Installation view, Sam Falls, Kastro, Antiparos, 2016
Most of my day had been the same as usual–university, public library–but later, when I had to trudge to the Osipovs on Father’s errand, there was that wet roof of some pub on the edge of a vacant lot, and the chimney smoke hugged the roof, creeping low, heavy with damp, sated with it, sleepy, refusing to rise, refusing to detach itself from beloved decay, and right then came that thrill, right then.
– Vladimir Nabokov, Torpid Smoke, 1925.
One of my favorite biographical facts about Nabokov is that he was an avid butterfly hunter, catching and preserving the common to the exotic species of the floral come to life. I also like that his wife Verá carried a handgun on their butterfly hunts in the wild Pacific Northwest of the 1940s to protect them. Or that he claims a spell of typhoid fever when he was eight years old ruined his capacity for “genius level” arithmetic but enhanced his love for colorful birds and butterflies. These facts enhance the reading of Torpid Smoke, a short story without plot but a lucid perception of a young man musing about the natural world, merging with the deterioration of flora and fauna as night sets in and the sunset dissolves into darkness.
What is progress in the arts? Is it engaged with matching technological development or synonymous with our understanding of the world around us and a more symbiotic existence with the natural world? Of course, I personally believe in the latter–rather than an assertion of the individual or mechanical developments, I’m interested in a dissolution of the self into the sun and plants, into the night and death. Does it help to push industrial power forward or maybe now take a step back into the nature we have left?
A natural run of quartz makes a line through a high-desert field in California: dig a grave for Time and put a memorial to the time spent in nature, replace the earth with fabric and return the stones to an organic position, let the sun preserve their image and share it. We can partake in this time and place now preserved, exhibit the grave as a memorial and raise up the desert as a sign of life’s persistence in the harshest environments.
The white stones are unearthed from their natural environment: take the stones that made the organic image and lay them out into the ancient symbols used to signify sun and stone. These symbols are from the Anglo-Saxon runes, the 5th century alphabet that was the foundation of the Latin and later English alphabets, representing originally the most essentially elements of life, including sun and stone. Language used to communicate in the present, language used to preserve history, displaced over time to relate the complexity of civilization as it moves forward, as history builds up.
Communicate in a universal language the poignancy of place and time: a silver gelatin print represents the history of mechanical production–displaced by technology–revalued now for it’s simplicity to illustrate the essence of place, of light. Polaroid photographs make an immediate image of an instant, the color and light of a time past. Place the flower from the picture now dead on the polaroid, preserved like a butterfly to represent the time between, new light now letting us see life and death, the beauty of growth and the beauty of death and decay. Trying to be at peace with the light and the darkness, and the time between.