Monday, October 31, 2005

1 - From BOD (Book of the Dead), for Halloween...

For Halloween, some pages from my NaNoWriMo novel last year, "The Book of the Dead," and I did post this section last year, and will add 3 more sections of this story over the next couple of days...

Her fingers and toes began to grow warm, tingling, even as they were freezing. She is losing feeling in them. She cannot move her toes, nor her fingers. They do not feel like they are part of her. Her legs feel numb. She tries to roll, and cannot move. Her cheeks, exposed, are like stone slabs, weighted and heavy on her face, etched with ice, and then she no longer feels her cheeks or nose or chin or eyes. She can't open her eyes. They are encrusted. It feels as if her scalp has been pulled off her head, a terrifying feeling, and then nothing. Her skin feels like a shell, an exoskeleton, but soon she can't feel the ice her body is ensheathed in anymore. She is still breathing, slowly, painfully. Breathing is laboured, like a huge weight is pushing down on her chest, and she coughs and tastes blood against her tongue. The warmth inside her is dissipating. It is like the oven inside is turned off. She knows she is freezing to death and no longer cares. It is quiet, peaceful, her mind slowing, becoming numb, thought processes barely flickering across a withdrawing consciousness. It is empty and alone, this final passage. She can no more will herself out of it than she could will herself not to be born once labour had begun. In the last moments of her life, she utters through frozen lips, 'I am ready...look after my loved ones...'

And then she was gone.

She was gone into the vast beyond. Into the great nothing, the void, what cannot be yet always is.

She was a soul floating in the dark heavens away from the world. She was an angel fleeing the broken world, the corruption and battles and wars of everyday life. She was a soft flower taking her essence across the vast expanse. She was a tear on the face of existence weeping and being swept away. She was one of billions who have passed this way and gone into the beyond. She was sinking into the earth from whence she came. Her body already decomposing even in its frozen state. Her excrescence ripe for the vultures and the bugs and the worms. Her body, its life energy gone, for composting. She was forgotten in a forgotten graveyard. No-one would find her body; for no-one walked that way anymore. The animals and the insects would feast on her remains until only her bones remained to lie in the grass when the warmer weather came.

When the sun broke across the sky at dawn, rising as a red phoenix between the trees where she lay, she opened her eyes and looked about her. Her nightmares were getting worse, though she hadn't woken from this one before it played itself out. Usually you wake in fear before you die, but she had kept dreaming her death until she had been flung to the far reaches of the universe, until she had seen the dark void and the clear light, until she had disappeared into nothing and felt herself as presence everywhere.

She had been working with lucid dreaming for some time...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

One Hundred Million Sperm A Day

The original drawing, albiet with photoshop lighting, from a drop-in, non-instructional lifedrawing session at the Toronto School of Art.

100 Million Sperm A Day

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100 Million Sperm A Day, ink, pencil on paper, text a digital layer, 11"x14", ©2005 Brenda Clews

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sassure and the biological referent...

(Update: added a sketch drawn not on paper but with a stylus and tablet on a screen from a few years ago when I was writing a paper for another ARM conference... there's a counterpoint interplay and vision between the two images that I hope is evident.)

In response to the last post, entitled, "Passion, like a flame... or a semiotics of sexuality, or an anatomy of desire..." A little something on semiotic theory...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHi everyone- I'm not saying that we as individuals want or don't want to have children, or even think about them if we're past child-bearing age, not at all, only that that biological reality is there in heterosexual unions in ways that aren't in homosexual unions.

So it can be looked at semiotically in Sassure's sense, where the "referent" is an object in the world, or a relation to the material world, rather than a concept of it. Sassure's work as a linquist revolved around signs. The sign is created by a signifier (material or physical form of the sign) and the signified (the concept it represents, its content). He applied these concepts to linguistic terms, to words.

The word "sex" is the signifier, and what it means to each of us is the signified.

That's pretty easy. Sex is a sign. Albiet a potent one.

In heterosexual sex there is a referent to the world in a way that is absent from same sex sex. It's a biological referent. It operates as a referent in potentia or as actuality or what is forgone or even as memory. Because it's there, I am suggesting that the anatomy of desire itself, its semiotic configuration, is different for a heterosexual person than a homosexual one.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAnd then I'm interested in what ways this plays out in culture. But it gets very complicated. I come to this through my work on why the maternal body is problematic not just in our culture but in feminist theory. Where the triad is not really accepted, nor is sexual difference. I'm a sexual difference feminist, in the European sense; rather than a North American feminist in the equality sense (meaning I don't want to adhere to a 'one-sex' model of equality that doesn't recognize my maternal body, its monthly cycles, the children I'm raising, the hormonal fury of menopause). And I need to do this in a non-essentialist way too.

