Saturday, 4 April 2009

the beautiful foolishness of things

collaboration. the roots go back to the latin 'collaborare', which means: to work with ('com' + 'labore'). but is it possible that the work is no work at all, occurring as naturally as the flow of a river, and the 'with' - a dialogue in the mystery of the encounter?

I use Celan's words here, his famous description of the poem (which, however, can stand for every work of art) as an interplay between solitude and the Other:

'The poem is solitary. It is solitary and on the way. Whoever writes it is given to it for the journey.
But does not the poem by that very fact, therefore already here, stand in the encounter – in the mystery of the encounter?

The poem wants to reach this Other, it needs this Other, it needs a vis-à-vis. (...) The poem becomes - and under what conditions - the poem of a person who, as before, perceives, who faces that which appears. Who questions this appearance and addresses it. The poem becomes dialogue...'

two banal water bottles, hanging on a string, in front of countless windows: such an encounter is implausible, if not genuinely absurd, and yet everything combines so well, that one is led to believe that nothing can be more natural, that this is the way things are, or, even more, should be. beauty emerges.

Michael Tweed, who maintains a fascinating However Fallible blog triptych (I think of them as a butterfly - his body and the wings, right and left, unity which can become a flicker, an ineffable tremble in the glimpse of a second), is a Canadian artist with a more than impressive portfolio. If I had to say only one sentence about his work, I would say that he makes art out of a bit of dangling string, then out of that art he makes a 'way', in the japanese sense, a 'do', a spiritual path. But this of course is a very poor way of speaking, there is no 'then' here, and no 'making': everything happens instantly, that very moment in which the line between the invisible and the visible becomes fluid and goes right through us, returning us to that which we truly are, the middle-ground between being and nothing. Merleau-Ponty's 'chiasme', and I hope he doesn't think I am too wrong here...
I remember the simple story of my Japanese pottery Master, who told me one quiet afternoon: 'I will rest when my hands have created the 無空有 bowl'.
mu-ku-yu, a word coined by himself, 無 (void)空(emptiness)有(existence): the unity of being and non-being.

Michael Tweed's works are to me this space in which 無空有 reveals itself, in the glimpse of a second, the butterfly wings' flicker.

And now I can no longer postpone what I want to tell you: to my utmost amazement, Michael has invited me to collaborate with him on an ongoing project which blends my images and his zen-like poems written here from a rather surprising feminine perspective (yes, indeed!). Now you will certainly ask yourselves how these either too dark or too vivid pictures of mine, that entangled world of longing and despair, could possibly be a suitable companion for such an undertaking. I have done so myself. But against all odds, however implausible, if not genuinely absurd, this might appear, he thinks that it can work (and even talks of publishing one day!!!).

Let's see what you think about this foolish idea, which could perhaps, if we succeed, become a mirror to the beautiful foolishness of things


  1. Sounds like a great project, I particularly love the second one in the beautiful foolishness of things sequence.
    I, for one, am desperate to see your pics in print that I might have a collection of them to keep.

  2. that's so lovely of you to say, dear Sorlil! :-)
    I am very happy and excited about it...

  3. this beautiful foolishness of two bottles is a most wonderful image to announce a collaboration...

    (and, publishers please take note: there's a growing unserved public out here, clamouring for Roxana's photos in print!)

  4. ah, fff, don't make me laugh :-)

  5. i LOVE the new blog, it has simple beauty and invites reflection, a receiving - the lack of comments helps to encourage a different kind of engaging, less analytical.

    and yeah, can i please be on the waiting list for that book? those books?

  6. Dans ce monde où tout est montré, il y a de moins en moins à voir, tout y relevant d'un regard comptable et non d'un regard regardant. Je me pose toujours cette question,l'art reproduit-il le visible l'artiste imite-t-il la nature pour donner à son oeuvre la plus grande ressemblance possible avec son modèle ? .

    En quoi l'art modifie-t-il notre perception du monde ? La fonction de l'oeuvre d'art est-elle d'éduquer notre regard, de nous apprendre à voir ? L'art rend-il visible l'invisible ? Est-il une manifestation du sacré ? Ou bien l'art rend-il visible.le visible lui-même, nous dévoile-t-il la visibilité du monde ? Aujourd'hui ma journée de philosophie le principale est aimer.

