Anodyne
Saturday, October 25, 2008
 
All in time will be
Later on we'll try
Hollow peaks we've climbed
All these things I've seen
How it feels to be something on

That's how the days go
If I break down all that I am
A field of wires. . . .

Late afternoon in a Vancouver suburb. White sky. You can't see me in the photograph, because I'm parked behind the viewfinder, that unfamiliar mechanism, loading sheet film into a borrowed camera, while "classic" rock incessantly blares from the open back door of the tire shop across the alley. Cold wind, a few leaves sifting down across the grass. The flawless black liquid-crystal numbers on the equally unfamiliar light meter's face. An occasional car.

What am I doing, exactly? Making a portrait, but of what I'm not sure. "Beyond the symbolism associated with the oak, tree of justice and peace, a majestic tree with solid roots and a powerful trunk, the title indicated by Courbet in the exhibition booklet signified the opposition of Alaise to Alise-Sainte-Reine, or Vercingetorix to Caesar, of individual courage to centralizing power, of Courbet to Napoleon III." (Dominique De Font-Reaulx on Courbet's The Oak at Flagey (The Oak of Vercingetorix)).

Q: So it's a piss-take?

A: Hardly. I took the best example I knew, the plainest recognition of the world I inhabit, and applied that plain seeing -- faithful, unironized representation of what is there -- to a minor element of a composition whose production techniques are utterly beyond me. Irony doesn't work too well in art, at least in my experience.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
 

Christopher Brayshaw, Study For War Game Tree, 2008


Jeff Wall, War Game, 2007


Gustave Courbet, The Oak at Flagey (The Oak of Vercingetorix), 1864

"Manet was a trenchant social commentator, Courbet a revolutionary. Mr. Haacke next wants to look at a Courbet in the following room, Oak Tree in Flagey, Called the Oak of Vercingetorix. Again, the politics behind the image intrigue him. In Courbet's day, the people of Burgundy and of the artist's native Franche-Comte region were in heated dispute over the site of Alesia, the ancient capital of Gallic resistance to Julius Caesar. Particularly in the 1860s, when Napoleon III ruled France, Alesia became a symbol of anti-imperialism. The giant oak, Courbet said, represented the Alesian site in Franche-Comte where Vercingetorix, the Gallic general, battled the Romans. The oak was a kind of surrogate portrait of the general by Courbet. It was also, maybe, a reference to the trees planted during the French Revolution as emblems of liberty.

'The tree is very strong,' Mr. Haacke says. 'The whole thing's painted with a palette knife, so there is a thick texture to the pigment. No trompe l'oeil.' It reminds him of Brecht: 'Brecht wanted his actors to present themselves to the audience as actors, in contrast to pretending that they are the people they portray.'"
 

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Paterson Ewen, Full Circle Flag Effect, 1974
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
 










Dru, his partner Eryne, and my dad Jim (age 71) went hiking in Garibaldi Park last week, on one of the last really good days of fall. Nb. dad's classic old-school look (faded bluejeans, running shoes, ball cap) and the park inhabitants who showed up -- OH HAI! -- to bum handouts or to simply pose down. All photos courtesy Dru and Eyrne.
Monday, October 20, 2008
 
Wet grey quiet morning, red and yellow mixed with green in the gutter leaves. Cool blue western sky, the last traces of last night's storm rolled up like a folding convertible roof. Warm in my long brown winter coat, the comfortable one with the turned-up corduroy-lined collar and the worn brass buttons. Sunlight and shadow on wet black pavement, on the VPD cruisers and yellow crime tape strung around the targeted shooting/traffic fatality just east of Kingsgate Mall.

"The everyday." John Latta:

The

Mind brushes off
What it cannot
Hold, nor hold

Itself against, rebuffs
Opacity and indigence
And hatred alike. . . .

Neaera's quick intelligence works like lightning; she gestures with her hands and shining eyes. It continuously surprises me how fast she names her feelings. Most of the time I don't really know what I'm feeling, or am only really conscious of feeling after-the-fact. "I've been thinking..." The world apprehended as a blizzard of discrete details. Schizophrenia: faces leering from trees and boxes and highway dividers. "Ghosts." No background, everything (even "fallen" or '"abject" things) stridently insisting on its own distinctive presence. Lookit me!

"Sometimes I think that this whole thing, this whole business of a world that keeps waking itself up and bothering to go on every day, is necessary only as a manifestation of the intolerable. The intolerable is like H.G. Wells's invisible man, it has to put on clothes in order to be seen. So it dresses itself up in a world. Possibly it looks in a mirror but my imagination doesn't go that far." (Russell Hoban's William G.).

L. and I go walking. L. talks fast into her mobile, squares her shoulders, effortlessly steps into her public persona, the one that parses and constructs narratives for a living. Her loud clipped diction expresses nothing but certainty and confidence, qualities I guess I possess too, but only after-the-fact. I don't know what I'm thinking at any given moment, or what debris might inexplicably bob up from the "drowning machine"'s turbulent recirculation. An inner tube, a smashed kayak, sticks and leaves, a waterlogged canoeist's corpse. But the water's surface looks deceptively calm.

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