By Matt Delong
Lately I find myself mistaking things for other things. Korey says I am conditioning myself to be half present—to intentionally be mistaken. These moments of discognition I find to be exciting. Things are not only visual objects, but signs, and the combination of mistaken objects and gestures with the corporeal allows whatever partition is between them to be pardoned.
Virginia Woolf’s book Orlando begins with a (simulated?) beheading, a recapitulation of a decapitation.
We open to Orlando, “in the act of slicing at the (shrunken) head” strung from the rafters in the attic.
Orlando and their wielding sword—a conduction rod connecting the life and death of this foreign being (A Moor) and the attic of their family home—a storage space built atop the long heritage which begat Orlando.
In a storage space, all is still and all is neutral, it is futile fulfillment. Things become the landscape, no longer individuals, such as in Barthes World as Object, “nothing more than a kind of mystical mouth, the attic, as if each human habit were merely the rising path of storage, hoarding, that great ancestral gesture of animals and children.” Every gesture is a layer. Every discarding is juxtaposition. In storage, time is still. In her essay On Photography Moyra Davey compares photography with Virginia Woolf’s “reading with pen & notebook” by saying, “Both involve drift, but also purpose, when they become enterprises of absorption and collecting.”
In Anna Mendieta’s video piece Weather Balloon, Feathered Balloon, a white balloon rises into a blue sky over a yellow field. It is then struck and transforms into white feathers falling.
From my car, a man in blue climbs the hill, his background is sky, he turns and looks at the lake, he sees me watching and turns and disappears. Reading Speaker Receiver in my car— Moyra Davey quoting Oliver Sacks:
I was getting used to this strange semi-darkness in which I lived and almost began to like it […] I stood on the threshold of reality and imagination.
In the painting, The Swing 1775/1780 by Jean Honore Fragonard, the idea of escape upwards is entertained/entertainment. Subjects are situated simultaneously at the bottom of the bowl (composition) and perched higher than anything else seen in the distance. A woman swings on ropes connected to the forest and is tethered by two more ropes—held by a man and woman, waiting in shadows. This world is of intimacy/cupping, there is pleasure (the swing forward) and there is failure (the swing backward). Hedonism is their centripetal force, for the swing will always swing back. It is the object described purely by its physical action, a reoccurring sensation (simulated?) of the pleasure of flying and the danger of falling. It is truly an act of the involute. A sign of the futile and the fulfillment— disembarked. Every swing (the action) is met with the same perception. You go to the swing to receive the same sign repeatedly. Every double take is two glances. Sensitive sign seekers
encounter violence within an impression. Recreating that sign is a recreation of that violence.
Maybe this is all we are asking for.
In Paul Chan’s exhibition Non- projections for new Lovers at the Guggenheim, there was a work high up on the wall. White tubes of fabric attached to a fan, albeit this was no flag—catching the wind and then letting it flow off, this was a force/wind ripping through a body, animation through animus, running from the thing giving it life.
In the kitchen eating peanut butter right out of the jar in the blue light of dusk. I’m doing everything by feeling.
“A” calls me every night while I’m asleep and I answer, half conscious and try to give advice. In the morning I have no idea if it truly happens.
I mistook smoke for a long arm.
I mistook a snow streak on the window for a woman running.
I mistook a tire mark on the curb for a dog, bounding.
I mistook a pile of rocks for a large ghostly head.
The push and pull between the modest and the bold.
Running today the cherry blossoms were out and it was snowing.
In A Scene on the Ice by Hendrick Avercamp, the sky and ice are the same color, same texture. The scene depicted is a river frozen, people and objects dotting the space, ice-skating, all with a buffer—no group is touching. These people are continuing their lives, enjoying the extra space, because for a short while, their city grew. The temporary nature of ice, stopping not only travel by boat but also the constant flow of water, is a conduit that allows energy to flow in directions it once couldn’t. When given more room, people filled it in. Lives and happenings all spread across the blank white surface. Geese in the sky and people on the river all flat in space, there is no distance, there are no shadows, there is no time—as if one could skate/slide right off the picture plane. I feel the urge to brush everyone off the surface into my palm. Avercamp painted many frozen river scenes and during the period known as ‘The Little Ice Age’ involving colder than usual temperatures throughout the Netherlands, Europe and the rest of the world.
I mistook a hole in a wall for a horse standing in the dark.
The other night I mistook a cat for the shadow of a bus.
Sitting on the ‘brand new’ metro train and have to pee very badly. Only moments ago I was putting the liquid into my body.
