news

onsite facebook group

Rodrigo Barros, 'Ideological Cartography of America' in On Site review 31: mapping | photography, Spring 2014

 

This essay begins with a quote from Vicente Huidobro's Altazor:
'The four cardinal points are three: South and North.'

Rodrigo Barros is an architect, musician and activist from Valparaíso, Chile. He is as interested in a critical and emancipatory practice and thinking of architecture as in freejazz-punk-dub and the poetry of everyday life. You can read his essay HERE.

previous essays of the week:

Thomas-Bernard Kenniff, 'Ethics and Publics' in  On Site review 30: ethics+publics, Fall 2013.

Joshua Craze, 'Under the Soil, the People' in On Site review 29: geology, Spring 2013.

Hector Abarca. 'Revisiting PREVI: housing as a basic right, from Lima to Vancouver' in On Site review30:ethics and publics  Fall 2013

Jeffrey Olinger.  'Interstitial.  The International Criminal Court, The Hague'  in On Site review30:ethics and publics  Fall 2013

Jessica Craig.  'Terrain Vague' in On Site review30:ethics and publics, Fall 2013

Clint Langevin, Amy Norris, Chester Rennie.  'The Sisyphus Project', in On Site review 29: geology, Spring 2013.

dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. - See more at: http://asymptotejournal.com/about.php#sthash.fr9ff00H.dpuf
dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. - See more at: http://asymptotejournal.com/about.php#sthash.fr9ff00H.dpuf
dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. - See more at: http://asymptotejournal.com/about.php#sthash.fr9ff00H.dpuf

Paper Monument is a print journal of contemporary art published by n+1 and designed by Project Project

Wasteland Twinning Network hijacks the concept of ‘City Twinning’ and applies it to urban Wastelands in order to generate a network for parallel research and action.

deepest modernism: discussions from Peru

 

criticat: revue semestrielle de critique d’architecture

French publishing house: great catalogues that look east and south, not just west.

[brkt] 2 Goes Soft, edited by Neeraj Bhatia and Lola Sheppard. 'Soft refers to responsive, indeterminate, flexible and immaterial systems that operate through feedback, organization and resilience. These complex systems transform through time to acknowledge shifting and indeterminate situations — characteristics that are evident both in the dynamics of contemporary society and the natural environment'.

Darwin Grenwich sails the oceans of the world on Blue Monday, a CS36 traditional sloop, while maintaining his IT support business by email and on VOIP (403-283-1340). He is especially good on Macs.

 

 

who we are

acknowledgements

The Canada Council for the Arts Grants to Literary and Arts Magazines

Saskatchewan Association of Architects

Calgary Arts Development Authority, City of Calgary, Alberta

On Site is a Magazines Canada member

Powered by Squarespace
current issue

on site revew 31:: mapping | photography

on site review 30: ethics and publics

On Site review: other ways to talk about architecture and urbanismContains things you will never find anywhere else.

back issues

29: geology

28: sound

27: rural urbanism

on site 26: DIRTonsite 25: identity online

onsite 24: migration onlineonsite 23: small things online

read onsite 22: WAR online

On Site 22: WAR has sold out in the print version, but you can read it online

read onsite 21: weather online

read onsite 20: museums and archives onlineonsite 20 individually archived articles

onsite 20:museums and archives has sold out in the print version, but you can read it online

read onsite 19: streets onlineOn Site 19 has sold out in the print version, but you can read it online.

onsite 19 individually archived articles

read onsite 18: culture onlineonsite 18 individually archived articles

onsite17 individually archived articles

Monday
Apr072014

Phyllida Barlow, dock 2014

Phyllida Barlow, dock 2014. Tate Britain, London

Phyllida Barlow is the artist chosen for the Tate Britain Commission of 2014 and her work has recently opened – riotous spills of debris from the doorways and halls of the neo-classical Duveen Galleries.

