Archives for category: Contemporary Classical

 

“The tradition of all the dead generations
weighs like a nightmare”

The message of the death°s head also calls for a historical examination of the subject-object dialectic: the dead are not yet ready to receive you. Those who have died, the dead generations preceding you, do not want you yet. Through a death’s head, the dead declare they have no room for the subject and have nothing to say to the living except that the past is off-limits to them. The object is the effigy (the skull) of a totemic ancestor who rejects his descendants: the newcomer is not wanted. What lies behind the subject-object dialectic in the collection (and particularly in an antique shop where all objects are an appearance of the past) is a historical divide between the subject and the past.

Certainly the vision of “the entire known world” and of “the philosophical dunghill from which nothing was missing” is sure to induce a modicum of historical weariness in the subject. One does not stare at an overwhelmingly comprehensive “panorama of the past” without feeling the dead collectively weighing down on one’s puny presence at the end of history: “He felt smothered under the debris of fifty vanished centuries, sick with this surfeit of human thought, crushed under the weight of luxury and art, oppressed by these constantly recurring shapes which, like monsters springing up under his feet, engendered by some wicked genie, engaged him in endless combat”. This is not the utopian vision of a place where the whole of history stands at attention, but rather the awesome image of riotous legions of historical objects trampling over the living. In the museum, history condenses into a crushing authority. There the historical subject suffers the epigone`s fate. The historical stock is replete from the start (“nothing was missing”); I am left with no option but to wither away in the shadow of a fulfilled past.

Raphael groans under the weight of history. Nothing is left of the amicable handing-over of the past to the present once carried out under the aegis of tradition. The past, as it crystallizes in the museum, is an edict passed against the rights of the living: its motto, for Balzac, is that of epigonic modernity: “All is already said and we have come too late, for the last two thousand years of mankind.” The museum is a treasure trove under the authority of the dead, not the living. The latter must fight dearly for whatever breathing space they can wrest from history. In fact the past appears to be the actual place of the living (“constantly recurring forms”) pushing aside an ailing present (“sick”). The story of the Ass’s Skin squeezing life out of the hero is already implicit in the museums overpowering historical authority. The object crushes the latecomer with the weight of history:

The visitor… came to a fourth gallery, where his tired eyes were greeted by, in turn, a number of paintings by Poussin, a sublime statue by Michelangelo, several enchanting landscapes by Claude Lorrain, a Gerard Dow canvas which resembled a page of Sterne, Rembrandts…; then ancient bas-reliefs, goblets in agate, wonderful pieces of onyx! In short, works that would discourage anyone from working, so many masterpieces brought together as to wear down enthusiasm and make one hate the arts.

Clearly the museified work of art is not the comforting gift of the past handed down by avuncular tradition. The past is no longer a fount of wisdom and a repository of example. It is a poisoned well: everything shrivels in its shadow. In the museum, the subject is scrutinized by the evil eye of history and slowly wilts away. In that Sense, Balzac’s museum echoes the distant report of the historical clash of modern consciousness with the past- clash that, to some extent is handmaiden to modern consciousness. The Balzacian gallery is an image of how uprooted things must have been for Marx’s verdict, terrible in its implications, to be true. “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain Of the living.” Marx’s sentiment shows how far modern consciousness has drifted from the tradition based world where ancestors were an auspicious, benign presence. The past now hangs over the present like a censorial threat. For such a conflict to arise, a wedge must have driven itself between past and present. A walk through the museum does not bring one closer to the ancestors; instead it so estranges one from them that they appear hostile to one’s existence. Here, Balzac’s museum reads like the historically alienated consciousness of modernity itself.

In the museum, the subject encounters objects that serve as historical lessons. In being abstracted from its original background, the museified work of art in fact becomes more historical. On the one hand, the statue taken out of the temple may lose its symbiotic relation with its historical home. On the other, it acquires a mythical veneer of pastness once it is relocated to the historiographic sphere of the museum. It takes on an aura of absolute historicity. ln the same way that one’s nationality is highlighted when one is abroad, but is also reified into an abstraction, the object°s historicity comes to the fore in the museum but only as a precipitate of abstract pastness. Qnce removed from its historical context, the work`s historicity becomes a given. Indeed history becomes aura, something almost mythic Which takes on an absolute, overbearing character. The past is no longer something that grows old among the living, handed down by tradition; rather it is something remote and aloof, untouchable and hostile an angry father, Saturn devouring his children.

