Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Dance

Learning new image languages
Is the same as inventing new words.
How do we know their derivations?
We view them in the context of history.
Does the history matter?
When the ‘present time’ is so trendy?
History looms large in consciousness.
Yet what happens right in front of our eyes
Can be held in disbelief and ignored
Or understood through study.
To study can be instinctual.
Rather than built into the rapidity of button pushing.
The digital age has always existed.
Instruments implementing the parts are different yet correlated.
So why can’t we study and understand?
As opposed to scan, send and share?

We can tap the larger, denser, more information picture.
We can learn about derivations and history.
The potential of discovery underneath the keyboard is vast.
To take advantage of it is even admirable.

Sometimes taking things apart and putting them back together in unpredictable ways
Allows for unexpected perceptions and learning.
How could we forget?
What did we learn in school?
Did we pay attention?
Did we take hold of the process of the discipline of learning?
Or did we just memorize to pass?

In Time:
The derivations are built in.
The present tense is built in.
The understanding is built in.

The kind of truth that we want to know
Is ready to be revealed.
Waiting and wondering when it will be apparent
Are wasteful.

Truth surprises us.
It is real.
It is without question.
It surrounds us.
It guarantees our safety within ourselves.

Truth is the nirvana state.
It either is or it isn’t.
It does not exist.
It happens.

Who we are becomes a stack of truths.
No one can tear the stack apart.
We breathe, we walk, we see, we feel.
We do all that.
Each aspect of being alive supplies a torrent of information that integrates itself into our being.
Being aware of that integration is a gift to ourselves.
A means of taking steps outside of a comfort zone, outside of a norm, a habit, a routine.

Later on, we do no walking, breathing, seeing, feeling.
The information input dies.
The relics proving our lives happened remain.
In a box, on a computer, in the dump.
Somewhere on earth.

Copyright 2018 Lyn Horton

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Art Salon Presentation

These images and words were delivered at a meeting of The Art Salon in Cummington, MA on September 21, 2018.

As you listen to the words, scroll down to see the images. 
The images represent one for each of the last 20 years.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Time Trial

copyright 2015 Lyn Horton

A live Tanglewood performance is on the radio.

It was my intention to be outside, sitting in the chair by the table on the terrace while the music was on. I have pictured myself there all summer.

The minute I went out to do this, my neighbor started up his mower. He is probably 40, divorced and has a penchant for machines, which has been transferred to his son, who, at 8 am this morning, revved up his ATV to travel around his yard for a while. That stopped quickly much to my surprise. It was difficult to meditate with noise pollution, which accompanies living across the street from that neighbor and the other ones, too.

In my email Inbox, every morning is a "feel good" newsletter. Most of the time, the subject matter is timely. Today, it had to do with doing something that pleases me.

So, the aforementioned placement of myself popped into my mind.

I tailored my day to make it happen.

At 6 am, the cat came into the bedroom asking to be fed. Which I did do. Afterward, I got back in bed, wanting to remain there for three more hours. I couldn't lie there. The covers made me too hot or too cold. I took them off and put them back on. I got up at 8. That is early for Sunday.

Depression seeps into my day slowly as I fix breakfast of French toast and coffee. I read my email while eating, most of which is all news or pleas for money from progressive, environmental, or political groups. I delete the political email and read the news from the New York Times. Gradually my mood becomes darker as I scan the headlines. Incessant spirit deprivation. Incessant triggers of hopelessness.

By the end of breakfast, a full pot of coffee later, and maple syrup poured lavishly on my French toast, I could be on a high. Yet, I find myself with my head down, tears rolling down my cheeks, debilitated. My anger kicks into gear, sadness follows. No thoughts about how incredibly fortunate I am come to mind. Instead, I worry. How am I going to leave this funk?

Today I thought about the subject of the newsletter though. And grabbed the dishes off the dining room table to take to the kitchen to wash.

And then I decided to clean up the terrace by weeding and raking. This activity carried over into the area under the trees where there is nothing but stone. Branches and leaves were strewn around, a result of the heavy rain breaking the dead wood off the maples. I dragged an old sheet full of everything I had raked across the lawn to the edge of the wildly overgrown field and flapped the sheet free of its contents.

It was simply too hot to run today. I decided to do three miles on the stationary bike instead. This took place by 2. I did my post-exercise yoga routine, drank coconut water and ate some salted roasted cashews.

