a mis shapen room a misplaced window a dismal view certain behaviors grind you, s/he says: they grind me, in the dirt -
the nitty gritty -
that transmitter must be making you sick !
don't work any more - sit around the fire and drink cups of tea -
our objects call to us: live up to them - what do you mean! the twittering, bearing objects - a stone, a book, a brush, on this table, witness our confusion: open air stretches out behind the house, the leaves waving in the dusk, high above the ground, the whole project is waiting! we can say: this life of ours: what do you do! appear thoughtful - later, you will be passionate about a detail - later still, slightly alter a composition: to let it breathe: but you are tired! perhaps you will be unable - your ability to do all or any of these things, for which in principle you are here, may well be wildly exagerated, in which case what you are doing is based on a misconception - ie everything is based on nothing -
little by little, doubt inhabits, chilling your limbs -
wandering in the Horniman museum, like so many others, coming across a metal object: the so called original spanish inquisition torture chair - we get the message immediately - avert your eyes - from something we might secretly fear / wish to examine in privacy - or not at all -
why are we going here?
in my case, this object appears to find me out, unprepared and unsuspecting: make no mistake! a malevolent quasi magical power emanates from this object - out of all proportion to the various other so called ethnographic objects in the room - no doubt some other people will join me in saying: this is certainly our artefact -
disturbance in the
inside - outside -
background - foreground -
demarcation - disruption -
the old farts, s/he means the great liberal minds - seem to be telling us: there's a natural line between the personal and the public - is that right?
if so, do the cells in which a detainee sleeps in one half, separated by a glass wall from the other half, in which interrogations are carried out - so one is visible to the other at all times - in Guantanamo bay - does the design of such a cell render private / public distinctions redundant?
the bottom part of the Horniman torture chair, regarded as one of the most gruesome objects in any collection in the United Kingdom, which many South East Londoners remember from their child hoods - turns out to be a modified victorian workbench -
the upper part - the metal restrainer and the head gear - appear to be "genuine" -
some of the object's power is drawn off simply by being discussed by a journalist -
but, the questioning initiated by the object continues - as you wander on, I don't mean: belief in human nature - we're not surprised, after all, that such a contraption has been so cleverly made - but, as we follow among the stuffed animals and birds, the question returns as to whether we possess, or can we perform any kind of rejoinder, to this object -
pressed, what do the extinct cultural heroes have to say?
I mean, what would Marina Tsvetaeva say? she would say: a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, which we're not sure if we understand -
somebody might say: a couch! a therapeutic chair, on which a series of attempts have actually been made to return language to a person who has been deprived of it, as if to compensate for the obscene extractions made in the half chair half d i y artefact on display -
or, if this is too private and too privileged, perhaps some great scheme of empathetic interviews, like those by Pierre Bourdieu and his team, in which, the title implies, the weight of the world, ie human suffering, can be weighed in the hand, like a potato?
the films of Ingmar Bergman, Amarcorde by Fellini, Mirror, by Tarkovsky, Ozu's Tokyo Story -
hardly seen any more -
Primo Levi -
what about now!
there must be some website -
I want to see it!
a person enters via the terrors of infancy, as Bergman has so relentlessly shown, which it comes a long way out of its way to begin to handle, of course - thousands of miles - even where a person has had a happy childhood - everyone who goes to a bergman film thinks, perhaps about these things, she's never sure:
in "hey stupid", we read about a child who is put away, sent to their room in winter, tucked into their bed and kissed goodnight, taken, tucked and given the special kiss that says, you cannot come out. what a way to kiss! the so called goodnight kiss, that says: the end - nine times out of ten we are put down in our beds and kissed in such a way that we are left in no doubt that this will be the last kiss for us, there will be no more kisses, for us, should we try to come out of our bed, hungry for kisses, hungry, since nine times out of ten, it goes on, haven't we failed to make amends, isn't our parent by this point at the end of their tether, we've sucked them dry, they long to put us down, forget us, we've had our chance, chance after chance, all day, to make amends, now we've had our last chance, our last time of asking, our last warning, now this last kiss, stooping over us the dark wing, the beak: our final kiss has come: pinning us to our bed in the cold, it goes on, in the blackness: let us stay there and sleep, let us stay there and rest: tomorrow is another day, it goes on, no wonder when we get older we cannot sleep, we go days and weeks without sleeping, in the same way that we go all day and days together without eating, until we fall to pieces, we are besides ourselves, it goes on, s/he thinks, so we can no longer hold together, eating an onion and a piece