impotent the flow of years...
The element of time brought up in the first bundle of this series is in the undertow of each week’s theme. It seems that what you take is only worth what you keep, what you know is only worth what you remember, etc. Hurt has a history too. Since removing my bandage it has been part of my morning and evening routine to applying a silicone gel that will efface the scar left by the stitched-up oyster wound.
Ideally I will bear no sign of my accident—my skin itself wants to forget the recent past and remember a more distant and standard past, knitting ingeniously, re-drawing on their regular paths across the scar-line the natural lines some believe tell the future. In contrast to arches and pyramids, my body’s memory is anti-monumental in that its homeostasis ignores history. Or something like that. In my thesis I tell the story of the Trophy of Marathon, the first monument in the ‘Western’ world. It was a permanent version of a kind of structure that had been hitherto strictly ephemeral. Something that expressed a whole ethics of forgetfulness became all about remembering.
The virtue of Fortitude or Strength is shown holding on to (sometimes clinging uncomfortable, sometime proudly toting) a column. It is always broken but intact, either because the figure is “keeping it together” or because it withstood the damage.
The column component of the Trophy of Marathon has been reconstructed by archaeologists according to surviving fragments.
“What would happen if all of the monuments of the ancients survived? The moderns would have nowhere to put their own. Could you really hope that 360 statues stay upright for long? Can’t you see your glory takes up too much space?”
—Herostratus speaking in Fontenelle’s
Dialogue des morts (1683)
My studio in Paris looked onto a monument to the fallen of the Korean War. I could also see the Notre Dame being restored, and the Panthéon dedicated to the memory of dead persons who have steered the course of French history.
I don’t think any of these
inspired my own column.
Spargelzeit (detail) | 2020-21 | tinted plaster, porcelain, pastel and charcoal on paper | H 120 cm
Spargelzeit (detail) | 2020-21 | tinted plaster, porcelain,
pastel and charcoal on paper | H 120 cm
Spring means white asparagus in certain European countries. In Germany the brief period when they can be enjoyed has its own name: die Spargelzeit. The spears are white because they are grown inside mounds of soil. I bought a bunch intending to cook them but left them in a saucepan and liked the look so much I left them there. Slowly, marvellously, the sun turned them pink.
I made drawings and took photographs of all this, as I did of virtually everything during my stay in Paris. I was monumentalising. After I had returned, a friend in Sydney asked for a copy of the drawing I had made of the asparagus in the pot. Making it felt strange. I think the copy is better than the original; it is embellished with imitation silver leaf.
As you would have noticed, when it joins Impotent the flow of years... and gets tied up with the rest, there is no drawing. Maybe the pink spears hardened into the fluting of the column, maybe the porcelain sheets I was trying became impossible—at any rate the blank is more beautiful. And this way, instead of memorialising something you can memorialise anything—or nothing.
“...to the place where he is wont to bathe”
After the day’s war, habits
The will tosses salads of ruin of
Salad days wilted or
Worse for vermin.
The animals make blunt forays.
Enough like a phone ringing in
A handbag is
Life as it ticks sloppy inside
The crocodile in the wild in the zoo.
The bees have virtues...
They knew their work would bring you
With the jars and bottles
Into which kings were decanted
In the kingdom of mottoes.
You come to the cleared place,
Sump it is, not wholly
Like a fly and not merely lazy,
But because elsewhere (far-off,
Too-full) is beyond you.
Resting so after the day’s war
On smooth-rock pillows,
Native to, and for post and lintel,
The world’s madness
And the madeness of the world.