While on leave from my program at the University of Toronto, I’m taking a course at the Node Center called the International Curator Program. Enjoying it very much. The first assignment in our first module (Key Moments in the History of Curating):
Choose an exhibition from your country (either birth or residence) that you consider expresses the notion of curator-as-author in the spirit of Szeemann.
Harald Szeemann’s Live in Your Head (1969) and Documenta 5 (1972) have come to exemplify curation as authorship. That’s when a curator treats their exhibition as a composite language of things and words and images in which to express a sensibility or chase an argument. To think about the curator as author, I chose three authors who’ve curated – specifically, a show at MOCA Toronto that moved and provoked me when I happened on it.
Age of You Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Toronto September 5, 2019 – January 5, 2020
1. The concept
Age of You, curated by Douglas Coupland, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Shumon Basar, was a didactic exhibition, developing an argument about the fate of the self in the age of social media. The self has been made “extreme,” they proposed, by the connectivity and instantaneity of our new media environment, and this deracinated self only feels real when packaging itself for consumption by a crowd.
Whatever delight the curators might have felt at this astonishingly creative media moment was eclipsed by their sense that it’s controlled out of view by forces bent on quantifying our every experience and harvesting the data generated for profit. “Guess what this century’s most valuable resource is,” they ask. “It’s you – and all of your online behaviours, enriched data sets and millions of meta-data points.”
In this process, a large part of you is extracted from you, and now exists everywhere and nowhere, independently of your five senses. Are you really built for so much change so quickly? And what if individuality is in fact morphing into something else?
I assented to the exhibition’s thesis. I was impressed by how deftly it used works of art to advance an argument about culture. And I was disquieted by the submission of individual works to an overriding curatorial vision. The show was a translation into museum language of the curators’ forthcoming book, The Extreme Self, which I’m keen to read – and doubt I’ll have the same issues with. Am I more forgiving of top-down control when I see it in a book than when I meet it in an museum? Why?
2. The curator as author
The exhibition was maybe the most bookish I’ve ever seen. It consisted mostly of text and images interspersed on rectangular panels. Black text on white ground evoked printed pages – pages large enough to warrant the regard you usually give a painting. Hung from the ceiling to create ad hoc walls, the panels suggested a book that had exploded into architecture. Arrows marked a path through the chambers and passageways, implying a single correct reading order.
The design seemed to me a spatial translation of the act of immersing yourself in a book – a sort of immersion the show said is fast becoming impossible. Others found it more like scrolling through an Instagram feed. As a chimaera of different genres – printed page, hung painting, online feed – this show about the costs of the attention economy was aware of, and often witty about, how it deployed your attention.
The show asked for more careful reading than wall text or a curatorial essay typically does. The text was intensely writerly, moving through degrees of irony, multiple standpoints, and shades of ambiguity to establish a fragmented, multiple, postmodern narrative voice. Strangely, reviewers I’m sure are more internet-savvy than I am – alert to tonal nuances of acronyms and emoticons – took all the statements at face value, and saw a more dogmatic, monolithic show than I did.
(c) Author function
The leveling treatment of text and image nicely mimicked the samey-sameness of social media and subsumed the various materials to a single vision you could call authorial. There was more top-down command than Harald Szeemann maybe ever exercised. In other ways, though, the exhibition disclosed the author to be what Michel Foucault calls an “author function.” The corporate (three-in-one) authorship, the narrative voice with its multiple standpoints and shifting ambiguous tones, dispersed authorship broadly, cast it everywhere and nowhere – much as social media, as the curators argue, disperses the extreme self.
Whatever concerns I had about the exhibition’s overbearing unity, the subtlety with which it mimicked, undermined, and sardonically WTF’d, in its form, method and materials, its terrifying invisible omnipresent subject, was a thing to behold.
The image up top: Installation view, Satoshi Fujiwara, Crowd Landscape. Photo by Tom Arban Photography, Inc. Though I’ve de-emphasized them here, the exhibition also had works that were less flat page, more rounded object.
Last fall, in my Curatorial Practice course, I worked with five other students to propose an exhibition of contemporary installation art by women. We chose works that investigated the domestic sphere in diverse and exciting ways. Inspired by Foucault’s notion of a “heterotopia,” a space where norms are suspended to make new perceptions possible, we called our exhibition Otherspaces.
