Good morning Iceland….

Good morning Iceland.   We landed with the rising sun after an insane last few days in Seattle.  Sick people downing gallons of garlic lemonade to get well (that stuff works!), packing up 6 huge suitcases full of half-made art, half-made hopes that it wasn’t all a little bit crazy, cleaning and packing up our house like mad, stowing away pets to different people……  I’m here now, but the beginning of that day, I still didn’t think the clap-trap traveling circus of my mobile art-studio/family drama would really make it all across the ocean.  But we did.  This is a bit of that first day.

waking up as we land, but never really sleeping…

Keflavic, where the airport is, has this stunningly abandoned look to it…I couldn’t sleep this flight and I knew we pretty much had to stay awake another day to get over jetlag and just get done what we had to do.  Get giant bags, keep exhausted 8 year old from breaking down, find rental car, get money…eat, oh yes we forgot to eat for a bit.

Sunrise in Iceland

not even all of our bags (am I insane???)

a little numb and stunned with tiredness, but arrived

We crammed ALL of our stuff into a car that we thought was going to be much bigger (spent some time panicing).  And as planned, drove down to The Blue Lagoon.  As we got closer to it, and I was looking out the window at the oddest landscape I have ever seen, crunchy clinker lava flows piled high upon each other, then covered in pillow thick moss that rounded things out like soft bubbles of green, I started shouting because my camera was buried in the car at the bottom, and it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen!  Then all of a sudden by the side of the road was some bright light blue liquid in all of this, coating the lava rocks white, and we really all three shouted it was so strange and beautiful!  We had arrived at the Blue Lagoon.

getting ready to go in, silly iphone picture doesn’t get the blue of it, but really no picture does…

Which really is the perfect place to go after a long flight.  It’s funny, I didn’t take pictures, didn’t want to and don’t even feel like explaining it.  I didn’t have words, just an animal relief that I could sink into the warm slippery water from the bowels of the churning earth.

Hazel thrilled to find lava wrinkles as we walk around

Rubbing silica mud on our faces, Hazel squealing with delight, Paul laughing and floating in this supernatural water surrounded by lava and moss….it finally felt all worth it, and real.  Finally letting down some effort.  Ate some salmon and potatoes and pickled veggies in our robes, soaked some more.

And then began to drive to Reykjavik….and then the TIRED hit us.  We literally had to pull over half-way there and the boys slept in the car off a little side road, and I climbed a little hill to sit in a lava field.  Already very different than the lava field around the Blue Lagoon area, but my first chance to sit still with myself.  I can’t sleep but in a bed.  I just replaced my 5 year old phone with an Iphone and found myself playing with it up in the field…made this weird little meandering video, but needed to record something, document something.  That threshold between one thing and another.  I sound delirious…and though this is probably boring for anyone else, I like how the sound of my voice seems to get overpowered by the landscape, how the little internal meandering voice in context of a big natural energy seem in conflict.

(I can’t figure out how to post it yet….).

But here’s an image on my first sit in the crackling land.

 

somewhere near Hafnarfjordur, by the side of the road

And despite all the over-stimulating new stimuli, one of my favorite moments was my husband, not giving a shit, doing yoga in the middle of the Seattle Airport.  I was laughing at the way people where looking at him like he was killing chickens, but doing some yoga before you get on a long plane flight is probably the smartest thing you can do.  More people should follow Paul’s lead.


 

The slug-like, cement-blooded, quicksand before we left…

We’ve landed in Iceland…..but this isn’t it.  It’s Lake Crescent in my own sweet Washington State.  Earlier this summer Paul, Hazel and I went to this humming and mysterious body of water, carved out by a glacier and filled with cool pristine clear turquoise water, deep and hidden.

Crater woman

Crater Woman

We went to spend a small few days together after a frantic ride of a big project with not enough time together.  Which seems to be always…It was like Iceland-practice, spend all our time together, making some things, shoot some images and be together, being alone. Paul and I spent some time at dusk playing in the strong wind and the waves, him photographing me wearing one of the costumes for ‘Saltus Chori Aevum’, pressing my hands against the wind back and forth with billowing silk, and him finding ways to make the sun disappear.

