June 26, 2024

Death Angel and Cart, 1937, National Gallery of Art. 
A Manifesto by Naomi Falk
I’d had enough of the kingdom, for years toiling beneath the unrefined tastes of the court; cold in the shadow of social construct; felt as if the evergreens beyond where I’d grown up were shivering for redemption, to be known, and understood in a way that only I could perceive.

People who believe that they are put on Earth for a reason reek of danger. Those who seek destiny strangle ecologies in their quest for fulfillment. So, from a narrow angle, I was as much the hero as the jester; certain that a king was no better fit to decide than I.

I traveled with a prayer upon these ornery hands. Two fiery wings to lead me away from the wellspring of wrongdoing and into the burning heart of secrecy, the blistering grasp of the occult. I am building a mausoleum at the edge of the cliff, ephemeral enough to crumble into the ocean. I do not want to create immortality. Must be a real end. I am tired of listening to lectures from the pulpit about rebirth, and hope. There is no tragedy in the passage of structures and the things they contain; the most devastating part of humanity is its undying will to lose no part of itself, to persevere in its monuments and rulers ad infinitum in a desperate attempt to claw onto the needs of previous peoples who had only a fragment of an idea what their own journeys and creations would bring. This is not stoicism; leave it to the men. Every piece of self-expression folds in on itself now, I grow tired now, I’ve told you too many times now. Who will reassure me of my dignity? How do you receive this plea?

I will not fill this final resting place with artifacts of my life, for I have brought nothing along, but instead place things of immediacy—eyelashes, brocade, perhaps a teardrop if I feel sad—into its walls. A structure containing nothing reconfigures the expectation of a structure and therefore the expectations of creation and of those who create. Sometimes I speak so cyclically that even I am not quite sure what is going on, but in the pursuit of self-expression, I will continue to build mire into the shape of my exhausted heart. Perhaps in speaking it, I will it into a new life, eradicating the meaning of impermanency. For a moment I close my eyes. The bottom of the ocean is an extraordinary, cryptic bathhouse where I hope I will lay before admittance to the end; there is no worse insult than being found awash on a shore, plucked by inconsolable hands from the great watery entity you’d asked to swallow you. 

As I build and build the edge of the cliff crumbles into the sea below. I do not believe anything lay on the other side of this harsh body; one need not set sail to know. The thing I am making is fated to end down there, anyway.

As I burrow my claws into the soil to construct the walls of my porous mausoleum, a break in the midmorning sky unclasps its boggish temperament and colors the foliage around me in a chartreuse so unfamiliar as to be painful; I am witnessing something I have never seen before. Perhaps life can indeed capture the beauty of art. I love when a soloist falls into a piacere, away from rhythm and into the wellspring of her innate musical condition, or when a cook adds something foraged and yet unnamed to the top of a dish. It is writhing. Like a scream, angular and unbridled.

But the walls here are nearly complete and as the clouds cover the entry point to god, I smooth out the top of what I’ve made, glad to be done, and an impossibly large beast breaches the surface of the sea. A final conductor of such substantial size and inconceivable shape. I write the story now.

She comes closer with eyes magnified by the dampness, the ocean’s dew, I pull a curtain between the sides of the waterfall and peer into the back of her mind. Beyond the darkness she is lit from within; a great empty plain rises and falls before me and I begin riding toward a horizon that promises to conceal me and the marks I’ve made, moving so fast as to be unseen.

Naomi Falk is a writer, editor, and book designer. She is the production director of powerHouse Books, the co-founder of the print magazine NAUSIKÂE NYC, the senior editor of Archway Editions, and founder of elusive indie art book publisher Crop Circle Press. She held previous positions at The Museum of Modern Art, Ki Smith Gallery, and Columbia University.