Cosmic Hotels

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The shy, reclusive and self taught maker of shadow boxes and experimental films, Joseph Cornell , rarely left New York State, with the exception of a few college years in Andover, Mass, spending most of his life in a modest house in the beautifully named Utopia Parkway, Queens, caring for his mother and disabled brother. His artwork is filled with a yearning for the unobtainable ; birds with their freedom of flight, glamorous movie stars and ballerinas as the source of passionate, platonic romances and especially travel to the most luxurious and wondrous locations.

Hotels are a common feature of his shadow boxes, miniature visions of rest stops and trysting places for artistic, mythological and astrological archetypes as they travel through the starry Empyrean and the wastes of infinity.

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Piranesi’s Imaginary Prisons

Piranesi-Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons)-1745-1761
Piranesi-Carceri d’invenzione (Imaginary Prisons)-Title Plate-1745-1761

In the mid-eighteenth century, the would be Venetian architect, etcher of Roman views and manufacturer  of hybrid artefacts, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, produced a remarkable series of prints entitled Carceri d’invenzione (Imaginary Prisons). The Imaginary Prisons can be classed as capricci, architectural fantasies, however these astounding visions would have an impact far beyond the narrow limits of this particular genre.

The first plate of fourteen prints was published between 1745-1750 and later revised with two additional etchings in 1761. It’s most obvious and immediate influence was upon the craze for the Gothic novel that swept throughout Europe in the late 18th Century. The Prisons would also exercise a considerable hold upon the imagination of the English Romantics. Not only do we find the two original gentleman junkies, Thomas De Quincey and Samuel Coleridge, discussing Piranesi at length in De Quincey’s classic autobiography and drug memoir, Confessions of an English Opium Eater, but De Quincey’s entire writing style can be seen as an attempt to replicate Piranesi within literature. Critics have found echoes of the Prisons in the works of Byron, Shelley and Victor Hugo.

In the 20th Century, the Surrealists saw in the Imaginary Prisons a visual metaphor of the mind and hailed them as an important precursor of their own explorations of the unconscious. Aldous Huxley linked Piranesi to Kafka and certainly such stories as In the Penal Colony seem to be set in the world of the Prisons.

In the visual arts Piranesi direct heir was M.C Escher, complete with paradoxical geometry and labyrinthine structures that offer a vertiginous glimpse of an infinity that may well also be infernal. For the most terrifying aspect of Piranesi’s Imaginary Prisons, is the suggestion, re-enforced by the fact that we are only seeing a section of the whole and that the buildings are never fully enclosed, that the portrayed Prison is conterminous with the world, or indeed the universe.

Piranesi-Carceri II-The Man on the Rack 11745-1761
Piranesi-Carceri II-The Man on the Rack 11745-1761
Piranesi-Carceri III-The Round Tower
Piranesi-Carceri III-The Round Tower-Second Plate 1761
Piranesi_-Carceri IV-the Grand Piazza 1761
Piranesi_-Carceri IV-the Grand Piazza 1761
Piranesi-Carceri V-the Lion Bas Relief-1750
Piranesi-Carceri V-the Lion Bas Relief–First Plate-1745-1750
Piranesi-Carceri VI-The Smoking Fire-1761
Piranesi-Carceri VI-The Smoking Fire-1761
Piranesi-Carceri VII-The Drawbridge-1745-1750
Piranesi-Carceri VII-The Drawbridge-1745-1750
Piranesi-Carceri VIII-The Staircase with Trophies-1761
Piranesi-Carceri VIII-The Staircase with Trophies-1761
Piranesi-Carcerri IX-the Giant Wheel-1750
Piranesi-Carcerri IX-the Giant Wheel-1750
Piranesi-Carceri-X Prisoners_on_a_Projecting_Platform-1761
Piranesi-Carceri-X Prisoners-on-a-Projecting-Platform-1761
Piranesi-Carceri XI-The Arch With the Shell Casement
Piranesi-Carceri XI-The Arch With the Shell Casement
Piranesi-Carceri XII-The Sawhorse
Piranesi-Carceri XII-The Sawhorse
Piranesi-Carceri XIII-the Well
Piranesi-Carceri XIII-the Well
Piranesi-Carceri XIV-the Gothic Arch
Piranesi-Carceri XIV-the Gothic Arch
Piranesi- Carceri XV-the Pier with the Lamp
Piranesi- Carceri XV-the Pier with the Lamp
Piranesi- Carceri XVI-the Pier With Chains
Piranesi- Carceri XVI-the Pier With Chains

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have always been here

From Angel Series, Roma, September 1977 -Francesca Woodman
From Angel Series, Roma, September 1977-Francesca Woodman

After much consideration,
I have come to the conclusion,
That you are not
Who you say you are.
You have always been here,
Not a visitor seeking shelter
From the winter’s storm,
This is your residence
Right here, with Hell
Just around the bend
In the depth-less sunless valley,
With Heaven just a vague rumour,
A distant, insincere promise:
This gimcrack structure,
Aging and weathered
In urgent need of repair
With its endless corridors
And cracked silvered mirrors
A dull pastiche of infinity,
Home to dismal phantoms,
Downwardly mobile angels,
Degraded coarse Demiurges,
Is your eternal abode
Where you wearily survey
With a monstrous apathy,
The chaos of creation,
The loop da loops of time,
This maze of memories.