Later on, I thought of the catalogue of ships in the Iliad. “I could not tell over the multitude of them
nor name them, / not if I had ten tongues and ten mouths, not if I had / a voice never to be broken
and a heart of bronze within me, / not unless the Muses of Olympia, daughters / of Zeus of the
aegis, remembered all those who came beneath Ilion.” But that was literary, that came later. On the
day itself, on the evening of the morning in which I opened up the window of my room to see the
apparition of a shining fleet on the Mediterranean, what I thought of was what Edna O’Brien said to
those of us in the audience: “We know about these beautiful waters that have death in them.”

Capri, June 2015
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

Far from the city. Through narrow darkness, through scrub forests and rocky cliffs, our Elder
Brother brought us across, his name was I’itoi. On our setting out from the other side, he turned us
into ants. He brought us through narrow darkness and out at Baboquivari Peak into this land. Here
we became human again, and our Elder Brother rested in a cave on Baboquivari, and there he
rests till this day, helping us. The land is a maze. You have to be guided through, right from the
beginning you had to be guided. The first story in the world is about safe passage. An iron fence
spirals into the distance, enforcing on the land a separation in the mind. In the grass near the
inspection post at Sasabe, on the Mexican side, someone has planted two white crosses. The large
one lists at a sixty-degree angle. On the smaller one, you can see the word “mujeres.” The code is
made of wounds.

Sasabe, September 2011
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
24 x 20 in


I associate Switzerland with ease and calm. With some war, but only in the long-ago mercenary
past. Switzerland is neutral now, serene, safe. But I begin to think of those new Swiss weapons,
and all the places and bodies that had been blown apart by the hundreds of millions of dollars of
annual Swiss arms sales. Bombs, torpedoes, rockets: to the United Arab Emirates, to Saudi Arabia,
to Botswana. The blasted buildings of Beirut. Sig Sauer rifles and handguns find their way to the
American street. I associate Switzerland with calm and ease. What then is not visible? The death
merchants busy at their precision work. And I begin to worry that my search for information about
these handguns and weapons of war would flag my activity as suspicious to the all-seeing eye of
the government. What then is visible?

Zurich, October 2014
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

In the spring, I twice watched Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria, in which a woman (Maria
Enders, as played by Juliette Binoche) said: “I had a dream. We were already rehearsing, and past
and present were blending together.” And I really did not know in that moment if I was dreaming, or
remembering a dream, or watching a film, or remembering the first time I watched the film and heard
Juliette Binoche say those words. In the summer, I went to the Engadin and Sils Maria for the first
time, half in pursuit of this dream. In the fall, looking at the photograph I had made on the mountain
and writing about that visit, I could not say for sure whether on that cloudless evening on Muottas
Muragl, overlooking the Engadin all the way to Sils Maria, I had remembered the dream by Maria
Enders, or whether I had only later dreamed that I had remembered it there.

Muottas Muragl, July 2015
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

A length, a loop, a line. Faraway wave seen from the deck of the ship. I think the Annunciation must
have happened on a day like this one. Stillness. In the interior, she reads with lowered eyes,
unaware of what comes next. A presence made of absence, the crossbar, the cloth, the wound in
his side.

Zurich, November 2014
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

I opened my eyes. What lay before me looked like the sound of the alphorn at the beginning of the
final movement of Brahms’s First Symphony. This was the sound, this was the sound I saw.

Brienzersee, June 2014
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

A woman with red hair and a man in a purple sweater paused, for the briefest of moments, in front
of Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day. The painting was on loan to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort
Worth. The couple were in their late seventies or early eighties, and they had an easy manner with
each other: not only were they together, they liked being together. They were the same as the
elegant couple huddled under a black umbrella in Caillebotte’s monumental painting. In fact they
were that couple precisely, I swear it, only they were a little older now. They glanced at their painted
doubles without really saying “Yes, it’s us” or “No, it’s not.”
Later that day, outside the museum, I was given a shadow and its ladder crossing each other on
the way to heaven, confirmation of what I had seen.

Fort Worth, January 2016
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
24 x 20 in

Movement in the peripheral vision is easy to observe. Even when you fixate on a central static
point, that peripheral observation continues. However, if the peripheral stimulus is regular, it soon
fades away, and becomes invisible. The effect, known as Troxler’s fading, is easy to demonstrate.
It is so named for its discoverer, Ignaz Paul Troxler, born in Switzerland in 1780. Let us say
Troxler’s fading has consequences, by analogy, for political thought. Movement in the margins is
not enough. Regularity becomes invisible. You switch up the moves, you introduce irregularity, in
order to maintain visibility.
Troxler was a politician in addition to being a physician and neuropsychologist. He played a leading
role in the Swiss adoption of a more liberal constitution in 1848, a constitution deeply influenced by
the American one and its language of equal rights.
The neurons in the visual system adapt to the stimulus, and redirect their attention.