The Tate Gallery has always been about British art and there has been much problematising of its founding and its legacy: Tate & Lyle was a Victorian Quaker sugar refinery established after the abolition of slavery, nonetheless sugar as a prime commodity was part of the infamous Atlantic Triangle of the eighteenth century: Africa for slaves sent to the Americas to extract resources shipped to Europe for refinement and consumption. The International Slavery Museum shares the Albert Dock with Tate Liverpool.  Henry Tate had the Tate Gallery built to house his art collection which he donated to the state. Duveen was an art dealer whose family wealth came from importing art and antiques to Britain.  He funded the extension of the original 1890s Tate in 1926 and again in 1937.  Patrons and collectors of art – Clore: finance, property, retail, Courtauld: textiles, Tate: sugar — without them, and many others, Britain wouldn't have its public galleries at all.  

With this kind of financial, industrial and accumulative spatiality, Phyllida Barlow's work is particularly human, warm, messy, chaotic, inexpensive, temporal and ephemeral. She has worked her whole career with detritus gathered from skips and building sites.  Her project is not the diamond encrusted skull that critiques the twenty-first century art market, rather it is the making of 'things' from rich found materials, the assembly of structures from the unusable. Barlow herself saw the Duveen site as having 'two particular contradictory aspects: the tomb-like interior galleries against the ever-present aspect of the river beyond'.  dock ambles and shambles through several galleries with vast paintings pinned to complex wooden constructions that both crawl and tower.  It is, apparently, much like most of Barlow's work: massive installations that are dismantled after their exhibition, i.e. work with no commercial value but clearly of great import.

dock isn't just great piles of junk; the name itself takes one to the noise, the cranes, the hectic nature of docks from a time when they dealt with more than just shipping containers.  Once on a passenger ship docked briefly at Le Havre, I watched as a crate of wine being winched aboard fell back to the dock splintering into a pile of sticks, bleeding burgundy across the concrete.  Docks were full of tremendous incident.  Even watching logs loaded at the CPR docks in tiny Nanaimo was fraught.  

Although I can't see Phyllida Barlow's dock, from the photographs one senses that these pieces must rustle and creak – they are wood, wood always moves.  Leaving the term dock aside, as sculptures they are unfixed, they cannot be perceived without walking in, around and through them, as one does architecture.  The scope of this installation is complex and extended, it rings of bomb sites and redevelopment clearance, poverty and an obsessive love of materials, no matter what their status. 

Phyllida Barlow, dock 2014. Tate Britain, London

Friday
Mar282014

Powell & Moya, Skylon, 1951

The Dome Model with Si Sillman (bending), Buckminster Fuller, Elaine de Kooning, Roger Lovelace, and Josef Albers. Photo by Beaumont Newhall. Courtesy of the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Estate, Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd., Santa Fe, New Mexico. © Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Estate.
As we have a call for articles out for On Site review 32: weak systems.  I've been thinking of such things: Buckminster Fuller's postwar experiments with geodesics and space frames: how light can structure be – how much material can be removed so that what is left is the stress diagram alone?  Jeffrey Lindsay was one of his young engineers – from Montreal, ex-RCAF WWII pilot. It all coalesced evidently in 1948 at Black Mountain College where a combination of sculptors, Josef Albers, John Cage, Fuller, Merce Cunningham and ex-pilot engineering students who had learned about geodetics as navigational theory (straight lines that describe a sphere) experimented with building domes out of lath.  

Lindsay moved to southern California, but continued to work with both Fuller and other architects: he was the engineer for the vast space frame at Simon Fraser University, 1966.  If you look him up on wikipedia there is a huge image of Fuller's geodesic dome for the US pavilion at Expo 67.  These are dramatic structures: transparent, minimal material with huge impact: architecture no longer a solid against the world, but a structural system that mediates between internal space and the outside – it turns the outside into a romantic vision of otherness, seen through a scrim.


