February 2003 – Seeing
My recovery from the HIV induced encephalitis I had fifteen months ago is going much more slowly than I would like. But I’ve re-entered the world with an enthusiasm bordering on euphoria, and I see it as I want to see it. I’m trying to lord it over reality. It’s a struggle, and every now and then I take a nosedive. When people see me swaying like a drunken sailor, I take their bewildered looks for encouraging nods and I’m convinced I can travel again to faraway places even though, in our own street, I regularly find myself not knowing where I’m heading. It shocks me to discover that things are just as they are. Dreams are supposed to be a source of inspiration, not a criterion for testing the world. But that’s a lesson I refuse to learn.
Sometimes I catch a brief glimpse of reality. Through the haze of my longings and the mist of my fears, I see the world in all its power, heartbreakingly beautiful, outrageously cruel. It gives me goose bumps, and reflexively I cover my eyes with my hand. Reality is too blinding. I can’t look it in the face.
Someone should tie my arms behind my back, but even then, I’d squeeze my eyes shut. It’s my nature. I need my paintings to tell me what reality is—my photographs, sculptures and installations by Roni Horn, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jeff Wall, Bernard Frize, David Goldblatt, Annika von Hausswolff, Sam Taylor-Wood, and so many others.
Show what you see: that’s art. But see what’s being shown: now that is the skill I need to learn anew.