Small Epiphanies. A Winter Pilgrimage with Annie Dillard and Hélène Binet

I am what I see

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Solstice d'hiver

All that summer conceals, winter reveals. Outside everything has opened up. Winter clear-cuts and reseeds the easy way (...). Everywhere skies extend, vistas deepen, walls become windows, doors open. When the leaves fall the strip-tease is over; things stand mute and revealed.

Annie DillardPilgrim at Tinker Creek

J'ai découvert pour la première fois le travail d'Hélène Binet en visitant la galerie Gabrielle Ammann. La galerie est située au fond d'une petite cour qui laisse entrevoir un jardin minimaliste de graminées et de petits cailloux blancs impeccablement ratissés  à la manière d'un jardin  zen. Je me souviens des photos des églises de Nicholas Hawksmoor  et d'un ou deux meubles design semblables à des sculptures. Je suis restée longtemps à regarder les photographies sans pouvoir m'en détourner, sans pouvoir échapper à leur séduction. Je suis retournée plusieurs fois à la galerie pour essayer de percer le secret de leurs lignes, de leurs textures, de leur composition, de leurs ombres. Il me manquait toujours quelque chose. Ce presque rien qui rendait les photos habitées, qui allait voir au coeur des choses, qui les déshabillait pour les montrer dans leur nudité. Hélène Binet raconte comment elle joue avec les ombres pour capturer l'essence de ce qu'elle photographie, mais aussi pour jouer des tours à celui qui les regarde. "Shadow is an amazing subject. Shadow is an absence. As an absence of energy you can compare it to silence or maybe cold air. It tells you the most. But it’s the one also that can trick you. Because you could have a feeling that it’s something else that you see. If you look at anthropology, different cultures, there has always been this interpretation of shadow. Shadow is always the lead in to something else. But then if you think about shadow as a sense of light you can go back in time and space and you can see that it connects you to the past."  Dans ses photos d'architecture, il y a souvent des ciels chargés de nuages en mouvement, signes du temps saisi sur la pellicule qu'elle utilise exclusivement. "I shoot only on film and plate. I don’t touch digital. There are many reasons: mentally it’s very different to work with film. It’s precious and every photograph you have to say yes! It’s now! There's no fiddling about and fixing it later. I really believe the soul of photography is its relationship with the instant. And the concentration is very different. It’s like a momentum, it’s like a performance." Depuis, j'ai compris que chacune de ses photographies a la puissance de créer une petite épiphanie, à chaque fois différente qui célèbre les noces du regard du photographe et du regard de l'orante que nous devenons quand regarder nous ouvre à nous-même  et qu'une aile claire nous parcourt d'un frisson de plumes. 

Composing Space,The Photographs of Hélène Binet Monograph on Hélène Binet's work by Phaedon, Limited edition

1,4 © Hélène Binet, Field and Weaving
2, 3, ©  Hélène Binet, Water and Stone


Wild Words. Lottie Cole, Painting with Darkness and Light

Finally, and most emphatically, words, like ourselves, in order to live at their ease, need privacy. 
Undoubtedly they like us to think, and they like us to feel, before we use them; but they also like us to pause; to become unconscious. Our unconsciousness is their privacy; our darkness is their light...

