Panhandler Poetry - Fiction - Nonfiction - Drama - Criticism - Interviews - Art
Samantha Wall samanthawall.com
Panhandler poetry - fiction - nonfiction - drama - criticism - interviews - art
Issue Six Terry Berlier Art /1-20 George Saunders Interview /21-31 Dan Carlson Art /32-57 Felecia Chizuko Carlisle Art /58-69 Jacob Appel Fiction /70-76 Daniel Murphy Poetry /77-81 James Caudle Art /82-94 Daniel J. Glendening Art /95-138 Andy Paris - Tectonic Theater Group Interview /149-158 Editor: Jonathan Fink Art Editor: Valerie George Managing Editors: Brooke Hardy, Ashley Clark, Jason Schuck, Maria Steele www.uwf.edu/panhandler Panhandler (ISSN 0738-8705) is published by the University of West Florida’s Department of English and Foreign Languages.
T erry B erlier
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Bio Terry Berlier is an interdisciplinary artist who works primarily with sculpture and expanded media. Her work is often kinetic, interactive and/or sound based and focuses on everyday objects, the environment, ideas of nonplace/place and queer practice. She is currently spending her sabbatical from teaching as an artist in residence at Recology San Francisco aka “the dump” where she will have an exhibition of scavenged materials in January of 2012. She will also be doing another artist in residence in Norway in June of 2012. She has exhibited in solo and group shows both nationally and internationally including the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco, Richard L. Nelson Gallery in Davis CA, Center for Contemporary Art in Sacramento, Kala Art Institute Gallery in Berkeley, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, Natural Balance in Girona Spain and FemArt Mostra D’Art De Dones in Barcelona Spain. Her work has been reviewed in the BBC News Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle and in the book Seeing Gertrude Stein published by University of California Press. Her work is in several collections including the Progressive Corporation in Cleveland Ohio, Kala Art Institute in Berkeley California and Bildwechsel Archive in Berlin Germany. She has received numerous residencies and grants including the Zellerbach Foundation Berkeley, Arts Council Silicon Valley Artist Fellowship, Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research Fellow at Stanford University, Recology San Francisco, Hungarian Multicultural Center in Budapest Hungary, Exploratorium: Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception in San Francisco, Arts Council Silicon Valley Artist Fellowship, California Council for Humanities California Stories Fund and the Millay Colony for Artists. She received a Masters in Fine Arts in Studio Art from University of California, Davis and a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She currently is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University. terryberlier.com
Artist’s Statement A commitment to remain human in an increasingly changing and hybridizing world, culture, and home is what helps me negotiate my place interpersonally and relationally to my studio practice and production as an artist. As innovations alter how we perceive and interact with the world, are we coming closer to or farther from understanding each other and the world around us? In continually mining this question I find the memory of time and history preserved in the natural environment surrounding us as a major theme in my practice. The traces and clues discovered in this investigation reveal quasi-cyclical patterns of the past and remind us at the same time to question how we might use that evidence to ethically move forward. My work seeks to dissect and map the fabrication of time to expose and manipulate our understanding of cultural and environmental histories. These are spatially configured through audience interaction with sculpture that incorporates sound, video, installation and drawings. Found materials, technologies that are both vernacular and modern, and detritus from everyday life are appropriated or subverted and humor is embedded in the material and content. When I was growing up my father’s workshop was in the room next to the toy room. The door between the two was always open and I did not distinguish any boundaries between the two—toys and tools, playing and making, girls and boys.
Photo credit: Henrik Kam
Acoustic Locator, 2012 Metal wheels, galvanized metal, steel, wood column, wood shelves, airline tie-down strapping, wood glue
While in residence at Recology San Francisco (aka the dump), I made this piece from salvaged materials. This piece is based on acoustic locator devices used for military purposes in WWI before radar rendered them obsolete. The devices were used for the passive detection of aircraft by picking up the noise of the engines. Horns give both acoustic gain and directionality; the increased inter-horn spacing compared with human ears increases the observerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ability to localise the direction of a sound.
Photo credit: Henrik Kam
Photo credit: Micah Gibson
Where the beginning meets the end, 2012 88 ivory piano keys, apple ibook laptop computer, dell computer keyboard microcontroller, wire, wire nuts, wood spool, wood, copper pipe, screws, speakers This piece reconfigures the well known solo instrument into a circular and group playing device. All materials were salvaged from the San Francisco dump including a working ibook computer, upright piano parts and a dell computer keyboard micro-controller. Homespun, 2012 (previous page) Turned wood pieces from chairs, banisters, tables, dowels, brads, wood glue This piece plays with the technique of physically turning these original architecture pieces made of wood by continuing to spiral their forms in a sort of collapsed home form similar to a staircase. This piece was also made while in residence at Recology San Francisco and directly refers to the high volume of waste associated with home construction as well as foreclosures. The piece makes reference to the instability of the idea of the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;American Dreamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and the idea of a home.
Open Secret, 2011 20’ x 26’ x 13’ wood, motor, light bulb, blue chalk, clapping monkey, overhead projector, neon, mirror
Photo credit: Tammy Rae Carland
Commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission Art Gallery Partially as a response to the recent nuclear plant catastrophe in Japan and in consideration of the United States massive storage of over 65,000 metric tons of nuclear waste. The installation uses visual elements drawn from found web images of spent nuclear storage facilities. The installation is not meant to be a literal representation of this imagery but rather an interpretive experience that considers the confluence of “open secrets”, dependent cycles of man-made energy and the incapacity to fathom the time that is calculated when accounting for the storage of nuclear waste. Playing with notions of time and space, via the illusion of extended space created by a blue neon sculpture with mirror, implies infinity and the time needed for nuclear rods to become harmless. Other sculptural elements physically and metaphorically reference the fuel rod containment systems. Sculptural elements, including a standard household light bulb that performs a kinetic loop suspended from the ceiling, act as a silent reminder of the cyclical nature of energy consumption, waste and invention.
Open Secret, 2011 (detail) (pages 7-9)
Photo credit: Tammy Rae Carland
Perfect Lovers, 2011 30’ x 4’ x 4’ plywood, monofilament
This piece represents the cross sections of two trees, a familiar reference to nature’s clock and a dramatic visualization to time. This large-scale installation illustrates that the life-span of a tree is measured in centuries, and by inference, reminds us that human life is most often measured in decades. In a fast-paced, short-attention-span culture, this vivid reminder gives us pause. The “clocks” also reference Felix Gonzalez Torres Untitled (Perfect Lovers) that is comprised of two synchronized clocks that inevitably become out of synch. Similarly, my piece serves as a symbol of time’s inexorable flow.
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Photo credit: Tammy Rae Carland
Perfect Lovers, 2011 (detail)
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Human Tuning Fork #4 (or World Tuning), 2003 (Revised 2011) 8’ x 8’ x 1” 242 telephone speakers, wire, sound piece, amplifier “The title of this piece evokes a sound-making mechanism to tune human beings and put them in harmony with one another on a global scale. Gertrude Stein’s novella Many Many Women provides the script for this sound sculpture, which consists of 242 telephone speakers—one for every country or territory in the world—wired together for form endless loops of transmission. The speakers broadcast Stein’s mantra-like text -anyone having been that one is the one that one is.’ Three different recordings circulate. The first is of Stein’s original text read in English. The second was created using software to translate the text successively into the languages of the countries involved in World War I and World War II, and finally back into English, incorporating the resulting distortions. The third version of the recording relays the text through the current year’s most prevalent languages from English to Chinese to Spanish to Arabic to Portugese to Japanese and back to English. Terry Berlier’s piece frees Stein’s words from their preserve on the printed page, affirming that hers is a living language, meant to be spoken, heard, repeated and reconfigured endlessly in new contexts.” —Tirza True Latimer
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Human Tuning Fork #4 (or World Tuning), 2003 (Revised 2011) (detail)
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Photo credit: Jeremiah Barber
Smart and Final, 2011 20” x 22” x 40” shopping cart, cement, wood
This piece comments on the weight both culturally and environmentally on consumer and a consumption-based society.
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Reclaimed Time, 2011 2’ x 2’ x 1 ½” reclaimed wood This piece uses salvaged wood to create a tree cookie and a fragmented sense of time.
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Pan Lid Gamelan II, 2010 54” x 14” x 14” 21 Pan lids, threaded rod, grommets, nuts, steel Pan Lid Gamelan II is constructed out of twenty-one brushed metal repurposed kitchenware pan lids and is based on the homophobic Jamaican saying that “two pan tops can’t meet”. The pan lids are on a horizontal rod that are reversely arranged and can be played with a variety of tools including mallets, bows and wire brushes. Self-Leveler (aka Tipping Point), 2009 (page 17) 6’ x 3’ x 20” Wood, metal, computer, wii remote, monitors, cables, video, motor, aluminum axe, MAX The piece uses the environmental phrase “tipping point” to create an uncomfortable situation where the sculpture appears to almost fall over. The piece uses MAX programming and a Wii remote to keep the video water level while the structure rocks back and forth with the axes’ counterbalancing force.
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Core Sampling (aka Tick Tock), 2009 Overall Dimensions Vary, Cores are 6’ x 3” x 3” FGR-95, dyes, steel, motors, MAKE Controller, computer, sensor, microscope camera, PVC, aluminum, pocket watch, MAX This piece began while reading Tim Flannery’s book The Weather Makers, (2005) on climate change. This is a quote— “Scientists have discovered that innumerable miniature recorders of temperature, salinity, and other environmental conditions lie buried in the vertical mile or more of fossil-bearing rock intersected by the drills. If you know how to read them, you can play the climatic history of our planet that they encode much like a pianola roll. And, like a pianola, the most captivating rhythms and melodies emerge when information from the cores is fed into the right machines.” This device creates sound from handmade pseudo core samples depending on the color change and depth. The piece references scientific interpretations and plays a sort of fantastical climatic history.
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Core Sampling (aka Tick Tock), 2009 (detail) (pages 19, 20)
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G eorge S aunders Photo credit: Caitlin Saunders
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Bio George Saunders is the author of three collections of short stories: the bestselling Pastoralia, set against a warped, hilarious, and terrifyingly recognizable American landscape; CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, a Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and In Persuasion Nation, one of three finalists for the 2006 STORY Prize for best short story collection of the year. Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline were both New York Times Notable Books. Saunders is also the author of the novella-length illustrated fable, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, which takes us into a profoundly strange country called Inner Horner, and the New York Times bestselling children’s book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, illustrated by Lane Smith, which has also won major children’s literature prizes in Italy and the Netherlands. Most recently, he published a book of essays, The Braindead Megaphone, which received critical acclaim and landed him spots on The Charlie Rose Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Colbert Report. His work appears regularly in The New Yorker, GQ, and Harpers Magazine, and has appeared in the O’Henry, Best American Short Story, Best Non-Required Reading, and Best American Travel Writing anthologies. In 2001, Saunders was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 top most creative people in entertainment, and by The New Yorker in 2002 and one of the best writers 40 and under. In 2006, he was awarded both a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University.
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March 14, 2011
Brooke Hardy: I wanted to start with a question about technology. Between “Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz” and some of the stories in In Persuasion Nation you have several stories that comment on the role of technology in our lives. What is your relationship to technology? George Saunders: I mostly do that because it gets me into places where the prose stops sucking. When I was a younger writer I used to do a lot of pseudo-Hemingwayesque writing—realist, naturalist—and I just didn’t really have an ear for it. I was doing a lot of imitating of Raymond Carver and my teacher Tobias Wolff and Richard Ford and all these guys, and as much as I loved their work, I just didn’t have the gift for making the prose come alive the way they did. It’s a long story, but I reached the point where I had two daughters, I was working at an engineering company, and I had been out of the MFA program for two years and nothing was happening. I couldn’t get anything to work. I’d had a brief period early on, before the MFA program, where I could feel a real fun sort of magic in my prose. During this period I’d published a story called “A Lack of Order in the Floating Object Room,” in The Northwest Review. But then I lost that feeling of fun for a long time. So at one point postMFA I just, on a whim, decided to imitate that earlier [work], which was set in a theme park. It was a wave theme park. It’s in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. And somehow just that decision undercut all of my bad,
fake lyrical tendencies. If you say you are in the “Virgin Mary Theme Park” and then you write earnestly, it’s funny. So it was almost like a mechanical Jujitsu on a certain bad tendency that I had. I find whenever I make up a technology, usually they are kind of silly, but if you put that in there it’s a preventative. It’s a Suckiness Preventer. It’s like if you are—which I actually am—a guitar player, and you are inclined to be very folkie. I’ve got 1977 stamped right on my forehead. The way that I would get around the danger of people saying, “Dan Fogelberg the Fifth,” is to write the song on the guitar, but then maybe use some other weird synthesizer keyboard to do the same effect and then suddenly, at least a little bit, it diffuses that 70’s vibe. So anytime you see sci-fi or pop culture or commercials [in my work], often the reviews will say, “He’s critiquing,” and I think by default I am, but mostly what I am trying to do is jangle-up the prose so I can’t go into that sucky imitation of Hemingway.
was that my wife and I went to New York with our daughters, and I did what he did. I failed to get tickets to this show. I went up to this big ticket line and stood in line for about three hours, and I got to the front, and he said, “Oh, we don’t take credit cards.” It was pouring rain and my sweet little daughters are home waiting to see “42nd Street,” and I was saying to myself: “Oh my God, is it possible that you can’t accomplish this one simple task?” And I look up and see those huge accomplishments, those signs. I went home thinking about that story, but somehow, if I told that straight, it just wouldn’t sell. So it becomes like you put a little hand puppet over here to distract the reader from the very simple sentimental story you are telling, and then you say, “OK, I need a technology” and for some reason for me that’s just fun. Maybe because of watching too much T.V. as a kid, but I can just do it lightly without the usual artistic neurosis. It’s literally like if somebody had a knack for baby names.
BH: One of the things I find in your techno-centered work is that you are so inventive, and you develop these new fantastical technologies that often highlight the absurdity of the technologies we use in our relationships. For example, the detail in “My Flamboyant Grandson” that the shoes determine what advertisement is popping up on the street reminds me of the technologies of Philip K. Dick and his simple things like the empathy box in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” where there is a function that technology does something we have forgotten how to do. What influences your choices in these technologies that you create?
Jonathan Fink: So basically your children got denied and you got a story out of it?
