Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Explanation as Composition: Provenance #9



The provenance of this work was written during a collaborative writing session at LACE on 30 January 2011. Writers include: Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Kate Durbin, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Teresa Carmody. Event writer collaborators: Aimee Bender, Allison Carter, Mark Z. Danielewski, Carribean Fragoza, Veronica Gonzalez, Janice Lee, Harryette Mullen, Janet Sarbanes, Anna Joy Springer, and Stephen Van Dyck.


It is unclear at what point the work passed from Applegate into the hands of American rock musician and songwriter Wolf Temple, but selections from Temple’s diaries, recently published by Akashic Books, indicate that by 1982 he considered himself its rightful owner.

From MY DIARY:
THE WORK is now in my possession. The question occurs to me, of course. What a waste. Or, rather, why waste? Why the waste, at first? And then why the waste later? It occurs to me that it is all waste. It is all waste. I have wasted my life, but have now obtained THE WORK. I must explain. Or must I explain? It must be explained that I am in love with a certain feeling I get. I wake up in the morning and I am very happy. I was happy this morning. I woke up in a very particular way. And then I think of THE WORK. The ways I view THE WORK. Or, more importantly, perhaps, how THE WORK came into my possession. I am dreaming of living a good life. It is the life I have always desired to lead. I am leading strange and wonderful existences. Or if I have to get out of bed in the morning. I find that I am filled with leisure and the color of the other works in the room makes me feel good. But this is how I know what I know. I wonder what on earth could have happened before. I am in trouble. It is that sort of day. All of my communications have been bad. I don’t do what I used to do. I am out of the woods. I live in the woods and it is dark. But that is only when I am on vacation. I wanted to live in a room and look at beautiful objects. I wanted to say to them that I was on earth for a purpose. But then I belong. I long for the rope. I long to put the rope around my neck. It is 1982, but I have gotten ahead of myself and away from the things I wanted to talk about up to this point. I was waiting for THE WORK to arrive. I was always in such a rush. But that was then. I have to remember that it is 1982. I love that it is 1982. Why such a year? What things can possibly occur. But I will have to wait to explain that. I will have to open and close my heart. I will have to carry my eyes. I am in love with color and with other opportunities. I have obtained THE WORK to this point. I am a caretaker of THE WORK. The way I look when I get up in the morning. And how things have changed. There is a bit of music in the room. I am looking now different. I am older. Things have changed. You have chased me. I have not chased you. But the ways we live. The manner of things. How I have gotten what I wanted. What I would say to future generations is something I think I say all the time. Something I say when I am not thinking at all about it. But there used to be a clock. And there used to be time. THE WORK was stolen once, I think. I think about how things are stolen. I think about the ways in which I take what I need and don’t take what I don’t need. I was using my microwave oven just the other night. It is not often that I indulge myself in thinking about such things. But, as I have said, things have changed. The time is different. This is not yesterday, after all. It is right now. I was going to hang my hat on a stick and then tell the whole world what I thought. I was sitting in a chair and I was wondering what I would do now. Next. I meant to say next. What would I do next? I was wondering that. And then I realized that THE WORK was in my possession. I have obtained THE WORK. This is what I realize. And then and now. And in the middle of the night I wake up and I wonder what it would mean if things were otherwise. A wall or two or ten. And I think about crates. And the way I have to unpack things. It is morning and I am writing in my diary. It is 1982. And I have just obtained the work. I have a picture on my wall. I have a list too. I have a list of all of the things I expect to do. But this does not become you. It does not become you just because you let it be. I can sit here I think, and I can feel all of what I feel. I can tell my diary about everything. There is some much more I can say. I want to sit here all day, but I am concerned. And I am red. And I am establishing all sorts of things. I live by myself. I have very many possessions. I have a tree. I have slow days, and then I have better days. I am on top of the world and then I fall down. It is the rejection I feel the most. However, nothing bothers me. At least. The least of which I can say is that it is today.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Heart Woodland Pattern!

