Tag Archives: drawing

Day by Day in the Studio 12: August 11

Three Tables

August 11, 2011

A drawing from August 11, 2011 finds me at a table, at night. Instead of picturing myself at the table where I did the drawing, I have placed myself where I live much of my life, in front of  my computer, at another table. The table is the one I am writing this blog post on now, a small Parsons-style table my sister Naomi bought for herself to use to write sitting at the same spot: for many years it had a small but treasured view of the Provincetown bay, but over the years two trees have come to block that view…I used to wonder what I could pour onto the roots of the first tree in order to stunt its growth or even kill it, by the time the second one was planted smack in front of the window, the view was mostly gone. She loved that view but she would still love looking out at the sky through the leaves. She always loved the way one could see Norman Mailer sitting in his little study in both his houses here, looking out at the bay, and liked to think of herself in a company of people who have been writers in this place. We shared that love of tradition and of belonging to a place, an American place we felt that through time we could claim to belong to, I think because we also shared the trauma of displacement, one we had not experienced ourselves, but that marked our lives, that of our parents’ forced displacement from Europe.

The drawing was done at another table, a jeweler’s worktable that has been in my family for about 70 years. It was my father Ilya Schor’s worktable in New York, I think perhaps as far back as the 1940s, certainly as far back as 1955. When my mother bought this house, she commissioned a young artist to build a worktable identical to it. The new table stayed in New York, and she brought the old one up here to Provincetown where she worked several months a year for the next 35 years. She always cleared and cleaned the table before her return to New York, covering it with a layer of the New York Times. The first summer after she died I felt the table should not be left alone. I put a fresh layer of newspaper down, unpacked inks, gouaches, brushes, and sketchbook. Sitting at that worktable at night in a pool of light from an ancient fluorescent desk lamp, I worked my way back into life. The worktable was an engine of creativity, a hearth. I thought of it so much as sitting down to her table and continuing that only later did I remember that it was not just her desk, but also his, the one she had sat down to, to continue the work.

Resia Schor, working in Provincetown at age 91, 2002.

Ilya, Resia, and Mira Schor’s worktable, August 11, 2013

I paint on another table where I have worked since before graduate school, next to windows with starched gauze white curtains. I would be happiest having ten such tables, I could use an infinite amount of tables, I am pea-green with envy at artists who have huge studios and giant tables (the kind you see in documentaries, where the artist’s assistant religiously brings out some work for the great man to work on) but this one, always more than half occupied with supplies, has been a place I can work.

Painting table, Provincetown, August 11, 2013

You cannot go home again, in some basic sense: today I walked past the house where I lived when my family was intact, the summers we first came to Provincetown when my father was still alive. Sometime in the 1980s I had the eerie experience of walking past the door and as a young girl came out I heard her mother call her, “Mira.” I had never met or heard of anyone with my name until Marilyn French wrote The Women’s Room, with a heroine of that name, now here was a child named perhaps for that heroine, coming out of the house I had spent perhaps the happiest times of my life. But long since the door, which opened directly to an staircase to the second floor apartment we rented, was boarded up and the entrance moved to the side. But I can sit at my father and mother’s worktable. Tables must be stable and this link to the past creates a kind of stability of tradition and time.

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Day by Day in the Studio 10: August 3

August 3, 1976

Mira Schor, Postcard: From the Deep Pool of Dreams to Landlocked, August 3, 1976. Ink, dry pigment, medium on rice paper, c. 3 1/2 x 6 in.

