Tuesday, March 30, 2010

free association #1

camera obscura: Abelardo Morell photographs the world inside various rooms. Not only the world of the room -- the lamps and bookshelves and beds and electrical outlets -- but the world outside the window too, one superimposed on the other through a quirk of optics observed by Aristotle and used by people like Caravaggio and Vermeer (maybe) and every kid who makes a pinhole camera (most definitely). Wouldn't it be great to have a party in one of Morell's rooms? Everyone would wear white, of course, and the trick of the evening would be to pay attention to the conversation while an upside-down Central Park wandered over ties, cocktail dresses, and faces. Or to wake up with Venetian canals floating over your head, and the sky strewn across your sheets, and maybe someone in bed next to you with a flock of pigeons passing over their shoulder, topsy-turvy and in miniature. (I'm sure this wouldn't actually work; but since I don't know anything about optics, I choose to ignore the practicalities.)

flashback cards: So, this lady calls and she wants something that she calls "flashback cards." Not flash cards and not index cards, but this special kind of card that you write things down on so you can remember them. This makes me think of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, because there's an old man in that book who has a card catalogue of all the people he's met. When I heard J. S. F. read, he read from this scene, and his voice cracked, like a boy at his bar mitzvah, as my friend put it. It also makes me think of this comedian I read about, who donated her card catalogue, each drawer labeled with a different kind of joke, to the Smithsonian. I wish I knew where you could get these special cards. You write down the memory. The card keeps it safe. You can file it away, either forever or just until you decide to take it out again and everything is resuscitated, like those foam capsules I used to love so much that turned into dinosaur and spaceship shaped sponges in the bath.

zipper pull: A young man gets into the elevator and he has a silver maglight hanging from the end of his jacket zipper. He's all zipped up, so the maglight dangles right under his chin, and I can't figure out what use a flashlight is when it's (one) daytime and (two) banging into your adam's apple. I wrote a story about a guy who was afraid of the dark. He kept a flashlight in his pocket in case of an electrical outage. This was a minor detail meant to illuminate (pun absolutely, shamelessly intended) his predilection for getting lost. If you had a carabiner clip, I guess it wouldn't matter where you kept your flashlight, because you could always unclip it if you had to. This guy doesn't have a carabiner clip though, it's just the flashlight on the zipper looking like some sort of bizarre metal growth hanging from his jaw.


Marc Jacobs said...

The camera obscura images from Morrell are interesting, at first. But when I look at his website, I can't help but think, "one trick pony." He also makes me think that art about art is tiresome.

Vermeer might have used a camera obscura. Or maybe he didn't. When I'm in the Met, or the Rijksmuseum, I don't think about the tricks used by the painter to get the perspective right. Instead, I react to the image.

The only time that I don't react like this is watching CGI. In "Toy Story," I notice the rain on the windows. In "Monsters Inc" I marvel at the fur.

Megan Kurashige said...

Oh, I don't know. I'm not sure that Morell's stuff can fairly be called "art about art." There's stuff about juxtaposition and viewpoint in his work that I find incredibly interesting. A similar effect could probably be achieved with video projection, but knowing that it's "real" gives all sorts of connotations about time and reality.

I agree that technical tricks aren't the first thing that come to mind when I look at a Caravaggio (who I love) or a Vermeer (who I sometimes love). But, thinking about the technical tricks is fun. It doesn't diminish the artistry in any way, but it gives me another level of appreciation.

Anonymous said...

Circumstances are the rulers of the weak, instrument of the wise.........................................