I learned a few things while there, which since then have really tumbled forward with momentum in importance.  I realized many, most of my ideas might be impossible…impossibly heavy, large, bulky to transport across the world, and then into a wilder place…on my back.  I have to carry what I want to do on my back, along with gear, etc. One long hike to an incredible old railroad cave along the far edge of Lake Crescent would have been an amazing place to shoot some pictures, but by the time we found the amazing site, it was too far away from my gear and costumes in the car to go back and get them.  I would have to have some really portable options for Iceland or miss some stunning places to work, places we would only be able to walk into.  But (silver lining) I’m now determined to make it back to that cave next summer…

Even so carrying the  billowing silk around the lake side was a relief to the heavy monstrosities I have carried around, nearly killing myself.  I’m tired of killing myself.  I’ll say it again.  I’m tired of killing myself. I’ve been whispering it to myself for awhile during the course of the past year, also feeling like it was a cynical voice, or a lazy voice and so repressing it at times.  But it’s a voice that has been louder in recent days, and I think I just need to be with it.  I’m not lazy, I’m not cynical.  I’m not even cynical when I see really lazy artwork celebrated…I tend to just look away.  I tend to be nonplussed.  But I tend to beat myself up when I feel I’m ‘lazy’ and ‘lazy’ usually means not following my ideas as far as possible,  not impressing people, having simple goals…..sigh.

Perhaps I am here in Iceland to redefine some things for myself.  I’ve known that all along, but what definitions I’m changing keeps shifting.  Can I make potent fulfilling work that isn’t an encompassing experience? Or maybe all ‘encompassing experience’ is something else than I have imagined.  I am a person who is attracted to the quiet, the small, the subtle, the slow.  Maybe these are the qualities I will draw out here.  Because it was not possible to drag huge mantels of stones across the Atlantic Ocean…maybe a richer, better funded artist could have done that.  I had to leave many crocheted rocks at home. I couldn’t afford it, no matter how I stretched and squooze the grant money.  But (duh) I will find more rocks here, and will have to spend my evenings working nets around them….and have to leave them here to meet my weight limit for the plane ride home…something melancholy about this too.

Gateway

Gateway

And that body I’m trying not to kill?  It is teaching me a big lesson.  I have to slow down.  It got sick two weeks before we left…I’m still laboring under fatigue of a lingering cold….and much of what I planned to bring here remains undone.  So the body, slowed down to a rolling stone’s pace, shifted and adapted what I have been imagining for so long.  I will make work here, finish things that I’ve started….and this is probably brilliant, exactly what I needed to do to get out of patterns that are running down.  I HAD imagined being so on top of things, finished costumes, movement scores, story boards, an expert at my new camera (yea Mark II !!), meetings scheduled….even with trimming things down, streamlining,  things seemed to always be getting away from me. Until the final two weeks seemed like when I would have to pull out all the stops and pull all-nighters and be so together something miraculous would happen.  And, bam! I got really sick.  I lay in bed a week before we left and realized I had no other choice but to adjust and bring things with me, sew the feather cape together sitting next to a glacier, rather than having some master plan completed.  My body has forced me to go with the flow…maybe a slow flow.  But I am still moving, and I have to accept it in a different way.  I have to give up my angst about things abandoned, and observe what is actually in my grasp.  I have to trust this will teach me something.

The one huge weight I felt as I lay there sick with a huge impending project undone, I ticked away all the time I spent on things, people, paths that seemed to eat up my time and divert me away from the essentials of this project, distractions I allowed for one reason or another.  There is no use crying over wasted time, I know. I actually find a great deal of productivity in procrastination and mind-wandering activities.  But this is about something different.  I was unable to do anything for a few days, I realized I am going to get very selfish on this trip…I’m going to do what I want to do.  Not what I proposed, or outlined or imagined, or even think I should do.  Just what I want to do.  I’ll abandon quicker what isn’t working and just seek elsewhere.

That sick few days, Paul and I were to meet with Seattle-base choreographer Corrie Befort on developing some movement scores/practices, and I had to stay home while she and he worked together one day.  But I was stunned by something she said as we tried to outline some things for sick me, a way to begin finding a seed of something potent.  Stunned by how righteous it it, and how as a visual artist I shy away from it (or feel I have to or have been taught that I should).  She talked about, just begin with something you are attracted to, something that lures you, attracts you like a magnet, and just begin to work with it before you even know why. I KNOW this is already a lynchpin in my work as an artist, but some part of me is an apologist for it all the time.  Oh, I must know why I am using this seed, I must justify it.  This, right there is sloughing off me…I’m letting this go.  My sick self told me it was okay.  I am here to wander and go towards what attracts me.  So out first day here in Iceland, lazy wandering has been the way….today we napped by some horses (you’ll see….).  I am here to let down some burdens, and I’m going to be pretty militant about it.

Stumbling out of the block:

Thank you Vanessa, thank you Summer Walleye people, for creating a space to work at the thick plug of fear in my throat.  It is working.  I have spent many months afraid to write, write anything.  Even the writing that I have to do to be a ‘professional artist’ seemed like agony, like words would not form from the clouded jellyfish in my mind.

