In the midst of our living we are in flight: one helix descent, our bodies slowly grinding to a halt, chewed upon by time and tug and tarry until eventually we have become eviscerated by time, only time (memory the more forgiving); one helix ascent, as our bodies in the end seed all that comes after (again, memory the more forgiving). Why is it we experience and speak of this (old age, hospitals, deterioration, illness, diminishment, death) as if a fall, a falling away from ourselves, our bodies, our lives: why not a falling into (an en attendant ) for that lift, our shift, for which we were meant from the the very point of our viscous beginnings: in the end, we (bodies and selves) alight.
For are we not caught in the middle distance of a landscape of transformation, out and in: hunger-filled, flap flailing need, and with hope that our seeking-out of light somehow diminishes that which will continue to diminish us as it has from the very beginning: time (though, memory the more forgiving) gnawing away at us ineluctably. Have you seen this in the way light metastasizes in the form of an umbrella-lip shadow along an old man’s jaw? Have you see how, like an old woman pouring tea, memory attaches itself to the tropic-line etched around an iris? Have you recalled how much voice canopies between the space point-d toed between outstretched arm and past-by hip? How to speak of these things that surround us, transform us and shift-shape beside and inside: light, greying shadow, bloom-stone room, evacuation of senses, surgical step, cowlick tip of a grandmother’s combed part, pencil thin forefinger tip, forlorn smile as a beckoning drip, drip, slip, equipped. How to express that our undoing is in fact the beginning too of our rendering into light (memory’s defense against time: light)? Look: where is the sadness in those photographs that you have seen this evening? No, the sadness is your sadness, for you have not yet been tested, physically, experientially (your helix is still young Robert Black), have not felt your skin slipping away from bone or matte or thread-voice. No, if there is any sadness in these photographs, it is your own, not their for they (the men and women inside her pictures) have taught you what you have often failed to recognize in life: that physically diminishment does not mean a fall, does not mean a scattering away, but instead simply may just be a scattering into: a gathering.
This evening my friend and fellow Lighstalker member Aranxta Cedillo’s new exhibition of photographs opened. I was late and I was happy to be surrounded with silence, since most of the people had left when i finally arrived.
They are a gathering, a record of remarkable transformation: our human apotheosis and strength, often mistaken for misery in the confines of neglect and old age and hospitals. Yes, there inside the photographs is loneliness and pain and sorrow and blood and blocked light and harrowing crooked bodies and cloven arms and fingers agape, and shoulders clouded over by focal length and light succumbing to light. What, to most of us appears forlorn, though difficult might be just the opposite. That poverty and death and illness and atrophy does not necessarily mean human squalor but something more simple. Our plight is not that we will wither, but that we have forgotten those who are withering and mistake this for contempt. there is pain in these photographs but it is of a different nature.
We are (do not forget this) are amid this: that if nothing, we are of transfiguration, borne of it, robbed of it: not ashes to ashes, but pollen-seed to pollen-seed.
This evening, I have listened (myself feeling overly mute) to the stories of a group of aging citizens in the act of flight: toward shadow and light, toward sustenance and ephemerality, toward the birth of their own death and not once did I sense their diminishment, for each of the brave men and women they remained saddled and unflinching. There, the man with the carved, tourniquet chin, sitting alone at a table a boulder-square of light behind him as if Sisyphus finally set free; an elderly woman who stares unflinchingly back as you try to avert your stare, pick apart the uncombed hairs, only later to encounter her back, as if a Atlas, headless, now spared of the burden of the earth having been removed from her shoulders. Then there are those flashes: arms stretched out as if flags and lines of cloth, dust and shadow and foreground seas: an abacus of blur and time and collision: bodies collapsing while eyes remain radiant and seeding; a geometry of emptiness filled with a fervor of voice; beds, knives, smoke, frames, needles, blood, floors, tears, teeth, pivot of smile, pivot of stare, pivot of movement spared: seed, smile, sun-song sung.
I am now not speaking of photography but of simpler things: lives, we pour ourselves, able and feeble, expanding into culture and germ. In a word: seed.
Aranxta Cedillo’s opening at the Alliance Francaise in Toronto runs until August 5 until it travels to London for the Ian Perry Fellowship celebration. The work showcases Aranxta’s year-long project as last year’s Ian Perry Fellowship award winner. The work is magisterial, beautiful and profound. Following up her work about the emergency room at NYC’ Bellevue Hospital, Aranxta’s work has deepened and matured and I could not speak (a testament always to powerful work for me, a man not easily diminished to silence ;)) ) for a while afterward.
I should tell you this: the exhibition reminded me of one of Aranxta’s qualities that my wife and I have most cherished: she is a remarkable listener and the photographs are testament to the depth and patience and sincerity with which Aranxta listens to people. It is that rare exhibition of photographs depicting suffering:
In this show the profound loss through which all of us will chart ourselves is painstakingly told but not for a single moment is it done with pity or misery or solipsistic torpor. In fact, the greatest achievement of her year-long project and the resulting photographs is that they elevate: they celebrate what it means to be human; they celebrate those people to whom she was entrusted to tell their stories. I judge photographs (as a viewer and as a photographer) with the same criterion I judge my own place in things: have the photographs carried the same weight and gift that the people and places gave to the photographer in the first place initially? To paraphrase Milosz: to carry wonder inside our bodies, wonder at what is.
See for yourself….
Her exhibition is being held at the Alliance Francaise, Toronto, 24 Spadina Road
[a former member]
2006-07-22 04:34:11 UTC
Mar 12 2008
Toronto (home sweet)
21 Jul 2006 00:07