Saturday, 21 May 2011

Memories of the future

Before it had all seemed so simple: things cast shadows. But now it turned out that shadows cast things…

Krzhizhanovsky / Memories of the future /

Monday, 16 May 2011

both sides

Footprint on the Moon
July 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin step out of the lunar capsule and onto the surface of the Moon. Their landing place is the Sea of Tranquility. Aldrin describes the landscape as ‘magnificent desolation’. It is an immaculate surface: trackless, uninterpreted.

In slow motion their feet sink into a shallow layer of dust, compressing the dry particles to leave an impression. The moment has gravity. This fine dust has no relation to the moon rock below, it has been deposited by the impacts of asteroids and meteors. It is the debris of shooting stars, the fall-out of portents and warning signs. It presents a perfect recording surface. The ground of an image.

There is no wind or rain on the moon, no tide or breath to take this fragile footprint away. We cannot cover our tracks. We measure our months by the moon but this small step onto its surface leaves a mark in the vastness of cosmological time. The imprint endures as cities fall and continents shift. It will remain longer than the cave paintings, those ochre handprints which mark out the earliest trace of what it is to be human. Imprints are potent. Remember Robinson Crusoe’s shock at finding a footprint in the sand of his desert island. He is thunderstruck, fearful, as if he had seen an apparition. The affect of presence from these traces of absence is profound. We are haunted.

Buzz Aldrin photographs the imprint of his boot on the lunar surface with a 70mm Hasselblad camera. The image of the footprint is transferred to film by the action of light onto a sensitive surface; a trace of a trace. Image of an index. The photographic image is evidence to be measured, scrutinised, magnified: a scientific souvenir and a political emblem. This extraterrestrial image is proof of landfall.

Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, fabricated a pair of shoes with the soles of smaller sneakers attached. His purpose was to leave a false trail. It is an echo of the confusion Hercules felt on seeing the track of his stolen oxen leading in one direction but hearing their bellows from another. The thief had forced the animals backwards.

In December I saw the trail of a rabbit in the deep snow. The spoor ended abruptly in the middle of the field. Around the final footprints the traces of two broad wings were beaten into the snow, the feather tips distinct. Rabbit and buzzard assembled into a simple endgame or a composite beast?

Back down to Earth, Aldrin’s film is stored in a freezer. Later it is digitsed. The scan is an ambivalent form, reading an image as object, shifting categories back and forth. Information is packed into file formats. Image becomes code. In the form of zeros and ones the print propagates easily; accelerating into the space of exchange; our virtual common ground. There it multiplies, transforms, leaks information, becomes noise, returns to stardust.

the gate of ishtar

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

a fade-out would be done by just physically removing the light

postcard 1919

Carissima –

I re-visited Étaples OPP yesterday & posted a ppc to you from the old camp – probably in a letter box from which collections are no longer made! For the Peace has quite spoiled Étaples. There are still a good number of men about but desolation already sits on the place – or, rather, it is arriving in instalments. The first letters of Ichabod are written there and sooner or later the writing will be complete.

Monday, 9 May 2011

cellophane world

In our garden there was an abandoned, ramshackle summerhouse. I loved it for its stained glass windows. Whenever I wandered about inside it, passing from one coloured pane to the next, I was transformed: I took on the colours of the landscape that - now flaming and now dusty, now smouldering and now sumptuous - lay before me in the window. It was like what happened with my watercolours, when things would take me to their bosom as soon as I overcame them with a moist cloud. Something similar occured with soap bubbles… In those days one could buy chocolate in pretty little crisscrossed packets, in which every square was wrapped separately in colourful tinfoil… green and gold, blue and orange, red and silver… from out of this sparkling entanglement the colours one day broke upon me, and I am still sensible of the sweetness with which my eye imbibed them. It was the sweetness of chocolate.

Benjamin / Berlin Childhood/ Colours

…electricity through an over abundance of light produces multiple blindings

Sunday, 8 May 2011



Grindelwald. We have had a gorgeous day been over this glaciers. My boots are a sight the heels are coming off. We were 10 all roped together. We had a tremendous climb for 2 ½ hrs before we reached the ice. Yrs

Sunday, 1 May 2011

gathering nuts or shaking your darling buds


attr. jacques le moyne / a daughter of the picts / c1585


Olive Oatman, 1858. She was the first tattooed white woman in the U.S. After her family was killed by Yavapais Indians, on a trip West in the eighteen-fifties, she was adopted and raised by Mohave Indians, who gave her a traditional tribal tattoo. When she was ransomed back, at age nineteen, she became a celebrity. Photograph courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society, Tucson, 1927.

The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman

"the tattooed captive." It evidently became a popular myth told in circuses towards the end of the 18th century. Victims of kidnapping by the "redskins" offered "the notion that people of color could transform whites into people of color --- ethnically and decoratively, as a means of exploitation and degradation."

Nora Hildebrandt, the first American tattooed circus attraction, in the late eighteen-eighties. Like many early attractions, Hildebrandt claimed to have been forcibly tattooed by western Indians, following Olive Oatman’s example. She was tattooed in New York, by her common-law husband, Martin Hildebrandt, one of the first shop tattooists in the U.S.