Unpacking and repacking many private family hardships over the last many months, my dear sweet sick husband struggling back through months of an anxiety disorder.  NOT wanting to write about it, I became stuck.  And my own fear that it would creep back, even when things were getting better, like the anxiety had somehow seeped into my bones instead.  I became paralyzed to write about making (or not making) work about weight and burden and labor.  So much pressure…

But as I take steps to set down those burdens, reaching out to things I’ve never tried before, finding different strategies almost at random, I’m seeing this paralysis as a friend to growth.  It just takes a nudge.

It’s like when you can’t get something open, because so much pressure is built up behind it.  And it just takes a nudge, someone else’s hand, running something underwater, or a drop of oil.  And the lid simply comes off with ease.

‘Summer Walleye’ facilitated by Vanessa Dewolf, a free meeting on Sunday morning of anyone who wants to write and move, move to write, write to move, read. Share. try.  Vanessa is director at Studio Current in Seattle, she’s a ‘Dramaturg for Dance, Creative Process Consultant & Feedback specialist’, and this I love what she says about herself –  “what do I want? Is it possible to keep befriending the unknown?
I’m unpredictable.”

I came to this meeting, almost at random, but really how any decision is made is through a build up of experience until the way to go seems like something to fall into.  I saw Vanessa’s piece “Score for an Unrehearsed Ensemble” at NW New Works Festival, and a wave of relief filled me up.  A tipping point.  What I was seeing and experiencing by watching,  is that we are all crazy, all beautiful, all exhausted, all exhilarated.  A beautiful clicking of energies as 40 people move across stage , creating on the spot their reactions to each other, the words, their senses, their own bodies and histories….and I felt like I was pulled into that safe space on the stage to unfold and unwrap.  So then I got out of bed on Sunday, and fell into Walleye, without thinking.

“Score for an Unrehearsed Ensemble”
photo by Bruce Clayton Tom

I have been like the child who has reached the point where they ‘can’t draw’, but I know that is wrong.  I know that everyone can dance, and sing, and draw and walk. I know I can do these things.

I’m going to rest on my Walleye writings, then transcribe them here, whatever they are.  The speed of timed writing after a series of movement exercises unearths energy in a way I need.  Then the resting and the transcribing gives me some time to process and let the words I wrote sink in.  There may or may not be anything worth ‘mining’, but I am quite sure that is where I have gotten myself into trouble this last year…feeling as if every moment has to be visibly productive, like I’m an art worker on an art assembly line.  Will people still respect me if I’m just fucking around?  Yes, duh…and who cares.

I have never at all connected writing and movement, but whenever I have needed inspiration for well-crafted words (when I was young and pretending I would be a scholarly writer of texts), I would walk about the room with my eyes closed seeing the words written in the air, and I would lay on the bed, and something would emerge out of the dark of my mind.  A good sentence, a hook, something that really meant it.  I never noticed my body in the mix of this activity, just the disembodied words.  But I see now it was the visualization from moving my body into an unknown inner space that would unlock what I was looking for.  And I do the same with my work, when stuck for specifics beyond a general direction, I move quickly about then lie still enough to coax an image into my grasp of what I need to make.

At this meeting, in this writing, I see old time-worn Washington Hall as a landscape, and environment, a body to act upon and with.  I also see my own body surfacing, with my focus brought back and back to my grinding crooked bones, the pain in my hip.  At this meeting we began with “journey” – allowing the landscape in front of us tell us where to go. Then we traced with our bodies a site from Childhood and our favorite grocery store.  With writing, we jerked back and forth between these sites when Vanessa told us to jump.

What I have always know is that Childhood is a place I fled, did not belong, not a site of nostalgia.  But I didn’t know Grocery would hold the intimacy of motherhood, of being in love with a child.  What I also didn’t know was after two weeks of these meetings, I feel empowered on my own journey to Iceland, I have new tools to do what I want and tools to find an anchor in the unknown.  I am also most grateful to listening to the timed writing of the other participants, how we diverge and cross back on shared experiences and archetypes. Their imagery, so close to the edge of my own, but with a radical different magic, was like walking in another person’s skin for a few moments.

Summer Walleye in Washington Hall, July 21st

JOURNEY

I arrive

Aimless, to textured veins, to falling apart but staying together.  I arrived to a corner, to a darker place, to an away, from the space, to a stopping point, to a wall, to a place with layers. 

To where others had hid, skimmed the outside, to when energy was only at our backs, to pits of peeling layers had covered meek hands, yet the oils will surface.

To the water. To the time. To the downward desire of the water, the seep, the minerals, the quiet and the noise of all the time that hit the walls.  The rubbing, the hiding, the finding of the soft dark to see others in the center of doing.

And when I left

I pushed myself to go against myself, to go into the space, the place where I wouldn’t usually go.  To just be without walls, without dark, without myself and myself’s walls and see if I could feel anything, feel okay. 

Fine, I feel and it was just fine.  But it wasn’t the destination. Just a space to travel through.  I wasn’t afraid of it, or rejecting it or anything but passing through it.  It did not have me , but I had it.

