Following her exit back into reality, Louise Nevelson and her son walked the streets of New York City to gather the wood needed to sustain them for their day and night. To make a fire in their apartment in order to survive. But not all of the wood was burnt. Some of it was collaged together. While the individual pieces had an intimate scale they became monumental when viewed holistically within the assemblage of the combined environment.
This page is GROUND ZERO. There will be no repetition of templates. This text will ripple with light and shade while it rains down on you in your unlocalised void. It will fall from an 8000 foot high cloud getting the molecules of your furniture wet and dropping straight into your wide Open femme hydraulic labyrinth mouth.
Did you know that when a colour circle spins combining every shade it turns black? It becomes a shade ball. I pierced one in ink on my friend’s shoulder blade. They are used to slow evaporation. To stop acqua turning to steam. In affluent cities they are used to keep resources pinned to the earth when they strive for the sky. It rains because you are sad, baby, your eyes are a window to a universe which is kept on a keychain. You know, if it stays with you it won’t ever rain down into a bucket held aloft elsewhere.
Back then, artists were dismissed as reactionaries and left the city in dismay. There is little room for that today because you must stay in the light of money’s gaze in order to survive.
An 8-winged nocturnal butterfly flies out of the shade, startled by the overhead light. It circles the room before travelling up the stairs and out through the door cut into the night sky. An orange tadpole and a green hand exit alongside it, into the void of primary colours.
In the context of pages like this, artworks and the artists who made them are usually mythologized or their poverty fetishized, the point being the sale. Multiples caught under thick black redaction lines, wriggling. That they felt confused. That they felt dizzy. Any chaff to the centre of the narrative would be removed. Anything that doesn’t fit inside the composition. This would include needing to feed your kid chicken nuggets while you walked the streets.
A textual code, a visual code; my scriptures are written in blue biro on the back of my hand. I’m rubbing these words together trying to set this page on fire as you read it, so that you’ll feel the It of pure presence for a second. A trojan horse text. Thought for Celant: the sticks have a wonderful sound, what more could you possibly want?
There can be no illusion of clean hands, I gathered these dirty materials myself. The smashed face seer at 1am scared us and told us: Our unbearable lightness, Our daily vertigo, is to be leaned away from, in an attempt to stop the danger of air sickness, as tipping over means crossing into the psychedelic feeling of all ties to the living world melting away. Her nose-splint was still fresh with blood. A trip, a plastic surgery, a man’s rage, a fall from sky to earth. There is little difference in the weight of the knowledge gained.
An eyeball swimming with pink clouds and milky-blue prognosticate fluid. A blue crayon figure 8 drawn with the non-dominant hand floats errant on its surface. It is either the surface of an eyeball or a bird’s eye view of the expanding universe.
She worked on intuitive gesture. She was influenced by archetypes (patterns of human behavior), and the cosmos. Why do you think the Right always win? Because they have this thing that people need, which they’ve named GOD, on their side. Myth and mysticism, to search, or rather, LIFE FORCE itself, does not and will never only belong to THEM. What do you think we’re rubbing at, scavenging for? A rose by any other name would smell as black.
Is it a painting of the prisoner’s cinema? The phenomenon of a light show of multiple colours appearing out of the darkness. The light has a form but those who have seen it find it difficult to describe, although many have connected it to the forms of neolithic cave paintings. Sometimes, the lights dissolve into human or other figures. The phenomenon is reported by prisoners confined to an 8 foot cell, truck drivers and pilots. Those who travel in black.
4 arrowheads pointing inwards. Like the cartoonic symbol for expansion in the cheek or eyeball. The eyeballs look down into the room for so long that lint sticks to their surfaces. Spiders congregate in the corners weaving strings from edge to edge. The ink spurs away from the structural lines.
Look closer at the black ink on these pages and you’ll see the entire spectrum swimming, as if it were the oil beneath that makes the world move.
