ALBERTO ALBERTINI : a scent of afterlife

ALBERTO ALBERTINI

A SCENT OF AFTERLIFE

Every age has periods of feverish growth, some more than others. As a young man, very young, I was infatuated with the Nineteenth century, time in which everything happened, although the embryos had been fertilized in the Eighteenth century: chemistry and electricity. Rail roads, electrical engines, the discovery of chemical elements, radioactivity and cinematography! Not to mention music, painting and literature. Here too, as the Eighteenth had prepared the Nineteenth century, the Twentieth century’s evolutions sprouted in the previous century. If we look at the Twentieth century and compare it to our days, how many, impactful ferments in the first half, even in the first quarter. Cubism, futurism, dodecaphonic music, the new architecture, nudism, naturism: the automobile and the aeroplanes! Researching in every direction, feeling certain about technical and scientific progress: new richnesses, new aspirations of ambitious, advancing classes. This limitless creative euphoria flew, perhaps, into the first incommensurable tragedy for the humankind. Excessive confidence in humans has been denied and no thing has been like before.

Yet, if I go backwards not with my memory -I wasn’t there- following the traces I can still find, I can easily imagine a world of expectations maybe impossible to fulfill, but captivating. I think of Monte Verità and the cult of sun, of nature. I think of romantic artists, and composers: Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Schoenberg. How much nostalgia, and a desire projected into a mysterious and indefinite future that could maybe never come. Schoenberg, his Gurre Lieder. I don’t follow the story, those desperate voices, I am rather in the orchestra round them, in a tense atmosphere transparent, suspended, mysterious, as large as the infinite, sensing my existence without body, moving through my thoughts. The essence of a being that doesn’t need matter anymore. This music, maybe more than Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem dedicated to the Isle of the Dead, Arnold Böcklin’s painting, makes me think I am already there, on the other shore. Does it happen with all the past events? I am certain that that beginning of the Twentieth century could never be repeated; pointless to think it’s better it doesn’t repeat. War, the wars, humans didn’t stop making them anyway. There is a ring at the door: it is the springtime.

 

 Conversation between Alberto and Rosanna Albertini

To refresh my memory about Böcklin I look online.

“Alberto, did you know that the Isle of the Dead was Hitler’s favorite painting?….”

He replies: “Bah, maybe he found it too expensive to transport them there, they were too many…”

Alberto’s wit makes me realize how deeply the political obsessions of these days in America have stained my attitude toward a painting and his artist. It was not painted for Hitler, too early. And Hitler could find in it an esoteric symbolism, Alberto adds in another email. 

The painting had a first version in 1880 and several others until 1886. It was so popular that its prints, which version? could be found in every home in Berlin. Nabokov’s observation in his novel Despair. The images evoke the English Cemetery in Florence, where rests his baby daughter Maria.

Böcklin was apparently mentioned by Marcel Duchamp as having had a major influence on his art. Matter of doubt. Because this is history: somebody says one sentence which is reported and changed who knows how many times, making us skeptical. The past vanishes as in the fog. But artists are surprising: John Cage liked Satie and saw his music like pleasant furniture. He wrote it, I believe him.

In 1932 Salvador Dali  painted his version of The Isle of the Dead. The opposite of Böcklin in the same kind of visual situation: no one can see the dead but they fill an implacably horizontal space. A vertical line of coffee descends from the sky ending in only one cup: “The true painting of the Isle of the Dead at the hour of the Angelus.” What puzzles me is the Angelus. Nostalgia for the flesh? Angel is the incarnation symbol, the divine messenger telling Mary she is pregnant with Jesus. No one cared if she was happy or not. Symbols are not allowed to have feelings. In my childish brain she was a brave lady, for her foot crashed the perfidy snake who offered the apple to Adam and Eve.

 Her statue made with stone -my vague memory- grows on the top of a hill in my native village. Children used to be guided in a procession to her at the time of the Angelus, six in the afternoon, holding torches. The hair of one of girls in front of me suddenly caught fire. Was the snake still powerful? 

Alberto’s photographs evoke Böcklin without symbols. (R.A.)

