Do start. By the Sound of It:
LISTEN. Just Listen. “Listening to the sound is a sculptural act. The ear… is the genuine sense of sculpture.” Matthias Bärmann, quoting Joseph Beuys.
5/10/04 - Yesterday’s drawings, the ‘Casa Buonarroti Series,’ are ‘sculpted,’ and muscular (1). They ‘reach out,’ and feel as if they were drawn with a chisel.
Vasari tells us that Michelangelo used his chisel like a pencil; I feel I use my pencil like a chisel. And like him, I ‘chisel’ every day (2). Daily practice.
We also learn that while he said he worked with his hands, he said the real artist must judge with “the compasses in the eyes” (3). This judgement is innate, a “measure without measure”(4). We might even straighten up, or sway in response to the good work (5).
In this way, we can edit, and make a SELECTION FROM A DAY.
27/10/04 - Foot-tapping. Always foot-tapping. And marching ‘round the studio’:
‘Round’ the studio, but in the shape of a square, or quad:
“I think I occupy the centre, but nothing is less certain… but the best is to think of myself as fixed at the centre of the place, whatever the shape and extent may be.” Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
While my ‘assigned figure’ remains constant – my movement, in time – the SHAPE and EXTENT of my trajectory will change. That’s how the work DEVELOPS (WHILE FUNDAMENTALLY STAYING THE SAME).
25/11/04 - Tot Taylor calls my movement round the studio the ‘Fred Astaire Walk’. He says it is graceful, like Astaire’s.
Perhaps it is the timing, and my posture, my line:
This ‘timing’ is also recorded on 20/10/04, 25/10/04, 29/10/04, 3/11/04, 22/11/04, 25/11/04, 29/11/04, 30/11/04, and 7/12/04.
DAILY PRACTICE and REPETITION: “The rhythms keep on coming. They just do” (Merce Cunningham)
27/11/04 - And circling around the centre: “I am as the centre of the circle, to which all parts of the circumference stand in equal relation; you, however, are not so.” (Dante, Vita Nuova, XII, 21–23)
Thus love, in the form of an angel, speaks to the poet, and gives himself a mystic definition.
Compare it to Beckett’s ‘rendition’ on the poet, and his position on the centre:
“I think that I occupy the centre, but nothing is less certain. In a sense I would be better of at the circumference, since my eyes are fixed always in the same direction… From centre to circumference in any case is a far cry and I may well be situated somewhere between the two… But the best is to think of myself as fixed at the centre of this place, whatever its shape and extent may be.” Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
Like Dante, of whom Beckett was a scholar, Beckett knew his position to be precarious (6). Only LOVE, in the transitional figure of an angel, can hold the centre with certainty, and be NAMED. The poet is left to circle AROUND the centre, in time, in obedience to that figure assigned to him. He is a moving image of eternity, never resting in unity, but moving according to number. “And this image we call TIME.” (7)
All we can know, with certainty, is that the rhythms keep on coming, they just do. That’s how we go on, and get on…
28/11/04 - Folko Jungnitsch says my drawings are like music: “The capture of fluent time”. That we are both searching for the perfect line, and that “the line must be in its time”. (8)
30/11/04 - The day after the performance and talk by Christian Wolf at Kettle’s Yard: (9) I was struck by his concentration as he followed his sounds, with his eyes and his hands. And how he instantly corrected any false note. “Each note has its own centre,” John Cage told him. And he was taught to play each note exactly as it was written. “Each [note] in its time.” Follow the music, as it is scored.
This is what I do, as closely as possible, and for as long as I can sustain the necessary, unimpinged-upon concentration:
The internal score – the rhythm
The sounded score – the sounds
The chiselled score, already traced onto the sheet from the preceding work WHILE staying in PLACE, and IN PACE.
01/12/04 - And circling around the centre. Today’s series, 1–7, +8 (+9) felt like ‘recordings’, as I turned ‘round the centre LIKE A PHONOGRAPH NEEDLE (the OLD STYLE!). My pencil point held the incised grooves (of the preceding work), and the rhythms [kept] on coming; they just did. The ‘hole’ in the ‘record’ was also recorded, as that central point of light where the lines start, and stop, to precision.
