory producing magnetic tape audio recorders.
He had two lines of production: REVOX semiprofessional for amateurs and the professional A80 for recording studios. In a few words, the construction was “Swiss.”
The factory I visited several times was a model: the labs for planners-technicians filled with instruments, and with automatically precise production machines.
The coffe pause was at ten, canteen and gardens. They, the Swiss, had the industrial zone separate from the residential zone… and their taping machines could record on magnetic tape, the text could be corrected and only at the end one or more copies were printed.
Gas was self-service and paid by Bancomat. It was 1970! All that because the personnel was scarse, those available were used in production, everybody produced, the factory couldn’t afford non-productive people. The Italians employed also did produce, and in order to learn the language they had a small blackboard with a written sentence to be learned every day.

 

SWITZERLAND

On September 5, 1972, eight members of Black September, a movement connected to Yasser Arafat’s Organization for the Liberation of Palestina, entered into the Olympic village quite easily, helped to cross the surrounding wall by a group of athletes who had drunk too much and didn’t realize what they were doing. From where had I returned? I don’t remember exactly, probably from a sleeping coach on the train from Monaco!

I had a long technological relationship with RAI (Italian Radio-Television), at every level, because they needed audio equipment for their radio and television programs. I introduced for the first time Studer audio recorders; the representative’s function as a mediator is quite interesting. From my previous experiences I knew the existence of synchronized audio recording system using a pilot tone (NAGRA), and RAI needed to have that kind of system. I convinced Studer to produce such recorders to provide them to RAI. Later on, RAI gave me the job of building a truck equipped for audio recording outdoors. The project had been developed by RAI technicians, and I was providing equipment and following the preparation. It was the occasion for me to introduce my design for the air conditioning diffusion, distributed by large surfaces in such a way that one couldn’t detect from where the air was coming, or the noise.

Air conditioning was my specialty: everywhere clients complained of the cold air blowing on their backs, or the lack of cold air. My system for recording studios consisted of using large surfaces with small holes, or long vents, in such a way that the air was moving at a low speed, but the change of air was fast and complete. Even the smoke —people used to smoke in the studios— immediately disappeared. I was also paying a lot of attention to the noise sent through the air conduits.

 

UK

May 17, 1973. Another return, another accident: the attack in front of the police headquarters Fatebenefratelli, organized by Gianfranco Bertoli. Four people passing by were killed, and forty five wounded.

London, the gray and foggy city. Absolutely not. I went there many times: the air was always clear and windy, in the winter the climate is often mild. The London I saw was lively and colored, music overflowing from houses and stores, maybe on the wave of the Beatles success sales grew, or maybe the Beatles were a great opportunity to export an impressive professional audio production.
Beatles, cockroaches, is there a relationship to carpets? Carpets everywhere, with cockroaches underneath? The empire has left its marks: big marvelous parks with benches that are not flimsy, consistently made with cast iron; marble palaces and red brick houses around a little square with a garden that becomes a small park.

A festive Heathrow. Meadows and hills by the freeway spread with people in groups, isolated, laying on the grass as if participating in a gigantic picnic organized by a national treasure hunt, waiting for a historic event:  the inaugural flight of the Concorde!

They were better off, the English people, under the benevolent eye of the Queen, yes the Queen, “the better sold product”, my client used to say, a perfect gentleman. Although he had a  slight limp, his style was impeccable. Perfect connoisseur of high society, he knew all the most “in” places to bring his guests. He never told me he could speak Italian until one day, suddenly, in perfect Italian he asked me how sales were going. What own earth? We were only beginning. Later I earned a champagne party and a gold record. At the toast, he lifted his goblet exclaiming: “the Queen!!!!” Perbacco, he really believed it.

November 2, 1975. I arrive to Rome for a fair of my equipment: they had murdered Pier Paolo Pasolini!

 

ALTRE SFIDE, FRAMMENTI DI MEMORIA

di ALBERTO ALBERTINI

Anni 70. Quei tempi erano ricchi di episodi di violenza in casa nostra e io, viaggiando molto, non avevo difficoltà a trovare coincidenze con alcuni di questi episodi. Naturalmente si ricordano le coincidenze e non tutti gli altri viaggi andati lisci.

