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2006 08 02
Angle of Incident 14: Berry Box

By Gary Michael Dault

First it held blueberries, and, after breakfast, it didn’t any longer and I was about to fling it into the blue box when it struck me that, sans blueberries, the plastic box was a really quite delicate, perforated, gridded thing—airy and open and, though perhaps bluer than strictly necessary, attractive, somehow, in a gentle, light-diffusing kind of way.

So I put the box on the deck in the long morning sun and made this photograph of it.

Given the objectivity photography promotes, the box, now resting on its side, looked not only delicate but also emptier than before. Now, its lid flung wide like a door or gate, the morning shadows falling away from it looked like vectors, indeces to the speed and completeness with which whatever had once been inside the box had flown.

Now my empty, gridded box was a container or, more insistently, an enclosure—from which something had departed. Now I saw it as a cell or jail, its barred door flung aside, its prisoners fled.

I remembered at this point the book artist Tony Urquhart and I collaborated on a long time ago (in 1989) called Cells of Ourselves. The book’s title was derived from W.H.Auden’s poem “In Memory of W.B,Yeats” (1939), where Auden notes ruefully that on the day Yeats died, when people go about their business as usual, when “each in a cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom”, a few thousand will think of this day “As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual”. Our book was made up of 50 of Tony’s drawings and 50 accompanying prose-poems of mine, all of which swarmed about the controlling idea of “cage” or “enclosure”. One of Tony’s drawings was a tiny study of a delicately wrought birdcage with the door open. “A cage as graceful as a seaside pavilion at Brighton”, I wrote, “but still a cage. This drawing is one of two the artist made for Amnesty International in 1982.”

So I guess it was Tony’s birdcage that I saw again in my empty blueberry box.

I bring all this up now—and include the berry box photo—because, during the writing of last week’s Angle of Incident column (about the “Mother and Child Chair”), I happened to mention my interest’s having somehow been revived lately in an old project I once called Archetypes of Attitude. It’s scarcely a project at this point of course: right now, it’s only a matter of taking note (and taking notes)—and collecting photographs—and remembering to stick them in the right file.

I don’t know. I probably won’t really ever do anything with this stuff. It’s pretty unlikely that I could ever anatomize the physical disposition of objects in space, and accumulate any charting of their resulting spatial utterances and eloquences into the visual equivalent of something like Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism. Maybe with two lifetimes running concurrently.

In the meantime, I enjoy my evacuated, berry-box jail and its wide-flung cell-door. It’s the shadows, I suppose, that have lent the photo much of its literary and even cinematic quality: here it is morning, and the formerly imprisoned berries are now on the lam.
[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 08/02 at 12:59 PM

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