  7. Great news! Many congrats!!!

    Hope it all goes well for you. I'm sure it will.

  8. so now you just became one of dream workers. I envy you much!!!

    I hope that you enjoy the process of collaboration as well as the final outcomes.

    I love the photos of two bottles hanging in row.. different feeling than your previous ones..

  9. J'aime beaucoup la diversité des sujets abordé dans vos photos

  10. The building looks communist; but the picture is a beutiful microcosm of the implausibility of so many facets of urban existence we take for granted.

    This project sounds grand! best of luck to youand Michael.It should work,for din't I tell you - your photos too have a distinct feminine perspective (a rather forceful one, as Iremember saying)

  11. m, thank you so much for your warm encouragement - and that you immediately included it in your blog roll... (which reminds me that i have to fiddle with mine too, but i am searching for a way to split it into three columns at the bottom, and i don't know how, maybe somebody can help...).

    i am quite pleased with it myself :-) it's a surprise to see the images in that new surrounding (especially the white!), and through Michael's words they become unknown to me and i can discover them again. so it is quite captivating...

  12. oh allan, quelles questions difficiles, j'aimerais tant avoir les reponses mais je pense que les philosophes se querellent encore essayant de les trouver... alors oui, ta philosophie me parait la meilleure, c'est ce qu'il nous reste a faire: aimer. et rever aussi.
    je ne veux pas que mes photos 'reproduisent' le visible, mais qu'elles expriment ce tissu instable, fulgurant, qui se forme a l'intersection de mon regard et du monde. et je pense que ces deux poles, moi et le monde, sont changes en meme temps, ensemble, par cette interaction...

  13. b, thank you :-)
    what do you mean by: all goes great for me? that i suddenly become famous and get a lot of money and be able to smuggle things to you over there? :-)

  14. peter, thank you... yes, I enjoy it very much :-) that's even more important than the outcome.
    what do you mean by 'dream workers'?
    i have always thought of me as such a one :-)

  15. babylonezoo, merci beaucoup de votre visite et de votre appreciation!

  16. no, zuma, i hate to disappoint you and your love for communist buildings :-p but i took the picture in japan...

    thank you. of course i remember what you said, i can even quote you any time: that my pictures have the ability to make the viewer bow to their will - i loved that, most of all perhaps because i can't see them like tat myself...

  17. swiss, i've told you that you've opened my appetite for web's shared creativity :-)

  18. Ofcourse you can't see that?youare the bender, not the bendee. It stands to reason,see?
    (that's not really a word - 'bendee' ;-))

  19. no, ana, that you find/get what *you're* looking for.

    But no, tea and dark chocolate would make my stay here in the cave better. Or maybe some films?

  20. a beautiful collaboration... just subscribed to the link!

    i have been so slow getting around... that Celan quote blinds me somewhat... makes the bottle of water seem like one of his brought up from the depths of light poems hanging in some suspended reality for anyone able to drink it, reach it, open it. light and water... :)

  21. mansuetude, such a brilliant reading of the picture, i am so grateful...
    i must admit i hadn't thought about this myself.

    thank you for subscribing, i am very happy and excited about this project.

  22. It is a beautiful space. Every time I visit I am touched by the photos. Sometimes the words, too, and the combination -

    I do admit, though, that I have been struggling with knowing that a man is writing the 'feminine perspective'. I've tried to get past it, but I can't, because I don't want to, I suppose, even though I'm sad that it takes away from the experience. So I thought I'd come and confess :)

    - and this may not be a discussion you want to have here - I'd love to hear your thoughts still, then maybe an email?

  23. Manuela, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me/us. of course we can have this interesting discussion here, why would i mind? (but if you prefer, we can also continue it by mail). i'm writing an answer right now so bear with me a little, please :-)

  24. ah... manuela, i was waiting for someone to say this...

  25. dear Manuela, i needed some time to think about it because it is not easy for me to answer, given the fact that, quite in opposition to you, i find this to be the most natural thing: the longing to become different, the fusion with the other. and i guess the gender alterity is among the very first experiences of otherness with which we find ourselves confronted. (but of course i have been curious to find out why Michael has had this wish to dedicate a part of his work to a feminin perspective).

