Saturday, May 26, 2007
organized by Matthew Lusk
Caroline Allison, Alyse Emdur, Valerie Hegarty, Lara Kohl, Matthew Lusk, Sophia Naess, Lucy Raven, Aaron Wexler, Seth Cameron, Lawrence Gipe, David Harrison Horton, Julian LaVerdiere, Vincent Mazeau, Rachel Owens, James Merle Thomas, Letha Wilson
Perhaps this valley too leads into the head of long-ago days.
What, if not its commercial and etiolated visage, could break through the meadow wires?
It placed a chair in the meadow and then went far away.
People come to visit in summer, they do not think about the head.
Soldiers come down to see the head. The stick hides from them.
The heavens say, "Here I am, boys and girls!"
The stick tries to hide in the noise. The leaves, happy, drift over the dusty meadow.
"I'd like to see it," someone said about the head, which has stopped pretending to be a town.
Look! A ghastly change has come over it. The ears fall off - they are laughing people.
The skin is perhaps children, they say, "We children," and are vague near the sea.
The eyes-Wait! What large raindrops!
The eyes-Wait, can't you see them pattering, in the meadow, like a dog?
The eyes are all glorious! And now the river comes to sweep away the last of us.
Who knew it, at the beginning of the day?It is best to travel like a comet, with the others, though one does not see them. How far that bridle flashed! "Hurry up, children!" The birds fly back, they say, "We were lying, We do not want to fly away." But it is already too late.
The children have vanished.
this is the garden: colours come and go,
this is the garden: colours come and go,
frail azures fluttering from night's outer wing
strong silent greens silently lingering,
absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden: pursed lips do blow
upon cool flutes within wide glooms, and sing
(of harps celestial to the quivering string)
invisible faces hauntingly and slow.
This is the garden. Time shall surely reap
and on Death's blade lie many a flower curled,
in other lands where other songs be sung;
yet stand They here enraptured, as among
the slow deep trees perpetual of sleep
some silver-fingered fountain steals the world.
From "Tulips and Chimneys", 1923
Un palindrome de 1247 mots
Trace l'inégal palindrome. Neige. Bagatelle, dira Hercule. Le brut repentir, cet écrit né Perec. L'arc lu pèse trop, lis à vice-versa.
Perte. Cerise d'une vérité banale, le Malstrom, Alep, mort édulcoré, crêpe porté de ce désir brisé d'un iota. Livre si aboli, tes sacres ont éreinté, cor cruel, nos albatros. Etre las, autel bâti, miette vice-versa du jeu que fit, nacré, médical, le sélénite relaps, ellipsoïdal.
Ivre il bat, la turbine bat, l'isolé me ravale: le verre si obéi du Pernod -- eh, port su ! -- obsédante sonate teintée d'ivresse.
Ce rêve se mit -- peste ! -- à blaguer. Beh ! L'art sec n'a si peu qu'algèbre s'élabore de l'or évalué. Idiome étiré, hésite, bâtard replié, l'os nu. Si, à la gêne sècrete-- verbe nul à l'instar de cinq occis--, rets amincis, drailles inégales, il, avatar espacé, caresse ce noir Belzebuth, ô il offensé, tire !
L'écho fit (à désert): Salut, sang, robe et été.
Adam, rauque; il écrit: Abrupt ogre, eh, cercueil, l'avenir tu, effilé, genial à la rue (murmure sud eu ne tire vaseline séparée; l'épeire gelée rode: Hep, mortel ?) lia ta balafre native.
Litige. Regagner (et ne m'...).
Ressac. Il frémit, se sape, na ! Eh, cavale! Timide, il nia ce sursaut.
Hasard repu, tel, le magicien à morte me lit. Un ignare le rapsode, lacs ému, mixa, mêla:
Hep, Oceano Nox, ô, béchamel azur ! Éjaculer ! Topaze !
Le cèdre, malabar faible, Arsinoë le macule, mante ivre, glauque, pis, l'air atone (sic). Art sournois: si, médicinale, l'autre glace (Melba ?) l'un ? N'alertai ni pollen (retêter: gercé, repu, denté...) ni tobacco.
Tu, désir, brio rimé, eh, prolixe nécrophore, tu ferres l'avenir velu, ocre, cromant-né ?
Rage, l'ara. Veuglaire. Sedan, tes elzévirs t'obsèdent. Romain ? Exact. Et Nemrod selle ses Samson !
Et nier téocalli ?
Cave canem (car ce nu trop minois -- rembuscade d'éruptives à babil -- admonesta, fil accru, Têtebleu ! qu'Ariane évitât net.
Attention, ébénier factice, ressorti du réel. Ci-git. Alpaga, gnôme, le héros se lamente, trompé, chocolat: ce laid totem, ord, nil aplati, rituel biscornu; ce sacré bédeau (quel bât ce Jésus!). Palace piégé, Torpédo drue si à fellah tôt ne peut ni le Big à ruer bezef.
L'eugéniste en rut consuma d'art son épi d'éolienne ici rot (eh... rut ?). Toi, d'idem gin, élèvera, élu, bifocal, l'ithos et notre pathos à la hauteur de sec salamalec ?
