To Rakel with Love
by David Arthur Walters
Rakel, Karim Ghidinelli's eight-foot-tall fingerprint in "enamel paint on hand carved aluminum", won the $10,000 First Prize in ArtCenter/South Florida's Art in the City competition. The promotional contest was sponsored by the developers of the $100 million Artécity condominium complex to be completed in the Art District, a blighted Miami South Beach neighborhood now being rehabilitated pursuant to an arty ideology entitled "Artistic Urbanism". Rakel will become a permanent fixture at Artécity.
Rakel's fingerprint, perhaps her left thumbprint, is realistically scrawled out in words on a 96 X 48 inch aluminum surface painted over with black enamel. We may categorize the composition as an "ideogram" or logogram, such as that of Apollinaire's French poem in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, or the earlier poetic ideogram by Panard (1674-1765), in the shape of a bottle.
I am informed that Mr. Ghidinelli teaches intermediate to advanced portraiture at the ArtCenter/South Florida artists' colony on South Beach's upscaled Lincoln Road Mall - where current rents are about $80 per square foot - and that he is an internationally noted artist. I have examined a few of his human figures: their blocky appearance does not suit my prejudice, but I have no doubt that the style is admired by many people, including critics who are better informed than I am on the subject of contemporary art.
As for Rakel, I regret to say that I passed her by during the contest. I did not select her for a prize or for honorable mention, although upon reconsideration I must say that she was well worth mentioning, at the very least, and that she will be a fascinating addition to the Artécity lobby. Upon hearing that she took the First Prize, my gut reaction spontaneously associated Rakel with Artécity life.
A fingerprint, I ruminated, is indeed suitable to the pink, prison-like appearance of Artécity as badly advertised (in my opinion) in the January 2005 Miami Visual Arts Guide. A French postmodernist once said that prisons exist to make us think we are free. Artécity, as an abode for the affluent, will perhaps make a large number of outsiders think they are enslaved, while providing them with an additional incentive to compete for sufficient funds to buy a unit, reasonably priced from the $ 200,000s to $1 million. Today it seems that the richest and poorest elements of society wind up in expensive, well guarded compounds. Those in between are not so secure.
Mind you that I do not consciously intend my spontaneous free associations and the expression thereof to be insulting to either Rakel or Artécity. Our reflections on our first impressions might, in some cases, reveal that first impressions are really not the lasting ones. The more we know about something, the more we might like it. I examined Rakel to see what further information, besides her fingerprint, she might disclose about her nature. I proceeded to read the long-handed sentences comprising the fingerprint, craning my neck this way and that until I got a kink in my neck and had to desist. I did manage to record the following excerpts:
"Amazing question. If what I ask myself... indicates the depth of my convictions... for I think that I do not believe in something.... no matter what proof is presented to me... it is clear to me that I will live my life responding to what comes my way... do I need to make art.... I think I want to be an artist.... art is human and I make errors and I am human.... why do I? why do I want to be an artist? to be someone?"
I have corrected the misspellings. The cramp in my neck prohibited me from quoting an expressed concern with making a living as an artist.
No doubt the formal fingerprint is unique. It might be placed in the database for access by CSI: Miami, just in case of a major art theft. Most artists and modern persons who care enough about the art of living to reflect on their personal existence will empathize with Rakel's reflections. The more philosophical among them might conclude that, although the particular expressions of the individual might comprise unique coincidences of universal qualities such as skin colors or whorls, the inner existence giving rise to feelings and their social expression has even more in common with the existence of other individuals than their outward universal qualities, which of course vary according to individual types. In other words, despite wanting and loving unique subjective individuality, in particular contradistinction to and in rebellion against the society, the particular self is, to the extent that it exists, not really individual, but is essentially universal.
And in the final iconoclastic analysis the absolute freedom craved for, the will to persevere forever without defining resistance, as immortal and eternal, is the craving for Nothing, capitalized in this case to signify its pregnant meaning. An artistic expression of Nothing is virtually impossible but its integrity might be suggested, say, by white on white or black on black. Only an artist of great integrity can aptly express absolute eternity.
The more I reflected on the presence of Rakel, the more I loved her. And what is love? Love is your life, is it not? Whom do we love the most when we love another, if not our very selves? Mind you, my homophobia fashions a female soul for my dreams, hence I awake from my erotic dreams knowing I am straight in the carnal sense. As for Rakel, I "know" her not only because I have sensual knowledge of her as an image, but because the longer I live the artful life with her, the better I like her. The more we sensually know an art object, the better may we like it; but what we have fallen in Platonic love with is not the object itself, but is rather our knowledge of it, our very own reflections. When that object happens to be our own good self, we become then doubly infatuated, hence prone to drowning in our own reflections, giving no heed to the calls of the those nymphs who would recall us to the objective sphere, echoing our will to live as carnal individuals despite the universal death wish.
I would not abuse Rakel because I love her. And I will not put her off for another woman. But I have often dreamed of having two women at once, one on top and one below. Wherefore, in my capacity as artécritik for Artéwôrldé, I shall make an offering by way of konstructive kriticism. I shall keep Rakel, and set beside her for good measure my own ideogram, a fingerprint lifted from the Arch of St. Louis. Of course St. Louis is not Miami Beach, but my offering does appertain to Art in the City. Perhaps Rakel's creator will criticize my konstructive kriticism because it is not in the shapely form implied, that of a catenary arch. I certainly would like to see it in ideal form, perhaps in one, attractive case, without capitals or other sentence indications, ala the ancient Greek mode of writing.
St. Louis Arch
One never knows
where one might wind up
in the encyclopedia
or living circle of learning,
yet no matter where one is
along the Arc cradling the universe,
the principle of the line
moving through the moments in space
is immediately available to us,
hence we look not to the particular concrete bridges
over portions of the chasm to understand them,
but to the invisible principle
of the arch,
that we may employ it
to our own advantage
as our principle mediator
and discuss it among ourselves
according to our lights,
just as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine corresponded
on the peculiarities of the catenary arch,
the general form of which can be observed
by freely hanging a heavy uniform chain
from two points not in the same vert ical line:
when the heavenly form
is set upon its feet in matter,
it is the most stable of all arches,
quite noticeable in our bridges,
if one is aware of what is going on.
The principle is alluded to in the Gothic arch,
and its most brilliant application as a work of art may be beheld
at the Gateway to the West
through which many dreamers passed to New Jerusalem.
And that place was called
St. Louis, Missouri,
after the only king crowned saint -
a tolerant king
except towards all infidels,
whom he said must be run
through with a sword -
alas, alas, forgive us Father
for the sins of our fathers
that we may be reconciled unto one another today,
and thank you for the good things they did,
and thank you St. Louis for sponsoring the bare-footed scholars
who were more interested in principles
than in gold.
Many people back East
said the Pure Land in the West is
at best an illusion,
at worst a delusion,
yet those who knew the truth of it said,
"Go West young man,"
and they did, and they took the women in their wagons.
if we know the principle
of the catenary arch,
when we behold the wonderful arch
at St. Louis, Missouri
we know its appearance presents to us
an optical illusion,
of being higher than it is broad at its base -
in reality the two extensions are the same -
Wherefore we move on to consider other arches
above and below,
as we continue our trek to Pure Land,
knowing that the laws which we glean from the firmament
are applicable to the fundament,
for Heaven is firm
and Earth is fundamental.
The engineers still tell us
it cannot be done,
and they laugh at our plans
for our Elevator,
just as they laughed at the elevator man
who designed the ferris-wheel contraption
that allows us to traverse the catenary arch at
St. Louis, Missouri.
They say there is no Promised Land.
We say Westward Ho!