Since each of us was several, there was quite a crowd. Here we have made use of everything that came within range, what was closest as well as fartherest away. (Deleuze & Guattari, in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus, 3)

Monday, October 12, 2009

New York, New York

I am writing this in New York, it's just before 6am--the trials of jet lag, we awoke around 4am. Our first morning we took a cab to see an exhibition by Farida Bartool, 'Maa Tuje Salaam' (Hail To Mother) at the Aícon Gallery . The connection: she was doing a masters at CoFA the same time I was and we got talking on the first day--our topics were seemingly unrelated but there were already a number of other connections: I had lived in Pakistan (where Farida is from) as a child but even apart from that there was always lots to discuss. After finishing her masters, she returned to Lahore, married, gave birth to a son and continued working and we have kept in contact. She is now in London studying for a PhD (another topic we discussed regularly), and when she sent a notice of this, her first exhibition in NY I found the last day of the exhibition would be our first day here.
Why do I feel all this is a topic for this blog? I think it has to do with connections of disparate and similar people and places (D & G's rhizome), across time and shared experience. Her message is quite overtly political but carries the personal and private anxiety of a mother (her son's image appears in a number of the works overlaid with confronting images of the military and, in another work, of surveillance). She uses the photographic process of 'leticular' prints (I need to check I have the correct term) which has the effect of making the images shift from one to another and while I am not convinced with the aesthetic result I think I am beginning to understand ('see') that it is appropriate to her message.
Images: (1) from the exhibition (2) a mirror encountered in a restaurant where we stopped for lunch (--a hamburger, it is NYC!)

Thursday, October 8, 2009


There is an echo in my head. I dare not call mine 'art', or any such thing. And yet there is all of me in it. 'Re-enactment' can be 'performance', as giving voice.
There are threads of connection here, I know and admire this artist's work and puzzle the responses she gives to the poet's questions as to her inspiration. She is an artist who gives voice (and form) to those who lived their lives in places such as (and including) Callan Park.
There is more for me to work on here.
The poet is artist too, her work taps felt experience and if she is but 're-enacting' it, it is with courage which tears away the other's cloak of invisibility.
I thank her for it.

A Poem

A poem sent to me by a friend this morning (I have her permission to post it here):


After the gallery talk
I approached and asked
if her life inspired her art
(it seemed important at the time).
but she said 'no',
she liked it to be 'cold'
and not a 're-enactment'.

Hers is a noble art,
she gives voices to the silenced
gleaned from archives and research,
unlike mine which I now see
has broken a taboo.
To bridge aesthetic distance
is verboten
and I have crossed a line.

Work made to save one's life
enters into territory
too discomforting and difficult,
too vunerable and fragile,
too self-revealing
to call Art.

VK 19.2.09
Today is not a day for blogs, this morning I have attempted to post two poems (a friends and my own plus one written at the time and I thought now lost:

I have a voice
A cry
lost in
deep space.

Or not.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On Balance

Last night at yoga we spent the session concentrating on balance and, as I was having particular difficulties maintaining my balance, I thought there must be a message in it for I started with the quilt and the concept of 'balance' in aesthetics and design. All three of the quiltmakers I am interested in have a particular way of approaching 'balance' (to which I add, in my opinion to all points, of course!):

  • as an architect, Emma Rowden would bring a very special set of precepts (whether conscious or not), her training and tendency would be a 'balance in terms of the spacial arrangement' the units or blocks making up the quilt surface (I need to remember this point when exploring 'space' further)
  • Judy McDermott was a potter before a quiltmaker and her surfaces bear the mark of her experience in moulding pots. Many of her quilts are large and weighty--I had a personal experience of this when hanging her exhibition, there was no way many of the larger quilts could be hung single-handed! J was cognisant of the theory but would often challenge it intentionally with the result that the viewer would be put 'off' balance, a potentially unsettling experience
  • Pamela Fitzsimons has a strong commitment to aesthetics and design in a work, whether it be hers or someone else's. Her works are evidence of this and very beautiful (and satisfying) to look at i.e. balanced in a visual sense

Then there are considerations of balance in the narrative sense:

  • by definition a quilt is one-sided, some makers use both sides, as in both points of view. Em and Judy utilise both sides (I make this statement and start to think of one does!)
  • can terms such as 'narrative arch' be applied to quilts, I need to think more about this, particularly in terms of my examples
  • does 'binding' add balance (resolution)? This is where quilts confront notions of 'smooth' space which is un-bounded

There are the linguistic uses of 'balance', for example:

  • if I am 'unbalanced' I am unstable, off my head. with relevance in terms of one quilt's connection with the site of a mental hospital and potentially another series with a gaol...I am getting ahead of myself in this blog as I realise I still have to set out the parameters of my use the vernacular and say someone is off their block...
  • does justice aim to be 'balanced' i.e. fair...allow both sides of the argument to be heard?

Now I am looking up the various definitions of 'balance' in the OED (there are lots!)

  • apparatus for = an object, let's use a quilt as the central pivot
  • counteracting force
  • regulating device
  • harmony and proportion (ref, art as above)
  • in the... in dispute, uncertain
  • strike a ... moderate course, between anecdote and theory perhaps

Images: Judy McDermott, 'Love Will Nail You To The Cross' 1995-7 (200 x 140 cm); Pamela Fitzsimons, installation shot (details to come)