Powell & Moya, Skylon, Festival of Britain, London. 1951.And from a different angle altogether, another example of structural minimalism is Powell & Moya's 1951 Skylon, the overriding symbol of a magical technological future for Britain.  It really was a lovely thing, a javelin balanced on three slack cables strung from three steel posts canted away from the centre to balance the weight of the skylon.  It is stabilised by near-invisible guy wires. How exhilarating it must have been to see, unlike anything that had ever come before.   This was not to be inhabited but to be looked at: straight symbolism, which was also its downfall as it was dismantled and cut up for scrap when the government changed from Labour who used the Festival of Britain as an event to mark the change in Britain's fortunes –away from rationing and bomb sites to a gleaming future; not surprising that it fell given the postwar economic state – to the Conservatives under Churchill, cold warriors who felt Britain should recover its imperial trappings from half a century and two world wars earlier.  

I don't think American structural minimalism ever had this political charge – postwar United States was in its technological ascendency, a consequence of the space race, another cold war contest. The American reaction was to rush toward this conflict, rather than bluster about a glorious past.

Wednesday
Mar262014

John Stezaker on collage

In this lull while On Site reivew 31: mapping | photography is being printed, forgive me if I am over-enthusiastic about Gestalten, a Berlin publisher of all things architecture and design, which I have just discovered.  There is gestalten.tv, which these videos come from, there are stores, there are fonts, there is much to look at and think about. 

This is an interview with John Stezaker on collage, which he sees as a subtraction of material rather than the building up of material usually attributed to it.  And he comments on the sheer weight of images we live under, that the bombardment of images reveals an 'unconscious mythology' made evident.  He works in film - this excerpt opens with a bit of one. 

I've always thought in Stezaker's work there was more than a passing reference to the German collagists of the 1930s and 40s – Hannah Hoch for example, especially in Stezaker's use of images from that era, reassembled in an eery grotesque, but when he speaks about it, you get a different sense, of someone who is working almost as a photographer capturing moments where the scene suddenly assembles itself and speaks.

 

John Stezaker—Resonating Nostalgic Lyricism from Gestalten on Vimeo.

Tuesday
Mar252014

the violence of drawing: Yara Pina, 2011

From The Drawing Center's description:

Yara Pina is one of 54 artists chosen for The Drawing Center’s new Open Sessions program, which will  explore drawing as an expansive practice, tool, metaphor and  theme. Open Sessions offers alternative opportunities for contextualizing and exhibiting artwork, bringing a range of artists into conversation with each other. Pina’s work dialogues with traditional drawing by using one of its most tried-and-true tools, charcoal, to aggressively deconstruct the gallery space.

Yara Pina. Untitled 4, 2012 ; Untitled 2, 2011 - videos in loop from Yara Pina on Vimeo.

Thursday
Mar202014

The Weather Diaries, 2014

News of this, The Weather Diaries, Nordic Fashion Biennale, by Cooper & Gorfer, came by way of Nicole Dextras, no slouch at weather herself.

The video is a look at a very distant, very connected, place.

The Weather Diaries, Nordic Fashion Biennale by Cooper & Gorfer from Gestalten on Vimeo.

The Weather Diaries, Nordic Fashion Biennale by Cooper & Gorfer from Gestalten on Vimeo.

 

Tuesday
Mar182014

Afterlife, 2013

The Arcade Fire video, Afterlife, directed by the remarkable Emily Kai Bock.

Thursday
Mar132014

London calling

Joe Strummer, London Calling, circa 1979

Yes, it is writing, a heap of writing, the sign of the hand, a document of visual culture, but it also sings at us embedding the music, the words, the exhilaration of hearing it again, and again for the rest of the day.  I don't need the recording, it is in this scrap of paper. 

Tuesday
Mar112014

Robert Smithson: a heap of language, 1966

Robert Smithson. A Heap of Language, 1966. pencil drawing, 6 1/2 x 22 inches. The Over Holland Collection. © Estate of Robert Smithson

My sense of language is that it is matter and not ideas - i.e., "printed matter". R.S.June 2, 1972.

