in conversation with
Alex Nodopaka: Frankly speaking, not only does your background impress me but you sent me scurrying looking up "symbolic logic". At first I thought it was a simple word association but I see that there's a whole section of studies devoted to it. Also, just in passing, we have a common friend with whom I communicate on occasion on poetry forums, he is Don Schaeffer, who retired professionally from his career as a social phrenologist and now his claim to fame is phenomenological poet! If interested you may reconnect.
I come back from investigating 'symbolic logic' armed with the following question: does inventing significance for new word confuse the outcome as it also does in psychology and psychiatry that also invented their particular meanings for creating novel definitions for common words and words associations?
Onward I go. The whole point of fixating on art or music or whatever, is to be able to draw the line between total immersion and having the nose just above the surface. I agree it is a difficult proposition because it prevents the experimenter from submitting completely to an experience, from which one may never return to tell the final effects.
Thanks for my birthday wishes. I sure appreciate that. I celebrated in style at a Sushi place in Santa Ana that I discovered 6 months ago and already spent enough to maybe buy their stock on the NY Stock Exchange.
As a matter of fact I toasted not only to Gerri's health and successful rehab but since I had a 6-glass Sake sampler I threw your name in and washed it down with a whole Kirin beer.
Things jumped the devil here a little bit the last 3 weeks since January 10. My wife, Gerri, was hospitalized and subsequently had back surgery. Fusion of 3 adjoining vertebras. She barely now started walking with the help of a walker at the rehab center.
I have been busy not only visiting her twice a day during her 3-week hospitalization but the dog and home responsibilities took precedence over meaningful correspondences.
In the meanwhile I wait for your latest artwork. I earnestly look forward to seeing your miniature with the help of a large loupe over my desk. It is professionally ringed by if not a fluorescent light then by celestial fireworks... haha!
Your worries I understand of being overtaken by phantasmal thoughts. I hope they don't and that it is solely your excitement at doing one in the last 6 years that is thrilling you. Try to disassociate and practice being a spectator.
Hmm! Do you care to share with me your book ideas?
As for me I've written a couple of science inspired poem. Nothing truly out of the ordinary except that I've related optics in one and arithmetic in another. They were inspired after an evening spent in Pasadena with a special NASA scientist/poet guest who honored our Salon of Ars & Poetas.
Hoping this missive greets you in a contented mood.
Matthew Rounsville: I'm so sorry for what's going on with Gerri. In an odd parallel, I am going through a similar thing. Juliet, who I've been with for six years, was in a horrible ski accident last Friday. She broke her upper femur, shattered it into three pieces. She is currently in a rehab center--gets out Tuesday. Her mother is flying in tomorrow, to be able to take care of Juliet for a while. It's been so hectic for me this past week. Ping pong between school and the hospital. I've felt like I haven't been there enough for Juliet, and, at the same time, I'm falling behind on my schoolwork--so it feels like no matter what I do, I can't do the right thing. There's been no time for art. Tomorrow though I hope to squeeze in several hours, finish the drawing I mentioned and also start something a bit more rudimentary, some mixture of dried flowers and drawing--not really anything, more of an exercise. I feel bad for not catching a ride to Burlington (I don't have a license--long story), but I am really worn out and need a break. The stress of my rather intense schoolwork and worrying about Juliet has been overwhelming--and I need a moment to breathe. I've spent the entire day today catching up on schoolwork--still have about an hour to go, working on physics--Gauss' Law. I am a bit of a contradiction in that I am so indifferent to the world that I can handle virtually any situation without losing my composure, but, at the same time, on the interior, I am overwhelmed by everything, so, while I can handle these things on one level, I also cannot--there's no release valve.
