The Space Between Words

Given how sad – livid – I am that one of my favourite paintings was vandalized this week, I’ve been digging through some old files to see if I can find the piece I wrote on it 7 years ago. It’s funny to read an old piece of writing – a little embarrassing, but also kind of fun to be reminded of the things that moved me back then…many of which still do today. I get that to a lot of people, most paintings by Mark Rothko look the same – I’m posting this old piece of writing because for those of us who love his work, there are paintings with which we’ve spent hours of time in conversation and contemplation, paintings of his with which we’ve developed old, familiar friendships. The one that was defaced is one paintings of those for me.

I wrote this piece in 2005 while I was living in London. I wrote it in part for fun, but also with the thought that I might share it with my various friends who visited over the year, take them to the Tate, and let them enjoy this little aesthetic experience I’d put together. The Tate has since rearranged the room in which the Seagram Murals are housed, painted it with brighter colours (I liked the old version, in which I wrote this piece better). Nevertheless, the integrative art experience would still work – so if you find yourself in London, maybe pop on a little Ani, and make your way to the Tate with what follows after the jump in hand Continue reading

Transcending Memory

I am usually in bed by 9:30, to fall asleep reading by 10:15, 10:30 or so. It’s been years since 10pm marked the start of my evening rather than its end. But last night I made an exception, trudging out of the house at 9:20pm and making my way down to The Power Plant at the Toronto Harbourfront to see if I could pull an all-nighter to watch a good chunk of Christian Marclay’s, The Clock.

I expected long lines and a minimum 1-2, probably 3, hour wait, which is I why I aimed to be there for 10. I wanted to be in the room when the clock struck midnight. But I arrived just in time to be the last person let in before the line-ups began.

The Clock is a 24 hour video compilation of short clips from films (and some tv shows), each of which contains some reference to the time, Continue reading

The Hospitality of Yoga

Before I left for the Camino, I purchased a livingsocial deal for an overnight yoga retreat a couple of hours from my house. I wasn’t able to use it before it expired, but the man who runs the centre was kind enough to let me book my time there for after my return. This was only the beginning of the kindness I experienced in this place.

On Friday afternoon, I thought I had budgeted well for a timely arrival – I did not, however, budget time for getting lost, nearly running out of gas, a chiropractor appointment to treat a herniated disc on the way out of town running waaaaay over time, and a nightmarish amount of Friday afternoon Toronto traffic. What was supposed to be 2 hours in the car turned into 4 hours, and by the time I arrived I was in quite a state.

It’s one thing to mess up my own plans through failures of planning, but I just hate messing up other people’s plans. Continue reading

Bilbao: Part 2 – The Scattering

I wrote before I left for Spain that I didn’t know how I’d feel when I reached Santiago, but that my first pilgrimage was actually to Bilbao – and the walk proved me true.

We reached the city about a week in. By that point we’d made some good friends, a couple in particular, and we were treasuring our final moments with them. I think we all knew the good-bye was approaching, and this allowed us to push into our rapidly expanding intimacy with a little more courage than an expanse of time allows. Tyler, walking with our Brazilian lawyer friend tested and expanded the limits of language barriers Continue reading

A Confession Against Learning

Dear reader,

I have a confession to make: I started writing the post “Bilbao: Part 2″ as a follow up to last week’s reflections on the Guggenheim, but I found myself stalled…as I have done each week I’ve sat down to try to write about the Camino. Something strange happens each time I try; I get this drive to summarize the experience of the week with the lesson it taught me. I don’t know why I do this. I know consciously that these experiences matter – have meaning, impacted me, had their own power, etc… – regardless of whether or not there’s a “take home” to take home. And yet each week this odd compulsion takes over and I find myself pressed to sum the stories up neatly with something I learned. I don’t know if this compulsion is annoying those of you who are kind enough to read…but it’s annoying me! And here’s why:

Continue reading

Bilbao: Part 1

I have wanted to visit Bilbao since I first studied Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum there in my undergraduate Art History degree. This was the building that inspired my love of Gehry – of architecture in general, really – and I fantasized about one day visiting this fishing town in Basque country with glee as I memorized all the pertinent facts and theories for my final exams. I remember being captivated by the fact that Bilbao was not – at the time of the building’s construction – one of Spain’s more major cities. And so it was like the underdog won the competition for the fancy art collection and fancy architectural design. And I loved that piece of the story – I wanted to visit an temple of aesthetics in a place where no one really expected it to be. Indeed, while Tyler wanted to do the Northern route to be near the ocean, I wanted to do it so I could walk to Bilbao. It really was the first pilgrimage of my pilgrimage. Continue reading

Piano, Piano. Suave, Suave.

The dinner table is lively with multi-lingual conversation, but I am mostly slumped in my chair in pain. Day 2 of the Camino, and it’s our first time sharing in the “Pilgrim Meal.” Pilgrim meals in Basque country (the first 1/4 of the Camino Norte) are served around 7:30, about an hour before the restaurant opens for regular dinner service (I believe so the other customers don’t have to smell us). They cost about $10, and have a couple of hearty courses, plus bread, dessert and as much wine as you can drink. They are awesome. But I’m feeling beat. I’ve done something stupid to my right shoulder. And so the scarf I brought with me so I could feel like I had one pretty thing is now wrapped as a sling holding my arm in place so that I don’t wrench my shoulder something worse. Each person who joins us at the table points at my arm with one hand while pouring themselves a mug of wine with the other, and asks me in their own language, what’s wrong? “Oh,” I say in English and begin miming (though even miming hurts), “I’ve pulled my shoulder. I’m trying to keep it still. I’m sure it will get better,” even though I’m panicking inside that it won’t. Continue reading