Category: ABOUT ART


“Of silence and cave water” – Human Greed’s “The Green Line”

November 16th, 2017

 
 

 
ALT 
 
      Painting by Nicole Boitos
       Used as cover of Human Greed’s “Fortress Longing” record (2012)

 
 
 
 
 
THE GREEN LINE
  by Michael Begg 
 
There is a path,
A green line that runs from the twilight mountains to the midnight sea.
The longer you walk this path
The more clear it seems
You cannot return to the mountain
You will never reach the sea
This liminal moment in full view of your limitations
Where the ivy holds a fragile, transitory peace with the snowdrops
This liminal moment
Where a son bids a sunny farewell to a father
And pedals off into the mossy shadows
This liminal moment
Where the father is not so old
Where the son is not so sure
This is your moment now
All the flowers are open
The new stars are aching in this terrifying sunset
Of silence and cave water
Amid these tiny favours through which we hide from death;
the bloated womb,
the sonorous bells that command you to lift your empty head,
your scribbled activity in the world
Sometimes, it doesn’t get light at all.
 
(2011?)
 
 
 
     I love this poem. It speaks to me of a great epiphany of existence: we are here, now, in forever-now, never to return to the bliss of the womb, and perhaps never to attain some childlike state of nirvana-fulfillment on the other side. No, we are here, now, fragile vessels of viscera and hope, working and loving and multiplying, always on the verge of something new, something scary, something that shatters us, something transforming, something rapturous.
     I especially love this poem as it was realized musically in this eponymous 2012 composition by musical group Human Greed (Michael Begg and Deryk Thomas and other contributors). Norwegian singer Tommy Aashildrod’s reading is sensitive and tender, the accent difficult to place and by this made more otherworldly: in being from nowhere and everywhere, his voice is all the more fitting to read this text, one that summons the eternal cycling mysteries of the human condition. His reading is balanced expertly against Antony & the Johnsons cellist Julia Kent’s string arrangement and performance, which is nuanced, warm, yearning, aching. The pauses in the reading give way to the strings at just the right moments. The strings calm or grow their swells in time with the text’s emotional crests and lulls.
    When I first heard this beautiful music, I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks. It’s such an expert showcase of how spoken poetry can be serviced by music, and how music can be fulfilled by spoken poetry. Everything belongs here, together, feels inevitable. I know that the text could be read separately, I know that the music could be split off and consumed on its own. And each would be lovely. But the unity is orders of magnitude more powerful in a breathtaking way.
     The poem, which I sourced from omote-no.blogspot.com, differs in interesting ways from the musical treatment of it (note: this was the only trace of the poem I could find online, and it’s possible it does not represent Begg’s original poem; for the sake of argument, I’ll assume it does, and my apologies if I’m mistaken). And that’s what I want to focus on.
     First, the recording begins with the following couplet, absent in the poem: “Will my wings open mother? / Will I have a mouth and will I live?”. These haunting lines seized me the first time I heard them, and seem to me now especially important to the musical setting of the poem. I say this because I read this poem in part as a meditation on transition, on moments of trembling transition along the journey of life, epiphanies of cusps, when we realize we can’t go home to the womb and may never reach our spiritual goal, to which we journey cradling in our palms this ephemeral gift of years and sentience and soul. With this in mind, that opening couplet, that tender voice from the womb, not yet launched into days and decay, takes on such feeling and weight. “Will my wings open mother / Will I have a mouth and will I live?” Thinks the trembling bird fetus, thinks the creature in its chrysalis, perhaps thinks all life before being born. “You cannot return to the mountain”, we hear the narrator speak not long after. Everything will move quickly now. And if you’re lucky, you will have some “liminal moment” one day when you know in a flash all that you’ve been, all you may yet be, how everything hangs on a moment, how death is there but so is joy, so is passion and connectedness.
    Second, the recording triplicates the poem’s final line, “Sometimes, it doesn’t get light at all.” This serves to underscore some of the themes of the text: the pain inherent in our brief, intense lot, how we try to fill our time with meaning amid the death-fear, the ache of not being able to go back to childhood, the dread that we won’t attain spiritual relief. And in so doing, reminds us that sometimes that’s all there is to life. For most of humanity, across history and nations and continents, life has been just that, tiny oases of sweetness dotting vast badlands of suffering, toil and oppression.
    Third, the recording adds these gorgeous lines after the end of the poem proper: “While my children push sighing boats of sleep from the harbors of their mouths / I sit there with my army.” The last word was hard for me to hear in the recording, and there was nothing I could find online, so I could be wrong here in my transcription. But if I’m right, man, that’s some dark, beautiful poetry, especially coming as it does at this point in the text. It seems to summon another character caught in a liminal moment, a father (metaphorically) to his soldiers, or to his actual sons, meditating on the eve of a siege (or besiegement). Everyone knows these “liminal moments”, they unite us all across time and culture.
    Finally we have the song’s closing line, again not present in the original poem, stated more than queried: “Where is my blanket of sound?” This ends the piece just as the musical tapestry resolves to a thin wavering line. Who asks this? Could be the general, could be the avian fetus, could be a new voice entirely. Read just on paper, it’s a bit clumsy to work this line into the rest of the text, and part of me finds it anticlimactic. As part of the music, it makes somewhat more sense, but still doesn’t quite work for me. Still, I loved the other non-poem additions featured in the recording, and find they make excellent sense either in the context of the text or the musical recording.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
     Our lives, so brief but so alive with momentous occurrences: Night skies dense with fireworks and meteorites and headlong blinking red airplane lights. Our lives, our precious meaningless endlessly-meaningful lives. Full of tears and laughter and loss and joy and pain, a hurried children’s song bookended by the warm space of mother, the warm bliss of salvation. We are alive. We are following a path. It is solved by walking, say the Algerians. Walk, keep your eyes open for beauty and love. And when a spell comes over you bidding you to stop and remember and wonder, surrender everything you have to it.
 
