Keats Requited Dec 14th 2022 – Come Home Journal #1
Thoughts falling on top of one another like mattresses on the pea. Was it presumptuous to hold an Artist’s Retrospective while I’m still alive? I’m not done. A body of work that my heart still beats outside of. I am done.
Today I learned that a ‘Welcome to Country’ is a gift offered. You can ask of course, if you have worked to develop a good relationship with local elders and custodians. It should not be recorded, it is to be experienced directly. And like a gift it should be acknowledged with thanks. It is an honour not an expectation. Thank you Tammy Gilson for your beautiful welcome to Wadawurrung Country.
The small crowd came out from behind the cinema door. Standing near the bar, I could feel my nerves moving just below the pale blue-ish surface. A Mona Lisa smile stuck between my teeth. My eyes shifting in metronome. Animated dashed lines in straight sight from my wild eyes to hit just above the bobbing heads, that, as soon as it landed echoed elsewhere. My short fingernails flicked and clacked deceitfully. My daughter, miles away in my ear, drew attention to the tiny piercing noise.
“Does it have to do with Negative Capability?”
Curiosity turned my head but held Mona Lisa like iron. I was confronted by the word ‘negativity’. The man continued.
“Keats. The poet, John. His theory on Negative Capability.”
Mona turned into Marcelle (Marceau) – my face reading was ‘I can’t load that page. Would you like to search for something else?’ I know Keats of course, he of Nightingales, Urns and Autumns. I felt sure he wasn’t negative about anything ever. The man moved on, settled in his categorisation.
I wrote to him after the screening, once I had buried myself and resurfaced from a rabbit warren of research. Negative Capability appealed in a way that John had always snuck a secret pleasure in my heart. The Romantics were described as lightweights when I was at uni. Churrigueresque, overly ornate. I kept my secret love from the intellectuals, I was a moth to their incandescence.
The only disservice I did was to myself. Years have brought me full circle, there is no distinction, you can belong to both, to all. So, I continue to find names and labels that match me, knowing now I can be it all, that contradiction is a perfect place to live. There are many places, and we can belong to them all at once, whether we like it or not.
Negative here is not a pejorative, it is more like the concept of negative space, the other. Negative capability is a place of defocus, sitting with uncertainty, reaching but not grasping.
For Keats it wasn’t a theory, it was a descriptive. A sense of allowing wonder and curiosity to rise above the want for an answer. You can only arrive at new insight by going to places you have never been.
I’m grateful to the man. The gift he gave was precious, helped me find a way back to Keats and put words to my sitting in wonder. I’m joyful at the thought of wonders still to come.
Negative Capability has helped to refine my focus on my current project, or more truely, defocus. When making the first central channel of this moving image work I struggled and stressed to pull it together. Keats reminds me to see it in my peripheral vision, don’t scare it away by looking at it directly intensely.
It enabled me to understand that melding ancient cultures is delicate, and that I need to slow and feel my way. These fragments we find and create are precious and worth precious time to uncover.
IMAGE CREDIT: Precious Fragments image still by Erin M McCuskey