of bread, finally falling sideways, wherever we are, to fall into the kind of sleep a person sleeps when they are said to be dead tired, the sleep of the dead tired, the food of the starving and sleep of the dead tired, which is all a person can take, which is all the named figure, wooden with fatigue, can take: to be overwhelmed and obliterated by this icy sleep, from which it seems inconceivable a person could wake, from which, it goes on, a person dreads to wake, isn't this how it goes, more often than not, that a person dreads, literally dreads to sleep, so they sleep hardly at all, maybe once a week, without taking off their socks, simply falling, obliterated by this sleep, in the same way that they dread to wake, it goes on, but they are simply seized: obliterated by this waking, called and shaken from sleep, in wintertime before it is light, dragged from their bed and dressed for going out and encouraged to eat the warm nutritious food, it goes on, s/he thinks, before picking up their their great bag of books and papers, which deform their spines, and setting out, with their exhausted parent, on their way to work, separating from the parent and then descending, each of you, in to the earth, waiting to be delivered into the mouth of the tunnel, the prey, straight in to the clean poised waiting hands and the mandibles of the masters smith! they call out, looking all around the hall, then look at their watches, and smith, as they called you, would be present, they nodded with satisfaction, that he was present, this monster, was there, here it stops, here, as can be imagined, time is obliterated, the young person recalls nothing of the examination, it is simply obliterated, overwhelmed by the daily examination, unable to resist, unable, despite its shame, exhaustion, to resist the examination, which it dreads to begin to write and then, having begun frantically to write, it dreads the quiet command to stop! stop writing
but we come out in to a world that is far ahead of us - a lurid landscape, organised by the United States military along the lines of a pornographic industry, in which people with a capacity for violence and deception are systematically promoted, where the horror figures of childhood and the leading figures of government, to paraphrase Weiss / Sebald, are all preparing a great bloodbath together -
Tu Fu - during and after the An Lu Shan rebellion, reports that his clothing was constantly wet with tears - or as David Hawkes notes, more precisely, in the Chinese, with the snot that flows from our noses when we weep -
go to the volcano museum when you're in Olot -
[see: the Olot School of landscape painting]
on the 20th july 1936, coinciding with events in North Africa, the main labor organisations at Olot called a general strike. Shops closed from 11 and the market shut down. The Committee of Anti Fascist Militias was formed the next day and began meeting that evening around the billiard table at the Casino on the Rambla. At these meetings, around the green beize designed for another use, by quite different people, under the traditional low bright lights, which often went on until 6 or 7 seven in the morning, an attempt was made effectively to reinvent society in this town from scratch -
there you will see a seismograph -
the machine Hofmannstahl compares to a poet -
on the cupboard, somebody has roughly framed the printouts of the underwater earthquakes that caused the tsunamis of 26 December 2004 -
s/he was thinking about something else -
shortly after getting back to london, hearing of the catastrophic earthquakes in Kashmir, we thought of that needle at the museum at Olot, silently registering those events with jagged markings up to 30 millimetres high -
you may know the series of identically framed small etchings by the artist Wols - these curious pictures sometimes appear to be approaches to figurative drawing - a city or some objects on a table - which for some reason or other, through a kind of anxious jotting and revision, by some process of tentative digression, come to recall the traces left by certain kinds of equipment, where the movements of the stylus respond to tiny, otherwise entirely unregisterable fluctuations in the state of the organism - this person a moment ago possibly quite unknown to us, whose position now seems so precise
if you turned around in that exhibition, you could see one of the famous tall striding bronzes by Alberto Giacometti - beside one of the hundreds of paintings he made of his brother - each time he sat down to paint his brother, he used to say, he felt he was a complete stranger to him - while nearby are some of the figures he began to make after the war - which are what? 2 inches high? behind, the tall windows look out over the river - where I had just been - on the bridge - it's already dark - somebody who was looking at the same things just before, has now walked off to the left -
but through another doorway, we are drawn by another object: from the room in which he was forced to spend the latter part of the war, the label tells us that, during the night Jean Fautrier (1898 - 1964) could hear coming from the forest the screams of people taken and held there - it was at this point that he began to attack the models in front of him, hacking and gouging the clay, leaving the marks of his fingers and his tools, until the features were severely disfigured or eventually obliterated, as in the case of Tête d'Ôtage, the last, where the face has been smeared and eradicated, becoming a lump, as if molten lead had been poured over some one's head