312: “We Knew Its Name” (Peter Sipeli and Luis Camnitzer)

                “Born inside the womb of this warm earth, birthed by rivers older than memory, once realize we knew its name, we knew its rhythms and its corners, we know its leaf skin and the poetry of its language…” -Peter Sipeli in “The Sleeping Ancestors” (a little after minute 8:20)

                “The history of both art and design is a history extracted from the purposes for which the objects were created.” -Luis Camnitzer, One Number Is Worth One Word

                Hearing Sipeli reading for the first time was like standing on the shore, only to realize the waves had already washed up around me, only to realize I was already out at sea, beneath the sea, and I could breathe. It was wonderful. And I realize I’ve had similar experiences before: when running with my nieces or tasting a sip of cold water, when feeling leaves beneath my fingers or frost beneath my feet. I’ve had similar experiences, sometimes, in talking to an old friend or starting to talk with a new one. In hearing poetry. In hearing stories. And other times, I somehow forget these moments happen.
                Camnitzer says that we remove art history from the purposes that inspired the creation of that art. We remove our understanding, our narrative definition, from the lift the seed had in becoming a seedling. So I don’t have a thought today. No explanations. Just a moment, and a question. A moment: last night, lying half asleep outside, I saw a satellite. A bit of metal some humans made and sent up, as though we were trying to touch the stars, as though we were realizing how wide the sky really was. I watched that point of light. A question: today, or in the last few days, what was it that woke up for you? What came from old rivers, what whispered a poetry of language—what did you feel? I’d love to share, or hear.
                The first word in that section of Sipeli’s poem is “Us.” He repeats it. Us, realizing we know these rhythms.

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