She wrote THE FIRST GOD and it was rubbed with an ointment of status to make it menthol and easier to breathe. It was placed on curriculums. She was homeless at the time and was washing in a campus bathroom and was kicked out by security. She had applied to be a teacher but couldn’t even secure a job to clean their buildings, to monitor their halls, to take out their trash. They had room for my book in the library but not for my body. They had room for my mythology but not for the mess of my creation, but not for the reality of my being which enabled me to give you these dirty words. If I hadn’t saved them they would’ve been buried like a body in landfill. The process somehow animates the subject.
Her sculptures represented walls or created spaces, transforming her house and studio into a sculptural environment, first all black and then all white. Later in her life she also experimented with gold painted surfaces.
She died the year I was born. Coincidence? An incidence of eerie charge within the raspberry rippling skin of your everyday? If I make it so. At its baroque origin the word coincidence meant: occupation of the same space.
I’m writing this to you on hard rubbish night. And here it is: carts that pump music and immigrants and the poor leaning into the bins. So how can I take it for my home and my art? Well, they take the metal that can be sold. I, I take the wood. Bed bugs might come with it and mutilate my books but at least I didn’t have to buy it fresh. At least I didn’t have to send something more to the burner boys in Agbogbloshie to fill their lungs with and bring their close death. Have you got the code yet?
Frottage is the process of taking a rubbing from an uneven surface, for example from a household object or a tombstone, as well as a dyke’s process, judicial partner to sodomy. The secrete charge of rubbing against the clothed body of another person. The word has its origin in the French word for friction. It is what we have and what we need. A shock between skin and synthetic gold clothing.
Let me speak to you from their stomaches. Maybe I know better where they’ve been. I’ve scraped my knees and more to get rent. I’ve fucked for money and been raped. My story has been clogged with material. Nettles in my back making a frottage of white scars. The wires of the cracked eggshells ready to be cupped to ears are crossed. Encrypted communications as mundane as grocery lists travel down electricity wires. But still, they are my sustenance.
My husband’s family were terribly refined. Within that circle you could know Beethoven, but God forbid you were Beethoven.
Rubbing and rubbing, the airmail paper crackling and spiking with the desperation to see. Knife, bottle cap, ping pong paddle, coins. Praying these objects from my wild pockets will be the key. Speeding up to the unknowable, attempting to grasp at its surface and at least come away with some residue of coincidence on my fingertips that I can rub on my lips to strike an instant producing a momentary religious gloss.
An anecdote poured at dusk. My friend dated a guy named Ed that was rough as anything looked about 50 even though he was 22. Covered in wrinkles and drug use and teeth knocked out from fighting. He got stranded somewhere in Eastern Europe and travelled back to England by hitching and sneaking onto trains and surviving on the tiny milks you get in service stations, nothing more. He then went to study feminist poetry in his trackies and gold teeth. Does it fit ya myth? Does it frot the sides of ya million euro POVporn? But God forbid you were Beethoven.
The structure of coincidences are my only religion. They are my pattern without pattern my structure without structure. They are something in the air that doesn’t anchor me but extends fabric from my fingers so that I can brush against the surfaces of the world and feel a sense of soaring as I traverse. How was it possible that at the very moment she was taking an order of cognac to a stranger she found attractive she heard Beethoven? On her way behind the counter she turned the volume up.
Am I mimicking and parroting myself for rent money? Am I taming myself for you? I am the eye of today: No attempt at the falsehood of objectivity instead I want infinite charge. She wrote her book on napkins every day in Burger King surviving on sugar packets and refill coffee. Isn’t [s][t]he[y] actually, the only seer we have on earth? But God forbid you were Beethoven.
Scavenging has been seen as taboo since the biblical period in human life. The ingestion of an animal that died a natural death or had been killed by other animals was considered foul, rather than resourceful, rather than borne of necessity. Animals that scavenge show us a different way of being.
A skip-diver found a glass perfume bottle filled with Novichok, a newcomer nerve agent, by a Russian assassin, in a city 8 miles south of Stonehenge. Don’t forget to mind the gape of your pockets as you get on the line in the morning. It came from your pocket not mine.
Necessity knows no magic formulae. It is all left to chance. The world is a swamp prompting us to look for certainty. A retching process. But you know what is never a coincidence? Poverty. This fact floats by as if an airplane door on a burst bank. So actually, everything is as clear as glass.
