Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Cold fire - Scarlet / New Mexico

Etymology: c.1250, "rich cloth" (often, but not necessarily, bright red in color), from an aphetic form of O.Fr. escarlate (12c., Mod.Fr. écarlate), from M.L. scarlatum "scarlet, cloth of scarlet" (cf. It. scarlatto, Sp. escarlate), from Pers. saqirlat "a kind of rich cloth," variant of siqillat "scarlet cloth, rich cloth," of unknown origin (Arabic siqillat "fine cloth" probably is ult. from Pers.). In reference to color, attested from c.1386. Scarlet lady, etc. (Isa. i:18, Rev. xvii:1-5) is from notion of "red with shame or indignation." Scarlet fever is from 1676.

"...scarlet: a colour obtained instead from the desiccated eggs of various
pregnant shield lice or scale insects of the Coccidae family (genus Coccus) that fed upon various species of Mediterranean oaks. The most important was the Kermococcus vermilio (sometimes referred to incorrectly as Coccus ilicis). These insects, in medieval Europe and the Islamic world, were cultivated in the Iberian peninsula (especiallyPortugal, Andalusia, Valencia), Provence,Languedoc, Morocco, the Maghreb, Tunisia, and Asia Minor. From the Caucasus region – i.e., present-day Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan – and adjacent regions of Iran, scarlet dyestuffs were also extracted from a related insect: Porphyrophora hameli. From the Spanish conquests of the sixteenth century, the New World provided a new and more powerful formof scarlet dyes: Mexican cochineal, which the Spanish called Grana cochinilla and whose modern scientific name is Coccus cacti, or more properly Dactylopius coccus."

From The Anti-Red Shift – to the Dark Side: Changes in the Colour Patterns and Market Values of Flemish Luxury Woollens, 1300 - 1550

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Desert - Yellow / Arizona

Antimony yellow, can range from a somewhat muted, or earthy, reddish yellow pigment to a bright light yellow, and is the chemical compound lead(II)-antimonate. Its chemical composition is Pb(SbO3)2Pb3(Sb3O4)2. It is also known as jaune d'antimoine. It is one of the oldest synthetic pigments, dating from around 1620.

"My spirits infallibly rise in proportion to the outward dreariness. Give me the ocean, the desert, or the wilderness!"
Henry David Thoreau

"To say nothing is out here is incorrect; to say the desert is stingy with everything except space and light, stone and earth is closer to the truth."
William Least Heat Moon

Friday, 25 January 2008

Heavens - Cerulean blue / New Mexico

Etymology: Latin. cæruleus sky-blue, prob. :- cælolos, from cælum - sky, heaven

In the desert,
Turn toward emptiness,
Fleeing the self.

Stand alone,
Ask no one’s help,
And your being will quiet,
Free from the bondage of things.

from The desert has many teachings - Mechthild of Magdeburg (1210 – c. 1285)

Old desert sun washed license plates evoke a melancholia in me. For times past - past lives - for uncluttered space. The faded colours have become quite ethereal. I have a number of such plates from New Mexico and Arizona: collectors shun the faded plates...

I find myself craning to catch a glimpse of plates on cars in old movies - a key to reimagine monochrome as colour. Spreading to the car, the people, the landscape... a burden lifted - light.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Newfoundland II

Signal Hill, St Johns, Newfoundland. Contingency - walk past the Canadian embassy in London - an exhibition of abstract art - a Newfoundland painter - booked my flight the next day. Newfoundlanders secure in who they are, on the rock. But cods stocks dwindle, and...

"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?"

from Questions of Travel, Elizabeth Bishop.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Repetition - San Joaquins

Just north of Bakersfield on the Amtrak train to San Francisco.

Flatness. In SF people were perplexed not only to why I spent time in Bakersfield, but why I didn't take the coastal train. The coast is lovely, but the interior was entrancing. There was a lulling monotony; a repetitiveness - of right angle crossings by roads and rails; telegraph poles, fences, barriers; fields, furrows, tracks; bells, doppler effects. Space etched by rail.

