From Rilke to Ragnar

“…because truly being here is so much…” (Rilke, Duino Elegies, “Ninth Elegy”)

Today I took in the full sixty-four minutes of Ragnar Kjartansson’s video art installation, The Visitors, at Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts. It is immersive and seductive, the former term being the best I know to describe it, the latter being a word used in the show’s promotional literature with which I cannot disagree. It was both of these things and more. There are nine screens arranged in a large gallery space in such a way that gives the viewer real-time access to several rooms inside an aging mansion in New York state. Each room is occupied by a musician, with Ragnar himself situated in a bubble bath with an acoustic guitar. All of the musicians can hear one another via headphones, and all proceed to play what amounts to one really long song–several movements that continually return to a single, haunting refrain.

I was mesmerized from the start, even having a couple of moments that I can only describe as joyful. In fact, with Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetic cycle, the Duino Elegies, fresh in my head, these moments of joy struck me as pure moments, as pure a moment as we can find in this life. These moments represent the best thing that can happen at an art exhibit, or in any experience, for that matter. For those who have not read Rilke, the poet presents art (specifically poetry, but I expand his thought to include art in general) as a relief from our nagging self-consciousness. You will have to read Rilke to take in the brunt of his thought–there is so much more than what I’m giving you here. To oversimplify, I will say that he specializes in the plight of the human consciousness.

My notion of a pure moment, informed by Rilke’s Duino Elegies, involves both the cessation of time and the suspension of self-consciousness. It is full immersion in an event. For me today, that event was Kjartansson’s The Visitors. It fulfills Rilke’s idea of “hiersein,” German for “being here.” In these moments of intense being, we forget about time, and we forget about ourselves. We are free to be inside a moment, free to experience pure joy.

The Visitors is on-view at The Frist until February 12th.

My Renovated Website

Three years ago, I purchased a web domain and named it alandrue.com. I labored through the construction of a very basic site on which to display paintings. Even though I followed a template, there was still a large amount to learn. It took weeks to arrive at something presentable. People who are able to build a site from the ground up are gifted indeed (Justin Bird comes to mind). This is clearly not my skill set, so I am content to make a template look as wonderful as possible. That said, Alan Drue:  Excitable Mind has undergone a significant facelift in recent weeks. Rather than rattle on about the changes made, however, I have decided to post a picture from my brainstorming session.

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These days I use the site more for writing, especially since going back to school. But whether the intention is to show paintings or share poems, the decision to maintain my own web space is one that I am thrilled to have made. Not because I think the site represents fine design, but because it is all mine. No one tells me what to post. I am my own creative director. This is a freedom that every artist needs. Therefore, I have designated it not as a gallery or blog, but as an online studio. It is like the room at home where I do creative work, surrounded by all of the images and words and objects that inspire me. There is more about that on the “about this online studio” page.

 

Of all the features listed on the journal page above, I am most excited about “categories”. My posts are now organized by subject, and these subjects are listed in the sidebar. I like to imagine that someone checking out my site for the first time sees a category that interests her, so she selects it, and whether a post was published two years ago or two days ago, it will appear on the screen. Posts are no longer lost in the depths of the blog feed. I am similarly enthused about the social media share buttons. Not only do they look nice, but they make sharing easy. And lastly, Alan Drue:  Excitable Mind now has a mobile version. It loads automatically if one accesses the site with a cell phone.

 

So now that the renovation is complete, I am ready to get back to posting. See you on the web.

A Poem Inspired by Weezer

In my graduate poetry writing workshop, we recently studied the prose poem.  For those who haven’t discussed modes of writing in several years (what kind of weirdo discusses modes of writing?), prose is basically any writing that is not in verse.  For example, novels and instruction manuals are both written in prose, whereas poetry is written in verse.  It’s a basic distinction.  Well, there’s this thing called a prose poem, and it is a hybrid of both modes of writing.  It is a poem whose rhythm is controlled by sentences rather than by traditional poetic constraints, such as line and rhyme.  Often they look like paragraphs, but they’re usually not indented like a paragraph.  Think of them as blocks of prose.  Yet they function like poems.  In other words, they possess poetic rhythm and language, and they compress lots of meaning into a tiny space.  The more of them you read, the more you get a feel for what a prose poem is.

 

Below is one of my attempts at writing prose poetry.  It is inspired by the recent Weezer concert I attended.  I have long referred to Weezer as my favorite band, due largely to the affinity I developed for them as an undergraduate. The poem is presented as a photo, because it was important to show what a prose poem may look like on a page rather than on a blog post.  And just as a page is often bent a little, so too is this cellphone photo–a happy accident.  Here it goes.

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