Alberto: “I’m trying to understand my attention to that painting. That moment in history first of all, symbolists, Pre-Raphaelites: Dante Gabriele Rossetti and the drowned Ophelia, the positivists, symbolists, Previati, Segantini, the tree of life. But I believe it connects to my childhood, and the terror of watching my dead grandma on her death bed, as well as a dead pope in the encyclopedia, both with the same posture. About the dead a lot has been made up, while Böcklin instead, immersed in his time’s atmosphere, thinks of the isle, he’s brilliant. The dead are there, not visible, but there they are. The isle is hazardous, nobody can go and trouble them, they feel at ease because if the isle is protected by rocks, there are trees and gardens inside. Facing the pressure of the “fourth state,” the bourgeoisie escaped, also backed up by proletarian painters dependent on her who paint love, a luminous future, an idyll of lights and against light, escaping from a world on the verge of crumbling. Despite my attempts at explaining, there is no explanation. 

 

 

 

 

 

Ogni epoca ha i suoi fermenti, qualcuna di più. Quando ero giovane, molto giovane, ero infatuato dall’ottocento, il secolo entro il quale tutto era accaduto, benché gli embrioni siano stati fecondati nel settecento: la chimica e l’elettricità. Ferrovie, motori elettrici, centrali elettriche, la scoperta degli elementi chimici, la radioattività e il cinematografo! Per non parlare della musica, della pittura o della letteratura. Anche qui, come il settecento ha preparato l’ottocento, nell’ottocento germogliano le evoluzioni del novecento. Se guardiamo il novecento confrontandolo ad oggi, quali e quanti fermenti nella prima metà, anzi nel primo quarto. Il cubismo, il futurismo, la musica dodecafonica, la nuova architettura, il nudismo, il naturismo: l’automobile e l’aeroplano!! una ricerca in tutte le direzioni e ancora una fiducia nel progresso tecnico scientifico: nuove ricchezze, nuove aspirazioni delle classi alla alla riscossa. Forse questa sconfinata ebbrezza creativa è sfociata nella prima grande immane tragedia dell’umanità, l’eccesso di fiducia nell’uomo è stato smentito e le cose non sono state più come prima.

Però se io vado a ritroso, non con la memoria, non c’ero, ma con le traccie che ancora trovo, mi posso immaginare un mondo di aspirazioni forse inappagabili ma affascinanti. Penso al monte Verità e al culto del sole, della natura. Penso ai grandi romantici, non quelli del secolo prima, ai musicisti: Prokofief, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Shoenberg. Quanta nostalgia, quanto desiderio proiettato in un futuro misterioso e indefinito che forse non arriverà mai. Schoenberg: Gurre Lieder. Non seguo la storia, quella voce disperata, ma quell’orchestra che le sta intorno, quale tesa atmosfera, trasparente, sospesa, misteriosa, ampia come l’infinito, il senso dell’esistere incorporeo, del navigare nei pensieri. L’essenza dell’essere che non ha più bisogno della materia. Forse più del poema sinfonico di Rachmaninov dedicato all’isola dei morti, quadro di Böklin, questa musica fa pensare di essere già di là. È così per tutti gli avvenimenti passati? Sono sicuro che quel primo novecento sia irripetibile ed è inutile pensare che è meglio che non si ripeta, la guerra, le guerre le hanno rifatte lo stesso. Hanno suonato alla porta: era la primavera.

 Conversazione fra Alberto e Rosanna Albertini

Per rinfrescarmi la memoria cerco Böcklin on line.

“Alberto, lo sapevi che L’isola dei morti era il quadro favorito di Hitler?…”

Alberto risponde: “Beh forse l’ha ritenuto troppo costoso trasportarli li, erano troppi…”

Il botto di spirito mi fa capire che le ossessioni politiche di questi giorni in America mi hanno offuscato la mente nei confronti del quadro e dell’artista. Non era stato dipinto per Hitler, troppo presto. E Hitler poteva trovaci un simbolismo esoterico di suo gusto, aggiunge Alberto in un altro messaggio email. 

Il quadro ebbe la prima versione nel 1880 e alcune altre fino al 1886. Era così popolare che se ne potevano trovare stampe in tutte le case di Berlino. Ma di quale versione? Osservazione di Nabokov nel romanzo Disperazione. Le immagini evocano il Cimitero inglese di Firenze dove riposa Maria, la figlia infante di Böcklin.

Pare che Böcklin fosse citato da Marcel Duchamp come una delle maggiori influenze sulla sua arte. E’ materia di dubbio. Perché la storia è cosi: ciascuno dice una frase che viene riferita e cambiata chissà quante volte, e noi diventiamo scettici. ll passato sparisce come nella nebbia. Ma gli artisti sono sorprendenti: John Cage ammirava Satie e vedeva la sua musica come una serie di mobili piacevoli. Lo ha scritto, io gli credo. 

