September 17, 2013
Sleep. It is the portal into another world, a shadow self, a space that exists inside the mind, so far beyond any dimension we’ve known before or may known since, for it is in this way that we take flight inside out bodies, leaving them aside as we explore new and fertile earth. And here upon this plane they lay, not simply inert, but in their own passages through time and space, telling their very own story.
And because we are inside, we cannot see, sleep is like our face, our visage for all to see but we to whom it belongs. We never quite know until we stand before the evidence of who we are when we are both in and outside of this world. It is then that a work like Sleep by Ted Spagna, Edited by Delia Bonfilio and Ron Eldridge with Martynka Wawrzyniak (Rizzoli New York) comes to the fore, to show us how it is, how we live, how similar and dissimilar, how familiar and foreign.
Here we see sleep through stop motion photography, which reminds me of how I light I sleep, awakening to every change in my space. The other night I lay in bed frequently awoken by a snore that was not my own and when I opened my eyes, we had both moved. New positions, over and over again. The choreography of the unconscious in continuous motion, and me, I’m taking note and smiling at how right before the sun arises, he has the covers gathered up under his chin.
And in these positions, he tells stories, stories I don’t know, in the very same way Spagna photographs capture a plot as it unfolds. It is said that gesture does not lie, and so when we look at each and every frame we find the mind in body as it responds to the travels of the mind and wherefore it goes, we can only imagine for the land of the unconscious is more a poem than an essay or a speech. It is both linear and not in that rhythm follows measure and time, just like music and dance.
Sleep then becomes a performance of sorts, private dancer to no one and nothing except the Lord up above. Or not. Hard to know, until gazing upon these grids, frame after frame after frame, each one a slight variation on a theme, a gesture that is created out of biological necessity. When looking at the body in this way, we see a kind if floating, a swimming, a movement through space that has nothing whatsoever to do with our upright nature.
As Dr. Allan Hobson writes in “The Influence of Science,” an essay which appears in the book, “Ted Spagna’s photographs have done more than any other medium to make sleep science visible and, hence, directly understandable to the general public…. Whether or not Spagna’s sleep portraits capture a hidden self, they are unquestionably surprising in their revelations of sleep as behavior—especially the tenderness of sleeping couples—and they are unquestionably visually rich, owing to Spagna’s meticulous concern with photographic technique.”
Spagna’s photographs reveal sleep as nothing so much as an adventure we barely fathom, as memories of out time in the shadow world fade int the light of day. Yet we engage, night after night after night, and for some, it is never not enough. And for others, it has become far too much. But there it is.
Sleep is that which we do in ways we do not know, until we reflect and study ourselves, investigate a world we all go, a world we all know, a world we can but barely begin to describe and it is in this way that Spagna’s photographs contribute to the vocabulary of sleep and build a dialogue, giving us a new means upon which to reflect and consider this world in which we live.
September 17, 2013
Rumi said, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” This is where it all begins. The power to create the world in which we want to live, to exact a future that is happening now, today, using all that exists at our fingertips. Exactly, it is this, I type as my fingers fly free across the keyboard. The Universe conspires to remind us of this. D.I.Y. Do It Yourself.
It’s like the 70s all over again. A return to the era when the artist represents the underground and brings new worlds to light through the publication of their vision in print form. It is this space, this world at our fingertips, a world we unconsciously read as our hands traverse the page. We feel the image, we let it sink in, we read the words as the pages turn. We see it unfold, with our eyes and our hands, the stories touching us as they rest in our laps. It is the book made manifest that reminds us of the beauty of physical life.
Bruno Ceschel knows this, though it came to him by way of seeming happenstance. After curating an exhibitions of self-published artist books for A The Photographer’s Gallery in London in 2010, the digital response was large enough to propel the website into ongoing curatorial project for artists and authors alike [we don’t really distribute books, we feature them, showcase them] and from this Self Publish, Be Happy was born.
Ceschel observes, “Digital has caused a renaissance of printed matter. Self-publishing is not a way to make money. That is a burden. Self-publishing requires you to spend money which paradoxically free you from being concerned about profits. That is the restriction of the traditional publishing house. The people who do it today are very young. They are born into the digital generation. They are used to the computer and the online world. Self-publishing is their response to it. They are finding a complement to it in book form; they now have a physical object in reality and can share it with people. Books give them a different way to communicate.”
And this idea inspires and uplifts print more than anything ever could. Because it is not simply a matter of marketability, of consumer appeal, but of a need to tell stories, produce objects, create content the enlivens, inspires, and elucidates all sorts of spaces in the Universe we would never otherwise know, were the author not driven to make manifest that which holds them captive. And it is in this same way that the publisher operates.