GS: Honestly, it’s just that I found out early that I have a knack for making that kind of shit up [laughs]. On that story in particular, the basis - 23 -
GS: [laughing] Thanks for bringing up that painful subject! I did get the tickets finally. I think the trick is that, for most of us as writers, there are things about which we have strong opinions, things that we can do naturally, easily and joyfully. For some reason we always think that is not what we should bring to the table when writing our “serious art.” But most of the writers I love, they naturally bring the things that are fun, the things about which they have strong opinions, and you can feel that in their work. You can feel when someone is celebrating in the work, or enjoying themselves, playing around a bit, being confident. So then the whole thing of becoming a writer is not laborious. It’s
just about maybe knocking down certain scrims you’ve put up to keep your real shit from the table, which for some complicated psychological reason a lot of people do. I kept humor away from the table for a long time. Brevity. I’m kind of a fast talker, a natural fast storyteller, but I didn’t do that. All the pop culture stuff. All the stuff I learned from watching T.V. I thought that was just sort of low. So I kept it away, and of course it is like if you had a certain personality trait that was very winning, but you said, “Well that doesn’t count. It’s too easy. So therefore I will never do that,” and then suddenly you didn’t have any friends, you might want to investigate letting that thing back into the mix a little bit. BH: Do you have any advice for unpublished writers? Is it a matter of paying attention to those preoccupations you already have? GS: That’s the million-dollar question because it is probably different for everyone. One thing that I remember thinking very clearly was, “OK, it’s alright to consider yourself an entertainer” — “entertainer” defined broadly and deeply. It’s OK to want to compel your audience to keep listening. I find that the MFA thing—because it’s so hard to do that—we sometimes give ourselves exemptions like, “Well, of course if you want to be a lowly storyteller, go ahead, but I’m dissecting patriarchy.” At some point we all kind of know on a personal level what we do to compel someone to listen to us. You’ve been living a long time. You know when you’re in trouble what mode you go into. When you’re trying to keep someone on your side, when you’re trying to keep someone from leaving you, when you’re trying to seduce somebody, there are different things that you do. It’s hopefully more of that kind of energy than a conceptual energy. Jon actually turned me onto
this quote from Robert Frost where he said, “Don’t worry, work.” Which sounds a little facile, like, “Hey, thanks, Bob.” But actually if you put in those 10,000 hours of work that Malcolm Gladwell always talking about, not only will you find out what your big problems are, you also find out what the solutions are,— I don’t think there is really any way to plan
done, and it becomes like, “Hey reader, shut up.” To me, so much of writing is about being in a relationship with the reader. And just as in a real relationship, if the dynamic was only going in one direction, and you were never watching your partner to see how they were responding, that would not be a good relationship. I think sometimes political ar-
“If you have a political idea, first of all it is usually pretty static—you have already had the idea and you are just going to force-feed it to the reader, which is not a recipe for good art.” your way out of it, or think your way around it. BH: Do you find that your writing of fiction and nonfiction functions as some form of commentary? Do you feel like you have a social obligation with your subject matter? GS: I’d rather not feel that. To tell you the truth, the answer would be, “Yes, if it helps.” In other words, if I am feeling very irate about, say, the Iraq War, if I can use that energy to get something beautiful or compelling, then: cool. But on the other hand, if I suddenly completely turn off of politics and find I can only get stories by thinking about Chekhov, that’s fine too. The answer is that yes, a person should be concerned with things, but I also find that it is a tremendous buzzkill in terms of making good writing because if you have a political idea, first of all it is usually pretty static—you have already had the idea and you are just going to force-feed it to the reader, which is not a recipe for good art. So often if we have a political mindset there is no curiosity, and it is already - 24 -
guments are like someone saying, “I know the answers. Let me give them to you.” Audience: Is that the inspiration for “The Braindead Megaphone,” the essay itself? GS: It was that same feeling. In that relationship we have with the big media, it’s not a relationship. It’s them dumping shit on us and making a fortune doing it. It’s disempowering to the person receiving the information. Audience: I’m a retired newspaper editor and that essay really resonated with me. I felt like it was spot-on as far as profit motive and the little people that are worried about falling down in their careers and winding back up in Peoria. Where does this come from? Do you know journalists? What sort of research did you do? GS: Well, I’ve done it myself. And I’ve seen it. I had been asked to go onto a certain big right-wing talk show when I did the Mexico essay.
And I said no in principle because I didn’t like their guy, but I got talking to his assistant and she was a very nice young person from Brown, and I think she had a creative writing background, and I said, “You know, I’m just curious, do you share his politics?” and you could tell she didn’t. She said, “Well, uh, he’s a very high energy man.” I said, “That’s not what I asked you. Do you share his politics?” And she said, “Well, he is basically making waves.” As someone with two daughters, I totally understood what she was saying; she had attached herself to a rising star, and I didn’t blame her a bit. BH: I watched your interview with Stephen Colbert where you were talking about the section from the essay where the person at the party is yelling into the megaphone, “We have more shrimp here!” Does the party still have the megaphone? GS: Worse. The essay seems kind of quaint to me now, kind of antiquated. If I were going to rewrite that essay, the thing I notice anew is that now the left has gotten their own version, with whom I tend to sympathize more because I am on the left, but it’s the same type. And it struck me anew that those guys are making a great living doing this thing where they pit these imaginary groups called “left” and “right” against each other, and they laugh all the way to the bank. On the local level in my family I have lots of people who are Libertarian, who are Tea Party, and when it comes down to it we don’t let it get in our way. We disagree, but if it gets too far off-base we clip it off because we love each other. If you were being corny, you would say that is the national energy that we need—to say that of course there is left and right, but at the end of the day there had better be some commonality and love, which is hard to find. And that atmosphere [the media] is creating
is 100% intended to make it worse, and who is benefitting? O’Reilly and Olbermann have almost identical lifestyles, I would argue. They probably live pretty close to each other. They both show up in Town Cars. It’s getting worse probably because we are so used to it now. It’s second nature. JF: It’s interesting looking at CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, which was published in 1996. A lot of the material was used to be exaggerated and farcical, like the representation of T.V. shows, and now it seems quaint compared to what is actually produced. GS: At the beginning of one of Thomas McGuane’s books he has this beautiful quote that says something like, “Man is wondrously well made and enthusiastically lives the life that is being lived.” On one had, we can be against all this stuff, but as writers maybe our job is to get on both sides of the table and say, first, “No, this texting thing is disgusting! It’s ruining our souls” and then run off and go, “I found this. It’s unbelievable. I’m going to text my grandmother!” And both things are true. That’s the great thing about being an artist: not only can you, but you are sort of obliged to, occupy every seat around this table simultaneously. Ashley Clark: With the consumerism we see in news media, what do you see as the ideal function of art? Does it inhabit both spaces, or create a new way—some sort of reconciliation? GS: Jon said something earlier that struck me—this idea, I’ll paraphrase you, that the media is basically saying, “Let us simplify this for you,” and your job as the artist is to get in and refuse to take the simplification, to complicate it and accept the fact that there are many simultaneous - 25 -
realities at once. The way I imagine it is like in a simple story about, say, marriage. Is marriage good or bad? Ok, let’s make one marriage that’s terrible. It’s not that they are bad people, they’ve just tried their best and it didn’t work out for all the reasons it wouldn’t. Then make another couple that has a wonderful marriage for all the reasons it would be wonderful. Then put them together like this. [George tilts both hands together so that the fingers meet.] One doesn’t have to win. Put them there together almost like two walls leaning up against each other like that. The moment where they [touch] and balance perfectly is the moment in fiction that gives off the light. I’m not good enough to do that yet. Chekhov does that all the time. I can do like a little sock puppet version. For human beings, that moment when you go, “On the other hand,” for me, that’s the sacred phrase. Fiction or poetry is a great way to instantaneously occupy both sides at once and in that process go, “Wow!” And that “Wow!” is really the point. BH: In stories like “In Persuasion Nation” we see a satirical look at the absurd nature of advertising, which is one way to look at the story. Stories like “Jon” seem to deal with message saturation that we can’t escape being sold something all the time. What do you see as the relationship between popular culture and human experience? Is there some sort of degradation of empathy and intellect? GS: Again, it’s yes and no. This whole process of watching Jersey Shore and forgetting to be ironic about it, which happens—suddenly you’re very concerned for Snooki— is an interesting phenomenon. On the other hand, as I get older, I think human beings are fine. They’re going to be fine. We’re fucked up
and fine both. It’s kind of fun to be alarmist, and maybe it’s justified. So simultaneously, yes, consumerism degrades our humanity. That’s absolutely true. Also, our humanity is pretty resilient. And the fact that we are having this conversation is an indication that human beings as organisms are not stupid. There are lots of resistant mechanisms that come up sort of spontaneously. I kind of go back to my first answer; when I critique consumerism, I’m really not. I’m kind of doing it for fun. It’s a way of getting the energy going. Your job as a writer is to compel that person to keep going after page one. That’s really it. So you use whatever means you have. I’m not someone like Turgenev who could write about a forest and make it come alive in your mind. But if you let me do commercials, I can get enough forward traction that somewhere in there I might be able to invent something that looks kind of like a real human situation. Like in “Jon,” to me that’s just a love story, plain and simple. It’s about my wife, actually. But I know I don’t have the chops to tell the story of my wife and me in a straightforward way. But if I make up this world of commercials—I know I can create easily four commercials a minute. I don’t have any problem with that. So then that makes this sort of conveyor belt on which the story is going to take place, and I know that at some level it is making fun of those [commercials]. It is critiquing them, but if that were all it was doing, I would feel like it is kind of a failure. The same way with “In Persuasion Nation.” It’s kind of a silly story, lots of commercials, but for me the moment of truth is when the polar bear realizes he is in this weird world and that to me was like all of the stuff about being alive in Bush America—the fact that you could be in this thing and feel the whole culture move in new direction of massive hypnosis and try to
vainly fight against it. Or maybe we might have that feeling in all kinds of circumstances – that feeling that the world is shifting beneath us in a way we can’t believe. That was the central action of the story for me more than the commercials. AC: I loved The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, and I was wondering what your goal was and who was your target audience? In some ways it seems as applicable for adults? GS: It was really just my kids. I had been telling them stories, inventing stories, at night. I’m such an anal-retentive writer. It takes me months and months of revising. I’m so obsessive that it was nice to just say, “Ok, here’s this little girl and tonight we are going to make up a story about her. I got to know what they liked and didn’t like. They are also really good readers. So I figured they could handle it. I kind of had Seuss in mind because he is someone who anyone can read with pleasure. I was also writing toward the idea of an illustrated book. I thought, “Oh, that would be a nice picture, and that would be a nice picture.” JF: I remember you saying once that when you were writing children’s literature that your focus was more on encouraging a child than admonishing an adult. GS: That’s right. Thank you for reminding me I said that. That was very smart of you [laughing]. At least with the first few books, I had been kind of shocked to find out that life could be harsh. I hadn’t planned for that. My wife had two very difficult pregnancies, and we were broke. You could see where life could have really gone sour for us easily, through no fault of our own. So I was sort of newly awakened to the idea that most of us assume good - 26 -
fortune, but the wolf of bad fortune is just on the other side of the thing. So those first few books came out of that energy. As Chekhov says: every happy man should have an unhappy man in his closet with a hammer to remind him by the constant tapping that not everyone is happy. But then with the kids’ book I thought, “Man, I don’t want to tell that to kids.” It is like that old cliché that art can comfort the oppressed or oppress the comfortable. So with the kids’ book it was more like allowing a happy ending—putting in enough trouble to make it interesting, but everyone knows that in the end it is going to be all right. BH: I had my students read “Nostalgia” and one of my students said that he “LOLed.” GS: I thought you said, “Loathed.” BH: No, like [“Laughed Out Load”]. People appreciate satire. They appreciate being able to laugh at serious subject matter. One of my students said, “I liked hearing the stuff he talked about in a funny way rather than if someone was preaching to me about these things. I wouldn’t listen to him [if he were preaching].” Where do you think you developed your sense of humor? GS: Just at home. My family is really funny—actually both sides of my family. Funny is what we do in a pinch. If there is a tense moment somebody will make a joke, or if there is a serious moment or at a funeral. There is a kind of South Side Chicago thing where—I never really thought about it until recently—[being funny] is a way of really being present in life. If things got so unbearably fill-in-the-blank—“scary,” “beautiful,” etc—humor was kind of the default. And it wasn’t always nice. It could be very cutting. It could be very dark. I remember my dad coming home one time from a fu-
neral and he was laughing so hard and I said, “What’s funny?” and he said, “Well, I got there…” This was a neighbor of ours we didn’t know very well. This woman’s mother had died at like 98. So my dad is there as a courtesy. And my dad says to her, “Well, you know, she’s had a very long life and she seemed to have good health” and the woman
and for me the whole thing is to be able to read it as if you hadn’t read it, to go into it kind of blank. If I write that version on Thursday, I’ll go into it on Friday and I’ll get into about the second or third sentence and go, “Uh, I’m not convinced here.” You just feel it. You say, “Ah, smarty pants” or “OK, wise guy,” having that reaction to my earlier self. So
“Put them there together almost like two walls leaning up against each other like that. The moment where they [touch] and balance perfectly is the moment in fiction that gives off the light.” said, “Yeah, that’s the sickest she’s ever been.” [Laughing] My dad said he felt like saying, “No shit!” But he came home kind of full of sadness and joy at this funeral because it was such an amazing, funny moment. I think a lot of the humor just comes very naturally from the way things always have been in our family. Which goes back to this idea earlier that sometimes you overlook the most basic parts of yourself, the things that you just take for granted and assume that, because they are so natural to you, they can’t be art with a capital “A.” They must be forbidden. Audience: How do you balance using humor and satire while not coming off sounding too preachy or dismissive? GS: That’s a great question. That’s the kind of thing where it’s a line-byline negotiation. Like in those New Yorker pieces, the first draft will often be way too sure of itself. And then on the revision you just kind of feel it. You go along a line at a time
then you just cut those lines out and re-feel it again. So I think your question is right on the money. It’s like titrating in chemistry. I suppose that part of the answer too would be that even on a satire piece you have to engineer in a load of their curiosity on your end, which mechanically means you have to represent your enemy at his or her best self. In other words, if you are arguing against Thing A, you have to take Thing A at its highest version and argue with that. I think what a cheap-shot writer does is take the stupidest, dumbest version of the counterargument and kicks it, and that feels bullying. But I think if you said, “OK, let me really think about people who would be against gay marriage,” for example. Let me imagine them at their highest form and with their most sophisticated argument, and let me take that argument on. And then you are almost forced to bring you’re A game. JF: That was a great satire piece against “Sameish-Sex Marriages.” - 27 -
GS: That was a piece where I got a couple of angry letters for genociding gays. It was interesting because the person who wrote that letter had read it out of context online. So they didn’t know it was in The New Yorker in the “Shouts and Murmurs” section. And then I got a letter back about five minutes later saying, “Sorry, my friend just told me you were kidding, that you’re not really Hitler.” As in so many things in writing, we like—when we talk like this, when we discuss these craft issues—to sort of have a conceptual idea, but so much of it is just line-to-line negotiation. It’s sort of like riding a bike. How do you ride a bike? You go left to right and in real time you are adjusting all the time” —so that then the only real litmus test that I know of is to train yourself to read your work in an uninflected way, where you are not attached to what you wrote yesterday, and you can try as much as you can to read it like the guy on the bus in Omaha would read it, and then edit it accordingly. JF: One of the things I notice students ask about more and more as I teach, and one of the things I feel less and less demonstrative in answering, is about genre. What makes a genre? What are the differences between genres? The moment you say, “Don’t write science fiction,” students say, “What about all these Saunders stories? They have science fiction.” Or I might say, “Don’t have didactic components, or teaching components,” and the students will say, “But what about these Saunders stories? They have teaching components.” Instead of thinking about genre as the specific “rules” of a piece, I’ve started to think about “genre” as the shortcuts one takes to circumvent the full complexity of material. What are your thoughts on genre? GS: I’ll give you an answer that is
a little stupid, really, but my feeling is that in this age we’ve all sampled so broadly—everybody in this room has such a wide range of influences, from Jane Austen to South Park— that it seems to me one of the first things to say is that we accept all of that. We’re not excluding any of that as possible influences. To the extent that we can, we should know all those forms from the inside out so that at the moment of truth, when you are trying to do a short story, you can bring in all of that stuff as needed. I feel like the job of a short story is to do everything. I tend not to think about genre or not. I tend to think, “Zombies! I can use that” or “Didactic, yeah, it is, but I am going to undercut it.” So, in other words, culture is like this vast toolbar of shit you can use and not be too picky about what tool comes to hand when you need it. In that way I think you kind of Jujitsu the whole question of genre. I don’t actually like science fiction very much, but when I say “science fiction” I’m talking about typical bad, average science fiction. Now the great science fiction I like very much. I think the thing is to sort of dis-encode it in a way. I know all this stuff so therefore I am happy to use it. It’s like in music. If someone said, “I’ll never use a synthetic instrument,” you are like, “Really? Never? Ok, so you are kind of a musical Luddite, and you’ve become sort of a tight ass.” So rather you will say, “I will use whatever I want.” But it is a complicated question because oftentimes people who do use genre are using it as you’re saying—as kind of a cheap escape, so then it becomes tricky. Audience: What’s your approach when you go into the field. For example, when you went to Dubai, when you wrote about the Buddha Boy? Did you hit the ground running on an assignment, or did you come up with those ideas separately?
