‘Don’t follow me’
the guide said, and
disappeared around the corner.
An instruction needs
full of doubt
before being left
<Image and text (c) Drager Meurtant, 2017>
‘Don’t follow me’
the guide said, and
disappeared around the corner.
An instruction needs
full of doubt
before being left
<Image and text (c) Drager Meurtant, 2017>
“Hello Doctor, / come in and / please be seated.”
(a moment of silence)
“I prefer we get / to business / right away.
Now tell me:
what use / were you / for society?”
Hallo Doctor, / kom binnen / en neem een stoel.
(een moment van stilte)
“Ik kom graag / meteen ter zake.
welk nut had U / voor de maatschappij?”
Wandering in the forest / the frst impression was / to be confronted by obstacles. //
However, at close inspection / the elements had been constructed /
to bridge a gap.
Dwalend door het bos / was de eerste indruk / te stuiten op obstakels. //
Maar, bij nadere inspectie / bleken de elementen te zijn ontworpen /
om een kloof te dichten.
Do not enter
The medium is clear / that of mixed-media. //
The intention, no … /
the aim is to provide / an easy path through the delta /
of my inner meandering.
Ga niet binnen
Het medium is helder / dat van gemengde techniek. //
De bedoeling, nee … /
het doel is het verschaffen / van een makkelijk pad door de delta /
van mijn innerlijke kronkels.
(text and photographs (c) Drager Meurtant, 2017)
Humans, and other animals, perhaps even some trees and plants, create borders to defend oneself, to keep out others, or – as an alternative – to lock (imprison) an opponent or prey.
Walking in the mountains, along old pathways of minimal capacity, I encountered barriers formed by steep rocks, that often forced me to return. At other moments, the physical capacity and lack of endurance within, blocked my way of going.
When examining the meaning, or the effect, of a wall (boundary, barrier or border) encountered on our path, or raised by ourselves as means of confinement or defense, differences become evident, depending upon our position.
In five images and texts, I will illustrate these differences.
(1) Bricks (for instance)
Take bricks, for instance / and put them on top / of one another. // This will separate / two parts. // The one you’re in / and the one you’re not in. // Didn’t realize before / that death was just another wall.
(2) From the outer into the inner world
Although the world / of our neighbours often looks better / than our own / most people will stick where they are. //
Here / is the passage / from the outer world / into the inner world / but it can be reached only / by crawling in between two iron plates.
(3) YOU CANNOT RESTRAIN ME: “No, you can’t “
(related is the following imaginary sensation)
“For a long time / I was locked / in myself / and in the eyes / of other people. //
Until the pressure / became too high / that made me explode”.
(echo from ‘Keefman’, bundle by dutch poet Jan Arends)
(4) Every grain of sand
My feet wear off / on a road / that is not indicated. //
Down to the raw flesh and / the pain tells / there is no end /
other than unexpected / as destined by hazard, /
that is bloodless, and astir.
(c) Drager Meurtant, photos and texts 2014-2017)
Over the past months, I had to adress problems of the mind. Outside of me (see “Neighbour”) and inside me (see “Pressing”)
In de afgelopen maanden, moest ik aandacht geven aan een aantal problemen van de geest, in de omgeving, zie “Buurman”, en van binnen, zie “Drukkend” )
“My neighbour is a person / with some fixations.”
“Mijn buurman is iemand / met fixaties.”
My thoughts / are creeping in front of me / in the twilight,
between coiling branches / of bushes left and right,
aimless / and estranged.
And I’m stuck and / bound / by the channels that /
Mijn gedachten / kruipen voor me uit / in het schemer,
tussen de kronkelende takken / van struiken links en rechts,
doelloos / en vervreemd.
En ik zit eraan vast / gebonden / door de kanalen die /
(01-07-2017, (c) Drager Meurtant)
An essay as Drager Meurtant, titled “Assemblages: the entrails explained”, has been published end of 2015 in Axon Journal Issue 9 (on assemblage, free on line access).
In the form of a poem, the essence of creation of assemblage can be formulated as follows:
Elementary pain / fits the precisionist. // When hammer hits thumb, / the outcry / of the artist / becomes the glue / of the assemblage. // And paint / drenches the pieces / into steady oneness.
