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Nicoline van Harskamp

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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Closing Week Performa Picks

by Whitney Kimball on November 17, 2011
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This year's Performa Biennial has one week of programming left, so this is your chance to catch the last of it. This week's highlights range from a beerfest to rare revivals of groundbreaking performance works.

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