This weekend Sim and i attended some sort of art fair, art clearance sale, on the outskirts of Zurich, oerlikon, unpretentiously or ultra-pretentiously named Art 11.
Last year or the one before that we attended it, at least i did, with a sense of curiosity, which was only very partially satisfied. My problem was basic: too many objects for serious appreciation, an all-too pervasive atmosphere of supply[cation]&demand. I remember there were two or three good pieces but it was beyond me to make them stick in my visual memory. They were buried or mashed together in an amorphous meta-blob of….no-memory, anti-remembrance. The important thing, a year later, is that I went there with my luv and two good friends. That we had a few beers together and talked non-sense about the stuff up on the walls.
In terms of works the place this weekend was still much the same: pure creative/consumerist glut. This time though, I arrived without the unfounded expectations. The clear and present impression that every single object was purely intended for sale was, if anything, or nothing, even more omnipresent. Everything had to go. There were paintings [elaborate doodles] retailed at an Ikea-esque 650 euros. Whatever didn’t sell might indeed wind up in the local Ikea’s interior decoration department, together with the black-and-white, yellow-taxid pictures of new york and other large-scale prints of total indistinction.
I’ve been eager to commit to more optimism and less pessimism, so I’ll say that the place didn’t make me sad at all. On the contrary: good things happened between Simi, myself and some of the fellow visitants. As we entered the re-functionalized factory yard we mused on how high an entry fee would be charged as we had been unable to figure out if it would be the acceptable 25 quid or a rather disconcerting 50 bucks. The latter possibility giving my spirit a tinge of dread. I could unhappily envision my financial month coming to an end one week ahead of the temporal month, the one consisting of weeks, days and hours.
Instead the woman in front of us swirled around waving a handful of pink slips and directed a few words and happy face at us. When a stranger unexpectedly talks to you, as often as not, s/he might as well be speaking a language from a different galaxy. The words and their meaning just glide through you, ears stoppered by startlement. Seeing her smile and undulate those slips, having grasped she is from the same planet come in peace, we kindly asked her to please repeat what she’d just said. She did so while she handed me one of the pink tickets. We thanked her unisono, Simi probably half-a-second quicker, still both too surprised and plus considerably chilled by the gelid November evening to do as profusely as would have been becoming. Improbably, she swiftly addressed herself to the next visitors, proffering further slips like an art fairy. I checked the back of the ticket, it said free entry for two. It was a small, warm blessing.
Inside, one of the paintings did manage to hold my gaze for longer than a few, distracted seconds. The canvas was simply horizontally graded from green to blue to yellow or some such colour scheme. I could feel my sight being drawn into it and strode up closer for appreciation. I gazed down into it [even without 3d glasses] and let myself go, trying not to think to much at all but just live inside my eyeballs.
My line of sight kept saccading. This was a sort of visual haiku, the way many writers enjoy calling a compressed, beautiful thing a haiku. I relished how the gradation suspended or evaporated the flow of words inside my head for a while, how it did not offer itself for any sort of labored intellectual analysis. Just these three graded colours streaming into my eyes: lovely. After perhaps 20 or 30 seconds some part of my brain acknowledged that the colour-scheme was kitschy but another part of my cortex shot right back that that didn’t matter iota one. My eyes and spirit gave it a grinning thumbs-up.
Then the gallerist, an old, bespectacled German, despite the fact that my sporty outfit clearly communicated that I did not hail from the potential buyer’s bracket, started breaking it down for me. Patiently he told me about how the eyes find no purchase, etc., nothing fancy, jargon-free, just a few pointers in terms of perception and psychology, the artist’s training [art school in Dortmund] and the decade-long genesis of his technique. Nothing that made it all the way into my medium-term memory-bank. Even gave me his card, perhaps thinking that somebody who has the patience/interest to listen to his entire spiel might after all make it into supra bracket. Good man.