Mira Schor, Two Postcards (side 1), August 3, 1976. Ink, collage, medium on rice paper, c. 4 x 6 in. each

Mira Schor, Two Postcards (side 2), August 3, 1976. Ink, collage, medium on rice paper, c. 4 x 6 in. each

Postcards/blog posts. You mail a postcard, although I did not mail the postcards I made as artworks in 1976-77. You “publish” a blog post and it goes out into the mysteriously infinite internet, including in my case to a number of subscribers who I believe get these posts as emails. The similarity is that they arrive unexpectedly. This series of posts, Day by Day in the Studio–short spontaneously written essays suggested by works done on particular days in the summer over a period of about 40 years, including only those that I have a specifically dated record of on the hard drive I am working on this summer–has received mixed response as best I can tell. I regularly get one or two unsubscribe notices after each post. This is plain rude and unnecessary behavior, people! I subscribe to many blogs and even old fashioned email posts and, top secret, I don’t read all of them every time, I often don’t have time, so I understand that no one else has any more time than I do, and I’m not necessarily interested in all of them, but I have never clicked “unsubscribe,” first, because it would hurt the person’s feelings and, by the way, it’s not anonymous, the unsubscribe notice includes the person’s email address which may contain their whole name or enough of it, and, second, because by scanning these blog posts in even the most cursory manner I do get a basic sense of what various people are thinking about and doing, and sometimes I find something I like or learn from so it is always informative on some level. On the other hand, I have been getting very supportive emails from other artists including from people I do not know in person, but through Facebook and my writing, which I am glad of because I do try to lace my personal reflections with comments of more general interest to other artists.

In one of these emails, William Conger, a Chicago-based painter, wrote asking

I’m very interested in notions of duality on literature and art. This seems to be a central theme in Terry Eagleton’s recent The Event of Literature. Would you care to say why you have frequently chosen to work on both sides of a translucent surface as if the image/content depends on their integrated presentation?

I was grateful to able to address what is an important aspect of how I have often structured works and I warned him I might use my response to him in a later post and indeed here is it.

I think that before any kind of analysis (in the psychoanalytic sense as well as any other) of why I work on both sides of the translucent paper, I owe that process to inheritance. Both my parents worked on both sides of every object they made, jewelry, Judaica, and sculpture, and my father painted on both sides of the pieces of cardboard he painted on–the image on the back was not translucent or functional as in my drawings, but in both cases there is always a sense of discovery and pleasure when you see the reverse side or the interior. In my mother’s work in particular, she recognized the visual power of the back of her works in silver, so that the functional, unintentional forms that helped created the “front” image was just as interesting though often with a darker feeling..if you look at my blog and search for the posts on both their work, Resia Schor and Ilya Schor, you will see examples of what I’m describing. I’m just finishing work on a catalogue for a show this summer here in Provincetown of their sculpture and that aspect of their work is featured in the catalogue.

I also find that as I began to work with rice paper and through experimentation began to work on both sides, then deliberately to work one side to create the other, that the “back” side often had a vigor that sprang from decision made purely instrumentally, thus without self-consciousness, and gradually the “back” became “the front” or no distinction could be made. Although oil painting doesn’t allow for that particular method of production of a surface, I try to remember the freshness that comes from unintentionally.

Here are examples of the back and front of works by my parents that will be exhibited in the exhibition Abstract Marriage: Sculpture by Ilya Schor and Resia Schor, opening August 16 at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.

Ilya Schor, Angel (back and front), c.1959-60. Brass with brass wire, 26 1/4 x 11 1/2 x 7 in. riveted to a wood base.

Resia Schor, Nike (front and back), 1981. Brass, Plexiglas, gouache on paper, 12 x 12 in.

And here are other examples of how they worked the back and the front of almost every work they made. In the case of my father, the back most often functions as a kind of unconscious of the work, a night for day, or simply provides a surplus of delight, visual pleasure where it would not ordinarily be seen, as in the front and back of a bracelet in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but rarely is it directly instrumental or indexical, unlike the back’s of my mother’s works, as in the pendant below, where the back leaves open to view how the work was made while creating an image as, if not more, interesting than the “front.” (I demonstrate the delightful complexities of my father’s bracelet in my 2003 video on my parents’ work, The Tale of the Goldsmith’s Floor, an illustrated video script appeared in differences in 2003).

Ilya Schor, Bracelet (front and back of a detail), 1958. Silver, gold, diamonds, approximately 6 x 1 1.5 in. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Resia Schor, Pendant. Silver and gold, approximately 4 x 2 1/2 in.

