What The Living Carry, by Morgan Ashcom

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.”

— Elizbaeth Bishop I Am In Need of Music. Photographs by Morgan Ashcom from What The Living Carry.

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From “The Far Field” by Theodore Roethke

I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone, Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken. (…)
— Theodore Roethke, “The Far Field” (1964)


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Lauwaert on Braeckman

“Braeckman’s black lies deep in the paper. It does not signify black: it is black. Black matter. Here, black is not a word, but substance, unformed, unstructured, escaping language, escaping meaning. This is no significant, figurative black (indicating that “it is dark there”), but a black that, in contrast, exists beyond every form (like coal dust, it lies black in the lungs, on the cheeks, in the sweat of the hands). Black as part of the material world, not of its language: it is not an image of black, but the smell of a coal cellar.”

— Dirk Lauwaert “The Black Dew” in Dirk Braeckman [Roma Publications, 2011]

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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 at night,
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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