the centre cannot hold

Some thoughts mid-process of drawing and thinking.

What are the breaking and leaking points of closed systems? How does a building echo biology? When is explosive decay a crisis, and when is it a relief? How powerful are the laws of nature against our own internal natures?

W.B. Yeats:


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


middle of the age

Joseph Beuys
‘Untitled (Sun State)’

After the pleasure of hearing this guy speak and watching this, I’m thinking a lot about time perception. I was already noticing an inner shift lately when thinking of what is ancient and what is current. I can hang it all like a felt hat on Joseph Beuys.

I used to despair, strangely enough, when I would see or read about Beuys work, because it seemed so ahead of its time, and I couldn’t see much that had exceeded his vision. He feels, to me, like he could be a contemporary artist. The same thing happens when I listen to later Beatles music. It just doesn’t sound outdated. The strange thing that’s happening to me as I get older is that Beuys and the Beatles are beginning to feel like they actually are my contemporaries.

Joseph Beuys
‘Schwangere und Schwan (Pregnant Woman with Swan)’

The cultural world, contrary to popular myth, doesn’t reinvent itself every ten years. Yes, we change and grow and make new things… our technological advances allow different possibilities… but we are so solidly riding on the shoulders of our most direct artistic predecessors. My grandmother is 97 years old. That means she lived through both World Wars and all of the major movements in Modern Art history. She remembers riding in a carriage without a horse (!) for the first time. With a living connection to the arc of the 20th century, it makes the whole century seem like my century. So much of what I assume about culture grows directly from the 1900s as a whole (and, especially, post-WW2, which perhaps does mark a genuine shift in human perception).

Joseph Beuys

{Beuys images via this blog, which also contains more description of the work}

leaking (agony, ecstasy)

Weeping Pipe (an installed drawing that is still up at Catherine Person Gallery here in Seattle for another month or so) is another in my series of wounded building parts… anthropomorphizing the anxiety of leaks and cracks. I am struck by the dull panic that seems to ride under the surface of everyday life as we deal with the fact that things fall apart. On a small scale, our bodies and our houses are always slipping at their seams and coming disjointed. On a larger scale, witness… the BP Gulf oil spill or the Icelandic volcanic eruption disruption. Of course, even as there are leaks that are disastrous, there are also blessed-relief versions. Breaking of tension, release of pressure, in all of the systems of the cosmos. And now here I am anthropomorphizing the universe, giving it an emotional spin.

Oh the terror and the glory.