If you follow a pencil carefully, from the moment it is created from the wood of a tree that grew by a Czech lake which you once saw through the train window while on your way to Vienna where a waiter then used that pencil to write down your order, to the moment when that pencil rots hidden under other garbage in a landfill, the pencil will have accumulated a rich biography which might include lying on a shelf, copying totals from utility bills and passing into the hands of a businessman flying to Seattle by plane, where it is picked up by someone who in his childhood used to swim in a Czech lake.
Each object has its own narrative, connecting to the world at different junctions. John Baldessari once said that everything is connected in some way. In one of his word chains, he asked someone to construct a story from a single photograph. The words in the story were then written down consecutively in a chain and finally replaced with images. While following each chain, I wondered what story led to the links between each consecutive word. Some links were obvious: “grass, cow, fence”. Others such as “cucumbers” followed by “phone numbers” were not self-evident, as if prompting one to create connections between them.
Out of curiosity, I wrote my own word chain, selecting words through association. I starting out with dust that’s settled on top of my computer screen and writing down the first association that came to mind as quickly as possible. The list is limited to 100 words:
Wings of Desire
My link from “dust” to “reactor” extended to 98 words, whereas in another chain it may take none. If I were to start another chain with the same word tomorrow it would follow a different path. Tapping into the vast network of invisible connections, each word chain records passing associations and fleeting thoughts.
As things are bound to be connected even if in very circuitous ways, the above list of words can almost be seen as a set of clues in a detective novel in which their connections are discovered. Did architect Adolf Loos ever visit the Rundetarn, a former astronomical observatory in Copenhagen? What did Alexanderplatz in Berlin look like in 1968, the year when 2001 Space Odyssey was made? Where can one find geraniums nearest to Zabriskie Point, a location in Death Valley National Park in California?
It seems easier to find the answers to the above questions to than to draw up questions about other more oblique connections, which can sometimes become manifest through images
Dust in the Arizona desert
The cubic facade of the Villa Müller designed by Adolf Loos in 1930
The Rundetarn, built in the 17th century as an astronomical observatory, has a 7.5 turn helical corridor leading to the top.
Scenes on board the spacecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey were shot by moving the film set into a giant ferris wheel, which would rotate while the actor walked in tandem with its motion.
The building of the Alexanderplatz in 1968, the year when 2001: A Space Odyssey was released.
Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, California.
A film still from the famous finale in Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, showing a spectacular explosion that occurs in the imagination of the main character.