Time is On Our Side
29 August 2001. Tom and I at Blake's grave.
The complete poetry and prose of William Blake (Erdman, 1988).
"Intricate labyrinths of Times and Spaces unknown..."
Got ten hours sleep last night. Ten hours can make all the difference in the world.
The rag-tag beginnings of a list of references for the DasArts block.
Speaking of theatrical re-enactments and the use of drugs in performance, Adrian mentions the Wooster Group's 1984 production 'LSD (Just the High Points...)'. A recent interview with Kate Valk contains a synopsis of the piece:
Mantra: "What? Me worried? Hah!"
Just in... Tom warns: "Those Rilke Translations are Really Dire!"
"I hope I'm not about to be rude about a friend of yours, but those Rilke translations are really dire. Not only is the scansion shot to hell, but in some cases he actually gets the basic meaning wrong -- i.e. straight up makes a mistake of comprehension. I really don't mean to be snooty, and translating is a very difficult exercise (I tried translating a few of those same Sonnets a few years back), but ow! Maybe there's another online set you could link to if you're linking from the DasArts list. They're such important poems."
Last night: Tim Etchells and Annemie Vanackere at the 'White Monkey'.
In Amsterdam Ronald van Tienhoven showed the film program he put together for the opening of his curatorial project: The Münchhausen Syndrome. Included was Stan Brackhage's 'The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes', an extraordinary and demanding film, which definitely needs to be approached with caution. (But at the same time: how much caution? How much should one know before looking at this film? And if warned (as I was): 'Who will warn us of the warning?' -- as the film is -- to my mind -- much less (at least I didn't faint) and much more horrifying than I expected.)
The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes is a silent film. But from whence comes that silence?
Louis Schwartz in Seeing Absence: Traversing the Documentary Phantasy by The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes (Repeating here what was included in this 18.07.01 entry):
"The themes of the corpse and the image are also developed in Maurice Blanchot's "Two Versions of the Imaginary." Blanchot's essay argues that "The cadaver is its own image" because both the cadaver and the image continue to "affrim things in their disappearance." By making a film which depict the cadaver Brakhage creates a sort of mise-en-abyme, an image of an image."
Associations: Vanitas paintings, Tibetan sky funerals.
Is nothing sacred?
Piecemeal Observations Around an Atrocity
The first intimation that something has gone wrong: Foto Nivo Schweitzer, Haarlemmerdijk. On our way to our appointment at Koan Float, DasArt's production manager Mark Jansen and I briefly stop at a camera store on the Haarlemmerdijk so that I can pick up a bag I've ordered. As we're already a bit late, Mark waits outside next to my bike. Inside, at the counter, a girl is standing and watching a television image of smoke pouring out of a skyscraper. She says a plane has hit 'Twin Towers.' I say, "That's not Twin Towers that's the World Trade Center." I pay for the bag and go outside and tell Mark -- thinking there's been an accident with a small plane. As we ride away the just glimpsed television image carries about the same impact as the Leica R4 body which the store has been using as an ashtray. (I say something about it to the girl. She says it's been there for years and admits that she finds it disturbing too.)
Koan Float, Herengracht. Mark and I spend 45 blissful minutes floating. Afterwards we observe that the tanks are not soundproofed and that we will need to pay attention to this fact at DasArts.
Beurs van Berlage. I leave Mark and ride a few blocks to the Beurs to attend the Amsterdamse Kunstprijzen awards ceremony which Rogério has designed. I enter to find the ceremony is already in progress so I stay at the back of the hall. Fred Imklaar arrives and asks if I'd heard that the World Trade Center has collapsed and that the Pentagon has been hit by an aircraft. I stare at him for a moment. My mind blanks and then starts to race. Rogério sees me and walks over from behind the control panels. He tells me that they had considered cancelling the entire program but decided to continue and keep it short.
Beurs van Berlage. I'm trying to concentrate on the works being presented as the name 'Bin Laden' passes through my head. I grimly recall how I posted a picture of this man a few days ago (context: Tom McCarthy asked in his interview about the name of this site) and wonder whether or not it would be prudent to go home and immediately remove it. ATTENTION! I sincerely hope that it is clear to you who read this that alamut is just a name, that alamut.com is a project by an artist and that this site is in every way a 'Bastion of Peace and Information'. Okay?
Beurs van Berlage. The mayor of Amsterdam is one of the people handing out prizes on stage. His cell phone rings. He steps back and quietly takes the call.
Beurs van Berlage. The ceremony is over. I decide to go home. Gabrielle asks me several times if I will go home and watch T.V. (She's insistent. I have a reputation for not watching T.V.) I assure her that I will.
On the train home I call Jente to ask if she's heard. I suddenly discover that I have forgotten my coat at Koan Float. I call Koan Float and they promise to put it aside for me.
At home. For the first time in years I don't connect my powerbook to check my email. Instead I listen to the voice messages on the answering machine. Renee Turner calling from Rotterdam: "Just wanted to talk with another North American." Jouke Kleerebezem calling from Maastricht (with the sound of a television in the background): "Talk about an event horizon..." Ewan McNeil calling from Vancouver: "Have you seen the pictures Paul?" Pause. "Have you seen the fucking pictures?"