Virginia Woolf

Words, English words, are full of echoes, of memories, of associations — naturally. They have been out and about, on people’s lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries. And that is one of the chief difficulties in writing them today — that they are so stored with meanings, with memories, that they have contracted so many famous marriages. The splendid word “incarnadine,” for example — who can use it without remembering also “multitudinous seas”? In the old days, of course, when English was a new language, writers could invent new words and use them. Nowadays it is easy enough to invent new words — they spring to the lips whenever we see a new sight or feel a new sensation — but we cannot use them because the language is old. You cannot use a brand new word in an old language because of the very obvious yet mysterious fact that a word is not a single and separate entity, but part of other words. It is not a word indeed until it is part of a sentence. Words belong to each other, although, of course, only a great writer knows that the word “incarnadine” belongs to “multitudinous seas.” To combine new words with old words is fatal to the constitution of the sentence. In order to use new words properly you would have to invent a new language; and that, though no doubt we shall come to it, is not at the moment our business. Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question.
And the person who could answer that question would deserve whatever crown of glory the world has to offer. Think what it would mean if you could teach, if you could learn, the art of writing. Why, every book, every newspaper would tell the truth, would create beauty. But there is, it would appear, some obstacle in the way, some hindrance to the teaching of words. For though at this moment at least a hundred professors are lecturing upon the literature of the past, at least a thousand critics are reviewing the literature of the present, and hundreds upon hundreds of young men and women are passing examinations in English literature with the utmost credit, still — do we write better, do we read better than we read and wrote four hundred years ago when we were unlectured, uncriticized, untaught? Is our Georgian literature a patch on the Elizabethan? Where then are we to lay the blame? Not on our professors; not on our reviewers; not on our writers; but on words. It is words that are to blame. They are the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most unteachable of all things. Of course, you can catch them and sort them and place them in alphabetical order in dictionaries. But words do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind. If you want proof of this, consider how often in moments of emotion when we most need words we find none. Yet there is the dictionary; there at our disposal are some half-a-million words all in alphabetical order. But can we use them? No, because words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind. Look again at the dictionary. There beyond a doubt lie plays more splendid than Antony and Cleopatra; poems more lovely than the Ode to a Nightingale; novels beside which Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield are the crude bunglings of amateurs. It is only a question of finding the right words and putting them in the right order. But we cannot do it because they do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind. And how do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live, by ranging hither and thither, by falling in love, and mating together. It is true that they are much less bound by ceremony and convention than we are. Royal words mate with commoners. English words marry French words, German words, Indian words, Negro words, if they have a fancy. Indeed, the less we enquire into the past of our dear Mother English the better it will be for that lady’s reputation. For she has gone a-roving, a-roving fair maid.
Thus to lay down any laws for such irreclaimable vagabonds is worse than useless. A few trifling rules of grammar and spelling are all the constraint we can put on them. All we can say about them, as we peer at them over the edge of that deep, dark and only fitfully illuminated cavern in which they live — the mind — all we can say about them is that they seem to like people to think and to feel before they use them, but to think and to feel not about them, but about something different. They are highly sensitive, easily made self-conscious. They do not like to have their purity or their impurity discussed. If you start a Society for Pure English, they will show their resentment by starting another for impure English — hence the unnatural violence of much modern speech; it is a protest against the puritans. They are highly democratic, too; they believe that one word is as good as another; uneducated words are as good as educated words, uncultivated words as cultivated words, there are no ranks or titles in their society. Nor do they like being lifted out on the point of a pen and examined separately. They hang together, in sentences, in paragraphs, sometimes for whole pages at a time. They hate being useful; they hate making money; they hate being lectured about in public. In short, they hate anything that stamps them with one meaning or confines them to one attitude, for it is their nature to change.
Perhaps that is their most striking peculiarity — their need of change. It is because the truth they try to catch is many-sided, and they convey it by being themselves many-sided, flashing this way, then that. Thus they mean one thing to one person, another thing to another person; they are unintelligible to one generation, plain as a pikestaff to the next. And it is because of this complexity that they survive. Perhaps then one reason why we have no great poet, novelist or critic writing to-day is that we refuse words their liberty. We pin them down to one meaning, their useful meaning, the meaning which makes us catch the train, the meaning which makes us pass the examination. And when words are pinned down they fold their wings and die. Finally, and most emphatically, words, like ourselves, in order to live at their ease, need privacy. Undoubtedly they like us to think, and they like us to feel, before we use them; but they also like us to pause; to become unconscious. Our unconsciousness is their privacy; our darkness is their light. . . . That pause was made, that veil of darkness was dropped, to tempt words to come together in one of those swift marriages which are perfect images and create everlasting beauty. But no — nothing of that sort is going to happen to-night. The little wretches are out of temper; disobliging; disobedient; dumb. What is it that they are muttering? “Time’s up! Silence!” 

Link: Lottie Cole at Cricket Fine Art

1,2,3,6 © Lottie Cole, Paintings Charleston 
4,5 © Lottie Cole, Paintings Monk's House


The Search For Home. Claudia Drake's Collages

Non seulement nos souvenirs mais nos oublis sont logés. Notre inconscient est logé. Notre  âme est une demeure. Et en nous souvenant des maisons, des chambres, nous apprenons à demeurer en nous-mêmes.

 Gaston Bachelard

1991, atelier de Brooklyn. Je suis intrigué par la maquette en plâtre d'une grande maison ancienne posée sur une table devant la fenêtre. Je suis surpris par la précision de la facture, d'un réalisme inhabituel. 
"C'est la maison de mes parents à Choisy, je l'ai refaite de mémoire et en m'aidant de photographies, mais il y a ici un espace dont je ne me souviens pas très bien, dit-elle en désignant une terrasse au deuxième étage. Ce n'était pas symétrique. Il faudrait vérifier, pouvez-vous y aller quand vous serez à Paris, prenez des photos, je dois absolument vérifier comment c'était exactement." (Louise Bourgeois n'est plus jamais revenue en Europe après l'inauguration, en 1990, de sa rétrospective à Lyon, puis à Barcelone). De retour à Paris, je suis allé à Choisy, Louise m'avait donné l'adresse, 4 avenue de Villeneuve-Saint-Georges à Choisy-le-Roy. Mais déception, la maison n'existait plus, elle avait été détruite et remplacée par un Théâtre baptisé du nom de Paul Eluard. Quand Louise Bourgeois a une idée en tête, elle ne pense plus qu'à cela. A cette époque, elle recevait aussi régulièrement la visite de Mâkhi Xenakis qui vivait alors à New-York. Louise envoya aussi Mâkhi à la recherche de la maison de Choisy. Mâkhi prit des photos de ce qui restait: un bout de jardin, quelques arbres ayant survécu, envoya les photographies à Louise, puis lui téléphona pour lui expliquer la situation. Mâkhi raconte que Louise resta muette. Quelques semaines plus tard, de retour à New-York, me trouvant de nouveau devant la maquette de la maison, je commente  la situation et naïvement je lui dis: "Mais elle est très bien comme ça votre maison, le souvenir est plus important que la réalité, la maison dont vous vous souvenez c'est vraiment votre maison." Elle se fâche: "Vous n'avez rien compris, ça ne doit pas être seulement à peu près exact,ça doit être absolument exact."
La maison est demeurée ainsi, elle a été refaite en marbre blanc, elle trône derrière le grillage d'une cellule, surmontée du couperet d'une guillotine. le couperet du présent qui relègue le passé. C'est la Cellule Choisy. (...)


"I need my memories, they are my documents", elle l'a écrit, elle l'a même brodé en rouge. Son oeuvre se fonde sur les souvenirs, mais il faut des documents, des preuves tangibles. La mémoire est infidèle et l'infidélité n'est pas tolérable.

Jean Frémon, Louise Bourgeois femme maison, L'échoppe, 2008

 Claudia Drake, The Search for Home, 2009
Digital Collage, 8” x 10”, Limited Edition Print