What Painting Is

I’ve been reading James Elkins’ (yes him again) What Painting Is. The book is about painting as the act of doing things with paint: the work towards the Work, as it were. Not about Art or Representation, or even stories about painters: the book tackles the viscous, tactile, impossible task of making something sublime through actions with oil, water, stone, pigment. There aren’t, he argues, art-critical ways of talking about painting at this level, and the book draws broadly from the language and practice of alchemy to navigate its way around these unspeakable things. Elkins’ face-to-the-canvas discussion of the physical …

Viewmaster goes Atomic

Speaking of 100 Suns, what could be more then than a Viewmaster reel of 3D images of atomic tests? Coming soon at Atom Central. I only stumbled over this because I’m still hunting for the image that I hoped would be in 100 Suns — a Rapatronic photograph of a desert test that I hope I can find and post later, with some thoughts. Actually, I’m off to search the amazingly comprehensive The Bomb Project for it. This might take some time…

Two Things

That thing that happens sometimes, when you are lost in thought and you kick your foot against something in the world, fiercely hard, by accident, and suddenly you are aware that you have feet, and of the world, and it’s very funny, in a Zen kind of oh-here, the world kind of way. Today I took my headphones off in the Number 38 bus at Victoria, and the bus conductor was ringing the bell steadily, slowly, like a call to prayer, every note dying before the next.


Back to Heidegger: that tools which are ‘ready to hand’ (zuhanden) disappear into the task, and only become again ‘tools’ to us (as being, in themselves, things) when we put them down. I’ve written before, wondering about tools which we never put down — the tools which once we start using them, are internalised into our augmented experience — tools which become so much a part of our embodied being that we can never see them again in their own thingness. The word, not the axe. Also, possibly, pervasive tools like the mobile phone, certainly the internet, for some of …

Are Metaphors Arbitrary?

We suggest that the nonarbitrariness both of synaesthesia and of metaphor (and their directionality) arise because of constraints imposed by evolution and by neural hardware (Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001a). For example, you say loud shirt but you rarely say red sound; you say sharp taste but rarely bitter touch.S. Ramachandran and Edward M. Hubbard, The Phenomenology of Synaesthesia, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 10, No. 8, 2003

Wood Car

If the Eameses had applied their fabrication skills to the design brief of the Citroen 2CV, during a serious fuel shortage, they might have ended up with something like Joost Conijn’s beautiful (the photo [now lost (2013)] doesn’t do it justice) wood-burning, plywood Hout Auto (Wood Car), currently exhibited at the NICC space of the Koninklijk Museum voor Shone Kunsten Antwerpen. An accompanying video documents the car’s rambling journey through the mountain passes and pot-holed backroads of central Europe, avoiding major routes. According to the NICC website: The artist travels towards the unknown. The main plan is to make a …


Hottest day in recorded history in the UK today (37.9°C at Heathrow). In Birmingham, sudden deluge and seriously sinuous forked lightning over the village pub where we were having lunch. The electricity cut out, candlelight at 2pm under the darkness of the storm. Fourteen people injured from a lightning strike at a football match in Birmingham, others elsewhere. On the train back to London, more lightning at Northampton. Hoping the storm makes it to London before we do, to cool things down. Peter Weir’s The Last Wave feels like required viewing when we get home.


More un-London, monsoon-like rain. I am an enemy of symbols. Symbol is too narrow a concept for me in the sense that symbols exist in order to be deciphered. An artistic image on the other hand is not to be deciphered, it is an equivalent of the world around us. Rain in Solaris is not a symbol, it is only rain which at certain moment has particular significance to the hero. But it does not symbolise anything. It only expresses. This rain is an artistic image. Symbol for me is something too complicated. Andrei Tarkovski, Interview Ein Feind der Symbolik …

La Mer

I’m not sure where I found this excerpt. The whole thing runs for an hour, and is mesmerisimg projected large. Saw this unexpected in a stairwell at the Palais de Tokyo a few years ago.

A Glance at Heidegger

Heidegger makes the distinction between tools with are ‘ready-to-hand’ (zuhanden) and those which are ‘present-at-hand’ (vorhanden). We are, he says, only conscious of tools as tools when they are present-at-hand. When we are actively engaged in performing a task through use of the tool, we lose consciouness of the tool itself, which ‘withdraws’ into the task. The ready-to-hand is not grasped theoretically at all… The peculiarity of what is proximally ready-to-hand is that, in its readiness-to-hand, it must, as it were, withdraw in order to be ready-to-hand quite authentically. That with which our everyday dealings proximally dwell is not the …