Élucider. Ion éclaté: Elle ? Tenu. Etna but (item mal famé), degré vide, julep: macédoine d'axiomes, sac semé d'École, véniel, ah, le verbe enivré (ne sucer ni arreter, eh ça jamais !) lu n'abolira le hasard ?
Nu, ottoman à écho, l'art su, oh, tara zéro, belle Deborah, ô, sacre ! Pute, vertubleu, qualité si vertu à la part tarifé (décalitres ?) et nul n'a lu trop s'il séria de ce basilic Iseut.
Il à prié bonzes, Samaritain, Tora, vilains monstres (idolâtre DNA en sus) rêvés, évaporés:
Arbalète (bètes) en noce du Tell ivre-mort, émeri tu: O, trapu à elfe, il lie l'os, il lia jérémiade lucide. Petard! Rate ta reinette, bigleur cruel, non à ce lot ! Si, farcis-toi dito le coeur !
Lied à monstre velu, ange ni bête, sec à pseudo délire: Tsarine (sellée, là), Cid, Arétin, abruti de Ninive, Déjanire. . .
Le Phenix, eve de sables, écarté, ne peut égarer racines radiales en mana: l'Oubli, fétiche en argile.
Prix: Ile de la Gorgone en roc, et, ô, Licorne écartelée,
Sirène, rumb à bannir à ma (Red n'osa) niére de mimosa:
Paysage d'Ourcq ocre sous ive d'écale;
Volcan. Roc: tarot célé du Père.
Silène bavard, replié sur sa nullité (nu à je) belge: ipséité banale. L' (eh, ça !) hydromel à ri, psaltérion. Errée Lorelei...
Fi ! Marmelade déviré d'Aladine. D'or, Noël: crèche (l'an ici taverne gelée dès bol...) à santon givré, fi !, culé de l'âne vairon.
Lapalisse élu, gnoses sans orgueil (écru, sale, sec). Saluts: angiome. T'es si crâneur !
. . .
Rue. Narcisse ! Témoignas-tu ! l'ascèse, là, sur ce lieu gros, nasses ongulées...
S'il a pal, noria vénale de Lucifer, vignot nasal (obsédée, le genre vaticinal), eh, Cercle, on rode, nid à la dérive, Dèdale (M. . . !) ramifié ?
Le rôle erre, noir, et la spirale mord, y hache l'élan abêti: Espiègle (béjaune) Till: un as rusé.
Il perdra. Va bene.
Lis, servile repu d'électorat, cornac, Lovelace. De visu, oser ?
Coq cru, ô, Degas, y'a pas, ô mime, de rein à sonder: à marin nabab, murène risée.
Le trace en roc, ilote cornéen.
O, grog, ale d'elixir perdu, ô, feligrane! Eh, cité, fil bu !
ô ! l'anamnèse, lai d'arsenic, arrérage tué, pénétra ce sel-base de Vexin. Eh, pèlerin à (Je: devin inédit) urbanité radicale (elle s'en ira...), stérile, dodu.
Espaces (été biné ? gnaule ?) verts.
Nomade, il rue, ocelot. Idiot-sic rafistolé: canon ! Leur cruel gibet te niera, têtard raté, pédicule d'aimé rejailli.
Soleil lie, fléau, partout ire (Métro, Mer, Ville...) tu déconnes. Été: bètel à brasero. Pavese versus Neandertal ! O, diserts noms ni à Livarot ni à Tir ! Amassez.
Pali, tu es ici: lis abécédaires, lis portulan: l'un te sert-il ? à ce défi rattrapa l'autre ? Vise-t-il auquel but rêvé tu perças ?
Oh, arobe d'ellébore, Zarathoustra! L'ohcéan à mot (Toundra ? Sahel ?) à ri: Lob à nul si à ma jachère, terrain récusé, nervi, née brève l'haleine véloce de mes casse-moix à (Déni, ô !) décampé.
Lu, je diverge de ma flamme titubante: une telle (étal, ce noir édicule cela mal) ascèse drue tua, ha, l'As.
Oh, taper ! Tontes ! Oh, tillac, ô, fibule à reve l'Énigme (d'idiot tu) rhétoricienne.
Il, Oedipe, Nostradamus nocturne et, si né Guelfe, zébreur à Gibelin tué (pentothal ?), le faiseur d'ode protège.
Eject à bleu qu'aède berça sec. Un roc si bleu ! Tir. ital.: palindrome tôt dialectal. Oc ? Oh, cep mort et né, mal essoré, hélé. Mon gag aplati gicle. Érudit rossérecit, ça freine, benoit, net.
Ta tentative en air auquel bète, turc, califat se (nom d'Ali-Baba !) sévit, pure de -- d'ac ? -- submersion importune, crac, menace, vacilla, co-étreinte...
Nos masses, elles dorment ? Etc... Axé ni à mort-né des bots. Rivez ! Les Etna de Serial-Guevara l'égarent. N'amorcer coulevrine.
Oh, porc en exil (Orphée), miroir brisé du toc cabotin et né du Perec: Regret éternel. L'opiniâtre. L'annu- lable.
Mec, Alger tua l'élan ici démission. Ru ostracisé, notarial, si peu qu'Alger, Viet-Nam (élu caméléon !), Israël,
Escale d'os, pare le rang inutile. Métromane ici gamelle, tu perdras. Ah, tu as rusé! Cain! Lied imité la vache (à ne pas estimer) (flic assermenté, rengagé) régit.