I can see from Suzanne's comment here, and the comments I received at my other site, that I have a long way to go on clarifying what I am trying to say! There is a discussion going on in my post at Xanga, which you can look at here if you wish.

You are all helping me so much on this path, an area I've been exploring in painting, poetry and theory for almost 2 decades now....

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Passion, like a flame... a semiotics of sexuality, an anatomy of desire

From the September drop-in non-instructional lifedrawing session with the male model:

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"Passion, like a flame..." ink, pencil on paper, text a photoshop layer, 11" x 14", ©Brenda Clews, 2005.

The drawing, when I'd finished it, seemed to speak about homosexual love, queer love, same-sex desire. The way it entraps, because of the culture, the struggle with it. For someone gay, it's not just, 'Are they potentially interested,' but, 'Are they gay, or could they be, too' - a double question. So he is... pulling back, thinking, yet crouched, his body alive with desire, his libido flowing towards the object of his desire. Whether who he desires is even aware of him is not indicated in the drawing.

As I worked on the drawing, I started thinking about whether sexual orientation configures the experience of desire. This profile of desire has no procreational element in it; it's pure sexual desire. Meaning it's different to heterosexual desire where there is a potential conception and a potential responsibility. Where, because a child could be created, the weight of love is different.

In heterosexual love, there is always a referent to potential conception. It's a referent that is absent from queer love, where desire is simply desire, without the consequence of a third, a child, being born. Desire is always a dyad; never a trinity. This makes the act of desiring the other different, surely. Not better or worse, only that sexual desire and its potential consequences is crucially different in hetero and homo bodies.

A semiotics of sexuality, an anatomy of desire... I am playing with these terms: sexuality, with its referent to a third in potentia or as actuality or what is forgone or even as memory, as a triad (hetero); where the referent is non-existent, which configures desire differently, as a dyad (gay); and, excuse the play on words, and serious philosophic concepts, and my giggles, perhaps as a monad (masturbation). When we pleasure ourselves there is no biological referent either.

Each line of the drawing, a deepening of understanding. Our culture has its foundation in Ancient Greek thought, where the dominant, founding class was gay, and one wonders on the paradigm of man alone - a solitary male God, a patristic culture, a 'one sex' model politically - elements which are still with us thousands of years later, comes out of an essentially dyad relationship to the other.

Where desire is only between two, and there is never a spectral third...

(Surely we all have elements of each.)

Will I ever understand why the mother's body is so problematic in Western thought and culture? For it is.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

ARM Conference today...

I am at an Association for Research on Mothering (ARM) conference at York University this weekend.

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Good thing I finally splurged on an internet connection - I thought the conference was next weekend, and so missed 2 days of it! I volunteered yesterday, and sold journals...

More about these amazing conferences later, gotta run...
Update: When you're working, you don't get to go to many panels. My view of the conference therefore very limited. It's mostly in the chatting between panels where I meet wonderful women doing most interesting work. But over-riding everything is a flow of mother-love, acceptance of each other, nurturance. It's hard to explain how fulfilling these conferences are emotionally. It could be Andrea O'Reilly too, who founded ARM, who's got a fun social side, heck, she's a party person, and not just a prolific writer of books, of which she publishes at least one a year. Leaders really do put their individual stamps on groups. ARM conferences are warm, supportive and with an array of brilliant women doing fascinating research and analysis on the oldest institution of all: motherhood.

This year I finally met Judith Stadtman Tucker, who runs the best site on socially conscious mothering, on "social, cultural, economic and political issues that impact the well-being of mothers. MMOs purpose is to serve as a clearinghouse for reporting and resources that support social change. Its intention is to promote economic and social justice for mothers and others who do the caring work of our society": Mothers Movement Online. Judith and I had an incredible conversation on subjectivity, batting back and forth ideas on parity and equality theories, with her coming to rest at an ethic of care. That care is the way through the difficulties mothering presents to the 'one sex' model of subjectivity and equality in modern democracy, and to its becoming a force for social change.