Along the way

I look from where I started, kept my eyes there and so I did not know where I went, so had to feel where I went.  Had to see it all spread out before me, slowly rocking with my pain, my gait, my lumber. 

And the pattern of the place emerged.  One side led to tiny patterns, to a herringbone, from the ribs of the fish, the bones of the place. To the labor, of the making, of the tradition to small details, of task, of purpose. 

Then every energy played out on top of it all, now worn, but once gleaming in the wood.

Movement

Led by the flat bones, the grinding in my hip to the bones dragging, led the leg pulled by gravity more than no other.  Dull pain moves everything, influences everything but I move anyway.

Try not to do battle with the dullness but more with it.  Let it lead instead of trying to ignore its presence.

Its presence, old pain, old stillness old things.  Born things, usually afraid of them, of the things they take over, how they stop me, slow me down, but I let it lead.

I open my eyes to the lines on the floor, to my hands on the floor, to the waxy hips that seem to ride and navigate around the dull pain, the misplaced bones, the old bones, the rubs, the mishapers, the records of things undone and not cared for, the gifted body unopened, the fluidity unused.  But knowing it is time to embrace, time to open, time to ride out the bones and they will their embrace.

The bones, the stones, the place that will not move.  I will love it, I will remember it to make it know.

That was the first pain the labor took away.

(It feels pleasurable transcribing this stuff, like I can walk through the physical acts again of the exercises and remember processes that helped loosen pathways.  It is very simple, no great earth shattering revelations, but to see the movement experiences naturally translating into both my real experience of the site and the things reverberating in my mind and body, how they blend back and forth between inner and outer world, is exciting to see that revealed and be clear…just by writing quickly after movement with a time limit and no real sense of purpose.

Someone said writing and reading words are in different parts of the brain.  While reading is a wild flourette of sensation and experience, I really only write with a pragmatic purpose.  Not simply to practice, to feel around in that part of the brain that writes…this challenges that.)

Grocery or childhood

Childhood

So empty I could hardly find a way around.   There was nothing in there but the bed, the texture of the cotton woven spread, the wide bed, the bed that took the whole space in its grips, the rough feel of synthetic carpet, the smell of no history of nothing of no one of no energy.  I moved around rectangles and angles, looking for my things, what were my things, things I have no memory of but the ability to let them go.  There was just empty.  But I found the closet that was long and used to be a place to hide, to play.

Grocery

Always always spend spin with the boy, the boy in my arms, the boy

Childhood

Nothing, nothing to start with, with, with alone, but the cat, under the covers

Grocery

We find a place to touch, he leans into my chest, he goes to it, the fruit.  He feels a part of the life that surrounds him.  We go slow, we fill up with the abundance, of being able to choose, of imagining and yearning, of taste of feel. 

To feel together, to get it done that needs to be done, but to be together, to explore, to want, to treat one another, to be naughty.  To make out own choices and remember the gift of small pleasure.  To find peas and chocolate the milk the soaps to smell the wine.  The wine to bring to nights alone.

Childhood

Still, nothing.  Still nothing there.  The bland carpet, the cat jumping, the cat biting, the hidden, the puppet show, the awful agony of putting on layers of long underwear to go in the snow.  To try to see a way to make a world, that isn’t trivial, to everyone, to sneaking about listening for clues that I don’t actually belong there.  That would make sense.  I am bored out of magic, no magic at all.

Practical notes to me:

-take the time and luxury of space to TRACE memory in the physicality of my body…se what is there or not there, NOT making it there, but be in alignment with its absences also.  Give over enough of yourself to find the quiet narrative…

-My head was so warm to the touch, a comfort, yet I never touch my head, though I know that energy flows out of it like a field or a pole above me.  I can make the magic for him, the energy, the intimacy needed for a rich imaginative blooming world.  The layers, the layers of memory, of presence, soft and lonely.

-MOVE in that space like I have a mirror under my nose again,to shift my focus into a space of memory…not memory, but the thread of things knit together that all lead to THIS moment.

-Of being here in this moment, this new situation, I never would have come to except for being LOST, so honor being lost, being brought here by lostness.  Lostness means many other ways are open to me.  All things lead to this, this leads to all things.

finally, the actual route of the journey in Iceland

After so many months of researching, planning, plans falling through, more researching, applying, applying, shuffling budgets, squeezing and massaging budgets, prioritizing some things over others, re-prioritizing, re-prioritizing again…we finally know the route of our journey in Iceland.

