Istanbul 2013

9 December 2013


Are you to believe my word or the evidence before your eyes?

A short trip to Istanbul on business also allowed some time to visit historical sites. We were overwhelmed by the great mosque Hagia Sophia, previously Roman, once centrepiece of the Byzantine Empire, [named as the divine Logos of God, the great rival to Rome, and later the Ottoman empire], was now a great Totem, witness to its iconoclasm, the disaster named museum. The space of the destitute subject stands to a re-presented historical time, at the abyss of visual pleasure, its jouissance. Iconography survives in sparse mosaics in poor condition as telling signs of various disastrous events. Images of saints et cetera had long been removed [excepting the Angel Gabriel, Jesus and John and the Mother of God] these whose legitimacy with these archangels and prophets [one presumed other images were erased, but we were not certain as to who or what had disappeared]. Copies of the original marbles were at some oblique time painted in a kind of Rorschach mirroring along spines or seams, where the original marble slabs were aligned. Where the original slab has been taken out, the copy deceived, but on examination, the weak realist illusion persisted, failing in the process of reproducing the marbles veins. These abstract veins resembled the paintings on polythene that we had been executing for some years in public performances. However it was also the grey scale of reduced colour that incited and released a kind of suppressed, wobbly emotion, a traumatic, muted shudder of recognition, although one that was to remain obscure, if as a memory of obscurity itself, recalcitrant of history as a cloudy substance or as the quiver of movement is to be only glimpsed in the moving statue, of animism. The painted holes were also simulations of other actual holes in the broken stone and these were also the marks of removal, fissures where objects had once been fixed and had decorated the walls [we conjectured]Our endeavour to record these in the half light with a digital camera produced poor results. On returning we made some unrelated small animal sculptures from a postcard found advertising a show about noise. The dogs, in obedience to the master, were depicted sitting on a vinyl record, reminiscent of the branded His Masters Voice [HMV] a depleted signifier of modernity, which succeeds in elevating the scratched or faded recordings of the Masters voice, to index its obsolescence by a reduced sensitivity of the collective sense, being deaf dumb and blind to a lost visuality and audibility. [Who can remember the old Deutsche Grammaphon label that was a sign of distinction, authorising chaos as official, in acts of colonisation, to enthrone mastery in technological advance?] Or equally sovereign, as an enunciation of the amateur. A badly made drawing, without mastery, echoes the poor reproduction marbles. The dog postcards titled With [out] Mastery, or All knowing the unknown Signifier or Well of Tears (love), showing two silhouette figures engaged in an enigmatic ritual, or contrarily, just figures scribbled down as a kind of proposition or score without desiring or narrating meaning whatsoever but uncertainty, since the allure of these weak forms in their ruined state aggravated the assumptions of iconoclasm, precisely by articulating weakness as their universal emblematic of messianic timea time where the disaster itself is reclaimed.

Peter Lewis and Makiko Nagaya, Istanbul 2013