There were many black dots in the sky. They appeared simultaneously as we started reading the book. We noticed the dots hovering above our heads, just after the first word was spoken out loudly. I raised my hand and pushed my index inside one of the spots. That was my own spot. I ripped the sky a bit by moving my finger down slowly. Soon, everybody placed their fingers inside their spots and did the same. Now the sky was decorated with black scars. We created a constellation of scars.
That day, we gathered together with a copy of the book in our hands. We were supposed to return it as intact as possible. The idea was that we would eventually memorize an excerpt from the book by reading it out loud several times. Τhe book did not belong to us but we would have the chance to memorize one of its paragraphs. That was a gift to be appreciated. We said that there was no property worth having other than knowledge. We repeated that there was no property worth having other than knowledge.
The book was the complete collection of Aesop’s fables. It was still unknown which story of the many we were supposed to read until we were given instructions on how to choose a page randomly. The rule of the game was that one of us had to pick up a number from the page numbering of the book. One of us said the number seven and this meant that we had to open the book at page seven and read loud from there. On this page, we found the fable with the title “The man and the serpent” which begins with a bitting from a snake. We started reciting the story in a clumsy manner. The black dots started hovering above our heads.
"A Countryman’s son by accident trod upon a Serpent’s tail, which turned and bit him so that he died."
Since our beginning was not great, we decided to start over and pay more attention to each other voices. This time, we seemed to tune our reading quickly before the end of the first sentence. We manage to synchronize our voices like running waters. We sprung jerkily from different sources and merged quickly in one stream towards the same direction. Similar to the first obstacle that is drifted noisily by the impulse of the stream, a small accentuation with a slightly higher pitch occurred at the conclusion of the sentence.
"A Countryman’s son by accident trod upon a Serpent’s tail, which turned and bit him so that he died!"
A sunken thud was heard in the distance followed by a soft clattering as if suddenly some rocks rolled over. We also felt an unexpected gust of wind which seemed to become constant. It created a kind of musical accompaniment to the occasion by forcing the pages of our books into a continuous fluttering. With one hand, we made sure not to miss the right page in the book and with the other hand, we tried to rich the black spots above us. Ιt was surely inappropriate to distract ourselves during the reading session but nobody could resist the temptation. We pushed our fingers inside the spots and we ripped the sky slowly. We created a constellation of scars while we were being asked to concentrate on the text. Finally, we held the book firmly, with both of our hands, and proceeded with reciting the story. Our loud matching voices would be fluent from now on.
"The father in a rage got his axe, and pursuing the Serpent, cut off part of its tail. So the Serpent in revenge began stinging several of the Farmer’s cattle and caused him severe loss. Well, the Farmer thought it best to make it up with the Serpent, and brought food and honey to the mouth of its lair, and said to it: ‘Let’s forget and forgive; perhaps you were right to punish my son, and take vengeance on my cattle, but surely I was right in trying to revenge him; now that we are both satisfied why should not we be friends again?’ ‘No, no,’ said the Serpent; ‘take away your gifts; you can never forget the death of your son, nor I the loss of my tail.’ "
"Injuries may be forgiven, but not forgotten"
"Injuries may be forgiven, but not forgotten", we said again with some excitement.
We had agreed to stay in place until the story was memorized by heart. This would be possible only through endless repetition. We were instructed several times to read the text all over again and we obeyed patiently. In certain times, we would be asked to recite the story with the books closed. If we managed to do so, the session would be over otherwise, we had to repeat reading. I thought that it would not be difficult to memorize the text and synchronize my voice with the others but sometimes confidence gives easily its place to disappointment. During the first trial of reciting the story by heart, I skipped some words in the middle and missed the pace of the team.
"A Countryman’s son by accident trod upon a Serpent’s tail, which turned and bit him so that he died. The father in a rage got his axe, and pursuing the Serpent, cut off part of its tail. So the Serpent in revenge began stinging several of the Farmer’s cattle and caused him severe loss."
Well, the farmer… brought food and honey to the mouth of its lair… I rushed to say falsely while the others said correctly … Well. the farmer thought it best to make it up with the Serpent, and brought food and honey to the mouth of its lair…
Our first try to say the story by heart was spoiled. The brief cacophony of the overlapping sentences pointed out my mistake. I had said too soon “… brought food and honey to the mouth of its lair…” and as a result, my words preceded these of the others. After the strange echoing of voices, we were forced to stop reciting with the book closed. According to the rules, ignoring such a mistake would be unfair. We all had to open the books one more time and read again from there. The fact that everybody else was flawless put me in a kind of despair. I looked down with shame because this was a mistake I could not bare. I stared the primroses, besides my feet, blown by the wind restlessly.
