Bond Street impasto

Bond Street back story

Between January and April 2015, Bond Street [in Wellington, New Zealand] was transformed with temporary changes to the way the street looked and was used to bring colour and energy to the area.

Bond Street is an important street for servicing local businesses, we wanted to make it a destination for pedestrians as well. To explore ways of making it work for both people on foot and businesses, temporary changes were made to the layout and use of the street before looking at possible long-term changes.

To catch people’s attention and bring vibrancy to the street, two outdoor seating areas and an artificial lawn area were installed. The road surface was painted with a bright red pattern and a shipping container was located on the site to host events. Urban designers call this type of project ‘Tactical Urbanism’ and there are many successful examples of these projects internationally and locally.

Chimney cats in the last days

chimney cats (07 May 2015)

chimney cats (07 May 2015)

Today (14 May 2015) is the last day for Avid Gallery’s limited edition of the Chimney Cats made to celebrate Bronwynne Cornish’s exhibition of work currently showing at The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt.

Originally intended to guard chimneys from witches coming down them, the first group of Bronwynne’s chimney cats appeared 1982.

 

Kintsukuroi

I have a beautiful handmade lidded jar which broke when, several months ago, the box in which it is stored took a tumble. This post about “kintsukuroi” reminds me (again) to repair my broken jar.

word pond

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Kintsugi means “to patch with gold”, a Japanese technique thought to have begun in the late 15th century, after a shogun sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China to be fixed. It was returned held together with ugly metal staples, so Japanese craftsmen developed a way to repair the vessel by mending the cracks ornamentally.

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Reality: too obvious to be true

Banksy and Baudrillard

untitled (Banksy and Baudrillard) (detail)

Nothing is wholly obvious without becoming enigmatic. Reality itself is too obvious to be true. (Jean Baudrillard)

In hand, a bunch of diverse quotations, most of them having at least some bearing on the nature of reality. The Baudrillard piece seems to have appointed itself chief amongst them, but Einstein can be heard muttering in the background.

Not unexpectedly – given the two words, ‘obvious’ and ‘enigmatic’ – Google Images quickly finds a picture/text version of the Baudrillard quote. But more interesting by far, I think, is this Banksy art piece with which it is teamed up on the Particulate Matters blog.

Clearly, both Banksy and “cosmicdebris” (proprietor of Particulate Matters) are saying something about the teachings of the Christian Church – particularly, it seems, in relation to the indoctrination of children. Look elsewhere on the Particulate Matters blog and you will find links to other ‘indoctrination’ stories: for example, Monsanto indoctrinating kids at the zoo.

Actually, I’m inclined to suspect that indoctrination is integral to every aspect of living – and that everyone is routinely doing it and/or having it done to them. And it wouldn’t necessarily qualify as either brainwashing or catechism. Let’s put it more simply: we’re all inclined to push our ideas on others – and we call it marketing, persuasion, instruction, education, or teaching.

Be that all as it may, it is not really the main point of my post.

A few months ago, on |cross-ties| – the blog of “The Other” – there was a bit of back-and-forth about the nature of reality. A piece titled Taking a cycle trip led one reader to discuss Derrida’s ideas, noting that in language there is a gap between words and things. I would take this further, asserting that there is a gap between what we perceive and what is actually the case.

A similar gap yawns between the words of every witness and the occurrences they describe – what we thought we saw, the way it seems to us, what we believe to be true, and everything that is ‘obvious’. (And, by the way, since it’s that obvious, why can’t everyone see it our way?)

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus begins with the proposition that “the world is everything that is the case” and ends by reminding us that “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Wittgenstein isn’t saying there’s stuff we can choose not to talk about; he’s actually pointing out that there are some things nobody can put into words.

Albert Einstein asserts that “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Elsewhere, he declares, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.” He is not saying that nothing is real; what he means is that everything we experience as real is invented. “The human mind has first to construct forms, independently, before we can find them in things.” (Albert Einstein Essays in Science (1934), p27)

The way science talks about reality and truth is sounding more and more like the words of the ancient religions. For example, Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, a notable teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, says: “The ultimate truth of all conventional truths is their being void of inherent existence. Conventional truths, ie empirical phenomena, exist dependently upon causal conditions, parts and imputation; they have absolutely no existence apart from these conditioning factors.”

But “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true,” wrote Francis Bacon (1560-1626). Called the creator of empiricism, “[Bacon] established and popularised inductive methodologies for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method, or simply the scientific method.” (GoodReads)

Ultimately, then, as Baudrillard says, whatever seems obvious is, in reality, the superficial manifestation of a profound mystery: the deeper you go into it, the less you are able to say about it.

