Today I spent over seven hours working diligently in the bear cages beginning to install my boat. Yup, I have a boat now. The rusted metal arc formed the base for the hull and after much trial and error, a trip to the emergency room, countless slivers of scrapes from hardware cloth and self-educating myself how to sculpt with wire, a frame took shape. This shell of a boat inhabited my living room for over a week and today finally made it’s way back to the bear cages. It was the perfect autumn day. Cool in the morning, sun glistening through the leaves creating soft dancing shadows without a dash of humidity. The cages have a new addition- scrawls of graffiti along the edges of the granite walls. Amateur drawings with a spray paint that will sadly add another blah layer of gray paint over the natural stone. After reading James Turrell’s, Mapping Spaces and the way he regards places, I can’t but wonder what the consciousness of ‘my’ place is. The architecture no longer has a function, therefore the consciousness is the only thing that gives it meaning. How can a place have consciousness? Is it the memory it holds? The history of caged in bears, their movements, their dreams mixed with staff and visitors that held the place in a sort of grandeur… Am I adding to the consciousness by doing my work there. I think I am. Boat is also a vessel to transport us to a place – the spiritual realm of thought, the way the god Ra rode his boat through the sky all through the darkness before he helped the sun rise. Riding our waves of unconscious to take us to another time, the past or the future.
I inspect the man-made pond and start moving creeping vines pulling at the leaves, raking them into a pile near the center as a foundation for my creation. The boat is not level. The metal piece I used is off-balance creating a pre-determined imperfection. I arrange it as well as possible on the mound facing the front of the cages, an appropriate placement. Yet as I walk around the edge I keep going back to adjust and give in to the whispers of my draw towards mapping, I realize the radial impression reflects a potential compass. I pull out my digital one and find North. North is a place of magnetic pull, exploration, the unknown and where the bow must point. Like the point of a sundial the boat will stay still but the shadows and light will pass around it marking a passage of daily time.
As I dig in the leaves that have left a solid layer of composted dirt I find curled worms, shocking white roots and leftovers of human behavior, trash. The biggest find was a long metal strip that appears to be the stand from a street sign, followed by chip bags, condom wrappers and a plastic peacock feather. These discoveries didn’t dampen my enthusiasm, but it was a reminder of our impact and the degrading debris surrounding me.
I began with my initial idea of filling the boat with layers of leaves and acorns. It quickly became clear this was not successful. The acorns became lost among the flaky shards of leaves and the wire bulged. I began using the sturdy but extremely light stalks collected from a plant at the edge of the cages to create stability, boundaries and an aesthetic for the boat. Angled in various degrees they formed a geometric map around the boat, marking a new territory with space for air, (the unknown), freshly fallen acorns and dead leaves. The juxtaposition of these remnants of space and nature created an interesting pattern around the boat. The meticulous precision and balance required close to six hours of attentive work to complete the design. I was intrigued at how slow this process was – stabilizing branches, collecting acorns, gathering leaves, tying wire as my back slowly ached, centipedes crawled on my ankles and yellow jackets buzzed by my feet. Sounds of the street filtered through with sirens and snippets of Marvin Gaye…
The boat will take form and I will row it to another place that connects the consciousness of this site to another time.