30 December 2012

Bataille's solar personification of the bull of the labyrinth in his 1927 poem is likely inspired by "Night Song," Nietzsche's poem from Thus Spoke Zarathustra "Light am I.. I live in my own light.. Oh wretchedness in all givers! Oh eclipse of my sun!.. It is night: ah, that I must be light!" which GPSes itself in the labyrinth in the paragraph that follows when reprinted near the end of Ecce Homo, several months before his complete mental collapse: "thus does a god suffer, a Dionysus. The reply to such a dithyramb of a sun's solitude in light would be Ariadne... Who knows except me what Ariadne is!" about which he never directly fills us in on.

Medici Sleeping Ariadne, National Archeological Museum, Florence

Karl Jaspers quotes Nietzsche to the effect that the sovereign mind is labyrinthine, "consumed little by little by the cave-dwelling Minotaur of his conscience," that the philosopher, like Theseus, has "a particular curiosity about the labyrinth" but that "whatever he may tell us, the labyrinthine man never seeks the truth but always only his Ariadne".. but.. "'Ariadne,' says Dionysis, 'You are a labyrinth. Theseus has become lost in you, he has no more thread.." Ariadne replies: "that is my last love to Theseus. I destroy him." Jaspers: "Ariadne for whom Dionysus becomes the labyrinth... Dionysus is the new truth when Theseus becomes 'absurd,' i.e. becomes a fanatic who seeks the truth at any cost. Nietzsche as Theseus is indeed lost in the labyrinth of Ariadne, but as Dionysus becomes the truth that transcends both death and life." After his mental collapse, Nietzsche was spied staging naked Dionysian dancing rites in his Turin room and wrote to Cosima Wagner "Ariadne, I love thee - Dionysus." In commenting on Nietzsche and the labyrinth, Deleuze identifies Ariadne and the thread as the anima, and in Jungian terms Nietzsche's syphilis prevents him from moving from the anima/soul-image phase to joining the earthy Magna Mater as the benign Old Wise Man, entering the Wise Man's dark megalomania as his brain mass deteriorates and he imagines himself Zarathustra and Dionysus, though I think if you're history's greatest philosopher you should be permitted to hug horses and dance, dance, dance.

Sleeping Ariadne, Vatican Museums

For Deleuze, the thread as the anima is solely "capable of reconciling us with the unconscious," while the labyrinth "leads us back to the same point.." to "designate the eternal return" for which "the labyrinth is becoming, the affirmation of becoming," which becomes for Ariadne a sort of affirmation by way of the thread. Deleuze identifies Dionysus as affirmation and Theseus ressentiment, a reactive force. "Dionysus developed, reflected (by Ariadne), raised to the highest power: these are the aspects of Dionysian willing which serves as principles for the eternal return."

Cornielle Van Cleve, Sleeping Ariadne, Versailles

In 1888, while Nietzsche was settling into Turin and getting started on Ecce Homo, Giorgio de Chirico was born in Volos, Greece to Italian parents. de Chirico would be six months old when Nietzsche broke down, at 18 reading Nietzsche for the first time, at 22 suffering from depression after his father's death, returning to Nietzsche and composing his first Metaphysical paintings, at 23 seeking out the apartment in Turin where Nietzsche stayed. "The novelty" of Nietzsche, he writes, "is a strange and profound poetry, infinitely mysterious and solitary, which is based on the Stimmung (I use this very effective German word which could be translated as atmosphere in the moral sense), the Stimmung.. of an autumn afternoon, when the sky is clear and the shadows are longer than in summer, for the sun is beginning to be lower... the Italian city par excellence where this extraordinary phenomenon appears is Turin." Schopenhauer wrote: "The inner Stimmung, the primacy of knowledge of the will, can produce this state in any given circumstance.. but this pure and objective Stimmung of the soul is encouraged and determined by encounters with external objects" similar in a way to Eliphas Levi's belief "the visible is the manifestation of the invisible" that influenced the French Symbolists.