Keflavik to Reykjavik to Hellnar to Fljotstunga to Hvalfjordur to Reykjavik to home. August 26 through September 30, 2012

I think by the time we board the plane, I will collapse into a stupor of 7-hour movie watching, and be excited.  I am still a bit dizzying numb.  It has just been a colossal effort of how do I go where I want to, get what I need there, make what I want to use to shoot, to create to experience, make sure home and schooling and pets and everything else falls into place. Many many many people have wonderfully put out a helping hand!  I’ll be excited when this 1000-feather cape I am sewing is being folded into a suitcase, and I’m patting myself down for my passport.

Also, please consider supporting this project financially, however small we are grateful.  One re-prioritization was to focus more and more on the collaboration between me, Paul, Hazel and focus more on film work (ALL big leaps for me and huge learning curves).  Bringing my collaborator Saskia Delores to Iceland hugely supports this growth in my work.  Please consider helping us raise $2022 to cover her traveling expenses. You can donate at Indiegogo.  We genuinely can use every small donation!

I want transformation…

Earth, isn’t this what you want? To arise in us, invisible? Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly there’s nothing left outside us to see? What, if not transformation, is your deepest purpose? (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Stones and poppies

Stones and poppies

My heart open cracks….Pain, I guess, is what it takes to find a new way.  No wonder so many of us choose to turn to stone.

I am still stuck in a deep hole, but my work, even if playing with the petals from today’s flowers and tomorrow’s stones, and bits and pieces around the studio, and the backyard’s sun, it is still the way I build the ladder out of the hole.  Even if I cannot see the light at the top.  My persistence, even if blind….I cannot stop it.  And it will get me somewhere, some location I don’t yet see.  These petals, from Paul’s poppies, will rot, but today I saw every surface and treated them with care.  This light was mine, and something was completed.

Tonight, 11/16/11, Solstenen comes back to TPR for an evening of community crocheting and films from guest artists Saskia Delores and Rodrigo Valenzuela

I have had an industrious fall in my studio…..not making piles of work, but excavating some physical and psychological space to do it….Many many things needed shedding, which seems oddly telling with the project I am working on, all about weight, burden, labor and armor.  But after a summer full of crocheting with people at The Project Room, I wanted to get back into the thick of the project by once again working on ‘Solstenen’ with anyone willing to join me.  And like this summer, I wanted to share the work of artists who are inspiring and mentoring my new body of work.

Please join me tonight from 5-8 at TPR for one night only of community crocheting, tea/treats, and films by Guest Artists Saskia Delores and Rodrigo Valenzuela.

At 5pm, I’ll be on hand with yarn, fabric and crochet hooks to teach anyone willing to learn to crochet, contributing stitches to the Solstenen crocheting heading to Iceland in 2012.

From 6-8pm, then we’ll continue crocheting while watching a presentation of films by Solstenen guest artists performance artist/musician Saskia Delores and filmmaker/photographer Rodrigo Valenzuela.
As with the other Solstenen guest artists, join me in an informal Q and A with these incredible filmmakers, as I pick their brains and find out why they make things.

Saskia and Rodrigo both make subtly provocative work that highlights how the magic in the mundane can be captured and bloom in the medium of film. Their bodies of work both reveal the cinematic psychological tension and expansive capacity of the eyes to reveal a volcano of emotion… how we reveal when we try to hide. And both continue to encourage my fledgling pursuit of using film/movement to explore themes in the Solstenen project. I am thrilled to share their work, learn more about their projects with anyone willing to take a dip into the Solstenen project, while also basking in their encouragement for expanding into new media with my work.

Come see their films on the big wall of The Project Room!

Get Yourself Together

TRAIN TIME

The last events of Solstenen at TPR: last Community Crochet event : today from 3:30-7:30

Community Crochet, August 23

Community Crochet, August 23

My days of working at The Project Room are dwindling…I have SO much information and images to process, so much to be grateful for, and so much to feed me as I continue on with the work of Solstenen project.  Not in the least has been the response of those people who have taken a leap, walked into the space and learned to crochet.  And most of them have returned and returned many times!  Today is the last crochet party of my 7-week residency here, but TPR curator Jess Van Nostrand and I have worked out a plan for me to return once a month beginning in October, on a sporadic basis, so please sign up for my mailing list or twitter or Facebook if you want to be kept up-to-date about those coming crochet events.

So please join me today and tonight at TPR from 3:30-7:30!  And we have a special guest coming, Erin Shafkind’s community project ‘Department of Artistic Licensing’ comes back for an encore from 5pm until 7:30!

UAL

UAL

ALSO I NEED YARN:  This is a last minute plea, I know, but at MAN NIGHT Crochet, the men managed to use up all  my yarn…honestly I don’t know how, even with the giant crocheted chains hanging about the space.  If you have any gray yarn you’d like to donate, I would be grateful!

MAN NIGHT crochet...using up the yarn...

MAN NIGHT crochet...using up the yarn...

And lastly, come celebrate the work of Poet Sierra Nelson with an Icelandic pancake feast on Wednesday!