 
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more about Michael Begg and Human Greed, as well as other related musical projects, please check out omnempathy.com.

For more about Julia Kent’s music, please check out juliakent.com.

[posted by: C Way at 4:20 PM]

[file under: Music ||| poetry]
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Abandoned Storage Unit: “The roots of trees curled up”

May 25th, 2017

 
 
 
     Open up.

     It’s May 24th. Some people are dying. Some people are smiling. Some people are sitting in uncomfortable chairs in sparse rooms and unsure if they are smiling or dying. Lift up. Open up. Whirl up. Cough it up. Size it up. Crumple it up. Twist it up. Throw it up. Open up. Open up. Open up.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
     Let’s start this party proper. I present the Minutemen, 1985, Public Access TV:
 
 

 
       Minutemen, 1985, Public Access TV

 
 
     Feel the hiss and twang and earthy goodness. George Hurley’s bongos, the twin acoustic attack of Boon and Watt’s strumming. D.Boon’s singing voice, unadorned and kind and honest and impassioned, like a sturdy, beat-up & well-used hammer, covered in nicks and its handle worn to comforting smoothness. It’s a voice others have sung through over time. It’s a voice others have used, like a strong coat passed down and patched up. Wherever there are people who want the good and are willing to call out injustice, this voice is there to sing through. God bless D. Boon and may he rest in peace. And God bless the Hurley and Watt and Boon together for uniting and making music of great energy, fun, poetry and righteousness.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
GENESIS
  by Mary Ruefle 
 
Oh, I said, this is going to be.
And it was.
Oh, I said, this will never happen.
But it did.
And a purple fog descended upon the land.
The roots of trees curled up.
The world was divided into two countries.
Every photograph taken in the first was of people.
Every photograph taken in the second showed none.
All of the girl children were named And.
All of the boy children named Then.
 
(2017)
 
 
 
     I love this poem. I am drawn to much of Ruefle’s work, which I find playful, coy, rooted in the real but simultaneously belonging to the streams that flow under reason & logic. At times there’s a questing, mystical quality to her verse as well that is all the more beguiling because it’s counterbalanced by cryptic wit. Sometimes the work is too clever for me, the twinkle in the eye of the verse is a bit too shiny-gaudy, and I find it distanced emotionally as a consequence. Even at these times, her work is noteworthy, even remarkable, despite its coldness (or perhaps because of it).    (Read More . . .)

[posted by: C Way at 5:28 PM]

[file under: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS ||| LAUDS ||| Music ||| paintings/drawings ||| poetry ||| video/film]
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“City of Fish” Poetry Chapbook (2015) by Chris Way

April 22nd, 2017

 

 
 
Hi all, my poetry chapbook “City of Fish”, which I published as a limited run paperback edition in 2015, is now available for order online here for just $11 (inc. free shipping).

City of Fish is a collection of 19 poems by Manhattan-based poet and musician Chris Way, with colored pencil & ink illustrations (including cover and back cover) by Brooklyn-based artist and writer Jonah Shore. The poems, composed between 2011 and 2013, range in tone from the visceral and immediate to the confessional, dreamlike, meditative, playful, and suffocating.

Way’s verse is anchored in vivid imagery & painted with a clear emotional line; complementing the text is Shore’s illustrations, which speak to and draw from the poetry with their rawness, simplicity, and symbology. The book itself is handsome, with saddle-stitched binding, silk-finish paper & felt-finish covers.