Balzac’s museum lays out the place of conflict between the domineering dead and the beleaguered living. Conflict is conceivable only in the two parties stand in mutual alienation. In order for the past to be inimical to the present, as it is to Raphael, it cannot appear to be integrated with the the present. Historical consciousness must have gone from an integrated, homogenous sense of historical continuity to a splintered state of separation. What used to flow into the present like a generative stream of age-tested wisdom (and likened historical knowledge to soothsaying) is now dammed up as something alien and threatening. The museum piece is a bit of historical consciousness that has cut itself off from its source in traditional time. It embodies the rootlessness of modern consciousness behind Raphael’s fight to the death with the collectibles-a fight that comes to a head in the Skin-stands alienated history. History is ready to become a science because it has become an object standing over against consciousness. The development of historiographic science in the nineteenth century can be conceived only in an age which, because it experiences itself in severance from tradition, can turn an objective eye on the past: to it the past is a thing, at once removed and alien. The museums philosophical paradox is the alienation of history in its very preservation: indeed that history is nothing but the product of estrangement, that is, of our inability to penetrate time.

Didier Maleuvre, “Museum Memories: History, Technology, Art” 1999

The video ‘For Teda’ was created by Neon Dance for A Moment of Eternal Noise with an original soundtrack by Ólafur Arnalds. The video is made from a combination of found and new footage. Neon Dance took “a piece of incomplete archive footage of a dancer, the author lost to time, and deconstructed/re-imagined 55 seconds of new content into an artistic statement that has not only been informed by the past but responds to a digital future.”

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“I sense a confusion of means. Not that I’m criticizing. It was a daring thing you did, a daring thrust. To use him. I can admire the attempt even as I see how totally dumb it was, although no dumber than wearing a charm or knocking wood. Six hundred million Hindus stay home from work if the signs are not favorable that morning. So I’m not singling you out.”

“The vast and terrible depth.”

“Of course,” he said.

“The inexhaustibility.”

“I understand.”

“The whole huge nameless thing.”

“Yes, absolutely. “

“The massive darkness.”

“Certainly, certainly.”

“The whole terrible endless hugeness.”

“I know exactly what you mean.”

He tapped the fender of a diagonally parked car, half smiling.

“Why have you failed, Jack?”

“A confusion of means.”

“Correct. There are numerous ways to get around death. You tried to employ two of them at once. You stood out on the one hand and tried to hide on the other. What is the name we give to this attempt?”

“Dumb.”

I followed him into the supermarket. Blasts of color, layers of oceanic sound. We walked under a bright banner announcing a raffle to raise money for some incurable disease. The wording seemed to indicate that the winner would get the disease. Murray likened the banner to a Tibetan prayer flag.

“Why have I had this fear so long, so consistently?”

“It’s obvious. You don’t know how to repress. We’re all aware there’s no escape from death. How do we deal with this crushing knowledge? We repress, we disguise, we bury, we exclude. Some people do it better than others, that’s all.”

“How can I improve?”

“You can’t. Some people just don’t have the unconscious tools to perform the necessary disguising operations.”

“How do we know repression exists if the tools are unconscious and the thing we’re repressing is so cleverly disguised?”

“Freud said so. Speaking of looming figures.”

He picked up a box of Handi-Wrap II, reading the display type, studying the colors. He smelled a packet of dehydrated soup. The data was strong today.

“Do you think I’m some how healthier because I don’t know how to repress? Is it possible that constant fear is the natural state of man and that by living close to my fear I am actually doing something heroic, Murray?”

“Do you feel heroic?”

“No.”

“Then you probably aren’t.”

“But isn’t repression unnatural?”

“Fear is unnatural. Lightning and thunder are unnatural. Pain, death, reality, these are all unatural We can’t bear these things as they are. We know too much. So we resort to repression, compromise and disguise. This is how we survive in the universe. This is the natural language of the species.”

I looked at him carefully.

“I exercise. I take care of my body.”

“No, you don’t,” he said.

He helped an old man read the date on a loaf of raisin bread. Children sailed by in silver carts.

“Tegrin, Denorex, Selsun Blue.”

Murray wrote something in his little book. I watched him step deftly around a dozen fallen eggs oozing yolky matter from a busted carton.

