Caroline Stockford Reads “The Plague in Bergamo”

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior, Strandgade 30, 1906-8. Source: fr.phaidon.com


Old Bergamo lay on the summit of a low mountain, hedged in by walls and gates, and New Bergamo lay at the foot of the mountain, exposed to all winds.

One day the plague broke out in the new town and spread at a terrific speed; a multitude of people died and the others fled across the plains to all four corners of the world. And the citizens in Old Bergamo set fire to the deserted town in order to purify the air, but it did no good. People began dying up there too, at first one a day, then five, then ten, then twenty, and when the plague had reached its height, a great many more.

And they could not flee as those had done, who lived in the new town.

There were some, who tried it, but they led the life of a hunted animal, hid in ditches and sewers, under hedges, and in the green fields; for the peasants, into whose homes in many places the first fugitives had brought the plague, stoned every stranger they came across, drove him from their lands, or struck him down like a mad dog without mercy or pity, in justifiable self-defense, as they believed.

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E.F. Fluff: Josie’s Numbers

Spider and The Bottle, “Hera” from “Father and Six Daughters series”, 2015. Source: gnypgallery.com

30 Second Quickie!

Wet horny college girls waiting for your call now!

Garish, bawdy and downright pornographic ads screamed from the back pages of the magazine. Pausing occasionally to push a wet strand of hair out of her open mouth – fingers shaking slightly – she thumbed through the pages, taking care to choose the right number for tonight. Fingertips slid gently across the buttons, their tinny responding beeps echoing into her dry mouth.

The electronic rotate of the connection signal ran a shiver from the heat of her ear to her mouth.

Bzz,

bzzz,

*click*

“Hi! My name’s Tina! And I’m a slim luscious blonde with firm thirty six double D breasts and I’m a gym instructor. Ever since I was sixteen I…”

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Luciana Erregue: The Ballad of the Spectator-Curator

Youssef Rakha, The Louvre Abu Dhabi, 2020

They are everywhere now. Satellite museums and universities: Guggehnheim Bilbao, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Tokyo, NYU Abu Dhabi, Temple University, Tokyo, Saint Louis University, Madrid. They aspire to assert themselves as leaders in the relatively new global business of improving a country’s image and reputation or otherwise giving it the edge.

I live far away from such big cities, and universities. You could say I am not included amongst the experienced customers these satellites target. I have never visited such destinations. I inhabit a no man’s land in the Canadian prairies and, as an art historian, I work roaming the floors of my local gallery, which shall remain unnamed, for obvious ethical reasons. In my private life I am also your average museum visitor. A Doctor Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde persona split does exist in my digital life, though. I post these images alongside presumably witty captions on my Facebook and Instagram feed. As a dutiful digital citizen, I sporadically write on my blog SpectatorCurator (also my Instagram and Twitter handle). I have branded myself, and I have an edge over the Louvre Abu Djabi or the Guggenheim Bilbao – I exist everywhere and nowhere. We know by now we are virtual brands in open competition with the brands and artists of yore, redefining them, submitting them to our capricious gaze. If the Mona Lisa was an example of the quintessential open text, now the whole museum is the viewer’s canvas. It is both an exciting and an uncomfortable instance of negotiation between the self and former colonial models of appropriation. Because our selfies are an extension of our bodies.

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Karissa Lang: New People

Chinese ancestral worship postcard postmarked Shanghai 1908. Source: worthpoint.com

We all descend from someone ancient, and contrary to what is generally believed in the West, they never leave us. Whether you are mystical or logical in nature, the idea sticks. For the former, ancestors spiritually guide us from beyond the grave. For the latter, science now dictates that we genetically inherit their memories and phobias. Either way, an ancestor is someone who passes on information—be it through stories, values, behavior, DNA, or supernatural means—and what distinguishes a good ancestor from a bad one is the quality of this information: a good ancestor hands down wisdom, a bad one gifts us with their pain.

My mother is a bad ancestor and her mother was a bad ancestor too​, a​nd if I can’t be a good one, I’d at least like to be better. I come from a lineage of mothers who did not want children. Mean women, selfish women, indifferent women who resented where they came from and had no idea how to nurture what they’d created. Women who buried their aborted babies in the backyard. Women who abandoned their children to others. Women who raged without really knowing why. Absent women who felt unwanted and unloved and unconsciously groomed every last one of their descendants to experience the same.

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Stacy Hardy: The Empty Plot

The empty lot gapes, yawns and quivers. It exhales dust and sucks the blue out of the sky. It draws her to it, an emptiness that calls out, that whispers and jeers. A wide mouth, that says, come, that dares her.  She has no business with the empty plot. It is a nothing place, a no place, not a place but a gaping, an emptiness that is yet to be filled, something still to come.

It has no address at present, nothing that sets it apart in the neighbourhood. There are so many. Empty stretches of land cleared for some future construction never to come, suspended in the eternal yawning present of oblivion. Plots that have stood so long that they have become part of the landscape, vast parks where rubbish accumulates, some partially developed, deep holes sunk in the earth, now filled with murky water that collects debris, the pokes of steel foundations casting dancing shadows on the surface like the spines of poisonous fish; ruinous scaffold of catastrophic geometries that shade rows of empty buildings, concrete structures looming like theme park wreckage, dark and sullen, windows dust coated, shattered in places, doors padlocked against squatters that never come. The streets that hem them, nearly deserted, monuments to some moment of false hope, a future that dims with each day, grows wary, listless, the air dirty with stalled development.

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Stacy Hardy: The Day the White People Walked into the Sea

Beach and Sailboat c.1843-5 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Joseph Mallord William Turner, “Beach and Sailboat”, 1843–5. Source: tate.org.uk

As the Holy Spirit says, the impious one, the evildoer, flees even though he not be pursued, for he accuses himself and is rendered pusillanimous and cowardly by his own crime.

— Carlos Fuentes, Terra Norsta

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