The Writings of Robert Smithson, edited by Nancy Holt, New York, New York
University Press, 1979

Monday
Mar102014

before delete, cut and paste

The first two pages of chapter 11 of Jane Austen's manuscript of Persuasion, written in 1816 and published, after her death, in 1818. The British Library, Shelfmark: Egerton MS 3038, ff.9v-10.

The original pages appear to have been trimmed and pasted onto larger sheets and bound into a book.  Slow composition, time to smooth out thoughts and ideas.  Do ideas come to us more quickly because we can now type more quickly?  or is writing with a straight pen a form of editing as you go.

Why do I turn so often to images of handwriting?  Perhaps because it is a form of drawing, mark-making, with its own rhythms based in the hand, the arm and the body; the hand, the pen and the ink; the brain, the hand, the words.

Thursday
Mar062014

Jonas Dahlberg: memory wound, 2014

Jonas Dahlberg. Memory Wound, winning competition entry to Memorial Sites After 22 July. image: Jonas Dahlberg Studio

Memory Wound, above, is one of three memorials to the victims of the massacre at Utøya, Norway in 2011.  The rock cut out of the Sørbråten peninsula to make the channel will be used to make another memorial in Oslo on the site of a car bomb, also Anders Breivik's responsibility.  

According to The Guardian, Dahlberg has spoken of poetic rupture, beauty indissolubly linked to loss. One wall of the cut is inscribed with the names of the children killed, the other is carved out into a ledge from which to view the names.  The cut is aligned with Utøya – it doesn't eradicate Utøya by being placed literally on the site of the massacre itself.

This is how such massively inexplicable deaths are memorialised these days, by massive land art.  There is little else that we feel is significant enough to approach the scale of war, for this was an act of war between a race-based fundamentalism and an unwitting, wealthy, liberal and secular populace.  It seems to be too difficult to explain how Anders Breivik came to be, the best we can do is to set up sites where we can contemplate what he did.  Memory Wound is a powerful place to do this; does it address the rise of anti-islamic fundamentalism in Europe? Not really, it addresses the children, their absence – the effect of a cause that remains active, not absent.

Land art puts human activities into the context of the earth as a planet, the sun as a star, time measured in light years – things almost beyond comprehension for all we have been taught how geology and astronomy works.  These things have become our ineffable, things so detached from the development of the human race that they absorb human failings.  It's cosmic and all, but there are other Breiviks out there, and they are unmoved.  

Wednesday
Mar052014

John Thomas Serres: an artist in the Channel Fleet, 1799-1800

John Thomas Serres, Point de Roquilon, France. Captain M. K. Barritt. Eyes of the Admiralty: J T Serres, An Artist in the Channel Fleet, 1799-1800. London: National Maritime Museum, 2014. Image: United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. Don't think you'll find it on the UKHO website however, this appears to be a working website of great complexity for contemporary documents, maps, charts and shipping publications.

About the time I was young and tooling around on a little sailboat in Nanaimo Harbour, I found a book of drawings of the BC coast done by an artist on Captain Vancouver's ship. They looked much like Serres' paintings (above) – navigation charts, meant to point out signal points, rocks bays, harbours and dangers.  These and Vancouver's drawings, which I've never been able to find again, delineated land, not from land itself but from an opposing position on the water.  The land is the objective other.  

It is interesting, from our map-dominated representations of land today, that in the eighteenth century elevations were as necessary as reckoning by the sun: they are visual one-to-one maps without translation to a plan.  Of course they eventually had charts, but Vancouver was in uncharted territory: a drawing or a painting bypassed translation, gave the context and the scale of the coast, especially if it was potentially hostile.  

From the water, the land-bound built environment is very small – a toytown between the sky, the mountains and the sea, all huge. Even approaching a city such as Vancouver by ferry, its complex urbanity is itself but a pale cluster, not very tall, almost irrelevant.  From the middle of the strait one can see that the Island is the top of a mountain range, that the strait is full of small islands, that there are dozens of boats from tugs to freighters, container ships to barges: daily life on a terrain that remains mysterious to those on land.