When 24, de Chirico saw Cornielle Van Cleve's monumental replica of Ariane endorme at Versailles, based on the original in the Vatican Museum in the city where he had lived, inspiring an interest which would prompt the Guardian to reflect "never in art history has a painter been so obsessed with one subject." The Ariadne at the Met (above), having been abandoned by Theseus, is resting as a statue in the warmth of the sun. de Chirico was very proud of his father, an engineer, equestrian, and art aficionado who oversaw the construction of the first railways in Tuscany, and behind Ariadne is the moving train that recurs in his paintings as well as a phallic tower. This statue recurs in many of de Chirico's plazas, each time with the sun shining on her (1, 2, 3, 4), suggesting that he identified with the Ariane endorme as Nietzsche's anima and/or his own.

de Chirico's first metaphysical paintings of 1910, at 22, move stylistically from the brush stroke and compositional aspects of Arnold Böcklin, whom he had imitated, retaining certain aspects like, as in The Enigma of the Oracle (above), Böcklin's Odysseus in Odysseus and Calypso (right) becomes de Chirico's priestess Pythia looking down at Delphi, while Böcklin's white, central figure of Calypso becomes a statue of Apollo, partially obscured by a curtain. The early priests of Delphi were called Labyraden and frescoes of dolphins appear in the Palace of Knossos in Crete beside the labyrinth where the sea monster Apollo Delphinios was worshiped.  Homer wrote of Apollo turning into a dolphin to transport Cretan priests to Delphi.  Knossos also has a famous fresco of unexplained bull games:

de Chirico grew up in Athens, where he took his first painting lessons, and painted Greek antiquities all his life.

25 December 2012

21 December 2012

While I'm on the topic of Bataille and the labyrinth, his use of the image is of some interest. Recent scholars have identified the Minotaur as a solar personification worshiped by the Cretans during their control of the Aegean, which the Greeks were forced to pay tribute to. The myth of the slaying of the Minotaur, by this logic, was propaganda for the Greeks winning independence from Crete, having a secondary and more lasting implication of Daedelus' civilizing craftsmanship, the ascent of law, specialization, and bureaucracy over animality, though the Minotaur was not necessarily a less evolved creature but the product of Pasiphaë disguising herself as a cow to copulate with a bull, a costume André Masson, a close friend of both Bataille and Breton, chose to forget while composing his 1938 rendition of the event (left, below) though he remembers her horns in a crayon sketch (right, below):

Though Picasso said "If all the ways I have been along were marked on a map and joined up with a line, it might represent a minotaur," his Minotaur phase began after he did the cover for the first issue of Minotaur in 1933, which the Swiss publisher Albert Skira signed Breton onto after developing the concept with Bataille. Breton and Bataille's rivalry crystallized in Breton's attack on him 1929's Second Surrealist Manifesto, which Bataille was quick to see the merits of. The two contributed pieces to Minotaur and arranged a rapprochement in 1935 to collaborate on the magazine Countre-Attaque*, at a time when leftists were united against Fascist riots in Paris amid Hitler's Chancellorship to the North leading to the most animated protests since the Commune and Léon Blum becoming Prime Minister. Previous to this, Picasso was keen to play both ends to win over the Paris avant-garde, seeking to maintain Breton's critical support while Bataille ran a special Picasso issue of his Documents in 1930. For Minotaur, Breton wrote his first major essay on Picasso in 1933.

Having Bataille compare you to Icarus was high praise, meaning you had taken one for the team, which he reserved for the Surrealists in response to the Second Manifesto ("The transformation of Icarian reflexes into a pathetic-comic and gratuitous literature is doubtless surrealism's more striking characteristic") and for Picasso ("what ruptures the highest elevation.. is only noticeable in the paintings of Picasso"), both in essays in or around 1930. Bataille's 1927 Surrealist-influenced prose poem The Solar Anus, begins "It is clear the world is purely parodic.. all things would be visibly connected if one could discover at a single glance and in its totality the tracings of Ariadne's thread** leading thought into its own labyrinth.. when I scream I AM THE SUN an integral erection results, because the verb to be is the vehicle of amorous frenzy," published with Masson's illustrations in 1931, a year after the Picasso essay "the bull himself is also an image of the sun, but only with his throat slit***." In 1935-6's "The Labyrinth" "THE UNIVERSAL resembles a bull.. sometimes hurled by the rage of ruin into the void ceaselessly opened before it by a skeletal torero" identifiying the bullfight as a labyrinth concurrent with Picasso's etching the Minotauromachia, which appears to depict Marie-Thérèse Walter as a wounded, skeletal torera attached to a horse and also the bearer of the light that the bull hurls itself at. Juan Larrea remembered "hearing from (Picasso's) own lips as an obiter dictum that in pictures from a certain period of his artistic development, the horse generally represents a woman who played an exceptionally important part in his life."