When I began to paint in oil in the early ’80s, the medium presented challenges, many of them of a nature familiar to anyone who has tried to master this medium–how to effectively be either loose or tight, and how to avoid mud, the most feared by-product of first attempts–and some that were particular to how I had previously arrived at an image. For years I worked both sides of rice paper so that several experiences of the creation of the image were visible at the same time in the final layer: dry pigment on the back of the paper pushed color and highlighting through the front without being present as a tactile element, while the dry pigment on the front as tangible as a sculptural element. In oil I had to figure out a way to make these complexities of layering happen as oil painting allows, where most of the layers are covered over and you cannot see through to the beginning of work and the back doesn’t penetrate the front except chemically and through refraction of light through layers of matter of which the viewer is not consciously aware: in oil painting, the under layers do affect the final surface in many ways causing conservatorial stability or havoc, but these layers are mostly hidden to the viewer and thus seem to operate as alchemy–leading to the fascination infrared imaging of paintings holds for us, as we discover what is going on in some of those unseen layers.

August 3, 2003

Mira Schor, Painting (yellow on blue), 2003. Oil on linen, 30 x 36 in.

It took a long time to adjust to the way in which the layering of an oil painting goes from a bottom layer (whose back is closed to us by sizing) to the visible final layer which is the painting image, here in a work that represents what it is and what I do, painting, or pain-t-ing as some might read it.

Meanwhile I continue to work on a type of paper which allows me to work front and back though because it is less resilient than rice paper, I mainly put white gesso on the back so that it gives an overall highlight to the work while also offering another, acrylic layer of matter to thicken and strengthen the work.

Mira Schor, Untitled, end July 2012. Ink on tracing paper with gesso on reverse side, c. 18 x 30 in.

While I continue to work both sides of paper, I also appreciate the blunt opacity of oil.

August 3, 2012

Mira Schor, The Bland Face of Expropriation (II), August 3, 2012. Oil on linen, 18 x 30 in.

Many recent paintings combine drawing and painting techniques and ethos such that I call them oil-assisted drawings: at best they keep intact the potential for spontaneous line that is more easily achieved in drawing while adding the color and materiality of oil paint, whether it be glaze or a beautiful opaque pigment used straight from the tube onto the canvas, in the case of this painting also finished August 3, 2012, a tube of Old Holland Cobalt Blue Turquoise that I had hanging around the studio since the ’90s. The painting presents two spaces–the garden in a summer’s night, and the classroom in winter, and it suggests a third, the space that is the ground of the whole painting, the flat gesso “wall” I create on linen, so that in the painting the figure in the dream of winter, dreams of an escape, which is back to the ground of painting.

Mira Schor, Fallow Field Series: Last Dream of Summer, August 3, 2012. Oil, ink on gesso on linen, 18 x 30 in.

The rapturous and desperate attempt to draw enough strength from the earth to deal with winter in the city trapped in rooms, recalled some important influences and this summer I became taken with the necessity to see and read something again that I had been introduced to at the very beginning of my becoming an artist, a beautiful catalogue on Rajput Painting from a show at Asia House in New York in 1960. The paintings reproduced in this catalogue–small works on paper, combining vivid color, rich narrative, radiant nature, and sometimes language–gave me support at a time when painting still generally had to be large, abstract, oil or acrylic on canvas, with no evident personal or narrative content to speak of. As important as the paintings reproduced in the catalogue were ancient Indian poems accompanying three or four particularly rapturous paintings. A few misremembered words of one of the poems has been like a refrain of a song in my mind this summer, “all rain and Vrindavana.” Googling Vrindavana did not make the remembered line make sense and I wanted to assure myself of my memory so much that I ordered a second copy for my studio here–a hardcover catalogue from 1961 turned out to be available and cheap online– and it arrived today, August 3, 2013.

This night of rain and rapture, all Vrindavana/ unmoored, adrift, lost in the solid dark of rain/ in torrents of sweet rain.

Wild lightning in the lap of the dark;/ Radha ever more richly plays,/ while sidelong in the slippery path a way is felt,/ vermilion, musk, and sandal-mark all turn to mud/ in torrents of sweet rain.