Il évita, nerf à la bataille trompé.
Hé, dorée, l'Égérie pelée rape, sénile, sa vérité nue du sérum: rumeur à la laine, gel, if, feutrine, val, lieu-créche, ergot, pur, Bâtir ce lieu qu'Armada serve: if étété, éborgnas-tu l'astre sédatif ?
Oh, célérités ! Nef ! Folie ! Oh, tubez ! Le brio ne cessera, ce cap sera ta valise; l'âge: ni sel-liard (sic) ni master-(sic)-coq, ni cédrats, ni la lune brève. Tercé, sénégalais, un soleil perdra ta bétise héritée (Moi-Dieu, la vérole!)
Déroba le serbe glauque, pis, ancestral, hébreu (Galba et Septime-Sévère). Cesser, vidé et nié. Tetanos. Etna dès boustrophédon répudié. Boiser. Révèle l'avare mélo, s'il t'a béni, brutal tablier vil. Adios. Pilles, pale rétine, le sel, l'acide mercanti. Feu que Judas rêve, civette imitable, tu as alerté, sort à blason, leur croc. Et nier et n'oser. Casse-t-il, ô, baiser vil ? à toi, nu désir brisé, décédé, trope percé, roc lu. Détrompe la. Morts: l'Ame, l'Élan abêti, revenu. Désire ce trépas rêvé: Ci va ! S'il porte, sépulcral, ce repentir, cet écrit ne perturbe le lucre: Haridelle, ta gabegie ne mord ni la plage ni l'écart.
La clôture et autre poèmes, Hachette/Collection P.O.L., 1980.
i have found what you are like
i have found what you are like
(Who feathers frightened fields
with the superior dust-of-sleep. wields
easily the pale club of the wind
and swirled justly souls of flower strike
the air in utterable coolness
deeds of green thrilling light
-in the woods
And the coolness of your smile is
stirringofbirds between my arms;but
i should rather than anything
have(almost when hugeness will shut
The concept of metropolis
Philosophy and urban form
In what sense would a certain concept of the urban meet, as Henri Lefebvre asserted some thirty-five years ago, a ‘theoretical need’?
What forms of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary ‘generality’ would be at stake here? And if this is indeed, as Lefebvre always insisted, a question of a necessary ‘elaboration, a search, a conceptual formulation’, what might a critical philosophy have to tell us, today, about what kind of concept ‘the urban’ is?
Even as professional philosophy has never seemed so alienated from such questions, the unfolding social and spatial reality that provokes them appears, at the most basic level, more obvious and urgent than ever. For the first time, around 50 per cent of the world’s population now inhabit what is conventionally defined as urban space – more than the entire global population in 1950. Within the next few years, there are expected to be at least twenty mega-cities with populations exceeding 10 million, located in all areas of the globe. Since 1950, nearly two-thirds of the planet’s population growth has been absorbed by cities. By 2020 the total rural population will almost certainly begin to fall, meaning that all future population growth will, effectively, be an urban phenomenon. The pace of this process can hardly be overestimated, both in general and in particular terms. Lagos, for example, which had in 1950 a total population of 300,000, today has one of 10 million. At the same time, this staggeringly rapid development also entails new forms of urbanization, whether it be the so-called urban ‘corridors’ of the Pearl river and Yangtze river deltas, the proliferating slums of sub-Saharan Africa, or the eighty coastal miles of holiday homes and leisure resorts around Malaga, which, it has been suggested, may well be the foundation for a future megalopolis. To the extent that this indicates an emergent global society in which, as Lefebvre speculated, ‘the urban problematic becomes predominant’, such a condition involves, then, not only quantitative expansion, but also qualitative shifts – transformations within the relations between urban and rural, as well as, with increasing importance, within and between different urban forms and processes of urbanization and the heterogenous forces which generate them. The potential generalization of social, cultural and technological productive logics at a planetary scale, and the ‘concrete’ networks of exchange and interaction that increasingly bind non-contiguous urban spaces together within the differential unity of a global economy, open up a historically new set of relations between universal and particular, concentration and dispersal, that clearly demand new conceptions of mediation.
If this does indeed suggest a certain ‘theoretical need’, then, in one sense, we are of course hardly short of ‘theories’ of the urban. ‘The beginning of the twenty-first century’ is, as the editors of one of an increasing number of urban studies ‘readers’ put it, ‘an exciting time for those wanting to understand the city.’2 Certainly the sociological context of a dominant urbanist–technocratic positivism after World War II, into which Lefebvre made his initial intervention, seems increasingly distant, as much because its historical connection to state apparatuses themselves was rendered progressively marginal by emergent forms of capitalist development, as because it was discredited within the intellectual arena. While, under changed circumstances, the empirical sociological literature on cities continues to grow, it is now accompanied by a rather different vision of urban studies, formed out of a resurgent interest in the work of writers such as Benjamin and Kracauer, as well as the situationists and Lefebvre himself. Weighty academic studies of the city’s historical development fill the pages of publishers’ catalogues, alongside ‘biographies’, gothic ‘secret guides’ and picaresque cultural histories of major urban centres, such as Paris, London, New York, LA. At the same time, this contemporary predominance of the ‘urban problematic’ has helped, within the recent conflict of the faculties, to accord a new general theoretical significance, and political valency, to specific bodies of knowledge, particularly geography – as subject to a disciplinary reconstruction by the writings of David Harvey, Neil Smith and others – as well as promoting a renewed interest in architecture, and architectural theory, as offering a privileged access to the distinctive features of our present era, from within the sphere of cultural production. Much of the work of Fredric Jameson since the early 1980s might, for instance, be thought as forming, and being formed by, such a theoretical conjuncture.
