Aristotle differentiated humans from their animal counterparts by dint of logos, the power of rational speech. Napoleon was attributed the quote, “four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” Human civilization was founded on the exercise of this divine faculty, and is destroyed by it in equal measure. Speech, in its complexity and weight, is the only world capable of rivaling nature.
This week, in view of two ponderous interviews, I ask you to summon to mind those rare and revelatory conversations that have left an indelible imprint on your life. What intimate discussion would you revisit and savor, if you were aware of the contents beforehand? What words of the past would be left unsaid or better spoken with the retrospective guidance of age?
Abstract acrylic painter Jeannie Motherwell refuses to grow cold in the artistic shadow of her father and stepmother, Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler. As a stable ecosystem quells its wrestling constituents, Motherwell’s refined intuition hushes the spontaneous boundaries of dilating paint on clayboard and canvas. Over a soberly spoken interview, the New York artist admits in her work the faint pursuit of a faded horizon: the shifting waters from the view of an old home, replaced, in time, by a windowless studio. The methodology of Motherwell’s art – to draw a structure from an uncertainty – eerily echoes a ritual from her upbringing: discerning, with the right words, to the joy of her guardians, the spiritual essences behind their cascades of paint.
Inexhaustible curator and researcher Ele Carpenter maintains that the lasting footprint of humanity will not be a monument or an idea, but a radioactive glare. Radioactive isotopes of a unique breed first entered the Earth’s atmosphere with the testing of the earliest nuclear bomb, signalling the beginning of a geological period known as the nuclear anthropocene. Dedicated to disseminating information about the irreversible changes to the environment caused by human hand, Carpenter organizes discourse and collaboration on a global scale, uniting scientists, activists, and visionaries in the depiction of a haunting reality that eludes the senses.
Looking for new additions to your reading list? Rachel Wolfe, one of our users, is deconstructing and rebuilding her fundamental conceptions of nature and mind. Sensitive Chaos, by Theodor Schwenk, vacillates between rigorous and metaphorical depictions of the underlying systems of movement that govern aeolian and liquid dynamics, from the furious dance of a hurricane to the soft aria of a developing child. Strange Tools, by Alva Noe, is a philosophical text that sees artmaking as a faculty for reflection, a primordial instinct that consciously and unconsciously takes stock of the external conditions that govern our identities and worldview.
Occupy Museums is seizing the means of cultural production with Debtfair, an exhibition dedicated to the overworked and underfunded. Creators, performers, and thinkers with financial weights on their shoulders have until December 9th to see their arduous narrative showcased in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Debtfair serves to expose the aggressive business models that permeate leading art institutions, while encouraging solidarity amongst all encumbered populations of the economically segmented social landscape. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but no artist needs to bear the burden of Atlas.
The great American poet Wallace Stevens, envisioning life’s origins with a brain that thought without words, once instructed, “Begin, ephebe, by perceiving the idea / Of this invention, this invented world, / The inconceivable idea of the sun.”