    I remember Empedocles saying: 'For already have I once been a boy, and a girl, and a bush, and a fish that jumps from the sea as it swims' - without thinking about metempsychosis, isn't it wonderful that we have the imagination (or what Bachelard calls 'fonction de l'irréel', or 'function of the possible') that can make us break with all inherent limitations of things and experience all these different 'other' in one's lifetime? (and now i start daydreaming about a blog written out of a fish perspective, how could this look like?). how poor would our world be if we didn't have that...

    and how can literature be conceived without this function of the imagination? what else does a writer who imagines figures of a different gender in his/her novel and assume their perspectives? when Flaubert says 'Emma Bovary, c'est moi', i really think he means it really, that in a way he becomes Emma Bovary. (but perhaps this is less common for poetry, and that's why your perplexity).

    actually i find the idea of writing in another language (this too is a way of experiencing othernes, isn't it?) much more radical than assuming a different gender because, after all, i believe in the Jungian notion of an 'androgynous psyche', the 'Animus' and 'Anima' archetypes he talks about. (to dwell upon this would make this answer, which is already very long, impossibly long :-)

    so i think that assuming a different gender perspective can be, for an artist, one of the most liberating and enriching experiences. but my feeling is that Michael aims at more that that (i am not sure myself, so i am only groping in the dark, and he is the only one who can bring light to this matter). i haven't got a clear picture about this myself (i hope that Michael won't laugh too much about this). anyway, i think of the Yin and Yang which - at the most basic level of understanding (I cannot pretend to have more knowledge of this so i won't go further) - could be said to represent the two opposite, but interconnected aspects (feminin and masculin) of the same absolute force, pervading and sustaining the whole (in this way it could be argued that Jung's Animus and Anima are in fact manifestation of the yin-yang principle inside the individual psyche). perhaps similarly, the Hinduists conceive of a feminine and masculine aspect of God. Adi Shankaracharya wrote two marvelous hymns, one dedicated to Shiva (Shivanandalahari) and the other one to the active, creative force of the feminin principle (Soundarya Lahari) which are in fact indivisible, like the left and right of the same body. because this is the main idea of his non-duality thinking, that one has to realize the unity hidden beyond the illusory diversity of the world:

    Be it in a human form,

    Be it in the form of Gods,

    Be it in the form of animal,

    That wanders the forests and hills,

    Be it in the form of mosquito,

    Be it in the form of a domestic animal,

    Be it in the form of a worm,

    Be it in the form of flying birds,

    Or be it in any form whatsoever,

    If always the mind is engaged in play,

    Of meditation in thine lotus like feet,

    Which are the waves of supreme bliss,

    Then what does it matter,

    Whatever body we have.

    So my guess would be that Michael, by experimenting with this subtle interplay of the masculine and feminine (and i really love the way his 'revolutions of the every day life' and our 'foolishness' go hand in hand and mirror each other) assumes the 'both...and' for reaching a totality which leads to the 'neither...nor' (the 'neti neti' of the Upanishads). which is perhaps the origin point of the void in the buddhist thinking (and the nondualism doctrine leads ultimately to the same conclusion, if thought to its end).

    anyway, i'm sorry for this long answer but i've felt this is an important question... however, i'm not sure if any of these random, poorly connected thoughts have been of any help?!

  26. pensum, I wonder at your thoughts... (I'll be a bit sly and say here how much I like your fallible blog, since i can't say it elsewhere)

    Roxana, thank you for your thoughts that make me feel longing, for that transformation, or even for believing in that kind of potential for transformation. Not that I do not (want to) believe in it, but in this particular case I've found I cannot think of it outside of the broader context, and in that context what you say (and I am fully in resonance with it all) is not so easily applied, because the vision you paint assumes equality in position and voice and space, and equity, and that is simply not the case around us today when it comes to gender.

    Even here in Canada when I now live I feel that the space for the feminine voice is still narrow and too often defined by the masculine voice; too often, for too long the 'feminine' voice has come through the masculine. Of 'classic' novelists over the past 100 years, how many have been women, how many women have had to publish under men's names? And I can go on and on with such questions...

    I so much wish to see the feminine have a space of its own, entirely free and safe, where it can learn what it is and find out how it wants to be without any outside definitions or influences - where 'outside' means the norm and the norm has been masculine - this is my vision.

    I will be quiet for a week, but I'll keep chewing on this as I've been since your post. right now mostly i feel moved by the beauty and feeling you both put out into the world and i thank you for that.