Monday
Mar032014

on metaphor

James Gallagher, Domestic 2, collage, 2010 

This is how many of us feel after the grant and essay submission deadlines of last week – the whole community of architects who write or curate exhibitions, or try for the Prix de Rome, and publishers of same, and then [brkt] setting its call for submissions deadline on the same day: it did a lot of people in.  

James Gallagher feels (as quoted by Rick Poyner in 'Collage Now') that 'collage is the perfect medium for coming to terms with a culture saturated in images, both printed and online ... today's collage artists carve out fragments from this frenzy and force the disparate pieces to become one...'   This is probably the definition of all art, that one accumulates things: ideas, marks, scraps of paper perhaps, maps, photos – everything trailing histories, accumulated meanings, ambitions and contexts – and then makes something out of them, in some other medium. 

I doubt that fragments ever re-coalesce to 'become one' leaving their separateness behind.  Rather they are used to force a metaphor that might have some sort of unity, but which is only effective if it is complex and layered enough to cut through the frenzy of information, images and ideas with which we are surrounded.  But is this frenzy actually a frenzy, or is it just a very rich world we live in?

In previous times it was probably organised belief systems that sorted out our information for us; in a secular world lots of other things step in and on competing terrains of ideology and politics we are confused.  We have always turned to art to make sense of things in that completely illogical way that artists consume and transform and represent the confusing, from mediaeval religious icons that stood in for the utterly ineffable, to poets that crammed it all into fourteen lines, to composers who shout into an open piano, as did John Tavener for The Whale, planting the transcendent and very useful understanding of metaphor firmly into our young heids.

Whether or not metaphor is actually what allows me to make sense of things, I don't really care.  It does, and that'll do.

Tuesday
Feb252014

Saskia Sassen: dense urbanised terrain – not a city

Uneven Growth, Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities. Part of a series, this one with Saskia Sassen, on the MoMAmultimedia site.

Monday
Feb242014

Thomas Morrison: families on the isle of Lewis, 1900s

Island life: a Lewis family, photographed by Norman Morrison in the first decade of the 1900s. Photograph: Tormod an t-Seòladair

The kinds of faces that built Canada, Highlanders and Islanders from Scotland. These, from Lewis, were photographed when they didn't know what they looked like – there is no rearranging of their faces for the camera: this was them.  No one is allowed that grim set to the mouth anymore, even if you actually feel it.  

For such a hard life, living in that pile of stones and sods that is a black house, every woman has a bit of lace somewhere - a collar, a shawl, a bed cover — clearly something so clean and precious, in which to invest one's pride.  

The image above is linked to an article on how the photos were found, and the one below takes you to a slide show of them.

A family group taken between 1910 and 1920. Photograph: Tormod an t-Seòladair . This was the era of mass emigration from Scotland to the Canadian West, especially; my own great grandparents in 1910 for example. It was hard in Scotland, it was hard on the Canadian prairies.

Monday
Feb242014

celebrity

architect: Joshua Prince-Ramus. photographer: Bjarne Jonasson, stylist: Tasha Green. New York Times, 2014

okay, here is the ultimate expression of architecture's current stars: a Wall Street Journal article from January 2014 on what they call Koolhaas's protegés, cleverly named as out of the Rem Schoolhaas. ho ho.  I had a friend who went off to work in Koolhaas's studio in 1984 or so, and found it really grim, utilitarian, hyper-efficient: they got work done.  This is the antithesis of the WSJ article, that carefully sets up young people who have worked with him, left him, and now dress in Prada and Lanvin.  Is Koolhaas responsible for this?  I don't think so.  

Koolhaas writes, he is clever, he has a photogenic topographic Dutch face, he had many years in the conceptual wilderness of the 1970s before he even got on the lecture circuit.  OMA started with Koolhaas, Madelon Vriesendorp, Elia and Zoe Zenghelis, passionate Europeans to the core; they started small, interesting and significant. His protegés are more savvy however, they trade on his name.  How, on earth, would they ever have agreed to this photo shoot if they hadn't known that today, publicity trumps all.  

