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monday 13 february 2023
underneath the russian embassy

On my walk to the library this morning, I encountered a sheet of paper stuck to the glass enclosure of a bus stop. Shortly thereafter, I came across another sheet of paper presented in the same manner. It was only at this point that I took the time to actually read the text printed on the sheets: it was a condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the Embassy of Russia in New Zealand. But this was of little concern to me–of much greater interest was the strange and abstract appearance of the underside of these sheets of paper when viewed from the outside in. I’ve attached two photos below.

I was immediately reminded of a couple of Instagram posts by Death Grips (a band which I’ve for a long time admired much more for their visual art and other non-music endeavours than their music): the first is a photo of a mass of pills haphazardly glued together. A comment called it a “molly/percie tesseract.”

The second post (or posts) is a series of photos of what seems to be a block of dirt drawn over with a digital highlight marker.

The following text is a messy, post hoc overanalysis of the posters in an attempt to uncover what it is that I found so appealing about them. I don't expect to actually discover any secret artistic truth hidden here, but the powers of writing down my thoughts always surprise me, so who knows! I will refer to these posters as The Russian Embassy for simplicity's sake. Lots of love!!

Paul Klee's Death for the Idea depicts a rough impression of a body surrounded by scribbles which resemble handwritten signatures. It is upon this foundation that a cluster of runes and cuts builds itself, eventually forming into a city of markings in a jittery upward motion. Conceived at the wake of the Great War, it is clear to see how Klee's piece thematically connects to The Russian Embassy, but while the former's condemnation of war is solemn and carefully considered, the latter's is frantic and apologetic.

Paul Klee, Death for the Idea

Another of Klee's works, his Twittering Machine, also seems somehow relevant here. I'm not sure why, but something about the piece's simultaneously disturbing and whimsical manner of depiction of its eponymous machine strikes me as similar to The Russian Embassy. Perhaps there's a common air of exhibitionist perversion to viewing the skeletons of these two pieces? But in the case of the Twittering Machine, this "skeleton" is actually just as superficial as the bird-things; through his representation of the inner workings of the bird-things, Klee is further obfuscating the inner workings of the work itself. Whereas the glass wall upon which The Russian Embassy is plastered allows for an almost uninhibited view of its actual skeleton.

I'm reminded of a prank Arthur Rimbaud pulled on somebody (I forget who). The poet removed the windows of the victim's bedroom so carefully and precisely that the victim would not at first notice that anything was wrong. The victim would only realise something was amiss when he paid closer attention to the window area, or when one of his other senses clued him in on a change in temperature or air flow.

Paul Klee, Twittering Machine