Joseph Beuys +
By Giorgio Conti
2004. Twenty years have passed since the Defense of Nature operation promoted by Joseph Beuys in Abruzzo, an italian region.
Even though this philosophical-artistic-socio-cultural-scientific action was conceived in
The reflections that follow mark out the role that Italy has played in redefining the poetry and philosophy of Beuys and especially his "expanded" concept of art: art = man = creativity = science. The reflections were written down in 1997 in order to make it clear that, if it is true that Andy Warhol has created a global image of 20th Century Western society, Beuys donated a strategic vision of criticality and potentiality of the 21st.
Within the vision of Nature and the world of Beuysian thinking, the central theme is energy.
A natural energy, stated in the cosmic/alchemic sense: "We plant trees and the trees then plant us". A global defence of natural cycles (the temporal dimension) and especially that of biodiversity, intended as protection of local and global ecosystems (the spatial dimension).
A vital energy that in Social sculpture becomes an anthem to human creativity: a concept broadened of the artistic work.
A primary art, anthropological, which, even today, is able to dialogue with research into a new developmental model pertaining to the strategies of integrated environmental, economic, socio-cultural and ethical sustainability.
His proposal of a Third path represents a welding between criticality-potentiality extra humans (the privileged relationship man-Nature) and of criticality-potentiality among humans (the overcoming of conflicts both at a local and global level).
Even the materials used in his works and/or performances are the fruit of energetic processes or contain energetic elements: sulphur, bee's wax, fat, felt, copper, etc., right on till we get to blood: the metaphor for antonomasia of Life.
The concept of Freedom, furthermore, shows a sense of the value of original energy throughout the works and thoughts of Beuys, in that they are able to rejuvenate and stimulate - through creativity - the resources of natural organisms (ecosystems), and of the single organism (the human being), as well as the social organisms (humanity).
by Joan Rothfuss, Walker Art Center curator
Joseph Beuys' fascination with plants, animals, and the natural sciences developed early and remained strong throughout his life. As a child, he collected local plants and insects and catalogued them in notebooks. He also set up an extensive laboratory in his parents' apartment and conducted experiments in chemistry and physics. His first career plans were to study medicine and become a pediatrician. Though eventually he enrolled in art school instead, he retained his personal interest in the natural world, becoming especially well-versed in the properties of herbs and their use in natural remedies.
In his early interactions with nature he had used the principles of the traditional scientific method--observation, experimentation, recording of data. In his artwork, however, he referenced nature poetically, as metaphor or symbol. For example, the many images of waterfalls, rivers, geysers, glaciers, and mountains that appear in his drawings and prints are not traditional landscapes, but rather references to the primeval sculpting of the earth's surface by natural forces. Another recurring metaphor is found in his many images of a human-figure-as-plant whose head sprouts "roots" that extend into the clouds. This fantastic image was Beuys' assertion that while man is an earthly being, he is nourished through the spirit.
The bridge between the earthly and spiritual realms is represented in Beuys' work more often by animals, which he thought of as "figures that pass freely from one level of existence to another." In many cultures animals are guardian spirits for shamans, companions on their celestial journeys. Beuys often used animals in his actions, bringing them along, so to speak, on his own journeys. He carried a dead hare in several early performances, shared the stage with a spectral white horse in the action Titus/Iphigenia (1969), and most famously, spent a week in a gallery space with a coyote in I Like America and America Likes Me (1974), an action described as a "dialogue" with the animal. All of these performances suggest the shaman's special affinity with animals: he can understand their language, share their particular abilities, even transform himself into one of them.
Beuys identified personally with several animals, most notably the hare. He always carried a rabbit's foot or tuft of rabbit fur as a talisman, and jokingly cited the pointed shape of his ears as proof of his close relationship to the creature. He also had an affinity for the stag, an animal with deep ties to Germanic legend and northern myth; he sometimes referred to himself as "stagleader." And in the multiple A Party for Animals (1969), he simply declared himself to be an animal by including his own name--along with those of the elk, wolf, beaver, horse, stork, and many others--on the list of the party's "active members." For Beuys, maintaining a close relationship with animals was crucial for him so that he could learn from what he believed was their superior intelligence (intuition).
Strengthening the link between art and science, or intuition and logic, was a key concept for Beuys and the basis for his identification with Leonardo da Vinci. On view here are his two notebooks of prints inspired by da Vinci's Codices Madrid (14911505), a pair of sketchbooks by the Renaissance master that were discovered in 1965. Beuys saw his images as contemporary counterparts to da Vinci's sketches--his own attempt, at the end of the 20th century, to make visible the underlying connections among technology, the natural world, and the arts.
