Digressions
Weekly Expeditions of Spirit
Road-trip notes on pure essence, the aesthetics of silence, last humans, neglected pleasures, dust of the past, music for empty rooms, perfect mediocrity and more...
Friday | June 14th — 2019

Tbilisi: Thou shalt not Compare

"They always compare us with some other cities, especially with Berlin. I really don't get it and would not want to. Each place has its unique attributes. And so has Tbilisi – its character so very different. We survived four bloody wars and these wars are still with us in our most recent collective memory. We have lived through hunger, isolation, post-communism, dictatorship, terror, and so much more in the span of a mere couple of decades. All these experiences are built into the foundation of who we are as a generation. Our energies, almost animalistic, burst into being and explode into creative action – if only to break free from the past so restrictive and traumatic. This is what sets us apart from all these other places." — Naja Orashvili, co-founder of Bassiani.
Wednesday | June 12th — 2019

Their Pure Essence

Robert Bresson, I am reading, rarely, if at all, worked with professional actors. Even ordinary people, untrained in acting, were too "theatrical", "fictitious" for his films – all too conventional, let alone studied, precise and articulate, in expression of their emotional states. Displeasure, anger, hate, surprise, excitement, happiness, love... which one is almost obliged to simulate and in which everybody is so much alike: "The thing that matters is not what they show me but what they hide from me and, above all, what they do not suspect of themselves... Nine-tenths of their movements obey habit and automatism... Draw from them the proof that they exist with their oddities and their enigmas...Their pure essence." — Notes on the Cinematographer by Robert Bresson.
Robert Bresson - Cinematographer
Tuesday | mAy 28th — 2019

On Silence

Good read: "Committed to the idea that the power of art is located in its power to negate, the ultimate weapon in the artist's inconsistent war with his audience is to verge closer and closer to silence... The motion is toward less and less. But never has "less" so ostentatiously advanced itself as "more"... One recognizes the imperative of silence, but goes on speaking anyway. Discovering that one has nothing to say, one seeks a way to say that." — The Aesthetics of Silence by Susan Sontag.
Susan Sontag - Silence
Friday | MAy 24TH — 2019

If Only They Knew

O, if only they knew then what we know now :) Reading book reviews in The NY Times dating back to 1978: "In recent months three leading radical intellectuals – Michel Foucault, Christopher Lasch and Herbert Marcuse – have published new books... They all portray modern life as a prison or a fascist supermarket where docile consumers prowl the aisles listening to mental Muzak piped in by the authorities, trapped in the delusion of free choice..." — In the Cage, NYTimes, March 26, 1978.
Foucault - Books
Thursday | MAy 16TH — 2019

On Neglected Pleasure

"Talk less and we understand each other less..." Strange the book gets reviews so bad. Primarily for style being British all too British (her phraseology ain't simple enough) and for its guidance being un-bulleted (though it is in parts, suspected to be edited in by the publishers), no shortcuts to wisdom in there.

"Conversation, once a broad term for "being together," used to be considered so delicious as to be a sin. Monasteries and convents forbade it and totalitarian states monitored it, because it is unruly, fun, and seems utterly instinctive... Business disdains it because it is hard to monetarize. Worse, it guzzles airtime, face time, eye time; attention that could be consumed consuming or ogling ads..." — The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure by Catherine Blyth.
Sunday | April 7TH — 2019

The Last Humans

The setting is a mental hospital in Evreux on the eve of its demolition... Les Derniers Hommes (The Last Humans) is a morbidly beautiful piece of cinéma vérité. Sad as it gets.

Devoid of words, the film zooms on faces and the ritualized gestures of daily life. While the facility is falling into disuse inside and outside destruction is under way – wrecked walls, trees rooted out to the sound of thunderous chainsaws – we catch a glimpse of prostrate, stubbornly silent bodies. Quentin Brière-Bordier directs our gazes beyond the screen in order to – as the title suggests – remind us of a human condition from which we cannot fully extract ourselves.

Les Derniers Hommes, 55min. Vimeo.
Friday | April 5TH — 2019

Dust of the Past

Secret Order of Things. The wall of impervious concepts: Schloss Beesenstedt 1945-1989. It used to be a communist party school back then in its most dogmatic and despotic form, I gather, considering the book titles all reduced to a single name – before the gang of crypto libertines-r-us took it over. One still can breathe the dust of its antithetically multifarious past.
Schloss Beesenstedt - Verge
Wednesday | April 3TH — 2019

Who Killed Tulum

"Copal helps mask how bad the septic tank can smell..." Considering the amount of article space dedicated to James &Co in this piece (a lot!), it sounds like Gitano who are the murderers of Tulum. "Isn't that glamorous!" I think the charge flies way off target, but as a persona non-grata at that perfumed gypset establishment, I have no strong objection to this view being so unflattering.

Who Killed Tulum? Greed, gringos, diesel, drugs, shamans, seaweed, and a disco ball in the jungle. Huge article in the New York magazine. And my take on the issue here: "The troops advance not by close-order marching. They flow..."
Tulum - Environment - Festivals
Wednesday | January 23TH — 2019

You're Free, Kathy!

