I’ve reduced my LP collection to 3 : HAIR, given to me on my birthday in 1968, along with Nashville Skyline (which didn’t make the cut, sorry Bob), Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall 1961, Satchmo at Symphony Hall 1947. If a collection says anything about a person, the pretext of this one would be that I didn’t collect them- they were given to me. Judy and Satchmo are sentimental attachments to my father who communicated not through his own voice, but the music he stacked on the Hi-Fi day and night. That’s another story.
Why HAIR? Why not Let it Bleed or Revolver– favorites that I played over and over? I hardly ever played HAIR.
Last night I went to see Faustwork Mask Theatre’s ‘The Mask Messenger‘ at the CCA, part of Theater Grottesco’s ‘Eventua’ series. Rob Faust attributed to universal appeal of masks to our human desire for transformation. HAIR holds a place where I am still turning 13, believing in a dawning Aquarius. It was a directional signal – I trusted the gardens and co-ops, the overcooked millet, the music, the poetry, the art making, all the way through the 80’s and the polo playing logos. HAIR, psychedelic astrological future forecast of peace and love, isn’t nostalgic, like Judy and Satchmo. It is an anthem that tells me, yes indeed, the world is turning and you are part of the whorl.
I found a drawing paper clipped to the back of one of Henry Miller’s letters from around 1938- a heated letter to the editor of the New Republic regarding their review of Tropic of Cancer. I like the Piscean fish scales on the left and the ship in space invention in progress way it sails across the page. 2160 AD marks the astrological calender date for the arrival of Aquarius after the dissolution of the 2000 year cycle of Pisces. Miller was hanging out at the time with astrologer Conrad Moricand. ” .. and the mind through revelation…..”
The January 11, 2013 issue of Pasatiempo/The New Mexican had an article by Michael Abatemarco- ‘ Seance with Henry Miller and Emil Schnellock’- regarding the Open Letter from the Hotel Central project. I can’t link to the article but I’ve posted it here for anyone willing to zoom in. He captured the thread of the project born from my obsession with Schnellock’s personal archive, much of it focused on Miller’s life as a writer. Like Miller walking the streets of Paris in Tropic of Cancer or Emil, trying to crack through the visible world to which he feels chained, the project is a record of my walk as an artist as I spin meaning through making, always on the trail of what’s missing- the frontier, the unknown future, the giant absence.
In a letter to Emil dated 1947, British writer Claude Houghton writes of the spiritual discouragement of the English people following the war:
“All things- from God downwards- are revealed by their absence. As clearly revealed, negatively, as they are positively revealed by their presence.”
Paper, ink, words stung into ideas, stamps, books and edited typescripts, handwritten notes, exotic dolls from Emil’s studio- the ephemeral physical world of the archive tracks the censoring mind- what to conceal, what to reveal- something lost in digital communication. Written words, whether sensuously enveloped in paper and stamps or digitally transmitted, are a metaphor for the intimate- absent that creates our life story, individually and collectively. What is silenced becomes loud, the reckless are revealed as fearful. The project installations look at censorship- how we edit ourselves and are silenced by others, and the haunting resonance of what is repressed. It also looks at the relationship of the Voice- what we project into the world- and the Receiver, how we listen and reflect on what we hear/think. In an increasingly crowded, action and message driven world where nearly everyone has a voice via digital media – the project looks at emptiness, absence and the space required for assimilation and integration of the ‘new’, the place where change is born- the void. It’s about listening and sitting in the unknown – an integral part of ”living in the world as if we are really part of it” (Andre Breton, The Surrealist Manifesto). It’s about Fuxi and Nuwa, the mythic couple in Chinese mythology, whose yinyang malefemale absentpresent dance keeps the world in balance.