GS: Those were all assignments from GQ. The Mexico one [from The Braindead Megaphone] was one that I thought of (or actually my wife thought of), but all the others were assignments. And they have people who just sit around thinking those things up. I had never heard of the Buddha Boy. I feel like my ap-
say about it because I didn’t take any notes.” So I will basically try to open up as wide as I can and talk to everybody, talk to anybody, try to get in trouble if there is some kind of way to get into an unusual spot. In that “Buddha Boy” story I was really tired before that long night out at the site started, and I felt like I already had a lot, and I was think-
“I feel like my approach is, ‘An Idiot Goes to Fill-in-the-Blank.’ I do minimal research. I do enough research so that I am not spending time in the field learning about this stuff, and I do enough of that reading, and then I just go.” proach is, “An Idiot Goes to Fill-inthe-Blank.” I do minimal research. I do enough research so that I am not spending time in the field learning about this stuff, and I do enough of that reading, and then I just go. I go, usually, for ten days, and my motto is kind of “Lenses Open.” Every minute of the day is for the piece, and I assume that I don’t know what the story of the piece is going to be. So I record everything. I write everything. If this were in the piece [the room in which the interview is taking place] I would linger after and write down all these paintings, get some titles of the books, inventory what was on the table, try to remember each one of you guys, quick, quick, quick, and write all that down as quickly as I could and put it away on the thinking that once I get home I’m going to actually find out that the story isn’t what I thought it was, based on what writes well. You might say, “Oh, damn it, that interview was a real critical turning point, and I don’t have anything to - 28 -
ing about the hotel back in town and the guy who was my translator said, “Perhaps it would be best to spend the night.” And I was like, “Uh, you bastard.” But he was completely right. So in that way you want to always say yes. Really the process is just taking in as much data as possible knowing that you are going to have to go home. Then I just type up everything I have—all tapes and notes which will take about three or four days—and get it all in one document, which will be like one hundred single-spaced pages, so it’s a book-length thing, and then you say, “Ok, this is 110,000 words, and the piece is 12,000 words.” So then suddenly your whole sense of scale changes, and all those nice observations about the paintings in the conference room changes, and you know they’re going away. But it depends, because you come out of it knowing that usually there are four or five instances say that you know are going to be in there. You can just feel it. So you start
writing those, and then suddenly this one is 7,000 words. So that’s no good. The hardest thing is to go one hundred percent for this piece for the next ten days. If I wake up in the middle of the night and I hear something outside of the hotel room I am going to go out there and get involved in it. Or if I wake up and feel like I really don’t want to go out
to read Dubai against Saudi Arabia in a way that only somebody who had been there for forty years could have done it. And I wouldn’t have had that if I hadn’t gone up there. So that’s fun. You can’t live your life that way, but you can live ten days of your life that way. BH: You have such an interesting
“Einstein said, ‘No worthy problem is ever solved in the plane of its original conception.’ So if you are stuck, it is that you are not looking deep enough.” for breakfast, I will say, “No, I’m going out for breakfast,” and, once I’m down there, I sit next to that guy I don’t really want to—because you never know. And that’s the thrill of it—because as a person I’m not like that at all. But when you put on that reporter cap, then suddenly you can. BH: It’s like an immersion experiment. GS: It really is. It is so wonderful because it teaches you about possibilities. You didn’t think you would ever use this material, but it turns out you do. There was one I did on Dubai where I was so tired. I had probably done 30,000 words worth of work that day, and I thought, “That’s it,” and it was 11:00, and I went to bed, and I was looking at a guidebook and it said, “This hotel (where I was staying) has the most famous pick-up bar in Dubai.” So I went out, and there was no picking-up going on, but there was a guy from Aramco there—an American guy who had worked in Saudi Arabia for forty years—and he told me some amazing shit about Saudi Arabia. He told me how
background. It seems indicative of the ways you engage some of these pieces. When I was preparing for the interview, I Googled you and stumbled across a “George Saunders” at IMDB.com who had been a dancer in the San Francisco ballet. Because I knew you have done so many things, I had to read the rest of it. But when I noticed this guy wrote something called, Cobra Marine, I was pretty sure that it wasn’t you. What do you think you would have done if you hadn’t become a writer? GS: I like music a lot, and if I had more skill at it I would have loved to be a composer. In a certain way I think life does kind of funnel you. When I look at my youth, I was least likely to be a writer. I didn’t know any writers. I didn’t even know it was a profession. But I can see now that I was always doing pretty fun things or pretty interesting things and feeling vaguely dissatisfied because I wasn’t that good at them. I was an engineer, and I was good enough to graduate from the Colorado School of Mines, which is a good school. I got a job in Asia and worked there. But I always felt like a klutz. - 29 -
I couldn’t quite do it. Only when I was reading did I feel euphoric. I felt happy and in touch with beauty in a certain way. So I think that life does sort of lead you to where you are supposed to be. JF: I always appreciated your story where you told the people at work that you published your first story in The New Yorker and they responded by telling you to stop using the photocopier and stapler. GS: Actually, it was even before that. It was when I received a good rejection letter, and I went to my boss, and I had this argument with myself that I shouldn’t tell him, and then I thought, “You have to tell him. He’ll be so pleased!” And I showed him this little one-paged rejection, and he said, “GeorgeMan.” It may have been the first use of that phrase. He said, “GeorgeMan, it has come to our attention that you are using our corporate resources to produce your literary thingies, and that’s gotta stop.” Audience: I always feel like there is way more I would like to write than there are hours in the day. Other than the stories you’ve been given to write, how do you pick the piece you are going to work on next? Something that is fun or something that will sell, or…? GS: Something that is fun. If you think about something that will sell, you’ll just fall right down. There is no way to predict that. And then you may find yourself writing something you hate that you thought would sell and didn’t. So I would say that if you write what is fun eventually it will sell. I have been doing this since about 1988, and I have three or four stories in progress, and they are just on the table or on the table in my mind. When I get up in the morning, I kind of just look and really just see if that one fills me with
dread. That one seems a little, ehh. If that one seems marginally more fun, I go to that one. It is probably different for everyone, but for me creativity has to do with fun, play. It is also like a ball floating in water and this side is “fear” and this side is “play” and if the “fear” side comes up I think you’re screwed. I think you can write well with some fear, but not without some modicum of enjoyment. It’s helpful if you can somehow get that ball to flip over and say, “It’s just for fun.” JF: I’ve always enjoyed the story about how your story “Bohemians” took so long to write until you had a breakthrough? GS: [laughing] You have a good memory for my stories, Jon. You should come live at our house. I’m having some trouble remembering… No, that was an eight-year thing. I had started the story back when I was writing the first book, and I really liked it. The first two or three pages I liked. The story is about these two Eastern European women who have both been through something during the Holocaust and end up living in the same neighborhood in Chicago. At the time, my operating thing was that one of the women had been through an awful experience, but she is really a sweetheart, and the other had been through something minor, but she was a total bitch. And somehow that was interesting. Intellectually, it was like, “Oh, wow, you can be really nice and have been through a lot.” Duh. But I got stuck there, and I had a paragraph I had written to be a summary of the nice woman’s experience in the war, and she had been through so much. I love the writer Isaac Babel, who is Russian, so I kind of agreed with myself to do a kind of imitation of him in this one paragraph. But every time I would get to that paragraph I would go, “Ehhh, you’re imitating Isaac Babel
badly. You’ve never been to Eastern Europe. That’s kind of corny.” But when I would cut it, the whole story would fall apart. So I left it there and year after year I would come back and read it and feel, “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” and then get to that paragraph and go, “Ehhh, okay, well I’ll put it away for now.” I took a really long break, maybe a two-year break, read it, had exactly the same reaction, and I went in the shower and had one of these internal monologues I’m sure you all have, like, “Why am I such an idiot? You’re supposed to be a professional writer, and you can’t finish a stupid story?” And at some point I said, “And in that last paragraph, what are you doing? Why would you lie like that? Why would you fabricate about something you’ve never done? Why are you such a liar?” And this little responsive voice said, “I’m not. She is.” And suddenly it became clear that this woman was making up this stuff about being in the Holocaust, which was why she “wrote about it” so badly. And then I finished the story in about two days. It was there all along for all those years. It’s an interesting idea that you could actually never be stuck on a story. Einstein said, “No worthy problem is ever solved in the plane of its original conception.” So if you are stuck, it is that you are not looking deep enough. You are not agreeing to go as deep as your subconscious wants you to go. So that is an exciting prospect. But having said that I am now stuck on another one that I have been working on since 1998. JF: It’s like Carver used to say—that a writer is someone who is willing to sit and stare at something longer than anyone else. GS: I never understood that until recently, and I think that is exactly right. You can will yourself to go deeper, but that is not the same as - 30 -
spontaneously getting sucked under. And that just takes hours. The “Bohemians” thing, part of the reason it worked was because I was so disgusted with myself. I joke about it now, but I was genuinely disgusted with myself, and that energy of disgust basically took me to the cliff and pushed me over. If I had been sort of moderate, I don’t think I would have gotten that far. Audience: How do you know when a piece is finished? Just like a piece of artwork, pretty soon it is overworked. GS: Eddie Van Halen one time was asked in an interview, “When do you know if a recording is right?” and he said, “I don’t know, man. It’s just like the brown sound.” When I am revising a story I read it so many times that after a while you really can feel every comma. I think it is a kind of self-hypnosis where you are so close to it that by the end of it you really do feel like you have painted yourself out of a room. The whole floor is painted, then the doorway – and you’re out. I think it’s hypnosis because when you come back to it a year later it might not feel that way. It might feel a little jangly. A little rough in places. In other places, it might not sound like “you” anymore. I’ve found that there’s a certain point where the plot falls into place naturally, then the language kind of does too, and I’ll polish, polish, polish…until you get to a point where you’re about to take out something essential. You’re about to cut into the bone. That’s an interesting psychological moment because it is the perfectionist agreeing to step aside: “You’ve got a life to live, don’t you? You’d like to write another story?” “I really would.” And then the perfection will step out saying, “You’ve done quite well. Not perfect, but pretty good.” So like everything else we do, it’s a matter of learning to work with
your own psychology in those micro ways and discovering for yourself how to end the story. I heard a very well-known writer say one time that he just doesn’t revise. He writes three or four hundred words a day, and he does it every day, and he just doesn’t look back. And I thought, “Oh, really?” And then an editor friend of mine confirmed this. This person is a wonderful writer, and he has a schedule when he will deliver these stories, and he delivers them right on time. It’s a big mansion and there are many rooms in it. The journey becomes to say to your mentors, “Thank you, motherfucker, leave the room,” to really say, “I honor you, thank you, Mr. Hemingway. You’ve helped me very much. Now get out or I’m going to kill you.” You have to at some point move into your own thing where you know your process so well that you can really roll with it.
ty sure something will come out in the end. And then maybe there is a danger of knowing too well what you do. And the question is, “Do I work out the rest of my life with what I already know, or do I throw all that aside and try to become an eighteen-year-old again and start afresh?” That’s kind of something I am thinking about lately.
JF: You mentioned earlier that the tools change as you get older, that there are different proportions. I heard a writer say once that when you are writing you want all your horses running at once. When you are younger, your enthusiasm is up and the skills are lower, but those might shift over the course of a career. GS: That’s a nice metaphor. What I am finding is that you get to a certain place and there is a feeling of familiarity. Now you have permission to write a whole page because something just clicked, and you can do it. I don’t have nearly the drive, I think, although it is a more mannered, managed drive. When I was younger, I would stay up until four in the morning then get up at six, no problem. Now, not only am I too tired, but I also can sense my own inefficiency when I do that. I think I work much harder with a much higher confidence of success now. Even if it is a dark period, I am pret- 31 -
D an C arlson
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Bio Dan Carlson was born in Providence in 1981 and recently attended the M.F.A. Fine Arts Graduate Program at Parsons The New School for Design, where he was awarded the Deanʼs Graduated Scholarship (both in 2008 & 2009), the University Scholars Award, the Chaim Gross Sculpture Scholarship, a Dedalus Foundation nomination, and a nomination for the International Sculpture Centerʼs Student Award. During his time at Parsons Dan developed a mentor-like relationship with Brian Tolle (as well as working closely with Andrea Geyer and having studio visits with artists like Alfredo Jaar, Fred Wilson, and Michael Joo), helping to refine his interactive approach for developing artistic responses to sites with dense cultural and political histories. Carlsonʼs sculptures, installations, videos, and drawings have been shown across the country in private galleries, contemporary art fairs, and alternative art spaces including: PULSE, VERGE, the Kitchen, Artists Space, Gallery 151, Grace Cathedral, and AT1 Projects. He frequently collaborates with other interdisciplinary artists such as Alain Declercq, Natalie Jeremijencko, and Suzanne Stroebe. He recently completed two residencies at I-Park and the Wassaic Project and is currently working on curating a show anchored around the contemporary American landscape. dancarlson.org
Artist’s Statement Reinforcing the belief that perception, at its core, is a destabilizing force, I make art in an effort to capture the tension between conceptual ideals and existing realities. I create artistic responses to sites with dense cultural and political histories, most recently through exploring abandoned military bases and industrial wastelands from the mid 20th century. Investigating these residual monuments provides a compelling outlet to decode human nature and question our understanding of phenomenological histories that ultimately affect our future. The videos, installations, and sculptures that manifest as a result of this questioning show a heightened attention to the materiality of high and low technology and obscure boundaries of authenticity. Overall, my work often addresses issues of masculinity, labor, science, and the archive while maintaining a strong sense of play.
