An Altar Where No Walls Or Names Exist // Rabia Basri

my soul
there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church
where I kneel.
Prayer should bring us to an altar
where no walls or names exist.

Is there not a religion of love
where sovereignty is
illumined nothing,
where ecstasy gets poured into itself
And becomes
where the wing is fully alive
but has no mind
or body?

my soul
there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque,
a church
that dissolve, that
dissolve in

Trans. Daniel Ladinsky

The Witness // Fanny Howe

Behold the broken
Hearts, backs and parts
Of nature
Evolved to follow
A finite path.

Behold the gray rain
In a house of mirrors.
Oak leaves shining
On glass, two kisses
In one spot exactly.

Behold the scabs and cuts
Of city streets.
Crusts, stones, smoke.
As many people
As nails from a factory.

Behold the space
Between each star
Or a child under nine
Laying her hand
On another’s face.

Behold the foundation
And the secret of it.
Close your eyes
And breathe.
When seized, don’t speak.

“Do you have your helium ready?” // Anselm Kiefer





The ship, like the sea, is an ambiguous image.

The sea supports the weight of massive ships while constantly threatening to consume them in its depths.

Ships are made of great sheets of metal, and yet they glide across the ocean’s expanse. Their size gives them buoyancy, as their weight pulls them down, in a precarious balance. Ships are roving islands of security, yet they are always on the verge of becoming the darkest of tombs.

Kiefer replaces canvas with lead sheets in many of his pieces, his lines plumbing the depths of human history, his images drawn from the Bible, and Nazi Germany.

Whether in the myth of Noah’s ark or the brutal reality of Shoah, our memories are freighted with forces that would pull us under.






The heavy cargo


















“Is life worth living when there is blindness, fear, war, torture, floods, famine, earthquakes, and prison? The question can only be answered case by case. But one question that is also an answer might be: “Do you have your helium ready?”

A sniff of helium and you speak like a cartoon chipmunk and are gone in fifteen minutes.

Or do you prefer hemlock? It is a member of the parsley family with spotted purple stems, split leaves, and umbrels of little white blossoms on it. You can turn it into a poisonous drink or use it to make paper.”

– Fanny Howe, The Winter Sun











Paper has its own weight, of course. The archive of history can be a shattering burden.




Anselm Kiefer au Grand Palais



And yet, the ambiguity persists.

Lead ships ply the waves as easily as birds cut through the air.

Can our leaden wings lift us?

The very substance and weight of our past fashioned into limbs by which we rise?
























Bring Me To The Brink // Osip Mandelstam

Bring me to the brink of mountains, mystic,
Dread, rapture of fear I feel and … fail.
Still: the swallow slicing blue is beautiful.
Still: the cloud-tugged bell tower’s frozen music.

There is in me a man alive, a man alone,
Who, heart-stopped above a deep abyss,
Can hear a snowball grow one snowflake less,
The clock-tick accretions of dust becoming stone.

No. I am not that man, not that sadness
With its precise ice, its exquisite rue.
The pain that sings in me does not sing, and is true.

O whirlwind, O real wind
In which the avalanche is happening,
All my soul is bells, which will not ring.


Translated by Christian Wiman

Ecce Homo // Mark Wallinger















The Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square in central London was left unadorned for 150 years after its construction. In 1999, Mark Wallinger’s “Ecce Homo”, the first of a series of commissioned sculptures, was installed on the plinth. The other plinths feature larger-than-life sculptures of George IV on horseback, General Sir Charles James Napier, and Major-General Sir Henry Havelock, while the fourth was intended to support a statue of William IV. Conquerors and kings.

Wallinger’s piece is life-sized, making the bound Christ appear particularly small in a context of exaggerated figures of outrageous men. Even more striking is the quiet, insistent presence of a man condemned to death by Empire standing in the heart of London, one of the great centers of global capitalism.




Images from “Mark Wallinger”, Thames & Hudson (November 8, 2011)

The following is a brief interview with Wallinger, with footage of the piece, and surprisingly affecting footage of its removal from the plinth in 2000.