I plug in the T.V. and flip back and forth between CNN and BBC. I'm on the phone to Jente again as the network replays video footage of the second jet aircraft hitting the second tower of the World Trade Center. The image is zoomed in and in slow motion. As I watch I hear myself saying, "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." over and over again.
I continue to watch as the hours pass. As much as I am struck by the phrase 'low tech - high concept' (and how quickly this phrase propagates across the net), as much as I am impressed by how the novelist Tom Clancy manages to liken terrorist attacks by Muslims to terrorist attacks by Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland (and how clearly neither CNN nor the nation is pleased by this comparison), and as much as I am deeply affected by how some of the hijacked victims used their cell phones to call their loved ones (as they careened to their death), I am dismayed by all the political rhetoric. It is understandable, yes. But it is also sad and frightening.
Well I admit television does have its use. But after a full day of watching I find myself returning to individuals and their weblogs.
From Paul Ford's Ftrain:
If you're not confused you're not paying attention. If you need to read Stephen's notes on Ariel Sharon's role as a terrorist and his role in the slaughers which took place in the Sabra and Shatilla camps in September 1982, click on the link and go there. I won't pull quote that here. Suffice it to say that like the atrocity, hypocrisy and finger pointing eternally recur and that it is oh-so-easy for each of us to spin language and point fingers, to move from complicity to criticism.
I've seen this on a number of sites but it bears repeating here: 'An eye for an eye and the world will go blind.' (Mahatma Gandhi.)
Liquid Gnome (Yes I know his entry starts by mentioning alamut. I discovered the link by looking through my referer logs...):
(DasArts Day 0 today.)
At times like these, when many people are searching for survivors and many more are searching for words, one remembers poetry, especially poetry from the past, poetry which -- strictly speaking -- was written upon other occasions but which now, today, seems written exclusively for this moment, this event, as if it has always been lying in wait.
I suppose re-accessibility is one of the great advantages of the art object, the poem, painting, sculpture etc., over the live performative arts and where the performance art piece, in its raw minimalism, distinguishes itself from a piece of theatre: while both are ephemeral the performance art piece is more re-accessible. I have to think of Ulay's comment to me the other day about how each of his early performances with Marina were performed only once, and in each case before an extremely small audience, yet many if not all these pieces live on as cultural signifiers and are instantly 'recallable'.
A phone conversation yesterday with R.T., brought to mind the following lines of Jalal Toufic's essay 'Every Name in History is I':
I See No Sign of Cynicism
Public space. In the foyer of the Rotterdam Public Library a huge flat panel television has been set up. A crowd of unmoving, earnest faces stand watching CNN. I see no sign of cynicism. This shocks me.
Intelligence for individuals. Where do people go when they've had enough of CNN's 'America's New War' coverage? I find Stratfor.com's reporting and risk analysis as keen and penetrating as it was 2.5 years ago during the crisis in Kosovo.
A typical Stratfor 'Situation Report':
"Japan's securities watchdog, Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, announced Sept. 15 that it was investigating suspect trades occurring immediately before and after the terror attacks in the United States to see if any transactions were linked to Osama bin Laden, according to Japan Today. Such transactions could have reaped huge profits for people who knew of the attacks in advance and who speculated on a resulting fall in share prices."
Later on in the evening I catch bits of Merwin's 'Words from a Totem Animal' floating through my head. Yes please.
Resuming our normal programming...
The Garden of Crossing Tiger Cubs
Plan of Ryoan-ji. Loraine Kuck, The World of the Japanese Garden, 1980.
"... I will never arrive..." As time amasses (heaps together) and accumulates (making one rich not in days old but days alive) one realises (no matter the rate one works) one will never get done -- the day will never have enough hours.
Such a 'crisis' demands a special form of existential reconciliation: (to paraphrase JK) 'I cherish my hesitation about what I should do next and what not.'
Quality is not a function of time.
DasArts Day 1.
Who will warn us about the warning?
We tried to set out early
but after the vehicles were packed with our equipment, we discovered the ignition key to one the rented minibuses wouldn't turn. Thus our day began with a wait for the representative of the rental company to come -- who couldn't get the key turned either -- and a further wait for the two new vehicles to replace the bus (the company didn't have any more minibuses).
Repacked, we left Amsterdam and headed south. We made several stops along the way, once to use the toilets at McDonald's and get some drinks and food and several other times to ask the way. Did I mention that en route all four of our vehicles got viciously lost in the vicinity of Charlois? That we kept driving around Charlois in circles? We were lost but it almost seems as if we were engaged some sort of ceremonious circumambulation of Charlois...
Cf. Bram Stoker's Dracula:
"The carriage went at a hard pace along, then we made a complete turn and went along another straight road. It seemed to me that we were simply going over and over the same ground again; and so I took note of some salient point, and found that this was so."
But of course the worst of it was that we did not expect that it would take hours for us to
So we retreated (and this, in retrospect, was a very good decision) to spend the night in a Formula One Hotel near Brussels airport where we rested and reassembled as best we could. Here Mark and Nicola set up the video projector and all 16 of us crammed into one of the tiny rooms to rest our heads on each other's shoulders and watch Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus.