Nel 1932 Salvador Dali ha dipinto la sua versione dell’Isola dei Morti. L’opposto di Böcklin nello stesso tipo di scena: i morti nessuno li vede nonostante  riempiano uno spazio implacabilmente orizzontale. Una linea verticale di caffè scende giù dal cielo e finisce in una tazzina, una sola: “Il vero dipinto dell’Isola dei Morti nell’ora dell Angelus.” L’Angelus mi lascia perplessa. Nostalgia del corpo? L’Angelo è il simbolo dell’incarnazione, messaggero divino che annuncia a Maria la sua condizione di donna incinta. Che a lei piaccia o no non importa a nessuno. I simboli non hanno sentimenti. Nel mio cervello di bambina lei era una signora di coraggio, il suo piede schiacciava il perfido serpente che aveva offerto la mela ad Adamo ed Eva.

La sua statua di pietra – un ricordo vago – si innalza sulla cima di una collina nel mio paese nativo. Noi bambini eravamo guidati verso di lei in processione all’ora dell’Angelus, le sei del pomeriggio, ognuno con una torcia accesa. D’improvviso i capelli di una bambina nella prima parte della processione, davanti a me, presero fuoco. Eterno potere del serpente?

Le fotografie di Alberto evocano Böcklin senza simboli. (R.A.)

Alberto: “Sto cercando di capire la mia attenzione a quel dipinto. Innanzitutto l’epoca: i simbolisti, i preraffaelliti, Dante Gabriele Rossetti e L’Ofelia annegata, i simbolisti positivisti, Previati, Segantini, l’albero della vita. Ma io credo si ricolleghi alla mia infanzia, al terrore di quando ho visto sul letto la nonna morta, e un papa morto sull’enciclopedia, collocato uguale. I morti, sui morti, ci hanno costruito sopra di tutto, invece Böklin, immerso nell’atmosfera del tempo pensa all’isola, geniale: i morti sono là, non si vedono ma ci sono. l’isola è impervia, non si può andare a disturbarli ma ci sono e si trovano bene perché se l’isola è protetta dalle rocce, dentro ci sono alberi, giardini. Di fronte al premere del “quarto stato” la borghesia evade, assecondata anche da pittori proletari ma da essa dipendenti e che dipingono l’amore, l’avvenire luminoso, un idillio di luci, controluce, evade da quel mondo che si sbriciolerà presto. Nonostante i miei tentativi di spiegazione, la spiegazione non c’è.”

ARNOLD BÖCKLIN, The Isle of the Dead, 1st version 1880, oil on canvas, 111 x 155 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel

Alberto Albertini : A GLIMPSE OF AFTER LIFE

ALBERTO ALBERTINI  from MILAN, Italy  

A letter to Eugenio Scalfari, December 2018 

and photographic Self-Portraits 

This  letter is addressed to a man, Eugenio Scalfari, who is one of the founders of La Repubblica, one of the most popular Italian newspapers, more or less equivalent to the New York Times, and  L’Espresso, a weekly magazine. Scalfari has recently become a good friend of Pope Francesco, it is not clear if also having some religious turns of mind. From his apartment in Milan, Alberto has always been an acute observer of Italian political life, and sometimes in crucial moments he sent his thoughts to those in charge, to the president of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, for instance. Feeling the candle burning the tail, this time Alberto’s considerations about end of life and the attempt at finding meaning in the inscrutable, has rather an existential quality. But no complaints.  RA (editor)

 

 

Caro Eugenio,

mi permetto questo tono confidenziale non tanto perché sono stato un lettore de “L’Espresso” della prima ora ma perché, in conseguenza di quel fatto, non posso che essere vecchio ( 91 ), vicino alla tua età e pervaso dall’idea che comunque è bene pensare alle operazioni di chiusura. Forse mi manca ancora qualche anno per giungere a conclusioni mistiche perché al momento, anche se la cosa infastidisce, sono convinto che tutto si chiuda, finisca. È irritante pensare che dopo aver lavorato, progettato, desiderato, immaginato, costruito la mia vita, la vita dell’umanità che ci ha dato Prassitele, il Bernini, Galileo e Umberto Eco, l’umanità tutta, abbia il medesimo destino. Eppure non può essere che così. L’energia, questo è il vero grande mistero! L’energia che prende calorie per il nostro cervello viene a mancare, non c’è più trasmissione, è finita. Non possiamo più nemmeno dolercene. So che quando arriveranno le prime avvisaglie, non sarò più così lucidamente logico, forse anche questo fa parte della procedura di atterraggio. Comincio a guardare gli oggetti che mi circondano, che amo, come se potessi goderli di più o forse fissarli nella memoria per portarli inutilmente con me. Mah. Sono però certo che se noi potessimo uscire dal mondo, dall’universo e vedere laggiù come stanno le cose, rideremmo di come sono semplici e comprensibili. Già ma se l’universo è infinito come potremmo uscirne? Anche l’infinito è cosa poco chiara.