Saturday
Feb222014

failure to update: 20 February 2014

What is the point of Google satellite maps if they only present clean copies taken in the summer? Is there no satellite path near Independence Square/ Maidan Nezalezhnosti/ Майдан Незалежності in Kiev these days? 

Here is the structure of the square: divided in two by a main road. 

and here is the reality of Thursday, 20 February 2014:

or marginally closer to the ground:

Thursday
Feb202014

Argentina's Playlist for Freedom

Part of BBC's Freedom 2014 programming: Natalio Cosoy's passionate explanation of the music of Argentina's often coded popular and folk songs during both military rule and after.  A wonderful half-hour of 'anthems to perseverance', as he says, 'what music can actually do, in terms of instilling freedom into society.'

Manifestación de las Madres de Plaza de Mayo en 1983, //diarioinedito.com/Nota/7932. Click on image to take you to the BBC page. Not ever sure how long these things are available for, but this image gives you all the tracking information.

This is an exciting series.  Here is a link to hip-hop in Africa.  For someone, me, who came to African music in the pre-African Rap late-80s, this program explains much that I had seen as neo-colonialism.  Again, it and the words were and are coded, flying under the radar of convention, tradition and military regimes. 

Tuesday
Feb182014

Nancy Holt: 1938-2014

Nancy Holt. Sun Tunnels, completed in 1976. Photographed by Mary Kavanagh (image is linked to her site). Four large concrete tubes are arranged in an open X. The 9' diam x 18' long sections of culvert are pierced by holes of varying size that correspond to the pattern of the constellations Draco, Perseus, Columba and Capricorn. The tunnels line up with the rising and setting sun on the summer and winter solstices.

Nancy Holt, who died last week, was one of the original land artists working in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, along with Dennis Oppenheimer, Michael Heizer, James Turrell, Walter de Maria and Robert Smithson, all of whom had little time for the constricting space and rules of urban galleries and art museums.  They said they were making art for the land, the ultimate expression of 1960s freedom – at the beginnings of the environmental movement and working at the scale of infrastructure, the military and the mining industry.

Land Art had its roots in Minimalism and Conceptual Art, where 'art products' are often ephemeral, unrecognisable or self-destructing.  Looking back on it now it appears as a real struggle to return agency to the artist: Nancy Holt bought the 40 acres of Utah desert for Sun Tunnels, and hired, as she listed: '2 engineers, 1 astrophysicist, 1 astronomer, 1 surveyor and his assistant, 1 road grader, 2 dump truck operators, 1 carpenter, 3 ditch diggers, 1 concrete mixing truck operator, 1 concrete foreman, 10 concrete pipe company workers, 2 core-drillers, 4 truck drivers, 1 crane operator, 1 rigger, 2 cameramen, 2 soundmen, 1 helicopter pilot and 4 photography lab workers' to install it. Plus the culverts.  

The places that Land Artists worked were marginal – in those vast deserts of the American southwest, there were hardly any roads.  When in 1982 Reyner Banham wrote Scenes in America Deserta, a reprise of Charles Doughty's 1888 Travels in Arabia Deserta, Banham was well aware of the elision of desert and deserted.  And in the mid 1990s when I tried to plot a winter route from central Texas to Calgary through all the flat bits, I found one cannot cross Nevada from north to south.  This is a deserta militaria, for most of those deserts are used as test sites, training exercises, speed tests and places to go mad in.

Nancy Holt did not go mad; she married Robert Smithson and continued to work in land art, film and photography from France to Finland and across the United States.  There was an exhibit of her photographs last year at Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery, whence this lovely image comes.

