Monday, August 26, 2013

the city as a body, the body as a city...


one of the important aspects of my practice is to allow potentially irrelevant sources or inspirations to collide with whatever i am working on. it's not so much a willingness to bring everything into the fold, but more so to see how something that seems irrelevant can find ways to become part of the conversation - so that the source begins to offer different aspects or connections to the source that would never seem possible. while i was working with the benjamin archives, in a city (berlin) that i do not know well nor speak the language, i found myself not only in unknown locations but unable to find my way back. of course, benjamin was interested in the flaneur - a wanderer, of mostly city spaces rather than natural landscapes.

in my studio, i have, of course, a lot of reference materials. none of it is organized, nor is it geared towards specific research needs. more simply, these things are gathered over time without specific intentions. it runs from objects found on the ground, to old magazines, books and the like. when i'm stuck, while working in the studio, frustrated, or feeling at a dead end, i usually rummange through some of this stuff... sometimes it works as a distraction. sometimes it works as inspiration, and sometimes a stone seen a million times will become a gem...

several months ago, while beginning to create visual works for my upcoming shows, i was thumbing through an old issue of progressive architecture magazine, which had a short article on le corbusier's progress designing a city in chandigarh, india. in the text, corb related the design of the buildings to a human body - where the capital was a head, the sectors a body, the city center a heart, the park a pair of lungs, the education buildings a left art, and the industrial buildings a right arm.


in reading this, i began to think about maps and the idea of a mental flaneur - someone who travels/wanders in mind. i then began to think about corb's use of organs and limbs as buildings, and suddenly i could see the lines on a map as the veins running through a body, and so i decided to work on some drawings - made by tracing these limbs and organs (specifically the ones he mentioned) of my body, actual size.

when i finished the first drawing, there was a nagging feeling of familiarity in that the paper size and the traces were  all determined by my body. a few days later i was looking through some old photographs for some early photos of myself in a punk band (no i will not be posting them anytime soon...), and i found a polaroid from when i was 8 years old. the polaroid, as you can see above, shows me standing next to a piece of paper containing a trace of my body actual size... and of course, in the discovery of this photograph i end up as i usually do, finding out that the thing i'm doing that feels "now" or "new" is actually connected to something from very long ago.

as you can see, the early painting is of me wearing army boots, a helmet and holding a bazooka - and above the poloariod you can see the object that inspired that early painting. (and i must confess that plastic green army man spent a lot of time in my mouth!)

in the end, it wasn't only the flaneur that brought these works (all 12 of them) back to benjamin, as the color sequences in each of the drawings come from an index of hundreds of colored marks in sequence as found in one of benjamin's notebooks. funny thing is that as i moved through the list of colors in order, i felt very much that i too was wandering - amidst an indigo field, looking for small white spaces to "drop" my colors into... colors which began to feel like breadcrumbs that could somehow offer a number of possible paths...

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