The two book ideas are very similar. The major one was an idea I had six years ago. There was a young woman I was close with just before I met Juliet. Beautiful, one of those people that just had a "spark" about them. We had a brief and very intense relationship--in a 3 month span had basically shared everything about ourselves, had a beautiful way of communicating, when, interpersonally, I am conservative and all but mute, normally--I tend to be too intense, so I usually just go into a shell of indifference around people. I don't know what happened--maybe it was too much too fast, or I wasn't psychologically ready--but it just fizzled out. At the end of 2015, I found out that she had died of a drug overdose, which was pretty shattering to me. Shortly after we met, I had this idea for a book. Basically: two creative people live in a house that she inherited. At the time, the book was nothing but image, fantasy--pretty flimsy, which is why I never did anything with it. Two fragile but brilliant people constructing their own finite world within walls, the outside world being something they maybe can't handle. Beautiful chaos within. A sort of amoral celebration. With Jane's death, I realized that death itself was probably the missing ingredient. That their kind of wounded, creative utopia was something that couldn't last--its very fragility, its pending collapse perhaps making it more beautiful. So the task is to construct this sort of pouring beauty, these games of creation and relation, but also weave through it, subtly, the premonition of destruction. My description still sounds flimsy, but I've written many pages of notes. It's a bit like Maurice Blanchot/Lautreamont/Leonora Carrington, although more sensual, more evocative of the senses. It is called An Edifice.
Alex Nodopaka: I say again you are a mountain of education. Again you introduced me to Maurice Blanchot whom of the three I didn't know. Well, in regard your literary thought, in a nutshell, that's what fiction is all about. Like you say everything is a bit flimsy until you get hold of it and put it in a vase so to speak, like threading all the signature into a book where all the pages form a whole. In effect you are undergoing the anxiety Maurice Blanchot speaks about.
The title An Edifice is quite telling and appropriate to the planned content.
By the way I own a splendid small bronze sculpture signed by Leonora Carrington... probably a perfect Mexican forgery since that's where I bought it from.
Matthew Rounsville: The other book is very similar, in that it also takes place in an enclosed space (I once started a series of drawings, intended to become oil paintings, called In a Room). This is called A Description of a Room. Many years ago I had a conversation with a good friend about poetry and writing. He was telling me that my writing was so detailed, the descriptions so intricate. I disagreed with him, said that far more is always omitted than said. I then said that I could write an entire book just describing the contents of my bedroom--description of something being something far more detailed than simply naming it. For some reason, probably because I've been thinking so much of interiority (reading Blanchot, Merleau-Ponty, thinking about enclosed spaces for An Edifice), this statement of mine from what must have been 15 years ago, just popped back into my head, recently. It is also related to the way I'm attempting to fit art, creativity, back into my current life. A middle aged man rents a studio somewhere. An utter mess like Francis Bacon's studio. The question of whether it is an escape from his responsibilities or something essential to him, something that makes him a better person. Most of the writing is descriptive of the room and its contents.
Alex Nodopaka: Well, this also dovetails perfectly not only into the way your mind runs but in terms of what you may have in your own studio/space. As a matter of fact do you think it's worth sending me a photo of your workplace?
As to mess or neatness in a workspace to me is not relevant because if it influences one's creativity in one way or another can be as compelling. That is in its precise definitions of details or their absence that would be as telling in a work of fiction as you intend. It simply would be a matter how you start it. Infinity complex or infinity simple.
Matthew Rounsville: Through those insights can be made into his psyche. Or the protagonist should maybe be a woman, instead.
A few things happen there, but I almost want to limit all action to things which could almost be classifiable as "documents"--letters, emails, phone calls/voice mails, notebooks, datebooks. So description of contents, information by documents the main mechanism. But--this is just me thinking, now--the narration itself should maybe not be impartial. So where description of contents, information by documents provides all the information, the actual narration, the framing of such information, should almost come in the form of a question.
Alex Nodopaka: That is a very good question. Of course in a traditional sense male and female protagonists lend a multitude of personal characteristics as much as the imagination permits. Of course it could also be two women or two men. Heterosexual or homosexual/lesbian. Or to compound the complexity of psychologies they could be transgender. In which case you could combine male/ female commentaries/dialogues. In any of these case alien to you, you would involve personal experience or an enormous amount of researching.