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what might happen will not happen here Fort Tilden, Queens is a former US Army base that housed 4 Nike-Hercules class nuclear missiles that served as the last line of defense for New York City during the Cold War. It was one of dozens of sites hidden along the Eastern Seaboard that were ready to fire nuclear warheads at enemy targets every day for 15 years. During the same time NASA was launching Saturn V rockets into outer space in the name of progress and discovery. When trying to process the sheer number of deaths and casualties that would occur in just a few minutes under mutually-assured destruction or the distance between a rocket launcher in Cape Canaveral and the lunar surface, there is a kind of displacement that is generated between how we relate to these intangible numbers in a virtual space and how we understand them when they are somehow manifested into the physical world we navigate. Our perception of proximity and value systems becomes skewed and our relationship with mortality is heightened. For this project, handmade, scale-model Nike missiles were shot taking off from the top of a bunker and a gun battery at Fort Tilden with a consumer-level digital slow-motion camera. The video was then edited with 2 postproduction filters in order to mimic the 1960ʼs NASA stock footage of Saturn V rockets launching in slow motion during the Apollo missions. The final scene shows the New York City skyline in the background, giving the viewer a sense of just how close the missile elevators are to downtown Manhattan. For the installation, a 1966 Zenith television was gutted and retrofitted with a newer model playing the video on a loop. Iconic Campbellʼs soup cans and an over- turned Eames-style chair nod to both art-historical references of the 60ʼs and to common items stored in a fallout shelter. The plastic sheeting and duct tape over the windows is a nod to the contemporary “foriegn threat,” when in 2001 the Department of Homeland Security suggested these tools as the best protection for civilians from chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare.
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what might happen will not happen here, 2011 slow motion digital video, modified 1966 zenith television, knockoff eames chair, campbellʼs tomato soup cans, day-glo paint, plastic sheeting & duct tape. (installation view from former army barracks on governor’s island)
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what might happen will not happen here, 2011 (video still) slow-motion digital video, 00:02:27
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what might happen will not happen here, 2011 (video still) slow-motion digital video, 00:02:27
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what might happen will not happen here, 2011 (video still) slow-motion digital video, 00:02:27
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what might happen will not happen here, 2011 (video still) slow-motion digital video, 00:02:27
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liminal: powered by newtown creek Over a span of 100 years (and including the largest oil spill in American history*), in excess of 30 million gallons of oil has leaked into Newtown Creek, a 3.5 mile long body of water that forms the border between North Brooklyn and Long Island City. The “soft- bottom” that remains to this day is a 5 to 10-foot thick layer of immensely viscous sludge composed of petroleum, raw sewage, heavy metals, and decaying organic matter, which hovers above the “hard-bottom” of Newtown Creek. After the E.P.A. instituted an investigation of the primary parties responsible for the notorious spill and the designation of the creek as a Superfund site, the existing oil marinating in the water is referred to as “free-product.” For this project, 10 gallons of sludge was harvested from Newtown Creek with a 25-foot long manual bilge pump attached to a canoe. It was then refined using a waste-oil processor equipped with dual-pole polymer filtration beads that absorb any material that is not petroleum-based. The resulting product was poured into a 3 kW diesel generator that provided power for a handmade, back-lit billboard that read “Powered by Newtown Creek” and functioned as a temporary public installation near the East River entrance to the creek in April of 2010. The billboard, generator, and video documentation were shown as artifacts of this engagement at The Kitchen the following June. *at the time the project was completed (one month later the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico)
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liminal: powered by newtown creek, 2010 (still from video documentation, 00:13:49) 3 kW diesel generator, waste oil processor, dredged sludge, aluminum, steel, pine, cardboard, plexiglass, enamel, rope, rubber, 1,000 watts white light.
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liminal: powered by newtown creek, 2010 (previous page) (gallery view) liminal: powered by newtown creek, 2010 (still from video documentation, 00:13:49)
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liminal: powered by newtown creek, 2010 (still from video documentation, 00:13:49)
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liminal: powered by newtown creek, 2010 (still from video documentation, 00:13:49, showing sludge harvesting with 25â&#x20AC;&#x2122; long maunal bilge pump)
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liminal: powered by newtown creek, 2010 (still from video documentation, 00:13:49, showing harvested sludge before being processed in waste-oil refiner)
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liminal: powered by newtown creek, 2010 (still from video documentation, 00:13:49, showing waste-oil refining)
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pathogen path•o•gen |ˈpa θ әjәn; -ˌjen|: a microbe or microorganism that is an infectious agent such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus, that causes disease in its animal or plant host. A lush forest provides the setting for this project, where bioluminescent organisms appear to rain down from the canopy and assemble into clusters on trees and stumps like electric fungi, eventually entering the water supply through a river and cascading down a 20-foot waterfall.
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pathogen, 2011 single channel hd video, 00:04:23
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pathogen, 2011(video still)
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pathogen, 2011(video still)
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dead end A full scale utility pole is submerged into the ground in a dense forest, leaving only the top ten feet exposed, giving the impression that a significant amount of time has passed since it was first erected. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s out-of- placeness is highlighted by a series of pulsating lights gathered on the transformer that at once appear to be signaling some kind of abstract code calling for attention and act as a kind of electric fungus that has adapted to a new environment. The obsolete mode of distributing energy from coal and nuclear power plants to remote locations in rural America is highlighted by the fact that the lights are solar powered.
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dead end, 2011 glass insulators, transformer bushing, galvanized steel, pine, vinyl, tar, heavy-duty cord, rubber hosing, solar powered LEDs
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dead end, 2011 (detail)
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polar Milled wood is reintroduced to its natural environment creating tension between highly processed raw material, its use, and its source. The modular forms reference man-made structures with a scaffolding-like sensibility - giving the impression of something on the verge coming together or falling apart.
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polar, 2010 poplar, pine, aluminum, silicone, fluorescent monofilament
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polar, 2010 (detail)
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F elecia C hizuko C arlisle
ART - 58 -
Bio Felecia Chizuko Carlisle, a native Floridian, received her MFA in 2006 from the New Genres department at San Francisco Art Institute. She has explored a variety of contexts for her work including television, nightclubs, national and international galleries, museums and public spaces. In 2010, her work was included in New Work at Miami Art Museum and, in 2011, she had her first solo show at Dorsch Gallery where she is represented. Upcoming shows include “In Residence” from June 4th through August 4th, 2012 at Contemporary Art Museum, University of South Florida and Dorsch Gallery in May of 2012. Her work draws from multiple disciplines and often combines architectural motifs, light, audio, still and moving image. Carlisle currently maintains a studio in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami, FL, and writes regularly for ArtSlant Miami. feleciacarlisle.com
Artist’s Statement: I Saw Three Cities This exhibition takes the long view on artistic vision as cross generational, addressing notions of the future and the present as ambiguous constructs while exploring ideas of efficiency, efficacy, and material symbolism. Disparate elements are placed together to build meta-narratives about power, value and time. I Saw Three Cities balances a sense of optimism for the future with the apparent realities of failed utopian and modernist dreams.
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I Saw Three Cities, 2011. Dorsch Gallery (installation view) Unusual Thursday, Lifetime Lumber (right) 24’x 6’x 8’ sculpture Solar Powered Chandelier (left) 12’ x 12’ x 4” pink compact fluorescents, wood, solar panel, battery bank
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I Saw Three Cities, 2011. Dorsch Gallery (installation view)
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Solar Powered Chandelier (detail) battery bank in wooden box with plexi
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I Saw Three Cities, 2011. Dorsch Gallery (installation view)
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Archival Digital Photos (from left to right): Shadow of Michelangelo Pistoletto Gold Wall Gray Corner Black Floor Gold Pyramid Abstraction with Pink Rectangle Purple Staircase Monumental Now
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Black Floor (detail from Digital Photos)
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I Saw Three Cities, 2011. Dorsch Gallery (installation view)
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Untitled variable dimensions cinder blocks, paint, glass
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Untitled (detail) variable dimensions cinder blocks, paint, glass
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Pink Army/ Pink Rectangle (installation view) variable dimensions video, loop
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J acob A ppel
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Bio Jacob M. Appel has published over two hundred short stories in literary journals and has been short-listed for the Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize and Pushcart Prize on numerous occasions. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, Columbia Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Creative Writing Program at New York University. He currently teaches at the Gotham Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Workshop and practices medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. More at: www.jacobmappel.com.
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he Country People finished carting off the phone booths just after noon on Friday. You could see the impressions of their wheelbarrows and sledges around the bases of the lindens that line First Street and Washington Avenue. Yet to hear the three Lafontaine sisters jabbering away on their porch, their scratchy warble carrying in the afternoon heat, you might have thought I was the only person in Worcester at all concerned that the city is being carried away in pieces. And my husband has the nerve to suggest that I take up volunteer work! “I’m certain it was Sofia Loren,” said Mildred Lafontaine, perched on a wooden crate, her voice like a warped record played to fast. “Just because I have cataracts doesn’t mean I can’t see anything.” “And what do you suppose Sofia Loren would be doing at Lambert’s Confectionary?” demanded Gladys. “Sofia Loren is far too big for Worcester. Tell her, Hortense.” “Sofia Loren has black eyes,” the youngest of the elderly sisters replied indifferently. I don’t know whether this declaration was intended to support the bird-like Mildred or the stouter Gladys—but a woman can’t endure idle chatter in a time of crisis, so I slammed down the widow in disgust and drew the curtains. These days I find myself fearful that I’ll wake up one morning to find my face warm with sunlight. One cannot put it past the Country People to make off with the windows. This is not the first time that a city has been removed, piece by piece,
like the dismantling of a mechanical watch. I mustered the energy to visit the municipal library last week—the day after they pried up the sidewalks—and I researched the matter thoroughly. The historic record, it turns out, reveals several dozen instances of urbicide. In 1941, for example, Hermann Göring ordered the removal of the Dutch village of Bloemenbakke, a hamlet that blocked the paths of his panzer units. Within days, the advancing Germans erased the entire town: the buildings, the freshly planted fields of spring tubers, the fourteenth century stone footbridges over the Kromme Rijn, even the concrete mile markers along the high road. Yet in that instance, the denizens were transported to Treblinka before the eradication of their settlement. A far more analogous case to ours might be the Russian army’s razing of Eperjus in the Carpathians in 1915—absconding with the city’s infrastructure and leaving the bereft inhabitants to forage the countryside. As a prophylactic measure, I have buried several crates of tomato soup and a sack of potatoes behind the garage. That is how we must live these days—at least those of us paying attention—preparing for the day when nothing will remain. That’s not to say that life here in Worcester was idyllic before the Country People started their forays. Quite the opposite: It was unbearable. Or I thought it was unbearable, until I understood what unbearable really is. A woman squanders her whole life accumulating all this stuff—for lack of a better word— doorknobs and blenders and checking accounts and a master’s degree in art history and even children, one of each, and then a woman finds herself on the far side of fifty with all this stuff—and still nothing! Some days, alone in the house while Charlie practiced his putting at the club, or chaired those interminable - 72 -
city council meetings, I wanted to start giving it all away—the doorknobs, the appliances, the children. But then the Country People arrived and I found myself clinging to that same stuff, the loss of every last light bulb and shower-curtain rod like a spear through my chest. None of this fazes Charlie. And a woman cannot help wondering, if she had married a man who understood her more, who suffered when strangers carried off their belongings, would life be more tolerable? We were to drive out to visit my father-in-law in Laurendale on Saturday. He was the Presbyterian minister there until the Country People appropriated the church, brick by brick, leaving behind only the neon cross as a landmark. Now Charlie’s father has emergency work with the government, a security job not conducive to conversation. He greets all inquiries regarding the ongoing crisis with a terse, “I can’t comment.” I’d already loaded the car— two bottles of wine for Reverend Prescott, a pound of cheese for his new wife, a host of culinary delicacies that a mayor’s wife might bring to a mayor’s parents in a time of calamity—when the Country People appeared in our driveway and requisitioned the vehicle. I have given up arguing with them. They wait patiently until a person has protested to her heart’s content and then they go about their business with alacrity. When they came for grandmother’s dining room table, I raised a fuss—scratching the mahogany with my keychain to blemish their plunder. They stood in a circle around the damaged heirloom, hands on their chins, and waited for my petulance to exhaust itself before carefully sawing the treasure in half and carrying it down the back stairs. That was when Charlie first suggested that I volunteer my afternoons at the hospital. Against my wishes, he made all of the arrangements—and then
the Country People, whose motives even Charlie does not fully understand, arrived the following morning to dismantle the hospital buildings. They drove the ambulances down First Street at high speed with the sirens blaring. Since I distinctly remember calling Reverend Prescott to alter around plans, I am confident that
same time helping himself to a snifter of brandy. Charlie nodded knowingly—as though these words actually contained profundity. A look of earnest engagement flashed across his boyish face, a visage he has cultivated since his entry into local politics. I have even seen him display this expression to the Country People, but they stare back impas-
