The Droste Effect (nearly) in the Domhnach Airgid

The Droste Effect is the name given to an image containing a smaller version of that image which contains therefore a smaller version of that image and so on , to theoretically ad infinitum. The name comes from an early 20th Century Dutch brand of cacao:

The Domhnach Airgid is an early Irish book shrine on display in the National Museum of Ireland. It housed a gospel given, supposedly, by St Patrick to St Mac Cartan:

In the lower left panel we see this specific scene:

At first I was hopeful that this could be a Droste Effect, and a pretty early one – with a mini Domhnach Airgid being passed from Saint to Saint, itself incorporating a mini Domhnach Airgid. It may be in intention but is a blank rectangle… but perhaps the Droste Effect concept was at play. Wikipedia (yes I know) gives the earliest Droste image as 1320 : while this shrine dates from the 8th century the panels were remodelled in the 14th so this may not be a precursor.

but anyway , an interesting little aspect of a beautiful work

Advertisements

Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen?

Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen?
Look at the moon
Do you want to hear what ears have never heard?
Listen to the birds cry
Do you want to touch what hands have never touched?
Touch the earth
Truly I say that God is about to create the world.

From The Theologians, Jorge Luis Borges

The opening lines of The Theologians:

After having razed the garden and profaned the chalices and altars, the Huns entered the monastery library on horseback and trampled the incomprehensible books and vituperated and burned them, perhaps fearful that the letters concealed blasphemies against their god, which was an iron scimitar. Palimpsests and codices were consumed, but in the heart of the fire, amid the ashes, there remained almost intact the twelfth book of the Civitas Dei, which relates how in Athens Plato taught that, at the centuries’ end, all things will recover their previous state and he in Athens, before the same audience, will teach this same doctrine anew. The text pardoned by the flames enjoyed special veneration and those who read and reread it in that remote province came to forget that the author had only stated this doctrine in order better to refute it.

#Inktober 2017 – the art of Mark Chilcott

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

One of the joys of Inktober , as I was just posting, is finding new artists whose work resonates, or charms, or moves, or whatever. So here is another, Mark Chilcott

From his personal website, Chilcott’s usual work is a little different from his Inktober pieces, which saw inked figures interact with The Real World, including the means of their own production:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Like many Inktoberers (including myself), the prompts “Climb” and “Fall” were combined into one handy package:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Chilcott’s responses to the official prompts were among the wittiest and most creative I saw:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

#Inktober 2017 – The Art of Susan Alman

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

“One of the joys of Inktober was discovering illustrators of unique, strongly personal vision. One such is German artist Dolphiana AKA Susan Alman whose Inktober works were visually striking stylised animal themes:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Empathy of St. Francis

A wonderful essay by DeForest London on St Francis (of Assisi) and the power of empathy:

“When people were around St. Francis and his empathy, they felt this lightening of their burden because they knew (they felt deeply) that someone was sharing the load with them. They found rest for their world-weary souls in a similar way that the followers of Jesus found rest in his empathetic presence.

The beauty of this quality is that we do not have to be especially intelligent or wise or wealthy to cultivate it. In fact, according to the Gospel, this quality often eludes the wealthy and the wise. Jesus says, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” The Greek word for “infants” is nepios, which can also be translated as someone who does not speak or someone who needs training (which sounds kind of like our pets).

Empathy is a quality available to all and is often found among those from whom we least expect it (or don’t expect it at all). Empathy is available not only to humans, but to all sentient beings (Francis might even say to all of creation). Personally, one of my most profound experiences of empathy was not from a human. Several years ago, my cat, Frisky London, passed away at the ripe old age of 20 (which would be equivalent to about 96 in human years). Before she passed away, she comforted me. The last time I said goodbye to her at my parent’s house, I cried, knowing that I might not see her ever again. She was not really eating or drinking and was very unresponsive. But when I cried, I cried into her beautiful fur coat. And as I was oozing out my sadness onto her, she responded by licking my tears. And, I felt, very powerfully, that she knew she was going to die and she knew that I was going to miss her and she showed me empathy and she comforted me and she eased my sadness. Frisky was my St. Francis.”