Assemblage, wood, metal, glass, paint; http://www.meurtant.exto.org (2014, in private collection)
Installations are different.
This artist must take more time to get to the essence of installations. Here are just two examples (first image, then text):
Drone just landed in a meadow
This drone does not spy nor harm / except blades of grass / and only if pushed.
(One unique printed photo on aluminium available at 36 x 28 cm, 2013)
In particular / at the end of day / is the bao strictcontor / subspecies Grohe / at its deadliest. / The bite can come / from the crane-shaped head / and also the circular mails / of the many tails / contain a stealthy poison / that at long stand-still / causes death of veterans. (80 x 40 x 25 cm, 2013)
On some occasions, one comes at a particular place or view, that appears empty, or even dull. Yet, at longer inspection, and at closer look, elements arise, that have ‘content’, or background. At further consideration, connections and interplay become visible, that demonstrate that the place (or view) is far from being empty, and its image fits within the theme “one-hundred-thousand miles away from nothingness.”
Road to emptiness
I looked around the corner / and you can accept my word for it / this road leads nowhere / or atmost, it leads to emptiness.
(images 1, 2 & 3 made during walk in February 2015)
“100,000 miles away from nothingness”. if you type that phrase, and search for it on the world-wide-web, a band by the name of ‘cult to follow’ appears. with a song this is nicely written, but the opposite from what I want to express.
That is, to imagine – by light-writing or photography – the state of nothingness, that was around before. Before we were, before our ancestors were. A state that lasted eons longer than the minutes of our life.
Concrete: can you from time to time make a photograph that has so little noice, sound, surface, that terms like ’emptiness, idleness, nothingness are approximated. If so, keep still…
Black heap and no more
(could talk more than one hour about what’s more)
Whether these are memories / or reflections, / that does not matter. // When frames crumble / or even pillars tall / then both memories and reflections / will rumble and fall.
Imagination helps. Thus, when arriving at a spot where not much is happening, figures may appear, that start talking….
P: “You forgot something.”
Q: “What are you saying?”
P: “You forgot something.”
Q: “That’s what you think.”
passing a demolition site, April 2015
In the street you may find / light and dark,
the first often seen as clear / the second as obscure.
My words point to the opposite,
My words are in vain,
The listener just went around the corner.
Now on the issue “appearance”, the following image and poem:
This is an illusion / not an appearance of live being / nor demon.
Unexpected meetings and illusions / have much in common.
Drowning / Verdrinking
When light falls / on the surface / it hesitates half a second / before drowning
Als licht valt / op het oppervlak / aarzelt het een halve seconde / alvorens te verdrinken.
(And a second thought / En een tweede overdenking)
Piles / Stapels
One by one / I will withdraw / the words spoken / until this poem / is an empty hull.
Eén voor één / zal ik de woorden terugnemen / die zijn gesproken / tot dit gedicht / een lege huls is.
(And the last consideration for today / de laatste overdenking vandaag)
On Guard / Op Wacht
There is one dog / on guard. // And that is more / than enough.
Er loopt één waakhond. // En dat is meer / dan genoeg.
(1) The Watt’s towers from Sabato ‘Sam’ Rodia
Sabato Rodia (1876-1965) arrived from Italy in the USA at 15 years of age, to join with his older brother who had immigrated earlier. In the USA people named Sabato ‘Sam’, or – according to some – ‘Simon’. When his brother died in a mining accident in Pennsylvania, where they lived and worked in quarries and as construction worker, Sam Rodia moved to Seattle. Here he married with Lucia Ucci and got three children, of whom one died. The couple separated 10 years later.
He then came to work as tile setter in California. There, in 1921, he achieved a piece of land in the community of Watts, part of Los Angeles, which he called “Nuestro Pueblo” (Our Town or Village). In his spare time he raised a wall and within the encircled space started to create an assembly of seven large towers, in themselves assemblages, of steel rebar and concrete with mosaics from tiles, broken ceramics, shells, and glass bottles. To these towers he added pavilions, fountains and benches. The structures were coated with decorations in the shape of work tools, fruits and vegetables. Everything was done with simple hand tools and without the use of scaffold.
