Margaret, Manuscripts and the Moon

There’s a good story in the Guardian today about Margaret Atwood’s latest manuscript, which is going to be buried for one hundred years as a part of The Future Library Project, the creation of Scottish artist, Katie Paterson. It’s a terrific idea, so I went over to Paterson’s website to see what she had to say about it.

A forest has been planted in Norway, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114.

The texts will be held in a specially designed room in the New Public Deichmanske Library, Oslo. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.

This is intriguing stuff, and Paterson has produced a lot more work that is really worth looking at. For me, even more intriguing than the Future Library Project, is her “Earth-Moon-Earth”: Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata translated into Morse code, sent as radio signals to reflect off the surface of the moon, returning in fragmented form to earth, and then re-scored with all the “gaps and absences” where the signal has been lost somewhere in the shadows and craters.

It’s a lovely idea, and really worth taking a look.

Great images, non-objects and fog

It’s been foggy lately—the kind of fog that makes the edges of things blur into indistinctness; the kind of fog in which forms dissolve into the background, or loom again, imprecisely shaped, out of the greyness. I’ve been thinking a lot about fog lately, because I’ve been reading François Jullien’s book [amazon_link id=”0226415317″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Great Image Has No Form, or On the Nonobject Through Painting[/amazon_link]. The title is admittedly something of a mouthful, the first part coming from chapter forty one of the Daodejing, which reads 大象無形, dà xiàng wú xíng, “the great image is without form”, but it’s a fascinating read.

The central question of Jullien’s book is this: how did it become possible, in Western thought, to “posit an object of perception, simultaneously isolate it, and abstract it in a stable and definitive form?” (p. xxi). So Jullien sets out looking not so much at painting as representation, but as de-representation. This, in other words, is a book that is about vagueness, about that which is indistinct, about the mist and fog that swirls through Chinese painting, about the mountains that simultaneously arise out of, and are dissolved into, the cloud. Read more

Isaac’s Gift

Just a quick email to say that I’ve got a new article online over on Aeon Magazine’s excellent website. The article is about the Tanimbar islands in Indonesia, adat ritual law, gift exchange, and talking lizards.

You can find the link here. Whilst you are at it, it’s worth signing up for Aeon’s RSS feed: they publish a new (and excellent) article every weekday.

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