aa

Dear Eugenio,

I dare to use this confidential tone not so much because I’ve been a reader of L’Espresso since the first day, but because of that fact it follows that I can only be old (91), close to the age you are and pervaded by the idea that it’s anyway good to think of the ending procedures. Maybe in a few years I will reach mystic conclusions; at the moment I am convinced, although frankly annoyed, that everything has a conclusion, and ends. It’s irritating to think that after having worked, made projects, desired, imagined and build my life, the humans’ life that gave us Prassitele, Bernini, Galileo and Umberto Eco, the entire human race has the same destiny. And yet, this is how things must be. Energy, that’s the real big mystery!  When the energy that provides calories to the brain is missing, transmission is gone, finished. We can’t even be sorry about it.

I do know that, when the first warnings will come, I won’t be so clearly logical anymore, maybe this is also part of the landing procedure. I’m starting to look at the objects around me, objects I love, as if I were able to enjoy them more, or to fix them in my memory hoping to bring them with me, pointlessly. Mah. I am sure nevertheless that, if we could get out of this world, out of the universe, and see from afar how things are down there, we would laugh about how simple and understandable they are. But, if the universe is infinite how could we get out of it?  Infinity as well is not such a clear thing.

aa

Alberto is the oldest member of the Albertini family, my father’s brother. He is one of the pillars of this blog. Four years of on line collaboration produced a number of posts in which our family life is intermingled with our experiences in the art world, since childhood, sharing passion and life with his father Oreste the painter, my unforgotten grandfather.

SCULPTURE IS IMPLACABLE : YOU GET WHAT YOU SEE

SCULPTURE IS IMPLACABLE : YOU GET WHAT YOU SEE

Richard Deacon and Sui Jianguo

at L.A. Louver, Venice, CA — September 2018

 

Installation view, photo RA

SUI JIANGUO, Planting Trace – Constellation 1, 2018  cast bronze 19 1/4 x 9 7/8 x 9 7/8 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

Holding a humming bird inside

by Rosanna Albertini

What you see, at first, is a population of hand made bodies, mostly small size, on pedestals and little tables. Their shapes are unique, any comparison with the natural world is pointless. Only three of them are taller than a normal human. Tables are part of the piece. But it’s not easy to focus on each single piece. A circulation of movement in the air around the sculptures, the light they spread maybe from inside their artificial organs, as if air was their blood, pushes me from one to another and from one to another room without thinking of objects, perhaps following an inaudible music, a four hand concert with a Chinese-European score.  “Open up, bloom, pause. Breath, pause, pause and breath.” 

Indirectly, Richard Deacon suggested this metaphor years ago, describing his play with a vocabulary of forms: “ten different shapes, together they can make a sentence, even a song.” 

RICHARD DEACON, Flat 10, 2014 glazed dark clay
22 1/4 x 27. 1/2 x 22 7/8 in. © Richard Deacon.
Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Fold in the Fabric 5, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Holly and Cedar), epoxy
Table: fumed oak and MDF board; Sculpture: 
12 1/4 x 13 3/4 x 11 in. Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, 
Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Cuttings 1, 2018
Sculpture: stainless steel;Table: oak and MDF board. Sculpture: 18 x 14 3/4 x 13 1/4 in.
Table: 21 7/8 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venic

Variations on the same theme in modestly sized pieces fill the space with gentle songs, and with peaks of sculptural actions in two registers: the first one pausing in neatly cut geometrical surfaces, some shiny, some completely rough—the stainless steal’s whistle joins the voice of the wood cracking and protesting—  and this is Deacon’s work; the second register comes from a folding and unfolding of sculpted bodies, like buds who discover the emergence of leaves, or figures of body parts covered with skin language: Sui Jianguo transferring into his pieces the surface of his own hands, a universal language which is uniquely his, not necessarily Chinese, just his own.