DeForest London

There was a discussion in a First Grade religion class focused on St. Francis of Assisi. After school, a First Grader came home very excited about what he had learned and blurted out to his mother, “Guess what, Mommy? Today, I learned that St. Francis was a sissy!” Now one practical way to ensure that we don’t go home thinking that St. Francis was a sissy is to practice the proper pronunciation of the saint’s hometown: Not “Asisy” but “Aseesee.”

However, even with the proper pronunciation of his hometown, I wonder if many of us still do think of this saint as perhaps a little too kind and too gentle for his own good. He was known to have cried every day, he preached sermons to birds, he rubbed sticks together as if he were playing the violin, he called the sun his brother and the moon his sister, and…

View original post 1,322 more words

Annals of not-very-deceptive front business names: “Republican Outfitters”

10Treacy-dead-lorry2.jpg

“Republican Outfitters” was a draper’s on Talbot Street, founded by Clare-born Peadar Clancy From the Wikipedia article on Clancy:

After his release, Peadar Clancy started a drapery business of his own, called The Republican Outfitters, which was located at 94 Talbot Street.[8] According to Dan Breen, it was one of the best-known meeting places in Dublin for the IRA, and was so closely watched that it was never advisable to remain there for long.[9] By 1917, it was advertising as The Republican Outfitters: Clancy, Brennan and Walsh.[10] Clancy’s initial partners in the business were Maurice Brennan, Thomas Walsh (who, like Clancy, had been in the Four Courts garrison at Easter 1916, had been sentenced to death, but was later reprieved) and other comrades.[11] By 1920, the initial partnership had been dissolved, Brennan and Walsh had gone out on their own at 5 Upper O’Connell Street (which was also used as a base by the Volunteers, with Walsh acting as intelligence officer of the 1st Battalion)[12] and Tom Hunter had become part proprietor of the Talbot Street business with Clancy.[13]

One wonders how many customers idly went into Republican Outfitters for a new suit.

Here we have a remarkable photograph that viscerally reminds us of the fundamental nature of war and conflict – Lt Gilbert Arthur Price seconds before his death in a gun battle at Republican Outfitters:

78_small_1274199626

Or is it? It turns out that remarkable photographs, even then, often were remarkable for other reasons.

Here is some footage from “Irish Destiny“, the 1926 silent film from which the above photo is actually taken:

“Nature and culture have been replaced by landscape and literature”: Mark Cocker on the “New Nature Writing”, New Statesman, June 2015

I have previously cited this essay by Mark Cocker on the “New Nature Writing” as exemplified by Robert Macfarlane and Helen McDonald. Have been re-reading it and find, as often happens, the temptation to repost it in full very strong… but here are some selected highlights:

TThe recent expansion of “new nature writing” is among the most significant developments in British publishing this century. If you missed its inception or have not the inclination to read the scores of books appearing under its banner, you could do worse to catch up than to read a single chapter in Michael McCarthy’s new book, The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy. It is the one entitled “The Great Thinning” and it powerfully and succinctly summarises the unfolding national story.

The phrase refers to the inexorable diminution of wildlife on these islands since the Second World War, primarily at the hands of farmers armed with an array of industrially produced chemicals. “The country I was born into,” McCarthy writes, “possessed something wonderful it absolutely possesses no longer: natural abundance . . . Blessed, unregarded abundance has been destroyed.” His most powerful and strangely poignant example of this is something that only people over 50 would have seen: the blizzard of nocturnal insects that would eventually obliterate the vision of any driver on a long car journey during a summer’s evening. I remember it, just.

Over the decades, during his time as a journalist, McCarthy sensed the public’s abil­ity to hear this story in its piecemeal form and ignore it almost entirely. Even now, he points out, the scale of what has happened on these islands eludes many people.