Narrotama, who cannot swim, drowns in the unhorizoned sea.

Narottama Das, 16th Century, trans.: Deben Bhattacharya

 

 

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Day to Day in the Studio 9: August 1

August 1, 1984

How much more Orwellian is 2013 than was the actual year 1984, or so it seemed when I did my calendar paintings in 1984.

Mira Schor, August 1984. Gouache, dry pigment, medium on rice paper, 72 x 36 in.

The degree to which science fiction visions of a far future and dystopians visions of a near future have turned out to be true is quite astounding although, perhaps too influenced by conditions in the Soviet and the dreariness of post-War Britain, George Orwell was wrong in thinking that political intimidation and mind control in the future would only be achieved through fear and brute force though these are still frequent methods in dictatorships worldwide. But now it is more often achieved through toys. We use our communicating devices in a pretty close manner to the way they appeared in various versions of Star Trek and we are as hypnotized by our devices as the crew in the STNG episode The Game from October, 1991, where, spoiler alert, the hypnotizing game, basically played in your visual cortex through something like Google glasses, is actually a tactic by aliens of distracting and brainwashing the crew to allow for a take over of the Starship Enterprise and the whole Federation–on STNG it’s a race called the Ktarians, before they fully understood the people from planet Jobs.  Plans are afoot to replicate meat, next thing you know, Soylent Green–there will be a fancy way of making it seem palatable as a reasonable solution to global warming or overpopulation, if you read the Wikipedia description of the plot of the movie Soylent Green, well, hello, today’s news. Today’s Times leads with an article on N.S.A. phone logs, as continued revelations of the degree to which all private communications are collected and monitored by governments and corporations challenge our illusions of privacy here in the US. I heard earlier this summer that cable boxes already have the capability of not just recording our choices of programming but they can see and hear us, they literally know when we get up and go to the bathroom.

When I think about the future, I think how the old and the new will continue to mix, but not necessarily in ways that will be easy to fathom. Already every new public bathroom is a challenge, as I try to figure out the mechanics of the particular faucet and the toilet–do you wave, do you get up, do you move the little lever up or down or sideways, and why is each different when for a century they were recognizably the same? I also think of the things that I have used in daily life for over 60 years which in the near future either will no longer exist or will have become luxury items: maybe in 2031 we will still have paper towels (invented in 1907), as an example of something I use everyday–in recent years struggling between awareness that they are part of a pattern of environmental havoc and the fact that they are just so damn useful, and hatred of the Koch Brothers notwithstanding–but they will be prohibitively expensive.

As an artist, as it is, many art supplies that form the core of my work are disappearing from the market–these include various inks, oil paint brushes, sizes of paper, types of sketchbooks, types of gesso, not to mention pure spirits of gum turpentine  in containers one can easily open, and even my favorite brand of Stand Oil. These disappearances are due to corporate restructuring, new technologies, the elimination of niche and craft manufacturing, and to marketing to the lowest common denominator of customer, in this case amateurs or beginners who don’t know the difference between a generic product and a high quality product: if you have never held a tube of high quality cadmium red light paint in one hand and of a student grade brand of the pigment of the same name in the other, you don’t understand how little pigment is in the student grade. If the color red is not as you had dreamed it because there is actually no pigment in the paint, you think there is something wrong with painting, not the paint brand you are using. (see discussion on Facebook about such matters, from June 30).

Reading predictions of the future can make you wonder about what you work so hard to accomplish in the present. For example I put a great deal of effort and resources into trying to preserve my parents’ work and histories, as well as my own artwork, but if New York is going to be largely underwater in fifty to a hundred years, as some studies predict, so will its museums and libraries, so maybe I shouldn’t bother.

I am not a huge reader of science fiction and I don’t have enough of an understanding of the present to be a futurologist: in fact I have a hard time understanding how we got to the point we are now, where almost all cultural developments I thought were achievements for the common good, from civil rights to women’s rights to environmental controls, are being dramatically reversed. I know that change for bad as well as for good can be abrupt, or it can be insidious, as were the changes in the economy and social philosophy taking place from the seventies onward, that have created our Nineteen Eighty-Four, our Brave New World.

