Pale Fire

Cracked pane, 2002

For the last couple of weeks I've been mulling over titles for my newest series and the two top runners are currently "Windowpane" and "Otherworld." The Windowpane title was inspired in part by the opening lines of Nabokov's Pale Fire, which begins:

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff--and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.

I read Pale Fire in college and decided to follow the book exactly: it's a postmodernist choose-your-own-adventure of sorts; each line of the poem by fictional writer John Shade links to "annotations" by the unreliable commentator/historian Charles Kinbote. One can skip around at random, visit some of the footnotes and not others, or vice versa, but I decided to go by the letter, visiting each page referenced to by the corresponding line in the poem, and I swear at the end there was a tiny rip in the fabric of the universe. I know, I know--I was nineteen and impressionable and all that jazz--and of course looking back I can no longer remember exactly what that peep into the unknown was like; all I do know is that everything felt washed clean for a short period of time, like a freshly Windexed window, pardon my obvious analogy.

Since then I often seem to have those Pale Fire opening couplets pop into my head at random times; something about the cadence and the import of the meaning sits well in my brain. I also am drawn to the implicit metaphors: the sense of the barrier caused by the window, and the division implied in the notion of the panes; you can see the world outside but are separate from it; you're both of and distanced from nature. Along with this comes the significance of glass: the geometric divisions, the ability to break the window and enter the world; sky and space seen in it, etc. All of this feels related to ideas behind my current work, in the way that I'm either manipulating nature or finding where there are patterns in the seemingly random; the symbolic value of everyday objects; our rituals and our desire to see order in the inanimate...Some of this isn't fully mapped out for me yet, but as I work on forming an artist statement, and seek to organize the images under the banner of a title, the concepts are crystallizing and I'll continue to be able to hopefully articulate more and more clearly the meaning behind the visuals.

"Otherworld" for more obvious reasons I think carries some of the same implications, which I won't elaborate on now, but I was amazed to visit my feed reader today and see a post entitled "the windowpane and the landscape" over on subjectify (I lately have been linking to Lexi's site quite often, I'll admit--there just seems to be some sort of synchronicity going on with me and that blog.) I hadn't remembered the Barthes quote she references, it's been ages since I read Camera Lucida, so it was enlightening as well as affirming to have the idea of the windowpane described in these terms:

"The Photograph belongs to that class of laminated objects whose two leaves cannot be separated without destroying them both: the windowpane and the landscape, and why not: Good and Evil, desire and its object: dualities we can conceive but not perceive."

Thus all signs seem to be pointing in the direction of using "Windowpane" as my latest title; I actually had it up very briefly on my site when I first made it live last week and then decided to simply stick with "New work," as I was unsure I was ready for the finality of using the title at that point. I think I'll ponder it a little while longer and play with a few other banners, stay tuned.


lexi said…
it's fate -- go with it. :-)
Fate indeed! I'm happy to go along :) Thanks for the comment.

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