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22nd January

March 2002 – Beautiful

I’ve come home with an empty head to an empty house. My head is empty because I’ve just spent three months in an Amsterdam hospital with HIV induced encephalitis, and thinking is still very difficult for me. The house in Barcelona is empty because I got sick during the move; all our things are packed in boxes and crates.


The boxes and crates can stay that way as far as I’m concerned. Tea towels, dishes, books, and clothes— none of it interests me. All I want to see are the works of art that are packed in cardboard, leaning against the wall.


It’s not only because I miss them, I want to see if they still strike me as beautiful. What if, besides all the other abilities—the ability to reason, to read and to write, the ability to keep my balance, and to remember the name of the street we live on—what if my feeling for art has also been affected? What if the works I chose with so much fervor before I was sick now seem ugly to me?


The first to be stripped of its protective cover is a photo by Thomas Ruff. Tears spring to my eyes. The work is lovely, much more beautiful than I remembered. The red, yellow, and green merge like ink on blotting paper, the shapes dance like curling smoke.


Then comes the painting by Bernard Frize, the short pastel stripes that together seem to form a bookshelf. The painting could have been a photograph, and the photograph by Thomas Ruff could have been a painting.


I love art that creates an image but at the same time leaves room in my head. I love art that evokes questions, because when there are questions, I’m not alone.

When I look at art my empty head is suddenly full.

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