Entropy, by Neil Rollinson

Your coffee grows cold on the kitchen table,
which means the universe is dying.
Your dress on the carpet is just a dress,
it has lost all sense of you now.
I open the window, the sky is dark
and the house is also cooling, the garden,
the summer lawn, all of it finding an equilibrium.
I watch an ice cube melt in my wine,
the heat of the Chardonnay passing into the ice.
It means the universe is going to die:
the second law of thermodynamics.
Entropy rising. Only the fridge struggles
to turn things round but even here there’s a
hidden loss. It hums in the corner, the only sound
on a quiet night. Outside, everywhere in the vast
sky stars are cooling, I think of the sun
consuming its fuel, the afternoon that is past,
and your dress that only this morning
was warm to my touch.

— Neil Rollinson “Entropy” from Spanish Fly

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Higgie on the Faceless Woman

“She turns her back on you; this, it would seem, is her appeal. She’s been painted like this for centuries, and, more recently, photographed. Often she is naked, in a bathroom or bedroom, solitary, sleeping or day-dreaming, or at a picnic, momentarily stilled, enveloped in a vague, dark space. The one constant is that her face is obscured. Her identity is fluid, nuanced; it can be elegiac, erotic or sullen, an homage to something lost or never quite gained, a study in both negation and yearning. It’s impossible to know whether she – who appears in so many guises – was ever, in the act of being represented, aware that someone was looking at her (the observed is often innocent of the observer). Whether we read the artist’s rejection of her face as a reflection of her inner life, or read the focus on her body as an indication of sensual preoccupations, she is ultimately irreducible and as such can be whoever we want to her to be.”

— Jennifer Higgie “Alone Again, Or” – Frieze magazine, Issue 124 (Jun/Aug 2009)

Headless Woman, 2012 © Richard Learoyd, from “Presences”, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery (San Francisco)

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One off: Alfred Stieglitz.

Alfred Stieglitz – Georgia O’Keeffe, 1919

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The Pope’s Penis, by Sharon Olds

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate

clapper at the center of a bell.

It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a

halo of silver seaweed, the hair

swaying in the dimness and the heat – and a tnight,

while his eyes asleep, it stands up

in praise of God.


- from The Gold Cell by Sharon Olds (1987)

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Burton on Sherman

“In her earliest series, including “Untitled Film Still,” Sherman made repeated reference to abstract codes of representation, underscoring the ways in which identity is produced and conveyed within culture. Audiences would, for example, seem to “know” every scene and every character Sherman created, but this illusion of familiarity was based on conventions put forward by the mass media — or, to use the parlance of art during the late 1970s, “structures of signification.” Sherman’s most recent work, by contrast, does not refer so much to images of the mass media (e.g., film stills) and, moreover, does not refer to any kind of stable codes. Instead, if structures of signification exist here, they are, in a sense, socialized: the identity of the figure cannot be found simply by referring to conventions, whether in the mass media or in culture more broadly, but rather demands some consideration of identitification itself as a relational phenomenon. What is conveyed by any person, picture, or image cannot be considered apart from how it is perceived and by whom.”

— Johanna Burton “Cindy Sherman: Abstraction and Empathy,” in Cindy Sherman (2012)

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #458 (2007-2008) © Cindy Sherman, c/o Metro Pictures

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Butler on Bodies and Power

“There appears to be a law of truth, part of the workings of the regime of knowledge, which imposes a truth upon a subject for whom there is no choice but to recognize this law of truth. But why is there no choice? Who is speaking here? Is it Foucault, or is it the “Law” itself? The law of truth imposes a criterion by which recognition becomes possible. The subject is not recognizable without first conforming to the law of truth, and without recognition there is no subject — or so Foucault, in Hegelian fashion, seems to imply. Similarly, others “have” to recognize this law of truth in him, because the law is what established the criterion of subjecthood according to which the subject can be recognized at all. In order to be, we might say, we must become recognizable, but to challenge the norms by which recognition is conferred is, in some ways, to risk one’s very being, to become questionable in one’s ontology, to risk one’s very recognizability as a subject.”

— Judith ButlerBodies and Power Revisited,” in Feminism and the Final Foucault (2004)

Joanna Piotrowska “IV” from FROWST [MACK, 2014]

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One off: Judith Joy Ross.

Judith Joy Ross, Untitled, Weatherley, Pennyslvania, 1982 from Eurana Park

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“The Wreck” by Don Paterson

But what lovers we were, what lover,
Even when it was all over -

the deadweight bull-black wines we swung
towards each other rang and rang

like bells of blood, our own great hearts.
We slung the drunk boat out of port

and watched our unreal sober life
unmoor, a continent of grief;

The candlelight strange on our faces
like the silent tiny blazes

And coruscations of its wars.
We blew them out and took the stairs

Into the night for the night’s work,
stripped off in the timbered dark,

Gently hooked each other on
like aqualungs, and thundered down

To mine our lovely secret wreck.
We surfaced later, breathless, back

To back, then made our way alone
up the mined beach of the dawn.

— Don Paterson

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One off: Gunnel Wåhlstrand.

Gunnel WåhlstrandNew Years Day,” 2005 © Gunnel Wåhlstrand c/o Andréhn-Schiptjenko

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Jacoby on Narcissism

“What lurks behind the critique of narcissism is the authority of the “classic” bourgeois family; this family and the authoritarian family diverge in their social composition. It does not seem fortuitous that Marx’s example is drawn from the “lower mercantile classes;” and that the authoritarian personality, and the sources of fascism, are associated with marginal or threatened social groupings (which, however, are in no way numerically insignificant).

The bourgeois family in its “classic” phase was not marginal or threatened, but secure and independent. Not its numerical frequency, but unique configuration of authority and affection is the issue. Authority was severe, but not brutal or inconsistent. Total submission was not the goal; nor was the family lacking in warmth. This is not to say there were no victims; there were, especially women. These victims furnished the patients for psychoanalysis.

Gunnel WåhlstrandBy the Window,” 2003-04 © Gunnel Wåhlstrand c/o Andréhn-Schiptjenko

The bourgeois family, it seems likely, developed into the narcissistic family; the class composition remains roughly the same. The case reports of narcissistic patients allow fleeting views of family life; these do not show parents who, after long, grueling days of waiting on tables or driving cabs, come home to bark at their too many children; but parents who are relatively successful, whose energies are directed towards themselves and their careers; and who tend to be enlightened but also cold to the few children at home.
 That narcissism may be circumscribed by class does not, of course, dispose of it. The bourgeoisie makes society in its own image.”

Russell Jacoby“Narcissism and the Crisis of Capitalism” in Telos, Summer 1980

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