Everywhere I look in the work of Valerie Kabis, I see Atlas without an earth. His arms are lifted, ready for the great undertaking. But in the place of the globe, an “unquiet void” (to use Kabis’s own words) defers that fulfillment. Countless are the deferments for each of us, on any given day. It puts me in mind of Robert Burton’s singular masterpiece, The Anatomy of Melancholy—Burton, who said:
Melancholy . . . is either in disposition or in habit. In disposition, is that transitory Melancholy which goes and comes upon every small occasion of sorrow, need, sickness, trouble, fear, grief, passion, or perturbation of the mind, any manner of care, discontent, or thought, which causes anguish, dulness, heaviness and vexation of spirit, any ways opposite to pleasure, mirth, joy, delight, causing forwardness in us, or a dislike. In which equivocal and improper sense, we call him melancholy, that is dull, sad, sour, lumpish, ill-disposed, solitary, any way moved, or displeased. And from these melancholy dispositions no man living is free, no Stoic, none so wise, none so happy, none so patient, so generous, so godly, so divine, that can vindicate himself; so well-composed, but more or less, some time or other, he feels the smart of it. Melancholy in this sense is the character of Mortality.
Certainly, it is the character of the selection here, though not despairingly so. Kabis’s Burton-esque meditations tremble and shimmer with a kind of ecstatic lyricism. We see this in the images too. A thin, excited light quakes in the margins of each frame—coalescing into something neither Atlas, nor any of us, can possibly imagine.
The Art of Valerie Kabis in Four Meditations
Aberration, abstraction, absurdity, abulia, agony, assimilation.
Fusion, loss of form, deprivation of form, renunciation of form, comprehension of new boundaries through associating with the moon, the sun, the ray of light, the drop of water, the night, the street buzz, the horizon, the sound, the abstract form.
Recombination. Immersion. Absorption.
This body fluid, flows, tears. There I am a border of my limited condition as a living shape flesh forms.
Where shape of the restrictive light ends?
Where I start? Where I end? Deafening music of stars above.
Assimilation with soil, chaos, absolute, unquiet void between light and night.
Nothing remains in me and my entire body falls beyond the limits, becoming a sphere of no-form.
Crystal air hands as edge of birdy animal wings embodying the night into the flesh sleeping glottis devoid eyes amethyst mirror at peace serene wrists blind to the blankness of sound surface white noise sounds white switched on the idle channel beam at whisper eve opening a book revealing the soul the mask of clarity wind rose kiss rose world rose women at bridge cognitive dissonance of the water under cloud wedge vowel mouths acres of words volumetric bulk of comet pregnancy little prince saw dream flesh burning wet glass evaporates the cold air from your surface beneath odd voice of existence deprived echo of crumpled surrealism.
Self-conviction falls through the ripped masks of the days tears off the oil nights savory layers the fingers string breaks inside soft brushes caress the rough cheek skin red feather disappears in the sun mirrors settling in pupils of blossom the submitted stars on white sheets space merge with the imminent day break spring will wake inevitable snow melting water will rise under the cold heels soles you are still standing lit by dim light of the lamp scratched out eyes wrapped in night staircase draughts five minute to eternity.