While I was flipping the pages of my book in order to find the story for the next reading session, I was surprised to discover another piece of loose paper placed inside. It seemed ripped and taken from a different book. Some sentences on the loose page were underlined with a marker. I could not guess any valid reason for finding this page inside my book. I wondered whether surprises like this were to be found inside the books of the others as well. While the team had started reading aloud the story of the farmer and the serpent for one more time, I stayed silent and concentrated on the underlined text of the hidden page.
"In short, black is the color of the soul only to the extent that it has been revealed to us by some unforeseen event. White is merely the phantom of ignorance. All knowledge is knowledge of black, which happens by surprise." (1)
I was not sure if I should perceive my discovery as a sign. The secret text did not bring any dramatic change whatsoever. The voices of my companions were still flowing like running water. The grass and vegetation were blown gently by the current of the wind. They danced gracefully to the loud voices accompanied by the monotonous sound of the fluttering pages. Only the primrose clusters still seemed to move a bit differently. Something unknown should be hiding among them. I had to think of the crawling snake bearing its lethal dose. The snake was probably sneaking towards me, pushing with its tail the stems of the primrose. Soon, the crystal voices and the soft wind would be contaminated by the sound of its glottis. I was waiting with tension the luring hiss to hear. This was a perfect moment to shed a tear. Everything was in the stage of complete anthesis. Powerful were the voices of my companions, exaggeration and pretension, the sad types of inflorescence that blossomed, the cymose and racemose, bombastic prose and lachrymose. The serpent came near.
I bent over and touched my ankles with my fingers to feel if there would be any bites. I did that for a while but my skin was completely smooth. I looked at the sky for a moment and then decided to join the reading session once again. I waited until the reciting arrived at the point I had been stopped previously and then I stepped in. Altogether, we carried on reading with our loud voices. We would soon try one more time to recite the story by heart. I put great effort to memorize the rest of the story, word after word.
"…Well, the Farmer thought it best to make it up with the Serpent, and brought food and honey to the mouth of its lair, and said to it: ‘Let’s forget and forgive; perhaps you were right to punish my son, and take vengeance on my cattle, but surely I was right in trying to revenge him; now that we are both satisfied why should not we be friends again?’ ‘No, no,’ said the Serpent; ‘take away your gifts; you can never forget the death of your son, nor I the loss of my tail.’ "
"Injuries may be forgiven, but not forgotten"
"Injuries may be forgiven, but not forgotten" (2)
1. Black: the brilliance of noncolor, Alain Badiou, Wiley, 2016
2. Aesop's fables, The man and the serpent, Online publication, Guttenberg project
I stand firmly on my feet on the harsh concrete floor, yet I feel the soles of my shoes slightly sinking. I step to the side to see if there is any footprint left, but I see nothing. Strangely, in every step I take this feeling of additional heaviness remains. I often think of an invisible burden on top od every person, an accumulation of intangible things that make our steps a bit heavier and turn every new direction into a cautious decision. Life is a challenging wandering after all. It is a continuous effort in the form of a duty. The cumulative loads of the past and the complications of the present should be carried around constantly while we always owe to take them into consideration.
The myth of the lotus eaters teaches us to endure the struggle. Odysseus forced his mariners, who had consumed the bewildering fruit of Lotus and were drifted into oblivion, to resume their dreadful trip to Ithaca. Despite their weeping and immense desire to be left in the land of forgetfulness, their consciousness had to be restored in order to continue their dangerous and exhausting wandering. The clarity of this resolution is artfully blurred in the poem “The Lotos Eaters” by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Although some hints are given about the fallaciousness of the land of lotus, the reader finds himself in moral confusion. The description of the idyllic land of lotus “in which it seemed always afternoon” is seductive. After consuming the tasteful fruit, the men start singing about their desire to remain there and to discontinue their voyage. Despite the narcotic effect of the fruit, they can recount in detail what they are leaving behind. By eating the fruit of lotus, perhaps as a reverse bite of the forbidden apple that generated all the suffering of mankind, they escape from the futile labor and constant toil in which every man is doomed to live. Their desire to withdraw seems to be a request for relief and, therefore, can be pardonable:
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.
Sadly enough, the lotus fruit offers nothing more than deathly indifference. However, an absolute detachment from what we already know could also mean the return to a state of purity. Everything would seem unadulterated after discharging the weights.