"Kathy Acker is a difficult subject for a biography, largely because she lied all the time. A pixie-cropped, tattooed, muscle-strapped icon of rebel literature, her confrontational autofiction broke ground, allowing other artists to make the mess of their lives into the medium of their work..." — Life as Art by Sarah Ditum / Literary Review

"As the group scrambled down a dune towards the sea, something baroque and awful happened: Frank Molinaro, the odd one out, astrologer, the one nobody liked, rushed up and grabbed the vase from Viegener's hands. He ran toward the sea tossing handfuls of ash and bone while he proclaimed – "You're free, Kathy! You're finally free!" – before Viegener [Acker's executor] wrested it back. It was bitter cold, and no matter how hard they tried, no one could toss the ashes into the waves, because the wind blew them back..." — What Does Kathy Acker Deserve? by Josephine Livingstone / The New Republic

The Blue Tape, one hour long "truth-and-sex" tape made by Acker and Alan Sondheim in 1974.
Kathy Acker - Autofiction
Thursday | January 10TH — 2019

Hidden Origins: Close as it Gets

Opening Tulum Tree House tomorrow for the next 10 days showcasing the Hidden Origins program – in half-secrecy. Given the transformation of Tulum in the last few years since we first set foot in the jungle, this new project is not exactly an emulation of Papaya Playa Project circa 2011-2013, if at all, which would simply be impossible today in the area – let alone in the peak season (not an operative notion until recently). But still it's closer to our old school PPP than, perhaps, the PPP itself these days. Closer in the sense that TTH/Hidden Origins is not in the least about busting ghosts chasing them through the jungle with lasers and phasers for the stupid spectator thrill of it. Back in the days, the ghosts of Maya – along with turtles and other near extinct indigenous fauna – were considered respectfully untouchable, not to mess with by any means, when every extra candle of illumination for human convenience (never excitement) was to be negotiated with their local guardian-mediums.
Wednesday | January 9TH — 2019

PPP in Two Parts

From my dilapidated video archive: Tulum 2010-2012 in two parts of raw footage covering from start the times when we would – in January being the peak season – hang on the beach at night under the stars and shoot generous rounds of cheap warm tequila directly from the bottle to the moon. Two of us (or three to inculcate an occasional stray backpacker) would be making up the entire occupancy at Papaya Playa for months. The times when sometimes – the sky opaque with dense low clouds permitting no celestial light for guidance – I would have to crawl on my dogie four through the jungle, to my sketchy stick'n'straw cabana, in slow precautious motion, face down, one trembling hand desperately stretching forward as a sensor tentacle probing the absolute darkness ahead for natural danger and the miracle of salvation therein, blind eyes shut deep tight in the sockets not to lose the balls in the thorny bushes and minimizing the risk of other imminent injuries, which, given the rock'n'roll terrain, could not be any less than instantly fatal. Good times!
Monday | December 24th — 2018

Music for Empty Rooms

It likes drones, monotonic synth pads, analogue sound, mumbling instead of singing... It is free not to entertain anyone other than itself. It does not have to be cute or wear a rubber smile. Here it feels being personal, a bit dark, dreamy, contemplative. Sometimes it complains or just tries to annoy you. Then it bursts into a laughter. Other times it is sentimental.. and the next moment it suddenly turns mechanical and unaware of itself. It's like a real person – manifesting numerous conflicting thoughts and the full spectrum of human emotions. Recorded one long sleepless night at Schloss Beesenstedt couple of years ago. Lost and now found.
Sunday | December 23rd — 2018

Time Machine of Manners

I would give all my fortune to read about our "delicate manners" – 500 years from now.

"It does not befit a modest, honorable man ... to wash his hands on returning to decent society from private places, as the reason for his washing will arouse disagreeable thoughts in people. It is far less proper to hold out the stinking thing for the other to smell, lifting the foul-smelling thing to his nostrils and saying, "I should like to know how much that stinks", when it would be better to say, "Because it stinks do not smell it." — Galateo: A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners by Florentine Giovanni Della Casa (1503–56).

Immensely influential courtesy book of the Renaissance exploring subjects such as dress, table manners, and conversation. It was translated into French, English, Latin, Spanish, and German. It is generally agreed that, given the popularity and impact of Galateo, the cultural elite of the Italian Renaissance taught Europe how to behave. The work set the foundation for modern etiquette writers and authorities on manners.

"One should not annoy others with such stuff as dreams, especially since most dreams are by and large idiotic."
Manners - Galateo
Thursday | December 20th — 2018

No to Perfect Mediocrity

Edward Steichen photographed two world wars. He also photographed Einstein's theory of relativity, his cat, his brother-in-law, matches, angry multi-millionaires, and the same cup and saucer set over two thousand times...

"It is an error common to many artists, who strive merely to avoid mistakes, when all our efforts should be to create positive and important work. Better positive and important with mistakes and failures than perfect mediocrity." Here is a beautiful old documentary (excerpt) in the Masters of Photography series.

Edward Steichen, 1964, 35mm, b/w, 30min. Vimeo.
Edward Steichen