Our fakirs (ascetics who live solely on alms) lie on a bed of stainless steel, extremely sharp spikes, despite them already having heightened sensitivity to the cost of living, to human limits. He really saw. He really listened. He had no wall around him. His wife got deported. His rent kept rising. He kept getting evicted. It can’t be true that someone like that can’t exist in this world.
She had dagger-like false eyelashes and called herself: THE ORIGINAL RECYCLER.
Calling ahead, crypt smoke down the wires, to steal the right silk sheets from Harrods so that my friend with depression can rest her head from the weight of the world. Can rest from the extremity of her vision for a while. Have you ever seen a car or house burnt out?
Oil in the bucket, on the tarmac, in your pores. Chalk on a blackboard smudged by the thenar imminence of the hand. Chalk on the pavement washed away by the rain. Slipping feet at the bottom of the stairs in snow and brown leaves. After slipping and showing her fallibility she went and hid in the bathroom to make my material and didn’t give away her alchemy of union.
I’m trying to crack unclaimed combinations, to articulate the in-finite. Unclaimed like trash that can’t be resold by the poor. Taking to the streets to reuse what you’ve wasted and imbue it with light.
I’m gathering materials in a black carrier bag, which is really just a trash bag. Like the mojitos mixed in black bin bags and hung inside drain shafts being brought to the beach for tourists to sip. Can you feel me sweating ethics for you? This isn’t hunting to survive.
She was born in Ukraine to a dad who worked as a woodcutter before he opened a junkyard. Both of her parents suffered from depression born of immigration and status. Others fall and get lost: one paycheck away from no roof to protect them from the vastness of the sky and being pissed on or set on fire by men wearing suits pinstriped for the job. Fuck it if I’m assuming, I can smell the money on your wrists like perfume not handcuffs.
Louise Nevelson tells an artist friend from her neighborhood of the mafia: Don’t worry, I know them all, I’ll introduce you.
Meanwhile in the East of Europe, artists were being co-opted by the Soviet regime; given a wage, a house, a studio, with propaganda being the receipt provided for this survival. Off the clock, out of Dalia Matulaitė poured spasmodic creatures, strange stone children, their shoulder blades splayed as wings. Tiny upturned faces with beaks or long turtle necks. Their rock bodies smoothed as if by weather. One was hung in a frame as if to ask: Can this be it? Please? Can you pay for this? Please? Won’t someone please look at my freaky babies? Pay me something because I can’t help making them. They keep coming out of me pouring and pouring help won’t please somebody look at them in the light?
4 balusters. 8 Coca Cola crates. Perfect liquid wrappers of bottle, bowling pin, body. Door number: 4. Octagons of wood arranged like a steel shredding machine. No it is not easy to write. It is as hard as breaking rocks. Sparks and splinters fly like shattered steel.
Let me rekindle Art Povera. Now, it is poor people using scraps to make glamour that stays in their tiny flats. Dragging rich to build worlds on invisible disability checks and sex work. This is the rope from the skip used to cope not hang. She painted watercolour interiors into life, in which the furniture appeared molecular in structure. Hundreds of tiny ribbons hold her head together. They are made out of steel.
How do I dress so well? Fucking, dear, it’s always, fucking. She smiles a fleeting shadow that turns into a solid canopy for the young shadows with good eyes and open minds.
Are your shoulders sore my love? I’m rich in time but poor in money that is how they see me and so they give me coupons to clip with scissors, brightly coloured safety scissors for the kids, sharp spikes of steel for me. And later it ain’t memory foam I lie on but a futon of spikes made by Walter De Maria, and when I wake in sweat in the night from all the things I’ve done I sip salt water from Eva Hesse’s melting cups, one for each spike.
Pumice is a porous volcanic rock formed when a gas-rich froth of glassy lava solidifies rapidly. A black stone that, antithetical to the expectation of human palms, is actually extremely light. The stone is frantically bound in a mess of red, while the numerical statistics are carefully mapped for the future user. The bulletproof silk of spiders ties our lives together whether you like it or not. In a vacuum all objects fall to the ground in equality.
