A burning desire

I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.
Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”
“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”
“No artist is pleased.”
“But then there is no satisfaction?”
“No satisfaction whatever at any time,” she cried out passionately. “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

Martha Graham in conversation with Agnes de Mille. In: https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/10/02/martha-graham-creativity-divine-dissatisfaction/


Gold field

There it was, in a white room, all by itself, it didn’t need company, it didn’t need anything. Sitting on the floor, ever so lightly. A new landscape, a possible horizon, a place of rest and absolute beauty. Waiting for the right viewer willing and needing to be moved to a place of the imagination. This piece is nothing more than a thin layer of gold. It is everything a good poem by Wallace Stevens is: precise, with no baggage, nothing extra. A poem that feels secure and dares to unravel itself, to become naked, to be enjoyed in a tactile manner, but beyond that, in an intellectual way too. Ross and I were lifted. That gesture was all we needed to rest, to think about the possibility of change. This showed the innate ability of an artist proposing to make this place a better place. How truly revolutionary.
This work was needed. This was an undiscovered ocean for us. It was impossible, yet it was real, we saw this landscape. Like no other landscape. We felt it. We traveled together to countless sunsets. But where did this object come from? Who produced this piece that risked itself by being so fragile, just laying on the floor, no base, no plexiglass box on top of it…. A place to dream, to regain energy, to dare. Ross and I always talked about this work, how much it affected us. After that any sunset became “The Gold Field.” Roni had named something that had always been there. Now we saw it through her eyes, her imagination.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “1990: L.A., “The Gold Field”. In: http://www.andrearosengallery.com/exhibitions/felix-gonzalez-torres-and-roni-horn

Luscious life

Sweet oh luscious life
celebrate your dreams when you are away
doesn’t it taste so sweet
like it’s growing on oh, growing on the trees
growing on the trees
when you pick me up off the ground
I’ll slowly turn you from a frown
sweet oh luscious life
my sweet oh my sweet oh, luscious life
you taste so sweet
when you are so free
my sweet oh luscious life you taste so sweet, to me
hold time, no need for the moment of the day
I celebrate, I need, I need you today
what’s one minute of the day
to celebrate
to let it be
to feel so free
when you and me
in a sweet luscious life
for a minute of the day
you taste so sweet
you taste so

Patrick Watson, In “Luscious life”, “Close to Paradise”, 2006.

About being human

Man is not free from conditions. But he is free to take a stand in regard to them. The conditions do not completely condition him. Within limits it is up to him whether or not he succumbs and surrenders to the conditions. He may as well rise above them and by so doing open up and enter the human dimension… Ultimately, man is not subject to the conditions that confront him; rather, these conditions are subject to his decision. Wittingly or unwittingly, he decides whether he will face up or give in, whether or not he will let himself be determined by the conditions.

Viktor Frankl, “Psychotherapy and Existentialism”. Excerpt found online.

Eliminating the human

I have a theory that much recent tech development and innovation over the last decade or so has had an unspoken overarching agenda—it has been about facilitating the need for LESS human interaction. It’s not a bug—it’s a feature. (…) I am not saying these developments are not efficient and convenient; this is not a judgement regarding the services and technology. I am simply noticing a pattern and wondering if that pattern means there are other possible roads we could be going down, and that the way we’re going is not in fact inevitable, but is (possibly unconsciously) chosen. (…) Social media is not really social—ticking boxes and having followers and getting feeds is NOT being social—it’s a screen simulation of human interaction. Human interaction is much more nuanced and complicated than what happens online. Engineers like things that are quantifiable. Smells, gestures, expression, tone of voice, etc. etc.—in short, all the various ways we communicate are VERY hard to quantify, and those are often how we tell if someone likes us or not. (..) Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive.

David Byrne, “Eliminating the human”. In: http://davidbyrne.com/journal/eliminating-the-human