Woodland Pattern Book Center was founded as a non-profit organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Riverwest neighborhood by Anne Kingsbury and Karl Gartung in 1979. The center houses a bookstore with over 25,000 small press titles, in addition to an art gallery where they present exhibitions, artist talks, readings, experimental films, concerts, and writing workshops.

Due to the state budget cuts in Wisconsin, Woodland Pattern needs to raise an additional $48,500 in less than seven months. This means that NOW is an excellent time to visit, shop, and make a donation. Racine, Wisconsin poet Nick Demske has outlined some inspirational ideas here.

Tired of seeing arts funding getting cut in your state? Here are some talking points for your legislators:

The arts are central to healthy communities.
• Stimulate economic and community development.
• Educate our children to succeed in school and beyond.
• Beautify our neighborhoods.
• Attract tourists and out-of-town visitors.
• Make our cities and towns attractive and vibrant places to live and work.
• Provide important social and creative outlets for all residents, including seniors, those with disabilities, children and adults.
• Bring people of diverse backgrounds together in productive and cooperative ways.
• People who are involved in the arts are also more civically engaged, they volunteer and they vote.

The arts build and sustain prosperity.
• Cities thrive, grow, attract and retain businesses when the arts are supported.
• Arts and creativity education is proven to keep students in school, increase high school graduation rates and prepare students for college and for the careers of the 21st century.
• The new economy (insert your economic system here) requires a workforce that will be highly disciplined, collaborative, innovative, imaginative, creative and focused. These are the traits the arts teach.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Explanation as Composition: Provenance #8



The provenance of this work was written during a collaborative writing session at LACE on 30 January 2011. Writers include: Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Kate Durbin, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Teresa Carmody. Event writer collaborators: Aimee Bender, Allison Carter, Mark Z. Danielewski, Carribean Fragoza, Veronica Gonzalez, Janice Lee, Harryette Mullen, Janet Sarbanes, Anna Joy Springer, and Stephen Van Dyck.


At this point the work moved into a rather murky stage of its long journey to Los Angeles. In 1974, an explosion in the gas main at the Musée D’Accord resulted in considerable damage to the neoclassical structure, and with great reluctance the museum’s trustees decided to sell off some of its holdings in order to pay for the extensive repairs. Thus the work entered the private collection of British music producer Ian Applegate.

The work is the third item in an inventory of Ian Applegate’s artworks housed on his estate near Burnham-on-Crouch in southeast England. Applegate had achieved some notoriety as the producer for the first two albums by platinum-selling hard rock artist Wolf Temple. Having purchased his country estate at the end of 1973, Applegate then went about assembling a suitably distinguished art collection. The work was an early acquisition, bought at auction for £9500 on the suggestion of his spiritual advisor, Mara Nooney, who believed that the work was originally commissioned by the descendant of one of Applegate’s past selves. The work was displayed in what had once been the estate’s conservatory, and incurred some minor sun damage while in Applegate’s possession.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Explanation as Composition: Provenance #7



The provenance of this work was written during a collaborative writing session at LACE on 30 January 2011. Writers include: Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Kate Durbin, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Teresa Carmody. Event writer collaborators: Aimee Bender, Allison Carter, Mark Z. Danielewski, Carribean Fragoza, Veronica Gonzalez, Janice Lee, Harryette Mullen, Janet Sarbanes, Anna Joy Springer, and Stephen Van Dyck.


In 1961, the work momentarily disappeared for a 24-hour period, to the great dismay of the French authorities, who feared a heist or sabotage (or both a heist and sabotage). It had been loaned to the Minneapolis Biennial for an exhibition entitled New Realists/Old Fantasists, which paired works of what would soon come to be called Pop Art (by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Hamilton) with older works seen as historical precursors or provocation. The Minneapolis police were called in to investigate, but were slow to take action in the case. Indeed, the head investigator was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune the following morning as saying, "You mean they made this kind of junk back then too?" Luckily, the drunken songs of the pavilion's night watchman alerted the Biennial staff to the work's whereabouts later that evening. They found him in the supply closet with the work balanced on his knees, fondling it and singing, inexplicably, "Jack Was Every Inch a Sailor." The work was promptly restored to the curators at the Musée D’Accord, who blamed the surrounding Pop paintings and sculptures (though not the work itself), for the watchman's apparent mental breakdown, and declined to press charges.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Explanation as Composition: Provenance #6



