Water

By Robert Lowell

It was a Maine lobster town—
each morning boatloads of hands
pushed off for granite
quarries on the islands,

and left dozens of bleak
white frame houses stuck
like oyster shells
on a hill of rock,

and below us, the sea lapped
the raw little match-stick
mazes of a weir,
where the fish for bait were trapped.

Remember? We sat on a slab of rock.
From this distance in time
it seems the color
of iris, rotting and turning purpler,

but it was only
the usual gray rock
turning the usual green
when drenched by the sea.

The sea drenched the rock
at our feet all day,
and kept tearing away
flake after flake.

One night you dreamed
you were a mermaid clinging to a wharf-pile,
and trying to pull
off the barnacles with your hands.

We wished our two souls
might return like gulls
to the rock. In the end,
the water was too cold for us.

 


In the Blink of an Eye

I discovered Greta Alfaro‘s work a few weeks ago while dining at Monkey Town 5 in Barcelona. Monkey Town is an immersive dining experience combining gastronomy and video art. In other words, guests watch a programme of video art while being treated to a delicious five-course meal and plenty of wine. The evening was opened by In Ictu Oculi where we see a flock of vultures ravage a feast carefully set on a picnic table in a barren landscape. With this dramatic start, Greta Alfaro set the tone for what was to be an extraordinary and highly thrilling night. 

“From its title (meaning ‘in the blink of an eye’) onwards, Greta Alfaro’s In Ictu Oculi (2009) is concerned with the viewer’s experience of time: the eye is yours. The work’s title, which alludes to the brevity of human existence, is shared with a number of vanitas paintings from the seventeenth century, and, like them, Alfaro’s video treats the stuff that surrounds us as coded references to our own demise. A dinner table, laden with plates of food and wine bottles, its chairs waiting to be occupied, stands in a scrubby, semi-mountainous landscape, a breeze flickering its tablecloth. The table’s placement, in the centre of the frame (the shot is still), makes unmistakeable allusion to painted conventions – the Last Supper, the Supper at Emmaus. And yet the occupants, when they arrive, transform the table’s Biblical and epicurean suggestions into something nightmarish and deathly. The stilled moment of the painted meal becomes subject to cinematic time: movement is change. Vultures descend, from nowhere, their bulk and scrabble bringing instability to the implied order of the scene. Yet the meal’s duration, and its strange quietness (aside from the flapping of wings and chink of claw on plate) lend it a human quality: this might be the soundtrack to a medieval banquet. The birds here, like Hitchcock’s, act out repressed human desires (to gorge oneself): they’re us, with the mask off.”

Text by Ben Street on Saatchi

In Ictu Oculi by Greta Alfaro, 2009. Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound). Duration: 10:37

Greta Alfaro enjoys documenting the process of destruction, meanwhile commenting on capitalism, consumerism, and the transience of life. A similar concept was explored in her piece In Praise of the Beast (2009), where two wild boars find a giant wedding cake abandoned in a snowy landscape. Watch what happens:

In Praise of the Beast by Greta Alfaro, 2009. Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound). Duration: 14:58

And speaking of documenting destruction, Sam Taylor-Wood and Ori Gersht also have an interesting take. See here


Underwater Vision

underwater-vision-1910 Odilon Redon

Underwater Vision. Odilon Redon. 1910.


A Day of No Gods

Susie and Friends. Alex Prager. 2008

Susie and Friends. Alex Prager. 2008

Reclining Tahitian Women. Paul Gauguin. 1894

Reclining Tahitian Women. Paul Gauguin. 1894

A Day of No Gods. Paul Gauguin. 1894

The Day of the Gods. Paul Gauguin. 1894


Memory of a Voyage

Memory of a Voyage. Rene Magritte

Memory of a Voyage. Rene Magritte


Carta a una Señorita en Paris

Extract from a short story by Julio Cortázar, Letter to a Young Lady in Paris:

When I think I’m about to vomit a rabbit I put two fingers down my throat like an open set of tongs, and I wait until I can feel the warm hair rising like the fizz of an alka-seltzer. It’s quick and clean, it all happens in an instant. I remove my fingers from my mouth and with them a little white rabbit comes dangling by the ears. The rabbit looks happy, it’s a perfectly normal little rabbit, only exceedingly tiny, as small as a chocolate rabbit except for the fact that it’s white and most definitely a rabbit. I place it in the palm of my hand, stroke its fur with my fingers; the rabbit seems happy to be alive and hoovers about burying its nose in my skin with that quiet, ticklish gnoshing of a rabbit’s nose on one’s hand. It looks for something to eat so I (I’m referring to when this used to happen in my house on the outskirts of the city) I take it out to the balcony and place it in the big pot with the clover I’ve planted especially. The little rabbit pricks up his ears as high as they go, grabs at a clover with a quick swirl of his snout, and I know then that I can leave him there and go off, continue with a life that’s no different to that of so many other people who purchase their rabbits from farms.

After-Easter Show, Miroslaw Balka, sculpture, nature, rabbit 1986,

After-Easter Show. Miroslaw Balka. 1986

Original text in Spanish:
Cuando siento que voy a vomitar un conejito me pongo dos dedos en la boca como una pinza abierta, y espero a sentir en la garganta la pelusa tibia que sube como una efervescencia de sal de frutas. Todo es veloz e higiénico, transcurre en un brevísimo instante. Saco los dedos de la boca, y en ellos traigo sujeto por las orejas a un conejito blanco. El conejito parece contento, es un conejito normal y perfecto, sólo que muy pequeño, pequeño como un conejilo de chocolate pero blanco y enteramente un conejito. Me lo pongo en la palma de la mano, le alzo la pelusa con una caricia de los dedos, el conejito parece satisfecho de haber nacido y bulle y pega el hocico contra mi piel, moviéndolo con esa trituración silenciosa y cosquilleante del hocico de un conejo contra la piel de una mano. Busca de comer y entonces yo (hablo de cuando esto ocurría en mi casa de las afueras) lo saco conmigo al balcón y lo pongo en la gran maceta donde crece el trébol que a propósito he sembrado. El conejito alza del todo sus orejas, envuelve un trébol tierno con un veloz molinete del hocico, y yo sé que puedo dejarlo e irme, continuar por un tiempo una vida no distinta a la de tantos que compran sus conejos en las granjas.