In Bataille's posthumously published Accursed Share he excerpts Bernardino de Sahagun's retelling of the origin of the Aztec Sun God Nanauatzin closing his eyes, "taking courage," and hurling himself into a fire set to bring light to the world. 1954's Inner Experience included a revised version of his 1935 essay on the labyrinth, sorting out a narrative which suggests to me he thought Paris was a labyrinth playing out a drama of solitude, rupture, and independence on the one hand and interdependence and coterie on the other. "The power of attraction empties the constituent parts of their richest elements. Cities are slowly emptied of life in favor of a capital. (The local accent becomes comical.)" This is a French phenomenon, more so than Germany, Spain, Italy, which have decentralized intellectual centers, often tied to old ethnic kingdoms, while the circular Paris (like Leonora Carrington's labyrinth, right) provides the effect cited, drawing in Reims' Bataille once abandoned by a troubled relationship with his father, leading him to "a summit where being reaches the universal.. in which a central will subordinates peripheral elements to its law" which may be a reference to Surrealism, until he does battle in the bullring with "nothingness." Nothingness and the influence of Descartes and Hegel are processed with a minimum of reference to Sartre, a rival who criticized Inner Experience, though he is credited in the notes of 1939 for conveying the "dangerous and mortal character of the sacred." In Inner Experience, the symbol of the path to the summit replaces the Icarus metaphor, notably in his praise of Hegel "no doctrine is comparable to his - it is the summit of positive intelligence," while repeatedly likening Hegel's thought to a circle that moves in and out of darkness, which Derrida interprets at characteristic length as a poetic tension between the servile and the sovereign, the latter being similar to the independent Cogito, Sein, and/or Pure Immanence (pick one).

While Breton looked the other way when his friends (or "elements") used mythological images, he himself observed for the most part a strict Baudelairean aversion to them, including the labyrinth, a position which would soften in his later years as with 1958's 12th poem illustrating Miró's Constellations (right) wherein the female protagonist sees the god of Amor fly away from burning it with lamp oil, is told she must climb a vertical labyrinth to find him at "the very top of the Tower" until she arrives and the "reprobate voice" tells her she must "redescend by the way you came. You will not stop once on the ground. It is when you have got here anew as reflection that the balance of forces will be revealed to you and that you will lay a finger on the casket of perfumes," written while he was living in the very vertical village of St-Cirq Lapopie, lorded over by the castle ruin La Popie (Celtic for "elevated place," not seen in Henri Martin painting below).

* which Claude Cahun participated in, before leaving it with Breton the following year over uneasiness about Bataille's political positions
** "till Theseus, son of Aegeus, slew him and retraced his way, finding the path by Ariadne's thread.." Ovid, Metamorphosis
*** "Sun slit throat"

17 December 2012


A few years before Michaux's labyrinth poem, Sartre was laying the foundations for his ontology based on consciousness, decreeing in The Transcendence of the Ego "Nothing can act on consciousness because it is a cause of itself," gracing the Cogito with nothingness, situating forms of consciousness in relation to an object perceived.  I have noted here the belief that a labyrinth is an incomplete mandala, inviting the interpretation that one's situation in time and space is what brings about this incompletion, as opposed to a pure immanence like Deleuze's: "a transcendental empiricism in contrast to everything that makes up the world of a the subject and the object."  As I also noted then, some Japanese mandalas contain actual places - Shintoist holy sites like Kumano (right) included to win the stubborn over to Buddhism.

The inclusion of actual physical topography and temples in a mandala approaches, perhaps by accident, the Tantric belief that saṃsāra equals nirvāṇa. René Daumal, in his novel Mount Analogue: "The symbol has had to take refuge in mythical mountains, such as Mount Meru of the Hindus. But if Meru has no geographical location, it loses its pervasive significance as a way uniting Earth and Heaven; it can still represent the center or axis of our planetary system, but no longer the means whereby man can attain it."