The provenance of this work was written during a collaborative writing session at LACE on 30 January 2011. Writers include: Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Kate Durbin, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Teresa Carmody. Event writer collaborators: Aimee Bender, Allison Carter, Mark Z. Danielewski, Carribean Fragoza, Veronica Gonzalez, Janice Lee, Harryette Mullen, Janet Sarbanes, Anna Joy Springer, and Stephen Van Dyck.

Perhaps emboldened by the work’s disappearance during the war, and unaware of its ongoing reassembly at the Musée D’Accord in Paris, a young Italian actress, Anna Maria Massetani, gave an interview in March 1953 to the BBC World Service in which she claimed to be in possession of the work, and announced her intentions to sell it.

My great uncle was a painter. His paintings, some of them, hung in our living room, the living room we never used — a formal area of the house which we seldom entered. The real “living” room, of course, was a different, much smaller room, furnished in lighter tones, not the weighty dark furnishings of the room with the paintings. The paintings, by the time I was fifteen I knew, for I had been repeatedly told, were of my great grandparents, my grandmother’s and great uncle’s parents, one of them on each wall. They were dark colored paintings, with eyes which followed you as you moved about the room. They were terrifying, those paintings, and I avoided entering that space as much as I could. When my grandmother grew ill, in 1950, three years ago, my aunts and uncles began fighting over her belongings. My mother went through her closet one day, when no one else was at home. There was a section of it in which she found eight or nine further canvases — all rolled up — and when she opened them up she recognized some of the people in them, including my grandmother’s sister who had died when she was twelve and my great uncle was barely ten. The girl had been my great uncle’s twin. The paintings were all signed by my great uncle, and so were dear to my mother, though nearly valueless. Still, she decided to take and hide two of them away, including the one of the twin. As she was making her way out of the closet she tripped over the work, and as she bent to right it found the letter Nigel Van Eyck had written my great uncle. It was a love letter. He and my uncle had had a prolonged affair, and the letter, along with the work had been, it seems, hidden away by my grandmother who was protective of my great uncle’s privacy. I have the letter here. I have the object; my great uncle is long since dead. There is no one to protect. My grandmother has just passed away and we, her descendants, have decided to split the value of the work through its sale, while also making public, finally, our great uncle’s affair.

Massetani’s claims to ownership were never substantiated, and she soon changed her name to Lea Massari and began pursuing her film acting career in earnest. She went on to become famous in art cinema circles as the missing girl Anna in Michelangelo Antonioni's “L'avventura” (1960), and as the mother of a sexually precocious 14-year-old boy in Louis Malle's “Le Souffle au Coeur”(1971). Meanwhile, at the Musée D’Accord, the painstaking restoration was finally completed.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Explanation as Composition: Provenance #5



The provenance of this work was written during a collaborative writing session at LACE on 30 January 2011. Writers include: Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Kate Durbin, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Teresa Carmody. Event writer collaborators: Aimee Bender, Allison Carter, Mark Z. Danielewski, Carribean Fragoza, Veronica Gonzalez, Janice Lee, Harryette Mullen, Janet Sarbanes, Anna Joy Springer, and Stephen Van Dyck.

In the early 1930’s, despondent after a series of miscarriages and the early, unexpected death of her husband Edward, Alice Adams began making frequent trips to Austria, where she received treatment at Alfred Adler’s clinic in Vienna. Adler was an early follower of Freud who had broken away from the psychoanalytic movement to establish his Society of Individual Psychology. Intrigued by Adams’ account of the recurring role of the work in her dreams, Adler asked to see the object and Adams agreed, bringing it with her to Vienna at considerable expense in the fall of 1932. In a letter to her mother, she remarked on how incongruous the work looked in Adler’s consulting rooms. Before she was able to return the work to Chicago, however, the Nazis took control of Germany, and Adler’s Austrian clinics were soon closed due to his Jewish heritage, despite the fact that he had converted to Christianity. Adler hastily left Austria for a professorship at the Long Island College of Medicine in New York, and Adams ceased her visits to Vienna.

