Hammershøi (1864-1916). Interior, Strandgade

Mr. Ai is hosted at a member of the Orgota elite, with his room warmly “…piled with furs, the rugs, drapes, wrappings, mufflings”. What seemed designed to ensure his comfort becomes, after a brief conversation with Therem Harth, “stuffy and cloddish”. Who might want to muffle Ai?

The above oil painting by the Danish painter Hammershøi reminds me of this tension between apparent warmth, and emptiness of loneliness. While I don’t get a sense of foreboding from Hammershøi’s room, I do sense a contrast between soft colors and sharp lines, muted light from outside and closed, silent doors. Our envoy seems to be slowly leading himself into a trap.

The gathered Orgoreyn elite are feasting on blackfish, eggs, breadapple. It’s like watching a play, absorbing this formal dinner among the aristocracy, the conversations and insinuations. The envoy shows off his ship, or at least, hints at the idea of his ship. The sky is watching. The ansible is listening. No one seems quite at ease at the party, this ain’t fun. And the line that really tickled my inner aya, when Ai describes the curious un-solid quality of his feastmates: “…as if they did not cast shadows.” aya loves shadows, ever since I studied cognitive science in college. One of my professors, philosopher Dr. Roberto Casati, pointed out to us the difficulty Western art has had in shadow depiction. Shadows are metaphysically bizarre. (I’ll have to catch up on the topic, this seems like a good start: Paulo E. Santos, Roberto Casati & Patrick Cavanagh (2018) Perception, cognition and reasoning about shadows.

Getting off the track, off the rails. Back to the book. Write more frequently. The book is due back to the NYPL, must renew. Miss you, Meredith. Seeing you in person reminded me how strange to see a friend just once a year. Let’s pay a visit to Arshile Gorky’s former studio near Union Square, light a candle, say a Kharhidish prayer.