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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Magic Eye


There is a specific and smoldering hue — a kind of fire-side / cardinal / cave-lining vermilion that moves like smoke — that I see when I close my eyes and think about ecstatic sanctuary. These are closed-eye visualizations (CVE) that you can see by looking, with tightly closed eyes, at the back of your own eyelids. James Turrell, a perceptual psychology-trained artist who is deeply concerned with space and light, built an incandescent-coal-like piece called Skyspace in Claremont. Skyspace is an enormous metal rectangle that frames a piece of the California sky and at the beginning of each hour, it presents you and this sky with a sensor-automated light show. The frame moves from turquoise to fuchsia to orange and all of these colors are reflected in an eerily-still infinity pool that spills into itself on the ground. When it ends your eyes feel as though they are burning and new.

The American artist La Monte Young, known for his work as a minimalist composer and for his involvement with the Fluxus movement, made a room called The Dream House in TriBeCa. I think that it is the best room in all of New York City. The Dream House is a light (mostly pinks and purples), sound (rhythmic, systematic humming), and experience (carpet, Nag Champa, rapture) installation. Skyspace and The Dream House fill me with the same feelings of warmth, consolation, and euphoria that I find if I look long enough into the visual noise color in my own eyes.

I go to specific points so that I can become flooded with or reminded of a particular and very precise feeling. I know that I will always find this feeling if I go to The Dream House or Skyspace, but often it comes in flurries from people and instances that are less tangible and less easy to revisit. I have found it in being laid on with all of a particular person’s weight, in driving through violet evening-light on top of raspy pavement, with the windows down. Often, seemingly unrelated points (places, or times) will evoke the same feeling: spring and fall and Saturday late afternoons always throb with a strange anticipatory premonition that feels like what a glittered New Year’s Eve is for other people.

The physical act of journeying to a specific point — be it the short walk from my apartment to the Hudson to see that giant ferris-wheel-like clock that wafts above the water, or a multi-stop plane ride — vouches for the worth of precision. The amount of time that I actually spend with these small precise places and moments (seizing, early-morning goodbyes, pushing my arm communicatively against the side of his arm in a packed backseat) is cursory — and yet they are heavier than most other experiences. So they are what I think about during train rides and workdays and vapid conversations and when walking.

Being aware does not make the feeling more seductive or magnetic: I tend to keep it at a distance because I don’t want to become attached to something that I can’t really have, and yet an acute awareness of a feeling’s ephemerality does not curb its potency. Feeling ribbons of sun on my hands and back while picking blueberries with my brother and parents on Sauvie Island this past summer now feels almost hallucinatory, because my awareness of that moment’s impermanence led me to distance myself in some way.

As the clouds moved in and that late July afternoon drew to a close, I whittled the hours down to a few moments — I now pay little retrospective attention to how cranky I was during the endless pit stops we made (and all had to get out of the car to look) at scenic fields, or the fact that the berries we bought from the farm’s stand were considerably bigger and sweeter than the ones we picked with our own hands.

my parents

On the drive back to Jesse’s house in Portland I archived the sounds of my family’s voices winding through the berry bushes in a different category from the rest of my other, less treasured memories.

This archive is mostly of memories and faces that are tied to this same vermilion. When my dad tells me the story of the first time in his life that he saw my mom, in the tapered hallway of a hotel in Afghanistan, I see the hallway as being this color. I have an enormous piece of fabric in this very shade that my parents brought back from India. It’s some kind of rough, pilling raw cotton that I hang from my window to block out the sunlight in the summer and wear as an enormous scarf in the winter. Sometimes the sunsets in Santa Fe are made of melting, pouring, sliding variations of this color — the sky looks like it is made of encaustic wax and then it quickly drips into the mountains and turns to navy.

at the Marian Goodman gallery

When I most love a place or a piece of art it’s because something about standing in front of it gives me a feeling that feels similar to, and validates, the significance of the color I can see inside of my own eyes. And when this place or work is something permanent — or at least something that I can return to — I let myself love it with less reservation. At certain times and in certain corners, Skyspace and The Dream House are both the color of this vermilion, and I found both for the first time just a few days after two of my birthdays. Walter De Maria and his wife live right by The Dream House in TriBeCa, so during the waking hours of their alternative sleep schedule, he can hear people walk up the stairs to visit the room.

James Turrell was born in Pasadena — a short drive away from Claremont — and studied at Pomona College, where Skyspace rests. That Skyspace is planted so close to Turrell's memories and The Dream House sits just above the apartment where Walter de Maria spends his days is perhaps an explanation for the magnetism of the two pieces. They feel charged and enormous, but also as personal and subjective as closed-eye visualizations.

Alexandra Malmed is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. She last wrote in these pages about Joseph Cornell. You can find an archive of her writing here.

The Dream House

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