Why A Man Cannot Have Wings
Because he will crash land on his head, assuming it to be
The strongest part of his body.
Because someone will put up a sign that reads:
Do Not Step on the Cirrus Clouds.
Because it does not even take a man hundreds of feet above
Sea-level to learn contempt.
Because there will be new categories of handicaps: bow-wings,
Ostrich disease, scaly feathers, carousel flight syndrome,
Or at a freak show: The Amazing Wingless Wonder.
Because he will have a new weapon, gravity,
And everything he releases becomes a missile,
Even glass marbles, books, the fatal music box.
Because he is lonely enough without being able to
Frame the house he lives in between his forefinger and thumb.
Because then the sky will shed its metaphors of freedom
And become another path for him to carry his burdens.
Because there will be a popular form of suicide:
Flying into foreign airspace and being gunned down;
All it takes is a nose-tip to press an invisible blue button.
Because each death in mid-air, each comic comet plunge,
Will be another enactment of the fall of Man.
Because in concentration camps people will break wings
And use the feathers for quills to write sonnets
And pillow stuffing for innocent dreams.
Because he will have less to fantasize about, less of miracles
And the word ‘levitation’ will not exist.
Because there will be children who will empty their bladders
Under cloud cover in an attempt to make yellow snow.
And because he might get the wrong notion that he is closer
To heaven, when he has not even come to a mile
Within the presence of angels, despite the resemblance.
– Alfian bin Sa’at
Ilka Gedö was a Hungarian woman artist whose career was stunted by the political disasters of the twentieth century. Only after her death did her work become internationally recognized. In her teens, prior to the German occupation of Budapest, she attended a private art school. At age 23, she was forced to live in a “yellow star house”, where she drew portraits of her fellow victims. After the war, during the Communist regime, she depicted workers in a factory. Her pastels of shadowy workers in a mysterious light, bent over tables or sinks, dotted with flecks of gold, did not impress the official comrades. More and more her drawing style developed into a search for her subject, which she encircled with nervously vibrating lines, reminiscent of Giacometti (whose work she discovered only later).
The present self-portrait shows a woman marked by her internment. Unlike her drawings from the Ghetto, which are more reminiscent of Steinlen or Vuillard, the present portrait leads stylistically to Gedö’s later work, when lines became autonomous fields of energy.
Look close at the lines. Stubborn and hypnotic.