It is this gap between our recent natural history and the present public taste for such books that makes the upsurge of the “new nature” genre so fascinating – but also so perplexing. What role are these works playing and what do they say about the British relationship with non-human life?

Cocker considers the extravagantly praised (but not by me) H for Hawk:

The book’s profound impact is not in any doubt but a legitimate question to pose about H Is for Hawk is its status as a nature book. The motif of a raptor as a symbol of grief and of the author’s struggle with depression is indisputably powerful. Macdonald’s evocation of her bird’s savage habits also provides the book’s aura of raw otherness but it is ultimately not a wild bird. Yet there are wild goshawks in Britain and these barely appear in the text. You would understand why if you have ever tried to look for this extraordinary bird. Wild goshawks are among Britain’s most elusive and unpredictable large predators. I go looking routinely and count a sighting on one in ten visits a pretty good return. Goshawk watching is a frustrating business but the birds’ self-willed indifference to our intentions is surely almost a defining characteristic of nature.

It is not our project. It keeps its own hours. One powerful psychological effect of contact with nature is that it measures what we are not and the specific appeal of books on the subject is that they simultaneously remind us of our relationship with the rest of life but deflate our burdening sense of centrality within it. We become part, not all.

The key passage of this essay charts a subtle but important shift :

Mabey’s entire project could be summarised as a movement along a single axis between culture – land practice or literature, science, the visual arts, sculpture, whatever – and nature. It is metaphorically and actually rooted in a soil of real, living things. Almost every one of the books involves movement between those two poles. In Macfarlane’s work and in so many of the new books, nature and culture have been replaced by landscape and literature. It may seem a relatively small shift in emphasis but one cannot help pondering its significance.

He also considers William Atkins’ The Moor:

The Moor attempts to explore the cultural purpose and meaning of some of the most forsaken, yet most contested, semi-natural places in Britain. They are the gritstone uplands, dominated by heather, mosses and lichens but also now by sheep and by red grouse. This intermittent column of high ground serves as England’s vertebrae from Cornwall to Cumbria. Yet a striking anomaly about The Moor, which looks more significant in view of the recent widening gulf between north and south, is its billing as a book about British uplands, when Atkins barely crosses the English border. Yet Scotland holds twice as much grouse moorland – two million acres – as England and Wales combined.

In truth, the author is most comfortable tackling the historical and inherited psychological roles of such landscapes as described in the literary works of W H Auden, the Brontës, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath or Henry Williamson. There are, for instance, far more titles in the bibliography concerning the sexual politics of Hughes and Plath than there are about the environmental politics of red grouse and hen harriers.

Does that matter? It does if you consider that most moorland exists today to deliver a cash crop of grouse to a super-rich elite who think little of paying between £3,000 and £12,000 per person for a day’s shooting. Just as significant is that you and I, through our taxes, help to subsidise those little luxuries. As a consequence of management that aims to create the maximum possible grouse bag and therefore raise the most money, grouse moor owners have almost extinguished the predatory hen harrier from England and substantially reduced its potential numbers in Scotland.

The shift from writing about nature to writing “about” landscape, literature and human culture – our own “projects”- involves itself a kind of loss. Cocker ends with an Emerson quote that reminds me of Yeats’ “rag-and-bone shop of the heart” :

Does this mean that all nature books have to be filled with the grief and pain of loss? Of course not. But they have to navigate – as McCarthy endeavours to do – between joy and anxiety. Nature writers must ponder and engage with these troubling realities. Otherwise, we are just fiddling while the agrochemicals burn.

The real danger is that nature writing becomes a literature of consolation that distracts us from the truth of our fallen countryside, or – just as bad – that it becomes a space for us to talk to ourselves about ourselves, with nature relegated to the background as an attractive green wash. The project of re-enchantment might restore to us a canon of lost writings about the eeriness and mystery of our landscape. Yet, as Emerson warned in his essay “Nature”, what worth is there in words that have no real soil at their roots?