Artist & Writer, San Francisco Bay Area

Breaking, Good

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It had to happen. That’s how the project was made: it began with the imperative of completing the packaging for a video I made in Spring 2011. I needed to send it out into the world, and I needed to devise a way to do it.
And so it went: I wanted to take each material used in the video, including videotape, and even the table, and I needed to break each into a fraction of itself, so I could capture the tangible touchable whole.
Making art is so often a statement of imparting value into a created thing. I made THIS out of THAT, and now it’s a NEW THING. I have to fight my impulses that don’t place much value in these objects. I keep going back to the thought: Isn’t Life the valuable part of life? And aren’t these things objects we can’t really have? They are always separate from us, giving us meaning or value (?), getting us from one end of life to another. I have my collections of treasured things. Still I always have to ask myself why I am adding things to a world full of things. At the end of the day, though, I just like the making so much it trumps all the rest. Is the making the Thing, or is the Thing what was made?

So I gathered the materials that I still had from when I originally made the video. I had most of it, but some was destroyed when I had left the entire scene in the open air for over a month. The nail brush had rotted in the foamy sludge. I always have to fight the impulse to let my work fade away, let it die. I would look out the window and see the objects fading in the sun, drying out, shriveling. It’s like artmaking is a constant salvaging & resuscitation.
The best kept things were the pitcher and the bowl. I had even left the table outside for months, and a scrub down hadn’t returned it to normal. But the bowl was back in the cupboard, back where it belonged, being useful. The pitcher, too.
I gathered every material. And I had to break them. And cut, rip, spill, tear, scrape.
Breaking what is useful. Breaking what is working. Breaking what had meaning.
Even my youngest son cried about it. “No!!! Don’t do it!!” He covered his ears.
I took him away to another room. Then I got the hammer.
Sometimes what is working, is not actually working. Sometimes to become better, it has to break.
So it did. I did it.
Materials list: video, wood, paper bag, cactus soil, cloth, table, bowl, pitcher, water, razor blade, dish soap, bleach, retail bag, nail polish, manicure stick, bar of soap, lotion, nail brush, nail file, paint, duct tape.
• The “inquieta/in quiet a” video from Spring 2011 is here.
• Some short things I’ve written are at tumblr, here. Okay, fine, I’ll say it. It’s poems.

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