A poem from the mouth
He touched my hand gently. and placed my fingers inside his mouth. His lips formulated a strange smile around my fingers while he was looking at me with anticipation. We were looking at each other for a few seconds before I pushed my fingers deeper down to his throat. I felt quickly the first violent reflexes as his started breathing irregularly from his nose. My hand was pushed out by the repetitive contractions of his throat but I kept forcing my fingers inside him. The contractions became violent spasms ascending from his stomach up to his mouth followed by anguished monstrous voices and tears dripping from his reddish eyes. A white substance leaked on my hand. After a couple of severe spasms that shook his entire body, his monstrous voices became more precise. He was trying to say something. I removed my hand from his mouth and let him breathe.
I wish I could experience a miracle similar to those that are happening in front of the desperate pilgrims who are able to see real tears and blood dripping from the fading representations on the icons. I would open the door of my studio, raise my stained hands and shout out loud that the wall is bleeding. I constructed a long arrow out of steel and I let it lie on the table for that reason. The story would be that one day I found the arrow mysteriously nailed on the wall. A substance, which I tried to collect with a towel, run out of the corrupted surface miraculously. It was ready to spurt exactly at the height that my gallbladder would be if I was unlucky enough to stand there when the arrow pierced the wall.
Words, words, and words
“The foundation of all civilization is loitering” (Jean Renoir). This statement because diminishes the base of our civilization to an unflattering human characteristic. The first men and women on earth were too lazy to strive for survival so they started inventing tools and mechanisms to make their lives easier. The use of tools and machines saved plenty of time for hanging around, observing the world and theorizing. The invention of writing made possible the documentation of thoughts and the accumulation of knowledge. The most important things were said by simply arranging words in various ways. We have learned to look back to antiquity as a starting point because classical essays shaped the fundamentals of contemporary thought and therefore they provide a better understanding of today. Fewer people know that in the classical world, spells and curses were also very popular. The function of spells is not based on understanding but rather on the fear of an invisible power that is hidden beneath the sound of words and is able to determine the decisions of people.
“Την Τρίτη 12 Ιουλίου 2016 στα ηπειρωτικά και την Κρήτη αναμένονται λίγες νεφώσεις που το μεσημέρι και απόγευμα θα είναι τοπικά αυξημένες και υπάρχει πιθανότητα για τοπικές βροχές ή μικρής διάρκειας καταιγίδες κυρίως στα ορεινά. Στις υπόλοιπες νησιωτικές περιοχές αναμένεται γενικά αίθριος καιρός με λίγες τοπικές νεφώσεις τις θερμές ώρες της ημέρας. Η θερμοκρασία στη βόρεια Ελλάδα θα κυμανθεί από 17 έως 33 βαθμούς, στην κεντρική και νότια από 18 έως 34, στα νησιά του Ιονίου από 22 έως 33, στα νησιά του Αιγαίου από 20 έως 35 και στην Κρήτη από 19 έως 30. Στη νότια Κρήτη η μέγιστη θερμοκρασία θα είναι 2 έως 3 βαθμούς υψηλότερη.”
“On Tuesday 12th of July 2016, clouds are expected above the mainland and the island of Crete. During the afternoon, there is a possibility for local storms and rains, especially above the terrains of highlands. Weather is expected to be fair in the islands, with a few local clouds during the warm hours of the day. The temperature in northern Greece will range from 17 to 33 degrees, in central and southern parts of the country from 18 to 34, in the islands of the Ionian sea from 22 to 33, in the islands of the Aegean Sea from 20 to 35 and in Crete from 19 to 30. South of Crete, the maximum temperature will be 2 to 3 degrees higher”
Like setting up a fire, starting to fill pages with words and sentences is not an easy task. A solution is to begin with automatic writing because at least automatic writing brings some results, especially in terms of quantity. The number of words is very important despite the fact that laconism is highly acclaimed as a sign of wisdom. It creates a protective shield for these moments that otherwise would have surrendered themselves to the power of silence. I have no other choice than to praise words and be thankful because words are bigger than me so I can step under them. Perhaps this is the main reason that words were invented, to confirm our position in the world by giving certain durability to our articulation.
”Sponges ensure smoother application and can be used to dab away excess foundation. The idea is to get even coverage that appears as natural as possible, which means, trying to get your makeup to mesh with your skin! Start with a thin layer of foundation, then build if you want more coverage. A very thick layer of makeup is more prone to slide off your face throughout the day because it just cannot adhere as well to skin. When it comes to concealer, application is fairly straightforward. With your fingers, a brush, or a wand applicator, gently dot concealer on the areas you want to cover. Pat the concealer in place, making sure not to drag it over skin. As with foundation, start out with a light amount, then build to get the coverage you want. Pat the concealer in one direction, repeating this step until it sets. Don’t use a back-and-forth or rubbing motion, as this basically just wipes concealer away as soon as you apply it, leaving you with spotty to no coverage.”
