Sunday, April 3, 2011

It Began Beyond the End/ Go

By Brian George

“As beautiful as the chance meeting on an operating table of a sewing machine and an umbrella.”—Lautreamont

Note: The first version of “It Began Beyond the End/ Go” was written a number of years ago when I was working on two sculptural “assemblages." My mind was drifting back to the origins of this idea of the "chance juxtaposition of objects"—a technique designed to generate a shock that would interfere with the smooth working of our consciousness, and that would wrench us from the apparent safety of our day to day habits of association.

The most immediate origin for this technique was in Surrealism and Dada, and it struck me—with the shock of an unexpected juxtaposition, although there was nothing really hidden about it—that the context for this radical redefinition of reality was the mass-destruction of the First World War. A kind of small-scale Apocalypse had occurred, and all objects had been stripped of their customary meanings.

At the same time, my mind also began drifting toward the future, to a different but related type of Post-Apocalyptic scenario, in which the greater part of our current industrial civilization has collapsed. A kind of dimensional shift seemed simultaneously to have occurred, so that the veils between the worlds had become far more translucent.

Names and categories meant very little, and the space that kept the network of apparent opposites in place had become provisional, at best. Again, the artist had become a kind of shamanic hunter-gatherer, who set off each day to scavenge new and unexpected meanings from the ruins.

It Began Beyond the End/ Go

The relationship of the artist to found objects is almost that of a survivor to the remnants of a nuclear holocaust. The world has changed, beyond repair. It is not possible to return to your earlier and simpler vision of things. To see the world as a paper stage set erected against the void, about to blow away, as two- dimensional as a pack of Egyptian gods in profile, is forever to forego all pretense to virginity.

The object has been subject to high energy rays, of the type that made Godzilla grow. You can poke a hole through the solar system. You can touch the moons of Saturn with your finger.

This object has been partly melted and perhaps fused with an alien ship. That object has been stripped of its association with the common world. There is a dead sea in a living room. Furniture levitates from a field of waving straw. The tornado couch provides a questionable comfort.

Death is not for everyone. It is not your idea of time off. You wander, as though amnesiac, through a landscape made of half remembered signs.

You are shocked by the sudden connection, which just as quickly disappears. Twisted, the ghosts of the things you once loved wave to you, asking to be transformed. The object is a crossroads haunted by outdated information. Few Styrofoam cups are left. As souvenirs of the Evil Empire they are worth their weight in plutonium. The rest were vaporized during the planetary shift.

A new energetic spectrum has brought discipline to clouds. They do a square dance. The sky is a kaleidoscope. Wings sprout from fascists. Their goosesteps resonate on the rainbow bridge to Mars. Generations of new weapons are spit out by the ocean. The shark does not approve of our behavior.

The cracked head of a statue lies sideways on the beach. The head is hollow.

The giant snake inside of it is sad that its bionic joints have rusted. It coils and uncoils for no apparent reason. There is no entertainment to distract you from the stars. Ruins focus the pursuit of knowledge.

The creator gods are jealous. They look at you the wrong way through a telescope. The unspeakable is salty. Your lips move. Your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth. The world is upside down, and wide. You collect the objects of your fascination in a shopping cart with one bad wheel. Back home at the shelter made of cellophane and branches, you nod at each appropriated object.

You steal the breath from a creator god before the act of reclamation. The breeze is electric. You act out the instructions from a long forgotten dream. Your silent hands as by themselves move.

(Illustrations: Top: Brian George, Skull with black sun and bindu, photogram, 2004/ Bottom: Deni Ozan-George, untitled painting, 2010)


  1. Brian,
    Is this post about making art from found objects or about an apocalyptic event or both?

    Great photogram!

  2. Hi Deni,

    This question goes to the heart of the scenario that I am setting up in the piece. I have posted a note above that should help to clarify the context.

  3. THis piece is very poetic and profound. I never thought about it before, but creation as well as destruction often involve strange juxtaposition of associations, either physical or mental or both. And once human kind created the horrors of the 20th century, there really was no turning back. History repeats itself. My favorite game as a child was "5 things", which involved closing ones' eyes, wandering around a friend's basement, and selecting 5 random objects and creating a story around them. I would like to see more work like this!

  4. Hi Sugatala,

    Thanks so much for your insightful comment!

    Eleven years ago, when I returned to school to get my teaching credentials at Mass Art, on the second day of the first semester we were presented with a challenge by the teacher of our "Art Ed Methods and Materials" class:

    We had 20 minutes to scour the area within a few blocks of the school to collect braches, cups, bottles, parts of a fence, rusted metal objects,milkweed pods, or anything else that could potentially be used to create art. We then had to pick a spot in some unpredictable area of the school and create an artwork for other the other students to discover; this was also a part of the challenge, since the artwork didn't have to look like art, and could be almost invisible if the viewer didn't already know that it was there. Piece by piece, the class would go on a voyage of discovery, and, while standing in front of each piece of artwork, create a collective story about it.

    For me, this excercise resonated at a deep level, and set a tone for many of the projects that I would do while going to Mass Art--although not necessarily in a way that would be visible to anyone looking from the outside at the project. I might be working on a simple academic research paper, but I would try to find a way to make each and every aspect of the project my own, and to approach all of the ideas and elements from a number of unexpected angles--trusting that there was a logic to every break in continuity, and that everything would mysteriously come together in the end.

    This was, of course, a juggling act--to give my teachers what they wanted at the same time that I kept myself entertained--but this discipline involved gave birth to the mature style of my prose.