"He is telling all of this while he keeps fixed to his map, and
as he speaks, he draws in the ties of his tracks, a couple hundred little hash marks. At first I see them as tallies of wrongs, but when he keeps marking them even after the topic changes, keeps laying down those little sleepers, I think: of course, the most important elements in a trackman’s work is the crosstie—that piece holding the railroad together, the predicate between subject and object, the linking between soil and rail. A trackman’s days go to battling ties; as feet are to a walker, so ties are to a train"
Prairyerth: A Deep Map - William Least Heat Moon

Nostalgia II

Sketch of Childhood + airport + CN railway

Tuesday, 15 January 2008



Airports: they've been described as non-places, but that might be an overstatement. However, they are supremely bureaucratic authoritarian spaces - but paradoxically overlaid with anticipation of escape. Corresponds with inside and outside. Will Self marvelled at how something as incomprehensible as flight has been rendered so boring.

Myself, I'm fascinated by the overall geography of the runways; of the signage; of the codes. Flatness - geometric shapes - ethereal blue skies.

Monday, 14 January 2008


The wild passion of letting yourself be transported by wind, by burning heat and by cold space... the pleasure of being anonymous, of being quiet for a long time, of existing in no place at all... where the dialogues of others continually slip in... the pleasure of leaving, of being far away, of being missing... the subtle pleasures of erasing the presence of your body, your words and your shadow, of counting for nothing, of hiding yourself, of becoming so light that you fly away...

Michel Serres - Angels: a Modern Myth

We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and the far, of the side by side, of the dispersed. We are at the moment, I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein.

Michel Foucault - Other Spaces’ - Diacritics

Friday, 11 January 2008

Graffiti - Kings Cross

Graffiti around Kings Cross. For large versions click on image.

  1. "Always fail" says the rat... banksy
  2. Rogue cash point - banksy - Roseberry Avenue
  3. Mao Tse Tung - Pentonville Road

Red light

"Red protects itself. No color is as territorial. It stakes a claim, is on the alert against the spectrum."

"Love, like the heart, is red."

Derek Jarman, Chroma

National Theatre, Southbank

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Home as Museum

‘Why content ourselves with a mere inventory of our treasures? Let us look at them ourselves, use them and work upon them in manifold ways.’


  • Systematic collecting: ‘an ostensibly intellectual rationale is followed, and the intention is to collect complete sets which will demonstrate understanding achieved.’
  • Fetish collecting: ‘the objects are dominant’; this is an ‘obsessive gathering [of] as many items as possible . . . to create the self.’
  • Souvenir collecting: ‘the individual creates a romantic life-history by selecting and arranging personal memorial material to create what . . . might be called an object autobiography, where the objects are at the service of the autobiographer.’

“Both [fetish and souvenir collecting] are part of an attempt to create a satisfactory private universe, and both do this by trying to lift objects away from the web of social relationships, to deny process and to freeze time”

Susan Pearce

‘Systematics is the construction of a collection of objects in order to represent an ideology . . . . Fetishism is the removal of the object from its historical and cultural context and its redefinition in terms of the collector. In souvenir collecting, the object is prized for its power to carry the past into the future.’

John Windsor

Monday, 7 January 2008


"She is the kind of child who feels a protective tenderness towards her own beginnings. It is part of her strategy in a world of displacements to make every effort to restore and preserve - keep things together for their value as remembering objects - a way of fastening herself to life."

Don deLillo - White Noise.

Blue and yellow - horizon to horizon - undulating wheat - man on the moon - a place to be lost - to loose oneself - 1969.

Loss of belonging - of physical continuity - both location, and proximity of physical objects. How much do physical objects mean - how much do they make us: proof of our history - our past. Out of body confirmation of our existence. Otherwise, we are only in our mind. No clues on offer. Nothing to contradict. Can the objects lie?