It was a fictional exhibition, so we dreamed big, imagining we had the social capital to land big-name artists and the funding to secure and adapt our ideal space: an airplane hangar (where planes sleep and are fed when home from other places) in which we would build a stage-set house with a room for each piece.
Each of us also wrote a curatorial essay for the show. Some wrote on the feminist dimensions of the works. Some explored the works as other spaces where the familiar is made strange. I like to think of an exhibition as a collaborative, multimodal, interactive work of art, so my essay reads Otherspaces as a poem made of things.
It is / here / it is.
Speaking with Things
To be and to know or Being and thought are the same.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins, on Parmenides (Robert Bringhurst trans.)
I’ve been thinking lately about words as things. Words exist physically, as grooves in stone or electrons on a screen, and they have physical effects: striking your retina or eardrum, they induce limbic arousal, or a surge of oxytocin, or a protest in the streets of a capital.
We know some things speak – any thing used as a word does. Things may also speak at other times, as themselves, of the inner life of matter. If that sounds merely poetic, recall that physicists are talking these days about physical events as acts of information exchange.
In Otherspaces, artists ask how things may work as words, in a language humans and objects co-create. And they hint that things work with us in this way because of something thoughtful about them, and their participation in our inner lives.
This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.
– Jack Spicer, “Thing Language”
“Thing Language” is a one-stanza poem. Stanza comes from the Italian word for “room.” The poem is a one-room house where words are taken for things.
It insists, by disjunction, non-sequitur, and its roughhouse actions at the line end, also by pretty much saying so, that its words don’t mean any more than the ocean, salt and pepper, or death do.
Of course, the words do mean, in that they refer to concepts, but that kind of meaning doesn’t exhaust their function. They have another kind of significance too. Consider the difference between “I know what you mean” and “you mean a lot to me.”
Otherspaces is a six-stanza poem that speaks with things.
Begin with a blank: white walls, white floor, white ceiling, white furniture. It’s not hard to see it as a tabula rasa, a blank slate, such as we once thought the mind is at birth, waiting to be marked by thought.
Visitors to Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room are handed sheets of stickers and asked to place them on surfaces however they wish. Some make geometric patterns that recall those grids of dots on paleolithic cave walls. Others tag a surface with their own name. Many make a beautiful mess a bit outside their control, à la Pollock or Cage. Being participatory, the piece is also aleatory, allowing chance into its composition. By gradual accretion, a dead pure blank empty sterile white space acquires the marks of human use, human habitation.
Each sticker is a trace of a mental act – a speech act. Artist, visitor, and sticker all help to utter it, though the artist has left the room. After the visitor leaves, the sticker continues as a record, a record that becomes unintelligible in the babble of so many others. It’s like a marketplace in which you hear intersecting rivers of human speech and cannot make out a single word.
Traditionally the origin of Chinese logograms was traced to bird tracks in river sand. A language, whether of sound, gesture, picture, symbol, or object, is always a human-nonhuman hybrid – human and air, human and clay and wedge, human and electron beam. These Otherspaces are full of chimaeras.
Saya Woolfalk’s Empathic Cloud Divination envisions a post-human future of soul uploads to the Cloud and teachings of human-plant hybrids. Semi-abstract patterns cover the floor and walls. From the ceiling, projectors throw kaleidoscopic displays over the room’s surfaces. They are the minds of astral beings (Empathics) taking a physical form congenial to them. (Greek gods and Milton’s angels did the same.) Boxes like computer screens on the walls show glyph-like objects suggesting, as asemic writing does, a possible yet unparsable language.
Woolfalk’s matriarchal Afro-futurist vision offers rest from the peripatetic gazing one so often gets lost in a gallery. Beanbag chairs invite reverie and a respite from all the thoughts of self and other, past and future, getting and spending, that typically populate us.
Tracey Emin’s My Bed is a centaur: one’s head on another’s torso. A painting on the wall, Turner’s Rough Sea, looks over its shoulder in astonishment at a dishevelled bedroom, its new body.
The piece depends not so much on the room’s surfaces as on its function – the acts, thoughts, feels and words we sense a room is for. A bedroom – therefore, intimacy, sleep, dream, waking, and private emotions.
You make one by joining two or more tangible realities. Making a poem you conjoin verbal images. Making a film you conjoin photographic images and you might call it montage. Both practices trace back to a (mis)understanding of the Chinese ideogram because both are ways of speaking with things.
