Friday, November 06, 2009

October notes from Einstein Drive II

A Humument p142, 2009

Page 142 was a different matter, though it too had a constraint in that Toge, my Shandean hero, makes an obligatory appearance. His story with its wavering fortunes and indecisive chronology is part of the baggage carried forward from early days in the making of my book: he is condemned to enter the scene on any page figuring the words together or altogether from which his name is derived. Here he is joined by C. LOOPSEEND (of blogs 10th and 23rd Aug 2007) and a bench which are also part of my life's artistic luggage.

Having teased out the words I felt the need of an ikon for his chapel. Once again arte povera ruled and I found in Zeit Magazin (18/6/09 p.7) a picture of a black Porsche like an object of worship, in a halo of gold. It was a nicely exacting challenge to reconfigure cut up elements of this as a holy image; Christ from a car. I took great pleasure in recycling the whole of the vehicle as can be seen below from the remaining outline with absent Porsche.

Zeit Magazin, the absent Porsche.

Around this collage is a set of borders. The first collaged from the same magazine and the other two painted after standard patterns I had seen on mosaics in Jordan, as I was reminded while reading my friend Glen Bowersock's brilliant book Mosaics in History (which I have just swapped with him for a promised copy of my [imminently forthcoming!] book on goldweights).

Why am I suddenly talking of how pages come to be made? Perhaps because on one of my Sundays in New York I met up with John Pull at the Lyric diner on 3rd Ave and 22nd St. Over a lunch the menu called 'Lumberjack' we talked of the possibility of making in due time a Humument Variorum, an edition that would include the original and changed versions, plus all the treated fragments, as well as humument appearances on globe and skull, poster and t-shirt. I guess this must by now, with the Inferno commentary, Ulysses pages and various celebratory items, amount to well over a thousand items. I find this an exciting prospect though the method of doing it poses problems, especially since, with work still underway, it would soon be overtaken by itself. A posthumous post-modern document perhaps; but to be started nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

October notes from Einstein Drive

Heart of Darkness storyboard, 2009.

Arte Povera is my watchword here since I bring (or have left there from last year) only basic equipment, a box of watercolours, a tube of white gouache, some paste and a bottle of acrylic medium, a few sheets of paper, a ruler and a scalpel, together with a small selection of brushes. Nonetheless it is amazing how in a day or two a neat office can be satisfyingly transformed into a chaotic studio.

A single artistic task will do the trick. In this case it was my much delayed response to an ever more insistent request to supply an image to ‘ident’ (as they told me) Heart of Darkness, i.e. to show possible backers "what it would look like".

I struggled with the idea; for a theatre production has no visual identity until a director is chosen who then decides on it with his or her set designer. Different direction might set the piece on Mars or Wolverhampton station.

Thus I had no image in mind that would allow me to bluff the matter out. However, after a day or two of calm at the Institute for Advanced Study it suddenly occurred to me that a storyboard with key moments pictured in different manners might be the answer.

These could be bracketed between the repeated set-ups of the Thames boat (on which Marlow is telling his tale) and the house of Kurz’s ‘intended’ which begin and end the opera; with a reprise of the Thames boat at the centre.

In the humanities library a kind librarian provided me with four or five copies of Zeit Magazin which she was about to throw out: these offered just the colours and contrasts I would need for collage. Three days later I had my storyboard complete, like a set of postage stamps.

When I got to New York the following Sunday and met up with Tarik, and walked the High Line with Charles and Bob of the American Opera Group everyone seemed happy with it and I could relax and enjoy the excellent crabcakes later served by Suki, our hostess in Washington Square.


With the storyboard done I returned to my revisions of A Humument. I have become a visitor to my own website ( where I can look at the stylish turning-page page-turner made by Alice from the most recent edition. There was a copy of the book only a few yards away in the library but I was pleased to find it to be out on loan.

When I started to make my reworkings of all the pages (I am well over half way through the process) the choices were easy since I saw better possibilities in Mallock’s text than I had initially found (sometimes as long as forty years ago). Also new opportunities of relevance have appeared, e.g. how was I to have predicted that the word ‘bush’ would (alas) come in handy?

Now I am condemned, as these pages get used up, to stumble on those that still appeal to me yet must, since the rules are the rules, be altered. One such is p.132 where I would have been sorry to part with ‘Mr Glad and his Mrs’. I can however imagine that Mr Glad’s wife passed away in the interim and that he has met a nice widowed lady called Mrs Hope. With a bit of strenuous redrawing, as can be seen here, I can now feature two figures instead of Mr Glad alone while not entirely losing the freshness of that first fine careless rapture.

A Humument p132, (clockwise from top L) unworked page, 1973 1st edition, 2009 revision, 2009 working drawing.