In the exchange of letters between Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel titled ‘Hamlet’ (not the other one although his ghost is present) Miller responds to Fraenkel “ I’ve got to draw a line you say. Either the unabashed thinker or the storyteller? Why not both, my dear fellow? “
Thanks Henry. This project, called Open Letter, is taking all parts of me and stitching them together again. My early fascination with the archive I inherited from Emil Schnellock was the conversation about creative process, all the despair and ecstasy, creation destruction. I like to make things with my hands- I also like to invent with words and sound- they just go out into the air, invisible. After nearly 18 years of circling the archive (Emil Schnellock was Henry Miller’s devoted lifelong friend and literary executor during Miller’s Tropic years in Paris) – annotated typescripts, books, pamphlets, postcards and the letters (what joy to hear Emil’s voice at last when I found his letters in the special collections at UCLA- before that he was the shadow of Henry’s reply and whatever else I’d heard about him through my Aunt Dorothy, his sister)
The storyteller emerges- as usual, my best thinking happens when I’m not looking but making things. Once my hands are busy the next step is revealed. Open Letter at Hotel Central, Paris is underway.
Bees are out of their hives and all over the maple trees where the fuzzy green hairy buds are just about to open. I wanted to get a photograph but these are very feisty bees and I was wearing a wool sweater vest and one got tangled up in it (a green vest no less) so I moved along after we freed ourselves of one another.
Axle Contemporary www.axleart.com is putting together a photo ‘snap’shot of Santa Feans called E Pluribus Unum. The words captivated me- if you squint the phrase is legible on the one dollar bill (maybe on others???) – that great eagle banner. Made me think of the bees – this image is part of a Biblio-tech series of laminated plywood forms with a wedge cut in one side- an homage to the book, one of my favorite objects. One panel is covered in pollen, the other in steel/carborundum.
I read an article recently in The New Mexican (yup, hard copy newspaper over granola and Russian caravan tea) by W. Brian Arthur, a visiting researcher with the Intelligent Systems Lab at the Palo Alto Research Center and external professor at the Santa Fe Institute, titled ‘The Second Economy’, how digitization is creating a second economy that’s vast, automatic and invisible- thereby bringing the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution.’ It resonated with my Futurology 101: Welcome to the Third Wave project— yes, we are all in the Third Wave, the Information age, simultaneously paddling as hard as we can and enjoying blissful moments of no-time. It’s art and physics, the new age without the fringe.
As an artist working with the same material/ideas presented in the essay, I was compelled to contact Brian Arthur to continue the conversation, via email, about the impact of digital media on culture, and gave him the link to my website and Futurology audio. Here is his response:
“Your art reminded me of what the psychologist Robert Johnson once said: “It seems that it is the purpose of evolution now to replace an image of perfection with the concept of completeness or wholeness. Perfection suggests something all pure, with no blemishes, dark spots or questionable areas. Wholeness includes the darkness but combines it with the light elements into a totality more real and whole than any ideal. This as an awesome task, and the question before us is whether mankind is capable of this effort and growth. Ready or not, we are in that process.”
Your art somehow has that wholeness that can’t be analyzed just apprehended.”
A very insightful review- Thank-you. It gave me an idea- why not ask scientists to review art, and artists to review the implications of scientific research/data/hypotheses?
Happy New Year to all and keep the conversation going.
Another war ends. Oh, wait, who declared a war? Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Germany, Chile, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, -come home.
The image on the left is a photogram I made, comprised of miniature molded plastic soldiers made in China of 19th and 20th century US wars- Civil War, WW1, WW2, Korea- I need to check back at the hobby store and see about Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. On the right is a photograph from my Aunt Dorothy Schnellock/Greene (in center, next to her brother Emil) from the ’20’s. It was taken in an advertising agency where she and Emil worked. She said the men were so damaged after returning from the war they pledged to make time every day for LIFE- here they are playing music during a lunch break. More music, more dancing. Happy New Year to all.
From Open Letter to Surrealists Everywhere, by Henry Miller 1938
“In every age, just as in very life worthy of the name, there is the effort to re-establish that equilibrium which is disturbed by the power and tyranny which a few great individuals exercise over us. This struggle is fundamentally personal and religious. it has nothing to do with liberty and justice, which are idle words signifying nobody knows precisely what. It has to do with making poetry, or, if you will, with making life a poem. It has to do with the adoption of a creative attitude towards life.”
Henry Miller Library is sending the files today! And I am sending them a donation- all about the reciprocity. I look forward to putting together this project-thanks. One of the best resources I’ve found is NEXUS-The International Henry Miller Journal- an annual publication that welcomes the work of those whose research, critical reflection, insights into Miller’s world are presented. Excellent source and great reading.