a few things I’ve seen and me seeing the few things I’ve seen … since getting back from India
still in residual shock … but steady … moving towards …
Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, famous for its use during the Berlin Airlift of 1948, has been preserved and converted into a public park,
virtually unchanged in its landscape from when it was a functional airport.
It is an amazing public resource and a rare expansiveness in an urban setting; it reminds me of a mini-version of the American Great Plains
with the unobstructed views, open sky and flat, flat, flatness.
This was quite a contrast to the drama of the Himalayas
and the decoction of crowdedness and chaos
I experienced throughout India.
During my three months in Berlin, I took to riding my bike around Tempelhof Airport almost everyday, coasting over the gentle rise and fall of terrain, up and down the runways and around and around the grounds without touching the handlebars for long, extended periods, and this free flow wandering in wide open space helped spur on my thoughts for Statement III, a piece of writing
I promised to publish in a previous post when I arrived in Berlin from India, in June 2014.
However, Statement III still eludes me.
Below are five rough drafts. The first four are links to previous posts on this blog:
3. Heutegesternmorgenwelt – a series:
The fifth is a new attempt and a product of my Tempelhof Airport bike riding:
5. The Great Circle (Statement III – a rough draft):
As a young boy, I often imagined a line extending perpendicular from my direction of travel, going all the way around the planet and coming back perpendicularly to my other side, creating a giant ring around the globe, a Great Circle in the parlance of geometry, and, by definition, always concentric with the earth. Part of the excitement was to imagine the ring in its entirety, and go further and imagine that this Great Circle was attached to me, was me, and would move effortlessly with me, around and around our planet, hugging the surface of the earth in whatever way I could imagine. What it saw, I saw – what it felt, I felt – what it experienced, I experienced the same.
I varied the properties of this line by imagining it as different fantasy materials of varying thicknesses and flexibilities – so, I determined when it remained ridged, ignoring all the complexity of the planet and sweeping out perfect arcs of perfect circles and shaving the globe to a perfect sphere; or, I would loosen it up so it moved over only a specific topology like the hard earth crust or then include other objects and mold itself around just animals, or just people, just trees, plants, insects, just homes, buildings, structures; or, I’d make it so thin, so malleable that it conformed to different degrees of detail, zipping over complicated surfaces, effortlessly, conforming to every nook and crag, every flake, scale and leaf, every pebble, glop and glump, tuft, tassel and clump, every marble or toy, every detail and deeper, deeper detail still, sometimes skimming over water, sometimes conforming to every ripple, sometimes hugging the land and descending to the bottom of every depression, every lake, ocean and stream, every pool, every puddle, every bowl of soup, every cup of hot chocolate, every glass half empty or glass half full. As a boy, I figured that in principle my line could even conform down to the microscopic level, and this made me dizzy, as did interior spaces – they were difficult to imagine, too. Nevertheless, even knowing this abstract geometry existed and as I played to maintain harmonious and fluid motion between my mind and The Great Circle, I imagined being everywhere, always, at the same time: a total impossibility, and fun while it lasted, because …
By the age of 12 or so, I forgot about this thought exercise, this fantasy, really, and moved on: life demanded it. Life got more complicated, thinking complex – strategic designs varied with more teachers, more rules, more guidance; more religion, more grist for agreement and quests for influence, more ideology, more ingredience. Yet, my ability for abstraction both grew and became more focused, more refined. I mean: ‘x’ taking the place of a number in an equation is quite abstract; the tangent of ‘x’ even more so. In short, life and school and communication got more specific in its content and demanding in the way one must, inevitably, engage – and thinking about what was in my immediate purlieu began to dominate.
This Great Circle, this thought experiment, represents a framework of wonder and inquiry of a young boy, a method of investigation, a mode of thinking about his surroundings, an epistemological stance, if you will. I am now using a different method that includes a visual and physical manipulation of material, which marries this curiosity of the boy with all that he was taught and with all that he experienced along with the specific theme of breaking and placing stone, its movement and action, their opposites and the many gradations in between – which now serves as my present framework of discovery and of wonder and inquiry.
With the highlighting of these 5 rough drafts of Statement III, I need to shift my attention
away from this blog and the Internet machine for a while
and devote more concentrated time and effort in other, deeper directions – specifically, toward the work I furthered in India,
Cairns – Shards – Pieces – and, as this work proceeds,
Statement III will inevitably evolve.
I’m not disappearing from this digital land but my intention is to not post on this blog for a while and … well … I’ll let you know what’s next. Its brewing.
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I recently came across this video that has an interesting way of breaking stone. It is a very purposeful technique and necessary for understanding the melting of Glaciers – I find this fascinating.
One of my interests is Climate Change and related issues, and with Superstorm Sandy fresh on the minds of many and with sea level rise
being the theme of today’s New York Times Sunday section, I thought it was relevant to dig up some of my questions about the issue,
because I’m thinking about reframing my artistic process
and want to test out some ideas.
