We are all made from Stardust

As incoherent and directionless as these blog posts may be, I have decided that when the inspiration hits, its best to get what’s tangled up in my head out. For now… This is a visual diary, a catalogue of field notes of the things life is telling or showing me to take ‘note’ of. I would like to borrow from Beth:

“My philosophy is that regarding the quotidian as art down to the detail renders so much more out of life… Sometimes beauty is very ugly, and sometimes the ugly is very beautiful.”

This year has been a heartbreaking one for our family. I lost a dear uncle, or rather as I’d like to remember him: a father. His family is devastated. He left a wife, son and daughter behind and as I watch from the fringes, I see how they are trying to navigate life without him. He was a true presence, a leader and down to earth kind-hearted man. It has been just over three months since he left us; he was recovering from a heart transplant and we all thought and hoped he would pull through. But God, consciousness, the universe had other plans.

Lately, I have had a significant amount of occurrences or references to stars. Stars, the glitter you see when you look up into the night sky. The ‘suns’ who are many light years away. The first reference was a talk my cousin invited me to called Origins of the Universe. Dr Petri Vaisanen, an astronomer from The South African Astronomical Observatory, said something that stuck with me: we are all made from stardust. I had never heard that before and it made me realise that we are connected to much more beyond this earth! Over at National Geographic, they featured Astrophysicist Karel Schrijver, a senior fellow at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, and his wife, Iris Schrijver, professor of pathology at Stanford University, on their book Living With the Stars: How the Human Body Is Connected to the Life Cycles of the Earth, the Planets, and the Stars: 

“Our bodies are made of remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies…”

The second reference is one of the latest posts by Maria Papova, over at Brainpickings which features the work of  Vija Celmins and writer Eliot Weinberger who:bring to life in the limited-edition MoMA book The Stars — an uncommonly poetic ode to the resplendence of the night sky.” Vija Celmins is a visual artist best known for her photo-realistic paintings and drawings of natural environments.

Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins’s – producing a negative image of the night sky

The third is a Krista Tippet interview with Brian Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, in a podcast titled: Reimagining the Cosmos. In reply to Krista’s comment that science is essential to the fullness of understanding of humanity just as literature and art and music are, Brian responds:

We’re thrust into this world on this rock that’s orbiting a nondescript star in the outskirts of an ordinary galaxy. Wow. I mean, can you imagine being thrust into a more bizarre and strange reality than that? And what we’ve been doing for thousands of years is just trying to piece by piece get some understanding of where we came from, where the universe came from, and where it’s all going. So, to me, that is not distinct from what the poet does or what the philosopher does or what the great writer does or the composer does. They just do it in a different language.

Lastly I am reminded of Miso, Stanislava Pinchuk a Ukrainian born artist, based in Melbourne, who I discovered a few years ago on Instagram. I was and still am mesmerised by her simple, delicate, cosmic tattoos.

Miso

SV - Miso
Miso’s home-made tattoo above and point artwork

Lately, the star reference has become a serious tattoo consideration of mine…but even more so, it has got me thinking about my own human insignificance in relation to the entire universe! To those who have lost a wife, an aunt, a mother, a father, an uncle or a loved one: I know that to lose someone you hold dear is the most heartbreaking time but perhaps they are not too far.

Perhaps they are looking down at us from the night sky.


Feature Image: NASA, Astronomy Picture of the Day, 4 August 2005

Artist Portrait: Vija Celmins 

Miso artwork

 

WHAT BOOKS DO FOR THE SOUL


“On the surface, reading can seem like a solitary experience. But any reader knows that books open up worlds, make us fall in love, feel less alone, more human, and ultimately, more understood.”

-Eye Level

I woke up on a Saturday morning with the usual grab of my phone and a one-two-click down the rabbit hole I go… also known as Instagram. I then came across a post by Eye Level, a recent follow of mine. Caroline Donofrio and Uli Beutter Cohen created Eye Level as a space to celebrate literature in a new and different way, a mutual craving of theirs: “Eye Level is a bi-monthly love letter to all things literary.”

