from Endlessly Repeating Twentieth-Century Modernism (2007), by Josiah McElheny
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
Originally posted in 2009.
Originally posted March 4, 2012
Originally posted December 31, 2010
Posted with Edel Sokol, German-born proprietress of the Ann Starrett Mansion, in mind.
“Arbus’s work is a good instance of a leading tendency of high art in capitalist countries: to suppress (or at least reduce) moral and sensory queasiness. Much of modern art is devoted to lowering the threshold of what is terrible. By getting us used to what, formerly, we could not bear to see or hear, because it was too shocking, painful, or embarrassing, art changes morals—that body of psychic custom and public sanctions that draws a vague boundary between what is emotionally and spontaneously intolerable and what is not. The gradual suppression of queasiness does bring us closer to a rather formal truth—that of the arbitrariness of the taboos constructed by art and morals. But our ability to stomach this rising grotesqueness in images (moving and still) and in print has a stiff price. In the long run, it works out not as a liberation of but as a subtraction from the self ; a pseudo-familiarity with the horrible reinforces alienation, making one less able to react in real life. What happens to people’s feelings on first exposure to today’s neighborhood pornographic film or to tonight’s televised atrocity is not so different from what happens when they first look at Arbus’s photographs.”
—Susan Sontag, from “America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly”
“People who cannot escape thinking of themselves as white are poorly equipped, if equipped at all, to consider the meaning of black: people who know so little about themselves can face very little in another: and one dare hope for nothing from friends like these.” — James Baldwin, The Devil Finds Work
Found poem, pressed between the pages of a library book on yellowing tablet paper
8 a.m. — Wake up
Breakfast. Take chicken salad for lunch.
Go to # 5 bus at Flowers.
Take bus downtown to Virginia.
Walk to gallery.
Sit at gallery until 6 p.m.
Walk to # 5 bus on 3rd Ave.
Take bus home.
“We are tempted into thinking ourselves in peculiar situations. If you look closely, man’s found himself in the same sort of situations from the beginning. And what you discover is that particular minds along the way deal with the same problems. You begin to get a community of thought in relation to those problems as you go along. It ought to be of some hope in a dark age — which I take ours to be; I think we’re in a darker age than the late Middle Ages, and we take that to be a particularly dark age; I think there was more light about then.” — author Marion Montgomery, in the Athens Observer, 1981
“We will stay in a villa with a private pool with rose petals floating in it… We won’t leave before all those petals have withered away.” — Cor Schilder, 2014, passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17