Philips era veramente un serbatoio di tecnologia, fabbricava, vendeva studiava, non a caso il CD nasce dalla collaborazione Philips-Sony. Prima però il grande successo commerciale di PHILIPS è stata la cassetta a nastro magnetico. Nata come piccolo registratore portatile a batteria, la minuscola cassetta Philips era riuscita ad entrare nel circuito dell’alta fedeltà con costruttori che avevano prodotto registratori/lettori dalle qualità inaspettate.
I pionieri del commercio cassette avevano cominciato a copiare nastri su batterie di registratori consumer e a velocità reale, poi vista la richiesta, qualcuno cominciò a produrre macchine per la duplicazione ad alta velocità, in breve la casetta divenne più popolare del 45 giri. Nell’ambito di questo mercato sorsero produttori di cassette registrate un po’ ovunque con produzioni legittime e anche non.
Ebbi un cliente che con le “sue” produzioni aveva guadagnato a sufficienza per pensare di fare uno studio di registrazione per completare il ciclo produttivo: dal cantante alla cassetta finita. Questo cliente era totalmente incompetente in materia, e non solo quella specifica, cosicché spiegargli i pregi delle mie macchine pareva impresa non solo impossibile ma anche inutile, eppure il mio concorrente, fornitore delle macchine di duplicazione e che per questo si trovava avvantaggiato, aveva una pazienza sconfinata nell’inserire i dati in quel cervello! La mia tattica era: se resiste lui, io non posso essere da meno ed ho avuto anch’io tanta pazienza, tanta che un giorno l’ho portai a Londra in uno studio favoloso per vedere una console come si deve e questa fu la mossa vincente. Sempre una sfida!
A studio completato, mi trovavo in vacanza al mare sotto l’ombrellone a leggere il giornale. Nelle pagine interne vidi la foto di una persona che mi sembrava familiare, ma si, certo! Era lui! Il mio cliente, solo che la sua presenza sul giornale certificava le sua assenza nel nostro mondo: era stato ucciso con un colpo di pistola! Indiscrezioni non confermate mi dissero che non era stata una storia di gelosia ma di un mancato rimborso spese del marito all’amante della moglie per fine rapporto! Mah.

14 marzo 1972, al ritorno da Monaco di Baviera la notizia del ritrovamento di un cadavere sotto un traliccio: era Giangiacomo Feltrinelli! ( l’avevo conosciuto nel 69 in TTC! )

Il capo esiste ma non si vede, si concede solo in qualche rara occasione, non perché non ne abbia il tempo ma perché il ruolo lo richiede, così era il fondatore della Fonoroma, così era il creatore della Studer, Willy Studer. Non credo che Studer fosse così ligio al ruolo, mi sembrava un uomo schivo, forse un po’ timido, certamente poco espansivo, probabilmente consapevole di aver creato la più grande e perfetta fabbrica di registratori audio a nastro magnetico.
Aveva due linee di produzione: REVOX semiprofessionale per amatori e A80 professionale per studi di registrazione. In poche parole, la costruzione era “SVIZZERA”. La fabbrica che ho ripetutamente visitato era un modello: i laboratori dei tecnici progettisti erano colmi di strumentazione, le macchine per la produzione automatiche di precisione.
Pausa caffè alle dieci, mensa e giardinetti. Loro, gli svizzeri, avevano la zona industriale separata da quella abitativa…poi avevano le macchine per scrivere che registravano su nastro magnetico, si facevano le correzioni e solo a controllo finale si stampava in una o più copie.
La benzina era self service e si pagava col bancomat. Era il 1970! Questo perché mancavano le persone, quelle che c’erano erano in produzione, tutti producevano, non potevano permettersi uscieri portieri, gente improduttiva. Anche gli italiani producevano e per imparare la lingua, c’era una lavagnetta sulla quale veniva scritta una frase da imparare ogni giorno.

