19 March 2012

museli for the mind

The artist Lawrence Weiner had an apocalyptic dream not long ago. Lava surged up from a hole in the earth and coursed over Chelsea, swallowing art galleries as dealers ran from the devastation. “It was like Pompeii,” Mr. Weiner recalled recently, shaking his heavily bearded head. “Very strange dream.”

Language as Sculpture, Words as Clay, Randy Kennedy (New York Times)

11 March 2012

Tsang Tsellars

"...This city, as you know, is built deep beneath the surface of the earth, with only the vomitories protruding. Having paced the platform outside my own room, I took the lift to the next platform and paced that also, and so with each in turn, until I came to the topmost, above which begins the earth. All the platforms were exactly alike, and all that I gained by visiting them was to develop my sense of space and my muscles. I think I should have been content with this - it is not a little thing, - but as I walked and brooded, it occurred to me that our cities had been built in the days when men still breathed the outer air, and that there had been ventilation shafts for the workmen. I could think of nothing but these ventilation shafts. Had they been destroyed by all the food-tubes and medicine-tubes and music- tubes that the Machine has evolved lately? Or did traces of them remain? One thing was certain. If I came upon them anywhere, it would be in the railway-tunnels of the topmost storey. Everywhere else, all space was accounted for..."


by E.M. Forster (1909)

6 March 2012

My life has been accompanied by a paper trail of ideas, scribbled hastily in an assortment of notebooks, napkins, or any surface that I can conveniently grab, before the initial impulse evaporates from my mind.

—Annie Lennox (from display in The House of Annie Lennox at the Victoria and Albert Museum)

5 March 2012

Psychedelic socialism in a moment of pause and reflection

"Curiously, my thoughts now shifted from Spadolini to Goethe, the German patrician whom his countrymen have adapted and adopted as their very own literary prince, as I had observed to Gambetti when we last met. Goethe, the honest burgher, the collector of insects and aphorisms, with his philosophical mishmash. (Gambetti did not know the meaning of mishmash and I had to explain it to him.) Goethe, the petit bourgeois of philosophy, the man on the make, of whom Maria once observed that he did not turn the world on its head but buried his own in German parochialism. Goethe, the classifier of stones, the stargazer, the philosophical thumbsucker of the Germans, who ladled their spiritual jam into household canning jars, to be consumed at any time and for any purpose. Goethe, who assembled commonplaces for the Germans, to be published by the house of Cotta and rubbed into their ears by schoolmasters until they were completely blocked. Goethe, who betrayed the German mind more or less for centuries, paring it down to the German average with what I had described to Gambetti, in our last meeting, as Goethean assiduity. Goethe is the philosophical pied piper, the German for all seasons, I told him. The Germans take their Goethe like medicine, believing in its efficacy, its health-giving properties. Goethe is nothing other than Germany's foremost intellectual quack. I told Gambetti, her first intellectual homeopath. The Germans swallow their Goethe, as it were, and are healthy. The whole German nation ingests its Goethe and feels better. But Goethe is a charlatan, I told gambetti; Goethe's writings are the acme of German charlatanry. Be careful, Gambetti, I said, beware of Goethe. He gives everyone indigestion, except the Germans. They believe in Goethe and revere him as one of the wonders of the world. Yet all the time this wonder of the world is a philosophical truck farmer. (Gambetti did not know what a truck farmer was and laughed loudly when I told him.) Goethe's work as a whole is a philosophical truck farm. Goethe never reached the heights in any sphere, I said. He never rose above the mediocre in anything he attempted. He isn't the greatest lyric poet, he isn't the greatest prose writer, and to compare his plays with Shakespeare's is like comparing a stunted dachshund from the Frankfurt suburbs with a tall Pyrenean mountain dog. Take Faust, I said—what megalomania! A totally unsuccessful experiment by a megalomaniac whose ambition went to his head and who imagined that his head could encompass the world. Goethe, the Frankfurter with big ideas who moved to Weimar, the megalomaniac patrician in the world of women. Goethe, who turned the Germans' heads and made fools of them and has had them on his conscience for a hundred fifty years. Goethe is the gravedigger of the German mind, I told Gambetti. Compared with Voltaire, Descartes or Pascal, for instance, and of course with Shakespeare, Goethe is an alarmingly small figure. The prince of poets—what a ridiculous notion! Yet how utterly German! Hölderlin is the great lyricist, Musil the great prose writer, and Kleist the great dramatist. Goethe fails on all three counts. But now my thoughts returned to what Spadolini had said about my mother's being a special person."

– Thomas Bernhard, Extinction