Speed painting today felt good, the studio was a bit chilly. No insulation in the walls so it’s basically same temperature as outside which is a cozy -1 Celsius or 30 Fahrenheit. I was also rehearsing a new song which I will post to my Soundcloud later in the weekend maybe after the Saturday night band rehearsal, at least it’s nice and cozy at the Rehearsal Factory, we even have a fan couch. In the art studio with the temperature so low, the guitar slowly goes out of tune, if it’s ten degrees colder there is no hope of tuning it after twenty minutes. I like the idea of an expletive in the title. napo
I never let the cost of art materials get in the way of my creativity, always ready to recycle, buy or acquire slightly used materials and many times transforming common place materials into art objects. In art school I was very influenced by Art Povera and it’s refusal to be constrained by class and official art. This is a tale of birch bark collection in the winter of 1987 while a member of the Fastwurms Collective.
A Shaggy Bark Tale
I was reflecting on our last camping trip in winter of 87 when the bark of trees called us out, with dormant larvae waiting for marauding Wurms, with no mosquito audio enhancement to slow our harvest.
We leave three hours before daybreak, arriving after dawn’s bark setting up camp in the world of haute nature. Diggin’ snow cones till you hit bare ground creating a fresh bed of pine and cedar bows where my tent will rest. Then setting up the BBQ area, we stockpile dead oak and pulpy pine that make you cry a smoky cry, sun on our backs and not tired we work a long day setting up camp for the next few days. We have spent the day cutting wood and stock piling it in a dry area, soon it will be twenty five below zero, sitting by the fire yapping, the sun just left, “see you in fifteen hours”, I call out as the last glimmer of sunlight disapates. We continue staging tomorrows run, it’s gotten a bit Chilly Willy and the flames don’t give a hoot. We retire to our mummy bags and bivouac sacs, I froze all night, kept waking up, shaking out my hands and rubbing my feet, changed my double boiled wool socks at four am, buried deep inside the mummy bag I read the Tibetan Book of the Dead for the fourth time, have to memorize the route back.
Lone woodpecker perchance I’ll see at morning coffee, air photos maps for worming our way up country, swamp hopping, now sitting by the fire having porridge that goes cold as soon as you pull it away from the fire, it’s either too hot or too cold. Already thinking about lunch and hot noodles. Waiting for cloud cover to help in the bark harvest. The sun will bathe the “Arbor Vitae” with solar radiation, which will melt the ice formed between the bark and the pitch. This is evident as the birch skins pop away from the trees, we draw a straight vertical line with our knives then reaching under the bark, the entire piece of birch bark pulls away. If we can’t topple a rotting carcass with a shove we go for the bow saw, “say, isn’t sawing one of the sounds included in the Voyager Probe?”
We take care to leave enough rotting trees standing ‘cause we’re talking food from grub munching palliates and frequenting yellow belly sapsuckers. Those sap suckers will dig a double diner grid up the side of a birch tree, using Morse code to catch grub from pecking, while the telltale signs of peckers are numerous overkill holes in random patterns searching for carpenter ants living in their dead birch condos.
We return to home plate to sample noodles and baked potatoes, we will have to start cutting more wood to replenish yesterday’s stockpile. In one day we burn approximately a half a cord of wood. As the days pass we will have to walk further to replenish our wood supply, that is why we have wedged ourselves against this rock formation to shelter us from the cold wind and enjoy reflecting heat from the fire, the rock face is twenty feet high.
Keeping warm by our hypnotic incinerator feeding it oak logs, when you walk away from the fire a frozen silence that envelops you numbs your senses. The eerie sound of stress in the frozen limbs of trees shrieks out in the long winter night, again waiting for the sunlight to return. Exhaustion is the escape route to the collector lanes of dreaming, and the sub-zero air has us retreat into our bivouac sacs, our backs to the earth ready to travel in uncluttered dreams. In the coming days we are going north across the lake to new swamps having carefully pruned the supply in this area.