On an average, it is estimated that a native English speaker uses about 20.000 to 35.000 words when the vocabulary of a non-native English speaker is limited between 4.000 to 10.000 words. At the same time a kid at the age of 4, who speaks English as a first language, knows already 4000 words and a kid of 8 years old up to 10.000 words. These statistics are here to remind me that, as a non-native English speaker, I miss at least 10000 words compared to the average vocabulary of a native speaker. When I read a text and I stumble upon an unknown word, I feel that the sound of this word in my mind does not represent meaning but it is rather the sound of a cracking cell from where meaning starts leaking.
I pay a lot of attention to words, however sometimes I lose my confidence and I am becoming suspicious. I have this terrifying imagination that words are like the bedsheet on a ghost. They are there to confirm the presence and the form of the concentrated nothingness of a ghost which would be impossible to be noticed otherwise. Words are the final coating that seems to rest on top of everything and everything exists because it can be described by meanings of language. Words are good for camouflaging but they cannot be camouflaged because what can we put on top of words other than other words? Words, words, and words…
(Only swords can break the words but these swords are made of words)
Amusing.. but I have been a victim of my fantasies for several times. One of these times is definitely when I am confronted with the flatness of water reservoirs, artificial lakes, and canals. I think they have a kind of enigmatic appearance. As I observe their flatness from above, especially when the waters are dark and murky, the uncertainty of what is hidden beneath the flat fluid surface is daunting. The dark water appears as an almost shallow and reflective image while in fact, it may be very deep. I like to speculate on the depth of the water and usually, I am prone to estimate unrealistic and impossible sizes. The depths of the lakes have to be vast, canals should carry enormous amounts of water. Reality may be much less exciting, but I tend to get overwhelmed by expectations.
As I often used to walk near an artificial canal next to the motorway south of the town, it was my daily game to make crazy assumptions about things that may hide under the surface of the water. By a side path of this canal, you could climb down the stairs of the dike and go onto the bank. I liked the setting and I was often going there to find moments of isolation. This was one of the few spots where stairs lead down to the level of the water. A bit further on, a big overpass crossed the canal and the parallel highway. The canal was always dark brown and muddy and the flow too slow to be noticeable. I enjoyed walking along the canal observing the reflections of light onto the water. I had convinced myself that the canal should be many meters deep. The idea of a vast volume of water in front of me was fascinating. However, nothing was visible under the surface of the water as its dark brown color had destroyed any transparency. I was trying to guess what it would feel like to dive in there. What could somebody discover in this brown abyss under the surface? Perhaps, a big vehicle had fallen down from the overpass and was now completely lost in the water. In this opaque water, there might be a big truck with all the goods trapped in the trailer or even better many trucks might have fallen from the overpass. The story would be that the trucks fell one by one from above, in a series of tragic events that have marked this place as the Titanic of the truck drivers. Although the drivers were the casualties of their own destructive and suicidal nature, they confronted death with stoicism as they kept listening to music from the loudspeakers of their radio devices while they were driving their trucks directly into the water… There are some rumors that some old tunes are still echoing from the depths of the canal if you try to listen carefully when the rest of the town has fallen asleep during the night.
However, the chance to discover the actual depth of the canal was given to me unexpectedly one afternoon and it was not very spectacular. Usually, this place was empty of people but this time I noticed three figures sitting near the water when I was walking down the stairs of the dike. Two men were sitting very close to each other while a third man, with the legs of his pants rolled up to his knees, was holding a big fake sword in his hands. I sat at a safe distance and waited for them to go, longing to be in this place alone without any distraction. Soon, the man with the sword stepped into the water. I was surprised because I had never seen anyone before daring to walk into this muddy canal. He stepped further and he seemed to be determined to go on. As he was walking towards the other side, the water got up to his knees and it did not seem to get higher. The water was actually only a few centimeters deep. He was moving his sword back and forth as he was trying to harm the surface of the water. That was a complete disappointment. This man proved that the actual depth of the water was totally unexciting. How could this depthless canal be the graveyard of the trucks of suicidal truck drivers who faced death with stoicism as they were listening to music while they were driving their trucks directly into the depths of the water? In these shallow waters, only the small plastic toy trucks from the local toy store would fit. Perhaps… a water pistol, pencils, and a dozen markers as well? But, do I need to know this? I will never come back to this place again.
The man’s waist remained above the surface of the water while he was walking towards the middle of the canal. He stood there and looked at me with a faint smile. He raised his sword and pointed it to my direction, pretending that he was threatening to stab me. Apparently, I had to get wounded by his sword as the surface of the water of this pitiful canal was. The two other men were sitting quietly on the side of the water doing nothing but looking carefully at the swordsman. I decided to go. The man had already reached the other side of the canal when I stopped a bit below the top of the dike to look back. The three men waved at me. I waved back and I went on my way home.