Saint Moritz, July 2015
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

The Greek fleet was ready for war, but there were no winds, and they could not set sail. Why were
there no winds? The goddess Artemis’s anger was turned against them. Agamemnon had killed a
doe sacred to her, in her sacred grove in Aulis. There would be no winds, and no sailing, and no
war, and no destruction of Troy, until she had her satisfaction. Agamemnon agreed to give away his
daughter Iphigenia to Artemis as a sacrifice. (Men are always giving women away.) In the scene
the great painter Timanthes painted of Iphigenia’s departure, Calchas was sorrowful, Odysseus
was more sorrowful, and Menelaos was overcome with sorrow, all of which Timanthes portrayed
with stunning accuracy. But the father Agamemnon’s grief was greatest of all, a shattering extreme
of grief, and Timanthes could not, or would not, go beyond the limit of what he had already shown.
And so he depicted Agamemnon without depicting him: turned away, with a veil over his head.

New York City, May 2015
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
24 x 20 in

I last walked in there on September 9, 2001. Since then, I’ve gone near it many times—in taxis on
West Street, on foot on Greenwich Street, by Trinity Church—but have been unable or unwilling to
go into the plaza. Thirteen years pass. I finally return, in May 2015, with the camera as a mask. The
fusion of dream and reality into a single reality. Painters like Hammershøi and Vermeer know the
power of this gesture. One turns away to show what cannot otherwise be shown. The sense in
turning away. The power of a gesture that speaks without being spoken to.

New York City, May 2015
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
24 x 20 in

I pray to Tarkovsky, Marker, and Hitchcock. I acknowledge the dumb skull, the verso of the face,
the local globe from which all thinking originates. I pray to Ojeikere and Richter, in whose works
someone is always turning away. In certain pictures, we can verify a character’s presence, but,
without the clues of the confessional face, not what the character thinks. What has turned away
contains itself. A stone contemplates a stone. Stalker, The Mirror, Sans Soleil, Vertigo. Multa pinxit,
hic Brugelius, quae pingi non possunt, wrote Ortelius. He painted many things, this Bruegel, which
cannot be painted. What cannot be painted?

Chicago, April 2015
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

Kitchen to living room. Bedroom to bathroom. Downstairs to get the mail. House to subway. An
evening stroll. You take around 7500 steps each day. If you live to eighty, inshallah, that comes to
200 million steps over the course of your life, a hundred thousand miles. You don’t consider
yourself a great walker, but you will have circumnavigated the globe on foot four times over.
Downstairs to get the mail. Basement for laundry. Living room to bedroom. Up in the middle of the
night for a glass of water. Walking through the darkened house, you suddenly pause.

Zürich, 2014
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

The stage is set. Things seem to be prepared in advance for cameos, and even the sun is rigged
like the expert lighting of a technician. The boundary between things and props is now dissolved,
and the images of things have become things themselves. Perhaps the artificer’s gold paint is still
wet on such scenes in which we play at kings. Wandering around, I find this theatricality of city life
especially visible at the edges: the sleeping docks, the decrepit industries, the disused railroads: at
such places, the city is shorn of all superfluity and reduced to its essentials, as in a play by Beckett.
Flutes! Drums! Let the players in.

Brooklyn, April 2015
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

How are things? These are the objects of and around a bus stop: amorphous banks of snow, a
metal drum, a bus shelter, the pole of a sign, a wooden post, the trunk of a tree, patterns printed on
Plexiglas. Brought together by the rectangular organization of the viewfinder, they move from being
objects into being things. They are no longer what they were made for. Now they are functional
equals on the picture plane: blue construction anchored on a rectangle, green line, gray-brown
broad vertical, scatter of white and off-white here and there, chatter of pale yellow dots, red cylinder
topped by dark brown oval, and so on. Each element is as insistent and necessary as the shapes
and colors in a suprematist painting. Meaning comes from the collective tension and balance of
these individuated elements. But this dreamwork bricolage comes by an arrangement of the eye,
not of the hands. An object is used. A thing is seen.

Tivoli, March 2015
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

The meaning of the ladder for Jacob was positive. But he took fright, for he knew that a ladder can
take you up and bring you down. That day in Pitasch, I walked down the steep alpine slope to the
river Glenner, perhaps the most beautiful river I have ever known. The green of the evergreens
that bordered it was of a profuse variety within a narrow chromatic range. There were gray and
white rocks and stones along
the bank. The air was still. The world was peace. The Glenner joins the Vorderrhein a few miles
down, at Ilanz, and the Vorderrhein leads to the Rhein, which flows to the North Sea; but here, in the
heart of the continent and near the Rhine’s origin, the young fast shallow mountain river was slate
blue with flashes of turquoise, and serried wavelets that crested white when the wind gusted. I got
on my knees and drank directly from the cold river, then climbed back up the slope into the woods,
and returned by the farmer’s abandoned shed I’d passed on the way down. I was full of happiness,
and was afraid, because I know a ladder can take you up and bring you down.

