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Claire Fontaine

Manifesta: “Something old and tyrannical burning there”

by Eva Heisler on July 3, 2012
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“A portable climate.” That’s what Ralph Waldo Emerson called coal. “Every basket is power and civilization,” he wrote in 1860. Coal is not only a portable climate but “it is the means of transporting itself whithersoever it is wanted,” Emerson added, noting “a half-ounce of coal will draw two tons a mile, and coal carries coal, by rail and by boat, to make Canada as warm as Calcutta.”

Writing 100 years later, Thomas McGrath contrasts coal fire to wood fire in his poem “A Coal Fire in Winter.” With a coal fire, there is “[s]omething old and tyrannical burning there.” This is “heat / From the time before there was fire.” Coal, compressed plant matter accumulated over 100,000 years, is the legacy of a “sunken kingdom” and its flames are “carbon serpents of bituminous gardens.”

Coal—as fuel, as fossil, as material, as metaphor, as “black gold,” as historical force—is the starting point of Manifesta 9, situated in the main building of the former Waterschei mining facility in Genk, Belgium.

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Anything Jerry Saltz Can Do AFC Can Do Better: 33 Outstanding Artists Emerging After 1999, Part Three of Three

by Paddy Johnson and Karen Archey on May 1, 2009

  Laura Parnes, Blood and Guts in High School, 2004-2006, video installation, 40:00 Observing a curatorial echo chamber privileging appropriation and conceptualism, art critic Jerry Saltz made his own list of artists engaging the plastic arts after 1999.  The writer selected nineteen women and fourteen men — thirty-three in total in keeping with the Younger Than Jesus triennial […]

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