Walker Art Center curator
Joseph Beuys visited
Feldman and Stoller organized a 10-day, three-city circuit with stops in
The debates, discussions, and press conferences formed the artwork, but for those who were unable to attend the talks Beuys produced some 16 multiples, most of which are on view in this exhibition. Many of them have an anecdote attached. One features an image of a rabbit that Beuys noticed on a sugar packet while dining at Nye's Polonaise Room in
The suite of six prints entitled Minneapolis Fragments (1977) began when Beuys drew on zinc printing plates instead of a blackboard during his
Beuys named the lecture tour "Energy Plan for the Western Man" and saw it as a chance to reinvigorate an enervated Western culture that was on the brink (at least in the
Every man is an artist.
I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time.
I wish to go more and more outside to be among the problems of nature and problems of human beings in their working places.
I wished to go completely outside and to make a symbolic start for my enterprise of regenerating the life of humankind within the body of society and to prepare a positive future in this context.
In places like universities, where everyone talks too rationally, it is necessary for a kind of enchanter to appear.
Let's talk of a system that transforms all the social organisms into a work of art, in which the entire process of work is included... something in which the principle of production and consumption takes on a form of quality. It's a Gigantic project.
These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though speech
Were a still performance.
Arranging by chance
To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try
And glad not to have invented
Such comeliness, we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges
The richness of the debates about the environment has its source not just in the importance of the issue, and the significance for the future of radical politics of dialogues between socialists and greens, but also in the fact that it lies at a point of convergence between a number of other arguments: between realism and constructivism, Enlightenment and its critics, humanism and anti-humanism; on the relation of economy, culture and nature; on the future direction of feminist thought and action. This richness is represented in Tim Hayward's and Kate Soper's recent books. Both are important contributions. Both are likely to have a wide readership and a large influence on current debates in environmental politics. Both certainly deserve to do so. They combine intellectual clarity and rigour with political commitment and purpose. The arguments amongst socialists and greens about the political and social implications of our current environmental crisis will be the richer for them.
Kate Soper's What is Nature? is engaged in a project of reconciliation between two conflicting perspectives on nature to be found in social theory. On the one side stand broadly `naturalist' or `realist' approaches which take the concept of nature to refer to a concept-independent reality - a natural world that has been the object of human exploitation and destruction, and which we have good reason to protect from further spoliation. On the other side stand postmodernist and post-structuralist approaches that are standardly anti-realist and relativist in orientation, and that focus upon the ways in which different conceptions of `nature' are culturally constructed and employed to legitimate a variety of social and sexual hierarchies and cultural norms. As Soper notes in outlining these conflicting perspectives, they do not map directly onto two theoretically and politically self-contained oppositional blocs. Green, Marxist and feminist positions exist which both reject the anti-realism of postmodernism and accept the significance of the ways in which the concept of `nature' has been used for ideological purpose.
Soper's own position occupies that political space. Her strategy is to carve out more clearly this position between the `nature-endorsing' perspectives of naturalists and the `nature-sceptical' perspectives of constructivists, by exploiting what are taken to be the strengths in one position to highlight the weaknesses in the other. In general, against the postmodernist focus on cultural construction of nature, she insists upon the importance of recognizing the existence of a discourse-independent natural world on which humans have real impacts that have to be addressed, and defends critical realism as the necessary basis for a coherent political project of social change. At the same time, she criticizes the tendency of the nature-endorsing positions for their insensitivity to the ways in which the concept of nature has been historically shaped for ideological effects, some of which have implications for the environmental cause itself. The argument is played out over a wide range of topics, from the use of the concept of nature to exclude or downgrade those associated with the natural - the primitive, corporeal, feminine - through to examination of the ways in which the modern conservation movement appeals to an ideological representation of the `rural'. In each case the anti-naturalist tendencies in constructivism are set against what is defensible in the ecological naturalist and realist positions.
The discussion is always rich, and much of the argument it will engender will concern the detail. To take just one example, Soper makes a useful demarcation between different levels of nature, pointing out that the source of aesthetic pleasure and value is the `surface' lay nature of our everyday encounters and not the `deep' level of causal powers and processes to which the scientific realist refers. The point is an important one and is broadly right. However, the two-way contrast between surface and deep tends to invoke a picture of natural science as physics. There are more layers to the nature we encounter than the division of surface and deep might suggest: it is not clear to me where the work of the biologist, geologist or ecologist fits. To the extent that their work generates knowledge of the deeper structures, it can transform our ways of experiencing the surface order. For example, when I walk in marshland with one of my botanist friends I am constantly aware of how much more she sees, and am rewarded by the details she can add to my experience: what is initially aesthetically dull becomes a more interesting place.
Veil: Veiling, Representation and Contemporary Art
Edited by David A. Bailey and Gilane Tawadros
'This inventive and most innovative contribution to the critical discourse on the veil demonstrates the latest developments in visual studies and cultural theory, at a time when a neo form of Orientalism has resurfaced with full force. A must for students of contemporary visual culture, anthropology, history, as well as the literary discplines.'
Professor Salah Hassan
Chair of Art History,
'Finally a work that begins to do justice to the veil's layered meanings and protean transformations, through history down to our day - a very welcome publication.'