Jerome Rothenberg in a letter to Creeley in 1960: "as Buber says: 'one cannot reach the kernel of the fruit except thru the shell': i.e. the phenomenal world is to be read by us: the perceived image is the key to the buried image: and the deep image is at once husk and kernel, perception and vision, and the poem is the movement between them." Gary Snyder, who like Clayton Eshleman lived in Japan in the early 60s, prefers to use only imagery that he actually sees in the world. Baudelaire and Rimbaud drew from Eliphas Levi's belief "the visible is the manifestation of the invisible."

Sartre wrote several years later in Outline of a Theory of Emotions that passive grief over the uncontrollable is similar in structure to all the emotions, in which "the world itself sometimes reveals itself to consiciousness as magical instead of determined.." 

Two unidentified women, Seville

I mention this because it is the much revered saeta - songs of lamentation before the crucifix or the Holy Mother developed over the past few centuries in Andalusia, believed to have originated East of Seville (""A city that lurks/ for long rhythms,/ and twists them like labyrinths" Lorca Poem of the Saeta*) - that, aside from certain works of art, remains in my memory as offering one of the most striking perceptions of being removed from time and space. I was walking back to my room in Madrid one evening and found that I was alone in the narrow street between rows of people on the sidewalk - a Holy Week procession was making its way towards me - and so I crossed to the sidewalk amid some stares and made my way to the room. Processions from working class districts, which come into the city center to march, often have brass bands while bourgeois processions are usually silent. When I looked out the second floor window, it was making its way closer, and then I heard from an unseen balcony - for the first time - a saeta from a female singer that had, as I recall, the fragile sound of a cantoractión that seemed to be coming from the 18th Century.  At its end the brass band was directly below me, and they picked up a melody that seemed similarly outside of time and, perhaps aided by my stewing over an ill-fated romance with a local painter, I began to sob uncontrollably for the longest time.  Though the brass melody was much different than that of Miles Davis' Saeta, Gil Evans' ensemble's bookending of the song, sung here by Miles' trumpet, was as I remember..

Silliman, in stating his preference for the more semantic Creeley that began with 1965's Words, expressed his disagreement over Creeley with Charles Simic with the analogy "Simic’s like the jazz fan who likes Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain or Kind of Blue, or Coltrane’s Giant Steps, only to freak out at their later work because it demands more from him as a listener."  Creeley mentions a movement towards semantics and form over the Deep Image's emphasis of content in the 1960 correspondence with Rothenberg: "(Robert) Kelly describes all this question of mode too briefly, i.e., 'The image is the measure of the line. The line is cut to fit it ...'  Of course, but in quite what sense? Isn't then the image as much that cut of line" and, in response to Robert Bly's indirect praise that though Creeley was the best poet going then, poetry should respond to European and Latino traditions of Bly's choosing: "We are too far along, in many grounds so-called, now, to back off, e.g., from Ginsberg in his opening KADDISH sections, to Dorn's long line in THE AIR OF JUNE, to O'Hara's casual line, or Duncan's formal organization of 'canto' structure in POEM BEGINNING WITH A LINE BY PINDAR -- Olson's MAXIMUS and 'field,' Williams' late poems, etc. i.e, it seems a bad time to lose sight of those areas."  Like Rothenberg, O'Hara, and Spicer, though, the former Mallorca resident Creeley himself wrote a Lorca tribute, but Lorca's statement that the duende "is defined by an exact present" and "all countries.. are capable of duende" vindicates Creeley's localized approach.