Do I agree? I have to think long and hard on that one as I read some books she's recommended. I mean it was a position I took willingly a few years ago, almost as a battle cry when I was exploring the literature on the Mothers of Argentina and their effect on the junta's disappearing of people, the loss of their children; by bravely making their grieving and their anger public, they were able to effect change. Based on examples of what mothers can do, perhaps the compassion and care of normative mothering is the way through the dilemma of modern culture. ARM is doing a conference on Carework and Caregiving: Theory and Practice next May. That will help me to deepen my understanding of this concept as it is being explored by feminist theorists currently.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Drawing Down the Muse


Drawing Down the Muse, ink on paper, 8.5" x 11". These sketches are from a lifedrawing session in Vancouver last July. They were 3 minute poses and I drew three of them on one page. The model had a tatoo of a black cat on her back. By adding the lighting, and creating a literary title, I've turned it into a coven of women in a dramatic setting. They are bathed in what is essentially stage lighting (via photoshop), so a representation of the moon, its shining...

Drawing Down the Moon is the title of a book by Margot Adler. When this ritual is enacted during a full moon, there is a powerful influx of energy. In my drawing I have played on the title, drawing from and connecting to Adler's book, but added a reference to the Muse, or inspiration. I am interested in creativity, our visions and the ways we express them in artistic or literary or musical form. The moon is a very ancient and rich symbol for this process.

It's all in the white moonlight that pulls the ocean with it...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

On-line again, at last...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFinding accessing the internet through the library very limiting, and ultimately frustrating, both for posting my writing and art, and especially for the close reading I like to give posts, and the comments I often leave after a day of carrying words with me, I finally got on the phone and called around about internet options. The house in which I am living doesn't have internet or cable. I use a cell phone. And I need to keep my costs way down. So installing a land line was out. It turns out that the cable provider for this area, Rogers, has an "ultra lite" internet service, which they claim is 5 times faster than dial-up, for $20./month, flat rate, no installation fee, no modem rental fee. It took the guy an hour and a half to install it here. And I am ecstatically on-line again. In the intimacy of my living space. Accessing you all in the library was strange, not just because of the time limit, but because reading in a public space over a public computer lacked the intimacy that I have come to enjoy about the way we receive each other's writing on our screens at home. Where it feels like we are talking directly to each other, whispering our thoughts, reflections, expressing our lives...

A spark...

Currently Reading
Poems of Paul Celan: A Bilingual German/English Edition
By Paul Celan, Michael Hamburger
see related

: Small Flame

Love lies on my heart. Like a sheaf of love letters. Or the eclipsed body of my lover. Hours endlessly relentless. Do I dwell in the silence of the soul? Do I even believe we have a soul? A spark of being, that's all there is. A blazing little spark forging through life. And it lies on my breast tonight, love in my heart, beating, expanding, contracting. The pulse. Love is the pulse. My spark is dim tonight, faint.



Monday, October 17, 2005

The Move- a section somewhere

Somewhere in "The Move" (re: novel-in-progress, or extended meditation, or whatever)- blurring the edges between fiction and life.....

On the edge of calamity, there seemed only a choice between returning to a house where she had unwittingly become a target for projections of her landlord's shadow sides, and had been physically threatened, or a woman's shelter. Unable to find suitable, if temporary, housing, she let go.

She let go of the struggle to find housing. She decided to play a game and find her way, not by the map you carry in your mind, what you've understood about life and your place in it, the route you've traveled, its familiarities, but by intuition. By not thinking you know what lies around the corner; but navigating, instead, by trusting your instincts.

The letting go expanded her vision. Streets took on a luminous glow. The early morning world became welcoming in ways she'd forgotten. As she closed her notebook filled with ads scribbled from papers and online sites, she switched her approach from worry bordering on panic to an open calmness. She had only 9 or 10 hours to find something and move out of the crazy woman's house completely. She began moving through massive tree-lined streets as if she was walking through a wonderland of magic.

She felt an inclination to go down that street, she went. Sometimes there are signs in windows. She had a cell phone. But saw nothing. It was a wealthy area. Perhaps someone had a basement that they would happily rent for the amount of money she had because it would help pay for a ski trip, or an Armani suit. She laughed quietly to herself. Since she was walking through an area of the city she didn't know, it was like an adventure. She didn't worry if her thoughts were rational or not. Anything could happen if she was open. The strangest things occur when you least expect it. Wasn't that the way it always was?

