Personal Helicon: for Dani Restack, across Time and Space

This post is a belated birthday gift to my friend and collaborator, Dani (Leventhal) Restack. I feel privileged to know her, have her so close to me in my life and to have worked with her projects that have always taught me something new. Together we have explored connections between writing and drawing (Rough Draft), the role of re-imagining Plato’s myths for experimental pedagogy and institutions (Myths of the Academy) and how new relationships emerge from group discussion of myths and witnessing the phases of motherhood (Myth Mother Invention). In all of these projects, Dani has been inspirational, but unlike some lofty Muse on Mount Helicon that ancient poets posit as the motivation for their glorious achievements, she inspires us through her personal, everyday musings and her situated, bodily acts of making (less Hesiod than that Motel Muse, Corny Copa). But rather than use this space to share with you the extent of Dani’s deep and passionate engagement with ancient stories and ideas in our collaborations (there will be time and space for that in the future), instead I want to leave it to two artists who have, in different ways, articulated their relationship to Dani’s work, specifically the way she allows us to see how an attention to love transforms time and space in thought and feeling.

Paul Chan on Dani’s work in Time

They embody a desperate immanence, as what is given is not good enough but will have to do. They seize time the way a beat holds a song, to evoke the vertiginous feeling of seeming something emerge by being made and unmade at the same instant. They last as experiences by not staying whole as forms.




Mickeline Thomas on Dani’s work in Space

Dani Leventhal is a great artist living and working in Brooklyn. She was included in PS1’s “Greater New York” show in 2010 and I’m just waiting for everyone to catch on to her.

What I appreciate about Dani’s work is the sense of the freedom and intuitiveness she has with the element of chance,” says Thomas. “Her work comes out of the formal aspects of collage making—very organic but direct.


All I can offer Dani, today the day after her birthday, besides these two artists’ words and juxtapositions, is the following remake of Seamus Heaney’s poem “Personal Helicon” (which the curious can read here), which he wrote for fellow-poet Michael Longley. My adjustments have been inspired by her rewording of the myth of “The Birth of Love” in Plato’s Symposium (as part of the Myths of the Academy – MOTA – exhibition) and how she always makes us turn towards Love in forgetting to think and learning to feel.

Personal Helicon

for Dani Restack

As a child, they could not keep her from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
They felt the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
She savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When she dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back her own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across her reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. We rhyme
To see Love, to set the darkness echoing.

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