Professor of Women's Studies in Religion,
Veil is the first publication to explore the representation of the veil - one of the most powerful symbols in contemporary visual culture - and serves as an essential starting point to establish a new international dialogue. Extending possible interpretations of the veil and investigating the ambiguities and paradoxes expressed in contemporary arts practice, it provides both a social and an historic context to the veil's multilayered symbolism.
Alongside newly commissioned essays by leading international scholars and works by contemporary visual artists, key historical texts trace a trajectory of writings across religions, cultures, genders and ages to reflect the breadth of conflicting and constantly shifting attitudes towards the veil.
For Al-Ani, too little effort was made in the Western media to place the conflict in an informed historic context. She felt that the ‘site’ of the war was represented as a place with no history, no population and no future. This prompted her to make Untitled (Gulf War work) 1991, consisting of 20 small black and white photographs. By appropriating images from a number of recognisable genres: the archive, the family snapshot, the portrait, reportage, she presents what she describes as an ‘alternative’ history.
In his book The Colonial Harem, Malek Alloula examines postcards of Algerian women produced during the French occupation and compares the gaze of the veiled woman with that of the photographer’s: ‘Thrust in the presence of a veiled woman, the photographer feels photographed; having himself become an object-to-be-seen, he loses initiative: he is dispossessed of his own gaze.’ It is this relationship between the viewer/photographer and the veiled woman which informs an ongoing body of work by Al-Ani exploring the Western fascination with the image of the veil. The work explores the myth of the subjugated and sexualised ‘Oriental’ woman as object and successfully unnerves the viewer as they face the unyielding glare of Al-Ani’s subjects. Al-Ani challenges the viewer’s perceptions by offering alternative narratives.
In much of her recent video work Al-Ani explores the construction of narrative, often using the voice as a tool, and her interest in staging and performance, hierarchy and power is apparent. Memory and word games act as a starting point for her. In the installation A Loving Man, 1996-9, five women follow a pattern of speech appropriated from the children’s memory game ‘Mrs Brown went to town, and bought...’, whereby a list is repeated and added to by each participant in turn. In this instance the components of the ‘game’ are phrases based upon each woman’s relationship with the ‘loving man’ of the title. The work is not scripted or directed by the artist, allowing for greater elements of risk and spontaneity to emerge. Similarly, in the installation She Said, 2000 we see a group of women whispering to each other, using the convention of the game ‘Chinese Whispers’. By borrowing existing structures of games and play in her work, Al-Ani investigates the unfolding relationships between the participants, and the way in which communities pass oral histories from generation to generation.
1] Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem, Manchester University Press, 1987
Friday, May 25, 2007
She told me that I mustn’t let my energy pour out of me that way
So I started gathering my tears
In long-stemmed glasses
Liquid holding liquid
Old holding young
The way my mother used to hold me as a baby … (Amber 1)
The danger is that the disaster should acquire meaning instead of body.
Issue 20 Winter 2005/06
Where the Wild Things Are: An Interview with Ken Millett
In mathematical lore, a topologist is a person who cannot tell the difference between a coffee cup and a donut, both objects being topologically the same. Of the many things topologists strive to categorize, one of the more enigmatic is knots. Though knotting is one of humanity's oldest and most widespread activities, at first glance it seems an unlikely subject for the formalisms of mathematics. But at the end of the nineteenth century, mathematicians began to classify these twisted and braided forms. Despite some initial success, by the 1960s knot theory had stagnated—many of the questions being asked were simply too difficult to answer. In the 1970s, however, the field was revitalized with the introduction of new analytic methods. In addition to theoretical advances, the insights of knot theory are now being brought to bear on problems in biology and chemistry, specifically to understanding the structure and behavior of DNA, proteins, and polymers. Theoretical physicists studying subatomic particles also propose that the world is composed of knot-like contortions in spacetime. Ken Millett, a professor of mathematics at the
How did mathematicians become interested in knot theory?
My understanding is that the mathematical origins came roughly with the studies of Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) involving electromagnetism and what would happen when an electric current is flowing through a wire. That would depend upon the configuration of the wire in space. That led later to the work in England of Lord Kelvin and Peter Guthrie Tait at the end of the nineteenth century. They were really the first to set about classifying configurations of knots, in part because they believed that atoms might be knots in the ether.
Why did anybody think knot theory had application to atoms?
At the end of the nineteenth century, scientists realized the world of knots was a discrete world, that is, different knot types could be distinguished from one another. This raised the question of whether knots were a good model for atoms, which seemed to have a similar character—there are hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms and carbon atoms and so on, each with its own characteristics. In fact, there's a continuing interest in this kind of discussion today with string theory that also relates basic particles to complex knot-like configurations.
How do mathematicians go about formalizing something like tying bits of string?
Because it's a human endeavor, the initial efforts were kind of intuitive. In order to capture knotting in a piece of string for example, it's necessary to take the two ends and bind them together so that you have a closed system. If you don't do that, you could move the knot off the end, making it disappear as it were. The first questions that arise for mathematicians are basic questions, such as: What does it mean to think of two knots as the same or different? That's a fundamental question that would separate notions of topology from geometry, and you would get a different answer depending on what kinds of equality or similarity or equivalence you chose. Once you have that, then the question comes as to the size of the population: How many different knots are there? How would you distinguish between two instances of the same knot in different forms? The mathematics comes with trying to create a system and a process for identifying whether or not two knots are equivalent. And also from the desire to establish a complete classification, much as you would do with animals or other things in science. Mathematicians want a complete classification and we're still struggling with ways in which to do that effectively.
