Musings and Mullings

Musings and Mullings

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where is the power began as a musing over power in the world, past and present, and within the individual. I came across the following sketchbook notes and thought that, as the exhibition is drawing to a close on Saturday, this would be a good time to go public with my early musings and mulling over of the topic of power.

— Late night musing over power in the world and in the self — 

What if the obvious associations are foils for the real power that moves, motivates and produces growth or action within the individual? What is the power dynamic? Is it all about holding sway? Can there be power in a powerless situation? Can the inanimate have power over humans – object over subject?

What is the value of this pursuit? Is there power in the question? What if these four words—where-is-the-power —in this form could be considered without punctuation or hierarchy of case? Is that possible? If not, why? Isn’t language a tool, a product of human intention? Or has language claimed power? Many of my inquiries on the subject of power have led me to a particular melancholia concerning our tendency to use our tools/what we create as aides in life, against ourselves. We seem to invest such “aides” with power and potential for growth, to the extent that they have the power. Language for example seems utilitarian until we realize how it has molded our existence.


The notion of power in the world, the misperceptions and philosophical pursuits

There are the obvious relationships between power and knowledge — having something over others — and of course physical power.

But what about personal power — power within one’s self?


The power of memory — Remembrance of Things Past

“life needs redeeming by analysis and reflection.” Proust


Does memory define us? Do we then lose definition when memory fades?


This could go on and on because these notes on power and related subjects have been accumulating for the past three years. But I will close this post with notes on realizations I had while reading Virginia Woolf.

I am rereading A Room of One’s Own, an essay based on two papers Virginia Woolf read to Arts Society at Newnham and the ODTAA at Girton in October 1928 – and the source of my inquiry into the phrase “where is the power.” On her topic and presentation, Woolf writes in her diary in 1929, “…I am afraid it will not be taken seriously…. It is a trifle, I shall say; so it is, but I wrote it with ardour and conviction…”

A trifle pursued with ardour and conviction might be how I would describe my investigation, endeavor to date. It is why I have hoped that it would be used and presented by others (to relieve the pressure and give it potential beyond me). As usual, I feel unqualified as a spokes person for such a loaded topic with so many facets in fields I have only viewed from the outside. This is the artist as amateur. The self-imposed, exhilarating and, with an ounce of wisdom or at least humility, intimidating/even terrifying burden of making art. Amateur in French means “lover of” and that certainly describes my various pursuits in the name of art. The fear is whether the love will be returned and if so, will I be worthy?

Woolf opens her essay playing out the multiple readings of a single phrase, “women and fiction.” What is the most beneficial reading or just what are all the possibilities? She landed on considering the subject in the way she found most interesting. She realized however that the fatal drawback to her chosen pursuit was that she “should never be able to fulfill what is, I understand, the first duty of a lecturer — to hand you after an hour’s discourse a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks…” All she could do was to offer “… an opinion upon one minor point…”

“One can only give one’s audiences the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker.”


The workplace/work and place of Alejandro Cesarco

I found a great image online but I can no longer locate my source. It is presumably a picture of the artist, Alejandro Cesarco’s desk/work area. Whatever the subject, it is extremely clean and ordered with one of Cesarco’s framed WHEN I AM HAPPY I WON’T HAVE TO MAKE THESE ANYMORE text pieces hanging on the wall to the left and above the desk. As is the case with Cesarco’s “when I am happy” pieces, the bold, multi-colored letters in all caps and justified to the left, attract attention and initiate humor. Which is a great way to set-up my exploration of this image, a glimpse into an artist I have come to adore for what he is putting out in the world and contributing to my life personally as I am getting to know his work and follow his career. There is also a framed snapshot of arranged toys by Felix Gonzales-Torres at the back of the desk leaning against the wall. Or perhaps it is an image of the original Gonzales-Torres snapshot. I don’t care if Felix Gonzales-Torres or someone related gifted Cesarco the actual photo or if it is a reproduction. What I treasure is the fact that Cesarco appreciates the image and its source and that he wants it in his environment. I assume Cesarco acquired the image I see framed here as a result of the stunning book, A Selection of Snapshots Taken by Felix Gonzales-Torres that Cesarco produced through A.R.T. Press in 2010.

I feel fortunate to own that book and I visit it often. It is mostly pictures like the one of two cats curled together on top of a bed in which plastic toys (Fred Flintstone, Charlie Brown, Porky Pig and Tweety-Bird) are tucked in with their little heads peering out from under the covers and pressed against the bed’s two pillows. Some are paired with a shot of the back of the photo where a note has been written by Gonzales-Torres. The cat and toy photo includes a note that begins “slow morning. to count our blessings, our losses, our hopes …” and ends “… to a summer full of slow mornings.”

Along with other images, books and various objects on what I am assuming is Cesarco’s desk, there is a wooden box or styled block with the word SILENT printed across the top. I imagine it to be a box, a container that is either demanding silence while holding unrelated items such as paper clips and rubber bands or a container announcing its contents, proclaiming that this box holds silence. Who knows? Not knowing is of value here. It allows for exploration, assumptions and associations.

“Inadvertent memory” 

I also came across a Cabinet magazine from Summer 2010 with a beautiful piece by Cesarco that reconstitutes all passages in Cabinet’s 1st thru 37th issues including the word or idea of memory. The piece reads like a strange and lovely poem or story.


Inadvertent memory

Millions and millions of pixels, stored in memory, waiting in databases.

This memory of being recognized by the victim is quite common among soldiers; however, military statistics show that the bayonet is rarely used in war and that most of the killing in war is done from a distance where the killer remains anonymous.


The Center decided to keep the original gallery name, “Pavilion Veljkovic,” in memory of the family.

Who wouldn’t consider, however briefly, a Borgesian schema, that of a labyrinthine universal library (pace Alain Resnais’s documentary on the old Bibliotéque Nationale, “Toute la memoire du monde”—“all the memory of the world”), where each reader is lead through a surreptitious but efficacious rhetoric to his or her own utopia?

During fieldwork in 1989, one Inuk elder told me that he had drawn detailed maps of Hiquiligjuaq from memory, …

Of course it goes on, beautifully spread across six pages and, given the current glut of information available to most of us, these excerpts feel like enough, like everything, “Toute la memoire du monde”—“all the memory of the world.” They allow for exploration, assumptions and associations. They allow for imagination.