SUI JIANGUO,Planting Trace – Meteor Garden 3, 2018
galvanized photosensitive resin 3D printing 7 x 9 7/8 x 4 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

RICHARD DEACON, Size is Everything #2, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Oak), epoxy, pigment, bronze
powder, aluminum powder. Table: fumed oak and MDF board 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
 Sculpture: 11 1/8 x 12 x 2 in. 
Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy
of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Size is Everything #2, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Oak), epoxy, pigment,
bronze powder, aluminum powder
Table: fumed oak and MDF board
Sculpture: 11 1/8 x 12 x 2 in.
Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m told the two artists are friends, no reason to doubt it. I’m wondering whether they connect via visual vocabulary, rather than spoken language. And asking myself what Jianguo’s titles mean, all Planting Trace, with a few qualifications added: matter, constellation. ganoderma. Opposed to Deacon’s titles: Flat, Cuttings in various numbers, New Alphabet, Fold in the Fabric. Deacon tells me that “cutting” is what makes his pieces. He cuts and fabricates and asks the matter to cooperate. Jianguo, this time, squeezes the clay, lets his fingers find the forms. Maybe some of these pieces are from his blind work: the artist refusing to see what his hands are doing. Had he realized how implacable sculpture is.

A glimpse of history pierces my mind making me think that both artists, (and myself for the matter) belong to the after war generation. Deacon’s father was in the RAF, Jianguo lived through communism and cultural revolution in China. The outcome is these artists are workers, builders of their lives, perhaps rediscovering their lives through the art they produced. 

Their art isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about life. Sui plants fragments of his body into our mind: traces, as he says, marks. Which seems to me a real revolutionary move out of the pain or mixed feelings he had about Mao and Maoism and the artificial equality that ideology had forced into people. His little and big sculptures bring up his personal self, the one unmistakably marked by his fingerprints. Although he will never be a Western artist, he has to wear, here and there, fashions that other artist of the past almost codified in the public imagination. Art history is an open book, as landscapes are, even in the small space of a garden. I like to call them gardeners, these two artists, gardeners planting their art.

Alternating in the same big space, their sculptures take me into a familiar sense of enjoyment that fills me every time art pieces I see for the first time greet me, waking up remote impressions, not at all déjà-vues, rather déjà-felt, in front of other sculptures. The problem is, life and manners and perception of real things wrap around the person of the artist, and sink beyond the skin, invisibly, exactly as it happens to the viewers of an art piece. I can’t explain why the twisted and almost screaming gestures of Jiankuo’s big pieces, as if form was unfolding herself free from her material essence, make me think of Camille Claudel’s reckless women, trying to get out from their feminine body, and from a history of humiliation.

SUI JIANGUO,Planting Trace 1, 2014-2016 cast bronze 114 1/8 x 70 7/8 x 67 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

RICHARD DEACON, New Alphabet GHI, 2018  stainless steel and paint
94 x 80 3/4 x 18 1/2 in. © Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Ve

Showing me the three vertical layers of his Alphabet, light gray and white painted like a wedding dress, Richard Deacon displays his pleasure in finding, trying, combining, working with helpers, solving problems during the fabrication…until the middle layer almost disappears but is there, “like the ham in a sandwich.” He is telling, very simply, that the invisible part is the clue of the piece. Yes, what you see is what you get, but you have to look through the surface, beyond the drawing, to pose your eyes on the sleeping beauty. 

The visual world fills his perception, and stay inert in his memory, until the secret humming bird moves his sharp beak, the tiny scissor, from a recess of his heart. Then Deacon is at work to bring his way of splitting away from the continuous ligaments that keep our bones, our cities, our days and years together, anchored in natural necessity. Cuttings, separation, disclose a different image of the world: by avoiding the natural look of any of his creatures, Deacon fills the art pot with mysterious treasures: a spot of red in the middle of a square piece of wood thick enough to stand, for example. A square hollow centers the back of the same wood. Red color reappears. Beware of the words! What I see is a sensation of something existing, not a sentence. Title is: Size is Everything.

Physical entities whose content “is the significance of its material.” They represent “nothing other than themselves.”  They “suggest and reflect our existence,” They are “thoughts produced by action.” All the quotes from Giuseppe Penone. Deacon’s creatures are cut out from reality to direct our attention toward repetition and reinvention of forms, time doesn’t matter, to renew our attachment to infinite variety.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Giuseppe Penone, Ramificazioni del pensiero-Branches of Thougth, Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, 2014

Mario Merz, Lo spazio e curvo o diritto, Hopeful Monster editore, Firenze, 1990

And this is the link to Douglas Messerli’s beautiful text:  http://artla-bas.blogspot.com/2018/09/a-sculpture-of-small-writ-large-richard.html

RICHARD DEACON, Courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice CA

SUI JIANGUO – Courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON : Mi mamà era preciosa

MY MOTHER WAS GOLDEN  2017-2018

an art piece by Sylvia Salazar Simpson to celebrate her mother

 Veneranda Emanuela Gutierrez 

 

( Images of “Mi mamà era preciosa” in the final configuration)

 

text by ROSANNA ALBERTINI – photos by SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON

 

Poetry, poetry, is a gesture, a lanscape, 

your eyes and my eyes, girl; ears, heart,

the same music. And I say no more, because 

no one will find the key that no one has lost

And poetry is the chant of my ancestors

a winter day that burns and withers

this melancholy so personal.

