Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What do you think?


by J J Cohen

I was rather fond of the graphic we used for our first GW MEMSI seminar, on Messianic Time and the Untimely. I just put this together for the second, an all star confab on Cary Howie's amazing book Claustrophilia.

What do you think? Is it too much? Should someone revoke the graphic design license that I clearly do not possess?

The image, if you are wondering, is a bolted anchorite window from Saint Mary's, Brook, Kent. The frame and matte are added, and fake: I was trying to recall Anglo-Saxon illustration framing but with a more modern, museum-like vibe.

Comments welcome here on our GW MEMSI Facebook page.

12 comments:

Nic D'Alessio said...

I think the graphic is interesting and well done. But I also think there's an aspect, perhaps unintentional, that is very provocative (and might even offend some). For me, the image also (and I think appropriately) evokes a vagina. Hope I'm not totally off the reservation or being offensive. If I am, I apologize (of course, if the comment makes it to post).

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Like a Georgia O'Keefe painting you mean?

Actually that sandstone is terribly flesh colored isn't it?

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

You know, I am thinking that the letters so obscure the portal that this just isn't working. Hmm.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

I just tried tinting it; not much better.

Nic D'Alessio said...

Yes to both points. I think there is something important that this material relation/conduit between the anchorite and her world (and here I mean "her" to refer both to the commonness of female anchorites and the effeminized gendering of male ones, who seem to me to commit themselves to a life of being ravished by God). So I want to read more into this possible accident of architectural design, and to think about how that cavity in the wall functions. And here I think it does in an at least a twofold manner, for it's not simply the point whereby the anchorite holed up inside receives the world goods of survival but it also that conduit by which the world receives its worlding. There's an entire phenomenality working within the shadows of this window. I don't think it's out of place--and here the nature of "place" and its materiality needs interrogation--to say that entire worlds are being impregnated. I think the passive voice is important here, too; there's a chiasmic structuring at work also. And so I think that image nicely registers so much of what Carrie's beautiful book is trying to capture/expose.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

It's actually a cool image, and I totally thought you were planning the whole Georgia O'Keefe thing...

I'm wondering how it would look with a sort of mosaic of holes, though?

Eileen Joy said...

Honestly, I thought toilet, abattoir, AND vagina. Isn't that awful? It's actually making me laugh. Seriously. I *do* think having an anchorite-type image is great, this one just conjures bad memories from my heroin addiction days.

Kidding. Just kidding.

Stephanie Trigg said...

What do I think? I see the mandorla
shape. Dan Cruickshank (“an architectural historian with a track record of finding sex in improbable places,” according to Maev Kennedy) showed in a BBC2 television programme in 2002 that St Georges Chapel (sorry: this comes from my Order of the Garter work) contains many carved examples of the vesica piscis, the fish-shaped vessel he describes as “a holy symbol representing the vagina of the Virgin Mary.”

I also thought of a toilet.

But mostly, I have to say I think of this design as rather ugly and unwelcoming. It might signify accurately, but to me, it makes the symposium look somewhat unfriendly.

Karl Steel said...

toilet.

I didn't even see the text.

I just thought you were showing us a picture of a dirty toilet and asking our opinion.

As if you were adding another to your posts about the travails of temporarily packing up a house.

Karl Steel said...

but don't let me discourage you!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Maybe less of a close-up, so you can see it's a hole in a wall, and the text in a different font/color, kind of framing it?

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Guess where this one is going? In the TOILET. Thanks for the feedback. When I look at it this morning it seems to me the album cover for a failed grunge band.

OK, I admit it is so ugly I have a slight affection for it -- but won't keep it.