Those fragments made me fall asleep: William E. Jones’ “Fall into Ruin”

Today at the Modern Institute in Glasgow, William E. Jones opened a new exhibition of his new film work Fall Into Ruin as well as a selection of photographs. The film, which I was lucky enough to see here in Columbus while the artist was editing it, explores his encounter with Alexander Iolas, the Greek art dealer and collector who owned galleries in New York, Paris, Milan, Geneva, Madrid and Athens.

The film recounts Jones’ visit to Iolas’ villa, both in its present ruined state and back in 1982 when it was brimming with contemporary art works and antiquities. There is also a majestic sequence of contemporary Athens, awash with graffiti, juxtaposed with a chronological tour of the antiquities on display at the National Archaeological Museum. In the spirit of his attention to chronology, I thought it would be fitting to publish the first email exchange that I had with William E. Jones, over 4 years ago, in which we discuss, among other projects, the Iolas photos, the idea of the film (and a book) as well as the seeds of the project that would become our collaboration on the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus: Flesh and the Cosmos. Congratulations on the new exhibition, William!


Dear Richard,

I hope that this is you, number 161.

Here is a link to download the pictures I took of Villa Iolas in 1982: [ed. the link is no longer functional]

Attached is a text about Roger Casement by Colm Tóibín, better than the one he wrote for The London Review of Books and included in his book of essays, Love in a Dark Time.  Bill Horrigan, with characteristic kindness, gave me a rare edition of Casement’s “black diaries” for Christmas.

I have also attached an image of Patrice Lumumba from a Soviet stamp.  There is a lot of information about him and his murder on the internet these days.

My interest in the above was inspired by a recent trip to Brussels and a visit to the Royal Museum of Central Africa, one of those monuments to colonialism that is in a perpetual state of “renovation,” because no one seems to have any convincing idea about what to do with it.

What I will use as the basis of my talk is Black Jesus, produced in 1968 and not released until 1971 in the US.  An Italian production starring Woody Strode, a famous black American actor discovered by John Ford, the film adapts the story of Lumumba superimposed upon or combined with the story of Jesus.

That is a very schematic description of the subject(s) of the third “artist’s talk” project.

More on Peter Roehr et al can be found (or bought) here:

Well, that’s enough for now!


P. S. When I got back to my computer at home, I found a pdf of the Peter Roehr section of my book on my desktop.  So here it is, attached.  These pages will be copied for the program notes of the Tate Modern talk in March.


Dear William,

I hope you had a smooth trip back to sunny LA – its still snowing here in Ohio! Thanks for all you sent in your emails. The Iolas Villa photos are incredible – you really should publish them in book form in addition to using them in a film-work. As for Peter Roehr – I ordered your book from Semiotexte (I’ll read the pdf you just sent in the meantime, but I’m happy to look at the whole book & the connections with the other figures). In other news, I read the essays in the Killed book – I very much like the shift in modes of writing (as you already told me from ‘academic’ third-person, to the ‘I’). So, keep me in the loop re your Roehr ‘fiction/letter’ – there offer is still there for me to write a ‘commentary’ on it, but regardless, I’d love to read it when its written.

It has been wonderful getting to know you & your work during your Winter sojourn in Columbus. I look forward to learning more & continuing the conversation.

All my best,


Dear Richard,

I am happy that 161 received the email!

I will have to get used to Ohio winters again, because I think the best time for me to return to Columbus will be January of 2014.

I do intend to publish the Iolas photos eventually, perhaps around the time that the essay film achieves a finished form.  It’s odd that I should mention the work as though it has a life of its own.  The thing won’t be finished until I do some more writing!  And write I must before I leave for the UK in March.

The switching between third and first person is a device I have come to use quite a bit, and it is most important in the Fred Halsted book.  I wrote a whole introduction for the book in third person, then just as I was finishing it, one of Fred’s former lovers contacted me and I was led along a path of discovering intimate friends I had not previously known at all.  So rather than revise the original introduction, I wrote a second one in first person about my interactions with these men.

I am sorry I gave the Pre-Socratics so little attention during lunch.  Could you give me the references, aside from Jonathan Barnes’s book?  I forgot to mention that when I found his Early Greek Philosophy at the Wexner artist’s apartment, my original use for it was as a sleep aid.  The opacity and difficulty of those fragments made me fall asleep without fail!  The introduction, on the other hand, I found beautifully written, lucid, and accessible.  I see a Jonathan Barnes writes reviews for the Times Literary Supplement.  (I get old issues from Bill while I am in Columbus.)  Is it the same person?

For me, the most stunning revelation from lunch was that men actually wear the underwear in The British Are Coming when they play cricket.  I had assumed that these undergarments were just convenient (and very attractive) costumes for the porn video; I had no idea they were authentic.  If only I had known in 1986, when I first saw the video.  I might have developed a more kindly opinion of Old Blighty.  Well, I suppose there’s still time.


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