Oh, my God, I had almost arrived at my outdoor destination.

But, no, I had to distract myself and hang an eight-foot-long piece of art that had been resting on the floor in a spare room for months. This won't take long. I took accurate measurements and marked the wall for the placement of the hangers. The hangers did not support the piece when I started to lift the piece onto the wall and it fell to the floor. The drop was short, but the impact dislodged the art from its hinges within the frame. Another thing to fix.

I ignored it, put away the tools and left the room.

Maybe I can use screws instead of hangers. So I did. The piece is on the wall, straight, but the art is sagging from the hinges being jarred and there are a few extra holes in the wall that are covered by the piece.

I left the room again, half successful at what I had accomplished. But embarrassed that the thing had dropped off the wall in the first place. It is a two-person job.

The laptop was downstairs ready to be turned on so I could write.

Pleasure. Self-fulfilment.
How many times do I have to aspire to either. Or even be reminded that both can be achieved internally.

I am tired.

The neighbor's lawnmower ruined my moment.
It was running for ten minutes only. By that time, I had set up the computer on the dining room table.

The concert from Tanglewood is continuing. It will be over in twelve minutes.

Will I be finished?
I smell the odor of fresh cut grass, yet feel the wafts of heat carried by the ever so slight breeze coming through the screen door that opens out to the terrace.

No, I will not be finished.
With this article, perhaps.
With other stuff. No.

It is hot.
I am going to take a shower.

The point is that I am not counting the results of my intended purpose.
This is the result. This.
These last words.

copyright 2018 Lyn Horton

Friday, June 22, 2018

As Seen On ARTEIDOLIA: Taryn Simon's Temptation

Taryn Simon’s Temptation

A Cold Hole, Courtesy the artist, MASS MoCA, and Matti Koivula

On March 26, 2018, MASSMoCA celebrated its summer season at an opening of two installations and bookwork of artist, Taryn Simon. The works fill nearly the entire first floor of the museum.

One installation piece is called A Cold Hole, as shown in the first photo at a different venue. The installation at MASSMoCA is the subject of this article.

This work requires actual participation to be realized for what it is. At the opening, three persons took part. The action is to drop into a pool of ice-cold salt water the opening of which is eight-foot square. The fifteen-foot-deep tank of water is imbedded in a large white room whose floor is packed with rough hewn ice and whose temperature is kept cold enough so that the ice does not melt.

The audience for this event views the participant through perhaps a nine by fifteen-foot movie screen-proportioned window whose bottom edge is about sixty inches off the floor.  The window is carved out of a wall in a room that is totally black, the reverse aesthetic of the room where the pool is located.

I witnessed a young woman, a young man and the Director of the museum drop into the hole.

The young woman wore only a white t-shirt and her black underwear. Her hair was also black. She was of Asian descent. I did not count the minutes she stood in front of the hole. But she stared straight ahead for quite a while, her arms aligned with her body. She shook her hands to relax her arms and shoulders as if she were preparing to mount a starting block from which she would dive for a swimming race. Her eyes and head were directed towards the space in front of her; she talked to herself a bit and then did not move.

Taryn Simon, A Cold Hole, 2018, As installed in Taryn Simon: A Cold Hole | Assembled Audience
(MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, on view May 26, 2018), Courtesy Taryn Simon Projects, Photo: Jack Criddle

In an unpredictable moment, she simply fell into the hole in front of her, disappearing for seconds until her head bobbed up and was visible between the rails of the ladder mounted on the far side of the hole. Her mouth was open, she moved her hair back from her face with her right hand as she climbed out of the hole. She walked forward to the window, turned left and vanished from view.

The second person to ‘take the plunge’ seemed far more easy-going. He was older than the woman who preceded him.  He wore no shirt and only a pair of belted shorts. He was heftier than the young woman, who was tiny, actually, in comparison. He stood for a short period of time in front of the hole, his head tilted, chin to his chest, as he stared into the pool. And in an instant, he, too, disappeared into the water. His exit was substantial and affirmative.

It was surprising to discover that the Director of MASSMoCA, Joe Thompson, participated in this piece, but, in reflection, it makes perfect sense. Of course, he would. He is the ultimate participant in everything at the museum.

I saw Joe enter the cold room from the hall walking on a black metal slotted pathway leading from another room. His focus was palpable. A herd of people, including me, rushed into the area for watching his descent into the water.

