Yes, the object-maker is trying performance-based, conceptual art. Who knows where this may lead.
I'm presenting a small piece about loss, memory and how ephemeral and solitary that process is. The piece involves tearing up a notebook of thoughts and writings, folding the scraps into awaiting strips of paper and then setting them on fire.
In many cultures burning--paper, incense, people, etc.--is seen as a way of letting go, sending wishes/prayers upward into the sky, releasing souls.
I'll drop these burning bundles into a small trough I welded up--the receptacle is about as long as a Kleenex box but only half as wide & elevated slightly from the surface via two supportive sides. Into this "v" shaped trough I poured dark wax that has already hardened.
As the paper bundles hit the wax surface, they smolder and burn out fairly quickly--but the combination of wax, heat and paper create beautiful dancing embers that circulate around the paper as it expires. After all the small bundles have been lit and deposited, and the last one has burnt out, there should be an accumulation of soot and ash. I'll blow this off the surface of the trough--which has been placed at the end of a wide piece of textured white paper. It is my hope that some of the ash mixture and/or wax will be deposited onto this paper. The flaming mixture will then be poured out directly onto the paper, allowed to burn further, and then finally be extinguished. The end result would then be the residue left behind.
For me, this encapsulates the singular and individual process/experience of letting something or someone go that you care deeply for. You can say goodbye and release that event or person, but the impression left behind, the space occupied by them, the ways in which your life was changed, altered, enriched, wounded--all this stays behind. It stays with you; leaves a mark. The symbolic nature of the piece may only work for me--the wax representing the quiet ways we're changed--the surface holding traces, the history of the event. But to come upon the object after the performance gives little information about what has transpired or why--and such is the nature of loss: it's a private and personal event that leaves marks behind that only you understand.
Why this came about:
I realized the original version of this project, a notebook/journal just wasn't working. Sure, the How To part works fine here (see archived post in Oct. '05)--personal blogs are by nature self-indulgent, strangely expositional. Reading How To in this arena works. Reading a print out of it doesn't. As I tried to re-work the idea into a small journal with thoughts, steps, small line-drawings...it just wasn't working. In fact, I felt less associated with the project the more I did. The impulsive nature of writing How To was the necessary part, the spark. Trying to turn it into something other was killing it.
The project was becoming all about that final product, rather than the process itself, the event, the emotion, the fleeting nature of memory and how we retain our personal history, those moments that transform us. The book was becoming a fetish, a stand-in for the performance of living and dying. I wanted to get away from the fetishization (?) of the object and get back to the moment. The only way I could think to capture that was via the wax-trace-trough concept above. To create a situation where an experience is shared. Heat, smell, that moment in time may be written about, discussed, etc. The experience, lost in translation becomes the result. The experience is the thing. Does it work? I'll soon find out.
Update, 6:30 PM, same day: Implemented Project Curious Bent. Went well. The test run in some ways was more successful (isn't that always the case?) because I was burning smaller amounts of paper. Less paper equals less burn, less continual burn. The sooty ash was a no show. Someone needed to call ahead and make sure it was coming. A little ash showed up, but not enough to leave marks on the paper. The wax worked perfectly, however.
The wax continued to burn on the paper, eventually creating a few holes. Small islands of waxy bundles emerge from pools of multi-toned wax. Eddies of soot, grit and wax litter the surface. I'lI get a friend to video tape the performance next time.
This year went POW! and suddenly turned into such an exploration. Just at a time when I've been feeling most stiffled, stressed and stilted...good work has come along to throw me a lifeline.