When you do it with objects you have an installation. Emin uses things – a painting, a bed strewn with tissues and coins and condoms – the way Pound thought pictures of things were used in written Chinese. (He was wrong about Chinese but right about how a poem can work.)
Whatever joins the sublime mess of storm in the painting, to the messy abyss of grief on the bed, is not sayable another way. The painting and the bed “speak to each other,” as the saying goes.
My essay is an attempt at an ideogram – its strokes six artworks, two poems, and an inkling.
Plates and a dinner set of colored china. Pack together a string and enough with it to protect the centre, cause a considerable haste and gather more as it is cooling, collect more trembling and not any even trembling, cause a whole thing to be a church.
– Gertrude Stein, “A Plate” (“Objects” 15)
Stein enters the inner life of objects. From the outside, a plate is a plate. Inside, it is stained by experience, and bears knowledge of its own formation and destruction. Were it sentient, its thoughts might move at about the speed its molecules quiver at – string | haste | cooling | trembling. The poet’s own voice enters at the end: “cause a whole thing to be a church.”
Formerly, our access to the inner life of objects was sacral. For a Modernist like Stein it’s hieratic and indeterminate. Today, it grows scientific, in the form of Integrated Information Theory. I doubt any of the artists here would use any of these terms. But each endows objects with something lifelike from which they are equipped to speak.
We’ve looked at things put in rooms. Rachel Whiteread’s Place (Village) is rooms accreted as things.
The work’s an assemblage of 150 doll houses collected over twenty years. The Victoria & Albert Museum, which has lent it to our imaginal exhibition, describes the houses as “devoid of both people and objects.” There’s no furniture, but there are carpets, wallpaper, curtains, and artwork on the walls.
The windows of these houses are lit with life – maybe it’s the houses’ own sentience. Try seeing the windows as eyes looking back. Once you have, you can’t unsee it.
The happy variety of rooflines affirms their diversity. Curiously, the V&A finds a “haunted atmosphere” here. What’s a haunted house but a site where our repressed sense the objects we’re aware of are aware of us leaks out of the mental basement?
One can imagine entering one of the rooms here – possibly to find a gallery like this one. It’s a nested arrangement. So too of course is Otherspaces: a hangar, etymologically a “house yard,” holds a house, the house holds rooms, a room holds a village.
In The Poetics of Space, his study of the “oneiric house,” the house of dream-memory, in his chapter on nests, Gaston Bachelard writes:
If we were to look among the wealth of our vocabulary for verbs that express the dynamics of retreat, we should find images based on animal movements of withdrawal, movements that are engraved in our muscles. How psychology would deepen if we could know the psychology of each muscle! And what a quantity of animal beings there are in the being of a man! But our research does not go that far. (91)
Neither does ours. Just a bit further is good though.
Like Whiteread, Chiharu Shiota works in miniature. Claude Lévi-Strauss writes of miniatures in his essay on the “science of the concrete”:
A child’s doll is no longer an enemy, a rival or even an interlocutor. In it and through it a person is made into a subject. In the case of miniatures … knowledge of the whole precedes knowledge of the parts. And even if this is an illusion, the point of the procedure is to create or sustain the illusion, which gratifies the intelligence and gives rise to a sense of pleasure which can already be called aesthetic. (24)
In the same essay he describes the artist’s work as halfway to bricolage, “making do with what is at hand” – think Duchamp’s chimaera of stool and bicycle.
In Shiota’s Connecting Small Memories, little wholes are made parts in a constellation. They are found wholes, so this is bricolage. Small objects – toy chest of drawers, washing basin, rocking horse – are linked by threads, as if, her title suggests, our thinking were material and external to the mind.
Of course, it could simply be that physical objects symbolize mental objects, and their assemblage stands for something mental. Dig deeper, though. Shiota’s piece touches on the participatory quality of perception – how the object helps constitute our subjectivity. The threads here don’t just represent, they perform, acts of mental association.
How? Your eye follows the thread from one thing to another, and as it moves in its circuit, your mind does psychically what the objects do physically.
That makes a false distinction though. Try instead: The physical objects threaded together are mental objects threaded together. You know it because you enact it.
In A Subtlety, or, The Marvellous Sugar Baby, Kara Walker makes the Sphinx, a creature of the desert wastes, domestic twice over. It wears a skin of sugar, that ordinary kitchen substance, with slavery and the global commodities trade curled at the bottom of the bowl. And its visage is the stereotypical Mammy figure, the hale and happy house slave whiteness imagines devoted to its needs.