Other details:

Publication Date: February 2015
(4.375 x 7.25, 39pp, paperback)
 
 
 
For more of my poetry, click here.

[posted by: C Way at 10:10 AM]

[file under: poetry]
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Abandoned Storage Unit: Whirling Around

April 9th, 2017

 
 
 
 
ALT 
 
      (Some serving plate I found online on Polish shopping site)

 
 
 
     Hello snailers & crowers. Time for another whirled-up blend of crap, such is thee fun of the Abandoned Storage Unit.

     It’s a beautiful Sunday and the sill-cactus flowers are beginning to push up their sweet buds of lemon & fuchsia. People are blowing themselves up in two beautiful Coptic churches in Egypt. I just cooked two beautiful sweet potatoes until the peels began to sweet sugar. The depraved Brian Williams is yoking badly-understood Leonard Cohen lyrics to the “beautiful” sight of Tomahawk missiles launched toward Syria. I just steamed two beautiful heads of broccoli until they turned that delicious rich green.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
        The Fat Old Couple Whirling Around
        BY ROBERT BLY 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     What a poem, written in 2005, by the great Robert Bly. It encompasses all of life, it is stuck in the mud around your feet and it is up on a mountaintop watching the world burn and cool, green and die, burn and cool, green and die. Become a soul and go. But before you do: whirl, dance, sigh, rise, reach.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
 
ALT 
 
      C.W.L.
       UNTITLED, 2017

 
 
 
 
     Here is something my daughter made to celebrate Spring. I love how she draws faces. Our red front door is festooned with her bright flowery paintings and drawings and it makes me happy whenever I see it.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
 

 
 
     Here’s “meditations after shock therapy” by worm girl; discovered this lil gemstone on SoundCloud. I like the eroded ghost-reverbed vocals, the synth pads, the recessed drum machine beat. And the lyrics are strong, & exactly what they should be given the song’s title. The piece feels rough-hewn and tossed-off, but the attention to detail, the melody, the understated vocal delivery and pacing are anything but. This is a combination that always works for me in art, that feeling of casual paired with the obvious fruits of discipline, talent and skill. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
     “A great work of art is like a dream. For all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is never unequivocal. A dream never says: ‘You ought,’ or ‘This is the truth.’ It presents an image in much the same way as nature allows a plant to grow, and we must draw our own conclusions.” This is from Jung in his Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933).

     This is not universal and simply reflects the Jung’s personal tastes. Any work of art can be mute and ambiguous; an art object’s ambiguity is no assurance of its worth. And there are great works of art that are unequivocal — say, “Guernica”, or Dylan’s “Masters of War” (war on the mind today folks, for good reason). They are blunt in their message and motive and that informs their power. Humans just can’t refrain from trying to sum up a phenomenon as complex and variable as art (across all its manifestations and media) in a pithy saying. We’re just addicted to trying to shortcut around the universe and tie it up quickly in language. We’re just wired to do it. We all do it. Geniuses down to fools, we all want to sum up our lives in a tidy bow. Why? It makes us feel we’re in control, we’ve mastered a Thing with an aphorism. We’ve learned it, known it, owned it. Can stuff it in a drawer and mothball it away; no further discussion needed. Such silliness, such transparent folly. But so fucking irresistible.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
     (click to zoom)
ALT 
 
      Pablo Picasso
       Le Crapaud, 1949
       Lithograph on Arches wove paper, 19.5 x 25.75 in.

 
 
 
 
