this is Sol LeWitt > Eva Hesse, 1965

Dear Eva,

It will be almost a month since you wrote to me and you have possibly forgotten your state of mind (I doubt it though). You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itchin, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rumbling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO!

From your description, and from what I know of your previous work and you [sic] ability; the work you are doing sounds very good “Drawing-clean-clear but crazy like machines, larger and bolder… real nonsense.” That sounds fine, wonderful – real nonsense. Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever – make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your “weird humor.” You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety. And stop worrying about big, deep things such as “to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistant [sic] approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end” You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!

I have much confidence in you and even though you are tormenting yourself, the work you do is very good. Try to do some BAD work – the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell – you are not responsible for the world – you are only responsible for your work – so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be. But if life would be easier for you if you stopped working – then stop. Don’t punish yourself. However, I think that it is so deeply engrained in you that it would be easier to DO!

It seems I do understand your attitude somewhat, anyway, because I go through a similar process every so often. I have an “Agonizing Reappraisal” of my work and change everything as much as possible = and hate everything I’ve done, and try to do something entirely different and better. Maybe that kind of process is necessary to me, pushing me on and on. The feeling that I can do better than that shit I just did. Maybe you need your agony to accomplish what you do. And maybe it goads you on to do better. But it is very painful I know. It would be better if you had the confidence just to do the stuff and not even think about it. Can’t you leave the “world” and “ART” alone and also quit fondling your ego. I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest of the time you are left with your thoughts. But when you work or before your work you have to empty you [sic] mind and concentrate on what you are doing. After you do something it is done and that’s that. After a while you can see some are better than others but also you can see what direction you are going. I’m sure you know all that. You also must know that you don’t have to justify your work – not even to yourself. Well, you know I admire your work greatly and can’t understand why you are so bothered by it. But you can see the next ones and I can’t. You also must believe in your ability. I think you do. So try the most outrageous things you can – shock yourself. You have at your power the ability to do anything.

I would like to see your work and will have to be content to wait until Aug or Sept. I have seen photos of some of Tom’s new things at Lucy’s. They are impressive – especially the ones with the more rigorous form: the simpler ones. I guess he’ll send some more later on. Let me know how the shows are going and that kind of stuff.

My work had changed since you left and it is much better. I will be having a show May 4 -9 at the Daniels Gallery 17 E 64th St (where Emmerich was), I wish you could be there. Much love to you both.

"I suppose it could also be said we're known to the extent that we're dull and orbital about our life, that what's quotidian about us is more easily shared than the exuberances and passions that push us out of the predictable."

-Charles D'Ambrosio


this is Ferrante Friday

From the wise and intelligent Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan novels were among my favorite books this year. Can't wait for the fourth (and final!) novel, which comes out next week.

(Note: I have never identified more strongly with a fictional narrator than I have with Lenu)

  • "It has always fascinated me how a story comes to us through the filter of a protagonist whose consciousness is limited, inadequate, shaped by the facts that she herself is recounting, though she doesn’t feel that way at all. My books are like that: the narrator must continually deal with situations, people, and events she doesn’t control, and which do not allow themselves to be told. I like stories in which the effort to reduce experience to story progressively undermines the confidence of she who is writing, her conviction that the means of expression at her disposal are adequate, and the conventions that at the start made her feel safe."

  • "In general, we store away our experiences and make use of timeworn phrases—nice, ready-made, reassuring stylizations that give us a sense of colloquial normality. But in this way, either knowingly or unknowingly, we reject everything that, to be said fully, would require effort and a torturous search for words. Honest writing forces itself to find words for those parts of our experience that is crouched and silent. On one hand, a good story—or to put it better, the kind of story I like best—narrates an experience—for example, friendship—following specific conventions that render it recognizable and riveting; on the other hand, it sporadically reveals the magma running beneath the pillars of convention. The fate of a story that tends towards truth by pushing stylizations to their limit depends on the extent to which the reader really wants to face up to herself."