August 1, 2013

To be honest and true to the letter of the law of these posts of works done on a particular calendar day over a period of about forty years, this sketch is from yesterday afternoon, July 31, 2013. Most of the text is appropriated from scam/spam emails and annoying emails from people I know. 1984 to 2013, other things on my mind for my work than the beauty of place.

Mira Schor, Chatter, sketchbook, July 31, 2013. Ink on paper, 14 x 22 in.

 

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Day by Day in the Studio 8: July 30

July 30, 1982

Mira Schor, The Bay at 7:30PM July 30, 1982. Dry pigment, pastel, medium on rice paper, 21 x 29 1/2 in.

The Bay at 7:30 PM was included in a small show I had of Provincetown drawings from 1982-83 at artSTRAND Gallery in Provincetown in 2007. I wrote some notes on each one when I saw them on the wall:

The Bay at 7:30 PM represents a moment of perfect pleasure and balance: the perfect swim, the swimmer caught in the tremulous moment of perfection — the water is smooth, clean, reflecting pink light from the sunset. It was inspired by the beauty of a particular minute of a particular day at the end of July 1982, looking at the bay, one of those days that are a gift.

Even in 1982 this would not have been the way I would have framed an artist’s statement on this work. At that time I was relieved to feel part of a tradition of American art, that of abstracted mystical landscape, and that would have been part of a statement. But in describing it when I saw it framed and on a gallery wall for the first time in many years, I focused on the sensual response to a moment of great beauty in nature and the joy of capturing such a moment of suspension of light in time.

July 30, 2012

Mira Schor, Who is Me?, July 30, 2012. Sketchbook drawing.

I return to the sketch from earlier in the summer which I discussed a few days ago, in terms of its temporal aspects.

Mira Schor, The Work Has to Be…, July 26, 2013. Ink, rabbit skin glue on gesso on linen,12 x 16 in.

To say that the work has to be an expression of who I am, at any minute, is to point to a very subjective criterion and would indicate a very subjective art practice. That was something that was frowned upon in certain influential circles in the art world from the 80s onward, in the years of the “death of the author,” although it could be argued that any work, even the most deliberately distanced and impersonal, in fact perhaps especially work for whom claims of rigorous objectivity are made, is still an expression of who the artist is at that minute. Subjectivity and objectivity are not really in the artist’s conscious control and, if I’m talking about “authenticity,” it may not even be something that one recognizes immediately so my directive to myself is another one of those vague tricks to get working or it is the direction someone gives saying “go there” while waving generally at the horizon.

The struggle implicit in the last paragraph is part of who I am right this minute. When I did The Bay at 7:30PM in 1982, I was just poised, though I did not yet know it, to begin an immersion in a specific type of critical discourse. In the next year I began to research my essay, “Appropriated Sexuality,” on the depiction of women in the work of David Salle, and in the process, of necessity, I began a process of reeducation in postmodern theory and aesthetics, and I found myself engaged in debates between the activist approach to feminism I had been engaged in during the 70s and the psychoanalytic, textual approach that marked the 80s. “Theory” proved to be a lifesaver, not just because it was necessary to have some fluency in it to survive in the artworld during that period and if you wanted to write about the art of the time, but a lifesaver because it took me out of “myself,” at a point in my life when that was needed, and forced me to struggle with concepts in a way that provided clarity and objectivity to the place I stood in the field of contemporary art practice.

In the late ’90s, the grip of theoretical discourse began to loosen, at least in terms of art practice, pushed by a move back to the, less theorized, body and a move forward to eye candy and spectacle. But, despite this slackening of a certain kind of critical rigor, “Theory” still holds pride of place in some parts of the art academy. And it remains as important to individual artists who still stand to gain much of value for their work and their breath as artists by gaining access to a larger discourse that takes them out of themselves, especially at a time when a lot of young artists have learned to commodify themselves by some kind of Homeric identifier: I do this work because…fill in the identity. But too much of a good thing becomes an orthodoxy that offers safe pathways to professional currency but may foreclose on so many of the possibilities offered by art history and contemporary visual culture.

