Friday, November 02, 2012

Everyday, Crass, Object

Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, "Circle of Confusion", 2010
For R. & T. 

Drowning in familiarity. It's an everyday scene, with an added quality of stupor: A half-tilted tryptych hanging from a porous wall, and the waters uniformly painted in between blue and white, lacquered on the surface. Rather than giving the effect of water, the texture is absent and nothing seems to move. The painting seems to stand well among other objects, without being so much an object as a mirror of the surrounding. There are other things too, not as yet objects: Sofas mounted on tables, a mural being painted on the floor, an old-fashioned stereo, oil paintings disappointed with themselves, vases holding immobile plants that grow only sideways, an assortment of keys on a hanger. There's even a dartboard affixed to the wall, parallel to the tryptych, beneath a lightbulb. Do random objects exist outside a composition? What distinguishes crass objects from let's say, an installation? Imagine this to be a museum... Your entire life on permanent exhibition, or, at least, the external objects that once carefully delinated its topography. There's no composition. The sounds are so sterile, conversations, conversations that never become. Every word becomes smothered by the absence of other words. Forget the museum. Imagine throwing a thousand-piece puzzle in the open ocean.

What really is an everyday scene other than a pictorial imposition? Did anyone ever find himself in an everyday scene and claim a feeling for himself? The aspirations of art are sometimes cruel: An everyday scene is the highest degree of abstraction; photographs and standstills thrive on them. It's a still-life. It was much better when you imagined it, when you had - while far away - the sensation of what home would feel like. "Is this it?" was the question of a saint as he walked into a holy city and found the streets littered and flooded in nauseating smells from decomposition of matter. It looked much better in the painting. Paintings do not speak; they have no need to articulate anything. The mirror is already broken. What was ever so exceptional about this? So comfortable? Perhaps exceptional and comfortable are not compatible. Do you want to hide or to disclose? But disclosure yet seems so simple, it can all be fit into a three-word phrase. How often can it be uttered? How long until it dissolves and drowns in the familiar? Why would one want to be back? The depiction of objects should never be like in dreams, because of the time quality associated with them as they unfold. The true nature of the object is awakefulness, hence, radical whatness.

The whatness of an object in a painting isn't thingness, rather, the opening of a world in itself. Worlds are composed by objects, self-referent and self-contained. Can objects be moved from one location to another? Does it matter in a painting if the view can be alternatively rotated? Adjusting points of view, manifold times, this is what seems really important. But how do you call something a point at all from a position of permanent dislocation? I occupy a privileged place, a space, without texture or topography, without mapping, without true perception; it's constantly fleeting, a mere reminder of a possibility that never quite materializes. Perhaps everything would be better than the collision between this free floating space and the curse of familiar topography. You can touch over and over, test your limits, tune your judgments, and yet feel nothing at all. How to escape from what you never were? I would like to recover something more fundamental, more fundamental than conversations and images, something on the back of memories. Something so primal like the puncturing smell of detergent one felt in the bathroom of somebody you once loved, that breeze of the summer that only invades desiring bodies at the ocean, the texture of unshaven skin in the morning. 

Did you ever walk in a souk? The ideal museum of the mind, that is. Everything is an object, everything is a thing, and everything is in a composition, a composition of perception rather than of order. This is what I'm looking for: composite and yet irreducible feelings, in lieu of sterile memories. How to assemble one crass object next to another without losing their quality of crassness and yet forming a unity that is not a totality but more like a sequences of monads? Totality is perverse: there's no entrance or exit. Crass, like "interesting" is not an aesthetic quality or a degree of intensity in appereance - in appereance there's always isonomy and equality - but rather the negation of the possibility of a phenomenon, it's the anti-phenomenon: The illusion of durability without appereance - pure thingness. But pure thingness is also the negation of creation, that's why crass objects create the illusion of anti-art, nevertheless, "This is not a pipe", writes Magritte in his own painting. I want an inventory of memory populated with things, with primal things, and not with photographic memory; photography is the fulfillment of the contemporary illusion of death, of a transient death, that happens over and over. 

I want it to happen only once, like the moment of love. I want to be able to die. I want to be able to live. I want to be able taste. I want it to happen only once. It's the reenactment of memory, the reenactment of feeling, what causes the perpetual distortion, as if one were forever willing to return to a primal moment of intensity that was never experienced in this life, a vault of memory that remains closed for as long as one lives. That's why I'm so attracted to thingness. Caressing the cheek of a sleeping T. and feeling at the simple touch the years of absence between the longing and the moment of love, the water of glass atop the piano tiptoeing carefully around the notes, the smell of letters, the pearly texture of mussels, intoxications of mint and basil, the skin of blue cheese, imagining what Kuwait looks like from the Portuguese Fort, an I love you in the Arabic language. Those are the things I love. I am reminded of God, should he happen to be. He didn't describe feelings, he didn't see images. He only named things. Isn't that what Klimt did in his paintings? Think of Adele Bloch-Bauer. The sleepless nights our lips cracked. Familiary is a curse, so is the everyday. It's like an installation. I want the excitement, the endless possibility, the strangeness, of what can never be had.

Gustav Klimt, "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I", 1907

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant. When I finished reading it, I realized I wasn't breathing. It feels so close, so near, so here, (inside, deep inside) so sharp, so poignant, (and again so sharp) it hurts and comforts at the same time. You wrote the edge. The pain of experiencing and knowing the edge and the depth of its roots. This "But how do you call something a point at all from a position of permanent dislocation?" should be written on my two passports. I will return to it again. Thank you for writing it.