Walker first installed the work in a disused sugar factory, calling it “an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World” (Creative Time). To set it in a courtyard, as we have, domesticates it a third time: a courtyard is a yard within a house, an outside brought inside, as paradox, an intimate other.
And it is another chimaera: a sphinx made by joining human head and torso to lion haunches and paws. In this guise it appeals for its power both to the Great Sphinx at Giza and the Greek one riddling Oedipus.
The former is monumental stone built by slaves. Here it bears the righteousness of peoples oppressed by slavery and global capitalism to the heart of the colonial house it gives the lie to.
The latter crouches there asking mortal questions of a tragic entitled ruler. Styrofoam and sugar become stone that speaks, intelligent matter, but what riddle?
The admissions essay I wrote for the Master of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto – where I begin my studies, remotely, next week! We were asked to discuss an issue the contemporary museum faces.
John Berger writes of the plasticity of the image:
Now appearances are volatile. Technological innovation has made it easy to separate the apparent from the existent. And this is precisely what the present system’s mythology continually needs to exploit. It turns appearances into refractions, like mirages: refractions not of light but of appetite, in fact a single appetite, the appetite for more. (11–12)
Years ago, Plato called the image trouble in the Republic, and things have just got tougher since then. Now we have deepfakes. Now algorithms construct photographs of faces that never were. Meanwhile, other algorithms surveil actual faces in the streets of London, Beijing, and cross-reference them with our browsing histories and GPS location data. Berger called it the New World Economic Order, and frames it here as a crisis of the seen, a crisis in which all of us who live by the image, artists, designers, museums, archives, are implicated.
The U.S. National Archives are right now feeling heat for altering an image of the 2017 Women’s March, “so as not to engage in current political controversy” (Kennicott), an irony that would be hilarious if the stakes weren’t so high. Only in the high flood of images we move through could so crude a change ever have hoped to go unnoticed. Having been found and called out though it’s not neutralized: a manipulation doesn’t have to be effective to have effect. The change made here forgets the disinterestedness that should be an archive’s first principle, and that itself is a blow to the body politic.
Meanwhile, artists are doing, museums showing, work that investigates the image, what it does, and how, and to what end. At the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2015, Xu Bing’s Unscrolled made the thinghood of its picture manifest. You walk up to a luminous Chinese landscape, then around it to see the dreck it was made from, fir branches, cigarette butts, with florescent lightbulbs framing it. What seems a picture of somethingfar off actually is some thingsright there: debris arranged in a fully exposed act of illusion-making. Another piece in the exhibit, Sun Xun’s Cosmos, put you in an oblong room with four animations of diverse styles on walls Sun had also inscribed with calligraphy ink. I was pinned through my head to a fifth wall not there to see. Usually, we take an image to be representation at a distance. Sun’s work made the image a construction you are inside. My verb tenses are liquid here because the image is always present tense.
In my life I’ve gone three places to learn the world—books, universities, museums. Having spent my professional life so far writing books and teaching university classes, I’m hungry now for new ways to tackle the questions always at churn in me. What is an image? What does the physical book mean in a digital age? How does a museum founded on colonial premises decolonize itself? I have lots more. I don’t want to write essays or devise classes on them—I want to do deep, multi-modal, immersive, real-time inquiries, where I’m not the subject or main investigator, but a facilitator, and the gorgeous shapely tangle that results is open to public view and participation.
My writing and teaching have got me this far. As an artist, I see an exhibition as a second-order artwork, an assemblage of artworks, documents, ephemera, framing materials, made real by being together in a place. As a teacher, I see one as a many-tiered, experiential syllabus, with diverse modes and materials at play in an immersive, experiential environment. When I learn more about exhibitions, these notions may fall away as naïve. I won’t lose my sense that a good exhibition gives a moving, collaborative shape to cultural intelligence.
I want to foster culture in this new-to-me way. And I want to learn how in your pro-gram, more than any other I’ve researched or applied to. I’m drawn by the broad training you offer, also by your strengths in my areas of interest, exhibition design, museum education, curation. I’m buoyed by the thought of an internship under your faculty’s guidance; when I visited, I was taken with many things, but most impressed by how conscientiously you guide students toward their professional roles. And I’m drawn, as a writer, translator, and editor, by your relationship to the Book History and Print Culture program. I don’t know if I’ll end up in a small museum, doing a bit of everything, or at a large institution in a specialized role, creating exhibits, say, of ancient papyri or early modern incunabula, but I believe your program offers the best preparation I could hope for.