Looking at this series, pinned to the wall, most striking is that central POINT OF LIGHT. VARYING SLIGHTLY from work to work, it is the punctuation, and meaning, of the series.
26/12/04- The ‘Fred Astaire Walk’ could equally be called The Beckett Walk (as in the title of a drawing by Bruce Nauman). “Every movement in the studio must be artistic.” Bruce Nauman (10)
NOTE: And graceful. Full of grace. In good posture.
27/12/04 - A friend of Duchamp said of him that “his finest work is his use of time” (11) Walkaround Time, the title of a work by Merce Cunningham, with sets designed by Marcel Duchamp, and built by Jasper Johns. On Marcel Duchamp: “his fundamental work was because he chose it, and because it happened to him, by chance” (A Chance Encounter, p. 302)
28/12/04 - The good drawings, as Victor Skipp said, are found objects (12). Tanks to repetition, and to daily practice: “where 1000 variations of three simple movements fill up the time between train and train.” Hugh Kenner on Beckett, 1961 But always with one’s mind in the game, or “this would put [one] of stone forever, and in a very short time”. And at the same time, not being afraid to fail: “To be an artist is to fail” (13). So we must judge, and edit, with those ‘compasses in the eyes,’ choosing only those works that flash conviction on the viewer through aroused sympathy (14)>
29/12/04 - With Werner Klein, in Cologne, inspecting and judging ‘days, Autumn 2004’. Werner noted how crucial selection has become, and proposes the work be called a Selection from a Day.
30/12/04 - See Casa Buonarroti Series, I–IV
“ALL TRUE GRACE IS ECONOMICAL" Beckett
1. So named, because of the comparison presented by Alison Wright in her illustrated talk at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, 22 October 2004. She juxtaposed a drawing of mine with Michelangelo’s rendering of his house, the Casa Buonarroti. Tis talk was entitled ‘Compasses in the Eyes'
2. Giorgio Vasari, ‘Michelangelo Buonarroti’, in Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, translated by Gaston de Vere and with an introduction by David Ekserdjian, in 2 volumes (London: Everyman’s Library, 1996).
4. This title was suggested by Karshan, and is a translation from a text on her work by Anca Vasiliu, ‘measure sans measure’, from the book Le temps, Lui, Time Being (Paris: Les Editions Signum, 2000).
5. Linda Karshan, ‘The Greek Thing’. In the exhibition ‘Constellation and Chance’ at the Redfern Gallery, London, 21 September–21 October 2004.
6. Not knowing was Beckett’s business: he had little to say about the meaning and background of his work; he issued universal questions, but offered no answers.
7. Plato, Timaeus, translated by Benjamin Jowett.
8. Folko Jungnitsch, in a conversation in the studio.
9. Christian Wolf at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 1 November 2004, in celebration of 70 years.
10. Bruce Nauman, ‘Mapping the Studio’, Tate Modern, October 2004. On display to accompany Raw Materials, his Turbine Hall sound installation, a retrospective of the sound of his video work, arranged, as he said, as need be.
11. Rachel Cohen, ‘John Cage and Marcel Duchamp’, in A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, 1854–1967 (London: Jonathan Cape, 2004), p. 300. See also Marilyn McCully, Measure Without Measure: The Art of Linda Karshan (London: Cacklegoose Press, 2001), for the mention of Karshan’s early interest in Duchamp’s work Nude Descending a Staircase.
12. Victor Skipp in conversation with Linda Karshan at The Redfern Gallery, looking at the exhibition ‘Constellation and Chance’, October 2004.
13. Samuel Beckett, in Molloy (London: Calder and Boyars, 1966) and Three Dialogues with George Duthuit (London: John Calder, 1969).
14. George Eliot. See studio jotting, ‘Flashing Conviction, Summer 2004’