Mira Schor, Who is Me? July 30, 2012. Ink and gesso on tracing paper, 18 x 30 in.

The unreliability of the identity we decide to propose as our own was brought into sudden sharp focus for me many years ago. Not that I thought of it when I did this drawing, Who Is Me?, last year on July 30, (and not that I remember what exactly brought me to put those words into a drawing) but, when I was in my early 20s, I used to see a very old, very wise, half-paralyzed Russian/Viennese psychoanalyst. I said at one point something about being myself, hoping to really be myself. “Oh yes,” she said pleasantly, “who is that?” BOOM, explosions in the mind!!!

The conflict I have indicated between work that remains responsible to/restricted by critical/theoretical concerns and work that would be free to engage with visual pleasure in a less mediated way is itself an unreliable portrait of “myself.” I can’t possibly separate the intellectual from the visual. Even when I stick my nose in the earth, I’m doing it because I’m inspired by a text I’m reading (see my discussion of Silvia Federici’s book Caliban and the Witch in my previous post).

Mira Schor, Fallow Field Series: Deep Communication with the Earth, July 30, 2012. Ink and gouache on tracing paper
14 x 18 in.

July 30, 2013

Nevertheless, “during theory,”  I purposefully policed my use of painting “effects”–bits of virtuosity, swirls of paint, rich color just for the sake of it as opposed to being part of a conceptual program. Yet I was doing exactly what I thought was right for the work, and my stern editing of such effects was and I think it still is part of a search for formal clarity and at the same time I couldn’t help myself from putting paint on in ways that gave me visual and material pleasure.

Today was as perfect a day as July 30, 1982. But the visual particulars of the place itself, Provincetown, is not the object matter of the work today. The “place” in the painting is based on the real but it is transformed into a situation, a shallow proscenium in which to diagram thought and the impact of theoretical concerns on visual practice. This is a work in process in the studio:

Mira Schor, Visual Pleasure/Theory/Productive Anonymity, July 30, 2013. Ink, oil on gesso on linen, 18 x 30 in. Work in process

Reminder: I will return to posting on art, culture, and politics soon enough but I hope my subscribers and readers will allow me a slight summer detour, a project of posting works done on specific summer days from different years, begun July 13.

 

 

 

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Day by Day in the Studio, 7: July 25

Earlier this summer, I sketched this imperative for my work:

A page or two later, I did a bit of copy-editing:

For some reason there seemed to be an important difference between at this minute, and right this minute, with right this minute seeming more idiomatic and more like an order than a temporal indicator. But whether at or right, having written /sketched this out only makes it ever more apparent just how hard it is to do, how seldom work arrives in and of the moment, this minute and not the last or the next.

Every artist works within a number of contexts and territories, so that “this minute” is also the cultural moment, a network of discourses, histories, and ideologies that are always at stake, and even when an artist is not directly engaged in appropriation and sampling, much work done today has an appropriative dimension, even contemporary abstract expressionism comes out of an appropriative mindset and even historical abstract expressionism was always a negotiated ballet between the canvas as an arena for action and actions that were considered, deliberately explored.

Every work of mine is at the very least related to all the ones that came before, particularly within a time frame or series, and simple methods of mechanical reproduction such as stencils and tracing are part of the process. I scan quick notebook sketches like the one above and have printouts scattered around my studio as references, including the pages reproduced above, so “right this minute” is relative.

A case in point: today’s post is about work done on July 25, yesterday’s date. In all, a figure is off of the vertical, either asleep, floating, adrift, or forcibly expropriated from a space of relative safety.

July 25, 1979

Another in the series of Figures I did in 1979, in which abstracted figures, somewhat like buildings and sails, were often in a kind of classical stasis. I don’t remember what I was thinking when I did these, though I think they were indirectly about my entry in to the New York art world as an adult.

July 25, 1984

Another in the series of large gouaches on rice paper done in 1984, this was a very meticulously detailed painting of seaweed attached to the basic figurative shape I was working with at the time, shifting gently in the bay at low tide.