(In the parking lot Hans handed me a little gift: a bottle of Belgian beer called 'Sudden Death.' I don't drink beer so I asked him to give to someone else. Later he gave me the cap.)
DasArts Day 2.
This morning, for a number of reasons (what were they again?) I felt compelled to change the sensible plan which we had all agreed upon last night, resulting in our fledgling group of 15 splitting into two groups, a group of 10 (who wanted to go back and try to descend the same cave but this time without equipment) and a group of 5 (who for their own reasons would not or could not do this, deciding instead to visit another cave), and then further (this obvious, but to the eye not quite so clear) into 15 groups of 1. When faced with a cave, everyone, it seems, has their own cave to descend (solving the question as to which group I joined).
My cave: I found it to be rather uncomfortable.
Scene: a dark cave. In the gloom we see a group of people huddled on a narrow ledge. One of them (A) is belaying a climbing rope upon which unseen figure (B) is descending (we only hear B's voice).
B: "I'm sorry, I can't do this. I'd like to come up now please."
A: "You can't come up."
B: (After a long pause) "Okay."
Block 15 group photo.
DasArts Day 3.
The disaster takes care of everything.
(Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster.)
A staff meeting returns me to thinking in terms of two groups and two caves. My own postponement: the postponed shock, anger, irritation (the extreme irritability following the altered state: "... a form of impurity that endangers the metastable state that is allowing one to cross the threshold without a phase transition" -- J.T.) following the realisation that we asked for (for the whole group), were promised and had every reason to expect (from the organisation in Belgium, from ourselves) was not what we found...
While there were moments of great beauty
(In the black hole...)
Echo: "This is absolutely insane! How could they EVER have imagined that we could get all our equipment down here? That we could actually work and sleep here?"
(There can be no escape from a black hole but somehow one can pass it...)
Hans: "That wasn't a cave that was a hole in the ground..."
DasArts Day 4.
Space is a practiced place.
(Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life.)
A day of presentations and briefings, including how to get from here to there (instructions for crossing the contaminated Westergasfabriek terrain in order to access DasArt's orphaned buildings), how to operate the floatation tank, my introduction to the 'two types of experience' (conventional and traumatic) and the first student presentations of the Orpheus story.
DasArts Day 5.
The infinite accomplice, the infinite observer. Rein the photographer snaps photos of Dragan Klaic's seminar on 'the documentation of the artistic process' as I sit and listen and ponder the technological potential for documentation and pattern recognition and my own never-ending attraction-aversion to bookkeeping.
Artistic consciousness: a back-and-forth movement between immersive complicity and immersive criticism, where one and one's double (and one's further multinyms: one's treble, quadruple, quintuple, sextuple etc.) vacillate between assisting and thwarting the artistic event. One never simply does (either as actor or as director -choreographer), one only helps (as assistent) or hinders (as witness).
Time is not linear (so Dragan, sitting at the head of the table, should be careful not to turn his head around like Orpheus and say, "When you look back after these 10 weeks...").
The fossil record (via Sarah's cave).
Something like this?
Sketch: Dolphin (mobile) with Bösendorfer 290SE.
The crack: a fissure which would be constitutive of the self, or would reconstitute itself as the self, but not as the cracked self.
(Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster)
DasArts Day 6.
Left: Hans Bryssinck, Nancy Mauro-Flude. Right: Uwe Laysiepen (Ulay), Mark Jansen, Leyna Papach.
DasArts Day 7.
Send me out into another life
(W. S. Merwin)
[Aside to Rogério (with whom I was talking about the Merwin poem and my growing suspicion that this particular life is not going to be enough): you are right, things do change, 3 years ago I considered the prospect of life extension from a different perspective than I do today.]
How little deaths may 'solve' certain difficulties: Leyna Papach, reporting her 24 hour vipassana experience to Ulay and the rest of the group, described the difficulties she encountered as 'monsters' and then explained how she pushed them as far as she could, to the point of exhaustion, where she fell into a light sleep and assumingly allowed her sleeping 'self' take care of the rest, for when she awoke the monsters were gone.
DasArts Day 8.
Heerko van der Kooij dropped by DasArts to speak with one of the IT (individual trajectory) students and to show me his latest Flash project, a splash page for the Groningen Platform for Architecture and City Planning which allows visitors a chance to re-design the city center.
Mirror exercises: Leyna Papach and Nicola Unger.
DasArts Day 9.
Away we go. A non-stop work session starting today at noon and ending tomorrow at noon (the second 24 hr session this week).
Thomas and Nienke at the 'Orpheus and Eurydice' station.
DasArts Day 10.
My own (semi) sustained inquiry during the sustained inquiry of the last 24 hours consisted of photographing some of the improvisations done at the 'Orpheus and Eurydice' station. I've uploaded the first ten to this page. A second page will follow.
I've uploaded another page of photographs of the improvisations done at the 'Orpheus and Eurydice' station last Thursday and Friday. (I also decided the M.S. Merwin captions were a bad idea and so removed them.)
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