Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Like Horatio on holidays from university

A nice video by a friend on the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois formed part of my morning’s entertainment. I’d finished processing her comments on my blogposts, making tea, and putting the sheets in the clothes dryer when I decided to sit down again to write this piece you’re reading (or “creading”, as we create when we read, making sense in headspace from what’s in the pagespace) about fathers.

Basia’s video on the sculptor is related to fathers because she talks about her father’s death and this is in the context of Bourgeois’ commentary, in her art, on her own father. My father’s influence on me was on the corrosive side of the spectrum from loving to destructive, he was like the acid used to make an etching, whereas my mother was like the stylus used to cut the plate or metal. I’m not sure what role my grandmother (who lived with us when I was growing up) played though like mum she for the most part enabled my father’s aggressive need to control.

When I had finally left home I made a meme which goes like this:

Control is the manifestation of joy.

This strange pronouncement is all of a piece with the broken figure I made as I walked the corridors of Sydney University or strolled on a sunny day across Victoria Park to my apartment, I wrote a poem about the Stack in 2013, here it is:

Walk over the squishy linoleum
and rise, inside a lift, to the ninth floor
and enter an aerial museum.
All accessed from their temporary store.

Taking an hour out from nothing, I browse.
Marks flashed interminably in my eyes.
A pure gift – I think this one Basia knows – 
I’ve seen this and it’s a pack of lies.

How many hours and days pass in this guise?
How many times did I go up the stair?
How long ago did how many hopes rise?
Wonder why I feel as if I’m still there …

Next to the Stack’s copper cladding you stand near
the largest in the southern hemisphere.

This sonnet is titled ‘Hunting in Fisher Library’ and it was written on 10 February 2013 as well as 26 and 29 November 2020 (I date sonnet construction, showing how control is the manifestation of joy). It’s part of a long sequence of poems called ‘The Words to Say’ and this, funnily enough, is the final poem in the collection. It’s entirely of a piece with reality that Basia features in this poem, as we’ve recently been talking about art and artmaking.

Dad took photographs. I have one of his constructions in my collection of art, a montage comprised of three photos taken seconds apart showing the view from an apartment balcony where my mother is walking down the street, she’s probably on her way back from buying something at the grocery store or from the real estate agents’ to pick up a document. I cannot know what she was doing but the important thing is that dad got the photos developed and printed by cutting the negatives or by cutting prints, sticking them together, and taking a photo of the resulting montage so that it could be developed. I cannot know how he made it though if I asked a photographer who’s used traditional techniques perhaps I could get a better idea.

Reading the poem now I’m transported back to the aimless days when I tried to engage with the course of study but often felt alienated from the subjects I was asked to focus on with my mind and memory. I read a lot of American novels. I made linocuts in my unit, as well, wielding the busy knives (I still have several of those productions) at times when essays weren’t demanding my attention. When I eventually lost everything due to ill health dad would tell people even if they didn’t ask that I’d graduated from Sydney University, as though this fact were some sort of proof of his own skill.

After I came back to Australia, homeless, I’d write poetry instead of making art because by this time I was alienated from visual art by the trauma I’d experienced. Poetry became an alternative way for me to express myself and to find comfort in a largely indifferent world without resorting to pen and paper, or to brush and palette. Writing was an “out” from an impasse forged by iron laws. I was reclaiming control, though infrequently felt joy. 

These days joy comes from thinking about art, reading about art, wondering about other people who – due to whatever alchemical process nature devised – have made art. It’s a holiday resort of the mind, like the TV ads I watch in the late afternoons in the breaks between news segments. I watch news about car crashes, fires, military invasions, stock market plunges, I watch storms carry loads of moisture over miles of land. Before I started making art I’d return to reruns of crime dramas after the news, switching from the ABC to a secondary digital channel where ‘Father Brown’ or ‘Death in Paradise’ could be seen in the evenings.

Now that I’ve started making paramontages I’ve stopped doing this. I might instead watch ‘7.30’ (a magazine-style current affairs program) then get ready for bed. 

I even made a paramontage talking about these evenings, it’s called ‘TV’. Here it is:

This assemblage uses a photo of TV news where men were losing their jobs making cars. I matched it with a shot taken while driving in 2008 in Sydney. A work like this might seem overly pessimistic unless you understand that I spent 25 years working in offices doing things I had little aptitude for and that were predicated on the need to earn a wage because of the course of life chosen for me by my meddling father. Nowadays, if I rise after 4am I’m very happy though even if I’m forced out of bed at 2am I can make things or write things that mean something to me. I can ignore the soft torture of coursework. I can try to forget the boredom and time spent sitting at a desk, though with the computer and the software I’m ironically still cemented to an office desk.

Some habits become ingrained. Horatio was visiting on holidays from university when the bulk of ‘Hamlet’ played out in the fictive space. For myself, I never have to go back there again.

1 comment:

Basia Sokolowska said...

No, you never have to go back again. You are free to be who you are and this is the source (and manifestation) of joy. Thank you for watching my video and linking it in your post.