After this incident, I confined my fantasies only to waters that I could control. In my backyard, there is a small deposit full of water beside a small garden. It is only one meter to seventy centimeters large. I am not aware of its function but I assume that the previous tenant used this small pool for keeping goldfishes or other water animals. I had never replenished the water in this deposit and now it has ended up completely dirty and blurry. You cannot really see how deep the deposit is but I am sure it is not that deep. Once, a friend asked me to tell him how deep this pool is. I remember remaining silent for a few moments trying to figure out what to answer. Finally, I told him, in a serious voice, that it was deep enough to swallow both of us until the water covered our heads completely. He did not believe me and laughed. He said that we needed to search for a long pole to put in the pool and find out. I knew there was nothing suitable in the yard for measuring the depth of the deposit. He came back empty-handed after a small round in the house and looked at the pool. We both remained silent and stared at the water for a while. My friend said it was a pity that there was not any pole long enough to reach the bottom of my pool.
Although I was happy because the mystery of the pool remained unsolved to my friend, I admit that the idea of him inserting a long pole inside the water was quite unsettling. The explorative character of his request was hiding underlying violence which made his persistence partly exciting and partly sinister. Not so sinister, though, as the persistence of Sextus Tarquinius, who forced Lucretia, a noble Roman woman, to sexual intercourse with him by threatening her with his sword. No question that this was a cruel rape. Sextus Tarquinius was the son of the Roman king. He sneaked silently into the bedroom of Lucretia while her husband was missing by stepping carefully between her slaves who were sleeping already. Tarquinius did not want to kill her but he definitely desired to use her for his sexual pleasure, a desire that was driven by the challenge of exploring in depth and finally corrupting the virtues that were related to her status and the integrity of her character. Lucretia’s notable moral resistance was instantly extinguished the moment she was penetrated by Tarquinius. Her demystified body became approachable and subjective to the advances of a stranger, similar to this of a common whore. The next day in an almost symbolic duplication of Tarquinius destructive penetration, she killed herself in front of her family by impaling a sword into her heart and leading her twice excavated body to physical extinction. Lucretia’s life leaked from the wound at her chest with the same easiness that her morality leaked out of her ravaged genitalia. The empty perforated vessel, that used to be her, collapsed at the stone floor of her father’s mansion. The harshness of the floor would be for some moments the only strong support to hold her lifeless body since her internal coherence had vanished.
At least, the dissatisfaction that followed the atrocious act of Tarquinius brought some justice for Lucretia. Her rape and unfair death caused a revolution against the royal regime of Rome and Sextus Tarquinius would never be able to inherit the precious pole of his father which was the royal scepter of the kingdom of Rome. The king was dethroned and the legendary death of Lucretia became the symbol of the newborn Roman republic. (However, nobody can prove that Lucretia was actually raped. There is no historical evidence. What if the supporters of the republic actually staged her suicide by killing her and then accusing Tarquinius, who by coincidence was lodging at her house that night, for raping her? By doing this, they could trigger public uproar against the royal regime and gain power. The father and husband of Lucretia were leading figures in Rome’s new political establishment. What if the symbol of the birth of the republic was pure propaganda?)
(Exploring depth is not always easy, as it was the case with Tarquinius and the unfortunate Lucretia.) It is not always easy to find historical evidence. Sometimes, a more systematic process is needed, in order to uncover one by one the multiple layers that overlap each other. Stratigraphy is a basic concept in archaeology which determines that the findings of an excavation should be classified according to the geological sedimentation of the area or other types of stratigraphic sequences. In that way, archaeologists can derive useful information for each finding by the type of stratification in which the finding was discovered. An archaeological excavation is a very precise and careful procedure as it is based entirely on the scientific method and knowledge. Although the discoveries of excavations might be astonishing, archaeology’s goal is to avoid arbitrary assumptions by making conclusions based on artifacts. In some way, the first layer that archaeology tries to remove is the layer of mystery. On the contrary, the branches of pseudoarchaeology and pyramidology ignore science and base their existence on unsolved mysteries like the myth of lost Atlantis, curses of the Pharaoh and extraterrestrial interventions. The more obscure and opaque is the mystery, the better for pseudo-archaeologists to claim acknowledgment.
