Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Scents and Smells

"Amongst many other evocations, my mother (dead for over 30 years), is the smell of cotton handkerchiefs being boiled in a saucepan or drying in front of a fire."

From my correspondence, September 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lines, threads, traces

"Somewhat daunted by the sheer profusion of different kinds of line, I resolved to draw up a provisional taxonomy. Though even this left many loose ends, two kinds of line seemed to stand out from the rest, and I called them threads and traces. Yet on closer inspection, threads and traces appeared to be not so much categorically different as transforms of one another. Threads have a way of turning into traces, and vice versa. Moreover, whenever threads turn into traces, surfaces are formed, and whenever traces turn into threads, they are dissolved. Following through these transformations took me from the written word, whence I had commenced my inquiry, into the twists and turns of the labyrinth, and into the crafts of embroidery and weaving. And it was through the weaving of textiles that I eventually returned, by this roundabout route, to the written text. Yet whether encountered as a woven thread or as a written trace, the line is still perceived as one of movement and growth. How come, then, that so many of the lines we come up against today seem so static?"

Ingold, Tim (2007), Lines: A Brief History, Routledge. London and New York, p.2


Sauce and needles? Ketchup and pins? Some relationships seem difficult to understand. Good points!

Towels and friendships

"This towel belongs to a well-known artist from Northern Europe: Let's call her B. Several years ago, B came to New York with her boyfriend, and they stayed with my wife and me for a week. B is one of only two people that my wife and I knew independently before meeting. She'd always had a special place in our hearts.
The four of us had a great time that week, or so I thought. After B and her boyfriend left for the airport, I saw that she had left her towel hanging on the hook of the guest room. I decided to put it away so that I could give it to her the next time she stayed with us. About a year later, though, I ran into a friend who also knew B. My friend asked whether we had seen B and told me she's just spent a month in New York. I didn't know that she's been here, I said. She'd never called us.
Like everyone else, I've lost friends over the years, but almost all of the other break-ups were explicable, even justified: people grow apart, like trees. But B stands for those friends whose friendship I've lost without knowing why, and this towel stands for B."

Sina Najafi, in Glenn, Joshua & Hayes, Carol (2007) (eds), Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with unexpected significance, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, p.126

Monday, September 15, 2008


"if [...] we cast a glance at the minute structure of the nervous system as recent discoveries have revealed it to us, we see everywhere conducting lines, nowhere any centres. Threads placed end to end, of which the extremities probably touch when the current passes [...].

But these threads which receive disturbances or stimulation from the external world and return them to it in the form of appropriate reactions, these threads so beautifully stretched from the periphery to the periphery, are just what ensure by the solidity of their connexions and the precision of their interweaving the sensorimotor equilibrium of the body, that is to say its adaptation to the present circumstances."

Bergson, Henri (2004), Matter and Memory, Translated by Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer, Dover Philosophical Classics, Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York, p.227

Shopping threads

"Some objects have an irresistible effect, as if we were tied to them by little wires. It could be that the salesperson had been watching me from a distance, the way some spiders hide at the edge of the web until a moth becomes so tangles that it's safe to approach. When the salesperson saw that i was half caught, she came a little nearer and asked her question.

The threads that tie us to objects are invisibly fine, and normally we scarcely notice their little tugs and pulls. But the webs of vision are there nevertheless. All those familiar gestures of shoppers - bending forward for a closer look and then straightening up, raising the eyebrows, tilting the head to one side, stepping back to think, shifting weight from one foot to the other, crossing the arms, sighing, scratching the head - these are signs that they are already caught in the web."

Elkins, James (1996), The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing, A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc. San Diego, New York, London, p.19

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Interstitial time activity

"Take inspiration from knitters, Mann suggests. Knitting fulfills the three criteria for a good interstitial-time activity - it's portable, it can be done amid distractions, and even a few seconds spent on it contributes to the end result. (That's not the case with tasks requiring 'set-up', such as waiting forever while Windows boots up on your laptop.) Identify in advance which of your tasks fits the knitting criteria: those involving reading and (hand)writing are a good place to start. Or take up knitting."

Oliver Burkeman, This column will change your life, The Guardian Weekend, 6.9.2008, p.77

Embarrassments, Regrets & Favourites

"What was your most embarrassing moment?
Turning up to a dinner party wearing a dress that my hostess had donated to Oxfam the previous week.

What is your favourite word?

What is the worst thing anyone's said to you?
'Miss, you've got a hole in your knickers' - Ray Easton 1973

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I'd have been a doctor, I'd have had more children and I'd have put a better quality carpet in the bedroom."

Q & A: Marina Lewyska
Rosanna Greenstreet, The Guardian Weekend, 6.9.2008

Monday, September 01, 2008

Listening, analysing, knitting

"Anna Freud often attended to her knitting during her analytic sessions and, at the conclusion of one hour with Erik Erikson, presented him with a sweater for his newborn son."

Michael John Burlingham, The Last Tiffany: A Biography of Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham, Atheneum New York, 1989, p.250


"Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience [...] For storytelling is always the art of repeating stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained. It is lost because there is no more weaving and spinning to go on while they are being listened to. The more self-forgetful the listener is, the more deeply is what he listens to impressed upon his memory. When the rhythm of work has seized him, he listens to the tales in such a way that the gift of retelling them comes to him all by itself. This, then, is the nature of the web in which the gift of storytelling is cradled. This is how today it is becoming unravelled at all its ends after being woven thousands of years ago in the ambience of the oldest forms of craftmanship."

Walter Benjamin, The Storyteller
in: Benjamin, Walter (1999), Illuminations, edited by Hannah Arendt, translated by Harry Zorn, Pimlico, London, p.90. 91


"Nature and culture are in mutual movement into and through each other."

Massumi, Brian (2002), Parables for the virtual, Duke University Press, Durham & London, p.11

Some neighbours have covered their garden with fake grass; in the park I found a green wig on the grass. I am pondering the nature-culture continuum and its manifold manifestations around me.

Green Buttons