medieval art history, navel gazing, horizon scanning
Thursday, January 22, 2015
All Directions in Time
Holbein's Ambassadors, 1533
National Gallery, London
This is a reality check post, a looking at the landscape post, a brief state of the work post. This is my first full year sabbatical and it is entering its second phase. The first was the no-sleep-'till-Brooklyn (or Paris) Paris five-month stay, and the second is the spring semester in my office processing it all. The fall produced a proposal for a collaborative project, two essays, a talk, and a mountain of photographs and exhibition catalogues from multiple multiple on-site and museum visits (The Haul). The spring calls forth four talks that will take me in four quite different directions (from agentic objects in Tolkien, to the materiality of artist inscriptions, to (the limits of) perception in Hans Holbein's Ambassadors in terms of scale, transition, and catastrophe, and back to art is Chaucer's dream visions). Three essays are due in September, also in three different directions (the iconography of narrative, the dream vision talk in essay form, and an exploration of the word "tend" in the context of Veer Ecology). There's a book review to finish and an essay to revise in there. And an on-line course about manuscripts to follow. And a book project is taking shape in a one-step-forward, two-steps-back pace (but forward, and I'll be writing about it in pieces out here). And then I'd like to read everything and process images - always good for the design and redesign of classes.
And so the inner virgo is out and about tidying things up and making calendars and generally feeling lucky and overwhelmed-but-with-the-luxury-of-time-all-is-possible. And most mornings, I feel as though I could take off in any number of directions, even though I have my little study schedule all written out; and most afternoons, I see where I might be going after all. All fall our mantra was "this is the chance of a lifetime" - and it was, never to be repeated, and (Iris counted) of the five months, we were home seven days. I realize that this stretch of time is the chance of a lifetime, too. Summers, inimitably inaugurated by the Kalamazoo conference, are stretches, but I haven't had time like this since I was a graduate student. Right now my response is to run in all directions within the existential freedom. I hope that I get more disciplined, but connecting Viollet-le-Duc to environmental activism, Holbein to early physics, and all the really interesting thinking about time (especially Dinshaw's How Soon is Now? and Moxey's Visual Time and all of the heterochronic questioning of Moxey and Wood and Nagel) makes it feel like the ideas are in charge, taking me from one place to the next. How something as basic and fundamental as time becomes a luxury is a process to trace: the resources that have to be put in place to "afford" the time - both absurd and privileged. (The impossibility of a "Right to Time" movement). Reading the news cycle going back through the lives of the Paris attackers, seeing a German right-wing organization head step down because of a Facebook post from 2012, thinking about the work of art history and medieval studies - time gets less linear all the time. Mostly my time is incredibly linear, lived within the forward march of the academic calendar. So here goes a 7 month experiment in living in non-linear time, really going deeper into work time via reading, thinking, and writing - I know that there will be products at the end, but I hope for some kind of strange effect upon my person as well.