Thanks be to KILTR, a brilliant Scottish online community, for the original posting. I’d never have seen it otherwise.
I saw Eileen Agar’s Angel of Anarchy in the cloth, as it were, several years ago at a Surrealist exhibition in London. It’s a very disturbing object, which seems to reveal what it covers up, and yet we don’t know what it’s covering up. It radiates all sorts of mixed messages. Is that a bandage round the neck, with Frankenstein connotations? But the fabric and feathers round the face are beautiful. Is there a deception going on here? If so, it’s a beautiful, tantalizing deception, with dangerous possibilities if you pursue the quest.
Made between 1936 and 1940, it’s impossible to ignore the historical context – the competing ideologies of Fascism and Communism – with their comforting certainties and sense of group identification. Perhaps it’s a warning against that enticing allure, and the bandages round the neck go all the way up to the top of its head. We know with hindsight what’s underneath them.
I don’t know, and this is what art should do – pull the ground out from under your feet so you don’t know what you’re looking at. Scatter the labels so there’s no neat definition and summary. Make the viewer complicit in the interpretation.
A video of some of her other work.
Right up to the Mayan Apocalypse, I was using a complex, hierarchical system of Categories to identify the posts on Beautiful Railway Bridge. No Tags – they seemed too freeform to deal with. I wanted to be consistent and logical, as much for myself as for you, dear readers, who probably don’t care. I needed to find posts by some “objective” criteria, rather than saying, “well, what did I call it last time?”
So I adopted a bastardised version of the Dewey Decimal System, as used in libraries, with subject names instead of numbers. It quickly became a burden since I wasn’t well-versed enough in the system to use it properly. When I couldn’t think of a suitable classification, I invented a ragtag rabble of categories, stuffed into a heading called “Culture,” and used in the anthropological sense of anything to do with human societies. I was only happy with the “People” category, which contained, well, people.
My system was a nightmare. I seemed to spend more time trawling through the hierarchical categories, in search of terms I’d used before, than I did in writing the post. Or I would have to insert new terms in the right place. The inevitable classification fatigue occurred, and I found myself using fewer and fewer categories, while at the same time becoming ever more frustrated because the system was not working.
I did not heed WordPress’ quite sensible advice about the enervating effect of proliferating categories, and its solution – tags. Until the eve of destruction, that is. A new era called for a complete rethink. I took their words to heart and converted all my hard-won categories to tags, destroying in the process their hierarchical relationships. This is akin to a Bolshevik Revolution in which even the Bolsheviks have no authority. Truly liberating or, as Yeats would say:
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
But I still needed categories. I decided on a few, extremely broad categories, and only allowed myself one per post. I made pages to hold links for the posts in those categories – you can see them under the blog title. Trouble is, I now have almost a thousand orphan posts, unreachable from the search bar. It’s called throwing out baby with the bathwater.
Never mind. New era, new methods, and I’m working backwards to add a category and rework the tags in previous posts.
It should take less than 3 years.
This is St Columba’s Well, who is credited with bringing Christianity to the pagan inhabitants of Kintyre in the 6th Century CE. I think Yeats’ rough beast is far more accurately reflected in the history of the Christian church than any future epoch of imagined godlessness. Perhaps also in the shape of this well, which strikes me as sinister, a kind of medieval wyrm emerging from the hillside in search of victims.
I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.
– W.B. Yeats