August 31, Wednesday, Guest Artist Event, 6 – 8 pm;  Poet, text-based artist and data-Dadaist’ Sierra Nelson comes in for ‘show and tell’ and conversation about her own journey to Iceland for the SIMS artist residency.  She’ll share her interactive surveys on ‘sending and receiving’ and photography of forgotten intimate spaces of Reykjavic.  And we’ll be making Icelandic pancakes!

Poet Sierra Nelson

Poet Sierra Nelson

Don't Miss the Pancakes....

Don't Miss the Pancakes....

Guest Artist Julia Harrison: mini-residency, artist talk, demo and show-and-tell, 8/29 11-2:30pm, 5-6:30pm

August 29th, Monday, Guest Artist Event, 11 am – 2pm; Mini-residency with Wood Sculptor/Jeweler and sweets enthusiast Julia Harrison, sharing with me some techniques to carve wood shoes!  Then at 5 – 6:30pm;  Julia does a show and tell of works-in-process,  images and conversation…and special treats!

When I began working with the idea of ‘A Stone Woman’ in mind for inspiration…a jumping off point, my mind went to Julia Harrison‘s incredibly detailed life-like carvings of elements of women’s bodies (and an assortment of other recurring forms that seem to have a connecting thread, a Julia-logic of sensuality).  She seems to do the opposite of my heroine in the A.S. Byatt story, rather than flesh turning into natural materials, Julia seemingly reveals flesh below the surfaces of wood…revealing a wood woman.

She is an insightful wit, eager to push her work into unknown territory through research, travel and writing, and share what she knows through teaching.  She also delves into our complex relationship to ingesting beautiful things, and has researched into the history of the Kashigata, a Japanese sugar mold, as well as writing about her own obsession with unusual treats.  Hearing Julia talk about how she strings all of this together (carefully and with great attention and skill…like her carved wood chain) should be fascinating!

Please stop by and visit , or join us for conversation, show-and-tell and treats!

Guest Artist Anne Blackburn speaks and carves tomorrow, 6-9pm

August 27th, Saturday: Guest Artist Event, 6 – 9pm;  Artist and Lo-Fi Arts Festival curator Anne Blackburn Artist Talk and hands-on demo of book-carving for her environmental installations.  Photos and films from her two-year installation of human-made shelf fungus.

Earlier this summer, just a week before I started Solstenen project, I had a small exciting adventure at Smoke Farm with Anne Blackburn.   Smoke Farm has popped up its amazing acreage into my work before;  I’ve walked all over the place, made a film, done photoshoots…but it continues to yield hidden places and surprises.  Anne took me to one; her two year Shelf Fungus Project.  I’d heard about it…seen some pictures floating around, and had missed it at the last Lo-Fi.

Teeth Marks....

Teeth Marks....

I always imagine  Anne so immersed in her work — which also includes curating and organizing and gathering people together — that she doesn’t really do the full onslaught of ‘marketing’ that seems the norm for our age.  And I’m glad…not really knowing all I wanted to know from the computer put me in the position to get Anne to take me on a hike to see her woman-made Shelf Fungus.

After a hike down a path I was familiar with, we took a sharp turn towards the mountain and under some evergreen boughs that opened up into a cathedral-like clearing where you can’t see the sky.  The most striking element were the many very tall old-growth stumps, with the notches carved a century ago by lumbermen, tool marks still very much visible.  Each stump now has a 50 year old ‘new’ tree sprouting out the top, creating this dense canopy, but also very much showing the process that Smoke Farm itself is undergoing; renewal in the form of decay.  Once harnessed and used for human industry, the land, the trees, the water – through human care and the unceasing urge of nature to renew – are changing back (or changing forward) to a wild place….or a place that references the wild place it once was and can never truly be again.  It was easy for me to see a time-lapse in my mind of the clearing of the land, the farm being built, the cows, the effort, the lives made and past.

I could see the trees head to the saw mill and go through a myriad of processes to become any number things to meet  human needs, including books.  Then in this little village of massive stumps, we see Anne’s human-made Shelf Fungus….made of books.  Again, I can see another time-lapse of paper being made, books being bound, and used for half a century — law books about property rights, no less — then discarded when the weight of digesting information in that form became too cumbersome.  They became trash.

Until Anne Blackburn takes them up, carves them like one would if they were wood (because they are…..) and makes them back into the image of something they once were, a flourishing opportunistic organism, an ecosystem.   The tools marks remain, just as they do on the stumps in that old and new forest.  Then she sets them back into the forest, to decay and renew at the same time; in private, the only audience the life that goes on around them, and sometimes with human visitors.  Anne, an enthusiastic scholar of land art, science and the gathering of human effort, asks ‘when is the work done’ ?

