The Baltic Notebooks of Anthony Blunt
Dear Mark,
As you read this letter, I’m hearing the voice of your text for the first time in a stuffy dark hall. “Hello... It’s 6:24 PM.” A typical average alto, coming from the vibrating vocal chords of two curators as they read your text in unison. The first stars slowly emerge from the darkness above our heads. Everyone’s necks are uncomfortably bent – the rows of chairs from soviet era are not suited to patiently observe the cosmic tranformations. Leaning against a wall, I see only parts of the cosmic illusion created by the synched slide projectors. I realise I’ll have to sit through the planetarium’s space odyssey that I’ve recently seen, but this time it is accompanied not by the voice of Danutė, who spent the last few decades at the same bench board and microphone, but by the voice of your text. It reads out the correspondence between you and the two curators from back when you were preparing for Opening – your exhibition that opens The Gardens today. Everyone’s heads are uncomfortably thrown back.
Slowly, the voice of the text goes out of synch, turning into a two-headed creature whose heads start taking on the features of separate characters. I start losing your text, so, in my head, I replace the two-headed creature’s voice with Danutė’s voice, and I replace the cosmic program with the images generated by your text. You write that a long time ago the “opening” meant a crack in a wall. When I hear this I am not yet aware, no one is, that soon we will take the narrow stairs leading to The Gardens and we will see, behind a window, that same opening in a wall, thus becoming witnesses of change, of the decomposing building.
“Gerda and Inesa also write that, from now on, The Room will be called The Gardens.” This is to say that the crack in the wall will have to open not just a room, a place, a space, but also a Garden. You become aware that you’re short of time and we hear the voice of your text saying so. A crack might not be enough for a room to be turned into a garden, even by the most strenuous efforts of the spectators’ imagination. Necks uncomfortably bent, everyone awaits your decision as they observe the illusion of infinity created by the squares of light from the projectors. They give you time to create a space similar to the depth projected on the concave ceiling of the planetarium.
In total darkness, in another space and time, you’re holding a glass under a stream of cold water and you’re looking for a new crack which could also be a link between the room and the garden, which could help you and us cross from one space to the other. You find it in your language, in its etymology. “The limits of my language mark the limits of my world.” My languages is what allows me to mark and erase the limits wherever I please, my languages is what provides a possibility for a room to turn into a garden – a wide fenced space.
A language uttered tends to disappear, escape, snarl. A mark is needed, a trait, to capture it. An action is needed for the trait to be drawn. You remove the room’s door and open it to a garden, and invite everyone into a real night underneath the ceiling of the bottomless sky, to memorialize ourselves, to draw the opening trait together, to draw it so deep that the trace becomes a crack, the crack becomes an orifice, the orifice – a space.
Your text claims that you are going to take the door with you to France and turn it into a garden door in the house you’re constructing. Will your house give Shelter? I hear the voice of your text – Danutė’s voice in my head – and I see your house from within, with a view to the garden. I see my house in the countryside, which was alive until very recently but now it stands empty in total darkness at the edge of a park. I often have dreams of an eye floating through dark rooms in silence where the piled-up planks crackle in response to the monotonous buzz of a fridge. Or perhaps it is not my eye at all, but Georgy Rerberg’s? “I shut one eye.”
I imagine that the garden behind the door that you brought from Vilnius for your eternally-constructed house is like the garden next to this dark house: the park suddenly gives place to apple trees that reach down, in three wide cascades, towards a disintegrating stone wall with no beginning or end. A trace of a limit between the garden and the wide marshy meadow that we used to look at when having breakfast, lunch, dinner. Or perhaps it is the garden of Kris Kelvin’s parents?
In total darkness the pouring water shapes the glass in your hand, shaping an image of a hand with a glass in the darkness in my (our?) head. The image is so clear it seems tangible. The voice that reads the text, that creates images, creates things – is it the thingness of an abstraction, of an idea, of words that keeps you going? The colour of the voice, the pages that hold the text, the fragile dried plants that embody the natural selection itself, the hierarchy, and the very idea of a species? To be more precise, is it not the impurity of the entities of reality, their heterogeneity that give rise to such philosophical oxymoron as the thingness of an idea? You lead your spectators through this impurity, through the gaps and corridors of the heterogeneity of reality, allowing the misunderstandings and errors stand alongside the truth, allowing references to lead on to other references that end in cul-de-sacs, to show us the path and leave simply standing there until it gets dark, then feel our way back which is always already somewhere else.
You led everyone out of the stuffy darkness of the planetarium into a cold January night, slightly closer to heaven than earth. “We will all look in the same direction.” You all looked in the same direction, with the planetarium’s dome shining behind your backs. I looked in the same direction, except I’m on the other side of the dome. I look into the camera lens with you but the lens does not reach me as it does not reach many others standing behind somebody’s back. Brought on the roof, the Room’s door (by a click of the camera) opened the Gardens for us.
This opening that echoes from the voice of your text is the very trace that we marked together, our heads uncomfortably thrown back and, later, looking in the same direction underneath the celestial ceiling.
Do you know that the trace covered up the crack in the wall? You hold the door together with Danutė, from whom you are taking it away, and everyone is looking in the same direction, the planetarium dome behind them, underneath which someone sits every evening, their necks bent, watching the darkness of the ceiling. Is the frozen act of turning a room into a garden more effective than the crack in the wall that stays behind the image? I hope there is a crack behind every image. I can see it.
, 3 February 2012
P.S. This is a letter to the French artist Mark Geffriaud that continues his text based on the correspondence between him and two curators, Inesa Pavlovskaitė and Gerda Paliušytė (without any of theirs proper knowledge). Mark Geffriaud wrote the text in January for a performance on occasion of his solo exhibition Opening – the inaugural events of the new exhibition space in Vilnius called The Gardens.