Elicura Chihuailaf, “The key that no one has lost”

subterranean poetry from South America

Sylvia’s poetry is visual. It comes from moments and days that don’t sit in the memory, nor are they saved in a notebook. Time particles lacking the illusion of shape or names. Time is one name without a body. It’s hard for me to distinguish it from another strange name, life. Yet, both of them are the source of Sylvia’s attachment to decay as one of the most impressive, stirring and surprising living processes. A rosary losing pearls. Petals and fruits softened by their lack of effort in keeping their self separate from natural dissolution, and from human disillusion. Showing the decay as a body of marvels, Sylvia the artist reveals the physical apparition of time, and it’s a phantom.

ALLAN KAPROW      “Just steps along the way, and the artist’s eyes may have opened up a little…”

“But let’s say that art is a weaving of meaning-making activity with any or all parts of our lives.” 

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON      “I had received some photographs of my mother. I reproduced them but didn’t want to put them on the wall. In the meantime the mantel of the fireplace accepted to receive some Indian globes, at the edges. On a round table adjacent I started to place flowers in glasses, with water. An old wrinkled squash and giant fresh Persian lemons were added to the globes. Persian lemons have a fungus on them that lets them rot quite rapidly. Some are green, some black. They were followed by pieces of bread from a Eucharistic celebration, and pieces of cedar. My mother crawled into the piece. It was appropriate for her to be on the wall, but her photographs wanted to be in the piece. There is a small owl. Some flowers were removed, or replaced, or added every day for fifteen, sixteen months, starting in April 2017. Drippings were done at Christmas to make beads and small candies shine for the day. They were drippings of piloncillo sugar liquified. My mother was a very proper person. The contrast of the baroque decay and her image is what makes the piece. The piece is a small offering, a celebration.”

Not only a celebration of Veneranda, also a salutation to

“The greatness of every day life, and above all its details, the sparkle of flames, eyes, hands”

as in the South American poem by Elicura. Eyes must become hands to approach Sylvia’s pieces, hands and tongues, two imaginary mouths opening when the moon fades and the sun is still pale, chewing and swallowing what the day brings, and at night, closing the gate of  teeth. Past and present are only one canvas. Dates, facts, would make hole and cuts in it as in Burri’s paintings. Family stories are a mirage from her childhood spread by words of the old women of Veneranda’s house in New Mexico, and later by Veneranda herself in Mexico City.

There is a pond of blood in their memory

a great great great great great…grandmother 

went to New Mexico with the first settlers coming from Mexico

Catalina Robledo gave birth to the first Spanish

 child to be born in that part of the world

they came with a land grant 

they had received from the king of Spain

not without disputes with the local Indians

Indians had their feet cut off

a puritanical morals in the house

more and more children were born

and when Sylvia arrived she was told 

she was better than darker people 

so when she grew up an adult woman she 

embraced the darker people’s side and started to say

about herself “I am Mexican”

she cooks and eats like a Mexican woman

it’s an art-making for her

ephemerality and messiness 

poverty and art were inseparable in Mexico City

where Veneranda lived with her husband and children

she sat in the park with them and taught 

them to draw and to revere art

Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera and the early colonial churches

metal or silver hearts, candles, flowers and food in front of them

miracles were described

every thing as real as light through the window

transforming objects in treasures

as if raining sparkles of gold

On the round table near the fireplace a jungle of dry and fresh flowers, candles, glasses, fruits, sticks of wood, almost cover an odd piece of wax: Silvia’s foot cut off and changed into a candle.

“Do you know my mother’s last words?” Sylvia told me years ago. “She suddenly woke up from her quiet absence and asked me, ‘what time is it?’ And I thought, in myself, the time to die.”

She died, — this was the way she died;

And when her breath was done,

Took up her simple wardrobe

And started for the sun.

Her little figure at the gate

The angels must have spied,

Since I could never find her

Upon the mortal side.