“Why do I feel so good when I’m with Wilder? It’s not like being with the other kids,” I said.

“You sense his total ego, his freedom from limits.”

“In what way is he free from limits?”

“He doesn’t know he’s going to die. He doesn’t know death at all. You cherish this simpleton blessing of his, this exemption from harm. You want to get close to him, touch him, look at him, breathe him in. How lucky he is. A cloud of unknowing, an omnipotent little person. The child is everything, the adult nothing. Think about it. A person’s entire life is the unraveling of this conflict. No wonder we’re bewildered, staggered, shattered.”

“Aren’t you going too far?”

“I’m from New York.”

“We create beautiful and lasting things, build vast civilizations.”

“Gorgeous evasions,” he said. “Great escapes.”

The doors parted photoelectronically. We went outside, walking past the dry cleaner, the hair stylist, the optician. Murray relighted his pipe, sucking impressively at the mouthpiece.

“We have talked about ways to get around death.” he said. “We have discussed how you’ve already tried two such ways, each cancelling the other. We have mentioned technology, train wrecks, belief in an afterlife. There are other methods as well and I would like to talk about one such approach.”

We crossed the street.

“I believe, Jack, there are two kinds of people in the world. Killers and diers. Most of us are diers. We don’t have the disposition, the rage or whatever it takes to be a killer. We let death happen. We lie down and die. But think what it’s like to be a killer. Think how exciting it is, in theory, to kill a person in direct confrontation. If he dies, you cannot. To kill him is to gain life-credit. The more people you kill, the more credit you store up. It explains any number of massacres, wars, executions.”

“Are you saying that men have tried throughout history to cure themselves of death by killing others?”

“It’s obvious.”

“And you call this exciting?”

“I’m talking theory. In theory, violence is a form of rebirth. The dier passively succumbs. The killer lives on. What a marvelous equation. As a marauding band amasses dead bodies, it gathers strength. Strength accumulates like a favor from the gods.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“This is theory. We’re a couple of academics taking a walk. But imagine the visceral jolt, seeing your opponent bleeding in the dust.”

“You think it adds to a person’s store of credit, like a bank transaction.”

“Nothingness is staring you in the face. Utter and permanent oblivion. You will cease to be. To be, Jack. The dier accepts this and dies. The killer, in theory, attempts to defeat his own death by killing others. He buys time, he buys life. Watch others squirm. See the blood trickle in the dust.”

I looked at him, amazed. He drew contentedly on his pipe, making hollow sounds.

“It’s a way of controlling death. A way of gaining the ultimate upper hand. Be the killer for a change. Let someone else be the dier. Let him replace you, theoretically, in that role. You can’t die if he does. He dies, you live. See how marvelously simple.”

“You say this is what people have been doing for centuries.”

“They’re still doing it. They do it on a small intimate scale, they do it-in groups and crowds and masses. Kill to live.”

“Sounds pretty awful.”

He seemed to shrug. “Slaughter is never random. The more people you kill, the more power you gain over your own death. There is a secret precision at work in the most savage and indiscriminate killings. To speak about this is not to do public relations for murder. We’re two academics in an intellectual environment. It’s our duty to examine currents of thought, investigate the meaning of human behavior. But think how exciting, to come out a winner in a deathly struggle, to watch the bastard bleed.”

“Plot a murder, you’re saying. But every plot is a murder in effect. To plot is to die, whether we know it or not.”

“To plot is to live,” he said.

I looked at him. I studied his face, his hands.

“We start our lives in chaos, in babble. As we surge up into the world, we try to devise a shape, a plan. There is dignity in this. Your whole life is a plot, a scheme, a diagram. It is a failed scheme but that’s not the point. To plot is to affirm life, to shape and control. Even after death, most particularly after death, the search continues. Burial rites are an attempt to complete the scheme, in ritual. Picture a state funeral, Jack. It is all precision, detail, order, design. The nation holds its breath. The efforts a huge and powerful government are brought to bear on a ceremony that will shed the last trace of chaos. If all goes well, if they bring it off, some natural law of perfection is obeyed. The nation itself is delivered from anxiety, the deceased’s life is redeemed, itself is strengthened, reaffirmed.”

“Are you sure?” I said.

“To plot, to take aim at something, to shape time and space. This is how we advance the art of human consciousness.”