  27. thank you so much, Manuela, for telling me/us your thoughts and also for the warm and lovely words you have found in your heart for our foolishness-blog. readers like you are all that we could ever wish for our humble project.

    yes, i understand the position you are voicing these thoughts from and it is sad that we have to live in such a deeply flawed world (i have to repeat these words that i've used in another post of mine, because i don't know how to say it otherwise). but i still don't see very well the connection to the 'foolishness'-project, i don't get what it is that really bothers you there: should the gender-inequality still present on the social level prevent collaboration from female and male artists? should a writer or an artist stop imagining and creating worlds from the inside of the other gender? on the contrary, i believe that exactly because of this reason, that the real world is such as it is, art can offer that entirely free space of exploring any perspective and experiment with every boundary-crossing. and i think that today artists, both male and female, have this freedom to express and create whatever they want and need to, at least in our part of the world. isn't your blog (or mine here) a space where you can express yourself exactly as you wish, let the feminine unfold freely and safely?

    however, i don't think i can agree with the idea that the 'feminin' can discover what it is by isolating herself, as if her essence could be grasped on her own - and this is equally true for the 'masculine' side, of course. because this seems to be the nature of our world, to be defined by an endless play of duality: one cannot define warm without cold or life without death, and viceversa. of course the problem lies, as you say, in the huge gap between this philosophical approach and the social reality (how could the same civilization giving birth to yin-yang practice footbinding?)

    but now we can learn how to play with each other, go against the established norms to modify them, in order to bring the two forces into balance, and harmony - so that we can find a way to go beyond, to transcend duality.

    because i truly think that the most important thing about us lies beyond the gender difference: isn't there much more to a human being than our gender identity? a random play of the cells which splits us into male and female?

    anyway, this discussion could go on and on... :-) so better to turn to poetry again, at least for me, to bring a little calm to all the thoughts that are now in turmoil :-)

    a poem that is very important to me, and perhaps you can find it useful too, for the Easter week of meditation you are about to start:

    If you want to be free,
    Get to know your real self.
    It has no form, no appearance,
    No root, no basis, no abode,
    But is lively and buoyant.
    It responds with versatile facility,
    But its function cannot be located.
    Therefore when you look for it,
    You become further from it;
    When you seek it,
    You turn away from it all the more.
    - Linji

  28. "Therefore when you look for it,
    You become further from it;
    When you seek it,
    You turn away from it all the more."

    ...and my mind whispers, eurydice, this is what her visit was about - i don't believe in accidents or coincidences, and i've been wondering about the reason for her visit at this time... so, here it is!

    thank you! :)

  29. oh, i'm happy dear manu, that the little poem was indeed of help! :-)

  30. Manuela, i must admit to finding it hard to reply, for several reasons, foremost among them being the sense of gratitude i feel for your having instigated a very fruitful and enlightening dialogue not only here with Roxana’s eloquent replies but also behind the scenes. i am also grateful for your kind words in regards to the little fallible companion to Roxana’s and my foolishness. so in the hope that it might help clarify my thoughts, and provide a bit of courage, let me begin by thanking you for these.

    not knowing you, Manuela, i have been hesitant to reply, as i have no way to discern where exactly the difficulty lies for you, though your second post seemed to clarify this somewhat. i don't mention this as an excuse for my slowness in posting a comment, but only to point out one reason why i am uncomfortable with this "gender issue," as here it seems to be very much a personal reason. another factor in my hesitation is that i am regularly shocked at the somewhat bullying tactics that pass for a conversation among men, of which, i am sad to admit, i am far too frequently guilty myself. and i feel that this is something which is readily echoed in the very structure of the written word, whereas in a spoken conversation the real saying, the true communication between, occurs in the tonalities, pauses, shifting posture, small gestures, looks, silences etc. which are all lost when writing. in Buddhism it is said that the ideal transmission is instantaneous, then come mind-to-mind, symbolic and lastly that relying on words. it is also often said that one must not rely on the words, but on the meaning. this meaning however is not found in the dictionary or formulated intellectually or by more words, but rather found within the very essence of one’s own nature—it is something very personal, very intimate; so much so that it lies at the origin of words, or beyond even that, beyond the origin of experience, of perception, beyond the origin of awareness, beyond the origin of any notion of self. perhaps even beyond the very origin of any beyond and hence it suffuses even the smallest gesture and word -- is it not this all-pervasiveness that allows there to be any communication in the first place?