Hey last night I dreamt of Thomas Edison. I says to him, “Hey Tom, what’s new and different?” “Well ya see this thing”, he says, “It cost me two hundred bucks and it enables me to talk to the dead”. I says, “Things like that are better off left where they lie. “They lied” he says. “Ya they lied” I says. Vaudeville dream awaking to the first glimmer of sunlight, I made it till morning.
We keystone for hours on wobbly sheet ice, snowshoes kicking sparks of sunlight off the powdered snow. We pass the inlet where the beavers chewed our transmission pole for our installation “Chew or Die”. I walk point out on the water, mind adrift slogging snow, the repetitive motion, like an invisible camel ride. The ice gives way and I go through the icy surface in a flash, this bitter cold I react by extending my arms as I sink to my neck but my arms extended I lift myself up, how do I get out of this? Beneath the surface my bear paw snow shoes are pulled by the current and I can’t feel the bottom, I am grabbing a shield of ice. Frozen but not safe yet I slowly I remove my back pack and push it out onto the ice, slowly I am able to emerge into the subzero morning air the warm sunlight stinging my cheeks. Safe but with my clothes quickly becoming rigid, my partners alert me to move to shore where they will build three fires. After a climb up the shore and a rock face to a ridge where I strip down and stand within the three fires roasting slowly getting dressed in dry clothes. Still three days out here and today this little ghost went to the freezer. Weather watch radio forecasts minus twenty-five full moon hidden by cloud cover.
Dreaming is an incredibly rewarding escape, then I awake suddenly, is it morning already with a wave of relief. The day seems overcast, I unzip my mummy bag and push to find the zipper for my bivouac bag, then the zipper on the tent to discover it’s the moon, the sky is clear, the air razor sharp, it’s four a.m.… another four hours till sunrise, the drone of the distant highway drives me back into the sack. Isn’t our planet supposed to be vacationing in the glare of the solar factory? Got this problem, the sun won’t be here for hours, I read for a few minutes then drift off to sleep.
Trepanning for bark as materials for art making isn’t about remedial surgery, it’s an outright autopsy, finding butterflies, and hornet’s nests in the frozen pitch. It’s counting coup, it’s the transformation from growth to decay and recovery of the bark and transformation into artifact, it’s the medicine hide for creative work. Reaching under the skin, it cackles as it lifts away from the trunk, birch bark is always a reliable combustible for starting campfires. We have figured it costs thirty dollars per square foot to retrieve and access the mystical qualities of birch. With palm open over it you can sense hot spots where electrons wail for protons way down in the inner circle of electromagnetic fluctuations.
We awake at dawn, we are on the fourth day and will be heading home, this morning the camp is alive with solar laughter all three of us talking. Breakfast is cooking as we break down the camp, packing the bark and gear on sleds, what we take in we take out. The only signs of are presence are the charcoal rock of the fire and sooty footprints on the packed snow of the camp. We hike back to the pickup truck four miles away parked on the sixty nine’s narrow shoulder. There we load armloads of bark, we accelerate and merge, heading to the nearby truck stop “The Duck” for a well-earned grub steak.
Observations and notes on the transparent God of capital or means to acquiring leverage with our lives. Who was I working for anyway, I met along the way the others on this earth walk, we recognized one another immediately, reduced to furniture in the silence of work and toil.
In the battlefield of capital circa whatever or the deck of a sinking economy new millenia, or on the bustling streets of our disintegrating cities , what could we possibly have to do with one another, other than being the sum of all it’s parts. In part subordinates without the omnipotent extremities of the patriarchal god of capital. We never imagined we could subdivide the sum of its content, for it stretched itself to the limits of the naked eye gazing at a starlit firmament of souls that have sublimated there earth walk to simply survive.
We relinquish our authority or right to authorship vested in our minds belly in hopes of being invited into the inner circle. We are as time would have it the molecular gravy of time on a planet that makes it’s own gravy. Crippled by complicity in this crime of having savored the holy Eucharist and regurgitated this fleshy fatty content onto the scorched earth of religious doctrine; Godless we wander beneath the sun’s glare individually represented within the confines of degrading flesh. We could be no less than the sum of the parts and yet we fall short of being the accumulated knowledge of those that came before us, these secret truths confined by the arbiters of wealth.