We moved in a wide circle back toward campus. Streets in deep and soundless shade, garbage bags set out for collection. crossed the sunset overpass, pausing briefly to watch the cars shoot by. Sunlight bouncing off the glass and chrome.

“Are you a killer or a dier Jack?”

“You know the answer to that. I’ve been a dier all my life.”

“What can you do about it?”

“What can any dier do? Isn’t it implicit in his makeup that he can’t cross over?”

“Let’s think about that. Let’s examine the nature of the beast, so to speak. The male animal. Isn’t there a fund, a pool, a reservoir of potential violence in the male psyche?”

“In theory I suppose there is.”

“We’re talking theory. That’s exactly what we’re talking. Two friends on a tree-shaded street. What else but theory? Isn’t there a deep field, a sort of crude oil deposit that one might tap if and when the occasion warrants? A great dark lake of male rage.”

“That’s what Babette says. Homicidal rage. You sound like her.”

“Amazing lady. Is she right or wrong?”

“In theory? She’s probably right.”

“Isn’t there a sludgy region you’d rather not know about? A remnant of some prehistoric period when dinosaurs roamed the earth and men fought with flint tools? When to kill was to live?”

“Babette talks about male biology. Is it biology or geology?”

“Does it matter, Jack? We only want to know whether it is there, buried in the most prudent and unassuming soul.”

“I suppose so. It can be. It depends.”

“Is it or isn’t it there?”

“It’s there, Murray. So what?”

“I only want to hear you say it. That’s all. I only want to elicit truths you already possess, truths you’ve always known at some basic level.”

“Are you saying a dier can become a killer?”

“I’m only a visiting lecturer. I theorize, I take walks, I admire the trees and houses. I have my students, my rented room, my TV set. I pick out a word here, an image there. I admire the lawns, the porches. What a wonderful thing a porch is. How did I live a life without a porch to sit on, up till now? I speculate, I reflect, I take constant notes. I am here to think, to see. Let me warn you, Jack. I won’t let up.”

We passed my street and walked up the hill to the campus.

“Who’s your doctor?”

“Chakravarty,” I said.

“Is he good?”

“How would I know?”

“My shoulder separates. An old sexual injury.”

“I’m afraid to see him. I put the printout of my death in the bottom drawer of a dresser.”

“I know how you feel. But the tough part is yet to come. You’ve said good-bye to everyone but yourself. How does a person say good-bye to himself? It’s a juicy existential dilemma.”

“It certainly is.”

We walked past the administration building.

“I hate to be the one who says it, Jack, but there’s something that has to be said.”

“What?”

“Better you than me.”

I nodded gravely. “Why does this have to be said?”

“Because friends have to be brutally honest with each other. I’d feel terrible if I didn’t tell you what I was thinking, especially at a time like this.”

“I appreciate it, Murray. I really do.”

Don DeLilloWhite Noise,” 1985

Image – ‘Yuri Pavlovick Gidzenko,’ Test Cosmonaut of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Russian Federal Space Agency

Kaivue – Vladislav Delay : The Decline of Western Civilisation – Tru West : I0 – Klangwart : Twasidich Wurde – Kleefstra/Pruiksma/Kleefstra : King of Clubs – Apparet : Dream II – Leafcutter John : Adikia – Ekkehard – Ehlers : Visible Breath – Eyvind kang : Stadich Lit Ik Dy Kalder Wurde – Kleefstra/Pruiksma/Kleefstra : Stilleben 187-88 – Kaija Saariaho : Henki – Vladislav Delay : Farnsworth House – Efdemin : Sixteenth – Autistici : 91 Mins

 

The Crystal Land

Ice is the medium most alien to organic life, a considerable accumulation of it completely disrupts the normal course of processes in the biosphere.

