Notes to follow…
A MOUNTED UMBRELLA.
What was the use of not leaving it there where it would hang what was the use if there was no chance of ever seeing it come there and show that it was handsome and right in the way it showed it. The lesson is to learn that it does show it, that it shows it and that nothing, that there is nothing, that there is no more to do about it and just so much more is there plenty of reason for making an exchange. (Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons, 1912)
At the moment I am writing a thesis chapter on ‘objects,’ looking specifically at Gertrude Stein’s prose-poem ‘Objects’ (from the chapbook, Tender Buttons) and mathematician-cum-philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s lecture on sense-awareness and perception, also called ‘Objects.’ Stein wrote Tender Buttons in 1912, and Whitehead delivered ‘Objects’ during a lecture series at Cambridge University (aimed at physics students) in 1919. In the seven years between the two compositions, Stein would stay with Whitehead at his Lakeside property north of London for six weeks as World War One broke out in Europe. Every day, Stein and Whitehead would walk around the lake and talk about philosophy, while their wives stewed fruit and darned socks.
Decades later, Stein would list Whitehead as one of three geniuses known to her: alongside Picasso, and herself.
In the 30s, Whitehead would work at Harvard and meet a shy, tall PhD student called Charles Olson. Olson would read Whitehead and teach process theory in his poetics classes at Black Mountain College twenty years later. Olson and Stein would never meet but Olson would once (rather enigmatically) refer to Stein as a “chronological fox” in a letter to poet Phillip Walen.
I arrived at Locksmith with the world’s most disappointing sandwich and sludgy coffee. I had freshly sprained a joint in my lower back from some iffy breakfalling at aikido earlier in the morning. I sat in one of the ubiquitous yellow chairs and ate my sanga. A lovely guy came in straight away, as I was eating. He was an artist whose show was opening that arvo down the road. We had one of those conversations where neither person knows exactly what’s going on but the experience is enjoyable and companionably meaningful. I think he was inviting me to his opening for a wine. I think I was stumbling through a sketchy explanation of Push and Pull, gently urging him to touch stuff while he was in the space.
Minutes later Lachlan and Sally came to visit. Together we tugged things around the room and opened the space into an airy loungeroom. Lach was on his way to work and it had just started pouring with rain, so we stood and watched Botany Road for a while. I took them on an anecdotal tour of the room and its now-effaced iterations. “Here’s where there were knives hammered into the wall,” I pointed, “and here’s where Lucas projected the Kaprow presentation.”
Ever since the opening glean, tug and assemblage on Thursday night, I’ve been obsessed by the over-representation of yellow in the space. Mickie’s banana-coloured kindergarten chairs litter the room and the palette is all yellows, woods, oranges and beiges. Yesterday I composed a collage of cool-coloured pictures on one wall, and encouraged the continual chip-away of the jigsaw puzzle, which makes a water/sky aspect.
It’s a certain type of pushing and pulling – an aesthetic or compositional version – in which I am forever chasing what I perceive to be a perfect spectral balance. I’m waiting for a punter to sail through the door with a ceiling-to-floor wall hanging in aqua or peppermint, or an avocado rug, navy blue wardrobe, etc. I imagine that this punter is Carl Sagan, circa 1980, Kaprow book in-hand, called to the Locksmith with cosmological intent. We’d talk over the Ikea couch and car-bumper stack and we’d liken this project to the dynamic interplay of organic compounds.