a no-name feeling.

When I walk into a cemetery, I don’t feel sad per se. I feel, but its not sadness. Depending on the cemetery— if I knew the people there, if the story of the cemetery resonates with me— I feel something. My mind will usually mull it over, wanting to understand this all-encompassing feeling. Sometimes I’ll pin it on sadness, on feeling small, but these thoughts always come after the initial emotion that spirits its way into my body. This is the Primacy of Affect of Massumi. The affect doesn’t wait for me to think it over before my body catches the vibration. I try to narrow down this affect into a single word— sad, small, mortal— but often, I’ll just say “emotional.” Don’t I just mean I feel something? Something that I didn’t evaluate, know how to simplify into one emotion? Don’t I mean the affect of the space seeped into my pores?

Have you ever been to a graveyard? A military graveyard? A civilian graveyard? Military: neat rows of equal sized stones. A feeling of an optical illusion, one that adds to the staggering size when displayed so neatly. Civilian: haphazard. Different tombstones based on personal taste, on care or neglect. A chaos in the orderly business of being dead.


Now get the thought out of your head as cemetery as space of mourning, of a place where dead people are. Look through a macro-lense, at the depiction I gave before of the actual tombstones, of the green spaces of quiet. There’s a feeling that comes from just that, no? One that comes when you’re not speaking specifically about stories of the individuals laid there. It’s this spacial chaos/order and the serenity (labeling, i know, but it hopefully describes a something mixing more than one emotion) that I feel when I walk into the Elizabeth Sculpture Garden.

The garden has gorgeous flowers. Gorgeous. It has fairytale benches hidden behind little hedges, and an adorable pergola that I can imagine fairies lighting up at dusk. And yes, those are already surprising enough for a New York city park (argh to whoever calls concrete, basketball courts, and jungle gyms parks), but what gets me every-time I walk into the park, are the sculptures.

The sculptures have no order. I’m not even sure I’m seeing the same sculptures each time I go over there. Last time I went I definitely sat on a stone bench that had not been there the time before that. And they look old, but I’m not sure if they’re actually old. And most of all, they’re so RANDOM. I don’t know where they’re from, how they got there. There’s a majestic lion pair, a stone cross, stone benches. When I walk into the park, I feel as though I have walked into the home of these speechless, erect statues. Their thing-power, as Bennet would call it, is inescapable. Their layout, the chaos of their spacing, the fact that they don’t look staged, makes me wonder if they walked their on their own the night before or if it even matters. Without thinking too much into their placement anyway, I feel my way around where I should sit, but really, the sculptures decide. They decide where I walk, where I eat, where I look. I’m pretty much powerless.


~ by arielleross on October 3, 2016.