Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Poems at an exhibition

Here are some words I wrote to accompany the works in "Between Cellar and Attic"...I chose not to write an essay, because its form and required objectivity felt much too cold and restrictive - not at all applicable to the feeling of this show or the dreamy, nostalgic, aggressive and intangible qualities of personal relationships to space as hinted at by Genevieve Robertson, Ryan Lord and Paola Savasta's works. Very graciously, by the artists, I was indulged in my preference to write poetry, as a text-based way of opening the works up to interpretation. I wanted to give a response that was subjective, emotional, reflective of my psyche in the same ways these artists each capture complex inner worlds. Perhaps these poems worked to activate new ways of experiencing the show in the imaginations of the audience, as they offer at times campy, irrelevant, odd and humble ideas. I mean, speaking from personal experience, reading the literature that accompanies exhibitions at most institutions usually doesn't get me flipping out with sheer excitement. A particularly brilliant insight will get a giggle from me, yes. And respect, sure. I'm not trying to make the case for populist art and "dumbed-down" art writing. I am not promoting gimmicks at museums meant to tempt viewers in. But I wonder what writing about art from a deeply personal, intuitive place (ie, not the distilled intellectual language of academia, but something that rings true - more revealing, earnest, romantic... bordering on humiliating maybe?) can do for improving audience engagement, for stimulating deep reactions, for improving the public's relationship to contemporary art, for improving enjoyment, honest dialogue and criticism across the board. What can it do for breaking down silos, and opening art up to new possibilities? I wonder if I can write in such a way successfully...so this is my start. I wrote these poems while safely snuggled in my own bed, where I spend a lot of time, and manage to do many things, including working quite comfortably (definitely more so than at a desk). My bed - intimate, inspiring, and yet sometimes as stormy as the sea - is surrounded by all that I love and can't live without, located between cellar and attic, and where I absolutely feel the most at home. So, I thought, it would be appropriate to write from that place, for these artists and their show. I hope you like the poems...xoe

In the starlit place
(for Genevieve)

roses layered in
clouds. Ash cloaked
suitcases kept close for
wandering. Big gentle sleepy
blankets piled up to collect some
rest. Black silk panopticon shadow
cat tethered to shifty grinned somnolent
meditation. Musty moss woven bird made
nest thieved from a mud slicked wood beam
after its inhabitants took flight to search for a home
elsewhere. Perfume absent vintage mottled lead glass
vessels sweetened by memories of once near loved ones
a milk a pink a frosted white with touch-worn patches of handpainted
flowers cramped together securely in a Bermuda Triangle of sentimental
arrangement. Induction unravelled linen bound threshold navigation guide
books gathered around me like the crumbling ruins of a stone amphitheatre
on shelves table floor bed precarious stacks stuffed with pressed leaf love letters spilling
into an unknown river’s waters that sweep buried bone words deep downstream to be sought
after gleaming in the starlit place I visit whenever there is an opportunity to take a little time to

Internal monologue for Mr Olympia’s workout
(for Ryan)

Work that chest out
Work it hard
Pump it pump it pump
Incline bench press
Four times ten
Burn hot to get big bumps

Now the biceps
Incline curls
Donkey kickbacks fast
Rip, sliced, shredded
Cut extreme
Who cares about the rest

Deadlifts, pulldowns
Build that back
Rugged to the max
Say you’re unsure
Kill that noise
And get your body jacked

Don’t you try to
Hide from me
Where you gonna go?
We’re not done here
Flesh machine
Until your mass gets grown

Feeling tired, wow
Think that’s all you are
Cardboard body
Empty box
You’re void of any power

You’re fucking weak
Dead to me
Call yourself a man?
Just don’t you dare
Abandon me
I don’t know who I am

Rectangles of dysfunction that occupy my wall
(A semi-fictional list for Paola)

Painting of productive agricultural land sold
to industrial property developers.
Fastidiously organized to do list always
neglected to be read.
Love note on postcard of exceptionally
hideous Icelandic sunset.
Water-resistant found dog poster with high
res picture of a duck.
Counterfeit-proof train pass already
lost five times and counting.
Fortunes of prosperity from
inedible cookies.

Newspaper article on furniture shipment
sent straight to the dump.
Photo of university graduates destined
to lifetime of career insecurity, circa 2002.
Definition of some pithy zeitgeist word
no one will use in a year.
Self-portrait sketched on envelope orphaned
from proper identification papers.
Perfectly recorded full contact information
for person I will never call.
Award announcement for directional signs
designed for election nobody voted in.
“Bonne chance” stamped on metal keepsake
containing carcinogens.

Precious quote by esteemed dead intellectual
that derailed my art practice.
Coordinates of public space requiring
permits to use and patrolled by police.
Wise words from mother inadequately
recognized for her contributions.
Prescription for drugs to treat
the wrong problems.
IOUs from trusted friends with
no plans to pay back their debts.
Myspace user name and password.

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