The floor was very uneven in a way that kept reminding you that this place had been used for industrial purposes back in the days, heavy machinery bolted into the floors leaving behind massive gapes here and there. Falling steel girders gouging out concrete divots from the factory floor. Maintenance access chutes drawing ditches for inattentive workers to fall into and break a bone or two. The unstable, pitted geometries of massively complex plant equipment. Lacunae in the reshuffling order of things.
Then I met a man from the past, name of Carlos. He too used to work in Rapperswil, one of those marketing or PR or design-related gigs, which for ignorami [such as moi] seem to melt into oneanother. We chatted friendly, the kind of easy-going sympathy that seems to spring out of thin air. Eventually he got around to telling me about something absurd and destructive that had come to pass. The chief-editor of the mag I used to work for had been fired, this from a five-man outfit and the chief layouter had quit in protest, leaving three or four people. Supposedly the owner thinks he can go it alone, which seems highly unlikely since his networking mojo and financial firepower are inversely proportional to his journalistic prowess. A kind way of putting it. So, absurd because this is bound to fall flat by dint of insufficient knowledge of self and destructive because they had a decent team in place. The editor is a nice guy, competent, even if he couldn’t protect me from getting the unjust boot. Is he going to effortlessly segue to the next position or will he perhaps find out about the tricky terrain of the job market? I know there would have been a time in the past where there would have been a silly sense of vengeance but instead it felt like an unnecessary loss. Tough I stopped reading the mag a long time ago.
Carlos and I said our goodbyes and I wondered if I would ever in life see him again. And if by then he would have read any Bolano the way I instructed, implored, recommended him to.
[The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (Alan Jacobs) – Highlight Loc. 1635-36 | Added on Friday, November 18, 2011, 11:50 AM]
Such imaginative engagement can only come through the written word when the reader possesses, or is possessed by, deep solitude—whether that solitude is given by circumstance or created, even in the midst of a crowd, by force of will.
This rings very true. After long hours of reading, when coming back out onto the streets of Lucerne or entering the surprisingly crowded University main building, I instantly, deeply feel like a visiting stranger. Like a person who was meant to have a quiet continent for himself, so the better as to read but who washed up on the crowded shores of the wrong tectonic plate. Everything is so noisy, people have so implausibly much to say, yet when one listens, scarcely any phrases are uttered that could rival the value of silence. But unfortunately I am not possessed of the force of will which manages to create its personal cone of silence in which one can read The New York Trilogy or Excession or The Art of Happiness or The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction in the midst of the modern-day racket.
In general however, fiction can nearly go pound-for-pound with material reality, being after all a part of it: the black scribbles as well as neurons firing in blackness.
Here is one of the things I read last week
[The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (Alan Jacobs) – Highlight Loc. 1336-37 | Added on Friday, November 11, 2011, 07:08 PM]
I wonder if Darwin’s history has a mirror image: I wonder if long-practiced contemplation of great works of literary art makes it more difficult for a person to read for information, to work methodically through textbooks and analyze data well.
To a degree I am my own personal guinea-pig for this question. A couple of months ago I decided that I would try focusing almost exclusively on reading fiction. I had endured a couple of mediocre books of non-fiction and the whole business of reading bad prose in combination with dry facts started seeming like a waste of time for a person whose focal ambitions are, self-professed, literary. But now that due to my study course I’ve had to go back to scientific reading the effect has been pragmatic. I realize that I read “from a totally different place”, it’s as though the signals from my visual nerves get re-routed to quite a different place when I’m reading non-fiction. For example when reading “Human being, body, disease” the info gets routed, via the center of feeling responsible, to the region of unlimited naturalistic curiosity: how do things work? Whereas when I read Banks it gets routed via the Corpus Desideratum Literari to the lobe of utopian imagination: this is what the cosmos might also be like. In both cases the subjective experience of reading is stimulating and positively reinforcing but it seems as appropriate to compare as designing an architectural plan and landscape painting.