Jerez de la Frontera, 23 miles North of the South Coast port of Cadiz' labyrinthine streets that Richard Ford called in his 1845 guide "a sea-prison," which had its own Occupy 120 years before Manhattan's, lending its name to Sherry after the Moors turned the Roman name Asido Caesaris into Sherish and so central to flamenco lore it hosts the primary research library on the art, features the regional style Saeta jerezano de siguiriya:

Daniel Ovieda, Jerez de la Frontera
The siguiriya is one of the primary flamenco cante jondos (Deep Songs) of which Lorca wrote "the melody of the siguiriya.. escapes from our hands as we see it withdraw from us toward a point of common longing and perfect passion where the soul will never disembark." Lorca tells the anecdote of Pastora Pavón, one of the master saetaras of their time, needing one evening to "get rid of the scaffolding of the song" in favor of "not.. forms but the marrow of forms.. pain and its sincerity." This understated rendition is perhaps out of these the most sincere:

Angel Vargas, Jerez de la Frontera
Málaga, the Costa del Sol birthplace of Pablo Picasso that was an anti-Franco stronghold before it was invaded with the help of Mussolini two months before the bombing of Guernica, features the Saeta Malagueña which "incorporates both the siguiriya and the martinete; the voice weaves its way around long mournful notes that have a rather Gregorian religious echo. This style of saeta is rather long and quite difficult to perform correctly.."

Diana Navarro, Málaga 

Daumal's sketch of his analogical mountain may have been influenced by Stendhal's similarly doodled mountains in his memoir The Life of Henry Brulard, bypassing the refined draftsmanship of Lermontov's mountain landscapes. Sebald in the Beyle, or Love is a Madness Most Discreet section of Vertigo reproduces Stendhal's drawing of the St-Bernard Pass from when he was a seventeen year old Napoleonic soldier in 1800 to recount how his drawing drew not from memory but from an engraving of the mountain he had purchased, inspiring Stendhal's advice "not to purchase engravings of fine views" for "they will displace our memories completely." I'd like to think the invisibility of that saetara and the shock of emotion will keep that first saeta from becoming one of these. Stendhal recalls after the day noted by Sebald came an evening "I experienced a sensation I shall never forget. I went to the theater in spite of the captain who, rightly judging of my childishness and my ignorance of swordsmanship, my sabre being too heavy for me, was no doubt afraid in case I got myself killed on some street-corner... They were doing Cimarosa's Matrimonio segreto, the actress who was playing Caroline was missing a tooth in the front. That's all that remains with me of a divine happiness."

* "The word saeta comes from the Latin, Sagitta, which means arrow.." is the key to Lorca's opening to Poem of the Saeta "Los arqueros oscuros/ The dark archers" and its close "pero como el amor/ los saeteros/ estan ciegos" "like love/ the archers/ are blind"

10 December 2012

Before the labyrinth in France and England made its way to cathedral floors, Robbe-Grillet noir and well trimmed hedges in country estates, it was likely presented in the schools of the Greek port of Massalia (now Marseille) before the Romans settled in the region in the 2nd Century BC in their push to Iberia.  Along the Rhone, the primary trade route from the Mediterreanean to the Gallic tribes, the dividing line between the Roman Republic and Gaul from 124 BC until Caesar defeated the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix in the Battle of Alicia in 52 BC and continued to Parisii was somewhere between the Roman settlement of Segalauni, now Valence, just North of Provence, and the capital of the Gallic Allobroges tribe in what is now Vienne 72 km to the North, 32km South of Lyon.  It is between these two towns, perhaps right at or near the pre-Christian border, that the Postman Ferdinand Cheval constructed by himself over the course of 33 years an abode that not only contains two labyrinths but a monument to Caesar and Vercingetorix, flanked to the right by a third "giant," Archimedes,* as well as various other figures:

Stendhal reflected on his "passion for escaping" this latitudinal stretch of the Rhone valley between the rural Massif Central** and the Alps, "which I abhorred and which I hate still, for it was there I learnt to know humankind..." Though the mosque built for Muslim employees of the shoe factory at Romans-sur-Isère, a town whose Occitan name suggests 2ndC BC Roman loyalty 28 km south of Cheval's Palace, was "destroyed before its inauguration" in 1982, Cheval's mosque, which contains a labyrinth, has managed to survive its initially cool reception, with improvised minarets less than 200 km by car from Switzerland:

Cheval, who wrote "I want to live and die as a son of the country, to prove there are geniuses and energetic men in my class also," developed his sculptural style while working as a baker, prompting Breton to write "At the moment when thousands of Vaucanson ducks preen their feathers/ Without looking back you would grab the trowel that breasts are made of." The order in which Cheval built his sections may assist interpretation: first the "Source of Life" pool which may have been influenced by Courbet's "The Source":

