It’s official. I–to use a delicate and especially eloquent term–blow at regular blog updating. Is it because I feel stretched thin between all the hard work I do at work (four hours a day is a long day indeed, after all, especially when it’s a mentally taxing job that involves filing paperwork, printing out certificates, invigilating English placement exams, sorting mail…I could go on…) and the hard work I do at my writing (essays don’t write themselves, obviously–as this blog is becoming a testament to!)? Or is it because Spring, in some strange and elusive guise, is finally, almost, sort of, here?
Archive for April, 2008
Mehdi Qotbi, Morocco
Chéri Samba, Zaire
Robert Combas, France
Rivka Freidman, Israel
Laila Shawa, Palestine
Sandro Chia, Vatican City
Rima Farah, Jordan
John Piper, England
Robert Longo, USA
Dia Azzawi, Iraq
I have this fondness for the word juxtapositions. It appears to be constantly on the tip of my fingers, the edge of my tongue. I overuse it (we all have a few words we overuse–one of my favorite bits of Vanity Fair’s back page Proust Questionnaire was always the question “which word or phrase do you most overuse”, though most of the jaded celebrities the magazine chose to interview generally answered with something akin to “cuntsucker, of course”). So I’m going to use it again, and when I’m a famous and jaded person with enough wrinkles and sarcastic asides to warrant being featured on the last pages of magazines, I’ll tell them that the phrase I most overuse is “I’m sorry”, because I’m also going to apologize for using it, but…please note the fabulous, fantastic, phantasmagoric juxtapositions above (phantasmagoric: “characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtapositions”–I checked!).
I think images have a tendency to be seen as what they are; but overlooked for what they represent. I don’t mean reading into the art of an image, like you would a book, and coming up with symbolism and metaphor. We do that readily enough; art historians make a career of it. But the amazing thing to me about the prints above, though I find them striking and some of them even beautiful, is their story, their placement, and the fact that they all live within one international art portfolio: so that a piece of work from Iraq is literally sandwiched between one from the USA and one from England, while a print from Israel rests peacefully next to one from Palestine.
The images are all from something called the Hope & Optimism Portfolio, which was set up by a friend of ours early, early in the 1990’s as a charity to benefit the arts in young Namibia. A number of identical portfolios, each composed of about 90 original, signed, and numbered prints from nearly as many nations, were produced; but it’s been practically 20 years since it all happened, and still a few complete portfolios remain in storage. Selling them is hard work, mainly because of the sheer scope of the project: it’s difficult for a gallery to justify purchasing 90+ prints when they don’t have space to display them all. But I’m attracted to the project for what it proves: nations at odds can still be part of something greater than themselves, can still cooperate, can still, rather crucially, create rather than destruct (or do I just like the whole thing because it gives me a valid excuse to say “juxtapositions” ten times daily?). I’m both hopeful and optimistic that the right people will see that as well, and give the prints a home.
All of the prints are for sale; email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information…
A few weeks ago, we acquired, briefly, a cat. I thought cats had long ago lost their ability to charm me (nasty creatures, I thought—an impression reinforced by almost every cat I have come into contact with in the last fifteen years), but I was wrong. This one, just barely old enough to no longer be called a kitten, was soft and gentle, with a white body and ash-grey marks all over. He, or she, developed a liking for our front garden, and could often be seen lounging on the low brick wall outside the house, flicking the tail, grooming a paw, watching the happenings on Hurst Street with passive grace. When one of us would come outside, our new friend would leap happily from its perch to weave between our legs, purring busily, nuzzling up against us as if the pure human contact was enough to keep it happy. Sometimes it slept just outside the front door. We didn’t know whether or not to feed it or not—it seemed well-adjusted enough to possibly belong to someone, and never acted particularly hungry, and didn’t look at all lanky—but resolved that if, within a week, the little ball of fur and fluff and friendliness was still favoring our garden, we would extend a tenuous offer of a more permanent kind of home to it, and see what happened.
I secretly hoped for the chance to find out, but I also had a feeling that such a creature had not been spawned from some seedy world of pub-dumpsters and late-night catfights. Sure enough, the visits became more infrequent; then stopped altogether, though a few blocks down the street, I can now every so often spot the flick of an ashy tail, the lick of a kind paw. I wonder if it’s because we didn’t, after all, set out milk on our front door; but I know the cat wasn’t ours to appropriate, and then I wonder how it is that such a tiny creature can evoke desires I never knew I had.