… as she teaches me the special care necessary when playing variations (don’t study them linearly! focus on structural similarities not visible in the melody! play in a sequence of different ways (eyes closed, fingers lingering not pressing the keys, air playing, repeating note names, mute playing, etc.) each passage…) I start to see the potential dreariness of variations not well played out, the possible drift into vapidness … and by symmetry, the extreme richness and brutally meditative mind state that may be attained when really playing variations linking the various possibilities opposing richness and structural similarity…

the final movement of Hob. XVI 24 (cf. Richter)

Enigma Variations (not the Elgar orchestral piece, but the Aciman novel) is a long-winded, extremely well-crafted extended novella. Aciman takes up the main subject of his now very famous Call Me By Your Name and literally unfolds it through variations in later life, variations of an early, burgeoning sensual/sexual experience of ¿love? that leaves a boy, a man, marked throughout his entire life, and whose many additional loves are lived as variations of some sort of the first (unaware) one. Paolo falls in love (without really knowing it, without even being able to detect it, let alone phrase it, without as much as a language for his feeling of infatuation) with a cabinet-maker, a falegname in an island off the coast of Italy where his family spends summers. Paolo, at twelve, slowly discovers his own love for twenty-something year-old Gianni, for his hands and nails, for his trim frame and green eyes, for his face he doesn’t dare look directly – and in uncovering his own outsidification and othernessifaction ends up building from rough pieces a language for what his eyes, his racing heartbeat, his breath, his arms, his skin hair raising, his balls tickling, his ¿unwanted? erection have already given him the knowledge he cannot yet phrase… This first theme, so reminiscent of Elio’s story in Call Me By Your Name, has later some variations. Alternating love for women and for men, in a kind of odd nod to Virginia Wolff’s Orlando, the rest of Paolo (later Paul in New York)’s loves continue playing a note of untold arousal, mental courting, projection of images, smells, textures that Paul knows are often best left unexpressed. A triumph of the non-explicit (made explicit in Aciman’s prose, of course). An endless set of variations of his early theme.

Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations (mentioned often in Paolo’s conversation with his father in the island in Italy, hummed by both to the exasperation of the mother, as a secret key-code between father and son) – and then Paolo’s understanding of his own father’s infatuation with the same young man that he as a young adolescent lived through – Paolo’s un-judgmental and again implicit camaraderie with the memory of his own father. And the Diabelli underscoring those memories.

Photographic variations (on Finnish glass geometries):

Mathematical variations are always tricky. In some unacknowledged sense, whole swaths of math are really sophisticated variations on themes. But we do not really, we do not truly call them that, we do not truly think in those terms. Usually.

(I feared when first seeing this overhanging Möbius strip that it would be too contrived, too cliché. The Möbius strip is an almost immediate image coming to mind when evoking the main theme of the Salón Nacional de Artistas this year, “the reverse/back of the threading/of the weaving” (el revés de la trama) and the special exhibition Aracne’s Fable under the curatorship of Alejandro Martín. Yet on second view I found this variation on a classical theme, by Adrián Gaitán, very powerful. The heavy physicality provided by the used mattresses, apparently taken from some whorehouse in Cali (at least according to our guide at the exhibition). And that seems to be the case. The mattresses, made of cheap polyester-like material, woven and rewoven and repaired after many uses, bear stains and traces of bodily exertion, of many possible sexual acrobatics but also of sweat and blood, sperm and urine, vaginal and anal secretions, saliva and tears; all those human fluids and traces of people (and suffering and moaning and exploitation and delight, money transactions and childbirths and hopes for the lives of those children) also woven into the fabric, also immanent and impossible to efface. All that heaviness turned by Adrián Gaitán’s variation into a floating symbol of a primal kind of reversion, into a pristine and ideal and immaterial shape.)

self perception

Spectral Selfie

this “spectral” selfie is another one of those photograph taken in the middle of the night, with extreme sensitivity and exposure of almost ten seconds

I allow myself to breathe normally and move a little; the result is somewhat akin to an x-ray, at least in the arms

of course none of this is visible to the naked eye – the camera can, though, “see” all these things

de Niépce a Zajfert – capturar el tiempo

catskills 044/2 R.K. / W. S.

El Proyecto de Cámera Estenopeica de Przemek Zajfert lleva ya unos cuantos años, y de ahíCatskills2 han surgido muchas imágenes interesantes (como ésta de arriba, con la curva extraña del sol en dos semanas de apertura). También han surgido constelaciones bien sorprendentes de imágenes, como esta a la derecha – cada uno de los “puntos” es realmente una imagen de cámara estenopeica.