“My mother-in-law fanned herself as she complained. I often wish that she had taken a high security job with the government that prevented public comments.” there were still payphones in town last Saturday. That is how I measure the days—by what is missing and what remains. I know that lindens lined First Street and Washington Avenue on Friday because I remember the sledge marks and wheelbarrow prints. By Tuesday, all that remained were row upon row of stately stumps. The Country People meticulously raked up every fallen leaf and branch. When they removed the water from the reservoir that morning, they filled the muddy scar with gravel. Having confiscated electrical wires, they painstakingly carried off the telephone poles as well. The County People are a thorough and conscientious lot. “I am so sorry about the inconvenience, Pops,” said Charlie, when his parents arrived from Laurendale. He greeted the hawk-nosed minister with a handshake, then a light hug. “Did you have a safe trip?” Reverend Prescott coughed into his handkerchief. My father-in-law stands over six foot five and he rarely smiles. I have married into a tall, dour family. “I’m afraid I can’t comment,” he said decisively, at the
sively and go about their labors. “It was just a dreadful journey,” chirped my mother-in-law, Elmira, and she seated her portly form on a crate in the dining room. “They’ve taken down the road signs and the traffic lights—all the way from Hancock Ridge into town—and the roads were like Armageddon. Not to mention which, your father, in his infinite wisdom, forgot to have the airconditioner in the Buick repaired. Honestly, it was just intolerable.” My mother-in-law fanned herself as she complained. I often wish that she had taken a high security job with the government that prevented public comments. “So they’ve taken down the road signs, Reverend Prescott,” I echoed in the hope of drawing out a response from my father-in-law. “I can’t comment,” he replied and glanced at his watch. “I think it’s about time we head back to Laurendale, Elmira. I don’t want you driving after dark.” The churchless clergyman polished off a second glass of brandy, shook Charlie’s hand once again, and led his rotund wife down the front walk. That was the day be- 73 -
fore the Country People removed the slate and left gaping patches of dirt on the front lawn. No sooner had my in-laws departed than Charlie started in again about the volunteer work. My husband is fixated. He believes it unhealthy for me to sit at home all day long to spy on the comings and goings of the Country People. It is also unbefitting the wife of a mayor, he fears. People will talk! Well, let them talk, I say. The real problem is that nobody is willing to talk about the men in white overalls and the bonneted women who carried off Gladys Lafontaine. That was on Sunday, the morning they started requisitioning human beings and the day before they commandeered the fire hydrants. I am keeping track. Four nondescript men in plaid shirts, the leader smoking a corncob pipe, accosted the elderly sisters as they walked down their front steps on the way to the bingo matinee at the senior citizens center. The four rustic men apparently had some difficulties distinguishing among the three identically-clad Lafontaine women, and they spent quite some time examining their prey. The Country People paced clockwise, then counterclockwise, in concentric circles, their hands rubbing their chins, and then suddenly they converged on the somewhat befuddled Gladys. Mildred and Hortense shook their heads in resignation and continued on their way to bingo. “I’m absolutely certain that it was Olivia de Havilland,” Mildred declared later that afternoon. “I was standing directly across the street from the C&C Delicatessen and out she walks—just like in the picture shows.” “Olivia de Havilland has green eyes,” Hortense responded dreamily. I slammed down the window once again in what had become a daily ritual. That was the afternoon the
country people came for the saucepans and dug up the cans of tomato soup and the potatoes. Charlie supervised the transaction while I was at the library researching the history of these strange rural people. He had acquired the infuriating habit of orchestrating matters behind my back. “How could you let them have the tomato soup?” I screamed when I discovered his treachery. “We’re going to starve. Don’t you remember what I told you about the Russians in Eperjus?” My husband lit a cigarette and looked at me over the afternoon paper. “I wouldn’t worry too much, dear,” he observed calmly. “They’ve done this before. It will all be over soon.” That’s the same reassurance he’d been offering to concerned citizens. “Who says they’ve done this before?” I demanded. “There’s no record of it at the library. I went through every issue of the Sentinel dating back to 1877.” Charlie folded his newspaper and deposited it on a milk crate. “I suspect there was also no record of Eperjus in the Russian newspapers,” he said. “If you spent your afternoons at the soup kitchen, instead of mucking about in that damned periodicals room, you wouldn’t get yourself so worked up about things.” “But they came for Gladys Lafontaine!” “Enough of this,” Charlie retorted. He slammed his fist against the tabletop. “I forbid you to spend anymore time at the library. People are going to say things….” I did not protest. There’s no arguing with my husband once he’s made a decision. It was a moot point, anyway, because the following morning the Country People carried off the library. Unfortunately, without the distraction of research, I found myself asking unhealthy questions about our predicament: What had
we, the people of Worcester, done to be singled out for such affliction? Or was it something that I, personally, had done to bring this calamity down upon us? I spent hours at the bay windows, watching the Country People’s children trapping butterflies and lightning bugs, to be hauled away in enormous glass jars, and cataloguing the events of
never drove the children without a car seat—not even on the briefest of grocery runs. I’d have died with the tags on my mattresses, if the Country People hadn’t carried off the beds and left us to sleep on the sofa. And I’m proud to say that I lumped it in life: If the food was undercooked in a restaurant, I made do. If the phone bill was off by
“I’d have died with the tags on my mattresses, if the Country People hadn’t carried off the beds and left us to sleep on the sofa.” my fifty-two years, trying to isolate that precise misdeed or transgression that might account for such retribution. I wonder if others of us did the same. I secretly hoped that Charlie was conducting a personal accounting of his own—although I knew this was just wishful thinking on my part. After three decades of marriage, a woman recognized whether her husband is capable of a personal inventory, and mine simply isn’t. In my world, calamities occur for a reason. Cause and effect. In Charlie’s world, calamities just happen—which makes enduring them easier, I suppose. My own reckoning left me tearful and jittery. Not that I ever came up with an explanation for our misfortune, at least not one for which I was personally culpable. Looking back on my life, what I actually discovered was that I’d spent more than five decades coloring in between the lines. I paid our taxes like clockwork. I served on two juries, one for drunk driving, one a dispute over an architect’s fee, and I did my darnedest to be fair. I sent birthday presents to my nieces and nephews, and phoned Charlie’s ingrate of a sister on her anniversary, and - 74 -
a few dollars, I still paid it in full. But now that all seems so foolish, so self-denying. What was the point of playing by the rules when the Country People can show up at any moment and impose their own set of rules—if they even have rules. Who can say if they have rules? What they do have is impudence, and gall, and as of yesterday afternoon, all of the cutlery and utensils. I had to spread my jelly on my toast this morning with my pinkie, like I did on camping trips as a schoolgirl. The intensity of the Country People’s efforts has increased in recent days. At first, they made pilgrimages of two or three and removed a lamppost or a lawn chair. Now they arrive by the dozens, by marauding hundreds, and they carry off entire city blocks. Downtown Worcester looks like London after the blitz. I grew up in London during the bombings, back when I still had my maiden name and unrealistic expectations, so maybe that is why these matters weigh so heavily upon me. Mildred Lafontaine, in contrast, did not seem particularly fazed when the County People carried away another of her sisters. “I’m positive it was Greta Garbo,”
my neighbor said to the spring air while I was making my morning survey of the yard to assess the overnight damage. They had carried off the aluminum siding while we slept. “Greta Garbo is dead!” I called out and slammed to front door. That proved to be a display of poor judgment as Mildred’s weeping permeated the remainder of the morning. I could not shut her out. The Country People had finally come for the windows. Even Charlie seemed slightly troubled by the events of the afternoon. We were seated on the veranda, arguing bitterly over my “snooping” on the Lafontaines, when a solemn procession rounded the corner. Twenty Country People and several dozen of their bewildered victims paraded up the boulevard. The oversized Reverend Prescott’s stately head poked above the hats of the multitude. He waved toward us, then suddenly broke from the crowd. The convoy waited patiently as he greeted Charlie with a handshake and a hug. He entered our house and returned moments later with a bottle of scotch under each arm. “Do you know when you’ll be coming back, Pops?” asked Charlie—and, having lived with him for thirty years, I could detect the hint of trepidation in his voice. “I can’t comment, I’m afraid,” said the clergyman. He looked down at his watch and then up at the afternoon sky. “I do hope we get there by sundown.” My husband and my father-in-law shook hands one last time and then Reverend Prescott returned to the procession. Several hours later, the Country People removed the last of the downtown office buildings and the final Lafontaine sister. That’s when the realization hits me: Soon enough, they will come for one of us. Either Charlie or me. And the other will be left behind,
alone, in a world without butterflies and window panes and love. “Aren’t you at all frightened?” I asked Charlie as we wait here in the evening twilight. The Country People have removed the veranda, and we are sitting on the wet grass—a middle-aged town official and his wife at a moment of crisis. Charlie looks up at me, the tenderness soft on his coarse features. Then his “official” look of earnest engagement drives off the warmth. “They will bring everything back,” he assures me. “They have always brought everything back.” He has only a few shreds of evidence to back up his case. The Country People have brought things back several times over the last few weeks—parking meters, for instance. One day they sawed the heads off the parking meters on Maple Street, then two days later they returned the decapitated heads, deposited them in a mound at the foot of the statue of Paul Revere on Commonwealth Street. They also returned several houseplants, a dressmaker’s dummy, and the children’s section of the library. So it is possible they will bring something else back, but this is not a hope to bank on. “But what if they don’t?” I plead. “I don’t want to be alone.” My husband shrugs. He has no comfort to offer.
he Country People arrive in one of the ambulances that they’ve requisitioned from the local hospital. There are only two of them. Burly men wearing white overalls and impassive expressions. They circle us methodically. Clockwise. Counterclockwise. Hands on their chins. At first, I think that they have come for Charlie. And somehow that possibility angers me like none other—that after all I’ve done for him, after all these years playing by the rules, his rules, he’d leave me behind without a fight. And how - 75 -
would too. I can see that now. He’d hug me, peck my cheek, and follow these two burly, white-clad men to the edge of the earth and beyond without resisting. As the men continue to circle us, their target still unknown, I realize that I want them to take me. “Take me!” I scream. “Take me! I don’t want to be brought back!” And they do. Sitting in the back of the ambulance between two Country People, I peer out the tinted window at the world I am leaving behind. Charlie is shaking his head as he trudges toward the house, his afternoon newspaper tucked under one arm.
Skott Cowgill skottcowgill.com - 76 -
D aniel M urphy
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Bio Daniel Conor Murphy lives with his wife, Alison, and his dog, Sammy, in Somerville, Massachusetts. His poems have appeared in the Lullwater Review, Alloy, and the Blue Collar Review. As an undergraduate, he was a recipient of the Abernethy Scholarship for Creative Writing at Emory University, a Boethe Scholar for Writing at Marlboro College, and finally earned a B.F.A in poetry at Emerson College. He pays for his Guinness working as a carpenter, political machinist and musician.
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A moment arrives in oversleeping when the body seems all the more tired, when sleep itself ceases to refresh.
All that rest becomes heavy, pins the head and limbs.
beyond which itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just as painful to eat as it is to starve.
In the landscape of hunger thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a rusty gate in a field of rock
Irish Coffee in Winter
The mat is wet, ice melting off our boots. A stream, stretching from the threshold of his door along a path to the cast-iron radiator, loiters in a dimple of linoleum.
He sits, my father, tender elbows propped at the kitchen table, wiping the fog from his glasses, his back weary from years of launching snow with a velocity I could never measure.
I watch him pour gold into his coffee, reacquaint with old friends of snowy, Saturday mornings: a cigar rolling between forefinger and thumb, thick dog-ears opening a book, a hard scone on a napkin,
crumbs dropping, all gestures of peace now that the storm has passed. I look out the picture window, the one we hung together, hung when I was still learning how to hold
a hammer, plumb the jamb, how water finds its own level. I see in that thick white outside a blanket, a fresh coat of paint, the page corrected, a splash of cream to temper his coffee, or
the color that now frosts his brows and beard. I turn to my own mug, to the steam rising from it, a warmth I grip and deliberately sip to savor, as if thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a bottom to this feeling.
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The Hook and Fight
At the kitchen table he takes his knife, methodically butters the last two heels of bread, places one slice of ham and one piece of cheese between them. This is the first time I meet her grandfather.
He has a gentle face, I think, with thick glasses resting on the bridge of his nose, and is easy to smile, even when he hasn’t heard the joke. I try to keep things light, and we do, until we find ourselves in the sand of Japan.
In Okinawa he readied: tied, retied his boots, ran his bayonet crosswise along a whetstone, grit his aching teeth, their off-white shining through the coal-colored night of a Pacific sky.
Hearing the ocean’s edge lap against the embattlements, he felt the same calm from his fishing days: the peaceful wait before the hook and fight, the relative stillness
measured in the littleness of ripples, how the knots he tied seemed to slow time, as he quietly counted the twists of filament before a looping through. He waited with patience and was blessed
with fine catches, like his bride who waited, too, in a tenement they hadn’t the time to make their home. Every day in that sand there were reminders of the mill town he’d left—the steel would fill the air like rain, some of it probably shrapnel of shells
forged in his own Pennsylvania town. Ask him about it now, and it’s likely you’ll have to ask again— the downpours of mortars as deafening as they were. You ask, and the little man who had trained in the jungle,
who waited those long days before the planned Invasion, tilts his bald head forward, enough for you to see the face of someone who doesn’t often return to the yielding terrain of those beaches, to the thunder of arms, to the smell of spent powder.
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You ask and he pauses, his attention wandering like the great-granddaughter in view, who runs and falls for the joy of it. A slight smile rises and fades as he explains, pointing, “Little Boy allowed me this little girl.” I peer into his living room, where his daughter,
his wife, and three granddaughters sit— one thick with milk, one big with child, one sweet to marry me. I gaze, can’t say if, in some atomic way, I owe this to the bomb. As he breathes deeply and his eyes pool,
I lure our talk to calicoes and stripers. He shifts and stirs in his seat, gets to his feet, begins washing dishes by hand, the loud faucet steaming. I watch him gently brush and soap with one hand, a foam tool plunging in and out of bubbles.
As he washes, a small glass slips from his fingers, drops into a large pot dead-straight, creates a wake that brims over and a splash that shoots up and out. Unflinching, he damns it to hell, squeezes the water from his shirt.
February 24, 2010
On the tenth anniversary of you hanging yourself, I’ve gone back and forth on what gift might suit the occasion, having resigned that cards are hardly written to compress this kind of feeling.
Today in class—all these years and I’m still in school—we were shown a picture of a lynching, a black man hanging from a branch he didn’t choose.
Tonight, I sat down with Cambodians, shared Hennessey and beer—talked vodka, politics, and the Khmer Rouge. We ate sugared plantains—far from the killing-
fields—peeled oranges and chewed slices as juice dripped from our lips. How sweet they tasted—how pleasing their ripeness, to have been picked or picked up at just the right time.