Nancy Holt, Concrete Poem, 1968. composite inkjet print on archival rag paper taken from original 126 format black and white negatives, printed 2012

Tuesday
Feb112014

Anselm Kiefer: Alkahest, 2011

Anselm Kiefer. Oh, ihr Stimmen des Geschicks, 2011. Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, charcoal, lead and iron object on photograph on cardboard 83.5 x 113.5 cm (32.87 x 44.69 in). Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Salzburg

Alkahest is a series of large paintings, paintings on photographs and assemblages that site mountains as places of material transformation where water dissolves, ultimately, stone.  According to the press release statement from the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac that showed this work in 2011, the term Alkahest comes from alchemy and indicates that anything can be dissolved by some solution, in this case, simply water, which through the processes of erosion dilutes whole mountains into mud.

The geologic reality of this is mirrored, for Kiefer, by spiritual battles found in German literature from Hölderlin and Goethe's poetry of the eighteenth century to Heidegger, and in Norse and Christian mythologies with their voluminous and powerful metaphoric imagery.  This image above, O Voices of Destiny (a phrase from Hölderlin's late poem 'Greece'  — O voices of Fate, their paths of the wanderer!), is Thor's Hammer, the weather maker for us mere mortals.    

This wonderful slippage in and out of metaphor and geology grounds the most enormous of world processes in the completely mundane experience of something like being caught in a June sleet storm in the Kananaskis.


Chris Conway. The flank of Mount Hart-McHarg through the cloud and snow showers of an approaching spring storm at Upper Kananaskis Lake. Kananaskis Lakes, Rocky Mountains, April 20, 2013The name Kananaskis isn't even the aboriginal term for the area – it was named by Palliser after a local man who recovered from an axe wound, a story that only dates from 1857.  I'm feeling culturally bereft here: German poetry, Norse myths are not mine, aboriginal structures of meaning are not mine either, the tenets of Christianity are stories rather than belief and the worst of it, given our current preoccupation with resource extraction, is that Kananaskis ranges were only explored in the first place in case they held gold.  They do have the less glamorous coal, and lots of ski trails put in for the 1988 Olympics.  

Kiefer's work comes out of a deep sense of his own German culture, which is why he spent years dissecting and reworking the second world war, and has continued working back and forward into mythology, geology and German philosophy: it is within him.  Settler colonies have such shallow roots: hair roots so lightly attached to the soil that it pushes phenomenological experience to the forefront. Interesting, but self-validating, and rarely linked to any sort of deep traditions. For this country, mountains mean mining and sports.  period.

Tuesday
Feb042014

Anselm Kiefer: Wilder Kaiser, 1975

Anselm Kiefer. Wilder Kaiser, 1975. Watercolour and acrylic on paper; 6 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. (16.2 x 24.1 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art 1995.14.11

Because I was thinking about Keifer after thinking about Gerhard Marx's grass and mud drawings of Johannesburg, I came across this drawing he did in 1975 of what the Met describes as 'the limestone massif of the Kaiser mountain range in northern Tyrol', the Kaisergebirge.  The Wilder Kaiser is one ridge, the other is lower and rounder, the Zahmer Kaiser. Somehow, living next to the Rocky Mountain Range, and driving back and forth 1100km to the coast through this range, the Selkirks and the Coast Range, a range of two ridges seems rather European.   

Nonetheless, and that is irrelevant, Keifer's Wilder Kaiser is a gesso crag in a watercolour sea.  Evidently he worked from a map and included a bit of cartographic information for Predigtstuhl: 2083m.  

Because the next issue of On Site review is on mapping, and because it was -26 this morning and it is a tad chilly about the edges here, this particular drawing appeals.  Keifer's mapping shows the limits of perception: either what you can see or what you want to know, both necessarily limited.  The size of the subject, here a mountain, has nothing to do with the size of a map, or a drawing, or a thought.  The name stands in for the range, the gesso peak for one of the individual peaks in it.

Conventional mapping flattens a complex and emotional world to a flat sheet, coded to illustrate topography, and imposing an equivalence on all information that is distinctly misleading.  And yet it is so pervasive it has us running around on the surface of the world as if we were on charts, and as if we are incapable of holding opposing thoughts and perceptions in our heads.  Yes Predigtstuhl is part of the Wilder Kaiser, but yes too, it is separate from it.  For this we need artists.