A place to sleep, a place to pee.

When a dog sniffs the ground, it usually anticipates either sleep or urination. It’s not clear to me what dogs look for in a sleep spot, so I can only speculate. It may well be that the tang of their own old dried piss designates established territory, thus a safe spot to take a nap. Oonagh keeps marking diapers as her territory, and we keep taking them away. Maybe if we just left them on, she could feel more secure and at ease in her realm.

Kickstand

calligraphic ink drawing by eric waldemarSometimes you just need something to lean on for a minute. My friend Greg Sadowy took the kickstand off his bike (as well as the brakes) for aerodynamic reasons, but I’m not willing to go that far for speed. Decades later, he’s a genuine rocket scientist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, so maybe he was right after all. Yes, I’m aware that this doesn’t really make sense. Maybe this is a fancy shoe, even. Don’t get me started on that. Brown ink on paper.

Mass MoCA’s once-painted walls vs. Sol Lewitt’s wall paintings

old brick wall at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art2 1/2 hours each way to Mass MoCA for a remarkable Petah Coyne show of gorgeous, morbid huge installations including dead animals, lavish fabric, flowers in candy shells of wax…

Other pieces included hanging tunnel-forest-caves of twisted paper, very popular with Oonagh. In a three-floor Sol Lewitt show I found a lot for my brain, and in early work, much more stimulus for the subtler senses. The museum had video documentation to emphasize the process of making wall after wall from Lewitt’s instructions, with, I think, over 60 assistants working for months. Movies showed scenes like this: One person “draws” a wavy line from a distance with a laser pointer while another person tries to follow the first person’s tremulous, shaking red dot with an actual pen on the wall. Gradually, an area of tone is built up. To some extent, the videos served to demonstrate to the naive viewer that the work deserved more attention and reflection than it would seem to, at “face value.”


Sol Lewitt wall paintings - black & white
While processes were interesting when described, most of the work was laid out in flat, ruled areas of color, masked with care. A lot of elaborate process to write a thesis about or perhaps reflect on, but often the actual, present physical objects (wall after long wall, arranged in rows) had all the visceral impact of a well-executed, complex decorative paint job. To me. I got more from Lewitt’s work than I have in the past, but I kept getting distracted by the textures and colors of the old, corroded, many-times-repainted walls of the former factory that Mass MoCA inhabits. I think I grasped what he was doing, and why it was interesting, but… I feel like the work wasn’t really aimed at people like me. Whatever that means.

“Procedural” works, where complex processes are sequenced and superimposed, can blossom into compelling forms that are fascinating and unpredictable. For me, this kind of heuristic minimalism tends to work better with sound. We can hear simultaneous intermeshed patterns changing shape and interacting over time, while in Lewitt’s wall paintings, we see the end result. One can reflect on process, but only from a distance. For this viewer, it keeps the process in my brain, as an entirely intellectual experience, whereas the complex evolving loops of Steve Reich, or Brian Eno, or Robert Wyatt, take visceral (albeit ephemeral) shape in my ear and in my skull cavity, whether I’ve done the reading or not. In certain ways the encrusted, scraped, resurfaced, many-times-repaired walls of Mass MoCA left me more reflective on time, image, and work process than Lewitt’s work. But that certainly wasn’t their intention, and the people who made them were surely not thinking about art.

Glib History of Education and Institutions (Sir Ken Robinson)

I’ve had a few cranky conversations with (name withheld) about experiences with students and institutions. He sent me this, a fast-moving condensation of a lot of ideas about education, institutions, creativity, ADHD,… and so on. I won’t try to sum it up, and there’s plenty to argue with, but I think it’s more thought-provoking than much of what comes my way, and it goes down easy. It comes from a talk by Sir Ken Robinson at the RSA, and animation students (I think) have animated his ideas so that they appear in cartoon form as he speaks. Inability to pay attention is one issue he breezes through, and in some sense, this movie is perfect for an audience that otherwise doesn’t have the attention span to follow a 12 minute train of thought without a movie. In any case, I think it’s twelve minutes well spent. Read more

The Ricker Family: The Mansion/Resort Itself, c.1930

In a previous post, I finally began to post a few clips from my archive of home movies from the Ricker family, founders of Poland Spring water. People travelled to the Poland Spring resort from all over the country, and celebrities like Mae West had the precious fluid shipped to them cross-country by the case. It wasn’t just the mysterious healing properties – it was also a very high class item to have at the bar, in an era before fancy waters were common.

This clip is straightforward – just a pan over the astonishingly large resort/mansion at Poland Spring, Maine and some of its surroundings. More to come – just laying the grounds with some atmospheric images.

Robert Wyatt (thanks.)

Musician Robert Wyatt cartoonified by Eric WaldemarWith a late start on playing keyboards, I’ll probably never master all the Chopin preludes or Sorabji’s Opus Clavicembalisticum, but there’s no need, since that ground is well covered. I encourage myself by thinking of Robert Wyatt, a drummer & singer (Soft Machine, Matching Mole, Hatfield & the North..) who turned toward keyboards and electronics quite late in life after falling from a window and losing the use of his legs. He proceeded to make some of the deepest, silliest music I know of, with a radically altered set of tools and options.

His sensitive intelligence and lack of pretension have served as touchpoints for me for 25 years or so, and all his records reward repeated listening. He is, at times, as cranky as me, yet I seek his musical company again and again. Initiates recognize the title of an early movie of mine, “Know Knit Knot,” as cadged from the Wyatt opus. If you’ve never heard him, start with Rock Bottom, or Ruth is Stranger than Richard, or Cuckooland, or Schleep, or Comicopera, or… Read more

The Ricker Family: Bobsledding at Poland Spring in the ’30s

I’ve got an upholstered case with 16 reels of home movies from the Ricker Family, who started the Poland Spring water empire and anticipated today’s boutique water economy. Their mansion at Poland, Maine was an exclusive vacation spot for silent and early sound movie stars, politicians, and many other leading lights of the day. When the Rickers felt like going sledding, well, why not have the carpenters build a launch ramp and have a full-on bobsled run through the back field? This clip dates from roughly 1932. More movies of the Rickers and their guests at play in weeks to come. The footage includes horse racing on ice, explosions, and shots of the zillion-room mansion, which burned down in 1975. It must have been soon after this footage was shot that things took a downturn for the Rickers, and the family lost control of the property in the 30s (according to this site, which provides a brief history of the family and the resort.) Read more