Bali Streetlife, 2013.

Bali Streetlife, 2013.

Possibility is the long view, and our orientation towards it. It is also the spirit of that orientation – the attachment we feel to the projected future. 

There is a special kind of possible that seeps through the everyday, and is an embedded trajectory within the lived-place. For Henri Lefebrve, part of the urban project was the continual regeneration of the idea of the urban. He asks us to continually re-look at what exists, to reconsider the possible.

Productive sites for thinking and making in this way can be found at the edges of material, spatial and conceptual categories. For me, Bali is a kind of 'urban edge', at which slippages occur. With this instability comes the possibility of knowing things differently.

Bali is tied up in its possibility of urbanity. For Lefebvre, the “possible is also part of the real and gives it a sense of direction, an orientation, a clear path to the horizon” (2003: 45). Bali is the edge of the possible; it straddles the current urban thing and what the urban thing might productively become.


In this 'Postcard' series, Whiteread uses a hole punch to cut out negative spaces in the rooms, capturing the three-dimensional concerns of her sculptural form in a two-dimensional manner. The well-known touristic images are obscured by the cluster of circular abscesses, and they become ambiguous.  More of Rachel Whitereads' drawings at the Tate Britain courtesy of the Guardian here, with accompanying article here

Alongside the postcards are a collection of pseudo-technical drawings, including the revealing 'Study for "House"'. In this work, Whiteread uses an everyday and meaning-laden medium - correction fluid, or 'twink' - to simultaneously create and erase. The house is 'corrected' into a 'pure' whiteness, it becomes absent, yet at the same time, we are more aware of the space the object occupies after the 'intervention'. White is at once pure and ghostly, the house in the images becomes both nothing and, oddly, sky. 

Study for "House", 1992

Study for "House", 1992


Paris, l'Opera. 2010.

It doesn’t take much. A deserted street at dusk, with the summer sunlight lingering on the upper floors of a row of buildings and the sidewalks down below already deep in shadow, may get some old movie in our heads rolling again. Since we are ordinarily better at forgetting than remembering, it is often a mystery why some such sight has stamped itself on our memory, when countless others that ought to have far greater meaning can hardly be said to exist for us anymore. It makes me suspect that a richer and less predictable account of our lives would eschew chronology and any attempt to fit a lifetime into a coherent narrative and instead be made up of a series of fragments, spur-of-the-moment reminiscences occasioned by whatever gets our imagination working.
 - Memory Traps, Charles Simic.NYRB Blog, November 2012.

Paris is, and will likely forever be, my memory trap.

I think it was that way before I had even been there the first time. But it was our second time, although our first together, which hangs in my mind most often these days.

After stashing our bags at the hostel mid-morning, we snuck out and wound our way through the tightly cobbled lanes of the Marais. The air was crisp, with a cool blueness settling over the rooflines. I can't seem to remember anyone else being out. In my mind, the streets were impossibly ours.

Each with a white-specked brioche tucked into a brown paper bags at a quiet boulangerie, we found a place to sit by the canal. The cobbles were warm, and the roughness didn't bother us. Our teenage knees and travel-worn legs dangled. We couldn't help ourselves but to grin.

We were here.

Thanks to the Paris Travel Guide over at A Minute Away from Snowing for bringing it all flooding back.


India Hobson via The Garden Edit

It all comes back. Even the dampness underfoot; even that brings it back. I was in Kew Gardens when I first realised how much everything yearns to grow.  I was just twelve, quietly sure-footed in the world. Afterwards we went back to the apartment, and it was raining lightly, and I stood in the bathtub with the white curtain pulled around, ran a shower, and shaved my armpits for the first time.


The pyramids at Teotihuacán.


Month by month, I circled in to frame the story in theoretical terms.  And that was only the beginning. 

A novel is made of details.  Every character, on every page, has to be immersed in a perfectly visualized scene: using transportation, cooking, listening to radio programs, speaking in the particular jargon of an era.  Wearing clothes.  (Unless they aren’t, but that can’t last long.)  Each detail has to be historically exact, and in this case “the era” involved dozens of different locations in two countries, crossing nearly thirty years. 

I traveled to all the settings, on both sides of the border: Washington, D.C., Asheville, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway, on this side.  On the other, I hiked through Mexican coastal jungles, hung out in villages, went to see a brujo, visited Mexico City’s archaeological and art museums, the preserved homes of Rivera and Kahlo and the Trotskys, and their personal archives. 

I climbed the pyramids at Teotihuacán.

  I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexico over the past thirty years, living near the border in Arizona for most of that time, so I drew on the past too, digging out old notebooks from assignments in the Yucatan and elsewhere.  I only set scenes in places where I’ve been myself.  When I create a world for the reader, I want to do it right, using all my senses.  

That was the fun part, the “writer’s life” they show you in the movies.  Here’s what they don’t show:  the writer sitting in a chair in her study, glasses on her nose, coffee cup in hand, reading.  For years and years.  Biographies, court transcripts, political analyses from every angle, catalogues of women’s clothing from the ‘30’s and 40’s, recipe books, you name it.  Everything ever written by or about Trotsky, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, J. Edgar Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, I tried to lay eyes on.  I read literally thousands of newspaper and magazine articles documenting everyday life in the U.S. during World War II, and everything leading up to the post-war political freeze-up.  Autobiographies of blacklisted artists.  The internet was useful, many newspapers now have electronic archives, but mostly it served to lead me toward better things that are not online.  I had to get my nose into a lot of dusty places.  I pored over old letters and photo collections.  I visited an old-car museum.  This is a good example of the importance of primary sources: “Googling” a 1930’s Roadster won’t tell you how it feels to shift its gears, or that the windshield wiper is hand-operated by a lever over your head.  Who would have thought?  I loved the surprises.  I learned that contrary to popular belief, the continental U.S. was attacked during WWII.  The New York Times ran photos of the aftermath.  The Japanese sent a submarine up the Columbia River and deployed a floatplane bomber, with the goal of setting the Oregon forests on fire and creating panic in the land.  But the plan was rained out.  History hinges on things like this, events that get forgotten – this is the soul of the story I wanted to tell.  It was thrilling to immerse myself so deeply in the era.  I dreamt of cooking breakfast for Trotsky, and became a curiosity for elderly men at dinner parties who quizzed me about arcane World War II trivia.  The stacks of research materials grew tall in my office, like a forest of wobbly trees.  I’ve cleared it all out now, making way for the next.


Barbara Kingsolver

, on writing

The Lacuna.