Berger, John. The Shape of a Pocket. Vintage, 2001.
Kennicott, Phillip. “The National Archives Used to Stand for Independence. That Mission Has Been Compromised.” Washington Post, 18 Jan 2020.
Plato. The Republic. ca. 380 BCE. Translated by G.M.A. Grube. Hackett, 1992.
Sun Xun. Cosmos. Vancouver Art Gallery, Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Contemporary Art, 2014–2015.
Xu Bing. Unscrolled. Vancouver Art Gallery, Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Contemporary Art, 2014–2015.
The image up top, though it bears the weight of Plato’s Cave Allegory, is massless & easily thieved. I took it from this discussion of the allegory as it pertains to screenwriters.
The exercise was to write a poem that enacts or embodies spring.
Not a poem “about” spring, that’s easy. A poem that is spring, be’s spring, bees spring, in its flesh, its bones. How do you write a poem that’s green, that’s growth, motion, variance, blowsiness, or whatever spring is to you – no, in you – such that it comes across, takes root in reader, flowers and seeds there?
Many fell into the trap of subject matter, and that’s okay, it’s a good where to start from. By the time we were done talking of Williams’s Spring and All they got, I think, what it is to meet spring, eyeball-to-eyeball, a gist of it anyway.
And for sure our talk of the supreme importance of the spectacle
an elderly man who
smiled and looked away
to the north past a house—
a woman in blue
who was laughing and
leaning forward to look up
into the man’s half
and a boy of eight who was
looking at the middle of
the man’s belly
at a watchchain—
passing namelessly landed for me, and that was them teaching me, I learned more about the line there as such, its supremacy (if that word might ever be rescued for re-use) and ephemerality.
More than one did get what it was to enact spring but only one gave me hers back to post. This is by Hannah Bender and it’s made of joy –
—doublemint cars dusty ceramic roses unpainted fingernails white underwear white undershirt white ankle socks nineteen fifty seven chevy bel air in pink and cream leather pearly cocaine pears and game hen hospital wall green punch bougainvillea bunny teacup airplanes red velveteen movie theater milk chocolate strawberry gift wrap hair throw up cake mice tv saint francis bambi’s mother anne frank donald duck orange juice baths buttons—
I asked her about it, she said something like, you don’t have to wait for spring for it to be spring. You just take any moment and look at it close enough – spring is coiled in there. I hope I have that right; I think she put it better.
Anyway she put it beautifully – she got the intention of the assignment better than I ever did when I came up with it. Those em-dashes, I imagine reaching into any moment of perception, physically prying it open, and those dashes are the beams I prop in to keep it from slamming closed on me while I walk among the moment’s occult contents.
Which are the poem. Also come to mind Cornell’s boxes, which, whatever in specific they contain, have as one of their utterances spread evenly over all they hold, I’m glad you are.
Look topside. My “featured image” removes the boxed from the box. Why’s that feel like an injury? But it does. When’s sampling a denaturing? It is, sometimes. Spring couldn’t spring had it no winter to push off from.
Almost forgot the title of Hannah’s but you see how it matters. The whole poem’s a synonym for its title yes?
Another student blog for you, come into its own, right here, on the threshold where the inmost being we are, touches the public sphere we move about in. Clothes, hair, eyes, lips, limbs, and how we make up and dress down, pierce and dye, stain or tear, tattoo or don’t. For, as Evan rightly says, not to is every bit as much a choice, as to.
I say this as one uncomfortable caring at all about how I look. So much more important to me how one sees. And yet it do matter don’t it. We are moving at all moments through a web of codes.
Merleau-Ponty noted, I think it was he, I’m taking this from my memory of David Abram‘s Spell of the Sensuous, that the eye can’t see without also being seen – can’t do vision without entering the visual. To see is to be seen. More, to see is to be seen seeing. A phenomenology of flirting might begin here. (Maybe also one of voyeurism, which maybe feels dirty because it breaks out of that reciprocity.) That, anyway, is our social being, to see and to be seen and to be seen seeing.
Is why we do not all wear Mao suits. Or, if we do, we want to look this good.
Evan’s got a fine and punchy style going, a good model of, one, how to do blog prose, and, two, how to marry personal and social awarenesses. Light touch, nothing didactic. I mean it feels seamless to me, how her awakeness to her own life, and her wondering how the world goes, meet. Check it out.