VANISHED. by Emily Dickinson

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Emily Dickinson, Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, 1982 Gramercy Books New York • Avenel

Allan Kaprow, Essays on The Blurring of Art and Life, University of California press, 1993

Elicura Chihuailaf, Two poems on Poetry, in Technicians of the Sacred, edited by Jerome Rothenberg

Source: Rodrigo Rojas, from “Three Mapuche Poets, ” in J.R. & J.Bloomberg-Rissman,

Barbaric Vast & Wild: A Gathering of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present, Boston, Black Widow press, 201

“Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán (his fill name) has been referred to as the lonco, or chieftain, of mapudungun poetry, and works at recording & preserving the oral traditions of his people. Elicura is from Mapudungun phrase for ‘transparent stone,’ Chihuailaf means ‘fog spread on the lake,’ and Nahuelpán is ‘tiger/cougar.’ ”

 

FIONA CONNOR : Corpses For Dry Eyes

 

FIONA CONNOR, Closed Down Clubs, 2018 Mix media installation at The MAK Center, Los Angeles

 

FIONA CONNOR: CORPSES FOR DRY EYES

text by Rosanna Albertini    

    Photos by Peter Kirby

From far, they look like vertical pages separated from their book, pages that thickened enough to stand up in an empty space. They are the last page of different volumes. Volumes of a time that was. 

Glass and wood and metal might have absorbed over decades after-shave perfumes, coffee steam, and smells of sweat, garlic, burned bread, beer, whisky and bad breath — “better bad breath than no breath at all,” sings Willy Nelson. That’s just me, I have a strange system of senses: enough to think about a crowded bar, I can smell it and absorb the cigarette smoke blending with the car exhaust on the sidewalk. All gone now. 

But the sculptures in person still carry the hidden volume of stories moving through the doors open or closed, by the years in numbers.

Fiona Connor remade the vertical, thin bodies as they were their last day of work, after opening and closing for people in search of food, drinks, music, eager to clasp hands, or lost in rage. She couldn’t reproduce the secret feelings each geometrical guardian shared with the fingers touching them, pushing or pulling. Music could do it, not visual arts. 

Remade, opened to a new life in spaces for art, usually neat and aseptic like hospital rooms — surgery happened for sure — the inanimate guardians move in a limbo, following the uncomfortable translation into a body of language: walls and ceiling disappeared, as well as the address. The remains are a calligraphic profile.

It’s a day filled with smog and smoke in Los Angeles. My vision might be blurred, but I see Fiona Connor putting together little by little faithful archival alter-egos of the original architectural elements, adding handwritten signs, eviction notices, other messages to the public, as a spider does secreting the thread for geometrical webs. And I see Allan Ruppersberg rewriting in a perfect copy on canvas the whole text of The Portrait of Dorian Gray. 

As their own life goes through the time of building and making, the two artists become one thing with the process.  Once their work is done, “reality slips away from them because she is real again, and marks a distance.” Albert Camus. “Such thickness and strangeness of the world is nothing but absurdity.” They both deal with a reality which is thick and quaint; in a word, the absurdity of the physical world, which is a primitive substance refusing dominion: humans made it their own only to toss it, or forget.

Eh bien, voilà. That’s the art. To feel the growing power of natural or cultural blocks, stronger than dragons, and fight against them, or move away. Apparently protective, historical frames keep at bay any wish to move out, far from them, from their mask of permanence, even from their beauty.   

THE WALLS DON’T FALL, wrote Hilda Doolittle in 1944. One year before I was born. She was born in Bethlehem, PA, in 1886 and died in 1961 in Zurich.

XLIII

Still the walls do not fall,

 I don’t know why;

there is wrr-hiss,

lightning in a not-known,

unregistered dimension;

 we are powerless,

dust and powder fill our lungs,

our bodies blunder

through doors twisted on hinges,

and the lintels slant 

cross-wise;

we walk continually

on thin air

that thickens to a blind fog,

then steps swiftly aside,

for even the air 

is independable, 

thick where it should be fine

and tenuous where wings separate and open

 

XXXVIII

my mind (yours),

your way of thought (mine),

each has its peculiar intricate map,

threads weave over and under

the jungle-growth

of biological aptitudes,

inherited tendencies,

the intellectual effort

of the whole race,

it’s tide and ebb;

but my mind (yours) 

has its peculiar ego-centric

personal approach 

to the eternal realities,

and differs from every other

in minute particulars,

as the vein-paths on any leaf

differs from those of every other leaf

in the forest, as every snow-flake

has its particular star, coral or prism shape. 