Mica is a shiny mineral with a layered structure used as a thermal or electrical insulator. It comes from the Latin for crumb, as in, crumbed chicken. Her son was called Myron, after an Ancient Greek sculptor obsessed with balance and symmetry. Later on he shortened it to Mike.
Vertigo finds us even though we are the closest to the ground, as this means we can see gravity in-action close-up. While those walking cavernous lobbies built on brownbacks crave the dizziness of near death, so that they may feel their invincibility has been proven. And for them to experience this on the largest scale possible, millions must die in a war of their making.
Holes pierced in the mica face of the canvas: punched handholds for climbing. Everyone’s dreams get more vivid when operating at altitude. Breathing holes shot through the metal boot of a car: a signature.
A pendulum made from his lost finger searching cause and secrete. 2 drills down to the centre of the earth, or, is 1 pushing forth from the chest? Words as cracked epidermis, a new Opening revealed, the residue of purple, blue and butterfly wings sloshing up the sides. The pendulum doesn’t know things that you don’t. It can only offer clarity to the jumble.
I’m playing hide and seek with you. Will you accept my translation, my interpretation? I’m not one voice.
8 bronze segments like the orange of the world. He can disappear when both his feet face the same direction. The bottom of the pedestal could move down, could shred metal.
A happening that triangulates real events - an arms deal, a public housing fire, a 1 metre rise in sea levels - something towards a comprehensible monstrosity. A happening, an artwork, a protest that doesn’t ask for permission.
Is this the guy who took credit for all his wife’s work? And he destroyed everything she did? Or was that someone else? It is the unknown quantity from which and where I want to go. He’s got another project for the state coming up: industrial injury and radioactive discharges, local pollution and mining impact.
The It is under the weave of one-use placca and placations. We make marks on each other’s skins at parties, tiny punctures of O to try and get there. I’ve marked something 1 metre long on a single soft underarm. A quadrat placed permanently on a friend’s body to reveal it close-up, to put it in for environmental categorization processes along with everything else, to see it with a fresh view.
Twombly drew his horizon lines by sitting on the shoulders of a friend.
Look into the periscope and you’ll see a smoke cloud enveloping something against a background of all gold. Through the wall, something hung at the height of a human head. It is what the head looks like under the light of red gas, when the shape of thoughts can finally be seen and the skin below turns fake-tan bronze-gold.
Purple Pleione is a fast spinning star, with a purple hue caused by its blue-white color being obscured by a spinning ring of electrically excited red hydrogen gas. The purple ten-sided shaped bends and smoothes into a purple O.
This text is a weighted blanket to stop you from spinning. It is a carpet floating artificially just above the surface of the exhibition. It is the separating floor of the gallery becoming a sponge that speaks. It is word harvesting in Harvester. My gathering isn’t chronological, it’s done purely to gain muscle tone and enhance my senses.
Beyond the black and white flicker and the figure, awaits the afterimage of a window to the great space of the sky.
She couldn’t handle the lifestyle and instead built her life a conscious search: I want a new seeing, a new image, a new insight. This search includes the object, the dawns and the dusks, the objective world, the spheres, the places between land and sea.
An octopus clung to her face, a jellyfish attached to his, a starfish stuck across her nose and mouth. Concentric circles. Sleeping on a full void.
3 bed springs in the shape of halos carried 8 hours from Paris to Barcelona on a train. 2 brown-gold kneelers thrown out by a Catholic church carried from one side of the barri to the other by two lesbian lovers. A white leather massage chair found covered in make-up in Dalston carried 1 mile along the canal path at dusk. Make no error, we are still sitting round steaming by candlelight. Scavenging the beyond. Frot the world or die trying.
I can never see objectively. That is what appears in silver graphite when you frot the kernel. Am I burrowing to avoid the clarity of fish-scaled surfaces? Am I naming lightly hidden mathematics and natural patterns and lissajuice as GOD because it is the closest thing I’ve got to feelin’ New Babylon? Anyway, I’ll stop scrying now, I’ve reached my word limit on this page, I’ll carry on in my notebook while I walk the cemetery on the mountain leaving purple feathers like a fool on every grave.