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J ames C audle
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Bio James Caudle spent his childhood and early adult life growing up in the South which instilled in him a love of story telling and the Folk Art traditions. He spent several years learning techniques and searching for what it was that inspired him before taking a collage class. He has been cutting out little pieces of paper and gluing them to larger pieces of paper ever since. His mixed-media collages combine historic and graphic images in textured color field environments. Removing figures from their cast-off status in thrift store books and garage sale finds, he adds them to his own worlds; he gives them new life as the classic characters of the literary works with which he surrounds himself. The figures become heroic again when they begin to interact with each other on the canvas. One of his favorite quotes is by the Surrealist Max Ernst: “Collage is two unknown elements meeting on a third unknown plane.” James begins with these unknowns and builds, seeking out, with glue and paint, the reasons for the interactions he is seeing. Two scraps of paper lying together or the random colors happened upon during the day slowly form themselves into the final work. He often feels as if he had happened upon a scene that is elusive or impenetrable, and he tries to make sense of the melancholic rituals which he observes coming together. Often, a random phrase read or lyric of a song overheard while deep in the process sheds light on the work he has been creating. The painting emerges, and he finds he has built a new story, new characters, to add to the lexicon. caudledmilk.com
Artist’s Statement The images in this series are from fifty 5” x 7” collage “sketches” that I created over the course of two years. Originally conceived as a way to test techniques and sample the way pieces would look before committing to a larger work, they quickly grew into something far more complex. I hung them as a show entitled, “Negotiations & Love Songs,” which included an installation of my stacked source materials, a limited-edition show book, and a sculpture based on “Needles & Pins.” I continue to expand upon the themes and ideas generated from this series; most recently, I created a 4” x 8” paint/collage/screen printed “tapestry” based off of my 5” x 7” piece “Treaty.”
Materials Acrylic pain, oil pastels, water colors, oil markers, pen & ink, water based wood stains, coffee grounds, graphite, typewritten lyrics to “Needles & Pins” by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono and excerpts from “The Waste Land” by T. S. Elliot, photo copies and laser print copies, lacquer transfers, acrylic gel mediums, copper oil paint, 19th century doctor’s medical companion, charcoal, 1930’s Jazz and Blues album calendar, adhesive vinyl letters, Michelin Guide to Spain, paper collage from a variety of second hand books and catalogues, canvas board, card stock, paper, postcards, found record sleeve, recycled book covers.
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The Chute, 2011
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Stokelyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Finest, 2011
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The Manual, 2011
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The Last Cookbook in Berlin, 2011
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The Rake, 2011
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Needles and Pins, 2011
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The Red Weed, 2011
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The Treaty, 2011
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X Marks The Spot, 2011
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D aniel J. G lendening
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Bio Daniel J. Glendening is an artist, writer and occasional curator based in Portland, OR. He received his MFA in Visual Studies from Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2011, and his BA in Art Studio and English from UC Davis in 2005. His work has been exhibited nationally, including exhibitions in Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and elsewhere, and he has been an artist in residence at Caldera and The Wassaic Project. He collects books and mystical shit. More of his work can be viewed at danieljglendening.com.
Artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Statement An Attempted Partial Taxonomy of Rocks is a project conceived and produced specifically for Panhandler, with special thanks to The Wassaic Project. The work is composed of photographs and found images related to geology, geography, and related concerns, combined with text exploring the relationships between geological scales of time, abstraction, geometry, and myth. The project is also related to states of altered consciousness, power-structures/hierarchies, poetry, death, and sex. The Earth is moving beneath our feet, and all we want to do is dance.
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An Attempted Partial Taxonomy of Rocks, as Situated Between Portland, Oregon,
and Wassaic, New York, as well as Elsewheres,
being Compiled and Annotated by
Daniel James Glendening in the Year Two Thousand Eleven.
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A rock, or a stone, is very very old. The oldest terrestrial rock is in Canada, in the Acasta
Gneiss in the Canadian Shield in the Northwest Territories. It’s about 4.031 billion years old. The Earth itself is thought to have formed about 4.57 billion years ago. This fact is sourced on Wikipedia, so it’s veracity is subject to change or revision at anytime. A rock falls into one of three categories, or it falls a little more completely into one of three categories, these categories being: Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic. Igneous rock is formed when molten magma cools. There are two sub categories, plutonic, aka intrusive, which is formed when magma cools and crystallizes slowly within the crust of the earth, for example, granite. Volcanic/extrusive rocks are formed when magma cools rapidly on the surface of the earth, either as lava or “fragmental ejecta.” This includes rocks such as pumice, basalt, obsidian, and many, many others.1
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1 Igneous rocks also include andesite, anorthosite, aplite, adakite, hawaiite, basanite, boninite, carbonatite (including enderbite), dacite, diabase/dolerite, diorite, dunite, essexite, foidolite, gabbro, granodiorite, granophyre, harzburgite, hornblendite, icelandite, ignimbrite, ijolite, kimberlite, komatiite, lamproite, lamprophyre, latite, lherzolite, monzogranite, monzonite, nepheline syenite, nephelinite, norite, pegmatite, peridotite, phonolite, picrite, porphyry, pyroxenite, quartz diorite, quartz monzonite, rhyodacite, rhyolite (including comendite and pantellerite), scoria, sovite, syenite, tachylyte, tephrite, tonalite, trachyandesite (including benmoreite and the basaltic trachyandesites, mugearite and shoshonite), trachyte, troctolite, trondhjemite, tuff, websterite, and wehrlite.
Sedimentary rocks are formed by the slow compression of sediment and organic matter, rocks like sandstone, or limestone.2 Metamorphic rock is formed when any rock is exposed to a different temperature set and compression set than its formation environment, changing its crystalline structure.3 The oldest rock formation on earth is sometimes held in contention, but it is either a portion of the Isua Greenstone Belt, in Greenland, or the Acasta Gneiss, a rock outcrop in the Slave Craton in Canada.
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Â˛ Sedimentary rocks also include argillite, arkose, banded iron formation aka taconite, breccia, cataclasite (formed by faulting), chalk, chert, claystone, coal, conglomerate (including diamictite, a poorly sorted conglomerate), coquina, diatomite, dolomite/dolostone, evaporite, flint, greywackle, gritstone, itacolumite, jaspillite, laterite, lignite, marl, mudstone, oil shale, oolite, shale, siltstone, travertine, turbinite, and wackestone.
3 Metamorphic rock includes anthracite, amphibolite, blueschist, eclogite, gneiss, gossan, granulite, greenschist (including greenstone), hornfels, marble, migmatite, mylonite, pelite, phyllite, psammite, pseudotachylite, quartzite, schist, serpentinite, skarn, slate, suevite, and talc carbonate (including soapstone).
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Rocks have a long and tortuous life cycle, as do us all. They are born out of the molten core of the Earth, as magma seeps out of the hot temperatures of the Earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s center and crystallizes. This process of crystallization results in the formation of igneous rocks. These igneous rocks may then, through a process of erosion by atmospheric elements, be broken down into particulate matter, forming sediment, and, through compression and an extensive period of time, form sedimentary stones. Through tectonic movement, those sedimentary
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stones, and the igneous rocks as well, may be again subducted under a competing plate, heating up and forming metamorphic rock, which may then once again become exposed to the elements and form sedimentary particulate matter, or may be more fully subducted, pulled deep into the earths core and melted, returning it to a magma state. Liquid stone. Some of the elements we find on earth were and can only be naturally formed in the extreme forces of an exploding star. Gold is not formed on earth, but in such an explosion.
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We can detect with sensitive radio telescopes the residual radiowaves left over from the big bang. These radiowaves generate a sequence of tones that when compressed produce a binary translation of pi. The sequence restarts in a regular rhythm, overlapping with the preceding iteration. The rock is a measure of time. The time of a rock passes slowly, it is ever growing, changing, expressing new and ever more complicated morphologies. It breathes slowly, perspires slowly, and makes love slowly. I swam yesterday in a rock quarry in upstate New York. The quarriers dug deep enough that they broke through to the water table, flooding the rock pit with fresh water, forming a large and sprawling pool impossibly deep and impossibly clear, populated by deep water catfish and translucent crayfish. Geese flew overhead, and deep red-orange “No Trespassing” signs peppered the road in. No, we’re not supposed to be here, but the sun is out for one last day and it’s late in the afternoon and humid. Tomorrow will be too late.
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We build castles out of stone. We say that stones weep. We say you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t squeeze water out of a stone. We say that soand-so has a heart of stone. We say stone free and everybody must get stoned. We rock hard. I have a stone shaped like a heart. I have polished stones that are pink and clear. We skip stones on the river and search the beach for opals and cut open thunder eggs to hatch whatever is inside. Houses are sometimes made of stone, and walls in the forest or along the highway outside of Sonoma. Towers are made of stone, and monuments. Mountains are made of stone because it lasts a very long time.
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This is a rock I found last
Saturday, while Emily and I were walking on beach on the southwestern edge of Herron Island. The beach was all rocks, many sizes and shapes, some coated with colonies of barnacles and small black snails.
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This rock is black, or blackish. A sort of blackish shade of deep deep green, but so deep a shade that it appears to be black unless one really looks. A green like, maybe, a spruce bough at night when there is no moon and the cloud cover is blacking out the stars. It has one plane larger than the others, with an edge roughly an inch in length. We’ll call that edge A. We’ll say, for descriptive purposes, that edge A runs along the X axis, from (0,0) to (0,1”). What we’ll call edge B is approximately 1.25” in length, also beginning at the origin (0,0). Edge B and edge A form an angle of approximately 80 degrees, such that the end point of edge B that is not the origin has a value that is composed of a positive X and positive Y coordinate. Edge B also bows slightly, a slight swelling as the line nears its end coordinate, a swelling away from edge A. Edge C, beginning from the end coordinate of edge B, is approximately 5/8” in length, in a direction that would form a 30 degree angle with a line parallel to the X axis. Edge D is approximately 1” in length, beginning at the endpoint of edge C, and at an angle such that the edge slopes toward the X axis, forming a -57 degree angle with a line drawn parallel to the X axis and passing through the intersection of edge C and edge D. Edge D curves
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in a steady manner, bowing towards the Y axis, forming a concave edge. This bowing is slight, such that if a straight line is drawn between the beginning and end point of edge D, edge D will, at its mid-point and the deepest point of the curve, be approximately 1/16â&#x20AC;? away from the straight line. Edge E is approximately .75â&#x20AC;? in length, connecting the free end points of edge D and edge A, forming a closed polygonal shape (although slightly un-polygonal due to the slight curvature of two of the sides).
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Edge A, B, C, D and E create face 1. We can imagine face 1, for the purposes of demonstration, as the top. We can also then imagine the front as being composed of two faces, face 2 and face 3. Face 2 begins with edge A. Edge F connects to edge A at the origin (0,0) and is approximately .5” in length, terminating at a point just shy of -.5” on the Z axis, and -1/8” on the Y axis, with an X coordinate of 0. Edge G
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connects the terminus of edge F to the intersection of edges A and E, thus generating the triangular face that is face 2. Edge H originates at the intersection of edges F and G, and is approximately
1” long. The terminus sits, relative to the origin point of edge H, approximately -.25” on the Z axis and .25” on the Y axis. Edge I, originating at the terminus of edge H, is approximately .5” long, at an angle of approximately 146 degrees relative to edge H on the Z axis with a Y coordinate of approximately 3/8.” Edge J connects the terminus of edge I to the intersection of edges G and A, delineating face 3. The series of faces composing the right side of the rock consist of three triangular faces and one roughly rectangular polygon. Face 4 takes as two of its sides edge J and edge E, and may be completed by an edge connecting the intersection of edges J and I to the intersection of edges E and D, forming edge K. Edge L is .5” in length, originating at the intersection of edges E and D, and running parallel to the Z axis in a negative direction. Edge M connects the point of intersection between edges J and I with the
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terminus of edge L, forming face 5. Face 6 is delineated by edges M and I, and edge N, connecting the intersection of edges I and H to the intersection of edges M and L. A new edge, edge O, extends from the intersection of edges L and M 7/8â&#x20AC;? in a direction nearly perpendicular to the X axis, but at a more obtuse angle of 110 degrees, as measured from the positive X direction (edge O is, also, slightly concave, as is edge D, curving inward towards the core of the stone); edge O also angles slightly in the â&#x20AC;&#x201C;Z direction at an angle of 20 degrees relative to the XY plane. Edge P terminates at the intersection of edges C and D, and the terminus of edge O, enclosing the four-sided polygonal face 7. Edge Q connects the intersection of edges H and N to the intersection of edges O and P, forming face 8 and completing the right side of the rock.
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Face 9 is bound by edge C, edge P, edge R running 7/8â&#x20AC;? from the intersection of edges P and O in an X/Y direction parallel to edge C and angling in the positive Z direction eighteen degrees relative to the XY plane, and edge S, connecting the terminus of edge R to the intersection point of edges C and B. Face 10 is bounded by edges B, S, and T, edge T being defined as the line between the intersection of edges R and S and the intersection of edges B and F. Face 11 is bounded by edges T, F and U, edge U being that edge which connects the intersection points of TS and FH.
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Face 12, the bottom, is that face bounded by edges U, R, Q, and H. This is a small rock I found on Saturday. It is almost black. Its surface is creased with seams running from one side to the other, and the top is clouded with the calcified footprints of five barnacles. These markings are white, and fitted closely together like cells in a leaf. Each has an empty center, where the black comes through, and there are lines radiating outward from this center like those ghost tracings one gets from a mushroom spore print. Something once lived here, but not anymore.
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Grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Grandfather was a very young man he climbed the mountain there, just on the horizon. He climbed for many nights, and watched the sun rise and set and rise and set and rise and set and leave its embers in the sky like burning flares. Eventually, he found himself at the top, staring out over the whole of the world like a god, or a salesman. He was looking for power, there among the snowdrifts and the granite boulders, round and wind-worn. The flood is symbolic of isolation. Before he had set out, he had sat at his cottage in the meadow, on the porch in the sun. He let the heat leech the salts from his skin. He carved out five wedges of elk horn, wearing through several knives, tossing them aside as they grew dull. In his climb up the mountain,once he reached the tree line,where the ground was covered in snow that never melts and only the boulders live, he used those wedges of elk horn to carve out steps in the ice. As each wedge wore out, snapping brittle, he tossed it aside. By the time his winding stairway, cold and glittering in the sun with a sharp blue light,
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reached the peak of the mountain, and he stood looking out like a god or a salesman over the valley, his last wedge of horn was dull and worn smooth. He tossed it down, and raised his arms skyward and screamed a red scream. The sun was at its zenith. The porch is symbolic of a quiet paradise, a personal Eden, a bed. The front door is locked and we never go inside. All we know is the porch and the porch is all we need. At the peak of the mountain, in the ancient crater, was a small lake, a pool of mercury. Grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Grandfather stripped off his jeans and his flannel shirt,untied his long long hair and thrust himself down upon the snow. He took the snow in his mouth and cradled
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it on his tongue, rolling it and savoring its sweetness, wrapping his body around the shifting writhing banks of snow. In one ecstatic motion he stood and plunged himself naked into the frigid waters of the lake, frantically, demoniacally masturbating until he erupted into the water, his semen hanging suspended there like a tiny, icy, galaxy. He whooped, and shook his hair. He swam about, and washed himself with the water and as he rose his hair grew longer still, spreading and branching out across the surface like a river delta. An explosion is symbolic of creation. It will bloom into a beautiful orange and red rose and consume its surroundings like a hungry child, and then new growth will emerge from the pile of smoldering ashes and we will dance all around it and weep tears of pain and joy and we will
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sweat from the sun and pain and we will, too, be like Jesus Christ our savior and lord of lords all happy and transcendent. He stood draped in ice roses and lilies. Shining, studded with diamonds and jade. Jesus Christ is symbolic of the son of God and is therefore symbolic of perfection. Oh the perfect man, you know you want to hit that shit. The mountain spoke to him.
