member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Joringel's Dream by Alexandra Milsom

All images in this post are by Alexandra Milsom.

Metamorphosis 1

From the petal of a dream
I fell off

Into a teacup

I climb the mist of an awaken chamomile
Soon to enter
Your warm smile


"There was once an old castle in the midst of a large and thick forest, and in it an old woman who was a witch dwelt all alone. In the day-time she changed herself into a cat or a screech-owl, but in the evening she took her proper shape again as a human being. She could lure wild beasts and birds to her, and then she killed and boiled and roasted them. If any one came within one hundred paces of the castle he was obliged to stand still, and could not stir from the place until she bade him be free. But whenever an innocent maiden came within this circle, she changed her into a bird, and shut her up in a wicker-work cage, and carried the cage into a room in the castle. She had about seven thousand cages of rare birds in the castle."
(From Jorinda and Joringel of the Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm)

In the tale of Jorinda and Joringel, two happy lovers wandering through the woods come too close to the witch’s castle, and the vicious woman's magic turns Joringel to stone while she transforms Jorinda into a nightingale and takes her away to her cages. By the time Joringel is free to move, there is nothing he can do.

What sort of weapons and curses and carefully plotted invasions with well-choreographed fight scenes and monster-creations would be necessary for taking down such a powerful evil?

Appetence, by Alexandra Milsom
A lovely red flower, picked with a drop of morning dew like a fine pearl in its center--a flower his dreams guided him to.

With the flower in his hand, Joringel returned to the shape-shifter's castle, untouchable by her magic, and he released his love and all the other ladies from their cages. One bit of beauty conquers evil.

Is it possible that the source tale the Grimm Brothers worked from had presented the flower as an offering of beauty which so overwhelmed the witch that it undid all of her evil acts? Even more powerfully, that moment of generosity and beauty would redefine the past, making it as if the witch had never transformed all those women and caged them; from this moment forward, the past is re-written.The flower could be a portal to a different universe in which the evil deeds never happened.

The Many Faces of Adam, by Alexandra Milsom

In How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, Bakewell describes the horrific violence engendered by the passionate religious feelings of the Catholics and the Protestants of his day, the public’s general certainty that the end of the world was nigh, and that it was ever-more necessary to rid the world of its demon and witch soldiers of the devil so that the “right side” would win:

“Wier, in his De praestigis daemonum (1564), had calculated that at least 7,409,127 demons were working for Lucifer, under the middle-management of seventy-nine demon-princes. Alongside them were witches: a dramatic rise in witchcraft cases after the 1560s provided more proof that the Apocalypse was coming. As fast as they were detected, the courts burned them, but the Devil replaced them even faster. Contemporary demonologist Jean Bodin argued that, in crisis conditions such as these, standards of evidence must be lowered. Witchcraft was so serious, and so hard to detect using normal methods of proof, that society could not afford to adhere too much to “legal tidiness and normal procedures.” Public rumor could be considered “almost infallible”: if everyone in a village said that a particular woman was a witch, that was sufficient to justify putting her to the torture.” 

For Montaigne, one of the essential questions of life was how to remain human when surrounded by inhumanity, as he clearly was. Two things seem key: moderation in your responses and a constantly shifting perspective (which is often very useful for the first thing)--never sinking so far into one story, one belief, even one body image, that you can’t quickly re-imagine the situation from the other person--or animal’s--perspective. 

Metamorphosis, by Alexandra Milsom(Note that the shadow “faces” the opposite direction)
When it came to his own safety, he was a man who left his castle open to visitors (or pillaging soldiers or thieves, though somehow that didn’t happen) and always invited the guest in. He was a man who travelled all over, closely watching the people he met to notice which things they did that would outline to him some action of his own that was not “natural” so much as “habit.”  He even had the audacity to suggest that we try taking the perspective of something even farther from us: a bird, for example, who can fly over the scene and see a bigger picture, or a tiny, unnoticed but possibly very helpful creature--the mouse that conquered the lion. In his Essays, Montaigne suggested we might learn more about being human by imagining ourselves as other creatures, spending a few moments inside their habits; the kingfisher, for example, “who loyally carries a wounded mate around on her shoulders, for the rest of her life if need be{...] These loving kingfishers also show a flair for technology: they use fishbones to build a structure that acts as both nest and boat, cleverly testing it for leaks near a shore first before launching it into open sea.” The parrotfish could also teach us something about love, cooperation and ingenuity: “If a parrotfish is hooked by a fisherman, his fellow parrotfish rush to chew through the line and free him. Or, if one is netted, others thrust their tails through the net so he can grab one with his teeth, and be pulled out. Even different species can work together in this way, as with the pilot fish that guides the whale, or the bird that picks the crocodile’s teeth.” Another fact about the parrotfish that might turn things upside down for you is that they defecate little bits of coral, which come to us in the form of fine white sand beaches; a parrot fish averages about 200 pounds of such white sand every year. Also, if the male in a group dies, the largest female will transform herself into a male over the course of a few weeks, and begin mating with the other females.
Bakewell goes on: “It never occurs to us to rank ourselves among animals, or to put ourselves in their minds. We barely stop to wonder whether they have minds at all. Yet, for Montaigne, it is enough to watch a dog dreaming to see that it must have an inner world just like ours. A person who dreams about Rome or Paris conjures up an insubstantial Rome or Paris within. Likewise, a dog dreaming about a hare surely sees a disembodied hare running through his dream. We sense this from the twitching of his paws as he runs after it: a hare is there for him somewhere, albeit ‘a hare without fur or bones.’ Animals populate their internal world with ghosts of their own invention, just as we do.” 

(Metamorphosis 2)

An idea gained a momentum.
implicitly immeasurable,
that was stuck and immobile,
with a strike of imagination,
opened up and moved,
impervious to imperfection.


To Market, by Alexandra Milsom

So, winding from perspective to perspective and never staying long in one, we become more able to wend our way through the violence of life at least less-scathed. Montaigne himself was often called upon to manage negotiations between the leaders of the two religions, which meant that he was one of the few who could manage to socialize with both sides without being killed for it by one or the other.

It’s a method which seems to have benefits...

Sisters, by Alexandra Milsom

As a spirit.
Shake off the bark of the ancient trees from the legs,
Animal fur from the shoulders;
Gently pick the flower petals from the lips,
And take the cloud and birds from the hair.
Open your closet and see what you’re going to wear today.

I discovered the artwork of Alexandra Milsom via Jodi, who is crossing Scotland weekly now to study Mezzotint in a place where her work--as a former student-- is hanging. 

Mezzotint by Alexandra Milsom, “Apprehension.” Notice the shapes, which I imagine to be their own shadows, in the unknown woods, causing him to bare his teeth rather viciously...


  1. So much for the eyes and mind ... those images have a dream like quality or perhaps following the tales of Jorinda and Joringel more a night scare... softened by Vesna's words.

    I hadn't realised that many of Shakespeare's plays were influenced by Montaigne's works. I just heard today how Shakespeare's The Tempest was inspired by Montaigne's essay On Cannibals. Shakespeare it seems didn't see eye to eye with Montaigne regarding the cannibal's civilisation and re-arranged the name cannibal for his character Caliban and from the word oppressed came Prospero.

    Medieval village mindset is a curse being thrown upon women accused of witchcraft today in Papua New Guinea

  2. je suis incapable de comprendre tout le texte.. mais les peintures sont formidables..toujours un peu mystique..!