Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Miriam Gil


Miriam Gil. Artist. Taken August, 2, 2011

I first met Miriam in the early nineties while volunteering at the Pacific Cinematheque. We worked the coffee bar. It was loud and the combination of the  coffee machine, popcorn machine, and her Columbian accent meant that I could almost never catch what she was saying. When I could hear her we talked about art, film, and writers. Since high school I had loved the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Miriam told me that in Columbia he was so popular they just called him “Gabo”.

The only certainty was that they took everything with them: money, December breezes, the bread knife, thunder at three in the afternoon, the scent of jasmines, love. All that remained were the dusty almond trees, the reverberating streets, the houses of wood and roofs of rusting tin with their taciturn inhabitants, devastated by memories. – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Living to Tell the Tale.

I rented a room in her house for a few years. There were late night conversations over bowls of steaming chocolat√©. There was a tulip tree that grew too close to the house. I could open the kitchen window and hang a bird feeder in the branches. I filled it in the morning with a teacup tied to a broom handle. The Steller’s jays loved the seeds and screeched their delight when it was full. Miriam had many friends and one Christmas she made a huge basin of a traditional Columbian potato-chicken soup. It was not served until late and it had a strange narcoleptic effect on the guests. Taking turns, in twos and threes, the guests fell asleep. A couple would doze for ten minutes, and wake up, only to find that another couple was drifting off.

She is a teller of stories, a painter and artist. You can find her artworks on her site miriamgil.com

Here is an index of portraits.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Book Thirteen

Tuesday October 24, 1995. Heathrow Airport

Upon landing, and shuttle between terminals it occurred to me that there is a vast incongruous country composed of all the spaces that are nowhere. Fast food and gas stations along the 401 between Cornwall and Windsor. Airport lounges. The space after security checks where one can only wait. Citizenship is exclusive and strictly controlled. Rights are tenuous. Laws and currency are polyphonous.

November 6, morning. [while on a three-day journey by boat from Venice to Izmir, Turkey]

Today there are no horses in the waves. Today the waves are the slowly evolving typographies of distant mountain ranges. They are monotone aerial photographs, animated like some abstract film from a lost formalist school.

We are on the top deck now, and where we sit there is no wind. We are on the bow, but because the ship travels with the wind our seats are breezeless. The sun comes through the clouds to make islands of light. People stand by the rails, pensively, or speak in small groups. We are slowly approaching a group of islands but I have no idea what they are called, or what country claims them. Today we are further south, though none of my maps shows where we are.

Last night Salim mentioned that he got car sick. He trained himself to go to sleep as soon as he got into a vehicle. As a result he had no idea where his own school was and when he finally had to drive to his own graduation he had no idea where to go.

Mid-evening. Today I've been restless. We sat in the sun and practiced some Turkish, had lunch after which Salim and I played cards. J. and I spent the afternoon together but I found it very much frustrating. We have a long protracted way of conversing which holds a lot of silence. There is so much heavy empty space between the start and end that I am exhausted. This being true I had a nap. I worry that we don't talk about anything other than exhaustion. The more tired she is the more plans I make to wind up our trip as it seems to be lacking purpose. We pass from one exhaustion to the next. The work, the trip from Vancouver to London to Paris to Chartres, the two days of hitching, the night train to Venice, the search for a boat and now the boat itself. We are sleeping on the floor and it is a painful, cramped, ineffective way to rest. On deck it is cold and inside everyone smokes.

Do we all start out as realists? Do we open the door to see the world as it is, tire or become obsessed and then create another? Or, is the world what it is and no other? Looking out the window it is dark and I can see only the patina of salt on the glass. Why does this answerless question persist? What is the point in even asking such a question? There is now a low cloud of smoke in the room. It hangs at its own level and is only slightly dispersed as someone walks through it.

... The market was a village of strange voices. A laugh and an angry word mixed in the air which was already heavy with many smells. So it seemed to T that the market contained all things, like a magic case or a gold coin, it could become anything. He nursed in his heart a desire to know more about all the things in the market than anyone else. Every mineral in the apothecary would be known to him, the names of flowers would blossom on his lips as he inhaled their fresh and pungent perfume. Fine styles of ornament would be to him like the names of his family and people would travel many mile for his opinion ...

The ship is trailing a white cloak of foam behind it. The moon is white and full. This room is clouded with Turkish cigarettes. The Turkish men speak in their oddly aspirated language. Some, who have just entered the room, sing softly.

Here is a list of the books.