Between The Lines : AIMEE GARCIA

CUBA – AIMEE GARCIA’s SUPREMATIST SPEECH – LOS ANGELES

 Couturier Gallery

AIMEE GARCIA, Cuerdas, 2016, Inkjet print, newspaper, thread on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

AIMEE GARCIA, Cuerdas, 2016, Inkjet print, newspaper, thread on canvas, 22″ x 33″
Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

cuerdas, lectura, alas – strings, reading, wings

By Rosanna Albertini

Put the title in your mouth. Strings, reading, wings : a bird screeching, in anger or pain. The wind is stronger, faster than his flight. The bird doesn’t stop, resting doesn’t fit his American temper. Try the Spanish mouth. Cuerdas, lectura, alas. Words that bring a feeling of  whiteness, calm. A large page with no resistance waits for history to be forgotten.

Aimee, the artist’s name, melts the two sounds into one. In my Italian mouth, Aimee is a silent moan that doesn’t slip into the throat. It doesn’t need voice.

In her Cuban isolation, Aimee Garcia has transformed in art flowers of intelligence, never complaining. I could see myself in her collages, or any of the humans living on earth. We are all shredded by the same storm. Really the past could teach? As languages, politics, internet, financial games, advertisements tie our lives into the same bundle of voices fighting for primacy, believing takes the place of the dirty window we look through. We don’t know what we really know.

So I thank Aimee for her suprematist speech which is a portrait of us all like flies tangled in the news’ spiderweb. But her images also are, strongly and gracefully, the portrait of a possible flight out, a non-objective getting away from the written reality toward secret, inner transformations. Between the lines, the artist. Very much like Simone Forti who reads the news only noticing and remembering them as they slip into emotions, digging ponds in her heart.
(See Flag in The Water, https://albertini2014.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/flag-in-the-water/)

AIMEE GARCIA, Lectura 2016, Inkjet print, newspaper, thread on canvas Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

AIMEE GARCIA, Lectura, 2016, Inkjet print, newspaper, thread on canvas, 31″ x 24″
Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

Aimee’s speech is made with colors and embroidered into the paper. She is threading herself, and looking at us from behind the cuerdas : her hand works like a cursor: ploughing into words, while sowing that “primacy of pure feelings” that Kasimir Malevich called SUPREMATISM about one hundred years ago. “The visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling; as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth.” (KM) When she reads, Aimee visits her own mental field that is not necessarily the same as Cubans’ or, as far as I don’t know, a simple acceptance of a theory married to Russian revolution as if both, ideas and political upheavals, were a block sculpted by time instead of myriads of crumbs and broken steps.

AIMEE GARCIA, Suprematist Speech, 2015, laminated collaged newspapers, threads Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

AIMEE GARCIA, Suprematist Speech, 2015, Laminated collaged newspapers, thread 15″ x 12″
Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

And yet, I believe that Aimee recalling the old suprematist credo right now, the old regime facing the last days, finds a personal way of telling that a past life is in her hair, her skin, her face and in her mind. Up to us to read the change, to try her wings.

Life doesn’t disappear mutating in nothing. Automation devours objects, suits, furnitures, the wife and the fear of war.
If the very complex life of many goes away and we are not conscious it is gone, then it’s like if it had never existed.
Here we are, in order to bring back the meaning of life, to “feel” the objects, to see that a stone is stony, we have what we call ART. … a way to feel how the object becomes something else. The already done doesn’t matter.
VIKTOR SHKLOVSKY*

AIMEE GARCIA, Resistencia I, 2019, oil on canvas, 24" x 28" Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

AIMEE GARCIA, Resistencia I, 2009, oil on canvas, 24″ x 28″
Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

This is a flower painted by Aimee Garcia : Resistencia I, 2009. It is the last moment of beauty before the petals wither. Natural beings are lucky, they fall apart, molecules. Ever heard of a ghost flower? History takes a longer time to disappear, but in the end it does, ghost and monuments, forever. Art is for now.
If the object survives, the same doesn’t happen to its meanings : meanings are parasites of the living.