Matthew Rounsville: As if the narrator was constantly asking itself, "What is that, really?" and "Why is that there?" and "Why did X say that?", in very great detail examining these things (to no avail). What I mean is that the meat of the "story" is an overabundance of detail, but the connective tissue is actually dissociative, a dearth of information and insight, revealing holes in this replete space, a confusion in the face of this overwhelming abundance. So while we're piecing together this person's life, this person's work, this person's psyche, at the same time all of it is being interrogated and made to look absurd in a way--so, for the whole book this life, inside and out, is being constructed, but at the same time all sense of continuity, causality, deeper reason is being shredded by thinking too closely about it. Looking too closely, thinking too closely, like the crest and trough of a wave--or both happening at the same time, in superposition, canceling out. Intuitively I like An Edifice more--sensual, evocative, passionate, a chaotic state of play against a backdrop of an external world that both know is too dangerous, powerful. But, intellectually, A Description of a Room is far more puzzling--and far harder to do well--which has its own appeal.
Alex Nodopaka: Here also you could loosely draw on Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. As a matter of fact I watch quite often Mysteries at the Museum. There, a single item brings on a whole fantastic tale.
OK, I hope some of my blurbing is useful.
Matthew Rounsville: With the background, the thing about me is that I never draw what I don't both see and feel. Each stroke was the result of a hard gaze at the page. I could use a process or procedure to give similar results, but it's important to me how I relate to what I do--that it is the product of a sort of relentless honesty of self and intention. I found that the more I worked on it, the quicker my vision was--the less doubts there were. I'm aware that automatism--something like Laure Pigeon, maybe--or random miniscule shape generation, or even something more kinesthetic--certain patterns of hand and wrist motions--could give something similar, but what I'm doing is looking at the grain of the page, then looking at the marks I made, expanding upon them, harmonizing with them with what I see. I like abstraction, but I also like to feel like what I do can exist, somewhere, as something, even if that something is forever obscure. I myself don't know what it is. I call it "noise", visual equivalent of listening to Merzbow or Maurizio Bianchi, but it is also very organic, sometimes entrails-like, sometimes even mechanical, insect-like. Maybe it's the schizophrenia talking, but, in my head, things are never one thing. In my dreams, all of the people and places that appear are amalgams, from many sources--a city is like New Orleans, for instance, in architecture, but with a sky I once saw in Arizona, and a layout more like another city. It is interesting that you brought up amniotic fluid, because when I said to myself, "I want to draw this", my initial instinct was to do something like that--have you ever seen a microscopic photograph of milk?--a very light background, with networks of connections, itself with a foreground and background, a sort of organic mesh. But then I started seeing other things, the moment the pencil touched the paper. The background was of an awkward darkness, so I had to keep the circles fairly right, but they didn't pop enough, so I had to outline them. With them they were a hybrid of a lot of things--spots on dried petals, moons or asteroids, crumpled shopping bags, bruises and wounds, probably other things which I didn't even realize. It's been six years since I've drawn, so it's rougher than I intended--although anything coming from me has an element of rawness to it, I idolize the finish of a Bronzino or Ingres. There's a large visual vocabulary I need--for it to be like the way I write, to be able to include virtually anything, to subtly refer to anything in my mind.
I don't know what the drawing means, as such. I was looking through Eva Hesse's drawings of circles, and I wondered to myself what they would be if they were alive. Not drawing for 6 years, an empty page is too filled with possibilities, so having a framework there--20 circles--enabled me to focus better. I'd tried earlier in the month to draw but was dissatisfied by the complexity of the composition--the sort of thing you see and kind of tumble into, if you can, a bit overwhelmed by the intricacy of it all, when I really wanted to do something that, in its way, gazed back--not really less intricate, but intricate within somewhat regular boundaries. The circles was also a sort of confrontation--since I'm all about asymmetry, organicism, detail, maybe a chaos of sorts--when I come across something rigid I want to start poking at it, making it more interesting by subjecting it to forces, trying to find what it would do if it had volition. Because, contrary to the science I'm studying (in my classes so much is so rigid, but out in the world and the universe, everything is so much more complex, so much richer, so bereft of straight lines and tidy classification), I find rigid frameworks and patterns to be sort of an absence of information, even a death--when energies and forces collide making things asymmetrical, when life abhors the perfectly straight line--rigid pattern is at least a form of stasis, homeostasis, what something would be if nothing else acted upon it. I just bought an Agnes Martin book just to see what I would see in her art--what will these grids and schemas appear as to me? What would I feel upon seeing it? What would its echo in me be?