P. A. Shumkii, Principles of Structural Glaciology

The first time I saw Don Judd’s ‘pink-plexiglass box,’ it suggested a giant crystal from another planet. After talking to Judd, I found out we had a mutual interest in geology and mineralogy, so we decided to go rock hunting in New Jersey. Out of this excursion came reflections, reconstituted as follows:

Near Paterson, Great Notch and Upper Montclair are the mineral-rich quarries of the First Watchung Mountain. Brian H.Mason, in his fascinating booklet, Trap Rock Minerals of New Jersey, speak of the “Triassic sedimentary rocks of the Newark series,” which are related to those of the Palisades. In these rocks one might find: “actinolite, albite, allanite, analcime, apatite, anhydrite, apophyllite, aurichalcite, axinite, azurite, babingtonite, bornite, barite, calcite, chabazite, chalcocite, chalcopyrite, chlorite, chrysocolla, copper, covellite, cuprite, datolite, dolomite, epidote, galena, glauberite, goethite, gmelinite, greenockite, gypsum, hematite, heulandite, hornblende, laumontite, malachite, mesolite, natrolite, opal, orpiment, orthoclase, pectolite, prehnite, pumpellyite, pyrite, pyrolusite, quartz, scolecite, siderite, silver, sphalerite, sphene, stevensite, stilbite, stilpnomelane, talc, thaumasite, thomsonite, tourmaline, ulexite.”

Together with my wife Nancy, and Judd’s wife, Julie, we set out to explore that geological locale. Upper Montclair quarry, “also known as Osborne and Marsellis quarry or McDowell’s quarry,” is situated on Edgecliff Road, Upper Montclair, and was worked from about 1890 to 1918. A lump of lava in the center of the quarry yields tiny quartz crystals. For about an hour don and I chopped incessantly at the lump with hammer and chisel, while Nancy and Julie wandered aimlessly around the quarry picking up sticks, leaves and odd stones. From the top of the quarry cliffs, one could see the New Jersey suburbs bordered by the New York City skyline.

The terrain is flat and loaded with ‘middle income’ housing developments with names like Royal Garden Estates, Rolling Knolls Farm, Valley View Acres, Split-level Manor, Babbling Brook Ranch-Estates, Colonial Vista Homes-on and on they go, forming tiny boxlike arrangements. Most of the houses are painted white, but many are painted petal pink, frosted mint, buttercup, fudge, rose beige, antique green, Cape Cod brown, lilac, and so on. The highways crisscross through the towns and become man-made geological networks of concrete. In fact, the entire landscape has a mineral presence. From the shiny chrome diners to glass windows of shopping centers, a sense of the crystalline prevails.

When we finished at the quarry, we went to Bond’s Ice Cream Bar and had some AWFUL AWFULS- “awful big – and awful good… it’s the drink you eat with a spoon.” We talked about the little crystal cavities we had found, and looked at The Field Book of Common Rocks and Minerals by Frederic Brewster Loomis, I noticed ice is a crystal: “Ice, H2O, water, specific gravity-.92, colorless to white, luster adamantine, transparent on thin edges. Beneath the surface hexagonal crystals grow downward into the water, parallel to each other, making a fibrous structure, which is very apparent when ice is’rotten’….”

After that we walked to the car through the charming Tudoroid town of Upper Montclair, and headed for the Great Notch Quarry. I turned on the car radio: “…count down survey…chew your little troubles away… high ho-hey hey…..”

My eyes glanced the over the dashboard, it became a complex of chrome fixed into an embankment of steel. A glass disk covered the clock. The speedometer was broken. Cigarette butts were packed into the ashtray. Faint reflections slid over the windshield. Out of sight in the glove compartment was a silver flashlight and an Esso map of Vermont. Under the radio dial (55-7-9-11-14-16) was a row of five plastic buttons in the shape of cantilevered cubes. The rearview mirror dislocated the road behind us. While listening to the radio, some of us read the Sunday newspapers. The pages made slight noises as they turned: each sheet folded over the laps forming temporary geographies of paper. A rally of print or a ridge of photographs would come and go in an instant.

We arrived at the Great Notch Quarry, which is situated “about three hundred yards south west of the Great Notch station of the Erie Rail road.” The quarry resembled the moon. A gray factory in the midst of it all, looked like architecture designed by Robert Morris. A big sign on one building said, THIS IS A HARD HAT AREA. We started climbing over the files and ran into a ‘rockhound’, who came on, I thought, like Mr Wizard, and who gave us all kinds of rock-hound-type information in an authoritative manner. We got a rundown on all the quarries that were closed to the public, as well as those that were open.

The walls of the quarry did look dangerous. Cracked, broken, shattered; the walls threatened to come crashing down. Fragmentation, corrosion, decomposition, disintegration, rock creep debris, slides, mud flow, avalanche were everywhere in evidence. The gray sky seemed to swallow up the heaps around us. Fractures and faults spilled forth sediment, crushed conglomerates, eroded debris and sandstone. It was an arid region, bleached and dry. An infinity of surfaces spread in every direction. A chaos of cracks surrounded us.