Rodia welcomed visits from members of the neighborhood and several marriage and other celebrations are said to have taken place under the towers. Motive for the building of these towers reportedly were, that he wanted to be engaged in a healthy and lasting project.
Sam Rodia continued to work on the towers for over 25 years and then in 1954 he gave the lot to his neighbour and left to live elswhere. In 1959 two young film makers heard of the threat by local authorities to demolish the towers on the presumption these were a hazard. They – with other young artists – set up a Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts, that despite lack of grand names succeeded in preserving the towers for the future. After proof was obtained that the towers were safe the Watt’s Towers were listed as national heritage in 1965 and 10 years later became an art center for the city.
Already around 1960 recognition came that Rodia had made a special art assemblage, from art professionals in academia. Yet, he died in Martinez without returning to Watts in 1954.
While preparing this essay, I encountred many nice photo’s on flickr. Some have been posted here (with permission) but I give you the consideration to follow the links yourself. One image from a scale model of the Watt’s Towers that was made by the architect Larry Harris – I think – enhances the perception of the project as you can see below.
Details of the collage – assemblage art as created by Sam Rodia by use of parts of tiles, bottles etcetera, are seen in the following three images.
In 1962, the committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts, mentioned above, formed the Watts Tower Cultural Center that would offer art classes and exhibitions in which local inhabitants could take part. With the arrival in 1964 of Noah Purifoy as the first black director of the center, the committee hoped to realize a nucleus for community-based art in Watts. This community had changed much in demography following World War Two, after the influx of many African-Americans into this – in former years predominantly Mexican-populated area – and which at that time was economically depraved. A few years later these poor social circumstances were at the basis of major disturbances.
(2) The Watt’s rebellion
The African American artist Noah Purifoy (1917-2004) was teacher at this Watt’s Towers Art Center in 1965 when an arrest of a black motocyclist by a white policemen, – considered as injust by onlookers -, led to riots. These riots can be seen as result of long-term neglect, oppression and feeling by Watt’s inhabitants of injustice from the side of authorities. Between the 11th and 19th August hundreds of stores were looted, cars and buildings burned. After intervention of a large force of the National guard, 34 people were dead, over 1000 thousand injured and economic damage assessed as over 40 million USD. (Take some time and read extended testimony from artists like John Outterbridge in ref. 3).
Noah Purifoy saw the massive collective violance and together with fellow artists started collecting debris and rubble spread on the streets in the first days after violence started.
From the debris he and seven fellow artists (Judson Powell, Arthur Secunda, Gordon Wagner, Max Neufeldt, Ruth Saturensky, Debby Brewer) collected, they constructed assemblages / installations, collectively named 66 Signs of Neon, that were fitted from “fire-molded wood collided with smashed-in windows, burnt railroad-ties with scorched steel” (writing by Yael Lipschutz). The artists by use of this material originating from destruction, created an echo of the rebellion and an appeal to be constructive. From the resulting art-works the artists formed a landmark group exhibition about the rebellion that traveled to nine venues between 1966 and 1969. This exhibition was in line with the increased attention for street art and – life in photography and creative art and for the approach by people like Marcel Duchamp to transfer found objects into art.
(3) The Watt’s Tower Art Center
Noah Purifoy had a professional training in social work and had a strong belief in the healing power of art education. In an interview with Richard Cándida Smith, the artist shared his strong motive:
“Within [each person] there’s a creative process going on all the time, and it’s merely expressed in an object called art. One’s life should also encompass the creative process. We were trying to experiment with how you do that, how you tie the art process in with existence” (referred to in ref 4).
With his colleague Judson Powell and with a basis at the Watt’s Tower Art Center, they were determined to increase perspectives for – in particular younger – people of Watts. With their belief that art could transform consciousness, and with the artworks created from found debris, it was to become clear that creativity can be exploited by use of the cheapest material.
In following years, Purifoy as chair of a committe of education in LA instigated a state-supported art in education program “California Learning Design – that ran at nine schools in the state. Artists were employed half-time for one year at such a school and together with regular teachers they shaped a program of teaching into which students, artists, and the community came to interact by physically ‘mixing these elements’.
