Two renegades from the CODEX talk upstairs at the Graduate (the organizers’ Berkeley hotel of choice) sat themselves down in the lobby and allowed me to eavesdrop.
The first asked the second. “Why are you not upstairs?” To which the second replied, “I got there on time for the talk, but they were running early, and I’d missed half of it, so I just gave up and told the person next to me ‘Excuse me, I have an email’.” The first laughed, “And they bought that?” Before the first could give his excuse, a third renegade showed up. “Uh oh,” said the first, “we were just talking about you; now we’ll have to stop.” The third drew up her mask and told them she was in disguise so they should carry on, admitting she’d skipped the talk upstairs, to which the first commented, “Oh, so that’s why the speaker looked so surprised when he praised your work and then couldn’t spot you in the audience.” The third replied, “I’ll just tell him I was there with you way at the back.” The second piped up, “I’ll confirm that: I saw you in the back row just as I had to step out for an ‘urgent’ email!” The third riposted, “No one will believe that; the organizers know I requested not to have a stand next to yours since you poached the Bancroft buyer away from me at the fair three years ago.” They carried on with this, looking askance in my direction as I joined their laughter. What can you do; some things are infectious no matter the mask or vaccination.
After the long pandemic-driven gap, the pent-up creatures had escaped their studios. The buzz in the cavernous Craneway Pavilion was muted by the carefully observed mask-wearing requirement, but the works shouted in the harbor’s April air blowing in.
Some works shouted about the pandemic and isolation.
Some shouted about the pandemic and climate crisis.
Barb Tetenbaum‘s These Days
Some spoke gently about the unseen, but leapt from boxes and pages nevertheless.
Islam Aly‘s Mare Nostrum; Colette Fu’s pop-ups.
Others shouted see what we have done.
Clifton Meador’s layering on cloth of Rijksmuseum portraits from a Golden Age built on slavery.
Some raised a mirror to the world and thundered at hells on earth, while slipping Mickey Mouse into the firmament to laugh at classical scholars.
Peter Koch‘s Ur-text: Speculum Mundi
Some announced long-awaited posings of ancient riddles.
The Tetenbaum-Tisdale work in progress.
And some simply put The Question.
Suzanne Moore‘s calligraphic manuscript celebrating the letter Q.
Others looked serenely to the sidereal for the answers.
Sara Langworthy‘s Sidereal (2020 MCBA Prize winner) and other works.
Others said listen to the water.
Camden Richards’ Water, Calling in the foreground; Luz Marina Ruiz’s water, moon and boat series.
Others said listen to the mountain.
Diane Jacob’s monumental Owed to the Mountain.
Others said, Breathe.
Sam Winston‘s Follow the Breath
Others said look at how we perceive.
Ken Botnick’s Table of Contents, a riff started by J.J. Gibson’s perceptual psychology.
And all shouted, Welcome back.
Here’s to 2024.
“Jim Blaine and His Grandfather’s Ram” – Or How to Enjoy Codex VII. Books On Books. 18 February 2019.