On the top of a promontory there stood motionless rock drills against the blank which was the sky. High-tension towers transported electric cable over the quarry. Dismantled parts of steam-shovels, tread machines and trucks were lined up in random groups. Such objects interrupted the depositions of waste that formed the general condition of the place. What vegetation there was seemed partially demolished. Newly made boulders eclipsed parts of a wire and pipe fence. Railroad tracks passed by the quarry, the ties formed a redundant sequence of modules, while the steel tracks projected the modules into an imperfect vanishing point.

On the way back to Manhattan, we drove through the Jersey Meadows, or more accurately the Jersey Swamps-a good location for a movie about life on mars. It even has a network of canals that are chocked by acres of tall reeds. Radio towers are scattered throughout these bleak place. Drive-inns, motels and gas stations exist along the highway, and behind them are smoldering garbage dumps. South, toward Newark and Bayonne, the smoke stacks of heavy industry add to the general air pollution.

As we drove throughout the Lincoln Tunnel, we talked about going on another trip, to Franklin Furnace; there one might find minerals that glow under ultra violet light or ‘black light’. The countless cream colored square tiles on the walls of the tunnel sped by, until a sigh announcing New York broke the tiles’ order.

Robert Smithson,The Writings of Robert Smithson,” edited by Nancy Holt, 1979

Attica Frederic Rzewki : Low Speed – Otto Luening overlaid by Cricket Music – Walter De Maria overlaid by The Mathmatics of Resonant Bodies – John Luther Adams overlaid by Lifespan: IV. In the Summer Terry Riley : Glass: Tissues (From Naqoyqatsi) For Cello, Percussion & Piano – Tissue #2 – Wendy Sutter/Philip Glass : Coming Together – Frederic Rzewski : Liquid Strata 3rd Movement – Morton Subotnick : Pastoral for Clarinet and PianoElliot Carter : Aract Graham Fitkin : The Fifth PlagueLaurie Anderson – 78 Mins

Image – ‘This alchemical wheel with a crank is supposed to have been the mark of the Danzig monk Koffskhi. Like Dee’s Monas Hieroglyph it is assembled from the seven metals, on the basis of an inverted glyph of Mercury: “For quicksilver is a mother of all metals, and the Sun (…) it is also Sulphur.” Father Vincentius Koffiskhi, Hermetische Schriften (1478), Nuremberg edition, 1786, “Alchemy & Mysticism,” Alexander Roob

Elements of this post were inspired by Smithson’s text which was selected by the artist Douglas Park. Douglas chose it based on the last word in the title. He then gave Dick Evans the last paragraph and he created the music selection, after that the image was chosen.

 

Entering that gable-ended Spouter-Inn, you found yourself in a wide, low, straggling entry with old-fashioned wainscots, reminding one of the bulwarks of some condemned old craft. On one side hung a very large oil painting so thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced, that in the unequal crosslights by which you viewed it, it was only by diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its purpose. Such unaccountable masses of shades and shadows, that at first you almost thought some ambitious young artist, in the time of the New England hags, had endeavored to delineate chaos bewitched. But by dint of much and earnest contemplation, and oft repeated ponderings, and especially by throwing open the little window towards the back of the entry, you at last come to the conclusion that such an idea, however wild, might not be altogether unwarranted.

But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous, black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture over three blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in a nameless yeast. A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting meant. Ever and anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through.- It’s the Black Sea in a midnight gale.- It’s the unnatural combat of the four primal elements.- It’s a blasted heath.- It’s a Hyperborean winter scene.- It’s the breaking-up of the icebound stream of Time. But last all these fancies yielded to that one portentous something in the picture’s midst. That once found out, and all the rest were plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish? even the great leviathan himself?

In fact, the artist’s design seemed this: a final theory of my own, partly based upon the aggregated opinions of many aged persons with whom I conversed upon the subject. The picture represents a Cape-Horner in a great hurricane; the half-foundered ship weltering there with its three dismantled masts alone visible; and an exasperated whale, purposing to spring clean over the craft, is in the enormous act of impaling himself upon the three mast-heads.