Of all the wonderful ways books have enriched my life, one of the best has been the curiosity it has afforded me. It is intriguing to get into the mind of another person – you gain a lot of insight about the individual, specifically by what they gathered from a book. In the first issue of Eye Level,  Isaac Fitzgerald , a book editor for Buzzfeed, is interviewed and when asked what his favourite quote or passage of literature is, he answers:

“There’s this play called The History Boys, and in it, there’s a line where a teacher is talking to young men about what literature can do. He describes that moment when you open a book, and up until then, you thought you were the only person who’d ever had that thought or felt that feeling. Then suddenly, it’s like a hand coming up through the page and grasping yours, and you are no longer alone. That connection, to me, is everything that’s important about literature.” 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Girls at Library (GAL), another wonderful space that celebrate “women who read, for women who read”, by peeking into the lives of women discussing their bookshelves and how it has shaped their personalities, personal stories and lives. One of my favourite bibliophiles, Emma Loughridge ,who shares her love affair with books mainly on her Instagram feed and her Tumblr, was featured on GLA. When asked what is the power of story, Emma responds:

I love that, in reading, you can visit a new world and completely immerse yourself in the story, the characters, everything. It’s my favourite escape. If I’m having a bad day and need to check out for a while, I’ll grab my book, leave my phone somewhere and get lost in the words.

Many of my life-changing reads have been recommendations by friends and the complete escapism one experiences from a book is where I find the most enjoyment. For further insight into the rewards of reading watch the wonderful animated essay What is literature for? produced by writer and philosopher Alain de Botton and his team at The School of Life .


Featured Image from my Instagram feed; reading The God of Small Things by Arundhathi Roy.

VISUALISING AN INVISIBLE CITY

There has been little time to reflect, but I have decided to document my experience of being a student again. I have especially been craving a more intellectual, experimental environment. A space to explore and uncover and with the Urban Design programme being a mere year long graduate degree, I realised that this will be the best platform to keep a recored of my experiences and other thoughts, musings and inspirations.

To kick off the first week we were handed our first assignment: to create a visual representation of the notions of structure, form, space and temporality, as attributes of the built environment as one would see it embodied in the description of one of the 55 cities in Calvino, from the book Invisible Cities. The parameters were to only use rectangles and squares to represent the city, in a maximum of 3 shades.

The author,  Italo Calvino (October 15, 1923–September 19, 1985) was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. His novel is a series of descriptions, really conversations, told by the fictitious Marco Polo to Kublai Khan.

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”

As Marco travels round the world on the Emperor’s business, his job is not to bring back treasure or trade, but to barter in stories – the accumulated wealth of his imagination. I chose to represent the Trading City 2, Chloe:

“In Chloe, a great city, the people who move through the streets are all strangers. At each encounter, they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites. But no one greets anyone; eyes lock for a second, then dart away, seeking other eyes, never stopping.

A girl comes along, twirling a parasol on her shoulder, and twirling slightly also her rounded hips. A woman in black comes along, showing her full age, her eyes restless beneath her veil, her lips trembling. At tattooed giant comes along; a young man with white hair; a female dwarf; two girls, twins, dressed in coral. Something runs among them, an exchange of glances link lines that connect one figure with another and draws arrows, stars, triangles, until all combinations are used up in a moment, and other characters come on to the scene: a blind man with a cheetah on a leash, a courtesan with an ostrich-plume fan, an ephebe, a Fat Woman. And thus, when some people happen to find themselves together, taking shelter from the rain under an arcade, or crowding beneath an awning of the bazaar, or stopping to listen to the band in the square, meetings, seductions, copulations, orgies are consummated among them without a word exchanged, without a finger touching anything, almost without an eye raised.

A voluptuous vibration constantly stirs Chloe, the most chaste of cities. If men and women began to live their ephemeral dreams, every phantom would become a person with whom to begin a story of pursuits, pretences, misunderstandings, clashes, oppressions, and the carousel of fantasies would stop.”

VGHSAS001 - Invisible City Representation-01

As many invisible lines pass throughout cities as visible ones. When strangers pass one another in the streets of Chloe, an invisible line of connectivity runs between them; it symbolises the potential connection with another person that is instantly felt but not yet made real. Despite all these possibilities of interaction, it is rare that any interaction actually occurs.  So while there is an intense desire for connection that pervades Chloe, it is in reality “the most chaste cities”,  a city of silent people with curious minds. Experience is artificial, an illusion, where connection exists on another dimension; a virtual reality.

The book describes  all the cities ever dreamed of; thin cities, cities and desire, cities and the dead, cities and memory, continuous cites, cities and signs. And yet all of them are part descriptions of one city: Venice. I realised the evocative quality of Calvino’s writing lies in his ability to write lightly:

My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language… I have come to consider lightness a value rather than a defect.


Italo Calvino Portrait

Assignment 1.1. Invisible City: Chloe