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High Altitude


Between Jan Nelson’s cabbage and a Basketball is the domestic and the foreign; the pre-modern and the postmodern; femininity and masculinity; the innate and the conditioned. And between these things is the dizzying altitude of her white mountain. An elevation at which the progressional equilibrium shifts radically to derange our perceptions. A place of the elements; of earth, wind, and fire, where all that will melt is kept snap frozen and solid in a plaster proposition which plays paradoxically with Marx’s literary view of modernity.


All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air…


Nelson takes us up her mountain and to the edge of the revolutionary abyss which Rousseau had described (even before Marx), to view the constantly shifting landscape, like Saint-Preux, Rousseau’s hero in the novel, The new Aloise, “we experience the drunkenness that this agitated, tumultuous life plunges you into”. The kind of effect which results from form too much alcohol or lack of oxygen at high altitudes. Cabbages are said to prevent drunkenness.


An effect not unlike, apparently, the one experienced by the brain in the twenty seconds after the fatal plummet of the guillotine has severed the head form the body, in which instance, the executed person can ‘see’ the mob when their head is offered in evidence to the crowd. During the Terror, cabbages were often used to test the sharpness of the guillotine blade. Viva la Revolution!


Maximillian suffered an attack which caused an open fracture. His doctor cured his wounds by applying a compress of cabbage leaves to the open cut allowing him to fight another day.


In 1769 Captain Cook embarked on his first expedition. During the voyage the Adventurer was struck by violent storms, causing 40 of the crew to sustain massive, life-threatening injuries. The ships doctor saved the injured crew from certain gangrenous death by wrapping their wounds in cabbage leaves, and the Union Jack flew in the Pacific.


In 1969 earth-men walked on the moon and threw a few balls too. In space, no one can hear you scream, and the ball will never fall through the hoop. (just as Koon’s has illustrated in his equilibrium tanks). The space between Nelson’s cabbage and a basketball is vast and still, like her snap frozen snowballs and her logs which will not ignite. Up here on the white mountain, they exist in a freeze frame like the astronaut’s toys which are rendered useless in the anti-gravitational cosmos, and they mark the space between revolutions and progress.



Juliana Engberg

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