There is writing to touch it is like silk, which produces the finest translucency of light, by light, light, as if it weren’t word but transparent...read more clay. This writing however melts in the fire, slumps around forms like the folds of Balzac’s cloak, so only a master takes it to that state that telescopes. Other writings have rigors that never melt. Initially soft they turn brittle and stiff as though there were only two states, one too soft, the other too hard. Less gritties hold themselves after the soft and maintain malleability to impasto and shave, roll coat thin, one atop another, palimpsests gratefully and accept the translucent undercarriage that allows them to shine. All writing must pass the fire twice, the first prepares, the second, after glaze. Those who enter fire a second time will not change. Purified as silver seven times, not intellect at all, they undergo the shrinkage of one who passes the fire losing water and vanity of mind before anointing with fine oil. Writing wants to receive impression, resist correctly and give the shape of the shaper.
WHAT WERE THE ANCESTRAL VOICES prophesying war that Coleridge heard in a dream?
Oh that deep romantic chasm
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
They were the starchitectures of Gigantotomy, a lot to take in one, let alone many: the Tower of Babel, Ishtar Gate, Capitol Dome, Washington Monument, Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, EU Parliament, Denver Airport, the eyes of Oculus Horus in the subway beneath the 9/11 site, a vortex swallowing the globe. Name your own. Goat statues don’t count.
Shrines more or less equivalent to embodied ideas, political-religious metaphysicals repeat and mimic that sunny dome. But whether the milk of paradise of Coleridge’s "Kubla Khan" or the artificial paradises of the French (Les Paradis artificiels), “the dreams of a maniac who would replace solid furniture and a real garden by decorative canvas backdrops,” it strikes us that Baudelaire, the poet of sulphur flowers, moralizes against artifice as much as William Burroughs is against drugs (Naked Lunch). Both reputations go against this grain, but they learned hard, as did Rimbaud who embraced Christ on his death bed.
Starchitectures come to every species. The bizarre Spider of Bilbao and the Blue Horse of Denver live in the shade where Frabel designed glass botanicals, “flowers like the lily, Dogwood, Cherokee Rose and various Orchids recreated in borosilicate glass” (Life in the Gardens). Star doctrine says “there is not one single invention of Nature, however subtle or impressive it may be that the human spirit cannot create; no forest of Fontainebleu or moonlit scene that cannot be produced on a floodlit stage; no waterfall that hydraulics cannot imitate so perfectly as to be indistinguishable from the original; no rock that paper-mache cannot copy; no flower that specious taffetas and delicately painted papers cannot rival!”
They do not call themselves Earthitects who turn flowers into glass, trees into gold and fulfill a dozen fantasies from material riches to immortality. Starchitecture is as old as we make it, or find it, the hedge of yellow metal of Claudian, the ambiguity of gold refined from earth, an image of wisdom as deadly as Midas killing the plant with a touch. This vision of reality, a forgery, counterfeit, artifice is what Baudelaire says substitutes the vision for reality itself. The fruit of gold, the glass orchid, immortality satisfy no hunger for food any more than hunger for beauty or life. The fraudulent towers, sculptures and buildings, if we judge by the gold plant, lose all their nature in seeking to touch the sky, to enshrine the starchitects as absurdly as the golden age.
Among many notable leaping frogs of starchitecture the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao is another airport where these ideas fly in. You might imagine a schedule of arrivals and departures, but more than flights of fancy if we say forces want to take the Horse into Troy.
Guggenheim-Bilbao and EU Parliament-Babel combine with a spider and a siren and the Blue Horse of Denver as examples of these visions of reality. Structures read like illustrations, semaphores on the runways of the new age. Anubis and the Denver Murals are signaling. Architects, dubbed “archistars” for their designs, make starchitecture to memorialize themselves, but the coinage suits admirably the works of thousands of years, including the Trojan Horse and the Ishtar Gate. The Blue Horse in Denver doesn’t quite seem demonic enough. Such honor should be reserved for that part human / part beast seen by the Aztecs as the Spanish on horseback. Likewise we interpret today the depictions in ancient Sumer, horses with heads of a lion, hair of a woman, and stingers in their tails as from Bergman's Seventh Seal as recombinant mutants of all kinds from USDA labs. The movies long ago replaced the news as sources of current events. Movies and of course the classics. Visiting Anubis, the Jackal-headed death dog that floated down the Thames from Egypt on its world tour, these join the line of iconic figures that dwarf or magnify the past in the guise of bringing art to the masses.
In order to better manipulate these structures, committees of starchitects are planning to revive Milton’s Paradise Lost, Book II, as illustrated by Gustave Dore, that is, Satan on the Burning Lake. This is prophetic also of Milton’s iconotecture in raising up Pandemonium from a bubble pipe, also being prepared by governments for execution.
Michelangelo’s "Drunkenness of Noah" is sure to be made an inebriant hologram broadcast to numb the culling of the herd.
Turner’s "Angel Standing in the Sun" is on the drawing board for the new millennium in France.
The Denver Airport only needs some further Dante to traverse its underground and show it a ship ready for blast off. Denver Airport Elites Escape Earth! Are you ready for blast off? Read this before you go.
News photographers on the Inferno beat, I mean the Dante/Virgil Report, will expose those “two travelers who find the shaggy and gigantic Lucifer at the absolute center of the Earth, embedded up to his waist in ice. The only way they can continue their journey is by climbing down his sides—there is plenty of hair to hold on by—and squeezing through the hole in the ice and so coming to his feet” they climb down the page, “though it is down to his waist, it is up to his feet” (Inferno xxxiv, 70f: C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image, 141-2).
That hair is needed because directions are reversed and its been cold. Anybody planning to leave should make ready their passport metaphors, hair and all. Whether dome, spaceship, donkey or mule carry their sins aloft or beneath, the epic world is closer than we know. Scale an inch to the miles below.
EDITOR’S NOTES W/LINKS:
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan:
Supposedly Coleridge dreamed up this poem under the influence of opium.