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)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sifting & Sorting

I feel the writing of a new post is way over-due and it's not because my interest in the project is in any way dimmed. Quite the opposite, I seem to have passed the initial stage--where all is new and anything is possible--to one where I am continually sifting and sorting through ideas and definitions and finding myself as lost as ever.

Continuing on from my thoughts on the void ('Smooth Thought'), I find myself looking for possibilities to explore it further. That in itself maybe a problem, am I attempting the impossible (as in searching for definitions of Deleuzian concepts, which are impossibly 'unfixed' as they are continually in a process of 'be-coming'!)--how do you explore 'nothing'? A problem of perspective, perhaps.

Take everything out of the universe and what you have left is 'vaccum'. But even in a vacuum there is something--'dark energy' (a term from astronomy I heard in an interview on ABC Radio National between Richard Fidler and Tamara Davis on the expanding universe). It seems the definition of space is  a  problem even in science. Newtonian space is external and fixed whereas for Einstein, it is mutable and bendy--space time and matter are interconnected and inter-defined.  But can space exist if there is nothing inside it? Even the astronomer can't answer. Geometry may remove the concept of 'time' from 'space'  but now space and time are linked together and considered as one 'big block' we move through; interestingly Tamara Davis spoke of it as "the fabric of space time".

Perhaps here is my problem, the words themselves are beguiling but the concepts are mind-bending (I asked a mathematician recently how she would define the void mathematically, her reply: I don't go there).

There  are a number of models of space-time, different kinds of space (and time) with different properties, all acceptable in one sense or another and so, no easy answer. To deal with this I return to a concept of space that I used in a previous project. One more relevant to this project. And thus find a way which holds onto the idea of what is a continuing process of change (temporality) that underlies this project.without rejecting the possibilities offered by the other models. Add to this the possibility of coincidence, the chance encounter and I think I am entering into the realm the 'performance'.

Meditation Square #5 (2010) detail

In The Practise of Everyday Life, French philosopher Michel de Certeau proposed an operation of language in relation to place and space, proposing 'place' to be an ordering system, akin to language and, 'space' to be a practised place with characteristics of speech and the spoken word. Hence space is unpredictable, transient and ambiguous, continually in a process of formation and never resolved.

1. This morning, while looking for another book, I came across the catalog for Space Odysseys an exhibition at the AGNSW in 2001. A friend had reminded me of it when commenting on my posting, 'Smooth Thought' but I have been unable to find the catalog until now.
Opening the catalog, Afraid? is written on the first page followed by, Don't try to understand and then, Just Believe (from Jean Cocteau's 1950 film Orphee). Good advice!

2. On a recent visit to Brisbane and the Asia Pacific Triennial (APT6) I came across a work by Charwei Tsi Mushroom Mantra--the Heart Sutra inscribed on living and slowly decaying fungi. As I was seeing this work three months after it had been installed, the mushrooms were shriveled but the calligraphy still visible. Both installation and a performance.

3. The book I was looking for (and found) this morning is about the work of performance artist, Barbara Campbell, Flesh Willow. Campbell stitched the text used to implicate the Mary Queen of Scots in her second husband's murder onto 60m of ribbon, then made it into a skirt. In her performance, Cries from Tower (1992) Campbell slowly unwound the shirt while wearing it standing high above the audience. (I saw a video recording of the performance in 2001.)
In the introductory essay to Flesh Willow , Sarah Miller comments: "...Campbell's work is never about excess. She assembles precisely what is necessary...Performance is ephemeral, and despite its documentary or material traces, chooses to inhabit the space of memory and personal engagement".

And this is what I hope to achieve!

Space Odysseys Art Gallery of NSW 2001
Flesh Willows Power Publications University of Sydney 2006

Image top: Wolf Quilt 2009

Note: Sue Pritchard in her essay 'Creativity and confinement' (Quilts 1700-2010) mentions Mary Queen of Scots 19-year imprisonment and her embroidery which makes a connection between Barbara Campbell's performance mentioned in this post and the link I make with Judy McDermott's work in my posting, quilts and prisons, in my associated blog, 'The Big House'.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Let The Beauty

A friend sent me the following poem, a line from which she took as the title for her forthcoming solo exhibition (the details of which I will include at the end of this posting by way of acknowledgement):

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
Don't open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down the musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


I am hesitant to attempt to write another word that might risk the 'rightness' of such a poem yet I am reminded, once again, of how works by Hossein Valamanesh draw me to them in a similar way (and then discover such a connection already exists*).

For me it is the needle and thread that are my 'musical instrument', the act of stitching a form of meditation which stills the world. Words are more difficult, become fraught with uncertainty but perhaps with practice, they will come too.

Details of the exhibition: Let The Beauty We Love Be What We Do
*For a video in which Hossein Valamanesh discusses mentions the influence of Rumi on his work

Image: Detail of 'Mandala Cushion' (2009) antique Japanese sillk from the Philosopher's Path, Kyoto, hand stitched for a friend.