In a post two days ago, I mentioned Indian Sculptor, Rathin Barman, who lives in Calcutta. After I met him back in October, I started to do some research
and discovered that Calcutta and New York are roughly the same elevation. Two months ago – well before Sandy – I wrote the short essay below
and, even though it is the beginning of much bigger research project
that I’m not sure how to pursue,
I thought I’d share,
Calcutta and New York City are roughly the same elevation. Which will succumb to sea level rise first? There is much speculation in this question, but the fact that both cities are vulnerable is indisputable, even when taking into account their different geologic and climatic zones. Sea level does not rise uniformly like water in a bathtub, rather it depends on complex and intertwining issues, ranging from the accumulation of atmospheric greenhouse gases to more subtle forces like the gravitational pull of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets. How each city copes will depend on their economic strength, their relationship to larger regional governmental bodies as well as their present infrastructure and their ability to adapt to changing climate and changing human behavior.
Before either city succumbs, its populace and leadership will face a wide array of worsening challenges that will stress the viability of each city. Does “succumbing to sea level rise” mean complete submersion by an encroaching ocean? Probably not. The collapse of a city doesn’t mean no one lives there any more, but that the civilization and culture that defines it disappears and that its carrying capacity plummets. Rising sea levels and more extreme weather will help this along.
The landmass of the United States is geologically relatively stable and has both old (the Appalachian) and young (the High Sierra) mountain ranges; the subcontinent of India careens into Asia creating the world’s tallest range (the Himalayas). All these mountains are a product of a tectonically alive planet and help create local weather and influence global climate. Their yearly erosion is intense and – despite the differences in age and tectonic birth – their disappearance will take millions and millions of years. The stress on coastal cities is occurring now; their surrender to the seas will occur in tens to a hundred-plus years unless there is a massive turn around in human behavior.
Humanity is, now, akin to a geologic force that is changing the fundamental cycles of the Earth. There will be regional differences, but anthropogenic climate change and related issues will affect every country, every individual. The climate will get warmer and weirder than we expect, faster than we think. There will be more extreme weather events, almost all of them difficult for us. The United States and India play a major role.
This is just the jotting down of a few ideas and part of a larger piece, which I plan on giving much more attention,
because I am exploring the reframing of my artistic efforts
from investigating breaking stone
to that of laying bare
This is the difference between an isolated moment of a discreet unit and the deep time of a pervasive cycle … more and … more to do.
I thought of James Hutton, a Scottish physician from the 18th century, this morning when I saw the broken granite cobblestone depicted above. It is located in the middle of Water Street at Jay Street in dumbo, Brooklyn, NY. I have probably walked over this cobblestone hundreds of times since 1995, and don’t remember seeing it broken. I’m not sure if this is ironic or not, because my artwork is about breaking stones. For whatever reason, I noticed this stone today and I wondered when and how it broke.
I am of the position that James Hutton had one of the greatest insights in the history of our species that permanently changed our perception of the world.
In 1787 along the hillside at Siccar Point, Scotland, he noticed a long horizontal layer of rock atop a thick layer of rock that was stratified vertically. This was the eighteenth century when people believed the landscape was as God created it 6,000 years earlier. Hutton already suspected – from his previous thinking about erosion on his farm and through discussions about the Earth with other intellectuals of his time – that these rocks told a story of the past. What was new for Mr. Hutton was that he saw a rough, irregular layer of pebbles and grit between these two that, he realized, came from the erosion of the lower layer that could only occur over a very long time period. He suddenly understood not only that there were enormous forces that took a massive horizontal layer of stone and pushed it upright into what could have only been a mountain, but also that there was an “abyss of time” – longer than he could possibly imagine – that then allowed this mountain to erode away, leaving the stratified, vertical remains (that he was looking at) to be submerged into an ocean where another layer of stone formed on top of it; and, then, through another enormous force and even more time, it was all pushed up – again! – into a landmass he called “Scotland.” Hutton was stunned at the length of time the Earth must have existed for this to have happened.
Hutton through this insight knew the world was much older than anyone thought and, more than that, this process was still in operation whereby the Earth was constantly changing and perpetually being reformed. As Marcia Bjornerud described it in Reading the Rocks, “Hutton saw [this as] evidence for an endlessly rejuvenating, infinitely old Earth with ‘no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.’” Hutton explained this “abyss of time” and his other geological thoughts in “The Theory of the Earth,” published in 1788. Many of his principles still conform to modern geology; however, we now understand the Earth to be about 4.55 billion years old – not “infinitely old,” but still it’s been around a very, very long time.
Many of New York’s cobblestones came from Europe and were used as ballast for empty merchant ships sailing across the Atlantic in the 17th century to pick up goods and materials from the New World. The colonists used these cobblestones to pave the streets. The broken cobblestone I saw this morning is most likely originally from Europe because this is an old part of the city. The forces that broke it were not tectonic and the time it took was not geologic. Rather, the cobblestone probably broke from industrial vibrations and forces and the freeze and thaw of climate. It will eventually erode away and probably contribute to the sediment at the bottom of the East River and be part of a future continental landmass eons away.
I really want to know when this cobblestone broke and I am going to contact some geologist I know to try and get a more precise window of time. Stay tuned …