Date of Submission
Project Advisor 1
// bower \\ This year I've been exploring in a deep way what it means to live in my environment – literally the thing that surrounds me. [to environ – active verb : to surround] I've been slowing down, changing patterns that have formed me and been following me since I learned them. I've been doing this with particular attentin to resources and what I'm consuming as a sort of experiment … in artful living. 1st semester I was thinking a lot about what it meant to make art, what art is and its use in a life that doesn't leave its own periphery. A main focus was harvest. Twas the season. The processes of transformation began to mystify me in a new way – within a form are infinite possibilities. The example of color. EVERYTHING IS FULL OF COLOR & through processes of fermentation, soaking or boiling, a husk, some leaves or berries may transform into an ink. This was my main preoccupation last semester – ink & dye making & fermentation & making paper for books and masks, bases // playgrounds for these harvested inks. I was finding ways to use the world around me to beautify life & make jokes, becoming part of the process of everything I was doing. It was brought to my attention that I was using only beautiful materials – & why? In December I created a concrete rule for the harvesting I had been doing more casually and spontaneously - ½ an hour a day. During the break, I traveled for a week before settling to take some classes in Oaxaca, Mexico. On a beach I decided to do my ½ hour practice. I found washed up, smoothed colorful plastics among the corals and shells. YUK. First I was grossed out … but why? It was clean & sanded, more colorful than any sea glass I had seen. Here I decided to collect things that grossed me out, to investigate a relationship I was fostering unknowingly. I started collecting mysterious plastics, obsessing over a material I strayed away from for years. Before I felt a sickening aversion to it, maybe from an imagined tritone vibration I was projecting onto it. I continued harvesting these plastics and exploring my relationship. On my harvest walks through Oaxaca, I found myself attracted to colorful straws in gutters and at the bases of trash cans. … One of my walks took me through the eatery of a market. The bounty of straws blew me away. I began picking straws out of stacks of bottle-filled crates with these plastics in their mouths. & So my focus narrowed on these polypropylenes and polystyrenes – the makeup of straws. Supposedly non toxic and seemingly versatile. I continued harvesting straws for ½ an hour each day for three weeks, filling a big burlap harvest sac. During this time I also met with artisan basket makers, trying and trying to make something useful out of these straws. & what a strubborn material! I met with pine needle weavers and a palma weaver. & To no avail. The straw loves its shape. In order to make anything, we had to change it. So significantly that it didn't seem worth its time for the mound gathered. … but there must be SOMETHING! – – Back in Annandale I continued harvesting for ½ an hour itty bitty pieces of plastics and an invasive grape vine and other surprises. On a walk behind my house, a booty of bottles presented itself. “Surely we can figure something out with these.” & Right next to these bottles were the remnants of a Blue Jay. The same week I saw a Red Tailed Hawk in the Catskills... lying in the middle of the Rout 28. What majesties... What was the business of these birds? & Why was I sad to find them? & How could I mourn something I never knew? … & What is this obsession with meaning making? I sat on these questions & organized the forgotten pieces into piles. Ordered, re-ordered, contemplated … & somehow these piles & each piece, a window into its world, became important through these acts of meditation and mediation, I brought similar intentions and wide eyes to the vines. They slowly became a nest for all the birds without homes and all my questions wrapped in strings. The straws began braiding themselves into vineyard rope & jumped into the nest to hold thoughts together. & This is how we can make use of all these materials! That has been my guiding question through all of this – How do we make use out of what is around us? How do we transform and expand the ways in which we think about things enough to see these as raw materials anew? [for spiritual and utilitarian means] & a funny thing – Along my journey collecting and organizing and meaning making, a friend showed me a picture of a Bower Bird's nest. Another bird. The Bower Bird collects pieces of something and organizes these pieces into piles. They generally are ordered by material and color. Materials range from nuts to clothes hangers to uni-colored shards of plastic. Amazing! Amazing to find these actions being practiced by this bird. It is a shared nature.
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Szrek, Monika, "//bower\\" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. 281.