..then an Egyptian tomb similar to Robert Smithson's later sketches of the Museum of the Void, and then a Hindu temple, which I presume Cheval only saw in pictures, with animal reliefs all around the structure. The labyrinths were begun a year after the publication of Huysmans' The Cathedral, a novel about Chartres, wherein "Durval.. looked down, in the middle, on the labyrinth marked out on the ground in lines of white stone and ribbons of blue stone, twisting in a spiral, like a watch-spring. This path our fathers devoutly paced, repeating special prayers during the hour they spent in doing so, and thus performing an imaginary pilgrimage to the Holy Land to earn indulgences" but I have no idea if Cheval read Huysmans, whose Des Esseintes character could have also been an infuence.  The Cathedral also has a section on bestiary symbolism, which may have influenced Cheval though his animal imagery seems to have a logic all its own.  L’église Saint-Maurice de Vienne, damaged in the Wars of Religion, retains Romanesque zodiac reliefs and Provençal facades such as St Gilles' has animal scenes from the Old Testament.

A pre-Christian coin from Aquitaine in SW France presents a horse with the body of a labyrinth of straight geometrical lines and right angles making, it would seem, for seven legs, as a labyrinth is a compressed journey and "both Vercingetorix and Alexander were - amongst other things - cavalry generals." (Malraux) "Visual Culture's causal masonry again. Straight and true. No curves, please, they might lead to a labyrinth" the quipster Robert Morris who got me into this blogging maze (I, II, III). Apollinaire: "Finally you are weary of this ancient world.. You have had your fill of living in Greek and Roman antiquity." Morris reads off the charges, stemming from Wittgenstein's "This is really only this": "The acquisition of language, the mind-body problem, the question of meaning, of free will, consciousness" (my italics). Straight lines connected to horses loaded off boats don't themselves create consciousness, but as Bataille says after reflecting on Lascaux "we can never imagine things without consciousness except arbitrarily.. animal life, halfway distant from our consciousness, presents us with a more disconcerting enigma." Clayton Eshleman: "our situation.. seems to be bio-tragically connected with our having separated ourselves out of the animal-hominid world in order to pursue that catastrophic miracle called consciousness. If the labyrinth is a Double Axe, one might see it as humanity's anguished attempt to center a ceaseless duplicity conjured by the evidence that each step forward seems to be a step backward" or as Bhanu Kapil writes "The edge of the jungle is not the place where the line shifts the most. That is deeper in where the caves are, pink with bones."

Maldoror, which Wallace Fowlie opined was a labyrinth Lautréamont built for himself, was also in circulation in France in the era of Cheval, who named one corner "Octopus Sea Creature and Gallic Man."  Lautréamont: "Discard therefore any notion of comparison with the swan at the moment when its soul takes flight; see before you nothing but a monster, whose face I am glad you cannot perceive; though it is less horrible than his soul.. O octopus, with your silken look! whose soul is inseparable from mine; you most beautiful inhabitant of the terrestrial globe.. you in whom, linked indestructibly by a common accord, the sweet communicative virtue and the divine graces are nobly present, as if in their natural residence, why are you not with me, your mercury belly against my aluminium breast, both of us sitting on some sea-shore rock, to contemplate the spectacle I adore!"

Edward James' Las Pozas, which lacks some of Cheval's auteur handicraft because James cleaned out his trust fund having it built for him but is no doubt influenced by Cheval, features a labyrinth and other damnation mechanisms, sharing also with Cheval a serpent in the garden theme.   George Melly's documentary on James is uploadable:

..a later documentary called Builder of Dreams is also available on dvd for web rental, with less biographical detail, a bit more of a tour of Las Pozas, and different footage of Leonora Carrington.  In Xilitla, a long day's bus ride from the border, one can camp inside Las Pozas for about ten bucks in a shack with no power or plumbing, and El Castillo, the Neo-Arabic casa of Plutarco Gastelum, Las Pozas' builder, shown in the documentary, is open as a bed and breakfast, with a large Carrington relief in the breakfast room and this mural of hers in a nearby hall.  Since this paragraph has become Baedecker's, don't forget Les Labyrinths de Hauterives in Cheval's home town, trying to get people to stay for lunch:

..or Henri Michaux's holiday fun guide, written when France was governed from the Massif Central spa town Vichy, 223 km by car from Cheval's Palace:

Life, a labyrinth, death, a labyrinth
Labyrinth without end, says the Master of Ho.