The population of possible knots is infinite, but how far have mathematicians gone in terms of classifying them? And how do you gauge how far you've got?
In mathematics, the issue of "how far along you might be" is a very sophisticated question. We know lots of different ways of organizing information about knots. Since it's a multidimensional enterprise, it's hard to say how far we've got because from some perspectives we're doing quite well, but if you change the question a little bit, then we're not doing so well. If you organize knots, as was done classically, in terms of their pictures or diagrams, and you judge complexity in terms of these diagrams, then we're not doing well. The classical way of studying knots is to project an image of each knot onto a wall, which reduces it to a planar diagram. When you do that, you see a bunch of under- and over-crossings of string within the knot. Now, mathematicians say we should look at the picture with the fewest number of these crossings, what we call the "crossing number." Looking at knots this way, we're up to seventeen crossings. Even at this level there are enormous numbers of possible knots—for seventeen crossings, we believe the number to be 8,053,249. The computational task of going beyond that is formidable, and I'd have to say that methods we have for distinguishing different knots at this level are really quite primitive. As you increase the number of crossings, it becomes exponentially more complex and at some point becomes computationally intractable.
Can you explain how mathematicians try to distinguish between different knots?
Aside from the crossing number, which is one feature, another measure is to look at how you can model a knot with the smallest number of line segments or edges. This is called polygonal modeling. You can think of this as taking a segmented ruler, like a carpenter's rule, and bending it around to form a knot. Now we can ask: Can you model a knot from four edges? It turns out you can't. The simplest knot is the trefoil or cloverleaf knot, and it takes six edges to model that. All knots can be modeled from some number of edges—this is also what we call a stick knot—and the question is, "How many edges do you need to represent any particular knot?" That's another measure. Yet another one is to imagine that your knot is inside a sphere. For mathematicians that's not a very exotic task. Now take the "complement" of the knot—that is the part of the space that's not the knot. In effect you've hollowed out the core of the sphere and created a knot-shaped hole in it. For all except a well-understood family of knots, this complement space can be given a hyperbolic structure and associated with that is a hyperbolic volume. This volume is another measure of the knot.
I should also mention another approach I'm partly responsible for. There are certain algebraic or polynomial equations that we call "knot invariants" that are associated with each different knot. In knot tables, you'll see lists of numbers that define these equations. For many knots this is the main way we have of characterizing them. It's a pretty chaotic system with all these different properties—there are even more than the ones I've just described—and it would be good if we could identify which are the core properties from which the others derive.
There are knots that are "wild" and others that are "tame." Can you tell us what a wild knot is?
I would explain it by giving you an example and then saying, "Think like that." Imagine I take a bunch of beads and we're going to make a sort of necklace. Now, I take the first bead and tie a little trefoil knot inside it. Now, next to that I attach another bead, but this time with half the radius, and inside that I make a smaller trefoil knot. Then, next to that, I put yet another bead with half the radius still. Now, imagine I take an infinite sequence of these beads, each one half the size of the one before, and each with a tiny trefoil knot inside. At the end, I wrap the string around so it's closed. What makes this a wild knot is that it's composed of an infinite sequence. This is actually one of the simplest examples you could make. Another way of describing a wild knot is that it can only be modeled by an infinite number of line edges. The opposite of wild is tame, which means you can build it from a finite number of edges, like the trefoil knot I mentioned before. Wild means you can't.
Do wild knots exist in the real world?
In the physical science world, wild knots never happen. The reason is there's a smallest scale at which you can do things. For wild knots, you have to be able to go smaller and smaller, until it's infinitesimally small. But here's another question: A knot is a one-dimensional structure; do such things exist as two-dimensional structures? It turns out the answer is yes. We can have what's called a "wild sphere." There was confusion about this. The mathematician who first wrote about it, James Waddell Alexander, said, "No, it's not possible." Then later, in 1924, he published a rebuttal saying, "Here's an example"— which is now called Alexander's Horned Sphere. Just as a wild knot cannot be modeled with a finite number of line segments, Alexander's Horned Sphere cannot be constructed from gluing together finitely many triangles. It cannot be triangulated—it's an infinite polyhedral object.
Do wild things occur in all dimensions?
I am embarrassed to say I don't know for sure. I suspect the answer is yes. I have some recollection that strange things happen in higher dimensional space that might make things easier.
But let me tell you about another really charming problem. Imagine that we're going to make a knot out of a polygon—we're going to model it with, say, thirty-two edges. Now we're interested in what are the different knot types you can make with precisely thirty-two edges. There's a kind of space of them, a world of them, a population. And you can sample from them, sort of interview each one and ask, "What kind of a knot are you?" This is a very classical statistical kind of problem: you have a population and want to identify the constituents. We know there are a finite number of knots you can make with thirty-two edges; what we don't know is whether that number is 600, or 1,000, or 10,000. There is no mathematical theory yet that's even been able to give us a meaningful estimate.
You must have an answer up to a certain number of edges?
Eight. That's all we know about right now. It turns out nine is already too complicated. And even for eight edges, there's one case we don't know for sure.
For eight edges how many knots are there?
