between rock and water

When working on the visuals of my project THE BALLAST I was thinking of the peculiarities of the weight of art. The artist carries a unique burden in which he has to work within the world and at the same time has to seek entry points into new worlds. It reminds me of the scripture that advises one to, “be in the world but not of this world.” The artist desperately seeks to carry out the seemingly impossible task of relating simultaneously to his object and subject, and yet being neither subject nor object. It is akin to looking into a mirror and seeing yourself as the object, and as you are thinking of yourself immediately you become the subject (and vice-versa): “now you see me, now you don’t”. It is within this paradox of rigidity and fluidity that I question our place of balance. In THE BALLAST I have taken the point of view not of the experience of a solidified state or a state of fluidity, but of being a witness to the struggle and the feat of being in flux between the two.

Despite the apparent impermeability of a rock and its ability to brace itself against the elements, it slowly and imperceptibly erodes. A rock also presents functionality and stability. If I pile enough rocks in the belly of a seagoing vessel, it will stay below the water level, a compensator for buoyancy. On another plane, a rock brings forth life, if one accepts that our planet is a functional, yet slowly eroding rock. We cannot separate ourselves from the environment we exist in, and on. But as we cling to this rock of ages we are also floating in space, just as the rocks in the hull of an oceangoing vessel – we have learned to float through time and the universe. As any survivalist knows, with nothing to cling to in a rapidly moving body of water, we need to give ourselves over to the stream to stay buoyant and prevent drowning – exactly the situation of faith. But this weight that brings us movement can also bring forth stagnation (or worse) if the load keeps accumulating and the liberty of continuance is stripped away. What is the path of liberation when the ballast is pulling you under the water level? The Buddhists believe that achieving liberation is two-fold, by letting go and letting go into something. Letting go into something, perhaps, has less to do with willing or creating than it does with allowing. For example, leaving home at a young age is akin to surrendering to a rapidly moving body of water, to allow yourself new, future possibilities – letting go, into something.

Allowing myself as an artist to have faith and giving over to my subconscious I can let go of the right amount of weight to keep myself relevant and sturdy in the given moment. To keep this ambiguous balance, I believe one has to, “keep standing in the middle of all this”, to be tucked and pulled without stopping observing what is tucking and pulling you.

THE BALLAST is built from these intermingling dualities of real experiences and it touches upon the domestic as well as the epic. How when we are in flux, our observations of the world are renewed from any new point as it can be regarded as the center, and where all positions are relative. A transcendental trickery where we can paradoxically deconstruct boundaries and unify all divisions. Thomas Tranströmer spoke of the effect of art on the artist and viewer as, ”a house of glass standing on a slope; rocks are flying, rocks are rolling. The rocks roll straight through the house but every pane of glass is still whole.”

By |2017-07-12T13:37:42-04:00September 14th, 2014|

Pockets full of rocks.


My Notebook Key West 2013

I woke up in the middle of the night and desperately scribbled down my dream in the notebook next to my bed. The next morning I had a faded feeling that I might have had an epiphany. This was written in my notes…

Two women are walking hand in hand in the dark which seem to be on a dry salt pond. I can only make out their silhouettes. As they were walking towards me I recognized them being the writers Virginia Woolf and Ingrid Jonker and I overheard their conversation.

Ingrid Jonker: “Our pockets are full of rocks.
Virginia Woolf: ” It is because Art is like constantly eating delicious cake without ever picking up weight or getting diabetes.”
Ingrid Jonker: ” It is because Art is like constantly having diabetes and being morbidly obese without ever eating cake.”

I can hear the crunch of the salt under their feet and the soft clanging of stones or rocks. The two women now look similar as the physical qualities of Woolf and Jonker melted together. As they passed me they spoke out of one mouth saying:

“There always will be rocks in your pockets, but only if you swallow them will they become cake.”

By |2017-07-12T13:03:43-04:00March 2nd, 2013|

The Body

Notebook Enry: 2007 Key West

What was jointed is disjointed. If only I could do more. If only I could do better. If only I could go further.

If the goddess can cut her throat and feed me her blood, would that help? How is it that we can be so full of desire but so slow to gather dry wood to stoke the fire. And when the fire dies we blame everyone from the shoemaker to the gatekeeper.

We are born smooth and unblemished, hydrated like a melon straining at the edges. Somehow we manage over the years to suck our own juices and, like a toilet with a leaky tank that does not refill, we slowly evaporate. All that is left is the bitter cellulose heart.

I have stoked the furnace of my heart, my spirit, my mind; yet the body splays itself like a concubine over soft pillows with a vulgar, I-want-it-now, gluttonous reign. My opponents are not others, him or you but this treacherous body. If I can split in two, it is “me” against “you” in a boxing match. Who will win?

There is nothing romantic about being an artist. I know about artists who await the “Voice of God” to transcend them into genius. Poor sods. You are a skin encasing meat that generates chemicals for emotions, hormones for behaviours, neurons for decisions. You are, first and last, the body. Better yet, you are your own illusion wrapped in epiderm.

