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Maggie Chok

—a kind of negative sculpture, a deletion, the memory of motion

Step 8

In 1964 an eighteen-year-old art student named Richard Long went for a walk in the hills near his home in Bristol, where the land was covered in a thin layer of snow. In a moment of boyish caprice, he began rolling a snowball through it. As it rolled, it picked up granules of snow, leaving behind a denuded, muddy trail. Charmed by the sight of that line—a kind of negative sculpture, a deletion, the memory of motion—Long photographed the snowball’s crooked trail.

He liked the photo enough to show it around. Perhaps, he thought, he had discovered some new form of sculpture. Not long afterward, a faculty member from Long’s art school called his parents into a meeting to announce that their son was being kicked out. Decades later, when asked the reason, Long replied that the kind of work he had begun making troubled them. The administrators worried Long might be going “mad” and instructed him to have no further contact with the other students. “That was really my first big break as an artist,” Long recalled.

Next, Long took a train out to the countryside and found a flat grassy field. With intensely methodical steps, aligning himself with a point in the distance and another behind himself, he began to walk across the field to the edge of the forest and then walked back, being careful to make as straight a line as possible. He repeated this until a faint line appeared in the grass. Then, using what he called “a ridiculously primitive little box camera,” he snapped a single photo. He would later title it “A Line Made by Walking.”

In 1969 Long’s work was included in a seminal exhibition called When Attitudes Become Form. His photograph of a simple line across a flat field now hangs in the Tate in London and is regarded as one of the seminal works of British land art—understated, ephemeral, philosophical, a rebuke to modernism, materialism, and the age of machine travel. “Long,” wrote Tate director Nicholas Serota, “gave new meaning to an activity as old as man himself. Nothing in the history of art quite prepared us for the originality of his action.”

(Source: Robert Moor—How to Cross a Field of Snow, Lapham’s Quarterly ‘Discovery’ Issue; Richard Long—A Line Made by Walking, 1967)

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The Demoness of Tibet

Tibet; Late 19th/early 20th century
Pigments on cloth
Rubin Museum of Art

The “supine demoness,” a late-nineteenth-century symbolic depiction of the land of Tibet, draws on the great post-dynastic histories of the Jokhang Temple at Lhasa. The image is iconic of Tibet’s rich tradition of geomancy—the art and ritual of landscape. An indispensable facet of religious life across the Plateau, Tibetan geomancy (or jungtsi, “counting the elements”) united the long-established indigenous worship of mountain gods with Chinese concepts of feng shui and Indian tantra to create a rich religious science of moral well-being, community prosperity, and auspicious rule.

The image is drawn from the standard repertoire of Tang dynasty royal feng shui, with which the full story shares many features, including the ability to combine surrounding landscape forms into a united ‘body’. The extent of the demoness’ limbs corresponds broadly with the limits of the emperor’s rule and military conquests, which became in subsequent centuries associated with the boundaries of Greater Tibet (böd chenmo), the province of Tibet’s celestial protector, the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Chenresik).

(Source: The Rubin Museum of Art—Collection Highlight: The Demoness of Tibet

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The Conference of the Birds

The Conference of the Birds or Speech of the Birds (Persian: منطق الطیر‎‎, Manṭiq-uṭ-Ṭayr, also known as مقامات الطیور Maqāmāt-uṭ-Ṭuyūr; 1177), is a celebrated literary masterpiece of Persian literature by poet Farid ud-Din Attar, commonly known as Attar of Nishapur.

In the poem, the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their king, as they have none. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical Persian bird roughly equivalent to the western phoenix. The hoopoe leads the birds, each of whom represent a human fault which prevents man from attaining enlightenment. From the many birds that begin the journey, only thirty birds are left that finally reach the dwelling place of the Simorgh. There, the birds see the Simorgh in the reflection of their faces of an implicit lake.

The seven valleys the birds cross are as follows:

1. Valley of the Quest, where the Wayfarer begins by casting aside all dogma, belief, and unbelief.
2. Valley of Love, where reason is abandoned for the sake of love.
3. Valley of Knowledge, where worldly knowledge becomes utterly useless.
4. Valley of Detachment, where all desires and attachments to the world are given up. Here, what is assumed to be “reality” vanishes.
5. Valley of Unity, where the Wayfarer realizes that everything is connected and that the Beloved is beyond everything, including harmony, multiplicity, and eternity.
6. Valley of Wonderment, where, entranced by the beauty of the Beloved, the Wayfarer becomes perplexed and, steeped in awe, finds that he or she has never known or understood anything.
7. Valley of Poverty and Annihilation, where the self disappears into the universe and the Wayfarer becomes timeless, existing in both the past and the future.

(Source: Wiki—The Conference of the Birds)

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The snail movie plays to an empty house.

These experiments are fascinating, but they leave aside a larger question: what is a snail “seeing”? Do snails see as we do, with images of checkered cards appearing in their gastropod minds? Do they experience private displays of light and dark, processed by tangles of nerves into decisions, preferences, and meaning. The human body and the snail body are made from the same wet pieces of carbon and clay, so if consciousness grows out of this neurological soil, on what grounds do we deny the snail its mental images?