Pitasch, November 2014
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

On tram No. 15 to Bucheggplatz, a woman sat in the seat in front of mine. She was in her late
twenties or early thirties. Late afternoon light. Her hair was pulled up, and I could see her neck
tattoo clearly. It was in two lines: a woman’s name, a date. I wrote both down. Later, when I looked
up the name, I found an old newspaper article: a woman of that name had died in a small town near
Phoenix, Arizona, in 2007, and it had happened on the date in the tattoo. In the car that night, the
article said, had been two other people, both of whom survived the crash, and both of whom, at that
time, like the woman who died, were in their early twenties, a man, the article said, and another
woman.

Zurich, August 2014
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

If you walk along the northern lip of Lac Léman, between Montreux and Lausanne, you will see
before you the lake’s flat shine all across to Évian-les-Bains in France.
On steep slopes you wend your way past the wine-growing villages of Corseaux, Saint-Saphorin,
Rivaz, and Chexbres, feeling in your legs the pleasure of a long walk along narrow old roads some
of which have new surfaces. We are a small group, we walk in solitude. There are people working
in the vineyards. In one grove, a man harvests by hand, onerous-looking work. Farther along, in
about half an hour, we will taste the white wines of Lavaux. Our mouths will be explored by the
nectar of the landscape we have crossed. For now, below us are brown-roofed hamlets, and a pair
of twin boys, around ten years old, come laughing up the road. “Do you live here?” “We have
always lived here!” “Do you like it?” “We love it!” Their answers are in unison.
I rest at a concrete outcrop with a bunting of vintners’ blue nets, a blue the same color as the lake.
It is as though something long awaited has come to fruition. A gust of wind sweeps in from across
the lake. The curtain shifts, and suddenly everything can be seen. The scales fall from our eyes.
The landscape opens. No longer are we alone: they are with us now, have been all along, all our
living and all our dead.

Rivaz, October 2014
Archival pigment print, printed 2017
20 x 24 in

Press Release

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Exhibition: June 15th – August 11th, 2017
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 15th, 6-8PM

“Many artists have felt the lure of juxtaposing photographs and text, but few have succeeded as well as Teju Cole. He approaches this problem with an understanding of the limitations and glories of each medium.”—Stephen Shore
Steven Kasher Gallery is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in New York of acclaimed photographer, essayist and novelist Teju Cole. The exhibition accompanies the publication of Cole’s fourth volume, Blind Spot (Random House, 2017) with a foreword by Siri Hustvedt.

The exhibition features over 30 color photographs from the series Blind Spot, each accompanied by Cole’s lyrical and evocative prose. Viewed together, these works form a multimedia diary of years of near-constant travel. In these photographs, we see what Cole has seen, from a park in Berlin to a mountain range in Switzerland, a church exterior in Lagos to a parking lot in Brooklyn; and we are drawn into the texts—which function as voiceovers—with which Cole complicates his already enigmatic images. At stake here is the question of vision, an exploration Cole began following a temporary spell of blindness in 2011, and which he presents here in a photographic sequence of novelistic intensity.
The exhibition also presents Black Paper, a visceral photographic response to Cole’s experiences following the election of November 2016. This continuously evolving, large-scale work explores buried feelings, haunted space, and all that can be seen through darkness.

Teju Cole (b. 1975, Nigeria) is a writer, art historian, and photographer. He is the photography critic of the New York Times Magazine and Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College. He is the author of three previous books. His novella, Every Day is for the Thief (2014), was named a book of the year by the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, NPR, and the Telegraph and shortlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award. His novel, Open City (2011) won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New York City Book Award for Fiction, the Rosenthal Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Internationaler Literaturpreis. Open City was also shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and the Ondaatje Prize of the Royal Society of Literature. His essay collection, Known and Strange Things (2016), the core of which is his photography essays, was published to rave reviews in the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, among others; named a book of the year by the Guardian, the Financial Times, Time Magazine, and many others; and is the only book to have been shortlisted for two PEN Awards in the same year: the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and the PEN/Jean Stein Award for originality, merit, and impact.

Cole’s photography has been exhibited in India, Iceland, and the US, published widely, and was the subject of a solo exhibition in Italy in the spring of 2016. His photography column at the New York Times Magazine was a finalist for a 2016 National Magazine Award. He is a recipient of a US Artists award, and received the 2015 Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction.

Teju Cole: Blind Spot and Black Paper will be on view June 15 – August 11, 2017. Steven Kasher Gallery is located at 515 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10001. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM. For press and all other inquiries, please contact Cassandra Johnson, 212 966 3978, cassandra@stevenkasher.com.