En la etapa “Catskills” del proyecto, Zajfert entrega directamente un kit de cámara estenopeica a cada participante y da instrucciones. Las fotos son de exposición muy larga (semanas, en general). Terminan capturando lo “menos efímero”. Si pasa una persona o un perro no quedará registro. Pero el sol, los objetos grandes, los árboles, de pronto una persona (o animal) que sí pasara mucho tiempo en un punto de la foto sí quedaría registrada.

De los árboles el registro es por razones obvias de la forma general (casi el “aura”) del árbol pero no de sus ramificaciones menores, que se mueven con el viento y no quedan en esas imágenes.

Versiones anteriores del proyecto de Zajfert eran con las fotos en blanco y negro. Esta última tiene papel sensibilizado con químicos, y las fotos son a color, pero colores que no corresponden con la “realidad”, pero que dan fotos realmente interesantes:

Tal vez lo mejor del proyecto es que, dado que es hecho por mucha gente distinta y con resultados muy variables, muchos no necesariamente muy “controlados”, termina dando un “panóptico” de una región, un faneroscopio muy peculiar, con registro no dinámico del paso del tiempo. Esto es algo muy sólido cuando el conjunto de fotos armadas así es grande.

Explica Zajfert en su página que en mayo de 1816 (sí, ¡casi dos siglos ya!) Niépce logró por primera vez este tipo de imágenes, usando nitrato de plata – pero al principio cuando las sacaba a la luz se velaban; el proceso químico seguía. Aparentemente esto desesperó a Niépce porque sabía que tenía algo maravilloso pero no lo podía realmente mostrar al mundo, de manera directa. En el proyecto actual Zajfert de hecho no aplica fijador: simplemente escanea las imágenes cuando están activas, al final de la exposición de muchos días o semanas.

En abril de 2016 habrá una exposición en The Painters Gallery (Fleischmanns, NY) con esta obra (el proyecto Catskills).

noche / luz / compl

La luz nocturna me intriga, desde hace un buen tiempo. La no presencia del sol, la posibilidad de ver cosas ligeramente distintas con cámaras que tienen sensores buenos, la exposición con tiempos altos (montañas quietas, árboles movidos por la brisa, levemente “uncanny”, la aparición de algún pájaro o perro que se atraviesa en la foto de larga exposición y queda espectral). A veces la misma mano mía, intentando sostener un pulso de varios segundos pero fallando, termina dando a las fotos nocturnas la impresión de un paso fugaz de algo. En algunos casos incluso, si uno no sabe que la foto fue tomada de noche podría pensar que fue de día, pero si mira más puede detectar cierta frialdad de la luz, cierta quietud, incluso cierto pietismo abstracto de la ausencia del sol.

Sunday in the city.

Arriving, I couldn’t refrain from taking a picture inside and outside the waiting room at the Newark Airport train connection to the city. No one reacted to the camera this time. The train to the city arrived 75 minutes late. The announcement kept saying the train was delayed “8 minutes”. After 8 minutes the announcement repeated and said “another 8 minutes”. And so on. (Welcome to public transportation in North America, where they announce what they want when they want, cancel the train if they want, and nobody ever seems to bat an eyelid. We were too tired and hungry to even move.)

But then, the city:

The next day, Sunday, we met Daniela and Alejo to be inspired by Gauguin’s Metamorphoses, photographic practices in the studio [a brutal series with many photographers of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries], Wright’s sketches and floorplans, Jasper John’s latest series. What struck me most was (perhaps) the current emphasis on documentation in those exhibitions. The reading is not limited to finished works – it included lots of “unfinished” plates, prints on paper that would most likely have been discarded a few years ago for a main exhibition at a main museum – and now constitute perhaps the most important, the most exciting aspect of the exhibits.

Then, somewhere else, Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time, and perhaps the most wonderful set of photographs of Paris I remember having seen in a very very long time: Marville. Marville, by showing us how Paris lost an enormous lot to “modernization” by Hausdorff, by showing how Paris could have evolved into so many marvels and instead became… what it is (with its own greatness but also its pettiness and too corporate style), is incredibly contemporary. Painful to see, but how important nowadays, in our time of city blight, of city disaster, of destruction of trees. He saw, in the “Paris éventrée” of his photographs, our 21st century – more than 150 years ago.