There was Joe, visible right behind the window looking at his watch before he marched to the hole. He was wearing a suit and tie and shoes. When he took his place behind the hole, he looked at his watch again. He removed his glasses and tucked them into his jacket’s chest pocket; he tapped the pocket to secure them.
He folded his arms across his chest and heart, palms down, in a position of submission. Within less than thirty seconds, he was in the water. And then out. Fully standing in front of the railing, he put his glasses on and walked straight towards the window, peered through, made no gestures, turned left and disappeared behind the black wall.

Stunned, I stayed there in the darkness looking through the window, vicariously imagining what it felt like to do what these people had done. It was like an episode in a production of a living theater piece.

Two people suggested that I participate in this event. I mulled that idea over for a couple of days. I found the internet address where I could make an appointment. Two were available.  I stared at the screen of my tablet before I filled in the requested information. But I shied away from clicking the ‘submit’ button. Later on, that same Sunday, I went back to the appointment page. The time I originally wanted was taken. I distracted myself again from making an appointment. A few hours later, I returned to the appointment page; only one time slot remained. I filled in information again about myself and clicked the submit button. 

I had followed through. Two weeks in advance.

During those two weeks, I tried to determine what entering the saltwater pool would be like, based on what I had witnessed. The thought of it intercepted my routine thoughts periodically. I even practiced turning the shower knob quickly all the way to cold, after bathing in warm water, and standing from my neck down in streaming cold water for ten seconds. Every time, my system would be shocked by the sudden change in temperature and I would groan, but, by the count of five, my body was accustomed to the cold.

I even believed that continuing to read Walk Through Walls, Marina Abramović’s autobiography, would help me to understand how to muster the strength to withstand physically and emotionally an unusually dramatic circumstance.

The Friday before I was to go to MASSMoCA, I exercised on my stationary bike for a normal twenty minutes, the equivalent of three miles. This provided me with enough serotonin to avert the anxiety of the upcoming event. I followed my normal day in my studio.

Saturday, June 9, at 12:30 pm. My appointment at A Cold Hole.

I lay in bed awake at 7:30 am, finally pulling back the covers to leave the bed and sit on the floor to meditate for nearly forty minutes.

I went downstairs to have breakfast. It occurred to me to postpone regular house cleaning activities because I had to leave by 11:15 am in order to be at the museum a little early. Postponing cleaning was useless. It was all I could do to thwart the anxiety that was building. Music streamed off the Internet on a 24-hour jazz station out of Washington state.

After my morning routine was finished, I skedaddled out of the house, remembering to feed the cat before going through the door to the car. I decided not to eat anything.

I stopped at the Post Office on the way out of town.

It was a beautiful day. The drive to the museum was really quite peaceful until I reached Adams even though the traffic was not bad for a weekend. I arrived at the museum, parked, and grabbed my bag, containing the clothes I was to wear as per instructions of the team of people handling the event; locked the car; and walked through the parking lot to the museum lobby.  One of the receptionists at the entrance directed me to the man at the information booth, who directed me again through the doors to the first-floor gallery where the Simon exhibition is installed. I did not have to show my membership card to gain entrance to the museum.

Standing in front of a door to the right as I walked into the galleries were two women, carrying clipboards of attached lists of scheduled participants. I checked in and was asked to wait for ten minutes before conferring with them.

I saw a girl walk down the wire footpath from what must have been a dressing room to the cold room. I went quickly to the viewing room to watch her drop into the water. She was clothed in a long white diaphanous dress. Her hair was blond and cut close to her head. She appeared a wash of consistent pale color.
She stood calmly behind the hole, her arms at her side. She looked up at the ceiling and circled her head to gaze around the large room. Her physical presence did not interrupt the whiteness of the environment.

Finally, she looked down at the hole, not taking much time before she dipped headlong into the water. Her face appeared above the level of the ice floor quickly. As she rose, her dress was clinging to her small body. Her nakedness had been revealed. She walked to the window, picked up the skirt of her dress slightly with her left hand, signaling a bit of embarrassment; turned left and was gone.

I swallowed hard knowing that I was next.

I walked back to the dressing room entrance and waited for her to exit. When she did, two girlfriends chattered at her and then enquired as to how she felt: “Are you cold?” one friend asked to which she replied: “No.” She was unrattled.

