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There is an impression of enigmatic ritual in the photographic images that fill the pages of Clifton Meador’s Kora. The quiet equilibrium of people walking in one direction, seen from a lateral viewpoint, may appear to be a representation of
la passeggiata, the Italian tradition of the evening promenade, were it not for the Eastern dress and the Tibetan prayer wheels carried by some of the participants. The three-part photographic panoramas are edged by small drawn forms, replicating the photographic figures. The same forms run across the facing pages and are accompanied by text.

Meador’s photographs may lead the viewer to the conclusion that what we are seeing is more than a casual street scene, perhaps a spiritual journey of some kind, or a peaceful

protest demonstration. But, the scene remains ambiguous. For the full story we must turn to the artist’s explanation: The walkers are participating in Kora, a ritual circumambulation around a site of religious significance, in this case the Dege Sutra Printing house, in Western China. In an act of devotion and honor, the pilgrims all walk clockwise; only tourists walk the other way. In this sacred building are more than 200,000 wooden printing blocks of Tibetan books. The drawn figures taken from the photographs have been converted into a “font”, figuratively turning the pilgrims into language. The 17 separate leaves of Meador’s book are stacked in traditional Tibetan book structure, paying reverential homage to Tibet’s time-honored book culture.

Clifton Meador

Codes, geometry, diagrams, topographical maps and a mysterious alphabet are intricately interwoven in Timothy Ely’s Flight Into Egypt. At first look, the book – a complicated affair with many visual cul-de-sacs – seems immune to explication.

The depiction here featuring a pyramid, an emblematic sun within, suggests that ancient Egypt plays a role in the book. A written language inscribed below the pyramid may be actual or it may be fictional. A table holding a half-constructed book, waiting for its binding, hold center stage on the right. Within a hollow of the book rests what seems to be a time-worn fragment waiting to be deciphered. A regiment of triangles above the book first appears to proffer some answers, but on closer examination only compounds the conundrum. The amorphous shapes inside each triangle could be examples

of mutant cells or merely painterly flourishes of the artist’s brush. Surrounding the triangles is a seemingly random collection of numbers, names, and words, among them “self-discovery,” “Isaiah 19,” “Michigan,” “dead.” Some words clearly have a connection to book making, including “codex” and “vellum,” but that is a rare hint and a not very revealing one at that. Ely’s pen, pencil and watercolor images appear to be telling us something important, but we are never quite sure what it is. Ironically, the rendering recalls the precise style characteristic of mechanical drawing, whose whole purpose is to be unambiguous.

In the end, after gathering all the clues, the book still seems immune to explication. But perhaps that’s the point.

Flight Into Egypt
Timothy Ely

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