  • "Abandonment corrodes those certainties within which we believed we lived safely. Not only have we been abandoned, but we may not hold up when faced with the loss; we abandon ourselves, we lose the consistency that we have gained via the sweet habit of entrusting ourselves to others. So, to get through it, you must find a new equilibrium while at the same time acknowledging a new fact—namely, that everything you have can be taken from you, and with it your will to live."

  • "I simply decided once and for all, over 20 years ago, to liberate myself from the anxiety of notoriety and the urge to be a part of that circle of successful people, those who believe they have won who-knows-what. This was an important step for me. Today I feel, thanks to this decision, that I have gained a space of my own, a space that is free, where I feel active and present. To relinquish it would be very painful."

(via Vanity Fair, pt 1 & pt 2)


this is from the Odyssey

"They sailed on with afflicted hearts,
Glad to have escaped death, having lost their dear companions."

this is Simone Weil on work & activity

"No, the tragedy is that although the work is too mechanical to engage the mind it nevertheless prevents one from thinking of anything else ... I am still unable to achieve the required speeds, for many reasons: my unfamiliarity with the work, my inborn awkwardness, which is considerable, a certain natural slowness of movement, headaches, and a peculiar inveterate habit of thinking, which I can't shake off ... As for leisure, one has a good deal of it, theoretically, with the 8-hour day; but in practice one's leisure hours are swallowed up by a fatigue which often amounts to a dazed stupor."

"For the reality of life is not sensation but activity -- I mean activity both in thought and in action. People who live by sensations are parasites, both materially and morally, in relation to those who work and create -- who alone are men. And the latter, who do not seek sensations, experience in fact much livelier, profounder, less artificial and truer ones than those who seek them. Finally, as far as I am concerned, the cultivation of sensations implies an egoism which revolts me. It clearly does not prevent love, but it leads one to consider the people one loves as mere occasions of joy or suffering and to forget completely that they exist in their own right. One lives among phantoms, dreaming instead of living."

"This is what I ask you to do. If it happens some evening, or some Sunday, that you suddenly feel you don't want to go on bottling up your feelings for ever, take a pen and some paper. Don't try for fine-sounding phrases. Use the first words that come. And say what you feel about your work. Say if the work makes you suffer. Describe the suffering, moral as well as physical. Say if there are times when you can't bear it; if there are times when the monotony of the works sickens you; if you hate being always driven by the need to work fast; if you hate being always at the orders of the overseers. And say also if you enjoy the work and feel pride in labour accomplished. And if you manage to take an interest in your job, and if there are days when you have the pleasant feeling of working fast and earning good money. Or if you are sometimes able to work for hours like a machine, almost unconsciously, thinking of other things and losing yourself in pleasant dreams. Or if you sometimes feel glad to have nothing to do except carry out the work you are given, without having to worry your head ... Above all, say whatever comes into your mind, what ever is weighing on your heart ... Be quite sincere. Don't minimize or exaggerate anything, whether good or bad. I believe you will find a certain relief in speaking the unadulterated truth." 

this is 8/27

  • Do we improve ourselves for our own sake (to achieve / produce / impress more) or for the sake of others (to love, to give, to serve)? is self-improvement any good if it is selfishly driven, or are we just making ourselves more machine-like?

  • Water democratizes beauty. Every body under water is beautiful, reptilian, slithering through the blue. Awe-inspiring because of the way it moves, and not because of its proportions or how much space it takes up. I watched a one-armed, pot-bellied man swim yesterday, and his elegance was remarkable. At the public pool, I often submerge myself completely and just watch the bodies pass on by.Then I lift my eyes above the water and watch the rhythmic motion of arms move in and out, in and out.

  • How to create space for grace?

  • Addictions are always attached to a compulsive behavior.

  • The best things in life are rarely prizes won, but gifts given, or received.

  • The chocolate rye tart at Tartine is my current favorite food. A swell $4 dinner. I rarely go to Tartine because it's crowded and touristy. But damn, it is good as ever.

  • Benefit of doubt: every person has a complex interior life. Most of these lives I will never be privy to, but I acknowledge they exist.

  • Three years ago, I was 100 pounds and starving myself. I'm finally writing about this, in more depth than I have ever before. It's the most difficult writing I've ever done, but it feels important, feels necessary.