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“You will grow to be an old old man. You will, in your final days, bloom with moss and lichen. It will sprout from your knees and elbows; after your hair has gone gray and fallen, moss will grow in its stead; moss will grow over your chin, you will carry a beard of moss, and lichen will spread between your thighs, and you will die a stony death. “When you die, stony and moss covered, my head will burst, and pour forth into the valley with tears of grief.” Cigarettes are symbols of time. They count down the minutes just like the hands of a clock or the branching of ones antlers or the steady growth of moss. Or the sprouting of feathers and our slow transformation from one shape to another. John Henry is symbolic of man’s doomed struggle against machine. John Henry had heart, though. Pecos Bill is symbolic of man’s doomed struggle for love. Annie Oakley’s up there on the moon. Paul Bunyan is symbolic of the days when men were men and they all had a fucking blue ox at their side and didn’t need love. They found it out in the world, chopping down trees, deforesting whole hillside with one swipe, and all they needed was their best friend. An ox.
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Grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Grandfather began to weep, his head hung. He started down the mountain, his tears freezing fast to his cheeks.
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The desert, also, is symbolic of purity. The desert is burned clean. The air is dry and clean and made of stone. You can feel yourself being sterilized under the desert sun. Everything is brownish red, even the cities. Everything is unified. Everything is clinging to existence by a thin fucking thread and one foul step can send it all spiraling down into the canyon, and that, my friend is purity.
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He sat alone the rest of his life, on the porch of his cabin in the sun. He never stopped crying, the tears draining unendingly from his eyes nourished the slow growth of moss about his face, his sweat fed the lichen beginning to take root on his groin. His hair, his beard, his eyebrows all turned to long, flowing Spanish moss, and lichen crawled forth from between his thighs to sheath his body. The cactus is symbolic of foresight.
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He died there, and the mountain wept.
Bath water is not purity.
Don Quixote is symbolic of a man who sees things his own way. Who cares if itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s accurate or not, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s true, and right, and just. Quixote personifies purity.
The Valley is not purity.
Everything symbolizes purity, except for the things that do not.
Coffins are purity, in a round about way. To be dead is a pure state of being.
Mountains at one point lived and walked and talked and had little mountain daughters that they raised right and not to be promiscuous but presumably, as they had daughters and sons they also had sex and what a sight that must have been, two mountains grinding their stony genitals against each other and groaning huge mountain groans of pleasure. Perhaps earthquakes are just that: tectonic plates rubbing their granite clits and cocks together beneath the blanket of the earth, as volcanoes burst forth, erupting in pleasure.
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The moon has vanished, and the sun is always hanging just under the horizon, leaking its blue light into the darkness of night. It is morning about to crack open upon the world like a dropped egg, and we will close our eyes and stop the movement of the clocks and stop the birds in the sky and stop this bead of sweat running like a tear down the side of your nose. I have been waiting up here on top of the mountain. I have been waiting in your silence, living off of Don Quixote. I slice a page cleanly out from the binding, and eat it with a glass of water. You lay your prose down like that Irish stonemason lay his stones, up in the hills behind Killarney. With his thick white beard, he fit each angle into its fated mate, and they curled about each other in the sweetest embrace one could imagine between two stones. It was raining. We will never, ever, see the sun rise.
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A rock, or a stone, is very very old. The oldest rock is in Canada, in the Acasta Gneiss in the Canadian Shield in the Northwest Territories. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s about 4.031 billion years old. The Earth is thought to have formed about 4.57 billion years ago.
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A ndy P aris
Tectonic Theater Project
Photo credit: Jojo Whilden
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Bio As a founding member of Tectonic Theater Project, Andy has appeared in three productions directed by Moises Kaufman (Machinal, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and The Laramie Project) as well as several workshops and readings. He is proud to have been a part of the development of the company and marvels at its continued success. Other credits include: Innocents (dir. Rachel Dickstein), Mankynde: The Musical (dir. Louis Scheeder), Proof (Playmaker’s Rep), Wit (dir. Josephine Abady), Twelfth Night (dir. John Rando), The Quiet Room (dir. Lucie Tiberghien), Red Noises (dir. Melissa Kievman), Phaedre (dir. Matthew Maguire), Indelible Flesh (dir. Randy Rollison), Quick, Bright Things (by Jesse McKinley), Cymbeline (dir. Mr. Scheeder), The Merchant of Venice, Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, and Love’s Labours Lost. Andy has lent his voice to several books for Recorded Books Productions and starred in Smile, a Radio Play. He is a graduate of NYU. tectonictheaterproject.org
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the foundation for the TTP?
November 16, 2011
Jason Schuck: How did you get involved with Tectonic Theater Project and what is your role specifically within that group? Andy Paris: I went to the same school as Moises Kaufman who is the founder and artistic director of the company. We went to the experimental theater wing at NYU. He was a couple years ahead of me, and when he graduated they brought him back to direct a play. Most people go through as performers, and he actually knew he wanted to go through as a director. And this program is very physically based in its training. There was a lot of modern dance. There was Grotowski training. There was also six view points training, which is Mario Overlie’s way of working and developing work in a theater. Most of us were learning to perform, but he wanted to use it as a director, not as an actor. Anyway, when he graduated, they offered him a production slot the next year so he came back to direct a play. It was Machinal, by Lillian Hellman. I didn’t really know him well at the time. I knew his reputation. I auditioned for him, and he cast me and that was the first time that we worked together. It was really sort of the founding project that launched Tectonic Theater Project (TTP), the presentation of that show. We found we had similar sensibilities, and so he included me as an original member when he founded the company. Maria Steele: What was it about the production of Machinal that created
AP: I think that Moises was already beginning to cultivate his style of presentation and his striving for beauty in all moments, He was using all of the elements of the stage in order to support the truth of the play. The costume and the lights and everything, we were all sort of working with it all together rather than working on the scenes and adding all this stuff. The formation and the structure that we were using physically was part of the creation of the piece. That is where that sensibility started. It was really quite a beautiful production. MS: You mentioned moments of beauty. In The Laramie Project, there were literally “moments.” AP: Exactly. We developed a way to work even more like that. This technique, which we’ve named Moment Work, really crystallized during the development of The Laramie Project. JS: Is that where he uses the term “Tectonic” or “moment work”? AP: He chose “tectonic” because he’s interested in how narrative in the theatre is created and structured. Tectonic is the art and science of structure. We’re asking, “How, in the theater, do you construct a narrative?” And we’re using moment work, defining moments in the theatre as units of theatrical time. We were building a narrative from these blocks of moments or units of theatrical time. That’s where the research comes in. How can we push theatrical form in order to discuss in a modern theatre whatever we are trying to say in that particular piece? MS: A lot of people think of creating art, and particularly writing, as a solitary experience. What was it - 151 -
like to work with others to create a single, cohesive piece of work? AP: I think what it allowed for was a unique theatricality behind the piece. So we were all in the room working with the tools of the theater in order to create the production. Sometimes, when a writer is alone in a room, I think there sometimes is a disconnect from it being in the theater. Working as a group and interchanging all of these elements that we have, the sets and the costumes, the lights, architecture, shape, color, etc.— provides a unique theatricality. The other thing about working as a group as a performer, your involvement allows for a sense of ownership of the material so that when you step out on the stage, you know every nut and bolt of this production. You know how everything is working, how every mechanism of the play is working. So it lends itself to a kind of confidence and company cohesion that is really palpable to an audience watching. It is very compelling to see a group of people who are so in sync and so knowledgeable about what story they’re telling. A lot of times when you see a production, that’s what you get from an actor. It is not necessarily what the words are but whether or not they know why they’re there. I think that this process lends itself to performers knowing why they are telling a story, and that is really powerful for an audience member. JS: Do you aspire to move away from acting into directing your own productions and writing? AP: I’ve been moving more in that direction. I’ve directed and written a few things in the last few years. And I’ve also acted in a couple plays. So I’m still doing both. It just so happens this year, I’m concentrating on writing and directing. I’m developing a show that is actually a senior
thesis project at Amherst College. A student there had an idea about doing a show about public education, and I’m mentoring him through the process and directing the play in the Spring. I also have my own project in development called Square Peg, Round Hole, which is about Autism. JS: Do you prefer acting to directing? AP: I love creating new work. If it’s the right play, I’ll act in it. If it’s saying something important, or it’s fun, or entertaining, I will act in it. But honestly, with these two big projects that I’m working on probably through the end of next year at least, it’s gonna be hard to fit anything else in. I love to do both. JF: To be fair, things like Hot Tub Time Machine do come up. AP: It is new… [laughing] I’m not gonna turn down the money if someone wants to offer me a feature film. And you do end up getting compartmentalized in this business. If you’re not always acting, people think you’re doing something else. You really do have to keep putting yourself out there. But I’ve gone through these phases before where I’m like, “I’m a director now,” and somebody calls and all of a sudden I’m in a show and then that leads to something else, and all of a sudden I’ve been an actor for awhile. I gravitate toward people and new and interesting projects, in whatever capacity I’ll work. MS: What was it like to interview people and then see their characters in a play? Do actors naturally sort of put their own spin on a character regardless of whether or not they have met the person? AP: First of all, there is an enormous amount of responsibility you
feel, having looked someone in the eye, having their trust and then turning around and stepping into their words. There is a tremendous amount of responsibility there, and I took that very seriously. So having said that, you’re in a production that has other characters in it, and you’re playing ten characters. You may need to create a gestural
keep the integrity of the piece. MS: Along the same line, I thought you did a very good job not getting offended by certain opinions that were expressed during these interviews. I’m thinking specifically about the Baptist minister. I’m wondering how you, when presented with someone who gives stereotypi-
“Tectonic is the art and science of structure. We’re asking, “How, in the theater, do you construct a narrative?” And we’re using moment work, defining moments in the theatre as units of theatrical time. We were building a narrative from these blocks of moments or units of theatrical time.” vocabulary for one character to differentiate it from another character. You have to make it work. The bottom line is always checking back in. Am I broadcasting the truth of this character, this person? As long as I am comfortable that the answer is still, “Yes,” then that’s fine. I can deviate from what may have actually happened. Because mimicry doesn’t always convey the truth. I think there is always an amount of interpretation. On every page of The Laramie Project there are constant reminders that we are introducing these characters to you. This is not exactly who this is. We’re stepping into these characters to relate to you the truth of what we heard. Every time someone introduces somebody or every time someone changes a hat on stage it’s a reminder that we’re not saying, “This is who this is.” Were saying, “This is our interpretation of who this is.” And that was very important to us to - 152 -
cal responses, how do you interpret that? Or navigate that stereotypical problem in order to avoid reaffirming stereotypes? AP: Well, it was very important to us that we were able to express a wide range of viewpoints that exist in the town because we felt like right when we got there that Laramie could be anywhere. We felt like whatever conversations were happening, it could have been anywhere in this country, and so, we weren’t out to vilify Laramie or any individual. We wanted to just collect all of the viewpoints, what everybody wanted to say about this and reflect that back to the country or at least to our audience. We wanted to reflect back to our audience what we heard. We felt that the full net of what was said to us was important to reflect. In other words, the dialogue that was happening in the country was very black and white and simplistic
and pretty polarizing. That doesn’t mean that you don’t include polarizing ideas, but they want to exist among the balance of all the other ones so you get the full fabric of what people are thinking. We really didn’t have time to get offended. We were, of course. We would go back home and think, “I can’t believe that person said that
ists, but someone should be able to say that so that people can react to it. I believe that.
basis? If you’re doing these plays on a nightly basis, does it change nightly?
JS: When you’re cast to play a narrator or something like that, do you run through different ways of saying those lines or do you read it as Andy Paris narrating?
AP: The idea is that it not change but also that it live as if it is the only time it has ever been done. So it’s kind of a paradox. I did like 500 performances of Gross Indecency, and it was a year and a half of eight shows a week. I don’t know what that adds up to, but the goal of every single one of those is to make it seem like the only time it ever happened, which is really the truth because no two performances were ever the same. The beauty of theatre is that what’s happening is only happening once in front of you. There is no way you can repeat it. It’s living, and I think that’s why the theater perseveres as a cultural art form. It’s a place where we can all go and breath together, and you’re in something where it’s the only time it is ever going to happen. So even though the play is done 500 times, each time it is done everyone will get something different from it.
