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)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Smooth Thought

I have walked the track we call the 'undercliff' in the early evening of each of the past two days--something I haven't done since the hot and humid weather began. It's changed, more open to the sky than I remember and the sandstone cliffs that rise steeply above the path are covered with ferns; a result of all the rain we've been having, I tell myself. There is no one else around, only the sounds of vehicles in the valley below tell me I'm not that alone.

Thoughts creep into consciousness, lead one from another, with no discernable links between them, branch off in all directions and move in and out of my mind as I walk along the almost but no longer quite so familiar track. As I near the end of the path, I ask myself a question: could these diverse and seemingly unconnected thoughts, linked only in time by my process of walking along a certain track, be an example of 'smooth thought' in terms of D&G's concept of 'smooth space': rhizomal in structure, networked, relational and transverse (The Deleuze Dictionary, Adrian Parr, 231)?

It is the void which has been occupying my thinking mind recently. Is it a space or an example of non-space? Surely a 'void' is more than 'emptiness'? I can find no reference to it (so far) in 1,000 Plateaus. I could look in Freud and Lacan but they are not the focus of this project. D&G have freed me from considering an object (the quilt in particular) as a 'symptom'. It's a major insight for me, as I had considered such an analysis (in terms of a pathology) to be a personal failing which, now giving it more thought, probably was--after all it was I who had chosen Freud in the first place.

Let me try to explain where I've got to by mapping my thoughts as I walked along (some of the links have been added later):

Thread One: Anish Kapoor: his work in the AGNSW Void Field (1980)--large pieces of stone, the top surface cut flat the sides irregular, I had at fist walked past them but the dark holes in the top of each block drew me back. Deep, dark, I am tempted to put my fingers into one but strangely fearful of what might happen. "I want to try to make things that remain secret" AK said in an interview in the TATE magazine, but it's more than that.

Link: A memory of the maze beneath the castle in Bratislava, the entrance to a part of which warned only those of a strong constitution should enter here and, despite my intrepidation, my husband and son persuaded me to go in with them. My right hand holding onto a rope attached to the wall, my left hand holding on to my son's belt as he walked in front of me and my husband behind, the three of us moved into the complete darkness. I still attempt to understand my sensation of dis-embodiment, in darkness I became mind-only and completely in-the-present.

"Kapoor's objects take on and disrupt the orderly space of galleries" (John Tusa) and I agree--as I had almost disregarded the collection of stone blocks but luckily for me, I took another look. But again, it's more than that. There is a push--pull happening here, I am caught been fascination and fear.

Thread Two: Hossein Valamanesh Middle Path (2008) from his series, No Love Lost: a scroll, the word 'love' written repetitively in Farsi in saffron ink across its surface, in one area the writing fades until it is almost invisible, then reemerges. I find this work extraordinarily beautiful--the yellow text, only a section of the scroll visible the either end remains hidden, the graceful curving lines of script. Meditative, it calms the mind.

Link: I realise Valamanesh's work was in the same room as Void Field although I had spent time with each during different visits.

Thread Three: an exhibition of Wolfgang Laib's work at AGNSW (I now realise this is the site linking all three threads of thought) in 2005. The colour yellow, but pollen not saffron.

A sense of the sacred runs through these three but I am still not there, or am I? Not yet.
Image: my photograph of a section of an ice sculpture, Sahoro, Hokkaido January 2110


  1. Dear Sarah,
    Have a look online at the London Royal Academy of Art's recent
    retrospective of Anish Kapoor's work:
    (bottom left to view images).
    His saffron-yellow fibreglass and pigment piece resonates with your reference to what tied the three exhibitions in your thoughts together, ie. colour. When I saw the virtual image I immediately thought he had done an homage to James Turrell who works with light and space, and the fullness of emptiness. Do you remember Turrell's work at the exhibition 'Space Odyssey: Sensation and Immersion' at the AGNSW in 2001? At the back of a very large dark room he created an enormous wall of atmospheric light/space that was so compelling I felt I could walk into it. That piece was instrumental in pushing me beyond painting on canvas into sculpture.
    Seeing Glenn's comment on 'How can I keep my thoughts together (17 Dec): 'the disparate pieces that come together to create a new reality', I thought again about the ABC Radio National 'New Dimensions' interview on 22 January with poet/environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams that so moved me. Too soon (usually two weeks after broadcasting) they will delete the link to listen online so please try to find an hour to listen. Her poignant reflections on mosaics in her new book 'Finding Beauty in a Broken World' can be interchanged with quilts, and patchwork pieces as tesserae:
    and go to 22 December.

  2. I remember the AGNSW exhibition (Space Odyssey) well and thought I had a catalogue and have been searching for it (no luck so far) as I think the exhibition as a whole is connected to what I am attempting to get at there.
    I saw an exhibition at the Guggenheim NY in 2004 which contained some of these works and at least I have found that catalogue.
    THank you for the comment!

  3. The Anish Kapoor work v refers to in the first comment is: 'Yellow' (1999) fibreglass and pigment 6 x 6 x 3 m. There's an image of it on the Royal Academy website mentioned.
    I am grateful for the connection!