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24 June 2016

I’m not feeling depressed today. I had a profoundly sad moment the evening before last when, leaving Tate Modern, I looked at the building and after sunset walked over the Millennium Bridge. Both were opened in 2000, both symbols of a new openness. That same month I was nominated for the Turner Prize for British art alongside two other non-Britons and one Briton. This was the new London that had been taking shape since the early 90s. The London that had self-confidently taken its place at the very centre of Europe. I looked at the yellow-red sky to the west and my eyes filled with tears, realising that this could be the final evening before a new era. That sixteen years later we should have got to a situation where half the population rejects this open and international spirit is hard to comprehend. This all happened when there was still the general feeling that the vote would favour remain. The fact that, unlike many others this morning, I’m not feeling deeply depressed about the way the English and Welsh voted, makes me realise that the sorrow I’d felt two days previously was the emotional manifestation of something that I had sensed for a long time; which Tony Blair put into words on 29 August last year in the Guardian. Blair who had completely lost touch with reality over Iraq, suddenly showed a moment of lucidity, as he wrote to fellow party members in an effort to persuade them not to elect the populist left-wing candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Labour Party. Reading the last paragraph, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck as Blair admitted that his generation would have to rethink everything, because what we are currently seeing is part of something even bigger: ‘But people like me have a lot of thinking to do. We don’t yet properly understand this. It is about to transform a political institution we spent our whole lives defending. But it is part of something much bigger in politics.
Because it is a vast wave of feeling against the unfairness of globalisation, against elites, against the humdrum navigation of decision-making in an imperfect world, it persuades itself that it has a monopoly on authenticity. They’re “telling it like it is”, when, of course, they’re telling it like it isn’t.’
Now ten months after Blair wrote these words, the first big wave has breached one of these institutions. He was writing about left-wing populism in his own party, but the larger picture is of course the more damaging right-wing populism, which yesterday’s vote is so much part of. We still have more of this to go through.
The only thing that helps is not to lose courage, because what’s being attacked by populists is not in fact the real evil, instead it’s substitutes that get attacked – refugees, the UN, the EU, or simply politicians. It’s now the duty of us all to defend the pillars of the free world order that was created over the last seventy years.
To hold the centre ground, and not to contribute to the centrifugal energies around us. And I know that we’re still the majority.

Wolfgang Tillmans, “Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24 June 2016”. In “Wolgang Tillmans, 2017”. London: Tate Publishing, 2017, p. 303.

From the dry salvages

For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning,
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply,
That is not heard at all, but you are the music,
While the music lasts.

T. S. Eliot, excerpt from “The Dry Salvages”. In Alexandra Prado Coelho, “Bolos entre ruínas”. Granta, nº9, Lisboa: Tinta da China, 2017, p. 21.

American dream

Oh, the revolution was here
That would set you free from those bourgeoisie
In the morning everything’s clearer
When the sunlight exposes your age
But that’s okay
And that’s okay
Grab your clothes and head to the doorway
If you dance out, no one complains
Find the place where you can be boring
Where you won’t need to explain
That you’re sick in the head and you wish you were dead
Or at least instead of sleeping here you prefer your own bed, come on
You just suck at self-preservation
Versus someone else’s pain
So you feel drained
And insane
But now more will go with age, you know
So get up and stop your complaining
You know that you’re the only one who’s been destroying all the fun
Look what happened when you were dreaming
Then punch yourself in the face
So you kiss and you clutch but you can’t fight that feeling
That your one true love is just awaiting your big meeting
So you never even asked for names
You just look right through them as if you already came
It’s a drug of the heart and you can’t stop the shaking
‘Cause the body wants what it’s terrible at taking, oh
And you can’t remember the meaning
But there’s no going back against this California feeling

James Murphy
In “American Dream”, LCD Soundsystem, 2017.


O que suscita em nós uma grande ideia é quando alguém diz uma coisa que nos leva a pensar num grande número de outras coisas ou quando somos levados a descobrir num impulso algo que só poderíamos vir a entender depois de muita leitura.

Charles-Louis de Secondat Montesquieu, “Essai sur le goût”. In “Manuela Marques e Versailles: A face escondida do sol”. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2017, p. 5.

Só naquele momento acabava de saber

É sem dúvida a existência do nosso corpo, semelhante para nós a um vaso onde estivesse encerrada a nossa espiritualidade, que nos induz a supor que todos os nossos bens interiores, as nossas alegrias passadas, todas as nossas dores estão permanentemente na nossa posse. Talvez seja também inexacto acreditar que elas se escapam ou que regressam. Em todo o caso, se permanecem em nós, ficam a maioria das vezes confinadas a um domínio desconhecido onde não nos servem para nada e onde, até, as mais usuais são recalcadas por recordações de ordem diferente e que excluem toda a simultaneidade com elas na consciência. Mas, se o quadro de sensações onde se conservaram for retomado, têm por sua vez aquele mesmo poder de expulsar tudo o que com elas for incompatível, de instalar em nós, sozinho, o eu que as viveu.

Marcel Proust, “Sodoma e Gomorra, Em Busca do Tempo Perdido, Vol. 4”. Lisboa: Relógio D’Água, 2016, p. 146.