For eight equal-length edges, there are eight or nine different knots, apart from the "trivial knot," and we don't even know whether it's eight or nine.
It seems extraordinary that something so simple could be so difficult.
Can you explain the idea that knots can be seen like numbers—you can add them and subtract them, and there are even the knot equivalents of prime numbers.
That is a theorem that goes back to the 1960s. Remember how we can construct a wild knot by making knots inside little beads? Well, this method also tells you how to combine knots. If you take one knot and put it inside a bead, and a second knot and put it inside a bead, and so on to make a little necklace, that process with some generalization also shows you how to take a knot and reduce it into its atomic pieces—its indivisible parts. The way it works is this: take a knot and let us try to find a sphere that intersects with it at two points, so that inside the sphere is one piece of the knot and outside is another. The technique tells us that given any knot, however complex, we can find a finite collection of spheres so that inside each sphere there is a piece of the knot that cannot be broken down any further into simpler pieces. You can move the spheres around so it looks like a chain of beads, each with a little knot inside. Every knot is composed of a unique set of these "irreducible" knots. It's exactly like building up composite numbers from prime numbers. These irreducible knots are the primes of the knot world.
The unique factorization of knots is analogous to the unique factorization of integers. With numbers, we call it multiplication, but with knots we call it addition. One interesting thing about knots is that you can never cancel out a knot by adding it to another knot.
So there's no knot equivalent of negative numbers?
No, there's not. But it's more accurate to think in terms of reciprocals: If you take the number 2, then its reciprocal is 1/2, and if you multiply 2 and 1/2 together, you get 1. The knot equivalent of 1 is the trivial knot, or what is also called the "unknot." But you can never cancel out any knot and get back to the unknot by adding it to another knot. There is no such thing as knot reciprocals.
Knot theory began out of an interest in electromagnetism and atoms, but then it became pretty much a theoretical subject. Now it's coming back to applications. Can you comment on that?
Knots have historical roots going back to the time people first tried to attach things together using strands of fiber. We have pieces of knotted material going back tens of thousands of years. The physical properties of knots are very important for practical things like fishing and hauling boats, but also because they occur in important biological and physical systems such as polymers and DNA. This is what drives a lot of my research now—the physical or spatial properties of knots and their evolution in biological systems. DNA, RNA, and proteins can be quite long structures and so their positions in space can be quite complicated. If you take an electron micrograph of these things, you will find lots of complicated structures and from a practical point of view we'd like to be able to analyze them.
Are pieces of DNA and RNA actually knots? Don't knots have to be closed?
In nature there do exist DNA structures that are closed—these are plasmids and they occur in viruses, etc. But it's true that a lot of DNA is open-ended. Some of the work I'm doing now is to expand classical knot theory so that we can deal with the nature of knotting in open strands. Here, we believe the critical thing is to capture the nature of the knotting that occurs if you freeze their position and we now have a pretty robust strategy for doing that.
Another example has to do with whether or not certain kinds of enzymes can act upon DNA, whether they can access specific regions where they could function and change the properties of the DNA. This is more a geometric issue than a topological issue. It changes with the geometry and flexibility of the materials. Why is this important? Well, some structures are known to be critical in diseases like cancer, so the ability to control those is a fundamental medical issue. There are certain molecules, for instance, that have a part that's hydrophobic (water-hating) and other parts that are hydrophilic (water-loving). The hydrophobic parts try to surround themselves so that they are protected from the water by the hydrophilic parts. Now this material is flexible, like a string of spaghetti, so one question is, "How will that spaghetti organize itself?" How will it fold itself up in space in order to best protect the hydrophobic parts? What are the spatial properties of a configuration that does this best, and would there be knots in this structure?
How complex are DNA knots?
For biological systems we are definitely interested in very large knots. As we're doing our analysis, I've got knots on my computer with crossing numbers of 5,000. Those are pretty complicated.
Does it astonish you that we can start out with something as apparently simple as a piece of string and 150 years later mathematicians haven't remotely exhausted what can be understood about it?
As I look at the history of mathematics, there are many problems we are only beginning to know how to ask, but we don't yet have the intellectual framework or tools to answer. The challenge often is to figure out the questions where you can actually make progress. That's a real art form that successful mathematicians know how to do. We learn how to ask questions for which we currently have a hope of answering. We can work on impossible questions forever and not get anywhere—the art is to ask those questions that we can possibly answer.
Do you see any questions in knot theory being in the potentially impossible class?
Certainly, the classification of knots. I don't think we yet have the tools we need. It may be so hard that some people don't even consider it a legitimate question; it's so far beyond what they can even imagine doing. Personally, I think nothing is impossible, it's just a matter of time and imagination.
Note: Cabinet acknowledges that this is the third occasion on which the name of fellow Brooklynite Maurice Sendak's beloved book has been purloined for an article title (see issues 4 and 9 for previous occurrences). The next use of this title is slated for issue 44 for an article on Oscar Wilde's influence on twentieth-century children's literature.
Margaret Wertheim is director of the Los Angeles-based Institute For Figuring, an organization devoted to enhancing the public understanding of figures and figuring techniques. Also a science writer, she pens the “Quark Soup” column for the LA Weekly, and is currently working on a book about the role of imagination in theoretical physics.