    as Roxana has already pointed out it is not a male and female character that are at issue here. there is still however a subtle and important distinction between the macho little revolution taking place isolated in his cave at however fallible, and the gentle openness, the mitsein, which is unfolding in our beautiful foolishness. this mitsein, this being-with, is why it was only possible for me to undertake this project as a collaboration. for what is at issue here, and distinguishes the two projects is not that they revolve around a male and a female character, but rather the illusion of a closed self, and the unfurling and openness of a simple with; for, to be honest, i think that even that sein--the very notion, however slight, of being--is still too weighty and deceiving. i do not know much, if anything about tea, but is this not what the tea ceremony is-- a pure and open with?

    this then is my inadequate definition of the masculine and the feminine, as loathe as i am to provide one: a being-with though lacking boundaries, so that it spills out in all directions, in all beings and things, remaining indistinguishable, even mistakenly, for any but the most fleeting of instants.

    i apologize if i seem to have avoided addressing your concerns more directly, the issues of inequality, any inequality gender or otherwise, are ever present in my heart and never far from my mind. once a few years ago i had the good fortune of seeing three important radicals from the sixties--Abby Hoffman, Eldridge Cleaver and John Lily--in an open forum at Ryerson in Toronto. this was the first time the three of them had been in a room together, let alone on stage together. needless to say it was a riveting event the reasons for which i could discuss at length, but what particularly struck me was the commitment each one had to a deep and profound change in how we as a society engage with one another and the world. yet each had taken a distinct path in their search for how best to achieve this: Hoffman remained an engaged political activist, once a Black Panther Cleaver had become a minister and Lily of course thought the answer lies in science and scientific method. although their respect for one another was readily apparent. the three could not see eye-to-eye on any issue, and soon the audience was dividing into their respective camps as well, shouting and general mayhem ensued and was still palpable out on the street after. all the while i couldn’t help but think that each was looking at the same cloud engulfing the peak, and each man’s path had the potential of fulfilling their common dream—if only they had known that it was not a matter of convincing another that theirs was the only path, but instead of sharing stories over a fire when their paths did cross and waving joyfully when glimpsing another climbing in the distance. so please accept this as my hearty wave across the divide…

  31. I don't know whether to continue this conversation - it's been a while, and I kept thinking about it, but I don't want to artificially prolong it, either. I'll say thank you for your words, which I find inspirational - that you both think and feel that way about art and collaboration.

    And I'll answer your question, Roxana, about what it is that bothers me, and yours too, pensum - or answer in part, as there are undertones I can't quite articulate still.

    The issue for me stems from my belief that there is no place of innocence in an unjust system. To put it maybe simplistically, my position and actions in such a system either further or hinder the injustice/imbalance, but they can never be neutral - e.g. my life in Canada contributes to an unjust global system and has immediate and stark consequences for people somewhere else in the world. I do not know them, and I do not need to do anything directly, but I still carry the responsibility for the consequences of participating in a wasteful society. Sue Sinclair's poem 'Suffering' says that so well:

    "Here the seeds of elsewhere's destruction,
    the fruits of elsewhere's labour:
    invisible backhoes on ghostly soil
    tripped over again and again,
    debts piling up on the doorsteps of glass buildings.

    At twenty-nine, already
    I could spend all my time pondering what little
    has happened to me. Privilege, its bought goods
    massed like a sound barrier: in the distance
    unheard atrocities, faint echoes
    that won't penetrate for years."

    Applying that to our discussion, in a patriarchal, sexist system, such a collaboration as yours can either further or hinder the injustice. That's where I was coming from, and my reaction was to what felt to me like an appropriation of the feminine voice, or of the potential space for a feminine voice (which, as I said before, I believe to be still too small and never entirely free).

    The question I cannot answer very clearly is that of why it felt like an appropriation. I'll tell you my thoughts so far though the picture is not complete. One reason is clearly personal: as a social worker I see and read daily about very real and painful consequences of gender inequality. (I sense the difference in the language I use, compared to you two - you talk like artists.)

    Another reason is the sense that the words speak *for* the images, rather than *with*: like a uni-directional funnel, I as the audience feel that, after I've read the words, I can't go back into the wider space to envision different possibilities. A chicken and egg situation - would I have felt that if I thought the words were written by a woman, I don't know.

