“The Garden of the Forking Paths”1
The romanticized ideal of the intrepid traveller. The loneliness of the exilic existence. The expulsion from the garden. Those cursed to wander the earth. The terror of immateriality is flung into the comfort of the material. Yet within these extremes of place exist the subtleties and the complexities of being 'neither here nor there.' It is in this relationship between transience and the body that I found the impetus for my current body of work. The unstable nature of dwelling is closely intertwined with the sacred; tents, clouds, and dresses are some images and objects that I am using to embody the interplay between a solid space and a passing moment. As an image of shelter and movement the tent references a nomadic existence, a mode of dwelling that is not necessarily connected to a particular place. This state of being liminal is characterized by a sense of temporal dwelling and removal from the external environment. As such, the tents are ensconced, the sojourner is constantly turning away from sight, time is mutable – a dream like stasis. The absence of a solid space, both physically and spiritually, can be de-stabilizing yet simultaneously transformative. It is through this process of transformation that I explore issues surrounding transience, ritual, and surface.
(When will you stop breaking my heart)
This installation evolved into a meditation on agency. It addresses the interiority of space through the creation of a psychological distance between the viewer and the objects installed. The tent is suspended and closed off. It emits a ghostly light while still permitting awareness of the interior of the tent. It veils the space between the interior and the exterior, between the objects and a sensory experience. Consequently, the viewer is both a participant and an observer. This role of the observer is echoed by the plastic doll on the wall, an object that connects to cultural knowledge and yet shows the slippages within iconographic meanings. The staff, or wand, the only object in the room which touches the ground, acts as a ritual object while yet still alluding to its physical task of supporting the body. Combining the seriousness that draws the religious impulse (the fear of immateriality, death, and absence) with references to childhood play, realness and imagination, When will you stop breaking my heart, is a question of possibilities.
(The Cloud Reliquary)
I present clouds, in their mutability, as an image of transformation. In my iterations of them they are simultaneously solid, immaterial, and transient; they act as a container and are body-like as opposed to 1 The title for this show references a short story by Jorge Luis Borges: “The Garden of the Forking Path.” In this story Borges explores notions of the infinite possibilities that lie within alternative futures. being ephemeral. Like relics they are preserved remnants that allow for a multiplicity of meanings. They are constructed predominantly out of synthetic materials such as polyester filling, machine-made lace, sheets of acetate, thin sheets of plastic, rope, and a miscellaneous assortment of fabrics. These materials are combined together, sewn, meshed, and strung into cloud-like semblances that are both fleshy and otherworldly. The bulbous forms both obscure and transform, shifting from one place to another. As such, they become icons of both the superfluous and the sacred, echoing and furthering the question raised by the tents. As George Santayana, the Spanish-American philosopher-poet, suggests, “ [t]he heavens are the most constant things we know, the skies the most inconstant . . . it is a prejudice to suppose that instability must be sad or must be trivial” (Cloud Castles). Grasping for the surface in the instant, the tents and the clouds become spaces for the absent body to co-exist with intangible sensations. The drawings examine and correspond to the intimate spaces of the fabric shelters and the shadows of the clouds: evidencing what is internal, reflecting a moment or a process, and indicating an invisible act. As such they are positioned in dialogue with The Cloud Reliquary. They allude to the experience of pain and the disintegration between the covering and the revealing.
(Leaving, Returning, Finding, Gone Again) (Wish image one: what happens when we close our eyes)
These pieces are made using fabrics that destabilize typical expectations surrounding the function and use of tents while simultaneously enacting their transitory nature. From their openings, frothy appendages made of lace, permeable fabrics, and tulle emerge. Through this, the tents become a space within a space, responding and reacting to the structures that surround them: transforming, escaping, and transfiguring. The tents become spaces suspended and constrained through time and memories. As with the clouds, these symbols of transience are constructed using plastic and other synthetic materials whose lives are much longer than ours. These slippages of time are addressed further in the dress installation and the headdress.
(Now and then, you will) (Cloud Dress)
With these objects the line between garment as vestment, protective barrier, and prosthetic is blurred. The pretence to the feminine and other codified aesthetics masks the questions of what is covered, wherein lies the entity, and why the extension or suspension of self; consequently the dress and the headdress become visible phantasms of the invisible.
In this performance based video I undertook a journey around an small island located off the coast of British Columbia. Wearing a large skirt (loosely based off a bustle pattern from the late 1800s) that had small clouds-like appendages, undulations of fabric, and a train made out of plastic attached to it, I both merged and jarred with the environment as I made my processional walk through contrastingly idyllic and barren environments. By covering myself with the dress I brought the issues I was exploring in the tents to interact more intimately with the body and the self. Crawling along the rocky beach, meandering through the forest, the figure revisions the wandering prodigal, a foreign creature attempting to fit within nature, returning and continually leaving again.
Borges, Jorge Luis “The Garden of the Forking Paths.” Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings. Ed. Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby: New York: New Directions P, 1962. 19-29.
Santayana, George “Cloud Castles.” Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies. London: Scribner, 1924. 19 -24.