The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths. It’s true and not true at the same time. On the one hand its silly, on the other I totally believe it, Nauman said. On the one hand it holds futility up in the air, yet still it becomes an ear-worm that might eat your brain whole.
The all white canvas by Twombly was smudged by Sam's red lipstick. Sam defended her gesture to the court: It was just a kiss, a loving gesture. I kissed it without thinking. The jury saw that that Sam was not visibly conscious of what she had done, and she was compelled to attend a citizenship class. My lover licked a Twombly triptych recently in Berlin, as part of a game intended for the danger of daylight and as a way of getting close to the Gods. Or, rather, to bring them down to our earthen level: You must lick your neighbour as yourself! She didn’t know about Sam at the time but said she thought she’d smelt a red sillage around the work. Steam catching the light as it is pumped from the neighbour’s duct.
Her life was split, both night and day were competing for her, rendering her in permenant shadow, the permenant sepia of dusk.
At dusk, the aperture of the eye expands and contracts, and sepia sight is gained. Colour is blanketed by night while remaining underneath. My rusty mass likimas. I see in sepia.
In the dusk of my perceptions it ain’t gold or white or black, it is brown with hints of pink and green. I put on a pair of tinted sunglasses and exit to the street. Your car with tinted windows drives past. Its an oldie but a goldie: what if I licked my lips and all of your security disappeared for 8 minutes?
I have just been thinking about this wonderful art, and already it is being killed in my mind. How many things stay in notebooks? Never realized beyond their first inscription because the gatekeepers just aren’t having it today. They are re-inscribed in numerous emails for sign-off and the idea dies on its own, thirsty. Limescale builds on the lily pad of the tongue that laps to you in your own head.
What miscellany of material is allowed to survive? Is preserved in apartments and storage units, through foresight, accident and love. In thousands of artist archives, what is seen as precious by a passer-by, a loved one or one with heavy pockets, to then be seen in vitrines of the future? What is preserved for material gain?
Nevelson’s first experience of art was a plaster cast of Joan of Arc at the Rockland Public Library when she was 8 years old. A public statue of the same Joan on horseback was what my wife saw baking black in the sun, the minute she touched down in Washington D. C. after leaving me while we were falling in love.
In the North of England in the town I was born in, housed under a rundown shopping centre is the ultimate art collection, hidden from those who might need it. A tool buried under the city. And so, we gather what we can from the ground water instead. Microblading back-into-life blends. Tess in New Look will keep the Nauman in the back until you can find the keys.
I’ll go as fast as I can but I’m trying to make a fire that means something. I don’t make it for the market. Here, I made this for you. Is this giving you more perspective on the living? Where are your yen going hen?
A grey-area sliced in two holding a cool, white, marbled, egg. 2 hemispheres form a shelf held out from the void as if a hand held out through a waterfall. Hot, open-palmed, life-lined.
The splash of the hanged man. The white splash of a body in a blue pool. The splash of drain cleaner in the stomach. The sun bleaching a photograph blue. The stoning and washing and wringing out of what actually happened.
We just have to crack it, assured the gallerist. It is about the multiplication table not the pollution of the water table. And the pattern? Oh, that’s just to make the squares fit. You think your belief in the code’s existence brings you close to godliness. You think you can crack the code of life but guess what. There is no need to seek a unitary and reassuring value.
As I’m making I’m aware of the myths they could make for me, the gatekeepers and the caretakers of the future. I bite down on this awareness to keep me from falling into the present market, from becoming a beacon of comment. Although maybe that is all there is, the world won’t exist long enough for there to be historical discoveries of our contemporary counter-art. These thoughts are always around, like a bluebottle skating figure 8s round my head akin to the stars of a cartoonic knock out, its body the colour of exhausted cartoon eye-bags.
My materials are covered in greasy digital footprints. Did you really think I’d have clean hands at the end of the day? I wait at the bus stop adorned with a face looking at its solarized reflection. It floats above the surface speaking to its own shadow.