    And I already feel my words are losing clarity, so I will stop.

    It looks like I did continue the conversation... I wanted to clarify some of my thoughts and also my position, since I vanished last week just as we had began communicating... but this is not meant to stir things up again if they have settled.

  32. dear Manu :-)

    it's so good to hear from you again (i mean in this context, because otherwise you are so much present here, and not only here :-). don't worry, you don't stir any waters, or if you do, it is a welcome stirring :-) your questions and the problems that you have raised have been very helpful for me (i will let pensum speak for himself, but i think he feels the same) and challenging at the same time.

    still i am at a loss as to how i could answer here, you address so many points in your comment which are all so captivating and worth each an entire essay (and more!). for me as i see it, there are at least three distinct levels on which the dialogue could be extended, and i am very grateful that it is like this, i'll explain later why.

    first, the general thought frame that you bring in for your argument: the holistic perspective of responsibility and balance of the system we live in. i know what you mean. it's something i have to face for myself too, even when it comes to this blog: what sense does it make that i post here lovely pictures 'far from the madding crowd' and sad love poems when 80 % of the earth suffer from hunger and there are so many wars going on right this minute? even grieving for a lost love or for one's lost past, for ex., seems so ridicule compared to the pain of somebody who has just been mutilated by a bomb or victim of any kind of violence. but then again i say to myself that in the context of this particular life, which has to be lived in its own, specific circumstances, each gesture has a full symbolic significance, and in each gesture or feeling or thought it is actually the entire mankind expressing itself. if we didn't think like this, then even the smallest gesture, like eating soup for lunch, would become unbearable, because at the same moment a child dies of hunger somewhere in the world (and no matter how active we engage ourselves in the fight for improving things, for hindering injustice, this simple truth remains). and then the only possible conclusion, on the most basic ontological level, is that of existentialism, let's say Kafka, this is only "ein Beweis, dass es unmoeglich ist zu leben" - a further 'proof that it is impossible to live'. and i will say now something that will perhaps disappoint many, that i don't think art by itself can make a difference - art can certainly soothe, but not address the problem at its root (hence the feeling of futility i often get about photography and the rest). i think only a spiritual perspective - how poor words are - can really help, to learn to see beyond what we normally call 'good' and 'bad' and understand what the real cause of all suffering is and what 'being' means.

    secondly, about your concerns targeted specifically at our 'foolishness'. if i understand you correctly, what bothers you is that you feel the words speak 'for' the images and not 'with', thus imposing their own perspective, which belongs to a man, upon images created by a woman. that this could further social injustice. i wonder here about something: isn't such a concern born out of a still persistent logocentric approach, in this case namely that words are the centre of all canon and authority belongs to that one subject appropriating the words - in this case the man, of course. what if Michael had composed music for every image, would you have felt the same? or - this is a question that I have discussed with him in our interesting mail exchange born out of your comments, and for which i am also grateful, it's helped us clear a lot of things for ourselves as well, about art etc. - would you have still been bothered if he had provided the images and i the words? a further question, even more interesting: could it be that this perspective of voice/language related to a power hierarchy obscures another aspect which is equally important - that often words are born out of an image that i give Michael, and they don't come in the first place, searching for an image to fit their already established meaning. why don't you see this from the opposite angle, that it is actually the image forcing the voice to embrace its aura, and thus limits his freedom and guides the perspective? i don't like to apply this 'power' discourse to our project but i use it because i think it is implied in your choice of prepositions, the 'for' (which is actually an 'instead') rather than the 'with'. and i am curious: would another project involving female-male collaboration still bother you, if it were only about images? (Michael has had this idea for a long time and i find it fascinating, a space where participants engage in an open dialogue only using images/signs, each image leading to an another one?). and another curiosity of mine: how should a cross gender project look like so that you don't feel bothered by it at all?

    but for me the question that you raise here is a broader one, going beyond the gender conflict, and a fundamental one: what are the advantages and disadvantages and the limits of such an undertaking which combines words and images? i have said this many times on my blog, that i am unsure about the shape it has taken by itself, and that i wish so many times it would be just a space for images and silence. and that i am uncomfortable even with the idea of giving a title to a picture - if i can someday have an exhibition as i like to, there won't be any words there in the room. because even a small title can lead the gaze of the audience toward a specific 'reading' and thus, as you rightly say, reduce the "wider space to envision different possibilities". on the other hand, such a collaboration between words and images opens other possibilities of expression and experiment and i don't see why we should limit ourselves to only one way of seeing or doing things.

