Friday, October 26, 2012

"The Age of Light" by Man Ray (1933)

Man Ray, Rayograph, 1923 [ARTstor]
IN this age, like all ages, when the problem of the perpetuation of a race or class and the destruction of its enemies, is the all-absorbing motive of civilized society, it seems irrelevant and wasteful still to create works whose only inspirations are individual human emotion and desire. The attitude seems to be that one may be permitted a return to the idyllic occupations only after meriting this return by solving the more vital problems of existence. Still, we know that the incapacity of race or class to improve itself is as great as its incapacity to learn from previous errors in history. All progress results from an intense individual desire to improve the immediate present, from an all-conscious sense of material insufficiency. In this exalted state, material action imposes itself and takes the form of revolution in one form or another. Race and class, like styles, then become irrelevant, while the emotion of the human individual becomes universal. For what can be more binding amongst beings than the discovery of a common desire? And what can be more inspiring to action than the confidence aroused by a lyric expression of this desire? From the first gesture of a child pointing to an object and simply naming it, but with a world of intended meaning, to the developed mind that creates an image whose strangeness and reality stirs our subconscious to its inmost depths, the awakening of desire is the first step to participation and experience.

It is in the spirit of an experience and not of experiment that the following autobiographical images are presented. Seized in moments of visual detachment during periods of emotional contact, these images are oxidized residues, fixed by light and chemical elements, of living organisms. No plastic expression can ever be more than a residue of an experience. The recognition of an image that has tragically survived an experience, recalling the event more or less clearly, like the undisturbed ashes of an object consumed by flames, the recognition of this object so little representative and so fragile, and its simple identification on the part of the spectator with a similar personal experience, precludes all psycho-analytical classification or assimilation into an arbitrary decorative system. Questions of merit and of execution can always be taken care of by those who hold themselves aloof from even the frontiers of such experiences. For, whether a painter, emphasizing the importance of the idea he wishes to convey introduces bits of ready-made chromos alongside his handiwork, or whether another, working directly with light and chemistry, so deforms the subject as almost to hide the identity of the original, and creates a new form, the ensuing violation of the medium employed is the most perfect assurance of the author’s convictions. A certain amount of contempt for the material employed to express an idea is indispensable to the purest realization of this idea.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"Ave Maria" by Frank O'Hara (1960)

Mothers of America
                                     let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won’t know what you’re up to   
it’s true that fresh air is good for the body
                                                                             but what about the soul   
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images
and when you grow old as grow old you must
                                                                            they won’t hate you   
they won’t criticize you they won’t know
                                                                            they’ll be in some glamorous country   
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey
they may even be grateful to you
                                                            for their first sexual experience   
which only cost you a quarter
                                                       and didn’t upset the peaceful home   
they will know where candy bars come from
                                                                                 and gratuitous bags of popcorn   
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it’s over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg   
near the Williamsburg Bridge
                                                       oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies   
they won’t know the difference
                                                         and if somebody does it’ll be sheer gravy   
and they’ll have been truly entertained either way
instead of hanging around the yard
                                                                 or up in their room
                                                                                                     hating you
prematurely since you won’t have done anything horribly mean yet   
except keeping them from the darker joys
                                                                             it’s unforgivable the latter   
so don’t blame me if you won’t take this advice
                                                                                      and the family breaks up   
and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
movies you wouldn’t let them see when they were young

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rembrandt's Polish Rider (1655)

[Frick Collection]

"The Room of My Life" by Anne Sexton

in the room of my life
the objects keep changing.
Ashtrays to cry into,
the suffering brother of the wood walls,
the forty-eight keys of the typewriter
each an eyeball that is never shut,
the books, each a contestant in a beauty contest,   
the black chair, a dog coffin made of Naugahyde,   
the sockets on the wall
waiting like a cave of bees,
the gold rug
a conversation of heels and toes,
the fireplace
a knife waiting for someone to pick it up,
the sofa, exhausted with the exertion of a whore,   
the phone
two flowers taking root in its crotch,
the doors
opening and closing like sea clams,
the lights
poking at me,
lighting up both the soil and the laugh.
The windows,
the starving windows
that drive the trees like nails into my heart.   
Each day I feed the world out there
although birds explode
right and left.
I feed the world in here too,
offering the desk puppy biscuits.
However, nothing is just what it seems to be.   
My objects dream and wear new costumes,
compelled to, it seems, by all the words in my hands   
and the sea that bangs in my throat.

Sunday, October 14, 2012