From a visit to David Noonan's 'Masken', Mackintosh Lane, 18th of June, 2023
I find myself surrounded by ghosts and time.
* * *
I read the exhibition text, it points to a character returning through time, Pierrot, a mask.
* * *
I am not sure if art should be experienced in public.
Right now it takes an overwhelming amount of energy to contain emotion.
I don't like the white light, I feel I am on view as much as the artwork.
I try to hide my face, make a retreat, internally, stop myself from reaching my muscles and skin.
* * *
In the end I had to leave; because of my tears, pushing out.
* * *
The portraits were uniform, hung in a quiet rhythm that could carry on. There was something reminding of a mirror in their proportions, the hight they were hang and their framing: cold, metal, with a non-hand-made, industrial aspect to it.
I remember some relief at the calmess of the hang. But repetition and uniformity eventually lead to anxiety.
The image looked like an imprint. It had some marks made through gesture and some physical movement of the materials: tension of the watery against the oily substance, creases of the cloth, its soaking capacity, the pressure of contact of what I imagined would have been a plate, with the fabric. There were various directions and various causes and that in itself felt like a world.
The materials seemed relaxed. That gave the works a sense that the image came together spontaneously, like a phenomena that is a result of coincidence of processes in space and time. Like Spring that comes after Winter - an inevitable result of planetary movements.
Similarily, those faces appeared to be returning through time.
Like pain refused to be felt, justice that has not been done and terror that remained unnoticed.
* * *
They are silent. Mouth is always still, without indication, without potential for words.
One cannot see it in the digital reproductions. On the screen, the images are always short-lived.
* * *
Who looks at me qietly?
* * *
I thought of Dziady (Forefather's Eve), by Adam Mickiewicz.
A scene in the play that comes to my mind regularly: a Pagan-Christian ritual, late October night, a church, a feast prepared for the dead who wonder around, not able to move on.
Souls of two small children come to the gathering and when asked about what they require, they respond:
Not a thing, not a thing we need.
Earthly excesses of sweetness
Gave us grief and glum and sadness*
They ask for one mustard seed each, because they are not able to find happiness in Heaven, without having had any bitterness while on Earth.
There is an idea that there can be something about a situation, a life, that will tie it to the past in a way that evokes that circular movement, the return. Perhaps it also points at pain as something that is an inevitable part of life, it says that without pain life is not full. Only having overcome pain, one can be happy.
But what does it mean to overcome pain? And is it always possible?
All this is not dependant on the belief in Heaven. There is an interesting research by a New York University professor Sam Sheffler that suggests that for us, the future generations are the afterlife. And indeed this must be the case regardless of existence of any other type of afterlife. This is because we are not born independently from one another, we don't start from scratch one by one, we are set on a course before we can make any conscious choices. We always are the afterlife of those who came before us. But we're never it only.
* * *
From Dance of The Forests by Wole Soyinka:
From Aroni, the Lame One, this testimony...
'I know who the Dead Ones are. They are the guests of the Human Community who are neighbours to us of the Forest. It is their Feast, the Gathering of the Tribes. Their Councillors met and said, Our forefathers must be present at this Feast. They asked us for ancestors, for illustrious ancestors, and I said to Forest Head, let me answer their request. And I sent two spirits of the restless dead...'
Time makes a circle, the same situation is repeated, all set up as a part of a ritual, almost a theatre:
When the guests had broken the surface of earth, I sat and watched what living would do.
The repetition of historic situation was partly staged in order to make this circle complete, people who fitted the required roles were gathered and opportunities given for actions to repeat, for the same choices to stand before the unassuming, for them to have a chance to alter the circle of time.
The play was written by Soyinka for the celebrations of the Independence of Nigeria. It says: look at this pain, depravity, murder. Will you carry on on the course that has been set for you by the past generations, or will you break the circle and take responsibility for the course you set for those coming after you?
* * *
The faces were confronting. They were, through their silent rhythmical return, calling: what choice will you make now?
* * *
Beauty was important. Perhaps too obvious a connotation to write about; harsh and crude.
* * *
It is that we are being fooled by ourselves and by each other, passing this lie from one to another: that it is better to stay arrested in an aesthetically attractive image, than it is to feel and care.
* * *
Those faces are calling me out. Through their terror, pain, seduction, lie and sadness: what choice will you make?
* * *
A pain that is independent of narrative, it is not curable by language.
It has no story. The only thing that words can do is to make way for it.
Organise everything else, so that I, in peace, can feel pain.
Masken, David Noonan's exhibition at Mackintosh Lane, 17-18/06/2023 https://www.mackintoshlane.com/davidnoonan
Strange true becomings, Johannah Fahey, essay accompanying Masken, 2023, https://pdfhost.io/v/UTbEzSsdG_Strange_true_becomings65
Dziady [transl. Forefathers' Eve], Adam Mickiewicz, first published 1822
* translation from Polish language by Dominika Kieruzel; original text:
Nic nam, nic nam nie potrzeba.
Zbytkiem słodyczy na ziemi
After Your Death, Sam Scheffler, LSE public lectures, 18/06/2015, https://www.lse.ac.uk/lse-player?id=3157
Collected Plays I [including A Dance of the Forests], Wole Soyinka, Oxford Press, 1973, performed as a part of the Nigerian Independence Celebrations, October 1960