This being so, Beyle’s advice is not to purchase engravings of fine views and prospects seen on one’s travels, since before very long they will displace our memories completely, indeed one might say they destroy them. For instance, he could no longer recall the wonderful Sistine Madonna he had seen in Dresden, try as he might, because Müller’s engraving after it had become superimposed in his mind…
– W.G. Sebald, Vertigo
I must have walked this route a hundred times, have contemplated these walls, these fields so often that what I see is perhaps more memory than perception. Something was different this morning. Perhaps the storm of last night had blown the dregs of winter from the air, sharpening the spring light, recasting the terrain. Or perhaps something had shifted in me. Maybe I was more willing than usual to look without remembering, or without wishing the world into view. Approach each session without memory or desire was the psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion’s advice to those who sought to learn his trade. This morning I looked through the familiar and the same things became something else, a brief outline of a story that began to be told thousands of years ago. Four stations along the via artis.
4. Abstract Expressionism
5. Epilogue: The challenge we face