 

Like Hilda Doolittle, Fiona Connor is a voyager, a discoverer of the not-known and unrecorded. She has no map, nor rules of procedure. How could she bring to us the death of these social spaces without knowing what death is? She made a flat coffin for each of them, a profile. “I must find out what is moving inside them that makes them them, and I must find out how I by the the thing moving excitedly inside in me can make a portrait of them.” (Gertrude Stein) There is no way in, no way out. But they are strongly anchored in the floor, solitary skeletons offering their nakedness to the viewers, with no regrets.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Paris, Gallimard, 1942

Revolution of the Word, editor Jerome Rothenberg –a new gathering of American avant garde poetry 1914-1945, New York, The Seabury Press 1974.

 

DREAMING A FILM

Michael C. McMillen DREAMING A FILM

Cinematographic art in process by Michael C. McMillen, conceived and composed for

THE KITE

 

 

COUSIN MICHAEL, MYSELF AND ROBERT BRESSON

by Rosanna Albertini

Michael McMillen and myself adopted each other as cousins. It was a mythological time. I had just landed in Los Angeles on a flying horse, following the blue chevalier I had met in Paris: my American in Paris who is now my husband. Everything about film, isn’t it? Not only, really. 

I found in Michael the odd incarnation of a quiet familiar human typology, and mysterious at the same time. An artist, an inventor. A smiling face hiding layers of uneasy stories behind a friendly, often funny mask. In a word: a Neapolitan face. 

By pure coincidence, our mothers -the powerful phantoms of them- were both Neapolitan women. There is more, since our grandfathers, an Italian painter on my side, an Italian-American immigrant on his side, had the same unusual name: Oreste. We couldn’t simply be friends. To become cousins was the perfect illusion of a family connection that we liked to look at through an imaginary prism. Better than being stuck in facts. Neapolitan roots were enough.

I kept my old typewriter with me after the migration. One day cousin Michael knocked at the door with a big box in his hands. It was full of crumpled paper. In a corner, something solid: a little bottle sealed with wax to avoid the evaporation of a magic yellow density at the bottom: “Distillate of Metaphor.” “Keep it next to the typewriter,”  cousin Michael said.  I believe it had something to do with my mutation from scholar to storyteller, writer with no attributes.

Robert Bresson Only one mystery, people and objects.  

As I find my words in the dictionary, Michael picks up his images wherever life left signals of multiple meanings suggested by displacing objects in unusual spaces: the realm of visions. 

Robert Bresson In editing work, you only visually connect people to other people and to objects.

OK Robert, let me tell you about Michael’s most recent metaphorical editing: which is a sculpture. Don’t freeze. Apparently, not a film. But in the essence… McMillen masters visual associations. His mind, “from the thought of one thing, immediately passes to the thought of another, which has no likeness to the first.” This was Benedict De Spinoza.

Forget it. You, Robert, only wrote that images look different when they are in contact with other images. I’m telling you that it is Michael’s mind doing the work on the fashion and function that images assume. Film images are nothing but the old skin of a snake who grew out of it. So does the artist at the end of the work. 

This time McMillen placed on the recess of a sidewalk, and inside an adjacent abandoned room of a film studio, a physical sculpture of a film set. The buildings look already aged, rusty; they are the solid face of a missing shelter. Smaller than the camera that towers on them. Windows and doors will never open. Oh, the sleeping nature of objects! As in a fairy tale, they need a poetic kiss to wake them up. The big door of the studio, on the left side, has holes for the eyes. The passers by can see a dusty, crumbling room with a desk, on the desk a typewriter, an empty cup of coffee, spectacles, the writer could come back any second. And he is the real mystery that nobody will ever see.

Is the scene a projection of the future? Or a fragment of the past sitting like a tired old man? Maybe the film had dropped his worn out clothes on the sidewalk and an artist had pick them up with love, and remade a visual poem out of them: a sturdy, durable, and tangible illusion. 

For so long had he handled the metallic body of his sculptural device that in the end he was happy to give back to the images their thin, fleeting, and flexible cinematographic connection. Not only on earth, also in the air, in the water. Forever metaphors. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael C. McMillen, Back Lot  2016-2018 – A permanent exterior and interior art installation. 15′ x 69′ x 11′  Cast steel, concrete, video, various fabricated and acquired elements for interior installation.

Commissioned by CIM Group for the West Hollywood Urban Art Program. Site location: Google Map link: https://goo.gl/maps/9gVAQevDjdp

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Robert Bresson, Notes sur le cinématographe, Paris, Gallimard, 1975

Benedict De Spinoza, Ethics, Edited and Translated by Edwin Curley, Penguin Books 1996

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.