the signal house
Rock Portrait (Orange in Grass), 2017
contributing artists - Magda Górska, Rachel Rodrigues.
The essay as a literary genre was first described in the 16th century by Frenchman Michel de Montaigne, humanist, skeptic and briefly Mayor of Bordeaux. His massive three volume 107 chapter collection, Essais, produced over twenty-two years and published in 1580, contemplates topics ranging from ‘On Friendship’ to ‘Of Smells’ and ‘Of Posting’ (as in of letters).
The word essai in French means ‘to try’. In Montaigne’s view the essay was the most human of forms because it is an effort, not an end point. Que sais-je? he famously declared, ‘What do I know?’
Montaigne was criticised by his contemporaries. The digressions into anecdote and personal rumination characterising his work rang for many as too self indulgent for the overall humanist project. However, his audacity in framing friendship, smells and posting from his own point of view nonetheless paved the way for the personal perspective to become the architecture of the modern essayist’s work.
Montaigne’s influence can be traced through history from the work of Francis Bacon to Virginia Woolf and Isaac Asimov. It is evident today in the work of living essayists like Joan Didion, whose exquisitely simple 'On keeping a notebook’ captures (as Montaigne’s ‘Of Posting’ does), an effort central to the human experience. “Remember what it was to be me”, Didion clarifies, “that is always the point.”
The common endeavour of making art can be cast in a similar light: to remember what it was to be us. We hope you enjoy meeting our issue 13 contributors who, as they reflect on the mystery of landscape, journey through people in place, ruminate upon loss and contemplate the stratosphere, leave their own tracks along this path.
- The Editors
RITA LEDUC is an interdisciplinary artist whose work chronicles an intimate transition from place-based experience to abiding relationship. Currently an artist-in-residence at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, her work has recently been shown at Mount Saint Mary College (NY), Bethany Arts Community (NY), Whitesbog Historic Village (NJ), Project 59 (Governors Island, NYC), RAW (Miami, FL), and Ortega y Gasset Projects (NYC). Leduc currently teaches at William Paterson, Ramapo College, Rutgers, and Caldwell University. Additionally, she is creator and Director of GROUNDWORK, an interdisciplinary creative development retreat. WEBSITE. INSTAGRAM.
Two works by Rita are available exclusively at the SIGNAL HOUSE SHOP.
(Image credit: Rock Portrait (Orange in Grass), 2017 by Rita Leduc; by kind permission of the artist.)