…just this way just this one time. Incidentally, we human beings also belong in part to this class of unique events.
ROBERT MUSIL**

AIMEE GARCIA, Alas, 2015 Inkjet print, newspaper, thread on canvas Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

AIMEE GARCIA, Alas, 2015 Inkjet print, newspaper, thread on canvas, 22″ x 33″
Courtesy of the artist and Couturier Gallery

*Viktor Shklovsky, Theory of Prose, 1929, English translation 1990 by Benjamin Sher. Dalkey Archive Press, Illinois State University, 1991.

** Robert Musil, Precision and  Soul, originally in Gesammelte Werke edited by Adolph Frisé, 1978. Edited and translated by by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, The University of Chicago Press, 1990.

 

THE SHARING PROJECT in sculptures and videos

JOEL TAUBER’S Installation

at the University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach

By Joel Tauber

JOEL TAUBER, video still from “Happyville”, one of the videos in “The Sharing Project” installation

JOEL TAUBER, video still from “Happyville”, one of the videos in “The Sharing Project” installation

In 1905, Charles Weintraub and a bunch of his Socialist Russian Jewish friends decided to leave New York City and head South. They pooled their savings, took out some loans, and purchased 2200 acres of land near Montmorenci, South Carolina. They didn’t know how to farm, and the land that they purchased wasn’t conducive to farming anyway. But, those minor practical issues didn’t dissuade them. They were determined to realize their dream of living on a Socialist commune.

It’s amazing what the 50 settlers were able to accomplish in Happyville. They grew crops and raised livestock. They built a dam, a water turbine, a saw mill, and a cotton gin. They worked together as equals, and they shared their resources fully.

They made their utopian dream a reality. But, it didn’t last. Unusually severe weather made it even more difficult to grow crops on the sandy soil. And, for whatever reason, not enough of their neighbors wanted to buy their crops and products. They were in debt, and they were forced to sell their land to appease their creditors. In 1908, it was all over. Happyville had disappeared.

JOEL TAUBER, “The Sharing Project”, Installation at the University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach, 2015

JOEL TAUBER, “The Sharing Project”, Installation at the University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach, 2015.

It’s hard for me to share my video equipment or to let anyone into my studio. I tell myself that I would face all kinds of problems if anyone damaged my gear, and that I need peace and solitude in order to work effectively. Yet, my rationalizations leave me feeling guilty. I sense that I’m not acting generously enough, and I worry about what my behavior is teaching my kids.

One day, my son Zeke, crying profusely, banged on my door, and demanded to know why I wouldn’t share my space with him. I didn’t have a good answer. Then, Zeke showed me his secret hiding spots and offered to share them with me. He argued that there was plenty of room in his “office” for my tools and that I didn’t need another space for them. 

Zeke’s generosity overwhelmed me, but I wasn’t able to accept his offer. Safeguarding my personal possessions in my own space was too important to me.

As I tried to justify my feelings, I thought about John Locke’s claim that we should have the freedom to acquire our own land and wealth and that it shouldn’t bother anyone – unless we do so excessively, or during times of scarcity.

Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten about Locke’s restrictions, and we’ve created a tremendous amount of inequity in the process. While a few of us enjoy excessive amounts of wealth, far too many of us struggle with scarcely enough – if anything – to eat.

JOEL TAUBER, “The Sharing Project”, Installation at the University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach, 2015

JOEL TAUBER, “The Sharing Project”, Installation at the University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach, 2015.

The installation features 15 short films plus 21 interviews. The foregrounded video, the one presented on the largest screen, tells the story of Happyville; while the other 14 films operate as a kind of dialogue between Zeke and me about the meaning and challenges of sharing.

Tablet(s) feature 21 experts in different fields offering their thoughts. 

JOEL TAUBER, “The Sharing Project”, Installation at the University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach, 2015

JOEL TAUBER, “The Sharing Project”, Installation at the University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach, 2015.

Audiences explore the videos interactively. They are invited to share their toys and help arrange them in the gallery / museum. Then, at the end of the show, they are invited to take the toys and give them away to whomever they think will enjoy them.

