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.
Inspired by seeing Pat and Tom’s great panorama, I’d just like to draw attention to Jimmy Nguyen’s autonomous contribution to re-thinking Push and Pull in an online environment – a cute interactive website.
At this time of life whatever being there is is doing a lot of listening, as though to the feeling of the wind before it starts, and it slides down this anticipation of itself, already full-fledged, a lightning existence that has come into our own. The trees and the streets are there merely to divide it up, to prevent it from getting all over itself, from retreating into itself instead of logically unshuffling into this morning that had to be, of the day of temptation. It is with some playfulness that we actually sit down to the business of mastering the many pauses and the abrupt, sharp accretions of regular being in the clotted sphere of today’s activities. As though this were just any old day. There is no need for setting out, to advertise one’s destination. All the facts are here and it remains only to use them in the right combination, but that building will be the size of today, the rooms habitable and leading into one another in a lasting sequence, eternal and of the greatest timeliness.
John Ashbery, The System.
I had arranged to meet my parents at Push and Pull sometime in the late afternoon. Now sometime in the late afternoon is a pretty open temporal window when it comes to meeting someone, so it was quite funny when we both arrived at Locksmith within 30 seconds of each other. It’s seems probable that this is how the whole arriving on time thing works, that is, when you arrange a rigid time you are mostly late and occasionally early but never on time, and when you arrange an open time so nobody is late or early then you both arrive at exactly the same time. Amy Harper – who had donated the puzzle for the opening night – arrived at this time, and her partner Pat Armstrong – who designed the poster – would also have arrived at this time if it weren’t for his habit of chronically under-estimating how long it takes him to get anywhere. So it was a time of arrivals, and as though to balance things out, of departures too (Will first, and then Zoë). Joel and I were in our usual after-soccer state of starvation so the first thing we did was get a plate from the kitchen, plonk ourselves in opposite corners of the room and shovel the Indonesian food in as fast as possible. I’m pretty sure Joel did not utter a single word during this time. Read the rest of this entry »
Nick, our man on the scene, just sent me this email from Locksmith where he is minding the gallery:
so you may or may not have noticed or been aware of the signs stuck up along Botany Road advertising a garage sale with a picture of Kaprow. Well the date on the sign was for today and two of Zanny’s best students have just wandered in with a whole bunch of dot stickers and are sticking prices on everything in the space, with the intention of selling the objects in the space! today is a garage sale. i really really hope they sell something.
There were no places to park on Botany Road so I found a spot on Wyndham Street and wandered through the park behind Locksmith. The construction workers from the site next to the park were all having their lunch and had spread out like school children in the playground, bunched in groups of twos and threes and occasionally a few more. They paid me next to no attention but that didn’t stop me fantasising a scene in which someone (my mind was picturing Fred Lee) tells the construction workers that I was only just starting my work day (at 1pm!) and what that work actually entails. In my fantasy the workers start taking the piss out of me for being a bourgeois lay-about and a few of them get quite annoyed and say things like some people have too much time on their hands.
I had not even been at Locksmith long enough to click on the timelapse before Keg arrived. In the first frame of the timelapse she is crouched on the floor arranging the puzzle pieces into a two-way arrow.
Before that we had taken the couch off the top of Zanny’s class’ aftermodern sculpture. Keg said the stack was making her uncomfortable and we quickly decided to give the room its second domestic iteration. So strong was our will for domesticity that we even swept up the floor, but instead of throwing out the swept pile, we put it in a drawer in the sideboard cabinet which we placed against the opposite wall from where Astrid and Alba had placed it in the first domestic iteration. Since this was a collaborative composition many of our ideas were discussed and the timelapse contains numerous frames of us consulting with each other about the positioning of certain objects. We seemed to be thinking along similar lines because it all happened very easily and without disagreement. We both liked the idea of open space in the middle of the room, with only the carpet, perhaps because it was the inverse of the teetering stack that we encountered when we arrived. Keg pointed out that with the massage table standing up on its back legs, kinked in the middle, it looked some frightening creature bucking. And the table-creature duly obliged when we tried to move it, jumping back and snapping its jaws. Partly because of their number, and partly because Kaprow singles them out in his Points of View text, the chairs were difficult compositional units. In the end we stacked the yellow ones in one corner and the brown in another, with vague ideas about some kind of diagonal offset, but really we just wanted them out of the way so we could make an open space. The massage table went on the wall opposite the sideboard and Keg’s two-way arrow was swept up as a result. I asked her before I destroyed it but she didn’t have the slightest preciousness about it. As a Push and Pull veteran (she went to a re-enactment in New York in 2006) she is totally down with the ephemerality, and this was the first of a few carefully composed pieces she made that were quickly disturbed by changing circumstances. We put away as many things as we could in the sideboard but there were still many objects (like all the accumulated pieces of wood) that had no really obvious placement in a domestic scene, so we just had to hide it away neatly in corners. A great deal of the stuff in the room had come from the wooden warehouse that Keg lives in, known as The Barn, and there are so many objects owned by so many people crammed into all the spaces of The Barn that it is, as Keg said, a permanent Push and Pull. Nothing gets chucked out because even though its been sitting there for 6 months, apparently so and so still wants it. Actually, Keg’s partner Lucas had seen the record players and the massage table on the timelapse and was disappointed that she had taken them. I know people who would literally go insane if they had to live in a situation of clutter like that. Hilik came by on his motorcycle and was excited about the project. He said he had been telling everyone and was planning to do something else soon. Frank from next-door came in for his customary quick hello. After we’d finished composing our open interior we rewarded ourselves with a juice from the fruit shop.
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.”