KM: As you too know, it’s not super easy to get someone on a commune to respond to your email in a timely fashion.
Archive for August, 2015
One of the greatest things about living in London is that, as people like to joke about, it rains approximately 75% of the time, so if you happen to be happy only when you’re reading (the lesser known Shirley Manson anthem) you’ll be enabled all day, every day. Right now I’m devouring The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, and had a revival of this old thwarted idea: for someone (probably Petah Coyne or Sarah Sze) to recreate the sculptures/installations of both Sirena Shahid and Nora Eldridge.
Shahid: “In that first conversation, she told me about her installations, which were––as I would eventually see with my own eyes––lush gardens and jungles made out of household items and refuse: elaborately carved soap primroses, splayed lilies and tulips fashioned out of dyed dishrags and starch, silvery wines of painted and varnished clothesline and foil, precisely and impeccably made. I couldn’t quite picture them when she talked about them, but the idea made sense to me: visions of paradise, the otherworldly, the beautiful, and then, when you’re in them, up close, you realize that the flowers are mottled by filth and the vines crumbling and that the gleaming beetles crawling on the waxy leaves are molded bottle tops or old leather buttons with limbs. Her installations had names from fairy tales and myth––The Forest of Arden; Avalon; Oz; Elsinore––but they were, in reality, the kitchen or the laundry room, and sooner or later the viewer would realize there was an ancient sink behind the waterfall or that the boulders between the trees were a washer and dryer, blow-torched black and furred with dark lint.”
Eldridge (to be honest, though I’m obsessed with this book, NE’s work seems to be pretty obvious as metaphor): “That fall I was making a tiny replica of Emily Dickinson’s Amherst bedroom, about the size of a boot box, each floorboard in place, the re-creation of her furnishings exact and to scale. Once I’d made her room, and made her, as perfectly as i could, in a white linen nightie with ruffles, my aim was to set up circuitry so that my Emily Dickson might be visited, sitting up in her bed, by floating illuminations––the angelic Muse, her beloved Death, and of course my tiny gilded mascot, Joy herself.*
This was, I imagined, the first in a series: I wanted to make one of Virginia Woolf at Rodmell, putting rocks in her pockets and writing her final note: my idea was that there would be slides of the river, raging, and sound effects, too; and an actual copy of the handwritten note that would project not onto the diorama wall but out Virginia’s bedroom window, onto our walls outside, so that instead of being small, the words would be huge. In my mind’s eye, they would flicker: the flickering was, to me, very important.
Then there was to be one of the painter Alice Neel, in the sanatorium to which she was sent after her nervous breakdown at around the age of thirty. I wanted there to be an echo, you see, between Emily Dickinson’s spare white room and Alice Neel’s white room, the monastic and the asylum: both retreats, but of such different types. And both the province of women. I even though about the title of my nonexistent series: A Room of One’s Own? I thought the question mark was the key…
The last diorama I planned was to be the opposite of the others. It was going to be Edie Sedgwick’s room in Warhol’s Factory. Instead of trying to escape the world, Edie sacrificed herself to it. She existed only in the public gaze. Imagine that: a surface, so beautiful, from which all depth has been erased. But then, the photos, their intensity, her vitality––it certainly looks as though a soul was trapped behind those eyes…
But the point is that I was consumed––in a digressive, obliterating way––by my hypothetical series, and by my Emily Dickinson diorama in the first instance, by its practical minutiae. I had paintbrushes comprised of a single hair, and a loupe like a watchmaker’s that I could attach to my forehead, and I’d spend three days on a miniature replica of the woodcut landscape that hung between the windows in Emily’s bedroom only to decide, once it was done, that the likeness was poor, and that I needed to begin again.”
Now that we’re on the topic of fictional works of art, perhaps a gallery should organize an entire show in which artists make their versions of “fictional art.” I’ll get the list together––Mental Floss tried, but it’s a paltry offering, IMHO. If you own a gallery and have a lot of money with which to pay artists who might be interested, please contact Siobhan after the Bank Holiday has ended.
*Don’t worry––you won’t get it unless you’ve read the book.
“At the time we were all convinced that we had to speak, write, and publish as quickly as possible and as much as possible and that this was necessary for the good of mankind. Thousands of us published and wrote in an effort to teach others, all the while disclaiming and abusing one another. Without taking note of the fact that we knew nothing, that we did not know the answer to the simplest question of life, the question of what is right and what is wrong, we all went on talking without listening to one another. At times we would indulge and praise each other on the condition that we be indulged and praised in return; at other times we would irritate and shout at each other exactly as in a madhouse.”
