“. . . music is not made of sound, but rather of the relationships of the sounds. . .in order to appreciate it we must understand its structure.”
-John Cage, "Listening to Music" (1938)
Don’t look. The space between words isolates them. Don’t look. “Look” becomes a subliminal positive. Don’t look. The look forgets the don’t.
Memory is a current event. We poetically situate it as a tendril reaching backwards, but it is a construction in the present. What we conjure when we “re-member” is a collection of current sensations.
Of the frescoes in the cloisters of San Marco, William Hood writes that there is no attempt to “integrate the past with the present.” The Mocking of Christ is remarkable in this regard. Intentionally disembodied hands and heads orbit the figure of Christ. The floating head spits at Christ’s blindfolded and seated figure. Here, not even the present integrates with the present. The divine eternal eclipses it. The not-Christ is peripheral and partial.
I had assumed that the missing fragments of torso and limbs had been lost to time and that the visual information had been irretrievable to contemporary restorers. In fact, Fra Angelico omitted the material from the beginning. Nothing had been “lost to time”. I stopped mourning the artwork.
Still, The Mocking of Christ presents a death of sorts. The death of beginning, middle, and end. The death of narrative. Fra Angelico may have been the first Modernist. God in the figure of Christ (here seated in a royal pose with orb and staff, not humbled on the cross) is situated as the great “I am”, as most immediate.