Dancers also create lines in time, like melodies: a dance phrase has its own shape and flow. The Russians have often applied the Italian word cantilena to dancing. It says — since a cantilena is a smooth, sustained vocal line — that the underlying idea of breath and legato connection carry through into dancing.
“The continuity of his line,” Arlene Croce once wrote of the British choreographer Frederick Ashton, referring to his “Monotones,” “is like that of a master-draftsman whose pen never leaves the paper.” She was applying the temporal aspect of dance to choreography that’s also a classic of line’s visual aspects. In that trio, Ashton asks his two men and one woman to hold the same flowing contour in arabesque (the ways that the arms continue the downward flow of the shoulders, and that the raised leg echoes that, are haunting); he elsewhere asks the men to extend the woman’s line with their own.
An edit of a phone interview I did with art historian and queer activist Jonathan Katz for ICA earlier this year, in which he shared memories of his experience in the museum’s archive.
I was interested in ICA’s role as, essentially, the founding institution of Agnes Martin in the museum world. The striking thing about ICA is its role as the premier museum exhibition for a number of well-known figures. Her 1973 retrospective at ICA was her first museum show, so it was very important to grasp how Martin understood this exhibition. I was looking for the kind of correspondence that would suggest what Martin—who was never known for passivity in the face of curatorial direction—would want in this first exhibition, and I found loads of it.
Writing for Hyperallergic, Melissa Stern describes the formal and semi-linguistic variety of line in autistic artist Dan Miller’s solo exhibition at Ricco Maresca Gallery:
Strong, intense directional markings vie with big loopy “faux” writing. Occasionally a word or letter pops out. In the painting “Untitled (peach and gray with graphite)” the word “lied” shines out from the left side. This one word sets an entire narrative into motion. Who lied? What lied? Are paintings lies? The rest of the work is a tantalizing tangle of line and color. I’m drawn in, trying to find more words; the shapes tease. Maybe it’s a word, maybe it’s a painting of a word, maybe a line and nothing more.
As the article continues, Stern notes that Miller has few verbal communications skills. Her advice: “Enjoy the fresh voice of a talent that transcends language, back-story, or label. Look. Closely. And leave it at that.”
For me, this non-analysis is a mere celebration of reductivism. By observing the lines made by an artist whose attempts at picturing language may fall flat, we open up a liminal way of thinking about lines and their relationship to writing that, in the work of literate visual artists, might easily be overlooked.
along these lines: “A London street map is a mess: a preposterously complex tangle of veins and capillaries, the cardiovascular system of a monster.”
Jody Rosen’s in-depth article The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS in T Magazine, asks whether memorizing the city’s 25,000 streets should be celebrated as learning in and for itself.
Looking up notes on the book Lines: A Brief History (2007), I stumbled across an exhibition of (almost) the same name—dash replaces colon—which was organized last year in France by Hélène Guenin and Christian Briend.
Lines – A Brief History takes inspiration from the book, drawing upon author Tim Ingold’s premise that “to study both people and things is to study the lines they are made of”.
I wrote a blog post for ICA’s website a few months ago which turns out to be a pretty nice sketch for thinking about lines as social connections as graphite lines on paper as digitally networked lines:
Throughout the day, I take iPhone snaps of all kinds of drawings for a virtual pinup on ICA’s Instagram feed, including: a carefully contoured profile of one of the models; a bold portrait of William’s dog Francie by Sarah McEneaney; and an angular architectural study of the museum itself. While photographing some gorgeous, rapid-fire sketches of the two models intertwined, I ask their creator if she is an artist.
“Kind of,” she says shyly.
This Art in America Backstory by artist Charles Gaines is full of observations regarding what can be captured in lines and what can’t.
Digging a little into the word “line” this evening. Something I found:
A long, scrolly definition and history of the word via Google search, through which I learned that “line,” in English, stems from words that mean both “thread” or “rope” (Latin, the noun) and “lining” (Middle English, the verb).
along these lines: Adam Rothstein on “rhizomatic mesh networks” and post-structural technological fantasies
The mesh network vision is of a rhizomatic network that is local, horizontal, self-healing, non-hierarchical, and scalable. Philosophically, its kung fu is perfect—bending like a reed in the wind against any foe, whether deployed by Occupy, by Egyptian revolutionaries, against censorship, war, flooding, poverty, or ISPs. In language, it is everything we expect from the future, the fantasy of certain post-structural technological desires.
—Adam Rothstein, Rhizome.org