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Thursday, March 20, 2014

CHANGING FOCUS OF ATTENTION

 
nude descending a staircase
marcel Duchamp

A picture book, large paperback, good quality paper and printing, has been staring at me for some time wanting to spend time on my lap. It is the works of Marcel Duchamp with text by Pierre Cabanne, whose book of interviews with Duchamp has a place in my house about like the Tao Te Ching, though not for the same reasons. Picking a random page in the Duchamp interviews is something like reading a few small verses by a Japanese monk, Ryokan, Basho. Duchamp does not wax Nineteenth Century deep about Truth and Beauty. Duchamp's art was of the mind. It takes the eyes for the mind to see it. In his found art series, "readymades," the object is divorced from its associations, like a bottle rack, a bicycle wheel, a snow shovel, basic shapes, and most famous, the urinal with its story, designs associated with function. Take away the function and see IT, the thing itself, separate from considerations of taste. This is such an over-simplification I beg you not to mistake it for information. I bought the book at a very reasonable price several years ago, had it down from the shelf recently looking at some of the images, reminding self Cabanne wrote the text. It is a book-length essay illustrated with the body of work. I picked it up today with intent to read the text. Very readable and insightful. I've been looking for something to read lately that will make me turn the pages. Thought I'd try a Tom Clancy. His stories have the reputation of page turners. The first page was enough for me. Never turned to see what page two said. Did not want to know. I could not read 700 pages of that prose. I tried a John LeCarre. Again, did not care what page two said. Cabanne has pulled me in like I hoped he would. Cabanne has studied Duchamp all along his way, knew Duchamp, his world and his language.
 
readymade
marcel duchamp
 
Julio Cortazar has found his way off the shelf again. Haven't read his beautiful writing in way too long, long enough that I've forgotten the stories and can read them freshly now as new. The first story I went to was, End of the Game. I will go back and read it again. It was like seeing a fabulous movie and wanting to see it again right away. Three young girls strike poses of well-known statues, and an attitude at the same time. Two of them dress one of them who strikes a pose in some spontaneous outfit beside the railroad track when the passenger train goes by at a certain time each day. May dive next into The Gates of Heaven, a tango dance parlor in Buenos Aires. It has a good chance of being next. I discovered Cortazar's stories after seeing Antonioni's film, Blow-Up. The film was an Antonioni remake of the story his way. It is one of the few films I must see every now and again to keep it fresh in memory. It never grows old. I had the good fortune to see it in a theater when it was making the "art house" circuit. I like Cortazar's story too. The film is not telling the story the same way. They are two entirely different versions of the same brief outline of a story. Both tell the story beautifully. Cortazar's original title for the collection was End of the Game and Other Stories. The movie created the market for a paperback, which the publisher changed to Blow-Up and Other Stories. The film has kept the volume of short stories in print. Reading today, I was getting frequent reminders of why I love his stories so much. I've taken another volume by him off the shelf, 62: A Model Kit. It is a "novel" composed of 62 unnumbered sections, stories, chapters? He recommends they be read in any order the reader chooses. Thought I'd read a few of these stories too, just read them as independent short stories. Mainly for the joy of reading his writing. I'm not going to get into it's better if you know Spanish and translations miss everything important. I'm all with translations. How else could I read Pierre Cabanne and much of the most beautiful writing I've read along the way?

 
fountain
marcel duchamp
 
Another one that found its way to the reading stack is volume one of the discourses of Upasni Maharaj. He is an enlightened master from the western part of India, inland a ways from Bombay, a place called Sakori. I'm looking for a place on the wall for a painting I made of him for myself. I think I know where I want it to go. It's just a matter of doing it. I like his discourses. He defines words breaking them down to their simplest parts. He says rock and wood are the most intelligent beings. Everything we know, we learned from rock and wood. He wore a sack-cloth draped around himself like a small toga (1870-1941). I wanted to read one of the discourses again about the City of the Dead. He talked about the spirits of the dead being among us. We don't see them. I'm wondering if these are different dimensions he is talking about. It mystifies me. Makes me think of Apollinaire's poem, La maison des morts, The House of the Dead. It's too much to even start attempting to give a brief. Mannequins step out of their showroom windows and join people passing by. I'm making a logjam for myself. Back to Maharaj, I like his perspective. It's straight-forward and clear. I'm in a time now of wanting to spend less time reading TruthOut articles online and seeing clips of Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher. They are funny and I like the way they approach current events as comedy, but I'd rather read Julio Cortazar. First I let go of paying attention to the glorification of ignorance, and now want to let go of the parts I like as well as the parts I don't like. I like facebook for the personal interactions with others, friends, and don't want to give up facebook. Not that I'm a facebook junkie. I find it a fun way to keep in touch with the people I keep in touch with there. It is the political I want out of my mind. I'd rather read good writing for the sake of good writing. It will give me a change of perspective for the better.

the large glass
marcel duchamp

I'm in the middle of a Japanese film that is four fairy tales, Kwaidan, 1964, almost three hours long. I watched the first two and took a break. Will see the other two tomorrow. They are ghost stories. I was a little hesitant to put it on. The hesitation did not last. Right away I saw this is going to be something special. I flowed in the beauty of it. The visuals are constantly stunning. The scenes are like stage sets, Japanese style. The stories are tales of karma. Do somebody wrong and they come back to haunt you. Each story is uniquely itself. One of them, The Woman In The Snow, stays with me and will. They are stories of karmic self-creation. Classic old stories that director Masaki Kobayashi made into exquisite film. 1964 is half a century ago, but it is not dated. It seemed as contemporary as if made in the last decade. I cut it in half to savor it, enjoy some one day, and some more the next. It is too beautiful to watch without full attention and Caterpillar on my lap. I was wasting too much time and mind on people not worth a second's thought, even the ones I think I like. There comes a time I want less Rachel Maddow and more Julio Cortazar, less Jon Stewart and more Apollinaire. Makes me think of the UNCF ad slogan, A mind is a terrible thing to waste. It sure enough is on people like in the media spotlights. Al Sharpton is even taken seriously now. I think of a sign I saw on facebook, Stop making stupid people famous. Then I ask myself, has it ever been otherwise? Just reading what little bit I read today about Duchamp inspired something within. Reading the Cortazar story excited something within that reminded me I have several of his books I can read in any time I want. John Kerry in Ukraine telling Russia, Don't do as I do, do as I say, makes me laugh with derision. Why pay attention? I have a choice. I can flow in the story-telling mind of Julio Cortazar and I can see what Pierre Cabanne has to say about Marcel Duchamp. I don't have to worry my mind with the Koch brothers and the rule of mthe rich. I want to do like a tortoise and pull my head back closer to home.    

marcel duchamp himself
 
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