Category Archives: art

“Beautiful occupation” by Travis

“I’m too cynical
I’m just sitting here
I’m just wasting my time
Half a million civillians gonna die today
But look the wrong way

Then read it in the headlines
Watch it on the TV
Put it in the background
Stick it in the back
Stick it in the back

For the beautiful occupation
The beautiful occupation
You don’t need an invitation
To drop in upon a nation…”

“The Man-Moth” by Elizabeth Bishop

Here, above,
cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,
and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.
He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,
feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,
of a temperature impossible to record in thermometers.

But when the Man-Moth
pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,
the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges
from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,
proving the sky quite useless for protection.
He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.

Up the façades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer’s cloth behind him
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.

Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.

Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie
his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,
for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,
runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease
he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep
his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.

If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention
he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.

Elizabeth Bishop

“Nothing but Death” by Pablo Neruda

There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I’m not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.

Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.

Translated by Robert Bly

Wangechi Mutu’s Backlash Blues

Backlash Blues: Painted on mylar, Wangechi Mutu’s Backlash Blues conveys an otherworldly quality: the paint and ink suspends on the plasticy vellum-like surface with an unnatural luminosity. Using a variety of techniques from airbrush to stencilling, controlled spills, and detailed brushwork, Mutu’s image poses as a composite of gesture; collaged photographic elements merge seamlessly into the painterly aesthetic.

Wangechi Mutu’s Backlash Blues

“Don’t Ask Me for That Love Again” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

About Faiz Ahmed Faiz (by Simon Korner)

Just as the poetry of Pablo Neruda is massively popular with ordinary Chileans – who regard him as their national poet – so Faiz Ahmed Faiz is loved by millions of Pakistanis, who know his poems by heart. His funeral in 1984 was a day of mourning for the whole country. Many Faiz poems have been set to music and are still widely sung.

Faiz, a Communist like Neruda, was born in British India in 1911, the son of a lawyer. He joined the newly formed Progressive Writers’ Movement in the 1930s, served in the Indian Army during the Second World War and became a Lieutenant Colonel. After Partition he moved to Pakistan, where he became editor of the Pakistan Times, an English-language daily. He also worked as managing editor of the Urdu daily Imroz, and was actively involved in organising trade unions.

In 1951 Faiz was accused of plotting a coup with a group of Pakistani army officers and, after four years on death row, was released in 1955 after worldwide pressure from such stars as Paul Robeson. In 1962 he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union. He went into exile in Moscow, London and Beirut, eventually returning to Pakistan.

Much of his poetry follows the conventions of ghazal, the classical form of traditional Urdu poetry, which has been influenced by Persian literature. But Faiz’s work revolutionises the conventions, extending the meanings of many traditional terms. For instance, Faiz often addresses poems to his “beloved”, a central word in the ghazal vocabulary. In his hands, it refers to both a person and also to the people as a whole, even to revolution. He sees the individual as existing within a wider context: “The self of a human being, despite all its loves, troubles, joys and pains, is a tiny, limited and humble thing.”

His most famous poem Don’t Ask Me for That Love Again, which is not in the strict ghazal form, explains why he can no longer cocoon himself inside romantic love.


That which then was ours, my love,

don’t ask me for that love again.

The world then was gold, burnished with light –

and only because of you. That’s what I had believed.

How could one weep for sorrows other than yours?

How could one have any sorrow but the one you gave?

So what were these protests, these rumours of injustice?

A glimpse of your face was evidence of springtime.

The sky, whenever I looked, was nothing but your eyes.

If you’d fall into my arms, Fate would be helpless.

All this I’d thought, all this I’d believed.

But there were other sorrows, comforts other than love.

The rich had cast their spell on history:

dark centuries had been embroidered on brocades and silks.

Bitter threads began to unravel before me

as I went into alleys and in open markets

saw bodies plastered with ash, bathed in blood.

I saw them sold and bought, again and again.

This too deserves attention. I can’t help but look back

when I return from those alleys – what should one do?

And you are still so ravishing – what should I do?

There are other sorrows in this world,

comforts other than love.

Don’t ask me, my love, for that love again.

(Translated from Urdu by Agha Shahid Ali)

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

“Point by Point” by Qurratul-Ayn Tahirih

If I met you face to face, I
would retrace—erase!—my heartbreak,
pain by pain,
ache by ache,
word by word,
point by point.

In search of you—just your face!—I
roam through the streets lost in disgrace,
house to house,
lane to lane,
place to place,
door to door.

My heart hopeless—broken, crushed!—I
heard it pound, till blood gushed from me,
fountain by fountain,
stream by stream,
river by river,
sea by sea.

The garden of your lips—your cheeks!—
your perfumed hair, I wander there,
bloom to bloom,
rose to rose,
petal to petal,
scent to scent.

Your eyebrow—your eye!—and the mole
on your face, somehow they tie me,
trait to trait,
kindness to kindness,
passion to passion,
love to love.

While I grieve, with love—your love!—I
will reweave the fabric of my soul,
stitch by stitch,
thread by thread,
warp by warp,
woof by woof.

Last, I—Táhirih—searched my heart, I
looked line by line. What did I find?
You and you,
you and you,
you and you.

persian miniature - seated princess

“red shift” by cildo meireles

another cildo meireles installation at the museu d’art contemporani de barcelona was called “red shift”. in physics the term describes the stretching of light as it travels through expanding space on its way to the earth. but meireles is referring to a shift in perception.

the installation occupies a u-shaped space, starting with what looks like a studio apartment done up exclusively in red. there is a normalcy to this environment. the monochromatic color scheme is soothing although the abundance of red objects could also point to a hoarder’s obsession with collecting/acquiring/consuming. to me it was a capitalist’s sanctuary. this first part is called “impregnation”.

the second part of the installation connects this first room to a second room. it is a winding path along which a tiny bottle lies sideways, spilling a disproportionately large amount of red paint. already the installation starts to feel a bit odd and unsettling. as we move along this pathway the paint spill seems interminable. the lights dim. it gets progressively darker. this part is called “entorno”, which means both spill and environment in portuguese.

we finally reach the second room, the most dramatically staged yet. it is pitch black now. we cannot see the contours of the room. a spotlight is mounted on top of a large white sink, floating in space at a crooked angle. there is blood-like fluid gushing forth from the faucet, making a loud splashing sound. like the spill, this spurt seems never-ending. the effect is that of a crime scene, something cinematically staged in a horror movie. it is ominous, terrifying. this part is called “shift”.

our perception has effectively shifted from familiar and comforting, to odd and surprising to downright frightening. the work is said to have been inspired by the murder of a journalist by brazilian police, when the country was struggling under a military dictator in the 1960s. the message seems clear. unbridled capitalism or accumulation of private wealth, which for many countries goes hand in hand with dictatorships, can only be achieved through exploitation and violence.

“red shift” by cildo meireles

cildo meireles – mission/missions

saw this stunning installation in barcelona. a group of 2,000 bones hang from the ceiling. lit beautifully, they look like an opulent, heavy chandelier that looms over a sandbox filled with glistening pennies. the money is connected to the bones by a tall stack of communion wafers. brazilian artist cildo meireles is talking about the jesuit exploitation of the tupi-guarani people – how the church used religious conversion to further economic gain. the installation is enclosed within sheer black curtains – the “mission” being hardly veiled.

mission/missions (how to build cathedrals by cildo meireles

Cildo Meireles. Mission/Missions (How to Build Cathedrals), 1987. Approximately 600,000 coins, 800 communion wafers, 2,000 bones, 80 paving stones and black fabric, 235 x 600 x 600 cm. Daros-Latinamerica © Cildo Meireles