One of the mysteries that archaeology tries to solve is this of chronological classification. Usually, the findings that are discovered in the lower stratigraphic layers correspond to an earlier chronological period. For instance, a vertical excavation of a settlement works often as a time journey to the origins of human activity in this particular region. In the same way, family trees and lineages are tracing back sequences of generations in order to define the roots of people. The same need to define origin made Luke and Matthew to write a genealogy of Christ in their gospels. Although the version of genealogy by Luke differs significantly to this of Matthew, both of them wanted to prove that Christ had also a human nature besides the divine. His human descent would allow him to die as an ordinary man and sink into what is called the formidabilis abyssis, a situation of absolute abandonment impossible to describe, where there is no logos and neither pathos. Ιt is an abyss of the ultimate death, the death of God, a point of departure and a horrific destination.
A similar legend traces the genealogy of a noble medieval family. The story is about a young man, who had the wish to learn about his ancestry. In this adaptation of the legend, (a genealogical tree of a real English family will be the source of the characters’ names.) the main hero will be called Edward. The story begins with Edward confronting his father before his 20th birthday. He complains that all the noblemen in the kingdom are proud of their descent. He is the only one who cannot praise his ancestors because he does not know where his generation is coming from. He does not even know who his grandfather is. After his father refusing to reveal the origins of their family, Edward appoints secretly his uncle. His uncle is the brother and a sworn enemy of Edward’s father. While Edward and his uncle are sitting across to each other, his uncle places a black box in front of him and starts narrating the story of the family.
“You are Edward the son of James who is my brother. Your grandfather was called Frederick and he is the father of me and James. Your father James is very rich but his money is not from a decent work. He stole the golden teeth of your grandfather Frederick, who was a miser and he was keeping his wealth inside his mouth. James killed our father Frederick and he kept all the golden teeth for himself.
Your grandfather Frederick was not a good man either. He was the son of Margaret and Robert. Frederick killed Margaret and Robert, and stole their wealth. He made golden teeth out of their wealth and kept it in his mouth.
Robert, the father of Frederick, was a common thief who was gathering wealth by lurking in the forests to steal money from passengers. One day, he attacked and killed with his knife a passenger who happened to be his own father Andrew.
Andrew was the son of John who had a second wife Susannah. Susannah did not love Andrew and sent him away when he was a child. Andrew returned back and killed both John and Susannah.
John had a brother Peter. John and Peter were farmers and the children of William. They often had fights with each other and in one of these fights, John killed his brother Peter.
Their father William had the fame of a pure devil and he raped Rebecca, who became his wife and after, the rape the villagers called her a black slime ……
William and Rebecca gave birth to John and Peter.
William cursed his children because he was a devil.
Then, John killed his brother Peter.
John was the father of Andrew but Andrew killed John.
Andrew was the father of Robert but Robert killed Andrew.
Robert was the father of Frederick but Frederick killed Robert.
Frederick was the father of James but James killed Frederick.
James is the father of you and you are Edward, James’s only child and the heir of all the crime…
When he finished quoting the ancestors of the family he opened the black box, took out a small sword and gave it to Edward.
“Your father is afraid of the curse and he is plotting to kill you, to save his own life,
I give you this small sword to save yourself and take your father’s life”.
While facing the horrific dilemma of killing his father or letting his father kill him, Edward takes the sword and as another Lucretia impales it into his heart. With this sacrifice, the family would finally get rid of the curse. According to the legend, what Edward did not know is that the whole story of the family and the curse was a lie. It was a machination of his uncle, who wanted, by fooling Edward, to get rid of his brother.
Edward gave so much trust to the words of his uncle. He listened carefully to his dark story that was supposed to reveal the roots of their family. The story was a construction but it appeared for a while to be a valid reason for Edward’s sacrifice, a solid foundation on which his body would lay on with dignity in the same way that the broken body of Lucretia fell for the glory of the Roman republic. They had sacrificed themselves for a legitimate reason that strangely was there to indicate that behind the open wounds of their skin something unspeakable was lurking. Behind the small cracks and fissures of the surface, after abolishing all the layers, what is to be found is the opposite of appearance. A formidable abyss which is sublime and unbearable not because of its infernal vastness and depth but rather because of the lack of all of these. It is the unclothing of an invisible ghost, the eventual extinction of any logos or pathos. However, this extinction is perhaps the only remaining and dreadful “other” that cannot be conquered and therefore it is the last valid reason for mythologizing the unknown.