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.

http://thesharingproject.net

 

 

Flag in the Water

F L A G   I N   T H E   W A T E R

SIMONE FORTI in the Rice River (Northern Minnesota)

July 27, 2015 

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SIMONE FORTI,  Flag in the Water, video 19’46” 2015.  Cinematography Jason Underhill

Courtesy of the artist and  The Box Gallery, Los Angeles
(All the images are stills from the video, kindly provided by Jason Underhill)

N A K E D  F E E T   O N   T H E   G R O U N D

by Rosanna Albertini

Written and printed words had to be dry because water melts the paper. But I would like to write on the   paper when it’s wet and see the words expand like corals or marine anemones for a while until softened, melted, they let go the strength of their meanings. And truths often thrown like stones would have the look of washed out shadows.

My goddess is Simone Forti: the old woman who builds figures of speech, silent, dragging the soaked body of an American flag back to one day of our life, an uneventful day in the brownish water of the Rice River: July 27, 2015. The sky seems to frown, covering the scene with a handful of clouds as the day goes on. In front of the artist, beyond the two banks covered with trees, is the illusory point where the small river hands over his entire body of water to the bigger, Mississippi brother.

Even cut in two parts, the flag is heavy. Simone is a frail woman already carrying eight decades and the strongest figure at the same time: she is a vessel of freedom. For one day, the flag is her personal companion. It floats under the surface like a lover who invites her to lie down on her his its chest and close her eyes, to feel their new and welcomed union. “Myths are the soul of our actions and love.” (Paul Valéry). A soaked flag is much closer to human heaviness, to the liquid chemistry of our brain and blood. As Simone embraces the fabric, holds it underwater maybe sharing with the flag the impression they can both be deaf and blind for a moment, a million of unwritten stories, around that summer day, have vanished in the thin air. The real bodies rocked by the waves as many plankton forms, have been absorbed into the fabric. They were bodies searching for freedom.

 

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Rivers are roads that walk and bring us where we want to go.” (Blaise Pascal) The stars on the flag drive Simone’s eyes to the sky, the stripes drip down like blood. Simone is withdrawn, perhaps moving away from the sharpness of the news, sometimes they sound like bullets. Her body in movement is a fullness of feelings channelled into a slow motion physical language, which does almost savor the quality of each gesture.  A horse appears on the bank, bringing Roland Barthes, the prince of subtleties. Both horse and chevalier stop and look at Simone. “That’s the real pleasure, the moment in which my body will follow its own ideas — for my body has ideas different from my owns.” And puff! he disappears.

Simone doesn’t see the intruders. Completely absorbed as she is into the secret effort of bringing back the symbol of freedom, the national dress of her country to human actions and love. Out of the water, she folds the fabric with care, always keeping the bundle pressed on her breast. Then, for no particular reasons, she picks up a burned stick from the floor and traces a few lines on the double, wet flag.

For memory and art now, in the caves, naked feet on the ground.

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JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE: THE SOWER

from:   Sankofa, 2006

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

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John and Dominique

WHEN I WAS A BOY

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).

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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

AMONG GHOSTS AND ART

The Dryland Motel Lobby Lab

Haut-Valais (Switzerland) – Amboy (Mojave desert California)
by ROSANNA ALBERTINI

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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

MARIE VELARDI, Rain Book    Photo: Peter Kirby

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

MAORI PUNCTUATION : TAWERA TAHURI

HOW NEW ZEALAND OPENED MY MIND

by Rosanna Albertini

My seven stars on the kitchen wall have been carved and cooked. Maybe thinking of the new comet that’s becoming more and more visible in the Christmas sky, and is called Lovejoy, this year I see them as the tale of a comet. They bring me back to New Zealand.

TAWERA TAHURI, Signatures, about 2009, Ceramics Photo: Peter Kirby

TAWERA TAHURI, Signatures, about 2008, Ceramics
Photo: Peter Kirby

At Toihoukura School of Maori Visual Arts, in Gisborne, ten years ago, Steve Gibbs, head of the school, offered me such generous hospitality that I almost forgot money existed. Students’ art was displayed in the entrance hall. I could like the pieces, but my cultural keys were not the right ones to understand them. A good reason for me to rush headlong into a fog of ideas, searching for new springs of perception. I bought three small paintings by Alison Waru as a present for my husband. I met the artist, while a joyful chaos surrounded my purchase.