At the National Gallery and mistakenly think Turner’s Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight depicts a daytime scene.
I wondered, how during the day could the torch-bearing ships be surrounded by such darkness, and I realize the stark light—painting center, is the white light of a full moon’s reflection, bright and translucent in the water as in the sky.
Turner paints the port as if it were an interior—ship, raft, and water confluent. Human and object moving from one surface to another, ignorant to the change in material constitution. Raft with bucket and stick given equal attention as men in a dinghy. Division between sky and water non-existent, inky light among ship and tender caught in the corners of some Cimmerian, coalescent room.
Finding it hard to differentiate between dreams and sleepwalking (an occasional occurrence.) In the morning I feel as if I have just lived another life. Had a very active night.
Reading Kierkegaard Either/Or and he quotes a Dr. Hartley, “When laughter first manifests itself in the infant, it is an incipient cry, excited by pain, or by a feeling of pain suddenly inhibited, and recurring at brief intervals.” Kierkegaard goes on, “What if
everything in the world was a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears.”
“A” called me in a panic; she was parked on the side of the highway. She said things were falling from the sky and no one else seemed to notice. I asked her to show me and she sent me a picture of planes flying away from her leaving contrails.
Sitting in my car at 1am and the temperature is 10 degrees. Eating a black and white cookie K gave to me listening to radio jazz. It’s pretty nice.
Saw a yellow construction glove, swathed, shellacked, into a Kevin Beasley sculpture at Casey Kaplan. It looked like an old man that got caught in a wave. That was years ago.
I am back at Casey Kaplan to see the new Kevin Beasley show. He has clothes, perpetually wet, signs of success—sopping. Beasley’s work often includes tools for reverberation and absorption, parabolic dishes made of clothes, acoustic foam panels covered in soaking wet basketball jerseys, an air conditioning unit as eavesdropping tool. These works alter the sounds they encounter, echoing or soaking in the materiality and the implications.
I woke up and walked down the hall. As I pass the window, a car passes on the street going the opposite direction, at the same pace.
John Berger in his essay on Mantegna says the feet are the connection from the body to the earth, they are our vehicle. In Lutz Bacher’s Armor three stacked helmets lay next to three pairs
of metal gaiters. A piece of history, once serving the purpose of taking the brunt of violence, now a pile, objects we know of only by mythology.
In Phillip Guston’s The Ladder a ladder leans on the ocean horizon, a brain- like sun setting about half way. Two feet, one on the ground, one dangling over the top rung, connected by one long leg. It looks like they took one large step, only to end up mangled, a desperate attempt to reach something before it is gone. Similarly Bunny Roger’s Ladder 13 is missing bottom rungs, the illusion of a functional tool with the reality of a false start.
The other day, I don’t remember which one, I was driving through the woods at night and within the narrow beams of my headlight I saw two men, bagging leaves, hunched over, pushing armfuls of debris into shiny black sacks.
Pierre Bonnard paints his characters into the shadows. In The Terrace at Vernonnet one could easily mistake the figures for part of the architecture. In View of The Old Port, Saint-Tropez Bonnard embeds the figures so deeply into the city they almost disappear. A person walking, painting center, is only a bump in the shadow of a building. A woman walking on the left is the cobblestone; a woman walking on the right is the brick wall. And between these barriers are the ships at port—always changing, always there.
Take melatonin to sleep, force myself to wake for work and drink espresso to yank myself out of a fog.
In Virginia Woolf’s book Orlando there is a scene that starts off much like Avercamp’s painting A Scene on the Ice, involving an entire towns worth of activities happening on a frozen river Thames. All facets of life are built and lived out in the short time the river has been frozen. But in this scene Orlando witnesses the river thaw, and all is swept out to sea on icebergs swiftly moving down river, some pray, some carry on, some are merry. This image of wiping the river clean is quite the opposite of Avercamp’s painting of stillness; here we witness a fast-forwarding, a making up for lost time, another partition pardoned. The movement is no longer lateral, the energy is moving concentrated and at high speeds towards the ocean where it will once again disperse.
Orlando as witness, collecting all the information of life in a short span, like a jolt after so much stagnancy, a foreboding passage for Orlando—they loose and gain an entire life in the zoom and crop of times malleable form.
I mistook a blanket for someone lamenting.
Matt DeLong is an artist and writer working in Baltimore, MD. His work can be seen at Post-Office Arts Journal and at mattdelong.info