One of the event’s managers called me into the dressing room. I turned to follow her inside. I sat down. With a soothing demeanor, she handed me a couple of disclaimers to sign, including one which described the risks of what I was about to do. I read it carefully. The words described drastic possible scenarios, including death. I had to confirm that I was over eighteen and healthy and could swim. As I signed my name on the form, I said out loud: “I can’t believe I am doing this.” The woman who was speaking to me said: “Take your time.”

She described in detail how I was to enter the water, complete with illustrations. And then she said: “Will you show me the clothes you plan to wear?” I pulled a pair of black leggings and a white exercise top out of my bag. She wanted to be sure that I was not going to wear my ‘street’ clothes in the water. Then she directed me to choose, from a selection of differently sized black foot pads, a pair to wear on the bottoms of my bare feet so I would not slip on the ice. The two women left the dressing room, shut the door, allowing me to change clothes. I did so. I had trouble peeling the backing off the adhesive non-skid foot pads and mounting them to my feet because, one, I was nervous, and, two, I did not have my glasses on. They were in the car.

On the outside, I was ready to go. But internally, I harbored deep trepidation and, paradoxically, wonder.

I took a breath, opened the door to the black walkway, walked to the heavy black tinted door, opened it, crossed the threshold and there I stood, next to a seated female EMT, facing the ice floor.

When I stepped onto the ice, lightheadedness seized my body from my head to my toes. My steps along the path I was told to walk were careful and slow. The ice was rough and had small peaks and valleys I had to negotiate to maintain my balance.
I reached the back edge of the hole and stopped, turned, faced forward and stayed. My hands touched my thighs. My longer than shoulder-length hair brushed across my cheeks as I looked down into the cavity that was the tank that held the water. I could see the ladder.

The surface of the water seemed thick like oil. The steady ripples in one thin horizontal line close the back edge of the opening caught the light from above. The two square-shaped skylights were reflected on the surface; the lights were the only means to discern the shine of the metal ladder through the pit of blackness between me and the other side of the hole.

I had read none of the artist’s words mapping out her intentions behind the design of  A Cold Hole or explanations why she chose to borrow it from other cultures and magnify its existence in this installation.

This quickly became my own uneducated singular experience.

As I looked into what can be characterized as an abyss, a source of mystery and a path to the unknown, I meditated. The room hummed. The whiteness surrounding me expanded like a balloon. The cold embraced me as would warmth because it was outside of the hole, the place I was to go before leaving the room. I had committed myself to taking that literal step, although I could have backed off at any time. There was a vast distance between stepping into the water and not. That distance was purely psychological.

The hole tempted me to go in but at the same time repelled me. It tempted me for the reason that I was curious about the water once sunk into it. It repelled me for the reason that as I stood there, every fear of every trauma I have ever suffered paraded through my meditative state. I was totally present with my fears. I was totally present within myself.  The hole and I were the only two elements that existed in that moment, exclusive of anything and anyone else. Going into the hole meant transcending the stupefying trepidation laid bare in one short twelve inches between me and it.

I crossed my hands over my chest as Joe had done. I had been inhaling and exhaling methodically since I had taken my place. My heart was beating so fast that I took time to try to slow it down biorhythmically in my meditation. As I attended to that process though, the pace only increased. I did not know what to do.

The idea that my balking would cause the EMT to retrieve me crossed my mind. I decided that I would succeed. Failure was not an option.

A foam pad was placed on the very edge of the hole. I stepped onto it. The cold of the room intensified.  My legs started to shiver. I was overwhelmed. I bent my knees slightly to relax my legs.  A kind of other awareness told me to do that.

I knew that I was about to go into water. I still could not understand how I would get there. And, then, something happened. A clarity of nothingness pervaded my entire being; I moved my right foot forward, the other followed; I moaned loudly and I was in the water. My body had entered straight, I thought. When I opened my eyes, I was on the left side of the tank; my limbs felt like they were detaching from my trunk. They flailed around until I saw the metal ladder. My left hand found the left rail. I pulled myself around so that both hands were engaged in exiting the hole. I felt one step with my left foot and then began to ascend but missed a step with my right foot. I pulled it off the ladder and found the correct step to push on. I kept on going instinctually until I was out of the water and standing on the ice. I never noticed how cold the water was.