    and from this point on, i suddenly feel the urge to extend (or deepen) your question to still another level, because it is something i am very much concerned with : isn't any form of art, any 'making', already a limitation, a reduction compared to the open space of infinite possibilities that precedes the creation? how can one live with this paradox, that creating something means enriching the being while settling oneself into the core of an inevitable loss? i can't get over this Michaux quote: 'The more you succeed at writing (if you write), the further you'll be from fulfilling the pure, strong, original desire -- the fundamental thing -- to leave no sign. What satisfaction would be worth that ? Writer, you do just the opposite, laboriously opposite.' or the French philosopher and painter Rene Passeron, who describes painting (but it is the same for any art, i think) as a 'pansement du vide' (i don't know how to translate this, 'bandaging the void'?).

    anyway, i'm afraid you will think that i have avoided the gender problem by broadening the context of our discussion. perhaps it is true, but then it is so because i still fail to see the 'foolishness' project through the lens of a gender approach - and i am also reluctant to see what i do here on 'the floating bridge' from this perspective: that my pictures or my texts reflect a feminine view or embody a feminine sensitivity (even if readers tell me this, that they see my works in this way). this may be true, but it is not what i search to express or what is important to me. perhaps this is an irreducible point of difference between your vision and mine. and if this is the case, then i am more than happy to see how fertile our conversation is, despite - or perhaps thanks to - our different perspectives. and now i wonder if there isn't some temperamental issue at stake here as well: even if i understand your need for isolation, that the feminine has to build a space for herself, entirely free of everything else - i am afraid i am too much of a dialogical being (a sym-being, to coin a word after that famous 'sym-philosophieren' of the german romantics), who finds any enclosure sterile in the end and can only live in a kind of 'Mitbewegung' ('movement with') the Other. this need is more important for me than anything else. I think my Pisces nature is guilty for that :-) (oh and don't start me talking about my ever unfulfilled nostalgia of becoming an anthropologist :-)

  33. a little personal confession: once the great polish poet c. milosz told the story of how he was once caught in a crossfire. he ran for his life, but fell in the middle of the street. as bullets whizzed past, he remained lying face down fearing for his life. suddenly a bullet smashed a cobblestone beside his head and he thought to himself, "poetry cannot stop bullets." reading this i took my collection of his poems to the used bookstore to sell and never read another word by him.

    like a charmed protection amulet the poem is immune to any wound, and anyone who grasps its essence--which is not in the words themselves though it suffuses them and all the space and silence that surrounds them--is also immune.

    shinichi tanizaki's poem entitled "Death":

    there is no death.

    behind each work of art is an artist of flesh and blood who doubts, suffers, and experiences fleeting pleasures, if not why does art not manifest of its own accord? why not value then the outpourings of any random machine (though even these rely on the suffering of flesh and blood to design, construct and maintain them)? why should an artist (who can only give voice to the impoverished and broken, as the very nature of art is obliterated by even the slightest assumption of power) be silenced? his or her words denied in deference to the passive viewer/reader/listener? poetry can never reveal itself in such a relationship, but only when both poet and audience have dropped away as naturally and unassumingly as the falling petals of a cherry blossom.

    a space in which to speak is only found by listening, one does not write or speak, one is offered speech, proffered saying.

    a poem is the manifestation of a poet's silence.

    words use the poet, not vice versa. for the poet is the sounding chamber of the poem, where the unheard poem never ceases to echo.

    true saying is only found by listening, by giving up one's right to speak. such silence is rare, but never is it mute.

    words are only as empty as the poet. the poem only ever as effective as the poet's impotence.

    vast, open, we all resound.

    even milosz's bullet sings.