There is always a jet lag before the vultures come to feast. Go on, pick with your paddle the thingy I made for my friend’s birthday to make her smile. You’ll never need it like she did, and you know it. Keep guessing the code, I bet it won’t take you under 2 minutes, like it took me and my half orange to crack the combination lock of the pool the first night we met. The numbers of the year unlocked the lido and we plunged under the full moon. The only people to dive all summer. You can someday buy what the freaks make to keep each other alive. But by then we’ve moved on and these objects won’t serve you like they did us. You’ll put them in the warehouse disappointed cos you’ll never learn, you’ll never really know what they mean. Here is a blanket statement that I will stand by and fuck under. The absurd reality one participates in every day is a political deed.
I fill my bag, my void, with whatever junk I can find on the street. Whatever I can pick up in the pound shop or the bazaar. A sign sellotaped in the window of Liberty’s reads: BANNED from this shop: Lowena Hearn and Jago Rackham.
She embraced the idea of her works being able to withstand climate change through use of new materials. That was then and this is now knowing what was unknowable to her: The world doesn’t need that object. Make your sculpture perishable. This is the way that we live and love.
The brown packing tape has aged. Its prior neutrality now revealing near-neon green and peach. A latex zone of creases and liver spots. I would like to make known that I want expansion, democracy, madness, alchemy, insanity, rhythm, horizontally. I want to be alive as much as possible. As the vertigo of being is to dance in the dark and still see.
She said: I’m trying to heal the land through my art. I want to take human cast-offs and turn them via tesserae into a monumental song, one that is still of this earth, not surfing on supposed heavenly spheres. Each cast-off a cut that as a whole form a rag pressed down to arrest the bleeding. To stand before authoritative eyes as GOD so that they step down.
Our unbearable lightheadedness is a lack of clean air, the dizziness of hangover guilt in the mourning after the night before. There is no return, can you feel it, or are you too high on your own power? You, who exists forever in the night of the living dead? Has your skin not been made sensitive enough by the spikes I sent via airmail? My climate is changing boughed by our gathering of dread. The delirium of escaping death is the fodder of the well-oiled.
Dear unclaimed combinations, it’s thanks to you, that I’ll be myself, in the end. I don’t believe in God but let me tell you, I’ve seen the centre and I know you need the tinny rattle of change or death. Feel free to donate after reading this.
The paint is imperfect, chipped. They are light enough for a child to lift. When it rains no hard rubbish or wood is left out on the streets. Rather than yolk yellow the cracked eggs run the blue kerosene of a magic 8 ball.
Why do we write? A cacophony erupts. Because we cannot simply live. The screaming voice from below lets itself go as if a balloon. The red string is slashed and the pumice cube falls into the reservoir.
Are you beginning to feel dizzy? Are you hungry for something? But I need this blanket to keep myself warm in this environment. All that is I Soldi doesn’t melt into Im Spazio. Save the life of a seer for just the price of weekly low cost therapy, I mean it.
There are no bodies here but there are spirits, bare figures. A ball hitting a strike in an alley. A horizontal bucket forming an O. A record spinning. A table being extended so that more people can join. A banister being slid by young shadows. Each has their own past contained in the totality. When Louise Nevelson fell in love with black it contained all colours. Black is not nothing, rather, it means: contains all. I know no lesser word.
'The Original Recycler' 
An acidic collage formed around the work and life of Louise Nevelson, trash collecting, the weathered stone children of Dalia Matulaitė, depressed seers, and the spiked chasm between art-making and art-money. Published as the core of the exhibition catalogue for 'The Lightness of Being' curated by Fatoş Üstek at Tornabuoni Art in London.
The text was also performed at the gallery in a slow roving, semi-confrontational reading, in which text-fragments were read individually to each member of the audience, close-up, in an attempt to upset the structure of who is being looked at—of who is responsible for what is being said.
In 1954 Nevelson's street in Kips Bay was among those slated for demolition and redevelopment. She moved there leaving her shipping merchant husband behind, along with the expectations of becoming a socialite spouse. Her scrap materials in the years ahead reused the refuse left behind by the neighbors who had been evicted before her.