“En el campo nadie verr nada, no hay borrde… hay que recorrtar para verr. Fotogrrafiar es igual a rrastrear y rrastrillar”. Así hablaba Grete, con un acento fuertísimo. Me acuerdo que una vez nos puso juntas a mí y a mi hermana y nos sacó una serie de fotos y por primera vez se vio lo distintas que somos. “Solo se ve lo que se ha fotografiado”, decía. Fue amiga de Brecht y había vivido con él en Dinamarca. Decían que ella era la Lai-Tu del Me-ti.

(Ricardo Piglia, en Blanco Nocturno – su personaje Sofía hablando de Grete Berlau, la gran fotógrafa alemana que estudió en la Bauhaus)

“In the countrryzide, no boundarries… you need to crrop in orderr to zee. Photographing is akin to shkrratching and rraking”. Thus spoke Grete, with a very strong accent. I remember once she took us together, me and my sister, and made a series of photographs, and one could see for the first time how different we are.  “One can only see what has been photographed”, she used to say. She had been a friend of Brecht’s and had lived with him in Denmark. They used to say she was the Lai-Tu of the Me-ti.

(Ricardo Piglia, in Blanco Nocturno – his character Sofía describing Grete Berlau, the great German photographer who studied in the Bauhaus)

Luz sin cámara

No traje la cámara buena esta vez a Chía. No sé bien por qué. Y me ha pesado por dos razones: por un lado, hoy sembramos el árbol para Mauricio Arturo – tomamos registro con otra cámara, pero no es lo mismo 😐 Por otro lado, como desde las 5.20 de la tarde la luz se puso extrañísima, absolutamente increíble (son las 6 y sigue, cambiando cada segundo, pero muy extraña). Hacia las 5.30 la luz estaba de un amarillo filtrado bellísimo, como una película de los años 70, con una llovizna breve y suave y mucho sol, y las montañas (la Valvanera, la Cruz, el Manjuy de Chía, etc.) pintados todos con un tono verde amarillo que parecía de esas películas o sencillamente de una acuarela mezclada de manera extraña. Luego siguió cambiando – ahora está de un vinotinto mezclado con azul claro y amarillo claro en los sitios aún iluminados por rayos de sol (ya detrás de las montañas).

No es claro que (incluso) con la (buena) cámara hubiera podido captar esos tonos. La verdad es que son nuevos para mí, aún habiendo estado aquí muchas veces. Es extraño el efecto que un cambio de luz puede tener en uno. Al tiempo salimos con María Clara a ver qué pasaba, por qué estaba tan bella la luz, por qué estaba tan extraño todo, como si el paso del tiempo se hubiera detenido.

El árbol que sembramos para poder recordar a Mauricio Arturo Moreno Guzmán es un feijoo (fraijoo – no sé bien cómo se escribe) pequeño, con un verde bellísimo. Ahí lo vendremos a cuidar.

Pinhole camera pictures, with cameras built by Lina Romero and José Mauricio Castro, exposure on paper and transfer to paper – students of María Clara in her Basic Photography class. I find it quite amazing that you can extract photographs out of a plain old cardboard box. (The pinhole itself, though, needs to be made on a metal plate to guarantee sharpness – apparently the students used different materials for the pinhole such as fragments of tea boxes or of beer cans.)


“The Canyon” by Jerry D. Drew, circa 1922.

There was no further description for this photo, but the pointed building looks like the Woolworth Building, which would place this photo in Lower Manhattan, New York City, on Broadway looking uptown.

In fact, it would’ve had to have been photographed right about here, at the north end of Bowling Green, where the then-existing streetcar tracks of the Broadway Line would’ve curved, just like in the photo.

Mi primer recuerdo de NY, en 1981, se parece mucho a esta foto de Helen Levitt (en los años 70). Recuerdo mucho el impacto negativo de NY esa vez (espacio público desastroso, gente pidiendo plata por todas partes, gente durmiendo en la calle, agresividad, desastre urbano). Viajábamos con mi familia de regreso de Europa a Colombia, después de cuatro años del doctorado de mi padre, y Nueva York fue el impacto negativo. No era muy distinta de Bogotá, por lo menos a los ojos de un muchacho de trece años, durante una semana. Las fotos de Helen Levitt en el MOMA me trajeron a la mente esa primera impresión de NY, tan distinta a la de hoy.