The exact whereabouts of the work then remained unknown for over a decade, until it resurfaced in the aftermath of World War II.


At the end of the war, the work, which had been disassembled and its constituent parts divided among various Nazi plunderers, was reconstituted by a corps of art experts recruited by the Allied forces. This process of finding and re-assembling the work took several years as the gang of war criminals first had to be hunted and tracked to their various hiding places all over the world. This involved an international team of freelance agents specializing in the kind of secret operation that can be managed without the express orders of government officials. Then each art thief had to be bribed, threatened, or tortured to reveal the location of his or her respective piece of the dismantled art work. Eventually, the work was rounded up and pieced together like a marvelous jig-saw puzzle at the Musée D’Accord with the assistance of well-trained art restorers under the supervision of Professor Bricolage, who exclaimed, “I feel as Isis must have felt when she re-assembled the dismembered body of Osiris.”




Thursday, June 16, 2011

Explanation as Composition: Provenance #4



The provenance of this work was written during a collaborative writing session at LACE on 30 January 2011. Writers include: Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Kate Durbin, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Teresa Carmody. Event writer collaborators: Aimee Bender, Allison Carter, Mark Z. Danielewski, Carribean Fragoza, Veronica Gonzalez, Janice Lee, Harryette Mullen, Janet Sarbanes, Anna Joy Springer, and Stephen Van Dyck.


Sidebar: Literary Impact of the Work

Alice Adams was a prominent philanthropist and patron of the arts; her home in Chicago served as a Midwestern salon for important artists, writers, and intellectuals of the time. The work was thus seen, presumably, by the many influential thinkers who passed through her home. Among her guests were Katherine Anne Porter and Raymond Chandler, whose respective biographers have noted the presence of the work in their writings.

Porter was apparently thinking of the work in these early sketches from 1931 of the story that would eventually become “Hacienda,” published in 1934.

A little stone trinket dug out of the mud at the edge of the river. Its tiny jade eyes sparkling through the black wet earth. Such a tiny trinket she could hide it easily, clutch in the palm of her hand when she walked to church on Sundays, she could slip it quietly into her cleavage, still not quite a “cleavage,” but rather a large valley between her budding breast mounds. Between the breasts, a place for secrets and valuables. Some coins to pay for the coffee, a letter slipped into a sweaty hand by the boy down the way. It would’ve been a good place maybe for the item, but she liked to feel its dark stone edges, carved little teeth and nostrils flaring. She fingered them quietly in her grip. The work had come into her possession the way so many ancient clay whistles or arrowheads had, as if waiting to speak to her about something from long ago that was not only lost with time, but deliberately smashed and buried right back into the earth.

She kneeled at the river outside the hacienda, ready to wash it over the smoothed rocks.

This girl, Lourdes, lived near a demolished hacienda, burnt to the ground. Her family had set fire to the bushels of corn they had themselves grown. They captured the hacendados, gave themselves permission to hang every single member of that family. The hacendado, the wife, the children. Lourdes saw it. Didn’t ask questions. This was post-revolution central Mexico. The ashes, years buried in the ground still blackened the earth.

Lourdes was not allowed to keep anything, leave everything where it belongs, buried in the ground. Let it rot, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to the ghosts and the worms.

But the work, half buried in the mud; its tiny body so precisely cut was too fine, its little eyes and laughing tongue. What a wonderful secret to sweat into the palm of the hand. What a wonderful scratch on the chin with its granite paw. Talk to the little work, such a wise and funny little creature. Laugh with it because it’s so delicious to laugh with it alone in the fields away from everyone. What a sweet thing to keep, such a thing that is not to be kept. To own the ghost and own the worms, withhold death and withhold forgetting. What a mouth! It should not be forgotten! What a laughing to be found at the river. A loud loud laugh drowned out by the waters also laughing. What a stirring thing to pray with this work between her palms. Without knowing how it got there: so many things plundered, so many things haunting from the earth, it didn’t matter.