No doubt what it sees is radically different, an avant-garde movie of strange camera angles and lurching forms, but if the human cinema is caused by nerves, we have to allow for the startling possibility that the snails have a similar experience. But our culture’s preferred story is that the snail movie plays to an empty house. Indeed, the theatre has no screen. The snail has no internal subjective experience, we claim. Light from the eye’s projector merely stimulates the snail’s ductwork and wiring, causing the hollow theatre to move, eat, mate, and keep up the appearance of life.

(Source: The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature—David George Haskell)

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Moon map; Sky swim

by Sophie Stephenson-Wright

I boom-mumble I bass-blow
I hull-heavy I big/slow
I boat-bump I limpet-skin
I soft-sink I sky-swim
I sea-search I salt-swallow
I bone-backed I flute-follow
I gulf-cross I listen-talk
I moon-map I wave-walk
I tail-turn I time-keep
I ship-wreck I song-seek
I blue-blood I grumble-sing
I fish-heart I dream king

As seen on the Underground.

(Source: Whalesong—Sophie Stevenson-Wright, as seen during Oliver Coates’ performance at Rewire Festival 2017)

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It feels like you are riding a wind slide.

(Source: Suzanne Ciani—The First Wave, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s synth hero mix)

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Win some. Lose sum.

On a morning last fall, Patrick Drum sat quietly in his black and white striped uniform and handcuffs as he awaited his fate. The sleeves of his top were short enough to reveal a tattoo reading “Win Some” on his right forearm and one reading “Lose Sum” on the left. From the court’s gallery where dozens of reporters and community members sat, he seemed barely to move as the families of the two men he had killed four months before came forward to speak.

As far as Drum was concerned, he had been protecting the community’s children.

Prosecutor Deb Kelly recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders, plus time for burglary and unlawful possession of a firearm. “What Mr. Drum has done diminishes us all,” she said. “There is no room for vigilantism. There is no room for what he has done. And no one in authority will ever tolerate vigilantism. It will be sought out, those who commit it will be sought out. They will be sought—“

Drum interrupted her. “This country was founded on vigilantism,” he said.

Kelly ignored him and continued. “You piece of shit,” someone from the galley called to Drum.

The defense attorney spoke briefly. Drum rose and curtly apologized for the hurt caused to the families, asking his supporters to leave them alone. “As for the men themselves,” he said, speaking of his victims, “actions speak louder than words.”

As far as Drum was concerned, he had been protecting the community’s children when he murdered Paul Ray’s son and Leslie Blanton’s husband. He may have killed two sex offenders in June of that year, but he had set out to kill sixty more.

(Source: ‘The Vigilante of Clallam County’—The Atlantic, Lexi Pandell DEC 4, 2013)

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Soft rain; a sorry rain

Living Water
BBC World Service—The Documentary
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Aboriginal people from across Australia share their words, wisdom and concern for the future of that crucial resource, water. Watched by crocodiles on the bank of a tropical Northern Territory stream; sitting in a peaceful desert water dreaming place; interpreting a significant rock art site; dancing and singing the country back to life – water is embedded in identity, culture, spirituality and survival.

Brad Moggridge, a Murri from the Kamilaroi Nation, is a hydrogeologist who’s passionate about promoting Aboriginal ecological knowledge and he links the traditional with a contemporary scientific take on water management.

In this, the driest inhabited continent on earth, understanding water has been essential for tens of thousands of years. Today, as Brad says, “Mobs all over the country still talk about water places, dream about water places, have laws about water places and teach the next generation about water places. Water is a key part of who we are”.

(Source: BBC World Service—The Documentary, ‘Living Water’ episode)

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Did the jaguar say something about me?

(Source: Embrace of the Serpent—El abrazo de la serpiente, 2015)

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Reason and resonance

Hearing has traditionally been understood as the second sense — less rational and modern than seeing, the master of all senses, the first sense. Reason and Resonance is the first full-length study to explode this myth by reconstructing the history of aurality and the process through which the ear assumed a central role in modern culture and rationality.

From the beginning of the seventeenth century to the early decades of the twentieth, scientists believed that resonance was the operative mechanism of the human ear. To comprehend the act of hearing was to recognize the existence of a sympathetic resonance between vibrating air and various parts of the inner ear. But resonance, by extension, also entailed adjacency, sympathy, and the collapse of the boundary between perceiver and perceived —  phenomena usually thought of as polar opposites of reason. As Veit Erlmann argues, however, with the emergence of resonance as the centerpiece of modern aurality, a new type of epistemology triumphed, one involving an intimate and complex relation between reason and resonance where the absence of resonance is the very condition of thought. Our mind’s relationship to the world is said to rest on distance or, as the very synonym for reason suggests, reflection.

(Source: Reason and Resonance—A History of Modern Aurality by Veit Erlmann, MIT Press)

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