My connection with the upper world resumed just as I started walking towards the window, which was a very slow-moving journey. When I reached the window, a number of people who had been watching me began to clap loudly. I could only see one woman clearly through the glass looking directly at me. The rest were merely hazy silhouettes. I smiled.

I turned left and stepped towards the exit where the EMT was still sitting. I stopped and said: “That was the hardest thing I have ever done.” She said: “I know. You were standing there for fifteen minutes.”

The amount of time that had passed seemed to me to be merely a couple of seconds. I had reached Nirvana. The power of Nirvana had ushered me into the water in the hole.

No preparation for this exceedingly private experience is possible.

Only being swallowed by the water for the first time is.

Taryn Simon, A Cold Hole, 2018, As installed in Taryn Simon: A Cold Hole | Assembled Audience(MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, on view May 26, 2018), Courtesy Taryn Simon Projects

Sunday, February 11, 2018

I am an Artist

It is Sunday.
It is raining.
The radio bellows out a Brahms piano concerto from a past concert from the BSO.
My son is running for twelve hours to celebrate four years of sobriety. He started in the dark. He was wearing a headlamp as was shown in a brief video documenting his checking his on-body gear.

Yesterday someone said to me on the phone: Well, you’re different.
In relation to what? I should have asked.

Society? Community? Animals, plants?

In therapy a couple of weeks ago, I explained leaving a meeting that was convened to assess the upcoming studio tour in the summer to which I had been invited. During the description, I started to heave with laughter on the verge of hysteria as I let loose on how I was expected to contribute to the group participating in the studio tour beyond simply opening my doors to the public.

The latter conversation connected with many others that my therapist and I have had about how difficult it is for me to get along with people.

The conclusive bridge in the session was that I am highly individuated. This has occurred over time so that I can protect myself from criticism and injury. Criticism of how I am carrying on with my life and injury from those who could harm me emotionally.

Making art has been the key to tapping the breadth of my creative mind. The one where peace and ease and imperfection can comingle without being questioned except by me. The one where the tools blend with purpose. The one where many avenues can be traveled at once. The one where interruption from external sources is annoying. The one where I can devise my next moves in the studio. The one where I can propel myself with veggie smoothies and chocolate bars. The one where I ingest more than food from the streaming stories I choose on the Internet. The one where my eyes and ears are key to my existence.

The places I can go in my work I cannot see until I go there. My ideas unfold as in an improvised monologue. A solo performance ridden with history: my life history, art history, psychological history, mnemonic history, science history, environmental history. History.

This evaluation was contained in other words in a syllabus for a drawing class I taught at CalArts, when I was a Teaching Assistant, at age 24.

I am the same person now as I was then only I have changed. Can you tell?

I long for unity everyday with the universe in meditation and in how I contribute. I was reading this morning how important it is to realize that I matter.

Matter? How do I matter?
Because you are reading this? Because I posted on Facebook and Twitter this morning? Because I have an Instagram account?

Does the way I filter the world and express it to you brighten your world? Does it help you move through your life?

The substance of this bit of writing will be shared by few. But will the energy I have expended to write how I know at this moment charge the air to put it in more balance only to fall out again in the smallest increment of time?

When I first went to art school, I used to sit with a typewriter on my lap typing reams and reams of paper with very little on each page. Together in a sequential pile lay the meaning of my efforts. A documentation of the passage of time. A reflection of my training in art by one of the founders of conceptual art, rarely noted in the history of it, Douglas Huebler, and his fellow professor, Donald Burgy, a practitioner of viewing and noting his views.

I still enjoy this typing ethic. In fact, I never learned how to type. I am always making mistakes which you cannot see unless I miss correcting them. When I was a little girl, I used to sit at a metal table and imitate my grandfather’s secretary by tapping on the table to make the sound of typing. Me in my little pink skirt outfit, short white ankle socks with the tops folded down and Mary Jane shoes.

At least since growing up, I have understood that the nature of the tapping is related to words which can offer some meaning or not. On the other hand, I could sit here tapping to revel in it or actually document it as a piece of conceptual art. There is always more room for it.

The Brahms concert on the radio has finished.
The sky light is still gray.
It is raining.
It is February 11.
My son is running.
I am an artist.

copyright 2018 Lyn Horton

Is the Picture Big Enough?

Life poses many choices. I gotta pick something every now and again. Hopefully, the choice I make is the best one for the moment. But, how ...