Il 5 settembre 1972, alle 4 del mattino, otto membri di Settembre nero, un movimento affiliato all’Organizzazione per la Liberazione della Palestina di Yasser Arafat, entrarono senza troppe difficoltà nel villaggio olimpico, aiutati a scavalcare la recinzione da un gruppo di atleti che avevano bevuto e non si resero conto di quello che stavano facendo. Da dove ero tornato? Non ricordo, mi pare in vagone letto proprio da Monaco!

La RAI è stata oggetto di un lungo rapporto a tutti i livelli tecnici perché necessitava delle apparecchiature audio per i programmi da trasmettere. Ho introdotto per la prima volta i registratori Studer e quello che può essere interessante è la funzione mediatrice del rappresentante. Dalle mie precedenti esperienze, avevo la conoscenza di un sistema di registrazione sincronizzata a mezzo frequenza rete ( NAGRA ) e la RAI televisione aveva bisogno di un sistema simile. Riuscii a far produrre a Studer, registratori con questa possibilità e fornire quindi la RAI TV. Più avanti, la RAI mi affidò l’appalto per la costruzione di un autocarro attrezzato per le riprese audio esterne. Il progetto era stato sviluppato dai tecnici RAI ed io fornivo le apparecchiature e seguivo i lavori di allestimento. In quell’occasione introdussi i miei criteri di diffusione aria condizionata, distribuita da ampie superfici in modo che non se ne rilevasse la provenienza e nemmeno il rumore.

L’aria condizionata era una mia specialità. Ovunque i clienti lamentavano il classico fastidio dell’aria condizionata che, arrivava gelida nella schiena, o non si avvertiva affatto. Il mio sistema, nella progettazione degli studi di registrazione consisteva nell’utilizzare ampie superfici con piccoli fori, o fessure lunghe, in modo che la velocità dell’aria fosse bassa ma il ricambio rapido e completo, anche il fumo, allora si fumava negli studi, scompariva immediatamente. Grande attenzione per la trasmissione dei rumori attraverso i condotti dell’aria.

17 maggio 1973. Altro ritorno, altro accidente: l’attentato davanti alla questura Fatebenefratelli da parte di Gianfranco Bertoli. Morti 4 passanti e feriti altri 45.

Londra, la grigia e nebbiosa. Assolutamente no. Ci sono stato innumerevoli volte: sempre limpido e un po’ ventoso, spesso d’inverno il clima è mite. Londra mi era apparsa vivace, colorata, le case, i negozi che traboccavano musica, forse sull’onda del successo dei Beatles vendevano tutto ma soprattutto, forse, i Beatles sono stati l’opportunità per una imponente produzione di audio professionale da esportare.
Beatles, scarafaggi, forse c’è una relazione con le moquettes, ovunque moquettes, non ci si accamperanno sotto gli scarafaggi? l’impero aveva lasciato le sue tracce. Meravigliosi grandi parchi con panchine costruite senza economia fatte di consistenti fusioni di ghisa, palazzi marmorei e caseggiati di rossi mattoni, a quadrilatero in modo di farci stare un giardino che è un piccolo parco.

Heatrow in festa. I prati, i dossi che fiancheggiavano l’autostrada, cosparsi di gente, a gruppi, isolati, accomodati sull’erba come partecipanti ad un gigantesco picnic organizzato da una caccia al tesoro nazionale o in attesa di un evento messianico imminente: attendevano il decollo inaugurale del CONCORD!

Come stavano bene, gli inglesi, sotto l’occhio benevolo dalle regina, si la regina, il prodotto più venduto, diceva il mio rappresentato, perfetto gentleman. Zoppicava un pochino ma riusciva a contenersi in uno stile impeccabile, perfetto conoscitore dell’alta società sapeva tutti i posti più “in” dove portare i suoi ospiti e non mi aveva mai detto di conoscere l’italiano finché un giorno, improvvisamente, in perfetto italiano mi chiese conto dell’andamento delle vendite. Diamine eravamo solo agli inizi. In seguito mi sono meritato un party a champagne e un disco d’oro, al brindisi levò il calice esclamando: “the queen!!!!” Perbacco, come ci crede!

2 novembre 1975, arrivo a Roma per una fiera di settore: avevano assassinato Pier Paolo Pasolini!