The sensual richness of the written record confronts us like nothing else can with the sobering animality of our archive: the ghost of a spine, the curve of a haunch; patterns of scar tissue, hair follicles, sutures snaking across flayed skin; bindings as fuzzy as a cat. The written record is a vast storehouse of creaturely remains that continue to claim our attention and wonder.
In The Address Book, the French artist Sophie Calle found an address book on a Paris street, photocopied its pages, and returned it to its owner. She then interviewed the people listed within and published the results in the French daily Liberation. Critics of Calle’s work often describe it as mere snooping. She may be a an excellent stalker, but in her pursuit of strangers, Calle presents a kind of artistic Zeno’s paradox: the closer you get to someone else, the more you realize the distance separating you.
The Los Angeles artist Jim Shaw is an esoteric populist who doesn’t only make art but, since he began exhibiting found “thrift store paintings” in 1991, has created his own tradition, an American vernacular surrealism that might be termed “crackpot gothic.”
With Don Carlos Verdi intended, as the English critic and musicologist Andrew Porter wrote, “to give a new nobility and purpose to grand opera.” The result, according to Porter, is Verdi’s “most ambitious opera.” But such a grandiose vision proved unwieldy. One imagines that in the end Porter would have agreed with Julian Budden’s broad-minded conclusion: “When performed with sufficient musical and dramatic understanding any combination of versions can be made to sound convincing.”
These photos of Nepal, the first series taken in the 1980s, and the second after the earthquakes, show what has been lost both to time and to natural disaster, and just what an incredible task it will be to rebuild and restore the country.