Ceschel’s background is in magazines. He began working as a journalist for Colors in 2001. He then joined Chris Boot in 2013 where he learned the process of publishing and saw the tyranny of the trade firsthand. Most books are simply not economically viable, and an industry built on this offers a tightrope held at great heights. It’s a challenging business model from any angle you look. Self Publish, Be Happy avoids this by forgoing the model itself. It exists on its own terms, as defined by Ceschel. It is less a company and more a curated space, a digital doorway that transports us into another world of books and art as they are being lived today. Liberated from the burden of profits, the artist is free to do as they wish.
And it is here that Ceschel reveals his own love, establishing the SPBH Book Club that funds the production SPBH Editions. These are books that Ceschel selected, chosen from love. “It’s a small enterprise that’s very personal. I went to my people: Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Brad Feuerhelm, Christina de Middel.”
And it is here that we come full circle, back to a love of books that is without beginning or end, but born of a desire to see in print our vision of the world and the way in which we want to live. As both publisher and a curator of the self published illustrated book, Ceschel has found himself in a new and dynamic world that combines tradition and experiment, classic and avant garde to sublime effect. Self Publish, Be Happy is more than a name, it is an ethos, a call to action, and way of being that speak to people from all walks of life, the single common denominator being a wish, want, desire, and need to produce a book.
Many are called, few are chosen. Come see why. Self Publish, Be Happy will be exhibiting at the New York Art Book Fair from September 19-22 at P.S. 1 in Queens, New York.
September 16, 2013
I have been asked to find a spot, a spot that is mine,
that speaks to me with and without words.
To sit for ten minutes in silence, letting go of all that came before,
all the noise that no one else hears, only me,
the eternal internal track running without pause.
I be where I am so I am where I be and I don’t even notice where I am
until I see it through the eyes of other ladies
and they hoot and the holler and they whoop it up and it occurs to me
that what I have is so very good, and more than enough
and I need not look because now I can see,
and it’s like Amazing Grace, only less dramatic,
yes, less dramatic is now me.
I am a writer. Finally, I can own this.
I write because I be.
I write as though it were air and air it is I breathe.
I write, and then I forget.
I forget what this means, this honor, this gift,
this blessing, this curse, this everything.
I am a lucky girl.
I remember the first time I breathed those words
and he looked at me confused, even doubtful,
and I knew then he would be the man with whom I would learn
nothing is my everything (yes)
and it has been a year, two years,
not that he would remember or even care.
Yo soy como la bruja.
I know things I am not meant to know
and I am told things without words and I am told
to keep talking, and to write, and to tell the world.
And to not care for proof nor judgment nor reputation,
but to simply tell, and to encourage everyone to tell,
and if we all tell, there will be no secrets to fear.
And so I write—
as I speak,
and I discover my voice, my voices,
all of those speaking to and for me.
But me as I am, me obliterates,
me disappears inside of the me that is me,
matrioshka is my favorite thing.
And so I write—
for sanity, understanding, for compassion and fearlessness,
To release the shame that vibrates,
the fear that you never loved me because you didn’t,
I say everything and you say nothing and that makes it fair.
Or at least even or at least I know I will never forget
because I will tell all, but not about you,
of you I will never tell a soul.
You will be erased, like those who came before,
like those who know one knows, for they are not secrets
but shards, shadows, and ghosts.
They without substance
and they without meaning
and they without being
are simply that.
I’m on my exorcism and I purge you from my flesh.
September 15, 2013
September 14, 2013
September 14, 2013
September 14, 2013
September 13, 2013
Bond. Bonded. Bondage.
Tie me up, tie me down.
G’head. Make me.
You can’t cause I won’t.
It’s been spinning round and round in my head
and no good ever comes of it.
Don’t believe the hype.
Were it that I could think without words,
that I could think with pictures and song.
Were it that I could think
with touch and taste and smell freedom and remain…
Writing chose me and so I submit.
Refuse to resist.
I love this too much.
Too much to love.
Love it all,
even when I know I don’t know what I’m writing about.
I’ve given up.
This idea of knowing.
Of owning. Of controlling. Of it being so.
But I like the way I lie. It’s aspirational.
I’ve given up nothing. I’ve acquired a new faith.
That I can search for meaning while saying it can never be known.
Because meaning is personal and me,
I am grandiose.
I dream of staircases, sweeping circular things,
and long gowns flowing behind me
as I ascend and descend and drag my dress behind me.
September 12, 2013
This is a story about the machine.
When you ain’t got nothinn, you got somethinn. You got you exactly as you are. You got love and fire, passion and desire, untainted, untouched, virgin, unspoiled by what comes after.
When you a virgin you got that. You got that thanng no one else has had. You got that thanng you can give once. And you know this. So it builds. It becomes everything. It becomes all you have in this world because you are all there is.