The work also makes a brief yet pivotal appearance in Raymond Chandler’s supernatural story “The Bronze Door,” his attempt to move beyond the hard-boiled detective stories he had been publishing for nearly a decade in the pulps. “The Bronze Door” was published in November of 1939 in Unknown magazine:
Doctor Harry Lewis left his office at 7:48 P.M. On his way home, he stopped by a Chinese medicine shop to pick up his daughter's prescription. His daughter, Henrietta, was prone to bouts of anger, rage, strange dreams at night that kept her awake, and stories she would whisper into her father's ear, her father who couldn't really listen, a man of practicality, rationality, believing only what he could see and all too ready to give his daughter away to the label of yet another hysteric girl lost to the night. Mrs. Yenwui Wu had something in addition to the prescription that night, a strange box to which was affixed a sealed white envelope. "Open the envelope, but not the box," she instructed, and before he could ask anything in response, she dismissed herself behind the red curtains, and even Dr. Lewis knew better then to follow her.


When he arrived home, 207 East Antin Street in Leeds, he crept into his office, softly closing the door behind him. If he was heard, he knew Ms. Duchaney, the caretaker, would insist on giving him a day's report, something he both feared and detested. He opened the envelope, pulling out the letter inside.


Dear Dr. Lewis,
The box which you currently have in your possession contains a very special object. Under any circumstances, do not open the box yourself.
Hide the box in a safe place, and on your daughter's sixteenth birthday, give this to her as a gift. Tell her it is from you. Ask her to open it in your absence.
Follow these instructions exactly and you will not hear from me again.
Sincerely,
A friend


Dr. Lewis was a rational man, and under most circumstances would have regarded such a letter as hodgepodge. He was though, today, in a strange mood, it had started to rain outside, and the letter gripped him with something he had not felt in a very long time.

As far as we know, he followed the instructions exactly. The following is a small portion of the diary entry written by Henrietta on her sixteenth birthday, exactly one year after the doctor received the strange package. Most of the diary was destroyed in a fire, seven months later. Only the following portion remained.

Today I received a strange package from my father. He thrust it upon me as if he was happy to be rid of it, but when I placed my two hands upon it, felt a slight hesitation as he slowly loosened his grip and let me have the "gift." The box was dusty, and I opened it slowly. Inside, I found THE WORK, a strange object, and I felt the same horror creeping up behind as I felt in my dreams at night, the dark ones lurking behind the shadows, waiting for me to close my eyes, in the dream, so that they could approach. I stared at it, and was mesmerized by the horror seizing my throat. My father found me at suppertime still staring into the box. He didn't say a word, but forced the box out of my hands. I never saw THE WORK again.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Explanation as Composition: Provenance #3



The provenance of this work was written during a collaborative writing session at LACE on 30 January 2011. Writers include: Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Kate Durbin, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Teresa Carmody. Event writer collaborators: Aimee Bender, Allison Carter, Mark Z. Danielewski, Carribean Fragoza, Veronica Gonzalez, Janice Lee, Harryette Mullen, Janet Sarbanes, Anna Joy Springer, and Stephen Van Dyck.

In 1922, the work came into the possession of Alice Lyle Adams of Chicago, the former fiancée of Bradney Right. According to the notes of a private investigator retained by Adams:


The work was wrapped lavishly and given as an engagement gift. When the engagement was called off (by her) she refused to return the work, which he claimed to have given her “in good faith.” She displayed it in the foyer of the three-story 1895 mansion she shared with her new husband, a lawyer. On occasion, the work’s former owner would stroll past the house, even though his own home was on the other side of town, in order to look in the window at the work. One afternoon in particular he stood outside for close to an hour, when the light struck the work most intensely, and he gazed at the work with an expression upon his face that had a peculiar quality to it — not quite sadness or devotion, but something in between. That was the last time he visited the work.