How We Lived On It (53) – “We are the knife people…”


Maybe none of it, finally, is like bone – not solid and lasting enough – or muscle – not as strong – but cartilage: something in between, partaking of both, lesser, but also greater, because it is all about connections and making them.

Some semi-random connections.

Robert Hughes died this past week.

What we need more of is slow art: art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception and making whose skill and doggedness make you think and feel; art that isn’t merely sensational, that doesn’t get its message across in ten seconds, that isn’t falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures. In a word, art that is the very opposite of mass media.

Lecture at Royal Academy, 2004

What Hughes observed of Goya was

the vast breadth of curiosity about the human animal and the depth of his appalled sympathy for it.

From John Spaulding‘s Walking in Stone (Wesleyan University Press, 1989):

We are the knife people, iron men, coat people
       and he-lands-sailing.
Souse eaters, house makers, husbands
       of kine and goat and swine, farm builders
       and keepers of kettle and scummer, word
       scratchers, corn stealers and bad sleepers.

As if towns could build themselves.
As if stumps jumped from the ground or
       flesh of beasts fell into trenchers.
As if paradise prevailed on earth.
To come to rich moulds and lush plantings,
       long-necked trees and tongues of land,

to redd the wild for the unborn.
       To reck not the peril.
Suffering snakes that may fly, wolves
       that may ravish. Kingdom
       of sachem and sagamore.
Kingdom of corn and thorny promise.

To satisfy our appetite of spirit,
       our thirst of property.
To seek not the opera of war but
       belittled by the possibilities
to stand silenced by the task before us—

these be my sudden and undigested thoughts.




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