This need to integrate, to simplify. The next thing I'm going to do is paste some dried petals--I don't know the name of the flower, but basically a sphere of radiating, nearly circular petals--onto the page, and then to draw based on those--connecting them, modulating them into other things. The two people in 'An Edifice' are artists--and the male artist's work consists of games, plagiarism, variations--what if artist x and y were amalgamated with the color/finish of artist z?--and images like spools of film (something I have done), each cell modifying the preceding one. Maybe I'm more interested, in this stage of my life, in doing something similar to that--in my own personal way, of course--because I know what drawing looks like to me, what I see when I close my eyes, what images keep recalling myself to my inner vision--so almost a game, "what would happen if...", submitting myself to a framework but retaining what is essentially me, simplified and distilled.
Thanks for your words. An Edifice is still what I'm thinking about the most. It can really develop into a tome, if I let it. There's just so much that I could put in it, from philosophy, psychology, aesthetics, to a unique interpersonal relationship, all in a sort of prose poetry equally at home with the evocative and the abstract. Part of what I want to do is to give an honest portrayal of an artist. I've noticed that nearly every artist depicted in literature and film is a stereotype or cliché, producing derivative work emblematic of the zeitgeist, lacking in a coherent, interesting aesthetics--or, if there is one, it is often far too narrow and hollow. So, in that house, there will be two. He's more complicated, recherché, but needing a certain stimulus in order to exist (like the music of Busoni--incredibly original, but the creative instinct is one of transformation, digestion, not conjuring from a void, per se)--with a certain feeling that all he does is representations of something, like a bad photocopy, at best getting the idea across, but more likely to distort that pure initial image, a purity that is overwhelming and like a horizon, never reachable. In my notes I wrote that she is a creator of "tiny, uninhabitable things," things which, unlike his work, seem to exist on their own accord, don't need a backstory or history or context in order to exist, are autonomous, all relevant information encoded in them, yet with a central mystery and complex strangeness that is organic, unruly. He wishes his work could be more like hers, considers hers to be purer, more real. The feeling that he is "technically better", somehow conceptually and procedurally more refined, yet the object of her work is far more powerful to him than anything he could do.
I need to discover more about her. I have pieces of her, right now. Some central memories, thoughts, secrets--though not with "il filo" (as Leopold Mozart wrote to his son, the "filo", the connective thread, should run through every work). I run the risk of objectifying her--object of desire, anomalous but almost deferred psychology, snippets of behavior and aesthetics--without the core of her getting across. "She" probably is an amalgam of Jane and Ariel (with whom I once lived and am currently doing some kind of collaborative postal art/writing something), probably more Ariel, who is probably the most interesting person I've ever met (my standards of what is interesting probably differing from most--I am fascinated by introverted, seeking, intelligent, creative people).
As for him, he is probably me, more or less. Some idealization, a few differences, but the core the same. In psychological jargon, one of the core phenomenological aspects of schizophrenia is called "disturbed ipseity"-- this perception of an inexistent self, or a self that is somehow altered, incomplete, unknowable, an object instead of a subject, which is also the primary symptom of depersonalization disorder. It's the one symptom I have had that has always been there, has never diminished. I have an incredibly large ego--there's a bit of Michelangelo and Beethoven to my psyche-- but my sense of self has always felt labile, dreamlike, like the self has had a veil dropped over it--I'm aware what I am capable of in terms of intelligence and creativity, but the central "I" that all that revolves around has never felt real to me. I am the most passive person I know (hence 6 years of largely dormant creativity, when in a relationship with someone who had a vision of what our life would be like), sort of a feeling camera, someone who wants to be invisible, to see everything as if I am not there--the world makes more sense to me, this way. When I lived with Ariel, we hardly interacted, except under the influence of alcohol/other chemicals, because I was so fascinated by her that I wanted to witness a her that wasn't altering itself in order to try to reach/understand/feel me--I wanted to see who she really was, not who she could be to me.
I guess the main idea is that two people with incredibly rich inner worlds start letting that out into a shared space, letting them interact--the world outside unknowable, dangerous. Beauty, horror, introspection, a certain danger and precariousness to who they are.
I hope you're having a good one. What are you working on? I have another hour of studying to do--Electrophysics, interesting, although I haven't quite "gotten" it yet.