Her feet seemed to fly across the streets, down here, up there, over to a main street, back down. She didn't feel crazed or desperate, only that she was flowing past magnificent houses and a regal path of trees on an adventure. She meandered by homes filled brim-full with furniture and brick-a-brack, imagining lives unlike her own.

After awhile, she began to think that she was wasting time. That following intuition, while delightful, was not enough. She was enjoying a walk on a beautiful morning without a destination and was not focused on the task at hand: to find accommodation by nightfall.

As she headed south and crossed a busy road and was about to walk down another residential side road, she saw a small library. Its entrance was tucked away from the street and could easily be missed. She looked at her watch. It was 9:01 a.m. Surprising for a government-run building, which usually open late, she pushed the door and it opened. Inside she explained her need for housing to a librarian, was given a temporary card and pin number, and she began browsing ads in papers online. She made three calls before she saw it: a one-bedroom basement apartment in the area she wanted for exactly the amount she could afford.

She phoned. It was probably a dismal, bug-infested hole in the wall. The landlord answered. She knocked on his door half an hour later, and found the apartment spacious, clean, with 2 small southern facing windows; it was more than suitable for her present needs. She paid him in cash, signed the rental agreement, which didn't tie her to a lease but to an indeterminate time that only required a 30 day notice to vacate. That evening, with the help of a friend, who hadn't answered calls all afternoon, but arrived just in time with his car, she moved in.

What luck that she was the first caller and the first to see it. It was perfect. And, importantly, she was safe. There would no longer be stress over the paranoid accusations of the owner of the house where she had been staying if she gingerly ventured into the kitchen to make tea. While the apartment did not have a private entrance, she was in a self-contained space with its own bathroom and hot plate, fridge and microwave. Even sleeping on an air mattress seemed heavenly in comparison to where she had just come from.

Pondering on intuition as she pulled a soft, down sleeping bag over her exhausted body, vast new possibilities about how to navigate life opened up. Unless you can free yourself of your preconceptions, your ideas of how things should be, you cannot be open to whatever possibilities are available. Possibilities that meet your needs, and are answers to your wishes.

Letting go to that extent may be only something you did in extreme circumstances. She didn't know if you could live your daily life that way. Could intuition, where life is perhaps lived as an adventure, and which seems to receive perceptions and signals from sources beyond rational reach, be a guide to creating your own reality?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

SunMan, Oh Apollo

Original sketch with photoshop lighting.

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"SunMan, Oh Apollo," ink, pencil on paper, 11" x 14", from a lifedrawing class September 2005. The energy of light, of a confident male sexuality...

I rather like him in the 'glowing edges' Photoshop filter... so then he's called "SunMan, Oh Apollo Night," and if it's a little contradictory, well whoever said Greek gods weren't.

The library system has been down most of the week. Even today it's taken more than an hour to upload this post. I feel estranged from you all and am missing the community here more than I can say.

My son just visited for a few days- we hadn't seen each other since mid-July -which was wonderful. After he left, being turned away by 2 internet cafes, where it was claimed that my uploading would slow everyone's games down, sigh, I managed to upload the life drawings that I've finished where my brother works...

Much love to everyone- I think about you all, you're all in my heart. xoxo

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I've moved- into a much, much happier place (I hope). Just temporary, but a rather roomy basement apartment with 2 southern windows, which is nice, and I've been able to turn the kitchenette into my bedroom by hanging a piece of canvas as a curtain giving my daughter the bedroom, which she is happy with. Seems to be a nice house where our dog is more than welcome; it has far more space than where we were living (a one room garden house) for a much better rent, and in the cache area for my daughter's school. No internet, however. So I'm writing this at the library. The CD ROMs and floppies are all disabled in the library system. I shall have to see how I can upload images some other time. I am doing a little tutoring in student's homes, and I've had students so far from Gr 2 to College, and am enjoying it. Not enough work though. My 3-bedroom house of furniture is still in storage. My son is still waiting to rejoin us as soon as I get financially settled again. The process of starting over, once again, just went through this in Vancouver 2 years ago, is gargantuan, and gonna take more time than I had hoped. Still, I bask in Toronto friendliness, and, though am a bit of a hermit these days, enjoy being back. The hot weather that we're still having is such a balm! Love it....

Big hugs and lots of love to you all.... xo

Archeology of Water

This began with an image of memory scrawled in a notebook in April 2019 that I knew I would work with, either in a poem, or perhaps video. ...