Everything hammers down, nothing liberates.
The suicide is born again to the new suffering.

The prison opens on a prison
The corridor opens another corridor:

He who thinks he is unrolling the scroll of his life
Is unrolling nothing at all.

Nothing comes out anywhere
The centuries, too, live underground, says the Master of Ho.

* Cheval sells the idea of a trio rather than Mount Rushmore's quartet, so perhaps it's not necessary to carve out Loretta Lynn on my backyard relief next to Maya Lin, Jeremy Lin, and Tao Lin.

** Pascal was from the Massif-Central, prompting Jean-Louis Trintinant's Pascal rants in Rohmer's My Night at Maud's, set in Clermont-Ferrand, the provincial capital Alexandre Vialatte described as "a city of uncles. As recently as yesterday its cafes were full of uncles, its theater was a theater of uncles... The Auvergnat.. represents the very concept of avuncularity, the quintessential uncle untouched by contingencies, an uncle by predestination."

09 December 2012

My mother attended a Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) set with, so she recalls, a quintet, on a Sunday afternoon at a UPenn fraternity with about fifty students present. "That's the way Philadelphia was then."(now)

Later she was dating a cousin of Gerry Mulligan, who informed her that Gerry was a black sheep in the family and no one spoke to him. She induced him to take her to one of his shows and then to approach him. Twenty minutes later, Gerry was overjoyed, saying he hadn't been greeted warmly by a family member for years.

Then my Dad came calling and she got him to take her to see Nina Simone at a club, where he felt out of place and complained about the price of drinks. He didn't listen to music but liked it when I put on a Bing Crosby Christmas album once and enjoyed Lionel Hampton at Disneyworld. Breton (#nodads), de Chirico (#yesdads), and Michaux (#nosoonercouldItalkthanIsaidIwasafoundling) didn't like music either.  Michaux more directly and specifically stuck up for the printed word's presentaton of connotation than the once-Dada Breton, who was rumored to have liked Sun Ra (perhaps for his manifestoes). de Chirico (right, "A Child's Brain") was as usual strident and proud:

"I have always remained perplexed by these moments of public excitement over music and musicians, and also by the infinite patience with which so many individuals, apparently sane in mind and body, sit in concert halls and listen, for hours on end, motionless but visibly tired and bored, to symphonies and very long-drawn-out compositions which are never-ending and, what is even worse, pieces of modern music. I have wondered why the same thing isn't done for painting; why for example in a room, facing a public armed with binoculars and opera-glasses, pictures (naturally not modern ones) are not shown, and why the public is not forced to look at each picture for a time corresponding to the duration of a long symphony : that is, about sixty minutes. I do not believe that looking for an hour, with the eye of a painter and the mind of a philosopher, at a large and beautiful composition by Titian or Reubens, should be less interesting and more tedious than listening to a long symphony or a long concerto for the same period. Why is this not done?"

Titian, Venus and the Lute Player

Georgio's answer next week.

OK I'll write it in now, in case I forget: "I believe that the explanation of the difference can only lie in human stupidity which, as I have already said.. is as immense and infinite as the universe."

I've been known to sit in front of single paintings as long as I'm not making the staff uncomfortable, though I don't usually go for the "have it both ways" approach to Titian's and de Chirico's allegorical problem: the mp3 player, which seems rude to my sensibilities, especially in galleries (and in case Schjeldahl's there and I need to correct him) but one time Zwirner had construction sounds from outside and I cued up tunes for a Daniel Richter show and found it most delightful.  Speaking of long views and Daniel Richter, I once sat on the floor of the Zwirner cubicle at the Armory to hang with his "Ophelia" and the previous year stared at the very large "The Owner's History Lesson" for the longest time when it was hung in front of a cafe area and no one was looking at it... the only person who seemed to notice me was I believe the guy who, I read later, ran the Armory Show and he seemed to approve. Hard to pull yourself away from his large canvases when he's at his top form and content yourself with something else.