The miracle of St.Denis
Why is the sky blue, day after day? I was wondering, while I was looking through the window, seeing the sun setting. But who could I ask? I knew nobody on this train. Only three unknown men in disguise had boarded my compartment so far. Two of them were wearing Roman tunics and the third one was dressed like a warrior carrying a big Celtic sword. In a few days, the carnival parade would take place in Eindhoven. The preparations had already been finished and there were colorful banners in the halls of the railway station. I got off the train and started walking towards the big square in Eindhoven, where the main shopping center is. The Romans and the warrior were already rushing ahead, apparently going in the same direction as I. The entrance of the shopping center is monumental. A big glass roof leans on huge red metal pillars. When I arrived there, I noticed that the three men who traveled with me on the train had joined a small crowd under the glass roof. Α tall man who had a white and almost unreal face was standing on a small wooden pedestal in the middle. He was also wearing a Roman tunic similar to those of the two Roman men. The name “Saint Denis” was written on a small sign in front of the pedestal. One of such circus performances as usually take place in the streets was about to start. I decided to step closer and to sneak into the crowd. The figure of the man in the middle was stunning. His eyes were slightly directed upwards giving the impression that he failed to notice the surrounding crowd. His arms hung loosely from his sides and his palms were facing the sky. The saint was standing there motionless while other people were still gathering around. After a couple of minutes, the two Roman men and the warrior stepped a bit closer to the impressive figure in the center. The show was about to start. Who are you..? the warrior shouted. The saint kept standing still and speechless. Silence prevailed in the crowd as everybody anticipated him to speak. Saint Denis seemed to be completely detached from this world. “Who are you?” shouted the warrior again, louder this time. The motionless man totally ignored the warrior and remained absorbed in his initial position. You could feel the tension as time was passing by and no words were coming from the saint’s mouth. The two Romans, who were constantly staring at the saint with reverence, finally gave an answer on behalf of him. They looked at the crowd and they said simultaneously in one singing voice:
I am the shine of the gold without the gold,
the warmth of the fire without the fire…
A few seconds later, the warrior raised his big sword and held it up for a few seconds. The saint and the Romans remained frozen ( in their positions. Suddenly, with an abrupt, ruthless move, the warrior did the impossible. He cut off the head of the Saint. Instant panic followed as the head fell off and the body collapsed to the ground. Everybody screamed with fear and moved clumsily backward. Even if there was not even one single drop of blood dripping from the decapitated body, the atrocious incident we had witnessed was totally terrifying. However, the saint did not stay on the ground for long. With slow moves, the headless corpse stood on his knees and collected the head in his hands. Soon the body got upright again and took a standing position holding his own head in his lap. Screams turned into laughter and finally into enthusiastic applause. “That was a good one!” a woman said next to me. Very convincing… I thought. After the initial shock, the crowd could not be anything but cheerful. Yet, the two Romans waved to the people to continue paying attention. With their index finger covering their mouth as a request for silence, they positioned themselves on both sides of the beheaded body.
Slowly, they bent down to the height of the saint’s lap turning one of their ears to the head’s mouth. What is the head saying?… some of the people asked. Their expression was full of interest as if the head was talking to them, while nobody else was able to hear anything. The Romans stood up and they said together once again:
I am the shine of the gold without the gold
the warmth of the fire without the fire…
After a while, the saint moved slowly forward. The two Romans and the warrior positioned themselves behind him. They all started walking in the open square. The Romans invited people to follow them with their gestures and indeed, some of us joined the odd company. I was the first one to run and stand next to the warrior just behind Saint Denis, who was walking with the two assistants on his side. Altogether, we headed south following the saint. The absurd procession of a headless corpse carrying his own head, two Roman men, a warrior, and some dozen curious strangers instantly became the local attraction. Everybody stood for a few moments to see our small pilgrimage while some people stepped out of the local shops with cheers and applause. The spirit of the day definitely justified this burlesque spectacle. We were marching with steady steps, imitating the pace of the saint, who continued to remain speechless all the way. I was strongly attracted to his appearance. I could not take my eyes off the emptiness above his neck, exactly where his head should be. It was an emptiness that accompanied his body different from any other emptiness around. I felt that the world in front of me was visible only through the vacuum that replaced his head. At the crossroad, he turned to the left and we finally ended up at the Market square which was strangely empty. I realized that nobody from the pilgrimage was still with us. I was so concentrated on the headless saint and I had not noticed until that time that I was left there alone. The body with the head, the two Romans and the warrior were standing together in the empty marketplace in front of me. The four figures became silent and motionless again. I decided to move away from them. It was already dark. I turned my back and quickly walked in the opposite direction, towards the main pedestrian street. While I was running away, the two Romans spoke again loudly:
I appear to vanish
like a movement from nothing to nothing,
like a light that obscures and a darkness
I stopped and looked back at them. Saint Denis was there as usual between the two Romans, holding his head. The warrior was now standing a few meters further away. I tried to look at them more carefully. I discovered that something was different about the saint, though. Above his neck a strange, dull light was appearing. Something like a worn out halo was glowing languidly over him. The Romans repeated:
