January 2011


6. If you’re an artist, critic, or curator, someone will inevitably ask you what you’re working on. It’s good to have either two projects that can be mentioned briefly, or one project that can be mentioned in more depth—though still kept within the bounds of appropriate party chatter. In different cities, artists, critics, and curators take different tacks on describing their workload. In Los Angeles, artists must always look like they are rested and fresh. In New York, the more haggard and hardworking you look the better. It’s always appropriate to be on your way to or to have just returned from international travel, e.g., “I just got back from being in this biennial in Prague, but I’ve only a couple of weeks to get on my feet before I have to have some meetings in London.”

I Like Your Work: Art and Etiquette

Bohemia Lies By the Sea, Anselm Kiefer

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Nobel Banquet Speech, William Faulkner

If she went to Alan now it would be like detaching one of these cut-outs of a woman, and  forcing it to walk separately from the rest, but once detached from the unison, it would reveal that it was a mere outline of a woman, the figure design as the eye could see it, but empty of substance, this substance having evaporated through the spaces between each layer of the personality. A divided woman indeed, a woman divided into numberless silhouettes, and she could see this form of Sabina leaving a desperate and lonely one walking the streets in the quest of hot coffee, being greeted by Alan as a transparently young girl he had married ten years before and sworn to cherish, as he had, only he had continued to cherish the same young girl he had married, the first exposure of Sabina, the first image delivered into his hands, the first dimension, of this elaborated, complex and extended series of Sabinas which  had been born later and which she had not been able to give him. Each year, just as a tree puts forth a new ring of growth, she should have been able to say: ‘Alan, here is a new version of Sabina, at it to the rest, fuse them well, hold on to them when you embrace her, hold them all at once in your arm, or else, divided, separated, each image will lead a life of its own, and it will not be one but six, or seven, or eight Sabinas who will walk sometimes in unison, by a great effort of synthesis, sometimes separately, one of them following a deep drumming into the the forests of black hair and luxurious mouths, another visiting Vienna-as-it-was-before-the-war, and still another lying beside an insane young man, and still another opening opening maternal arms to a trembling frightened Donald. Was this the crime  to have sought to marry each Sabina to another mate, to match each one in turn by a different life?

A Spy in the House of Love, Anaïs Nin