Wednesday, August 11, 2004


There is this man, Roy Arenella, who sends me mail. It arrives in the form of a postcard or an envelope—inauspiciously enough—yet each of these pieces of mail is an integrated piece of art.

Today’s piece (numbered 335 XP/C and dated 9 Aug 2004) is a little surprise, something that causes wonder and leads to contemplation. I begin the card on the message side (a brief note from Roy ending, as always, with his signature as smiling face: he writes “Roy,” and the y of it becomes the nose of a two-eyed smiling face). He includes a 20-cent National Archives stamp on this side, recognizing my profession.

On the other side (which I call the obverse), Roy provides a rich-colored photocopy of a photograph. The photograph is simple: a left hand holding a pair of scissors up in the air, open as if it is cutting into the shadow covering the upper end of the photo.

Roy Arenella, "Asked How the World Speaks" (Jan 2003)

But above and below the hand, we see evidence of the sprockets in this frame of 35mm film, so suddenly we are thrown into confusion. We know a photograph is not real, but this photograph is self-reflexive; it tells us emphatically that it is a photograph. Near the right edge of the photograph is a slightly jagged swoop that indicates the edge of the film, where it was cut. Beyond that, there is blackness, nothingness, the eternal enigma. Is the pair of scissors in the photo, the same pair that cut this swoop through this frame of film?

The caption to the photo is “Asked How the World Speaks it Answered in Pictures.” Our answers arrive through our eyes.

un violon d’ingres

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