“Every time someone introduces somebody or every time someone changes a hat on stage it’s a reminder that we’re not saying, ‘This is who this is.’ Were saying, ‘This is our interpretation of who this is.’ And that was very important to us to keep the integrity of the piece.” to me,” but in the moment your job is to ensure that people are safe to speak to you their mind. And they need a safe space to express what they believe. I think everyone deserves that: a safe place to say what it is they believe. Just because I don’t agree with it doesn’t mean that it is not important. Even if we collectively say that morally it’s wrong to say something like that or to believe that, in order to reflect that you have to have it be what it is first, and then people can decide what they think about it. If we’re already judging it, then people don’t really have to deal with it. They either have to believe what we say or think that we are being biased, and then we have already gone by the dialogue that we want to have. So it has to exist. Like when you get into campaigns and stuff, I don’t mind that people are radical. They’re standing at a podium and saying that most of the Muslims in this country are extrem-
AP: The short answer is, “No.” There is a character of a narrator who wants to find out something. So the reason that they are saying this to you is their quest for information to relate to the audience, and your job is to set it up. So if it’s just me, then it could be however I’m doing that night, and in the theater you’re looking for a performance that’s repeatable. You have to kind of find a hook as a performer of where you are and then find that every night. So I think there is a character. The other part of that question though is it’s not so much being a narrator as it is playing your role in the machine. If you think about these plays as mechanisms, every line, whether it’s a narrator line or a character line, has a very important role or action in the machine of the play. So your goal is to find out what that is. JS: Could that change the way the lines are read on a performance - 153 -
MS: You just mentioned Gross Indecency, and I’m wondering how that experience with that play prepared you for the attitudes and emotions you encountered in Laramie? AP: It didn’t really prepare me. I don’t think there was any way to prepare me for the emotions that came up while we were doing it. Matt’s beating and murder was just horrific, and then to live next to that for awhile, there wasn’t anything that could prepare me for that. As far as form and structure of theater, well, what we were asking with Gross Indecency was, “How can the theater participate in history?” In doing that, I think the next logical extension of that was, “How can theater add to the national dialogue of a current event?” So when this happened, and we felt so strongly about it, it seems kind of a natural
progression to go from one to the other and carry over a lot of those forms that we had found—like holding a book and saying, “This is from The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.” People quote from it. It’s the same thing as introducing it. ‘Marge Murry, I talked to her in her home, and this is what she said.’ It is a carryover of that theatrical structure and form. But as far as the emotional content, in Gross Indecency we were always dealing with real people, but we were also dealing with people who had long passed. There were times when people who were connected to the characters showed up at Gross Indecency—Oscar’s grandson showed up—but it didn’t compare at all to what we encountered at Laramie. I always find it somewhat ironic. We had just closed Gross Indecency a month before Mathew’s murder, and the theater company always gets a little bit of income when a commercial production happens like that. We basically used all of the money from Oscar Wilde for that first trip to Laramie. I kind of feel like Oscar funded this whole thing—kind of started us off, gave us some seed money to go and write this play about Mathew and what he went through. There’s something kind of ironically justified about that. JS: You guys did such a great job with The Laramie Project as film. What was your experience going from the theater to film, and if you guys were working on any other films or do you have any in the works or do you plan on branching out into that? AP: The company definitely wants to continue working in film. Tectonic is sort of going through a transition right now. It wants to become more of a producing organization rather than an incubator for any one play. There are a few things that are kind of in the works, and hopefully that
will work out. MS: It seems like the Tectonic Theater Project attracts a specific kind of artist. How have you seen the project shape—your art, you talked a little bit about that—but what about those that you work with, the writers and the performers? How have you seen the project shape their art? AP: I can’t really speak for other people. But I will say, formally speaking, it’s allowed me to pursue plays about ideas. Rather than relying on dialogue and relationship and character, it’s allowed people to dream about ideas and to have a form and a structure for investigating those ideas. So, I think in that way it’s profoundly affected people’s work and what they decide to do. At least speaking for myself. MS: Let me ask this too. Have you noticed that people who work with the Tectonic Theater Project have trouble going back to something more traditional? AP: No, I don’t think so. I think each project—and I use that term very loosely (each production, each play, each film, whatever it is)—has its own journey. And I think whatever your role in that journey is, is the role you take in it. You can’t go into a rehearsal process that’s a more traditional rehearsal process and pretend everyone’s going to be able to do moment work or you’re going to be able to tell people where the lines are going to go. The structure of the workplace is set up in the beginning and you—unless you’re in control of that work structure—then you sign on for whatever someone else says it is. I have, though, when I’ve trained students in moment work, I have had them come back and say, “Even when I go into the rehearsal process for something else, I’m really so much more aware of what’s - 154 -
happening around me.” And I think that’s really valuable for the American theater. For it to have performers trained in that way, to be aware in that way, and to be listening in that way, I think is really important for the American theater. We’re going into professional companies and universities and high schools, and we’re doing moment work with students and training them on how we make our work. I think whether they go on to do pieces that are about ideas or whether they go on to do pieces that are done—actually created—by moment work and are writing performance from the stage—whether they actually go on and do that—I think it provides an awareness for a theater maker, an interdisciplinary awareness of how the theater works, that then provides a new insight into what theater is, and I think does affect how the work gets made. JS: We talked earlier about you growing up in Goshen, Ohio. I’m curious how you got involved in the arts, if there was a moment of clarity at an age out in Goshen where you’re like, “I’m going to be a theater actor”? AP: Actually, before we moved to Goshen I had started to go to school at a place called Seven Hills. It’s inside the City of Cincinnati. I had a sister who was three years older than me, and she started doing some workshops with a theater teacher at our school. I saw what the teacher was doing, and it was really interesting and fun, and so when I was old enough I did it too. And the teacher used to do summer workshops, and she would also do work at the middle school, and she was teaching acting at the high school and doing plays. Her name was Patty Flannigan, and beyond being a brilliant theatrical mind, she was a truly marvelous teacher: She was teaching people how to be good
citizens. She was teaching people what respect was, what professionalism was. She was teaching people how to think for themselves, how to think creatively, to have confidence in themselves as creative people in whatever they were doing. She was a brilliant, effusive, strong woman who was unafraid of authority, who was challenging always people’s set ideas. She was a dynamic individual. So, I just started doing plays with her and taking her classes, and it was a place where I felt comfortable. But I had a lot of other interests. Coming out of high school, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into a training program. Patty was always very realistic with people about what a life in the arts entailed and what it meant. And so I went to Colorado College for a year to explore my other interests. I was always a kind of outdoorsy person, and I wanted go and experience that and be in a place that was close to nature. I was a summer start at Colorado College. They used to fill out their summer program by sending a percentage of their freshman class early to school in the summer. So, six weeks after I graduated high school, I was on campus. And then you have the fall off. While I was there that summer, I met a theater company that was doing a workshop there, , and we got along well. I had nothing to do in the fall. So they said, “Hey, why don’t you come work with us?” So, my first semester of college, basically, I was working at a professional theater in downtown in New York City. It was an incredible theater that was full of different kind of performers. And I was learning to do everything: lights, stage-managing, etc. And I was meeting a lot of people. And yet still I went back to Colorado, and I thought, “Okay, I guess I’m going to go back to school now.” But I got into a couple of plays, and I just realized during that spring semester that all my energies were
going to the theater. I had all these other interests but I was kind of letting them go, and I was putting all my energies into the theater. So, not wholly satisfied with the theater program at CC, I decided to transfer. And so I transferred to NYU the following fall. Patty had always been a proponent of physical training in theater, and she used to talk a lot about Grotowski and his work, and we would do some work in that vein. She knew about this Experimental Theater Wing; a lot of people had come out of our high school and gone straight into this program. And so I already knew a couple people in the program. When you get to NYU undergrad, you have a lot of different schools that farm you out to different programs. There’s a Strasburg Studio and there’s an Experimental Theater Wing, and there’s Atlantic Theater, and then there was Adler, and there was a musical theater program. And so there were all these different programs. Most of the time, they place you—by audition or how they need to fill out the numbers or however the matrix of the way that they do it. I don’t know what it is. But I said specifically I want to come here, and I want to go to the Experimental Theater Wing. They placed me there, and so that’s how I kind of decided that this is going to be a career. MS: You mentioned that this past year you’ve been doing more writing and producing. I’m just curious. Can you talk a little bit about what inspires you—books, plays, things like that? AP: Definitely seeing work inspires me. I think there’s just no substitute for that, for just seeing what people are doing, what images are coming, what other people are interested in. It doesn’t really matter what you’re seeing. There’s always something to be gleaned from it. What in- 155 -
spires me is what’s happening in the world—trends, conversations that are happening. There’s always something that’s sort of caught fire, that people are talking about. I was really excited when Amherst approached me about this play about public education because it’s part of what’s happening. It’s sort of one of those lightening rods, like Gross Indecency was. When Oscar’s trial started, it started all these things, an explosion of conversations about their values, about their laws, about where they were as a culture. Public education is one of those hotbed issues, where you start talking about demographics and education, you start talking about money and economics, and you start talking about values and teachers and relationships. It’s all of this stuff, and people get really passionate really quickly about their school and charter schools and what that means for their kids and it really is at the forefront of what people are talking about right now. That excites me. That really excites me. It makes us question what our values are, and when you do that in the theater, I think it really creates a lot of sparks. It’s motivating to make work about something that is really important to people and what people are talking about. JF: We have about ten minutes left. Gabriela or Sarah, do you have any questions? Sarah Kuhl: I had a couple, actually. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the reaction of the people in Laramie when you first came to the group’s being there. Did you have to negotiate sort of being very formal and taking lots of notes and recording and things like that versus just trying to carry on natural conversations? I was also wondering what their response has been to the production and the media surrounding it and all the attention that
it’s received. AP: When we first arrived…basically the media really targeted and swarmed this place, and they were everywhere, and everyone there felt very misrepresented by the media. They felt like they were portrayed as rednecks. Everyone across any kind of political spectrum, or economic spectrum or anything pretty much felt like the media got it wrong. When they saw themselves reflected in the news while all the trucks were still there, they pretty much shut up. They backed off, and they said, “We’re not going to talk to you anymore.” Once the initial fervor died down, the funeral happened, and people started to leave, they were still very wary of talking about it at all with anybody because they didn’t know who would overhear it and broadcast it all over the news. We got there about a month after all that had occurred. It wasn’t like we planned this. This is just what happened. They were letting down their guard, and they really needed to talk about this, about what happened in their town, about their feelings about it, including what happened because of the media but also what happened to Matthew. So, we came in, and we were very inexperienced at interviewing people. We were kind of bumbling. We didn’t really have any agenda. We weren’t asking very targeted questions. We just really wanted to know about their lives and about what their thoughts were, and so it allowed for a kind of spilling out of everything they had been keeping close to the chest for so long. That’s the general overview of why I think a lot of people did talk to us. I will say that there was great resistance in people talking to us, and people who quite literally wanted to run us out of town for even opening this up again. It was something that a lot of people wanted to go away, and we were representative of
this onslaught of talk—of negative talk—about their town. So it was all sorts of reactions. It was like, “I’m so glad you’re here. We really need to talk about this.” It was, “Get out of my town. What are you doing here? Who are you? You’re from New York? We don’t like New Yorkers.” And then there were some people who were like, “Oh my God,
SK: This is the first time I’ve encountered a theatrical production that is also documentary-based and seems to place importance on documentary work, and I wondered if you could say a little bit about does theater bring something different to the idea of documentary work, and particularly maybe the moment work that you were talking about?
“Everyone across any kind of political spectrum, or economic spectrum or anything pretty much felt like the media got it wrong. When they saw themselves reflected in the news while all the trucks were still there, they pretty much shut up. They backed off, and they said, ‘We’re not going to talk to you anymore.’ Once the initial fervor died down, the funeral happened, and people started to leave, they were still very wary of talking about it at all with anybody because they didn’t know who would overhear it and broadcast it all over the news.” thank God. You’re from New York? I love New York.” One of the things the play says is that you can’t say what Laramie is. You can’t say what Laramie says. You can’t say what Laramie does, because it’s full of individuals, just like this country is full of individuals, and so “America is this” or “America is that,” you can’t say that, even though a lot of people want to say that. So, there were all—the whole rainbow of reactions. I happen to get a lot of negative reactions when I first started, and that was something I had to overcome to keep going. - 156 -
Because when I think about documentary work, I think about documentary photography or maybe StoryCorps or something like that’s just in a sense very straightforward type of documentary work. And in my mind, I can imagine—and you’ve talked a little bit about this—the sort of creative liberties that actors have to take to maybe even convey a greater truth than simply the black and white mimicry. And so, there is a little bit of liberty there. I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about what theater itself can bring to documentary work?
AP: We sort of chafe at the word “documentary” a little bit because that’s not what we’re doing. We are constructing a narrative. We are constructing character. But we are not there to be a mirror. We are constructing a story of this play from events that actually happened. Sometimes that can feel very para-
thing like that. What would you say to kids and students or just anyone that’s interested in theater or any other type of artistic pursuit as far as making that a priority in terms of their career? Has it been difficult? AP: It’s very difficult. Difficult in ways I couldn’t even have imagined when I was younger. Difficult
“One of the things the play says is that you can’t say what Laramie is. You can’t say what Laramie says. You can’t say what Laramie does, because it’s full of individuals, just like this country is full of individuals, and so ‘America is this’ or ‘America is that,’ you can’t say that, even though a lot of people want to say that.” doxical and contradictory, and then sometimes it feels like there’s no other way to do it. There’s no way to be the mirror. I don’t know how you would even do that. There wouldn’t be enough time. You wouldn’t be able to get to enough people. SK: Or if that’s even possible. AP: As an artist in the theater, it’s our job to take what we soak in and interpret it and make it exciting for an audience to witness. SK: Thank you. Well, you talked a lot about being an artist and of course working in the arts, and I wondered what you might offer to someone who’s interested in pursuing a career in the arts, given that it’s very difficult and there’s not a lot of money, not a lot of support as say the STEM areas or some-
in ways where everyday I have to make sure that this is actually what I want to do. Because if any day I wake up and I don’t have to do this, if there’s something else I can do, I’d better go do that. It takes a kind of twenty-four-seven attitude toward the world. You have to be all in. This is not a nine-to-five gig. If you’re going to survive, you have to go after it all the time. That conflicts with family. That conflicts with other things that might be really important. It’s going to take a lot of sacrifice and hard decisions. SK: Thank you. JF: You were speaking yesterday about how the value of an arts education also frames your entire worldview—that it’s not just about the utility of the job. - 157 -
AP: Well, that’s right. Having said that, I think you were asking how people who really want to, go into the arts as a profession, but the value of an education in the fine and performing arts is valuable beyond any profession. It goes beyond. It’s important for cultural growth, and our economic growth and our growth as a nation and in the world. I think it’s beyond important. JF: Gabriela, did you have any questions? Gabriela Bustamante: I was curious, out of all your works, which would you say has had the biggest impact on your life or on your career as an artist? AP: I think The Laramie Project would have to be that. It’s 2011 and this happened in 1998, and there hasn’t been any year that I haven’t invested some time and energy into the production. Whether someone is doing a production or needs help, whenever you do that, you’re always reconstructing your own work, and it always means something different as you get older, or as your life changes. It’s been something to reflect back to because it’s always been so present for all these many years. And also I was involved in the construction of that play from beginning to end and that doesn’t always happen as a performer. At that time, I wasn’t really doing much writing or directing, and so to have that experience, I think, kept percolating throughout the years to the point where I realized that when I had things of my own to say, that I had a structure and a basis and a way to do it. I also think it taught me something about the power of what this is. People used to come to Gross Indecency and leave and say, “This changed my life,” but I never really believed them because they would kind of go away, and you would go,
“Oh, they had a good time at the theater, and they’re being very dramatic.” A lot of the audience is dramatic too. But I think when you talk to people at length about a work like this, and throughout the years, it actually—very humbling and kind of surprisingly—has had a real lasting impact on people and people’s lives. I think I was always a little bit cynical about, “Oh yeah, the theater can change people’s lives, ha, ha, ha,” but I think it does have that power. I think it can do that. Living with that responsibility and that opportunity I think has changed the way I view my career and what I do.
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