Do I need a catalyst? And others... do they? And love?

On Exactitude in Science

...In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

Sunday, 6 January 2008


The shadow of Newfoundland lies flat and still...

Self as Collage

Narrative, episodes, blogs, short stories, poems, collage... how to gather a life fractured - to form a whole - what glue to use? To gather the shards, to restore meaning to what has been neglected, and to give meaning to what has been ignored or derided.

The glue of Nin's collages is the "I" who percieves, reflects, interacts with others, dreams, interprets her experience, and finally expresses what she has experienced.

Sharon Spencer on Anais Nin

"I allowed myself to live out a mood and see what it would construct. Once the mood is accepted, the mood makes the selection, the mood will give fragments a unity, the mood will be the catalyser. And so, this book, which should have been a novel or another book of short stories, became something else, a collage"

Anais Nin on Collages

"Our lives are a dense network of perpetually reconstituted connections between impressions, feelings, meaning, words - we create ourselves humpty-dumpty like from frgaments - never simple, always complex, contradictory, like Baudelaires Consequences and leonardo's universe, where he saw actual lines of geometry connecting objects."



Thursday, 3 January 2008


In The Future of Nostalgia, cultural historian Svetlana Boym proposes to differentiate between two kinds of nostalgia: restorative and reflective. Restorative nostalgia evokes national past and future and is focused on the recovery and preservation of what is perceived to be an absolute truth. Reflective nostalgia is focused on the individualized meditation on history and suggests flexibility, an individual narrative, and cherishing shattered fragments of memory. While restorative nostalgia takes itself "dead seriously," reflective nostalgia "can be ironic and humorous. It reveals that longing and critical thinking are not opposed to one another, as affective memories do not absolve one from compassion, judgment or critical reflection."

A Little Nostalgia: The Detective Novels of Alexandra Marinina - Elena Baraban

Restorative nostalgia ... attempts a transhistorical reconstruction of the lost home. Reflective nostalgia thrives in ... the longing itself, and delays the homecoming.... Restorative nostalgia does not think of itself as nostalgia, but rather as truth and tradition. Reflective nostalgia dwells on the ambivalences of human longing and belonging and does not shy away from the contractictions of modernity. Restorative nostalgia protects the absolute truth, while reflective nostalgia calls it into doubt. Restorative nostalgia is at the core of recent national and religious revivals; it knows two main plots - the return to origins and conspiracy. Reflective nostalgia does not follow a single plot but explores ways of inhabiting many places at once and imagining different time zones: it loves details, not symbols.

The Future of Nostalgia - Svetlana Boym

The etymology "nostalgia": constructed from the Greek words nóstos, meaning "return home", and álgos, meaning “pain”. The word was coined by the Swiss physician Johannes Hofer in the 17th Century to describe the pathological condition of severe homesickness observed in Swiss mercenaries who spent long periods away from their homeland.

It was during the 20th century that it's meaning evolved - a shift in emphasis from the spatial to temporal. A yearning for past ages, and then further into fantasy: a yearning for what never existed. And then, perhaps, even nostalgia for the future.

  • Painting + armoured crab + fan + Sheran
  • Stoat + cod backbone + virgin mary + navy torpedo bomber + 19th C pottery shards

Repetition - Music and Mathematics

Insomniac meanderings... I found these during the night


Chopin, Mazurka in F# Minor at The Shape of Song


"Functional visualizations are more than innovative statistical analyses and computational algorithms. They must make sense to the user and require a visual language system that uses colour, shape, line, hierarchy and composition to communicate clearly and appropriately, much like the alphabetic and character-based languages used worldwide between humans."

Matt Woolman - Digital Information Graphics at Visual complexity

Colour planes

  1. The fourth plinth, Trafalgar Square - Thomas Schütte's Model for a Hotel.
  2. National Theatre