domenico de clario: walking slowly downhill

(sleep, the gorgeous nothings, seven as the reasoning of numbers and the beginner's song)
7 -31 SEPTEMBER, 2015 On the balance of the evidence I observe all around me life seems to relentlessly propose, as its only possible continuum, an ongoing incremental entanglement of all of its components. While considering this quite some time ago it struck me that reasoning might light the way forward into the tangle, but only a little; certainly not enough to even begin its un-knotting. And when reasoning’s feeble light eventually fades and the tangled forest begins to creep towards you in ever quickening breaths then paying immediate attention to what until that moment had seemed irrelevantly gorgeous nothings, now suddenly abounding all around you, can help ward off the rapidly enclosing darkness. gorgeous nothings might describe those moments of light-filled inspiration endlessly waiting for us to notice them as they annoyingly crowd around our feet, ever-ready to help us begin unknotting the hopelessly tangled loops that constitute our lives. But we continue to shuffle them aside, ignoring their good-willed simple encouragement for us to focus on the now, on the small but most present moment, as the way through the tangle. Dropping my eyes I have recently begun to look for them down by my ankles, as one might look for a suddenly dwarfed guardian angel. And there they are, always ready to light for us, even for a second, the labyrinthine paths within. And then of course, there’s sleep, seemingly always in the far distance slumbering slowly towards us, looking at times as though it may even be heading in the same direction as we are, a fellow traveller; but no, it’s only a ploy. Quickly it unmasks itself, and suddenly turning doubles back towards us with a deafening roar that no one else, except the temporary I we constantly inhabit, seems to hear. And then one dreams; sleep or not, one dreams, usually of the number seven; transmuted, reconfigured and reborn in various forms, all emanating a seven-ness quintessence..

*

 I have recently become increasingly aware of a correlation of sorts between observing the slow unbuckling of the life of one’s mother from its source and preparing to walk downhill for a very long way as a beginner, from the birthplace of a great river to its mouth, where sweet waters meet and merge with a great oceanic saltiness. I have not yet begun this walk but I have begun to feel the tension of the dynamic that binds these two journeys together. This current MARS project attempts to observe this dynamic further and then seeks to manifest a material response, initially unfolding not within a physical space but in a juncture somewhere inside the self, a juncture not unlike the confluence of the Murray and the Darling River, where two great flowing bodies give birth to a vaster and considerably more complex one. This juncture might in turn be seen to manifest as the temporary confluence of a collection of an infinite number of disparate gorgeous nothings, moving randomly inside an otherwise uncentralized universe. A universe with no obvious distinguishing features, no cardinal points, no ups or downs, a universe in which locating one’s bearings seems to become, moment by passing moment, an ever more weighty improbability. This project attempts to gather the various strands that loosely weave this temporary juncture together and then presents them as a newly woven object, its contradictions apparent and all cohabiting the same familial space as would bothers and sisters, whose differences are intact but who have never considered separation as the answer to their seeming irresolution. These three experiential strands, the preparation for a walk, the waiting for a mother’s passing and the transmutation of the number seven, all join at MARS in a ritual knotting and unknotting of various beginnings and endings.