More surprises: artist Tawera Tahuri brought a pile of crosses to me, and put them in my hands. No explanations. “Ceramics,” she told me. It was a present charging me with Maori stories and meanings that I had to discover by myself. The stars, or diagonal crosses, contain the present and ancestral spirit of New Zealand native tribes. Maori objects are not inert matter. They are human events that art makes palpable. Life instead makes them silent, or covers them up. My odd discovery, during my visits to the Maori New Zealand, was a journey that guided me beyond words, to observe rituals and challenges that helped me to feel my core, as a living thing, no more significant than a bird’s. Except, I couldn’t sing like them, in perfect synchrony with the sun rising.

As a guest of Maori tribes, I became one of the many, one knot in my family’s string of people; was allowed to share for the first time in my life a day of direct democracy: practiced for real, instead of idealized. It was not enough to be there, I had to earn the Maori’s trust at every step. The effect, was a sense of contentment. Effort to be myself? Pointless. Perception of life and death, in every form, like melting in water. It was a change with no return. Tawera told me that her visit to the Colosseum, in Rome, learning about slaves fighting with African lions in the arena, changed her life. She probably lost her illusions about European primacy. I certainly lost my native illusions in Maori land, about individual power sanctified by the Renaissance. I’m quite sure it’s only the winning side of a more complex history. After coming home, I looked for discordant voices in the modern time. My favorite is Robert Musil’s, when he discloses

“a secret rising and ebbing of our being with that of things and other people.”

Tawera’s crosses are the art version of signs put as signatures by the Maori chiefs on the Treaty of Waitangi, the sixth day of February 1840: by that treaty Queen Victoria of England extended to the natives of New Zealand her royal protection and imparted to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects. A non-written civilization received the same rights as the empire of written words. Reality had been bloody and violent, legal agreements were amazingly clean although hard to accept. For more than one hundred years the document was lost, became a flying rumor. But the day came that it was found, and now the Maori tribes are slowly recuperating their territories.

In the meantime the colonial wisdom had destroyed and burned most of the native trees on the mountains around Gisborne, to replace them with European pine trees not compatible with the island’s soil. Tawera and her husband brought home the dead trees, carved them and placed them in front of their house as spiritual guardians.

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As my New Zealand experience became a book, (New Zealand with Italian Accent), I asked Tawera to draw some punctuations for the end of each chapter. Knowing it was going to be a hand made book, sewn by me copy by copy, she conceived images kept together with stitches, free buttons and Maori speech signs in a dialogue with verbal abstractions: stories, not decorations.

On a theme by Hone Taiapa, by Hone Tuwhare*

Tell me poet, what happens to my chips

after I have adzed our ancestors

out of wood?

What happens to your waste-words, poet?

Do they limp to heaven, or go down easy

to Raro-henga**?

And what about my chips, when they’re

down ― and out? If I put them to fire

do I die with them?

Is that my soul’s spark spiralling; lost

to the cold night air? Agh, let me die

another hundred times: eyeball

to eyeball I share bad breath

with the flared nostrils of the night.

For it’s not me I leave behind: not me.

Only the vanities of people;

their pleasure, their wonder and awe

alone remain.

Bite on this hard, poet: and walk careful.

Fragmented, my soul lies there: in

the waste-wood, around.

TAWERA TAHURI, Speech Bubble n.1, 2009

TAWERA TAHURI, Speech Bubble n.1, 2009

TAWERA TAHURI, Speech Bubble n.2, 2009

TAWERA TAHURI, Speech Bubble n.2, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAWERA TAHURI, Speech Bubbles n.3, 2009

TAWERA TAHURI, Speech Bubbles n.3, 2009

TAWERA TAHURI, Speech Bubbles n.4, 2009

TAWERA TAHURI, Speech Bubbles n.4, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cells have probably a precise memory of me, better than my mind. I am a dresser opening drawers here and there with no chronological order, with no order at all. And stories come out of my fingers. When they take shape, they are like clouds of miriad passerines, looking black on the page after a long pause on the ground, pecking what’s left of dismantled piles of hay. Stretching their flight higher and wider, looping, and inflating the blue with sudden explosions of wings, birds keep drawing their distance from the ground and yet they need it, somehow like the artists.

 

*Hone Tuwhare’s poem is from Deep River Talk, collected poems, 1993.

Hone Tuwhare was the first Maori poet writing in English.

** Rarohenga, in Maori mythology, is the underworld and realm of the spirits