  34. Paula Becker to Clara Westhoffby Adrienne Rich (1929- )

    Paula Becker 1876-1907
    Clara Westhoff 1878-1954
    became friends at Worpswede, an artist's colony near Bremen, Germany, summer 1899. In January 1900, spent a half-year together in Paris, where Paula painted and Clara studied sculpture with Rodin. In August they returned to Worpswede, and spent the next winter together in Berlin. In 1901, Clara married the poet Rainer Maria Rilke; soon after, Paula married the painted Otto Modersohn. She died in a hemorrhage after childbirth, murmuring, What a shame!
    The autumn feels slowed down,
    summer still holds on here, even the light
    seems to last longer than it should
    or maybe I'm using it to the thin edge.
    The moon rolls in the air. I didn't want this child.
    You're the only one I've told.
    I want a child maybe, someday, but not now.
    Otto has a calm, complacent way
    of following me with his eyes, as if to say
    Soon you'll have your hands full!
    And yes, I will; this child will be mine
    not his, the failures, if I fail
    will all be mine. We're not good, Clara,
    at learning to prevent these things,
    and once we have a child it is ours.
    But lately I feel beyond Otto or anyone.
    I know now the kind of work I have to do.
    It takes such energy! I have the feeling I'm
    moving somewhere, patiently, impatiently,
    in my loneliness. I'm looking everywhere in nature
    for new forms, old forms in new places,
    the planes of an antique mouth, let's say, among the leaves.
    I know and do not know
    what I am searching for.
    Remember those months in the studio together,
    you up to your strong forearms in wet clay,
    I trying to make something of the strange impressions
    assailing me—the Japanese
    flowers and birds on silk, the drunks
    sheltering in the Louvre, that river-light,
    those faces...Did we know exactly
    why we were there? Paris unnerved you,
    you found it too much, yet you went on
    with your work...and later we met there again,
    both married then, and I thought you and Rilke
    both seemed unnerved. I felt a kind of joylessness
    between you. Of course he and I
    have had our difficulties. Maybe I was jealous
    of him, to begin with, taking you from me,
    maybe I married Otto to fill up
    my loneliness for you.
    Rainer, of course, knows more than Otto knows,
    he believes in women. But he feeds on us,
    like all of them. His whole life, his art
    is protected by women. Which of us could say that?
    Which of us, Clara, hasn't had to take that leap
    out beyond our being women
    to save our work? or is it to save ourselves?
    Marriage is lonelier than solitude.
    Do you know: I was dreaming I had died
    giving birth to the child.
    I couldn't paint or speak or even move.
    My child—I think—survived me. But what was funny
    in the dream was, Rainer had written my requiem—
    a long, beautiful poem, and calling me his friend.
    I was your friend
    but in the dream you didn't say a word.
    In the dream his poem was like a letter
    to someone who has no right
    to be there but must be treated gently, like a guest
    who comes on the wrong day. Clara, why don't I dream of you?
    That photo of the two of us—I have it still,
    you and I looking hard into each other
    and my painting behind us. How we used to work
    side by side! And how I've worked since then
    trying to create according to our plan
    that we'd bring, against all odds, our full power
    to every subject. Hold back nothing
    because we were women. Clara, our strength still lies
    in the things we used to talk about:
    how life and death take one another's hands,
    the struggle for truth, our old pledge against guilt.
    And now I feel dawn and the coming day.
    I love waking in my studio, seeing my pictures
    come alive in the light. Sometimes I feel
    it is myself that kicks inside me,
    myself I must give suck to, love...
    I wish we could have done this for each other
    all our lives, but we can't...
    They say a pregnant woman
    dreams her own death. But life and death
    take one another's hands. Clara, I feel so full
    of work, the life I see ahead, and love
    for you, who of all people
    however badly I say this
    will hear all I say and cannot say.



    While reading your words, pensum, this poem came to mind. I could not remember it very well so I looked it up, and reading it I finally felt something relax - 'yes, that's what I felt.' So I brought it here, somewhat selfishly, to free myself from the nagging sense of not having expressed myself well.

    I say 'selfishly' because I also feel that our conversation has moved on from my initial comment and is now at a stage where I feel I should 'give up my right to speak'. I feel we are all like moths wanting to burn into the same light, though we may be different colors and come at the light from different directions. So whatever I would add now would echo your (much more articulate) words - which I think I have already done...

    ps pensum, i don't know how it feels to be face down on the pavement and have bullets explode near my head. but i think, which of us has never doubted? milosz faced that fear and that thought - a poet doubting poetry - and yet he continued to write poems, great poems, and somewhere in the world someone reads them instead of doing something else. all of this to say, he seems to have spoken to you and i hope one day you'll feel like going back to him.

  35. thanks manuela for the poem, the kind words and a very fruitful conversation...