Another student blog for yehs from my Art of Compost class now entering its sixth and final whirlwind week. Picture compost aloft in circuits in different densities in fitful gales.
This one, on the face of it, a travel blog, but under its careful surfaces, the transits are interior. Meditation with landscape as alterity mirror.
Something about the introspective quiet of this blog (you can find it here) puts me in mind of John Berger, whose Shape of a Pocket we’re reading this week.
I had a dream in which I was a strange dealer: a dealer in looks or appearances. I collected and distributed them. In the dream I had just discovered a secret! I discovered it on my own, without help or advice.
The secret was to get inside whatever I was looking at – a bucket of water, a cow, a city (like Toledo) seen from above, an oak tree, and, once inside, to arrange its appearances for the better. Better did not mean making the thing seem more beautiful or more harmonious; nor did it mean making it more typical, so that the oak tree might represent all oak trees; it simply meant making it more itself so that the cow or the city or the bucket of water became more evidently unique!
Beautiful man. That is eunoia, Christian, beautiful thinking.
A mural my students made last week in class. The prompt: using only the materials you have on hand, or can forage from the surrounding environment without breaking the law or hurting anyone’s feelings, express your understanding of “the art of compost.” Oh, and no legible text, other than found text.
Here it’s, as composted through my iPhone:
Interesting to watch them work. Each one herself, himself, just about perfectly. Last year I gave this, every one worked pretty much on their lonesome, class dynamics, long story, and it did come out okay. This time, some leaned toward solo, some into duo, some asked as to overview, but as they felt their way into the actual question at hand – are we one or are we many – those arrangements softened and shifted.
That is, as they composted their thinking, they found a rhythm where each had room to breathe, or so it seemed to me, and nice to see. Nice to be part of just in watching. Here ’tis, as panorama,
Sometime soon, a post on breath, breathing, the breath, which I’ve been thinking and not-thinking about, these days of hot high still air all round. How’s it I ever thought my breath was anyone else’s to order around? That’s my little bit cryptic thought of an evening, after a day hiking up at Baker, forest fire haze out of BC hanging on air, dulling Baker and Shuksan to the eye, but someone or something was watching lupines and mimulus shivering in wind bits, and what’s wind but earth’s breath, what we’re in.
Looking round for blogs for the blog unit for ENG 460 The Art of Compost 2.0 and came to this one. And this pattern, dunno if it fits for the course, but hells it sure is purty, more than purty, it moves and keeps on moving. Earths and skies and more skies and heavens in it your eye climbs. Or rock strata thought drops down thru. What I love most in it’s the move up & the move down in it, are one. Wow & wow.
So here’s the first exercise of the quarter for my visual poetry class. Cued by our wandering through Tom Phillips’s well known widely loved yet not for all that at all worn out A Humument.
The book’s an object lesson in the power of powering forward not knowing where the sweet bloody fuck you’re going. Glory of the aleatory. Here’s he in his Blakean vein —
The exercise. Treat a page of a prose work as Phillips has treated the pages of A Human Document.
Pointers. Be inspired by A Humument, by all means, steal moves from Phillips, but don’t imitate slavishly. The composition should feel to you like your process. Do take care with your erasure marks. They should do more than just cross out. They should express, manifest, draw eye and mind.
They’re doing beautifully by the way. What lovely conversations we have. We seem already friends in the free and easy wandering in mind I remember reading of in the Chuang Tzu … lessee if I can find it … nope. But this is as good, Chuang Tzu to Hui Tzu, who’s just told him his words are big clunky useless, like a gnarled and lumpy tree, so everyone ignores it, carpenters, painters.
Now you have this big tree and you’re distressed because it’s useless. Why don’t you plant it in Not-Even-Anything Village, or in the field of Broad-and-Boundless, relax and do nothing by its side, or lie down for a free and easy sleep under it?
The sleep I want for my students when they make their poems.
P.S. Speaking of Cezanne, and Mont St. Victoire, saw a pretty indifferent one in Vancouver, apparently the only one he composed in a portrait orientation, and I saw why. But what blew me away, and made me excited about in and for the VAG for the first time in my admittedly little life, was an exhibit I wandered into mostly accidentally of contemporary Chinese art that poked and prodded and nursed and scowled at the long awesomely durable tradition of Chinese landscape painting.