A. Andrew Sullivan
B. Leo Tolstoy
D. Emily Gould
E. Virginia Woolf
Queen of Earth + Persona + the Slender Man Trials + proxies/doppelgangers + STIMing + triangles + Elena Ferrante + The Shining + the trailer (and only for the trailer!) for The Holy Mountain + Philip Roth + Rapid Eye Movement Therapy = Epic Thinkpiece
IS: Can you get on a flight and come to Salento? South of Italy. D rented a house for fifteen but there are only five of us… I can send you more details, we are leaving now and will be there until Monday. The town is Depressa, which means “depressed woman.” There must be a direct flight from London to Brindisi.
If you can’t make it, I’m back in Paris on Sept 2-7, you should come down for the night 🙂 🙂
So now I live in London, which is “quite” weird. (I’ve learned to say “quite” a lot, because that’s how you fit in here.) And I’ve been busy… well, learning how to fit in, which means I haven’t blogged in thirteen days! A travesty. I was thinking to myself just before that there were things I had planned to write about but I had forgotten what they were, and then, lying in our lumpy bed in a corporate apartment, I remembered one: Westminster Choir School!
Husband’s birthday was on Thursday, so we went to Westminster Abbey, because he’s a bit of a history nerd. I surprised myself by being actually as interested as I usually have to pretend to be at historical sites, mostly because there were a number of elaborate tombs for people, and I adore elaborate tombs. Perhaps the funniest of the bunch were the tombs of Mary I and her sister, Elizabeth I, because Mary was an ardent Roman Catholic who succeeded in reviving interest in Catholicism during her reign, but then Elizabeth brought back Protestantism, and as everyone knows Brits hate Catholics, they opted to bury Mary underneath her sister. No doubt as to who won that battle, eh?
Anyway, here’s what I actually wanted to write about: during the audio tour, a butter-tongued Jeremy Irons tells us that young choirboys at Westminster not only sing there, but attend school there as well. After the tour, husband and I took a brief little walk around “Dean’s Yard,” as they call it, and I immediately hit upon a genius idea: a YA series that takes place at Westminster Choir School. Part Hogwarts, part Fame, throw in a little Mary Renault and a dash of Spring Awakening, if we want things to get real spicy, and I believe we have a few hits on our hands. Then again, with that admixture, what kind of audience would it attract?
I’m moving to a different country in ONE WEEK, so I’m cleaning out my shit. I bought this postcard when I was in college because I saw it in the card store and started cackling out loud. It’s been over my desk or on my refrigerator making me giggle ever since. We’ve had a good run together, me and this postcard, but it’s time for it to go to the little postcard pasture in the sky, because New Country Me lives a minimalist life! (At least, for the first few months, before I acquire new stuff.)
Last summer, a friend and I went to visit the Living Museum, a decrepit building used as permanent art studios for current and former residents of Creedmoor State Psychiatric Hospital in Queens. Anyone can go visit, but you have to call for an appointment beforehand, so the doctor knows you’re coming, but when we got there, the doctor––who had a German name––seemed very blase about our presence. I wondered if I weren’t in my own personal version of Don’t Look in the Basement. There were a few vacant-eyed smokers sitting in an entryway and a cat slinking about; big fans moved the sweltering air around the room in whorls. Most of the art was weird and mediocre––outsider art, in my opinion, is so much more often miss than hit––but we found a very unexpected way to amuse ourselves: upstairs were a few empty studios and a number of file cabinets full of medical records and patient journals. Naturally we flipped through some, and each took a patient log home with us. Mine is the “work order log” of a James M. (patient confidentiality, people) who used this notebook from late May to early June of 1991. His handwriting is decent but not frighteningly neat like a serial killer’s, which is a good sign. On May 23, 1991, his notes from the “community” meeting were as follows:
(1) 9:20 Everybody sleeping. Wake up guys!
(2) M. wants to be transferred to another ward because he can’t even have beer on the MICA ward.
(3) L. wants to be transferred to a coed ward for sex.
(4) B: explains purpose of MICA.
(5) Discussion of coed vs. male wards.
(6) A. wants to go to a “nice ward” in building 73.
(7) Discussion of sociopathy
(8) A. about d/c plans, about relapse.
From a quick flip-through, it appears that the men had a number of discussions about sociopathy those three weeks.
Below, one of the funnier, if not finer, pieces of art at the Museum.
I think that a magazine should hire me to go on a scuba diving trip a la Sail Caribbean, and write about it, because I went as a kid and I didn’t appreciate it and MAN I would give a lot for a redo of that fucker. But also, if the travel magazine had a sense of humor and scope, perhaps they could have the only people on the boat (maybe eight?) be people who went on said trips as teenagers and didn’t appreciate them. It will be touching and hilarious!