MASTER OF NONE

I.
Penelope

While Odysseus is enduring various shipwrecks, curses, and mythical beast attacks on his ten year journey home from fighting the Trojan war, his wife Penelope remains in Ithaca where she is courted by 108 suitors who figure Odysseus to be dead. Just as cunning as her absent husband she develops tricks to delay the lustful men, notably her claim to be weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus's father Laertes upon completion of which she will chose a suitor. Each evening for three years she secretly unravels a section of the weaving she has made that day until eventually her plot is exposed by one of her servants. When Odysseus returns disguised as a beggar after his 20 years away he finds Penelope has remained faithful and, after winning an archery contest, goes on to slaughter all of the remaining suitors as well as twelve maids and anyone else who was generally unhelpful in the debacle. Though Odysseus practiced no such fidelity in his twenty years of war and adventure, Penelope's sanctity and passive hours at the loom are presented not as heroic but as the bare minimum a good wife could muster, a necessity.

II.
Sears

“Quiltmaking was a standard and necessary function of every American household from the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the last half of the 19th century. It began to decline as improved heating made many layers of bedding less essential than they had been and machine-made blankets and comforters became available. By the twenties, machine technology was king. Scott and Zelda danced on the roofs of taxicabs, money talked and oh you kid; making things by hand became a sign of poverty, something to be ashamed of. People who still knew how to quilt denied it, putting away their quilting frames and bought comforters from Sears Roebuck, like all their friends.”

-Introduction from “The Perfect Patchwork Primer,” Beth Gutcheon, 1973

III.
The Spiritual in Art

In 1911 at age 35 Augustin Lesage was working as a coal miner in northern France when he heard a voice come from underground saying to him “Un jour, tu seras peintre” (One day, you will be a painter). Over time the voices told him which brushes and colors to buy, even where to order a canvas, and finally began guiding his hand.

IV.
Black & White

“This world is too far above us for its harmony to touch our souls. A great silence, like an impenetrable wall, shrouds its life from our understanding. White, therefore, has this harmony of silence, which works upon us negatively, like many pauses in music that break temporarily the melody. It is not a dead silence, but one pregnant with possibilities. White has the appeal of the nothingness that is before birth, of the world in the ice age.

“A totally dead silence, on the other hand, a silence with no possibilities, has the inner harmony of black. In music it is represented by one of those profound and final pauses, after which any continuation of the melody seems the dawn of another world. Black is something burnt out, like the ashes of a funeral pyre, something motionless like a corpse. The silence of black is the silence of death. Outwardly black is the colour with least harmony of all, a kind of neutral background against which the minutest shades of other colours stand clearly forward. It differs from white in this also, for with white nearly every colour is in discord, or even mute altogether.”
-from “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” by Wassily Kandinsky


V.
Flags

Perhaps fitting as the yin-yang step-child to the red and black anarcho-syndicalist flag, the diagonally bisected white and black banner of the Anarcho-Pacifist movement is nearly identical to the Formula One racing flag which signals unsportsmanlike conduct, displayed with a car number. Though unrelated in their origins, both flags act as signifiers against maliciousness, maintaining a degree of decency and morality in either social movements or sporting events.

VI.
No Gods, No Masters

The slogan “No Gods, No Masters” was first used on flyers distributed by the Industrial Works of the World (IWW) at the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, where workers, mostly immigrant women, shut down their looms and organized non-violent protests against wage cuts made by factory owners when Massachusetts state law shortened the maximum legal work week for women and children from fifty-six to fifty-four hours.

Two years later reproductive rights pioneer Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) also used the slogan in The Woman Rebel her eight-page monthly newsletter. She proclaimed that each woman should be “the absolute mistress of her own bodyand coined the term birth control as a replacement of the then-used family limitation. Unfortunately also a “woman of her time” Sanger was a staunch supporter of eugenics.


 

 

KINDERHOOK & CARACAS, 2011.