Mira Schor, Drift, July 25, 1984. Gouache, dry pigment, medium on rice paper. 72 x 36 in.

July 25, 2012

Mira Schor, The Bland Face of Expropriation, July 25, 2012. Oil on linen, 18 x 30 in.

This painting, The Bland Face of Expropriation, done July 25, 2012, is based on this drawing done July 22, 2012:

Mira Schor, The Bland Face of Expropriation, July 22, 2012. Ink and gesso on tracing paper, c. 18 x 30 in.

Right this minute a year ago, I was furious about something. Fury can be energizing. The conduit between internalized corrosion by fury at injustice within to artwork that felt connected to much larger forces than the individual, was the book I was reading at the time, Silvia Federici‘s brilliant Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation:

The book evolved from studies of “the history of capitalism and class struggle from a feminist viewpoint,” begun by Federici and others in the early 1970s. Federici examines the transition from late feudalism to early capitalism and the regime of “primitive accumulation.” It’s hard to do justice to the book without quoting the whole thing, but it’s a gripping, vivid tale, about how the tradition of the commons and other folk experience-based crafts and practices that had developed in the medieval period were forcibly, often violently eliminated and suppressed as part of the development of early capitalism which necessitated the expropriation of peasants from commons lands, and the violent expropriation of women from any role of equal participation in production of their own culture, in order to make them available to the devalued task of reproductive labor of the proletariat. She introduces her premise for the book as follows:

I. The expropriation of European workers from their means of subsistence, and the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans to the mines and plantations of the “New World,” were not the only means by which a world proletariat was formed and “accumulated.”

II. This process required the transformation of the body into a work-machine, and the subjugation of women to the reproduction of the work-force. Most of all, it required the destruction of the power of women which, in Europe as in America, was achieved through the extermination of the “witches.”

III. Primitive accumulation, then, was not simply an accumulation and concentration of exploitable workers and capital. It was also an accumulation of differences and divisions within the working class, whereby hierarchies built upon gender, as well as “race” and age, became constitutive of class rule and the formation of the modern proletariat.

Caliban and the Witch was one of a number of books I sought out last summer, to help me understand the socio-economic situation we’re in, of austerity, income inequality, and the death of the social contract that existed at least as an ideal up until the end of the 1970s. I also read Maria Mies’s Patriarchy & Accumulation on a World Scale, and Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity but Caliban was the most interesting and also the most current, because I read Federici’s examination of the systematic “war on women” over three centuries to control female power against the background of last summer’s vivid demonstrations of the current war on women–last summer, if you recall, being the summer of “legitimate rape” and other appalling instances of misogyny and magical thinking about female anatomy.

Federici’s description of some medieval agricultural practices first made me look at the grass upon which my little avatar of self figure lay as the borderline between life above ground and the earth below as a generative field, so I placed my figure in the earth below the grass as a line of demarcation. But reading about the horrific suppression of women particularly during the period of the Witch-hunts (not as long ago as you may think–not some dark long ago of the “Middle Ages,” but from the mid-15th century through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries), my recent personal experience of expropriation clicked with a larger history and around the word expropriation, and I plunged my avatar into the earth, head first, not of her own volition, Expropriation surrounds us, whether it’s corporate downsizing, unemployment, climate-caused displacement, or expropriation of bodies of knowledge that are deemed obsolete but these days the methods of expropriation are usually as violent as burning at the stake, they come with a happy face.

July 25, 2013

This year the process of expropriation seems to be in a kind of stasis or impasse, of topsy-turvy which remains unresolved or, simply, dual. In the studio yesterday, the 25th, “this minute” as of yesterday, below or above, depending on how you hang the painting, an Arcadian mid-summer moment in which time and matter slow enough to be studied at leisure, and above or below depending how you hang the painting, another avatar of self, shrouded to near invisibility for self-protection, in a temporary and barren shelter, with only the guidance of a map, which offers no directional guidance, simply the idea of a map or of mapping, right this minute:

 

 

 

 

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