ruby swinney – ignis fatuus (exhibition, 2017)

Ruby Swinney, 2017, Mystery of Faith (Detail), Oil on paper, Approx. 290 x 270 cm

EXHIBITION OPENING
THURSDAY 25 MAY: 18H00 – 20H00
CLICK HERE FOR PREVIEW


Ignis Fatuus

Those–dying then,
Knew where they went–
They went to God’s Right Hand–
That Hand is amputated now

And God cannot be found–
The abdication of Belief
Makes the Behavior small–

Better an ignis fatuus–
Than no illume at all–

Poem 1551 by Emily Dickinson (1882)


WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present Ignis Fatuus a debut solo exhibition by painter and installation artist Ruby Swinney. Swinney’s work explores what it means to live in a vanishing natural world that is growing progressively darker and unfamiliar. Through the blurring of both South African and imaginary landscapes her work evokes a sense of loss of faith in what it means to be human in a time of intolerance, mistrust, violence and environmental uncertainty. Drawing on this uncertainty Swinney creates surreal tableaux in which she revels in the strange and unpredictable moods of the natural world and its ability to both alter and transcend human experience.

 WHATIFTHEWORLD

soundwalk collective, jesse paris smith & patti smith – fearfully in danger (2016)

Fearfully in Danger” (Live at Volksbühne, Berlin) from the album Killer Road – A Tribute To Nico, released in 2016 on Sacred Bones Records. Directed and edited by Barbara Klein.
Killer Road is a sound exploration of the tragic death of Nico, Velvet Underground vocalist and 60s icon, while riding her bike on the island of Ibiza in the summer of 1988. A hypnotic meditation on the idea of perpetual motion and the cycle of life and death, the composition features Patti Smith lending her unique voice to the last poems written by the artist. Soundwalk Collective uses a travel log of field recordings and samples of Nico’s signature instrument, the harmonium, to create a magnetic soundscape.

madeleine l’engle – instruments (1978)

Hold me against the dark: I am afraid.
Circle me with your arms. I am made
So tiny and my atoms so unstable
That at any moment I may explode. I am unable
To contain myself in unity. My outlines shiver
With the shock of living. I endeavor
To hold the I as one only for the cloud
Of which I am a fragment, yet to which I’m vowed
To be responsible. Its light against my face
Reveals the witness of the stars, each in its place
Singing, each compassed by the rest,
The many joined to one, the mightiest to the least.
It is so great a thing to be an infinitesimal part
of this immeasurable orchestra the music bursts the heart,
And from this tiny plosion all the fragments join:
Joy orders the disunity until the song is one.
___
In The Weather of the Heart (1978).

calvin and hobbes dustspeck

laura riding – the wind suffers (1930)

The wind suffers of blowing,
The sea suffers of water,
And fire suffers of burning,
And I of a living name.

As stone suffers of stoniness,
As light of its shiningness,
As birds of their wingedness,
So I of my whoness.

And what the cure of all this?
What the not and not suffering?
What the better and later of this?
What the more me of me?

How for the pain-world to be
More world and no pain?
How for the faithful rain to fall
More wet and more dry?

How for the wilful blood to run
More salt-red and sweet-white?
And how for me in my actualness
To more shriek and more smile?

By no other miracles,
By the same knowing poison,
By an improved anguish,
By my further dying.

__

From the preface to Poems: A Joking Word, published in 1930:

“Before anything has got to be, it has got to be preceded by something that has not got to be. These poems have got to be. Or rather, when they weren’t they had got to be. Or rather, I had got not to feel myself and think doom but to think myself and feel doom. (p 9)

“My poems then are instead of my life. I don’t mean that in my poems I escape from my life. My life itself would be nothing but escaping, or anybody’s. I mean that in my poems I escape from escaping. And my life reads all wrong to me and my poems read all right. And by doom I don’t mean the destruction of me. I mean making me into doom – not my doom but doom. Made into doom I feel made. I also feel making. I feel like doom and doom feels like me.” (pp 10-11)

Read more about Laura Riding HERE.

nazim hikmet – things I didn’t know i loved (1962)

It’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea
Koktebele
formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I’m flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

19 April 1962
Moscow
__
(Thank you to Lesego Rampolokeng for showing me this poem I didn’t know I loved.❤)

rainer maria rilke – from “requiem for a friend” (1908)

… That’s what you had to come back for: the lament that we omitted. Can you hear me? I would like to fling my voice out like a cloth over the fragments of your death, and keep pulling at it until it is torn to pieces, and all my words would have to walk around shivering, in the tatters of that voice; as if lament were enough.

But now I must accuse: not the man who withdrew you from yourself (I cannot find him; he looks like everyone), but in this one man, I accuse: all men. When somewhere, from deep within me, there arises the vivid sense of having been a child, the purity and essence of that childhood where I once lived: then I don’t want to know it. I want to form an angel from that sense and hurl him upward, into the front row of angels who scream out, reminding God.

For this suffering has lasted far too long; none of us can bear it; it is too heavy — this tangled suffering of spurious love which, building on convention like a habit, calls itself just, and fattens on injustice. Show me a man with a right to his possession. Who can possess what cannot hold its own self, but only, now and then, will blissfully catch itself, then quickly throw itself away, like a child playing with a ball. As little as a captain can hold the carved Nike facing outward from his ship’s prow when the lightness of her godhead suddenly lifts her up, into the bright sea-wind: so little can one of us call back the woman who, now no longer seeing us, walks on along the narrow strip of her existence as though by miracle, in perfect safety — unless, that is, he wishes to do wrong. For this is wrong, if anything is wrong: not to enlarge the freedom of a love with all the inner freedom one can summon. We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.

sulamith wolfling – the little mermaid

Are you still here? Are you standing in some corner? You knew so much of all this, you were able to do so much; you passed through life so open to all things, like an early morning. I know: women suffer; for love means being alone; and artists in their work sometimes intuit that they must keep transforming, where they love. You began both; both exist in that which any fame takes from you and disfigures. Oh you were far beyond all fame; were almost invisible; had withdrawn your beauty, softly, as one would lower a brightly colored flag on the gray morning after a holiday. You had just one desire: a year’s long work — which was never finished; was somehow never finished. If you are still here with me, if in this darkness there is still some place where your spirit resonates on the shallow sound waves stirred up by my voice: hear me: help me. We can so easily slip back from what we have struggled to attain, abruptly, into a life we never wanted; can find that we are trapped, as in a dream, and die there, without ever waking up. This can occur. Anyone who has lifted his blood into a years-long work may find that he can’t sustain it, the force of gravity is irresistible, and it falls back, worthless. For somewhere there is an ancient enmity between our daily life and the great work. Help me, in saying it, to understand it.

Do not return. If you can bear to, stay dead with the dead. The dead have their own tasks. But help me, if you can without distraction, since in me what is most distant sometimes helps.

[Translator: Stephen Mitchell]