(4) Noah Purifoy in Joshua Tree
In the late 1980’s, after eleven years of public policy work for the California Arts Council, where Purifoy initiated programs such as Artists in Social Institutions, bringing art into the state prison system, Purifoy moved his practice to the Joshua Tree in the Mojave desert. He lived there for the last fifteen years of his life, while lacking a pension – and created ten acres of large-scale sculpture constructed entirely from junked materials. The members of the surrounding community as well as entrepreneurs gave him discarded material, or gear that (legally) no longer was accepted in construction. The large scuptures he made, were meant to communicate with the environment, both nearby as well as the landscape at distance. The wear-and-tear of heat / cold plus strong wind became part of the time-line of the assemblages. (See images and the movie by Chris Lee on vimeo (https://vimeo.com/16468971).
The large scuptures Noah Purifoy made in the Joshua Tree Desert, were meant to communicate with the environment, both nearby as well as the landscape at distance….
As written in Richard Cándida Smith article (“Learning from Watt’s Towers: Assemblage and Community-based Art in California”): “One plumbing contractor donated several dozen toilets that could no longer be installed in California due to changed water-conservation law.”
And, the last photo chosen by me – being interested also in (abstract) collage, and which might underscore the interest Noah Purifoy had in art from the Dutch painter Mondrian…
(a) In February 2016 (running till August) it was memorized that 50 years ago the Watt’s rebellion took place under the event title “50 years later and I still can’t breath”.
(b) citations provided with permission by respective authors.
(text by Mrs Yael Lipschutz accessed in September 2015, no longer available at the internet as far as I could see by search on July 31st 2016.)
(c) There is still need to support the preservation of the Watt’s Towers. Let us hope support from LA City will be stronger in the next year. http://spacesarchives.org/blog/2016/03/25/act-now-support-the-watts-towers-candidacy-for-unesco-world-heritage-site-status/
(6) Advise for further reading:
For more views and images of the Watt’s Towers and the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Dserert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture visit the links containing texts and many more photographs:
(1) Thomas Pynchon. “” A Journey into the Mind of Watts”, NY Times June 12, 1966 http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/05/18/reviews/pynchon-watts.html?_r=1
(2) Richard Cándida Smith. “Rodia, Simon“; http://www.anb.org/articles/17/17-01372.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
Copyright © 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press.
(3) Richard Cándida Smith. “Learning from Watts Towers: Assemblage and Community-based Art in California” Oral History, Autumn 2009: pp 49-56. http:// history.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/Learning%20from%20Watts%20Towers.pdf
(6) Cameron Shaw. “Make Art not War. Watts and the Junk Art Conversation”, November 2010, East of Borneo. http://www.eastofborneo.org/articles/make-art-not-war-watts-and-the-junk-art-conversation
(7) Thomas Harrison. “Without precedent: The Watt’s Towers”, California Italian Studies 1, 2010. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/3v06b8jt
(8) Adam Nagourney. “A hidden treasure struggles in Los Angeles“, NY Times, Feb 7, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/us/08watts.html?_r=0
(9) Rubén Martínez. “Assembly required: the desert cure – the transformative art of Noah Purifoy”. Boom: A Journal of California, vol 2, Summer 2012. http://rubenmartinez.la/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Boom-Purifoy-Column1.pdf
(10) Tanja M. Laden: “Junk Dada: The stories behind Noah Purifoy’s Joshua Tree Sculptures”, September 2015; http://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/junk-dada-the-stories-behind-noah-purifoys-joshua-tree-sculptures
(11) Julia Felsenthal. “Noah Purifoy’s “Junk Dada”is an Art Show for the Post-Ferguson World”, June 15, 2015. http://www.vogue.com/13270774/noah-purifoy-lacma-junk-dada/
(12) Katie Grinnan. “Material Communication: Noah Purifoy at LACMA”. X-tra Contemporary Art Quarterly, Spring 2016, Vol. 18, no 3. http://x-traonline.org/article/material-communications-noah-purifoy-at-lacma/
Please also visit:
http://www.cityprojectca.org/videos: several movies about the importance to save the Watt’s Towers.