Oct 2, 2008
Reading Rainbow - Rauschenberg leads to Harris
This book I'm reading on Robert Rauschenberg keeps apologizing that he's not as shocking as he would have been in the late 50's, early 60's. Sure, probably not. Especially his later work in which he really tried to address the media assault. It's not his fault that the really relevant work centered around that subject would be addressed more fully by those who were born in the 60's. However...his early work to me is timeless. Maybe non-painters are tired of this kind of talk by 2008:
"I put my trust in the materials that confront me, because they put me in touch with the unknown....I like to start working...when my sense of efficiency is exhausted".
But I'm not. This kind of thinking is still relevant. In fact, the only thing trying to make it irrelevant is our fad-oriented culture (art world included).
Rauschenberg did not plan his paintings. Continual discovery = genetic makeup of paintings. This is why they can still appear so fresh. He offered you an alternative way of seeing your world by bringing outside objects into the works, and HOW he used those objects NOT to build up a representative whole (thinking cubist collage) but with "apparent indifference to their situation". Object is place is object is painting is color is mark is place...etc. Now that is simultaneity.
Stupid rabbit hole, now I feel like I need to talk about why that perception of simultaneity is worthwhile. You know what-- I'm going to leave that open, sort of...
I also picked up a book at the VCU library called "Discrepant Abstraction". I picked it up casually at first and flipped to an article called, "Quantum Ghosts: An Interview with Wilson Harris". Here's as far as I got:
"His novels breach temporal, geographic, epistemic and other boundaries to advance a complex mantling of inner and outer apprehension, narrative dispatch meeting metaphysical enquiry meeting lyrical compression meeting gnostic demur."
What you say??? So I absolutely had to go check out a copy of his first novel, "Palace of the Peacock". Wowowowow. If your sensibility is anything like mine, pick it up. Compression/Expansion. Our location in the book, or the story, I should say, haha-- I just picked it up as I was thinking of where I was going to go with this sentence and read-- "crash and collide and collapse". Yes, our placement in the narrative crashes, collides and collapses. The 'lyrical compression' seems to be key to my understanding of the book, acting like seductive vibrant colors do on my eye or vocal harmonies in music. You might find beautiful passages in any book, sure, I might even be able to wield one or two-- but Harris is acting like a maestro or shaman, wielding a force. There is no western 'overlord/author'- we are carried on a current.
"The boat shuddered in an anxious grip and in a living streaming hand that issued from the bowels of earth...The outboard engine and propeller still revolved and flashed with mental silent horror now that its roar had been drowned in other wilder unnatural voices whose violent din rose from beneath our feet in the waters."
"The rocks in the tide flashed their presentiment in the sun, everlasting courage and the other obscure spirits of creation. One's mind was a chaos of sensation, even pleasure, faced by imminent mortal danger."