*

Over the years Graziella has gifted me with many gorgeous nothings she found amongst the detritus of her life or through various random circumstances. The collection of seemingly empty trifles she has gifted me over time seems in such circumstances exceedingly full, indeed, exceedingly gorgeous. Over the years I have filled many boxes and cabinets with such nothings gathered from various sources, people and events. The first seven I found inside a cardboard box labeled ‘From My Mother’ are the offerings that reasoned the seven works installed in MARS Gallery into being. Each of these seven nothings tells a story, infinite in the substance of its reach, yet often easily dismissed because of the humility of its form. The first of these gifts dates back to 1971 and the last to 2012. The nothings, or the seven sevens:
  1. Seven packets of seeds of a distinctly Italian leafy vegetable, which she hoped I would grow, harvest and joyously eat (seven hours / red).
  1. Seven coins, collected throughout her one journey back to Italy (fourteen hours / orange)
  1. Seven shells she found during our last walk together on the beach at Dromana, in the summer of 2002 (twenty-one hours / yellow).
  1. Recorded music composed as an elegy to the number seven (twenty-eight hours / green).
  1. The Seven of Hearts, her favorite card (thirty-five hours / blue).
  1. Seven labour-honoured brushes she had found in unexpected places (forty-two hours / indigo).
  1. Finally the envelope containing the key to the room I stayed in whilst attending a conference at Leeds University during the northern summer of 2006 (forty-nine hours / violet).
  It was in a Leeds University dormitory room named Litherop 7 that I sat on the edge of the bed and read a heartfelt letter I had just received, in which Graziella pleaded with me to finally give up the shackles of the academic life for what she imagined might be the greater creative freedom of an artist’s life. Even as I embraced the paradoxical nature of her reasoning, motivated entirely by a mother’s love for her child, I kept the letter and the room’s key as signifiers in the unfolding of a possible new path. This new path, preceded by a number of twists, turns and forks years that the intervening years presented me, finally recently imposed itself upon me. When I once more unexpectedly came across these offerings I found much to contemplate.

*

I resolved to find a way to acknowledge their histories and to gift each one to time and into time, in an attempt to weave each existence into a cyclic action, a beat or song, perhaps even woven inside a lullaby. I concluded that in this way, sitting with each gorgeous nothing through an engagement with time and an expanse of black cloth, I might approximate the silent relationship through which Dickinson had approached her envelope writings. I hoped that in this way I would perhaps gain an understanding, even if meager, of the dynamics that have defined hitherto invisible aspects of the life of my mother, further invisibly reflected in the life of both my parents and indeed, further still in my own life and that of my sister’s. I concluded that in these particular circumstances the end of my creative engagement with each particular object might not be best reached through orthodox methods such as various aesthetic considerations or the reaching of a particular visual or thematic note in each object. I came to believe that the correct way to end my engagement with each gorgeous nothing and the expanse of black cloth would be best defined according to an a priori decision based on no consideration other than simply time. And if time was to be the catalyst through which an understanding of these dynamics might more transparently manifest, then a mechanism expressed as an incremental unit of time, during which I would sit with the nothings and with each expanse of cloth, might further define each unique outcome. It seemed apt to then express this particular mechanism as time units based on multiples of seven, each one characterized by a spectrum colour. In this way I would sit seven hours with the red gorgeous nothing and the black cloth, fourteen hours with the orange and cloth, twenty-one hours with the yellow, twenty-eight with the green and so on, until the last sitting with the violet collection and the black cloth would last forty-nine hours.

 *

 These considerations struck me as apt in these circumstances. After all we have no way of knowing exactly when our lives might end, because at times the train reaches the station unexpectedly, irrespective of our readiness to disembark it. Consequently our journeys can end abruptly at times, with no opportunity to prepare oneself, wrap the scarf more tightly as protection from the cold outside the carriage, gather one’s luggage from the rack and clean up any detritus the journey has generated. We simply have to disembark now in order to be on time for the next connection. I wish to proceed on this particular journey as though the opportunity to prepare myself to disembark is not being extended to me. It’s only now at this later point of my life, when considering the paradox of the seeming emptiness of a visible zero overflowing invisibly with the plenitude of gorgeous nothings, that I can better understand how both Dickinson’s and my mother’s seven-ness manifests like the breath does through the poetic reasoning of numbers. I offer you this seven-sided collection of nothings so that you may share with me the consideration of such matters.   - domenico de clario, 2015   Thank you Mario de Clario for the stories of trains and platforms. walking slowly downhill (sleep and the gorgeous nothings + seven as the reasoning of numbers) is dedicated to Graziella Agata Minca de Clario.