This image is a bit I shot from a video, Shadow Life, by Cao Fei, viewed in Seoul’s Contemporary museum (you can see the full video here.) This young Chinese artist is making her fame (around the world) commenting on/visualizing the rapid social change in China. Not huge film fans ourselves, this was arresting, all done with the shadow play of hand actors.
I am less interested in any political commentary than in the creative way Fei has illustrated a big idea with her gifts. Another young woman almost 150 years ago, kept to herself in a small house in Massachusetts, writing down her thoughts and storing them away. I discovered this just the other day and was stunned by it.
Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Are organized Decays.
‘Tis first a cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust–
Ruin is formal–Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow–
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping–is Crash’s law.
Here Emily Dickinson (poem#997) examines the problem more deeply. There is no finger pointing here, but rather a circumspect recognition that we all are dealing with an Elemental Rust on the soul. Ruin is formal, but slow and slipping. She identifies Crash’s law, which I could not find, and remain curious about. I think Dickinson is pondering entropy. And the slowness, like the play of Cao Fei’s shadow puppets, gives us time to sit down and consider.