The body is a formidable opponent.

By |2017-07-12T13:03:43-04:00June 27th, 2012|


Notebook Entry: 2009 Japan

I loved my daily early morning walks past rice fields, streams, altars and temples. One day I found myself in a new and unknown area and came across an unassuming temple standing on a hill, the path leading to it a series of ascending steep steps lined with multiple red Torii gates.This small temple–whose name was written in Kanji, which meant I could not point it out again–was more unkempt than some of the other majestic temples that were laced through the streets and culture of Japan. The coins at the altar were the only evidence of its local worshipers. The small building was encircled by old trees, a precipice of an ancient forest. The birds were singing, yet all was silent.

As I walked amongst the trees time felt suspended. Colossal and august, these trees had been dictaphones of time. They had a palpable internal rhythm that reached out through their branches and leaves. The fragrant of earth and bark was overwhelming. Within this eternal pause I disappeared. I could simultaneously sense and feel each star and planet, each plant root system burrowing into the crust of the earth, each heartbeat, and the spin of each cell in my body. All boundaries disappeared, an ocean of everything and nothing. Life and death merged into an omnipresent fragrance. I will never know how long I was caught in the splice of time, I only knew that I did not want to leave or exit this moment.

For the first time in my life I considered death, not because I wanted to give up life but because I wanted to give into it. Her beauty was so overwhelming and exquisite that I never wanted to be parted from her again. I wanted to join her. Partially my sense of place returned and I feverishly started to seek anything I could tie around my neck–a rope, a vine, a piece of fabric. I needed to hang from these majestic branches. In my death these trees would become my infinite friends. I scratched like a squirrel between the leaves and seed pods. I knew I could find a way, I just kept rummaging through soil and roots, but she was already pulling away; the ocean slowly froze over.

The last of the fragrance dissipated with the bark of a dog. In front of me a long lost friend emerged from the understory. His eyes a deep amber, his fur caked with dirt. When his dog nose touched my face I could smell his breath. Hints of fresh cut grass and rotten leaves. He whispered something in my ear in such a deep low pitch that only my spirit could pick it up. He disappeared just as fast as he came into being. Abrupt faraway barking slowly brought me back to where I was. Now just an ordinary forest on an ordinary hill but I left this place not in an ordinary state. In me was a mixture of the sweetness of life and the translucent words of my childhood guardian.

By |2017-07-12T13:03:43-04:00June 27th, 2012|

The holon

By Anja Marais

He is me, but he is also you and her. He wandered the carved-out path of faded memories in a daze. The fog lay thick in the dewy hills, and he kept walking through the curtain of dusk into the cobalt-dark night. When luck was on his side a star would unassumingly make its presence known. A frivolous guide with ambiguous directions. There was plenty of food for him alongside the road dripping from foliage and branches. The rotten, fallen fruit would squeeze between his toes as he walked on. He never stopped to eat; his stomach wasn’t nearly as barren as his sense of recognition. He was seeking “it”. He once, long ago possessed “it,” but it slipped away, unnoticed and unattended.

His only companion beside the occasional star was the hoarse wind. Softly, like a shawl, it would embrace his tired shoulders and lift the dust majestically around his legs. During the night shadows would visit him in unidentifiable shapes, moving in and out of the fringes of his mind. They were hardly memories but more like ripples in a bowl of water. A scrying tool of past possibilities. In his ambulatory quest he thought he saw another traveler on the road ahead of him. He hastened his steps trying to catch up. The distance between him and the co-traveler would stay the same no matter how he adjusted his speed. With adamant concentration he would not take his eyes off the stranger’s back, even when the fog coagulated the space between them. At times he would have an uneasy feeling that he was being watched but as he turned around the figure behind him had already disappeared.

The fruit was getting heavier and the branches moaned under their weight. They fell and burst like fleshy bombs over the road up against his legs. He noticed the fruit splatters on the traveller’s legs ahead of him as well. He marched on. The road would occasionally split. He knew that it did not matter which side of the fork he chose, it would always unfold as an intricate fractal of itself. He used to take the road that tugged the hardest, but now he blindly followed the familiar traveler instead.

He hardly rested, for the weight of incompleteness fed his restlessness. He decided once and for all to get hold of the strange man ahead of him. He picked up the pace and started running, an awkward shuffle, trying to avoid the slippery stains in the road of skin and pits. Behind him footsteps became imminent and louder but the fog never revealed to him the occupant it sheltered.

And then he finally stopped. Tired. Hungry. For once he allowed the aroma of tree and fruit to enter him. He reached for a full, quivering, soft peach. As his teeth sank into her body the hoarse wind momentarily lifted the fog like a flimsy lace slip and he saw the road stretched ahead of him, open and unoccupied.

By |2017-07-12T13:14:38-04:00June 27th, 2012|
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