And you give it, you give it with everything you got because all you have is you, and your dreams. You got dreams, right. Dreams of what is and what could be, born of pure and innocent heart, of never knowing anything other than the depths of your soul plumbed for this moment riighh here. This moment to give, to share, to become, to be in this world, on this earth, in this life, this time around.
And you give it. You give it with everything you got. Cause you know, you know you got this, this is your shot. So you give it, and then you give it some more, and you keep on givinn until you can give no more.
Who is to say who gets lucky? Cause luck isn’t what happens, it is how you maintain.
But let’s just say you get IT. That dream you dreamed has finally come true. And it surprises you in that way you always knew you were somebody—you just didn’t know other people knew too. So you’re kinda humbled and shocked but also kinda happy and rocked cause you know You, you know what you put in to get to the here and now of it all.
Thas what no one knows, thas what no one could ever know. Not the blood tears and sweat, not the sleepless nights, fears and regrets. Not what it cost and what you lost and the sacrifices it took. Not the passion and the pride and the power manifest when you claim whas yours.
Ahh. See now. It ain’t eva yours so long as there is anyone else involved. If you lucky, it will be ours, but it might become theirs sho nuff. Cause virgins are, well, naïve. There’s a lot of trust in your heart cause trust is believing other people feel the same.
You don’t know. You have no idea. No one eva does. No one eva knows what kindsa people run the machine, why they run the machine rather than live out their dreams like you and me. You know no child has ever answered the question, What do you want to be when you grow up? with the words, I wanna be a cog.
But they do. Become cogs, jockeying for position while causing, well, clogs. Clogs, drains, alla that. The machine is a machine which means, it is gonna break. Break down, break you, break me, break apart, break your dreams, break your sweet succulent innocent heart. The smart ones are dancinn on the break, you know, them b-boys and b-girls with the headspins and backspins to keep themselves in check.
But maybe if you lucky, you will learn to maintain. You will learn it is a machine and you’ll look to preserve your (integrity) (sanity) (innocence) (name). Maybe you got that, maybe you are that one, the golden virgin with brains and restraint. Or maybe you like me, thinkinn, now you experienced. You somebody. You got that. What? What! WHUT!
It goes on like this. It goes on and on until you’ve had enough. But when does it get to be enough is enough? Do you gotta get on your Donna Summer and be reborn?
Sho nuff. Everyone got they thang. And it makes you wonder, well, it makes me wonder. We know this is a machine. A machine designed to turn us into a dairy cow (heated vegan alert). Take us out of our natural rhythm, in a constant state of mass productivity, draining our life’s essence to make dollars for just who now?
But even if you get it. Even if you get tha cash. Is that what this is about. Is that why we are here. To be whored out.
I’m sayinn. What kinda writer hires a writer to write for them? Dig, we know Warhol wasn’t paintinn nothinn for most of his career, which is why no one ever calls him a, umm, painter. He was a conceptual artist. What he produced was ideas, not artifacts, though undoubtedly, he had that OCD need to hoard crap.
But most of us ain’t gonn reach the stage of conceptual artist, meaning we aren’t gonna be able to have other people produce our work for us. Or. Perhaps we are, we just won’t tell you. We’ll take the praise and the hate and run smoke and mirrors thinking we beat the machine because we lost our soul.
But wait. Wait! Can you beat the machine? To beat it, wouldn’t you have you blow it up. Why does that sentence set my heart aflame. Bougie fuckinn revolutionary, c’est moi.
September 12, 2013
Let the beauty we love
be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways
to kneel and kiss the ground.
September 11, 2013
And I sometimes forget
not everyone heard the sound of engines rumbling low to the ground
and then the sound of police sirens and fire engines racing down the street.
except this is New York,
and it always is.
And I sometimes forget
I didn’t hear it once, I heard it twice,
those engines rumbling low over my head.
And then the sound,
an impact I had never heard until I heard it again,
but I am inside and I am at my desk
and I am answering emails and no one is in the office yet.
And I sometimes forget
not everyone was there when it happened.
That they didn’t smell it for months coming out of the ground,
throughout September and October wondering if it will ever stop
because it feels like it is in your hair and in your skin
and its not like anything you can describe
because it doesn’t smell like anything you want to relive.
And the smell lingers outside the house and outside the office
and it’s much too close but it’s far away enough that I don’t have to breathe it in
except when I can see those clouds that come out of the manholes.
And then I hold my breath like a little kid
sitting in a car that is driving by the cemetery.
It is a long minute.
And though it has been twelve years
I cannot go because it’s just too strange to act like it’s business as usual
because there are some things that I don’t want to remember
and some things I don’t want to forget.