I appear to vanish
like a movement from nothing to nothing
like a light that obscures and a darkness
That was completely bizarre. I had to find out who this man was. With quick steps, I walked back to him. As I was approaching the saint, I raised my hand, determined to touch his neck. I wanted to discover the source of this light and reveal what was behind this costume. Suddenly, before I even got to touching him and without any obvious reason, the headless man collapsed again in front of my eyes. The head rolled over a few times on the ground away from the body. I did not dare to touch it. I looking at the corpse for some moments. The two Romans said nothing. I decided to run away again. In a few minutes, I found myself mixing with the crowds in the main square near the railway station. I looked up at the sky and I asked myself… why is the sky dark, after all? Then, I tried to imagine how the Romans would reply to this question in their simultaneously singing voice…
I don’t know
I don’t know
On theatricality and indifference
Michael Fried encourages a war between theater and art in order to save modernist sensibility and the arts from death. The borders of the legitimate disciplines should not be transgressed by what Fried defined as theater lying between the different arts. The theatrical condition, that according to him was a cause of degeneration, had to be defeated. The rejection of theater, an entire category with a long history and tradition similar to painting, is striking. When Fried writes “Art and Objecthood”, he is directly referring to Robert Morris. New art brought industrial objects, reproductions, political artworks and other new ideas that were unrelated to his vision of art. These practices seemed to be a rupture with the past and the linear development of art history. He insisted that the most exalted works of art of his generation trace their origin back to the questions on painting in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Fried was an advocate of abstract expressionism which was already fading at this time. However, a war between the old and the new is not sufficient to explain the rejection of theater. The establishment of minimalism and the primacy of the new forms of art partially justify his text. Why do the forces that threaten the arts have a theatrical aspect according to Fried? What was he really trying to defend?
George Bataille in his ‘Theory of religion’ says that animals perceive their existence as “water in the water”. There is no distinction of things, no order, only this innermost feeling that cannot be articulated in any other way than poetically. Civilization emerged out of the same situation. Gradually, we started to define things and to give names. The primordial tendency to dissolve into the depths of this obscure water survived for a long time but it was restricted to rituals. Ritualistic practices were meant to reveal again or recall an enigmatic world full of enchantment, shapeless and fluid. Rituals were also the very beginning of theater. As the world was being transformed to an arrangement of tools and products, sacredness moved to a higher level. The divine eventually was found beyond the subjected world. Rituals evolved into religion and works of art were used as a medium of transcendence towards the divine. For centuries, works of art suggested something more than themselves. They appeared to represent something of a higher order. The connection of art to sacredness was never eradicated completely and remained present in various formations. We can find it also in modernism and it can be described as the exaltation of art to its own exclusive realm. This is what Walter Benjamin called the theology of art.
Although, Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried defended a timeless, personal and almost religious experience of art, the definition of painting by Greenberg is primarily materialistic. He defines painting precisely by the restrictions of the medium. Fried was a great supporter of this idea. Art should derive a certain value and quality from the clarity of definitions, medium specificity and immunity of the specific disciplines. However, while advocating modernist sensibility, he prepared the ground where his greatest enemies flourished. Modernism confronted transcendence, illusion, and transparency of the material in order to unveil the medium. The divine was not embraced anymore but modernistic painting still tried to avoid the real world as it was pointing back to its own self. This can be seen as a paradox. Despite the fact that the dualistic separation between arts and the world denotes a theological condition, confinement to the material makes art relational to the subjected world and to literal interpretations, If there is no path towards any higher order then there is art and our world. Purity of modern art was like an abandoned cathedral penetrated by curious hordes of tourists exploring the structure, the shape, and the history. While Fried was defending the timeless presence of true art, minimalism already explored the relation of art to real time and real space. Eventually, this relation became more important than the material itself. Land art, the happenings of Allan Kaprow, and pop-art followed.
The powers that make art dissolve into the world had been released. Anything has a potential relation to everything if borders are unclear. The inability to name things with clarity, to define and separate territories, was the greatest concern of Fried. Order was about to collapse and timelessness to be replaced by the volatile ephemeral and the processes of entropy. After the first cracks, the force of fragmentation would inevitably accelerate to homogenize everything. The distinction between high and low art would not exist anymore. A leveling down to the shapeless porridge, a return to the obscureness of an undifferentiated world, would be the aftermath of theater. In the desert, the sand dunes are constantly changing shape but one dune never gets more rigid than the others. Dunes look like changing but nothing triumphs permanently. The beauty of a landscape in the desert is conceived only on its surface. Baudrillard describes the apocalypse as the prevalence of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference. Everything has the same importance which means that nothing is important. Nihilism has prevailed again but not in the form of destructive aggression. It prevails in the form of apathy and denial. This resilient fluidity can be also interpreted as the epitome of absolute freedom; the freedom of altering like water in the water and collecting air out of air.