In Poetry: This Death Is Incomplete (part one of an essay on poetry and death), Amy King talks about “spinning yarns to name things and claim power over them” – which, she reminds us, is not a new concept. In explication, King points us to Alice Notley’s The Book of Lies. The opening lines are especially apt: “Do you believe this stuff or is it a story? I believe every fucking word, but it is a story.”

__________

An ever-changing draft of this piece has been in my editor for months. There’s so much more I want to say, but it is long past time I got something posted. 

 

So, if I let it write itself …

pasted poster (05 December 2012)

pasted poster (05 December 2012)

So, if I let it write itself,
will it resort to its old habitual riffs and licks,
or will it dare shapes and intervals unplanned,
allowing the fingers to lurch and spasm
in grotesque gestures, crunching dissonant chords …

Where does the question-mark belong in all of this?

So, having let it lie, incomplete,
month after month – not even remembering
having started something – does this count,
do these syllables amount to anything worthwhile,
or is there sense in setting fire to it,
or simply letting it die?

(20 April 2013 – 27 July 2014)

What lies behind me …

afternoon light (01 September 2011)

afternoon light (01 September 2011)

What lies behind me still remains ahead of me. (László Krasznahorkai, in Satantango

From time to time, unexpected things pop up on the “new titles” shelves at the Wellington Central Library. Satantango (written by László Krasznahorkai) was first published in 1985, but the translation by George Szirtes from the Hungarian did not appear until 2012; even so, I would not have expected it to be accorded “new title” status – but one day, there it was. At first glance, the matte black cover looked as if it had been stitched with long white tacking stitches (such as a tailor might use), but then I wondered if perhaps, given its title, it had been inscribed with magical glyphs. (There’s a cover image with the Amazon listing.)

Intrigued, I took the book home, but somehow didn’t manage to get through more than a few pages before it was due to be returned. When I went back to borrow it again the following day, someone else had beaten me to it. (And, at that time, all the library’s copies of this author’s other titles were also out on loan.)

Satantango … now regarded as a classic, is a monster of a novel: compact, cleverly constructed, often exhilarating, and possessed of a distinctive, compelling vision – but a monster nevertheless. It is brutal, relentless and so amazingly bleak that it’s often quite funny.” (Theo Tait in a review for The Guardian, Wednesday 9 May 2012)

Krasznahorkai’s translator George Szirtes calls his work a “slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type”, and says his sentences take you down “loops and dark alleyways – like wandering in and out of cellars”. At one point the wind moves through the trees like a “helpless hand searching through a dusty book for some vanished main clause”; the reader feels something comparable. (Theo Tait)

In 1994, Hungarian director Béla Tarr released Sátántangóa film based on the novel. Shot in black-and-white, it runs for over seven hours. The critic Susan Sontag described Sátántangó as “Devastating, enthralling for every minute of its seven hours. I’d be glad to see it every year for the rest of my life.” (Wikipedia article, Sátántangó)

Both the book and the film are structured in twelve sections – although these are not necessarily in chronological order. (The structure of the tango, I am told, is six forward moves followed by six back.)

And now I’ve been reading it again … but I still haven’t finished it. (It has been returned, and I’ll need to go back for it … again.)

“The imagination never stops working but we’re not one jot nearer the truth,” remarks Irimiás at one point.

__________

Krasznahorkai, László. 1985. Satantango. Translated from the Hungarian [translation copyright © 2012 George Szirtes]. New York: New Directions. [p133]

But wait … there’s myrrh!

But wait ... there's myrrh

But wait … there’s myrrh

The Christian holy day known as Epiphany “[commemorates] (at least in western tradition) the visit of the Magi and Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles” (from Finding a New Way Home) is celebrated on 6 January. According to timeanddate.com, “It commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity, according to Christian belief, was manifested: when the three kings visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and when John the Baptist baptized him in the River Jordan. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches emphasize the visit of the Magi when they celebrate the Epiphany. The Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.”

All history is redaction – ie, it re-frames and retells our “old, old story” in such a way as to please the current audience. The past is perpetually being re-examined and reinterpreted.

Recent memes appearing on Facebook – but not including this one from catholicmemes.com – have commented on what three wise women would have done. One version asserts that they would have “asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, brought practical gifts, cleaned the stable, made a casserole … and there would be peace on earth.” (From mickiemuellerart.com)

I don’t think so! (Especially that last bit.)

Another version of the meme adds that “Three Wise Feminist Women would have … lobbied King Herod for gender equality.” In its lower right corner, the image carries the wording: Destroy the Joint. But, according to Helen Razer, “Destroy the Joint misses the point”.

My back is up, my hackles on end. If there is to be anything more than talk of gender equality, then it is blatantly obvious that the faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses of humankind will be owned (and owned up to) by all.