We did a book right after and raised money
because it was the only thing we knew how to do and that felt like something,
because you wanted to contribute.
But I had to release myself so I gave away the book
because I will not look at violence like it is art.
Only now it is odd.
Because I peruse blogs for photos
and I find these images of planes upon impact
and buildings ablaze
and people jumping
and it has become an aesthetic to be consumed.
It is but a photograph
littered in between hundreds and thousands of photographs
of teen angst and lust and drama and dreams.
And so it has become a photograph.
And this makes me think.
About what it is when reality becomes but
a token of life lived
compressed into two-dimensions.
A decorative thing.
I wonder what happens when something is both sacred and profane,
and its meaning changes as it intersects with those
who will never know it in any other way.
September 11, 2013
A pioneer of the Post-Minimalist and Conceptual art movements, Mel Bochner became deeply involved with photography during the mid-to-late 1960s. He describes photography as, “A happy expedient,” that helped resolve his questions around the order and organization of the sculptural form. He notes that photography was, “An easy way of producing images, differently from the look of the handmade, and having unique visual characteristics unexpected in a painting context.
“One result of a method such as seriality tends to be a certain visual complexity uncommon to primary, or single-image art.” Working in photography transformed Bochner’s understanding of other media, and inspired him to give closer consideration to the form of photography itself. He notes that, “In 1967 there was o place for photography in a contemporary art gallery…. Photography was seen as the enemy of all the values of late modernism… and, as things turned out, it was.”
Of this enmity, a new project was born in 1970, titled “Misunderstandings (A Theory of Photography)”, which became a comment on the literature of photography itself. In search of mis/understanding, Bochner began a random collection of quotations written in block letters in black ink on a white lined index cards. The quotes come from sources including Marcel Proust, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Mao Tse-Tung, and Emile Zola, among others, and espouse worldviews that are definitive in the way that only language can be; they are mere hypotheses ready to be taken at face value or questioned critically.
“I would like to see photography make people despise painting until something else will make photography unbearable,” is the quote from Marcel Duchamp, while the Encyclopedia Britannica purports, “Photography cannot record abstract ideas.”
As Bochner explains in an essay written in 2000, and published in Photographs and Not Photographs (Fraenkel Gallery), which contains this series, amongst other work, he decided to create these facsimiles for the 1970 publication of Artists and Photographs, which was produced Multiples Gallery. “I decided that my contribution would be a selection of quotations which taken together might (or night not) suggest the impossibility of a ‘theory’ on photography. I chose six quotations from the earlier group, to which I added three fake quotes, which I invented (and have never revealed which are which). The intention of this act of forgery was to undermine any possibility of belief fin the text, and to raise doubt from a subjective to an objective principle. The ‘groundlessness’ of the quotations became the equivalents to the ‘groundlessness’ of photography itself, focusing attention on the artificiality of any framing device.”
The result is effective in making us aware of how the construction of language easily eludes our consciousness. When attributions are given, and we recognize them, we judge the message by the messenger more times than not. Yet to consider that three quotes are fake allows us to step away from the very idea of a theory of photography itself. We consider that the ideas of others, as well as of our own, are not finished products but works in progress of a sort. They exist to inspire, to outrage, to incite; these insights are mirrors in which we reflect our very own ideas and consider where we stand, and where we may wish to go next. Consider the Zola, which purports, “In my opinion, you cannot say you have thoroughly seen anything until you have a photograph of it.”
No longer taken at face value, we now consider this as both a possibility and an impossibility at the same time. We can certainly know something without the photograph, but were we to include the photograph in our knowing, could we say we see it in a new and more detailed light? It is impossible to say, no one ever having seen that many photographs so as to ever comprehend the visibility of life through the representation of it, rather than its original form.
It is in this way that Bochner’s work provokes us out of our comfort zone, out of our knowingness of the experience of art and photography and the theories that abound. Taken in context with the larger oeuvre within this book, we see the mind of one artist as he asks questions without answers in all media to which he is connected. We enjoy the aesthetic and the intellect at the same time, the two forces touch, aligning, and sometimes colliding when they question each other in ways that are no immediately obvious. For in the work of Bochner the photograph exists as more than just an object or an art; it is a concept unto itself, a concept that does not hold to a theory—or maybe that is actually a theory itself…
September 10, 2013
melt you do melt as tho you were and tho you are
and back to where you came is where you remain forever more.
fade you do fade as tho you never were not
to me, not anything, not even the shadow of distant memory.
erase i do erase as tho i never did
tho i did, and i am, and because of you i never will again.
September 10, 2013
September 9, 2013
When swallowed by a fire-breathing dragon,
Saint Margaret made a cross with her fingers,
causing the beast’s belly to burst open.
Keep calm and carry on.