The opposite wall of this entry was hung all over with a heathenish array of monstrous clubs and spears. Some were thickly set with glittering teeth resembling ivory saws; others were tufted with knots of human hair; and one was sickle-shaped, with a vast handle sweeping round like the segment made in the new-mown grass by a long-armed mower. You shuddered as you gazed, and wondered what monstrous cannibal and savage could ever have gone a death-harvesting with such a hacking, horrifying implement. Mixed with these were rusty old whaling lances and harpoons all broken and deformed. Some were storied weapons. With this once long lance, now wildly elbowed, fifty years ago did Nathan Swain kill fifteen whales between a sunrise and a sunset. And that harpoon- so like a corkscrew now- was flung in Javan seas, and run away with by a whale, years afterwards slain off the Cape of Blanco. The original iron entered nigh the tail, and, like a restless needle sojourning in the body of a man, travelled full forty feet, and at last was found imbedded in the hump.

Crossing this dusky entry, and on through yon low-arched way- cut through what in old times must have been a great central chimney with fireplaces all round- you enter the public room. A still duskier place is this, with such low ponderous beams above, and such old wrinkled planks beneath, that you would almost fancy you trod some old craft’s cockpits, especially of such a howling night, when this corner-anchored old ark rocked so furiously. On one side stood a long, low, shelf-like table covered with cracked glass cases, filled with dusty rarities gathered from this wide world’s remotest nooks. Projecting from the further angle of the room stands a dark-looking den- the bar- a rude attempt at a right whale’s head. Be that how it may, there stands the vast arched bone of the whale’s jaw, so wide, a coach might almost drive beneath it. Within are shabby shelves, ranged round with old decanters, bottles, flasks; and in those jaws of swift destruction, like another cursed Jonah (by which name indeed they called him), bustles a little withered old man, who, for their money, dearly sells the sailors deliriums and death.

Herman Melville, “Moby-Dick,” 1851

Arctic Beluga Whales : Ma belle dame souveraine – John Potter and Ambrose Field : Almost A Kiss – Throbbing Gristle : Saigon Pickup – John Zorn : Freight Elevator : Hortz Fur Dehn Stekehn West – Magma : Struktur XII – Karlheinz Stockhausen : Bridge To The Beyond – John Zorn : Mi Basta Chiudere Gil Occhi E – Nino Rota : Un grand sommeil noir – Edgar Varèse : The Jeweller – This Mortal Coil : The Vistitations – White Noise : Northern Winds : Le Petit Chevalier – Nico : (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons – The Righteous Brothers – 61 mins

Image – ‘Looking south upon hut point and vince cross, Antarctica,’ National Geographic Magazine, March 1924

 

In the dream I found myself in a magnificent Italian loggia with pillars, a marble floor, and a marble balustrade. I was sitting on a gold Renaissance chair; in front of me was a table of rare beauty. It was made of green stone, like emerald. There I sat looking out into the distance, for the loggia was set high up on the tower of my castle. My children were sitting at the table too.

Suddenly a white bird descended, a small sea-gull or a dove. Gracefully, it came to rest on the table, and I signed to the children to be still so that they would not frighten away the pretty white bird. Immediately the dove was transformed into a little girl, about eight years of age, with golden blonde hair. She ran off with the children and played with them among the colonnades of the castle.

I remained lost in thought, musing about what had I had just experienced. The little girl returned and tenderly placed her arms around my neck. Then she suddenly vanished; the dove was back and spoke slowly in a human voice.

“Only in the first hours of the night can I transform myself into a human being, while the male dove is busy with the twelve dead.” Then she flew off in the blue air, and I awoke.

C.G.Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” 1961

Whiteboard intro : Dead Horse Alive With Flies – Harold Budd : Balthus Bemused By Color – Harold Budd : Heresy III – Lustmord : Mementos – Ernie : IBM 729 II (Magnetic Tape Unit) – Jóhann Jóhannsson : Avenue of Shapes – Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd : Folding paper bridge : Vir›ulegu Forsetar, Part 3 – Jóhann Jóhannsson : Be Good To Them Always – The Books : Vladmir’s Blues – Max Richter : Organum – Max Richter : Automatic Writing – Robert Ashley – 60 Mins

Image – Pl. 260 Stone sundial in the form of a polyhedron. W.28 cm. Historiscehs Museum Basel