On hearing that the Fungus project was nearing an end (if there is one….), and that there were miles of unedited footage of days and nights passing before a little wildlife camera trained on the Fungus installed, and the incredible overlapping of cycles of destruction leading to creation, leading to destruction leading to creation…some by human industry and need and some by the ever-pervasive natural cycle, I really wanted to learn all I could about this work where the edges seem to bleed over, and share it with everyone through my time at The Project Room.

Please join Anne and me, as we look over images, and artifacts, actual pieces removed from the forest (as books always are anyway…) and explore ideas about when anything made ever really ends. Have some treats and join us for conversation I’ll turn into a Solstenen Artist Profile.  We’ll add one more layer to how ‘work’ evolves and lives on….when it inspires.

See even more images in the slideshow below…

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Poet Sierra Nelson’s ‘Rune Library / Runasafn’ poetry installation is up at TPR, now until Sept. 2

“Like many games, sacred and secular, the Runes are meant to be played upon a field.  The field represents the world that is always coming to be and passing away.”  – The Book of Runes, Ralph H Blum

Poet Sierra Nelson came by The Project Room yesterday to install a quiet but bracing installation of interactive poetry, the Rune Library / Runasafn.  She used the word ‘bracing’ to describe the effect that one can feel when reading the meaning of Runes, and I think it is a fitting word for her entire project.  Going through the process she sets up for you, selecting a small volcanic stone out of a tattered black satin-covered box lined with purple velvet – found in an antique shop in Reykjavik Iceland – you catch a glimpse of your hand as it passes in front of a decaying mirror, like a disintegrating membrane between this world and another just behind the glass.  Whether through chance or luck, fate or the sensual attraction of a particular shape of stone, you are selecting a poem that will be yours, that you then find in the library and sign out on the traditional library cards we no longer use, writing your name behind the others who share your poem.  Then you have a few bracing moments with Sierra Nelson whispering in your ear, her voice coming back from a time she spent in Iceland as she interpreted longer voices coming through the Runic language, ideas that still resonate with our daily lives now.

I’ll be the caretaker of the Rune Library / Runasafn until I leave The Project Room on September 2.  Please drop by and find your poem.  Also Sierra will be back on Wednesday August 31, 2011 from 6 pm – 8-ish to share more of her work created in Iceland, talk about her experiences and just generally letting me pick her brain.  We’ll start with an Icelandic pancake feast, cooked here at TPR, while Sierra roams the room asking you to fill out a survey she created in Iceland about the mythic and mundane activities of ‘sending and receiving’.

More about the Rune Library / Runasafn….

M: What inspired this piece for you?

S: I’ve always been interested and curious about runes, and while doing a residency at SIM in Iceland, it seemed like the perfect place to investigate and work with them … in a Nordic land where runes were once used, and where people still find it interesting.

I wanted to make my own set, so I began gathering stones, and many of the ones I used are small volcanic rocks from the Vatnajokull glacier.

I also was gathering notes during my stay in Reykjavik and while traveling to different parts of Iceland, images and ideas, the way I would for any kind of poem. Then when I sat down to write the rune poems, I culled these images while thinking about the different runes, to find which pieces would resonate together.  As I was learning about the runes, a poem would emerge from these images coming together.

M: Your Rune Library in The Project Room has with it “The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle” by Ralph H. Blum.  Did you have this book with you in Iceland?

S:  I did, I had the book before I went.  It’s from the 80’s and it does have a very different take on Runes, just as any book would that has to do with esoteric ideas, every era has its own perspective.  But I really liked his approach to Runes; it’s a little bit more philosophical.   A little less “This Will Happen to You,” and more describing a process that we are all in, that your life is always a cycle and this rune can help show you where you are in that cycle, and maybe offer some insight or advice for that state.

Blum uses a great deal of imagery from the natural world, which made a lot of sense to me, considering where runes are often used, often scratched or written into a stone or carved into a tree or wood.  Each letter symbol has an individual meaning that was thought to have a symbolic power as well, and could be used as protection, to create a spell, for divination, or to give you some sort of strength during a process you are going through.

M:  Have Runes always been used this way?  To help people make choices or decisions?  Or have they also been used to record narratives, as well?

S: They can come together to express words as an alphabet, so they can also be used to communicate ideas, as a means of expression.  But they have also always had that connection with the power of the actual word itself, that symbol itself, as well as the tradition of writing the individual symbols on different pieces (stones, or pieces of wood cut from a branch) and them drawing them out individually, an act of chance or divination that could provide meaning. People could also carve them and carry them as a talisman, to invoke some sort of power that they needed to go through an experience.

M: So their function is to carry the power of the word in a physical form?