We wonder on the putrefied corpse of centuries of thievery and greed, eventually loaded into worm feeders, no sepulcher to heavy to conceal or withhold our duty with destiny. We are still on the outside gnawing our way in. We make our tally and subdivide and go our separate ways choosing not to question the time theft of our lives by so few glutenous rich behemoths. Fortunate for us time consumes all, and the greatest greed to even galaxies eventually collapse, there beauty reduced to the void.
Eckhart Tolle: How You Create—or Destroy—Your Own Future
I has been a year since this work was created, a post that still holds true to my beliefs and assumptions about the true artistic path.
Originally posted on Napo B "Live":
Is getting well ever an art, Or art a way to get well? Robert Lowell, Unwanted
I believe the following excerpt from one of my favourite books (Fruits of the Moon Tree by Alan Bleakley) best explains my relationship to the objects in my current project “Life Tools Power Objects” . This is a book I continue to return to, to refresh my knowledge and clarify assumptions about the world. Mr Bleakley writes, “The evolution ofl human beings has involved a develpment of self-awareness, of reflexivity, as in-turning to reflection on what it is to be human. But such growth has also divorced us from our roots in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms”. He goes on to say, ” chapters 2,3,4, have given some clues as to how we may reconnect with stones, trees and animals, through the mineral,plant and…
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Larger format of this image at Saatchi Online
Omni-suck: omnisucking can only be detected by regular calibrations of the available suckable material at any given time. Humans are the most susceptible to omnisucking.
To Suck or Not to Suck that is the sucking question
It seems that every time I turn around I hear another story about someone being sucked, not dry, but ever so gently from some parasitic life form or system of life forms. Governments do it with taxes, crime gangs do it with extortion, your manager does it with the semi visible carrot on a stick. We all are aware of this constant sucking from all sides, I guess some people would call it life, while others would reply, “Life isn’t fair” or “Life Sucks”.
As a young man I thought life didn’t suck enough to satisfy my seemingly endless supply of suckable material. As I got older I found I had to hide this inner knowledge that sucking was going on even when I slept, I also came to realize with maturity that we, all humans are being drained on a slow drip to somewhere outside ourselves to the benefit of others that don’t even know us personally. Contempt for any societal order or hierarchies of management satisfied only a sliver of the the sucking chaffing pain of being taken advantage of, after all I had come to realize that this one sided arrangement varied in degree for every human on the planet, to mention animals, resources and our planet home.
After contempt came anger, but just before the self destructive aspect of rebellion took hold I was saved in a wave of realization. I had a close friend who could see the sucking tubes. We use to go to parties and she would point them out, when a large crowd of people most of which knew each other or had been in relationships where inter connected with tubes. She would point out a brown tube leaving one woman’s neck chakra and going across the room, hooked to some guys heart chakra. Most of the time she couldn’t deal with parties because of the tube vision, she slowly had to learn to tune down the volume of activity.
Before I got married I spent allot of time disconnecting tubes from myself in order to be in a relationship without any outside unwanted connections. My wife however insisted on reconnecting a tube I had successfully disconnected from, the government. I went to the tax office to do all my back taxes and so I went in to ask for all my abstracts going back twenty odd years. They informed me that they had me as deceased on there records and so they only had a few bits of paper from the eighties, but obliged me to file and get reconnected to the sucking tube.
If it sucks, it must be alive.
When I was in art school the old guard macho painters always went on about their chops, alluding to the definitive arm gesture in the kata of painting. When a group of these predominantly old men got together for a few drinks it became a swaggering group of bragging balls out sad men. All leaning on one another seeing who had the ultimate trade mark swing, it was sad. However it is interesting that as a painter once I return from a sprint through the galleries looking at paintings I invariably find myself going over what I know and what I have just discovered. The painting below was one of those arm swinging moments, going over the chops.