     Be sure to zoom in on this friend, so many diablos deliciosos in the details. The frog’s little circly warts, its wee grumpy eyes, the Cubistic intersects of the hind legs and face, the flowing linework tying together its body and limbs, the effect of decorative little Christmas lights along its body, the impression of smudge and mud combined with modest, reluctant ornament. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
    I just finished Cordelia Fine’s excellent book Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society (2017, Norton). Before reading this book, I would have considered myself something of an essentialist when it comes to the sexes. I believed in sex differences in the brain and in the body, changes both prenatal and post-birth. And I believed these differences were permanent and inherent to humans and were directly responsible for different behavior in men and women everywhere, past present future.
    After Testosterone Rex, I still believe physiological sex differences exist. The science is clear. But I believe now they are just the starting point, and not an excuse for the gender gap. They are merely one factor among many in explaining why men and women do what they do, believe what they do, and think how they do. As Fine demonstrates, physiological differences between the sexes may or may not become amplified or nullified or nudged into being altogether depending on a whole galaxy of factors, not least of which are cultural, environmental, parental, marketing (especially marketing!) and institutional forces.
    In other words, there’s room for adjustment. There’s nothing hardwired in mens’ brains forcing them to forever be universally aggressive risk-tasking non-parenting and promiscuous. There’s nothing hardwired in women’s brains forcing them to forever be universally passive, cautious, caretaking and monogamy-seeking. There is astonishing variability in the animal and insect kingdom, as Fine exhaustively details, in how males and females of species behave sexually, and this can exist with humans too (and in many cases, as the research shows, already does). We’ve just grown accustomed, over the millenia, to a certain way for men and women to be, and we like it that way — that is to say, those in control, older white men, have always liked it that way (whether they realize it or not).
    The research seems to support the theses of Fine and so many other writers: it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been. Men and womens’ physiological differences, says the research Fine exhaustively brings to bear, do not strongly correlate with massive differences in behavior and attitudes both sexual and non-sexual. In citation after citation, Fine shows compelling research that suggests the gender gap exists for far more complex reasons than the presence or absence of testosterone. This passage of Fine’s is crucial in understanding this point: “It’s true that we don’t, as a rule, tend to think that the scientific facts of nature dictate how things should be. Just because a scientist says that something is “natural” — like male aggression or rape — obviously doesn’t mean we have to condone, support or prescribe it. But that doesn’t mean that science has nothing to contribute to societal debates or aspirations. Although scientific claims don’t tell us how our society ought to be, that being the job of our values, they can give us strong hints as to how to fulfill those values, and what kind of arrangements are feasible. [...] rejecting the [view that gender gap problems are solely due to evolved sex differences, such as testosterone in men] doesn’t require denial of evolution, difference, or biology.”
    I also really like this passage by Dalhousie University philosopher Letitia Meynell, which Fine quotes in her book: “Biologically speaking, our actions and dispositions are developed and could have bee otherwise, given the right mix of developmental inputs at various points in our lives. If one wants to change the distribution of a given trait in a population, the task is not to overcome nature but to rearrange the developmental system.”
     If we want to address gender inequality, we have to abandon essentialism insofar as we lean on it to explain and justify and excuse perceived differences in how men and women think and act in and out of the bedroom. We have to accept malleability in terms of how the sexes develop. We have to stop framing issues in terms of “boys will be boys and girls will be girls.” We have to realize as a species we’re in control, not the hormones, the gametes, the glands, the gonads. Culture, society, developmental input from parents, media, religion, schooling, marketing those are the forces that take those inherent and verifiable biological differences that do exist between the sexes, and truly activate them and transform them into vast gaps and gulfs. Gulfs that become, over generations, seemingly impossible to cross. Seemingly. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more information about Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex, please check out The Guardian’s great review.

For more Robert Bly stuff, please check out his entry at the Poetry Foundation.

For more worm girl stuff, please check out Her Soundcloud page.

For more Picasso, please check out the Musée National Picasso (Paris).

[posted by: C Way at 1:04 PM]

[file under: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS ||| Music ||| paintings/drawings ||| poetry]
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Art of the Week – ‘Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle’ (2003)

November 23rd, 2016

 
 
 
 
       (click for zoom-in)
Thornton Dial 
 
      Thornton Dial (American)
       Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle (detail) (2003)
       Plastic soda bottles, doll, clothing, bedding, wire, found metal, rubber glove, turtle shell, artificial flowers,
       Splash Zone compound, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood

 
 
 
 
       (click for zoom-in)
Thornton Dial 
 
      Thornton Dial (American)
       Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle (2003)
       

 
 
 
 
      Above is “Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle” a work by Thornton Dial (1928-2016), a self-taught U.S. artist who created assemblages on a large scale.
      “Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle” (detail of which is shown first): a tremendous, fearsome work. A scaffolding of intertwined, twisted, knotted bedsheets (?) create a criss-crossed webbing through and around which emerge flowers, prints of flowers, plastic pop bottles that resemble flowers, and other floral elements, with the whole of the work dripping mustard & crimson. The title, in conjunction with the visceral nature of the colors and textures, and the frayed edges and slices in the fabric, suggest birth, violence and death. A ghostly infant hovers in the top left quadrant; her patina, posture and draped body seeming to confer an air of classicism and modesty. Close observation of the work’s details amply repay the viewer with an endless fund of visual interest.
      What an achievement, simultaneously chaotic and controlled, capturing the conflation of violence, the birthing process, and nature’s fecundity — and also suggesting a kind of organizing principle or geist observing and animating it all.

 
 
 
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more of Thornton Dial’s works, please check out his profile at www.soulsgrowndeep.org/artist/thornton-dial.

[posted by: C Way at 2:48 PM]

[file under: paintings/drawings ||| sculpture ||| Visual Arts]
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