S:   Yes, to me runes speak to the power of word itself.  The action of creating the marks for the words brings something into being.  Which is exciting!  Especially in the world of poetry, when each word has quite a bit of weight…and you’re thinking about what is happening in that small space of the written poem, each sound and letter can have a resonant meaning as well.  You can say Runes out loud or incant them, but the actual marks themselves carry weight and meaning. I enjoy the importance of their physicality.

M:  So each poem in the Rune Library has to do with the rune symbol it’s associated with but also has to do with your own observations during your residency as you lived your daily life.

S: Yes…a bit of both.  I was gathering imagery as I walked around Reykjavik and to excursions around the country.   I was also gathering images from the traditional symbols and their meanings.   So then as I sat down to write each poem, I’d read a bit about that particular rune and look back through my notebook and see what resonated from my experiences and what stood out in relation to the particular Rune.  They are my own slant on the rune, but I really view them as gifts from Iceland, experiences that I was able to put into the poems.

M:  I’ve only read two of the poems — the one I chose and the one that Hazel got — and they are remarkably like little windows onto an intimate experience of place; being in a new location for an extended period of time, once you are there for a certain period, you get to have a certain quality of daily life, an ‘ordinariness’ instead of a ‘specialness’ which actually leads to what feels like a deeper understanding of a place.  I think I gasped when I read my poem!  I really love the flip-flop between such a sense of history and permanence of the Rune – carved in stone —  and that you could translate and record something so transitory as your lived experience of private moments into forms of an ancient language…

S: A lot of contemporary images were coming through the poetry from when I was gathering impressions from my experiences.  But it seems like part of what the runes are as well, what they have always been used for – reflecting back your actual life, but you have to find what those connections are.  What some of the symbols represent can be quite intense – ice, disruption – they have this bracing quality.  When you find yourself in that moment, within a broad range of strong emotions, it’s really nice to have the reassurance of the runes that this is part of the natural cycle too, to have them reflect that back at you.  The rune meanings give you a helpful framework to realize it is transitory, the intensity of emotion…you are a part of a much larger cycle.

M: I looked up the rune I chose in your Blum book and it did catch my breath, how the ancient meaning behind it was oh so pertinent. I chose ‘constraint’, it said ‘…the role of nauthiz is to identify our shadow, our dark or repressed side, places where growth has been stunted resulting in weaknesses that are often projected onto others’.  And then in italics like I was suppose to really remember this…..‘don’t take this world personally’. It was, to use your word for it, bracing!  I am so drawn into this work of yours right where it intersects with my own process in making art; I am always hunting, sometimes randomly, and usually by luck for those moments in mythologies or archetypes where I see my own life reflected back at me.

I wonder, what has it been like for people to choose a poem at random, by luck or chance and their reactions to the connection they find in ‘their’ poem?  I guess that is a question I should answer (laughter)…..

S: I can speak to that somewhat…It was such a pleasure writing these poems because I didn’t feel like I was writing about me or just my own experiences — other than pulling images through my physical person.  My intention behind each poem was thinking more about that person who might be pulling this rune, what they might need in that moment, what the poem might be useful for in their life.  That is why I did not want the poems to live in a book  — though they certainly could — I wanted to present them in a way that people could have some kind of active experience connecting with a particular poem.  Being able to choose a poem through chance or fate, it becomes a more meaningful event because it came together in that way; it creates some energy and aliveness between the reader and the poem that doesn’t have to do with me.

M: This interactive quality seems important to you, both with your own work and what you have done with Rachel Kessler with Vis-à-vis Society and earlier with Typing Explosion.   Putting things in flux…it seems very important to you for a long time now.

S: There just is something so great that happens during those interactive moments… Rachel and I both are very much interested in the public/private relationship.   There are these kinds of moments we all have all the time, and Rachel and I aim to find ways to look closely at them.  Our intention is in finding ways to reflect back those moments through the process of making art, like say, with the making a graph of data of private experiences.  We try to find ways to facilitate and value the way people have a private moment of reflection, and yet we can create the opportunity for people to see their own private thoughts collectively through graphing and recording the patterns in everyone’s experience.

Vis-a-Vis Society

Vis-a-Vis Society

So it is an important private moment, choosing your rune stone from the box.  But to also have to sign out the rune from the library functions as a public way to mark and record the larger patterns. The Rune Library records what is happening on any given day, and potentially providing a larger sense of where patterns might emerge. It’s a library of experiences.  Were there certain rocks that people were drawn to on that particular day? Are there some runes that are pulled more frequently over time?  Is there some pattern to these random meetings?

 

Directions for Rune Library / Runasafn

 

1. Choose (or select at random) a rune stone from the container.

2. Find the corresponding symbol on the library card envelope.

3. Write your name and the date on the card.

4. Find the corresponding poem to the symbol and rune name.

5. The poem is yours to keep.

6. Return the rune stone to the container.

Takk fyrir!