Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University 1996
cotton wick, raw terra cotta, and steel
24′ x 21′ x 19′
Earth Again was inspired by the poem of the same name by Czeslaw Milosz, which describes the coexistence of the “lures” of the phenomenal world, in all their exquisite particularity, with the cognizance of the absolute. In a more personal sense, this work developed directly from the experience of the continuity of breath, stretching between ground and sky in endless repetition, as an absolute which is repeatedly violated by fantasies of the phenomenal, the earth’s lures.
They are incomprehensible, the things of this earth
The lure of waters. The lure of fruits.
Lure of the two breasts and long hair of a maiden.
In rouge, in vermilion, in that color of ponds
Found only in the green lakes near Wilno.
And ungraspable multitudes swarm, come together
In the crinkles of tree-bark, in the telescope’s eye,
For an endless wedding,
For the kindling of the eyes, for a sweet dance
In the elements of the air, sea, earth, and subterranean caves,
So that for a short moment there is no death,
And time does not unreel like a skein of yarn
Thrown into an abyss. –Czeslaw Milosz
The installation resulted from a procedure performed as follows: Cotton wick is tied to a hook in the center of the floor, stretched up to a hook directly above in the ceiling, and then down again. The wick loops repeatedly in a vertical continuum, forming an ever-thickening column of wick. At an arbitrary moment in time, the strand is tied off around the accumulated column of wick, and is extended directly outward through space towards one of the surrounding walls. There it is threaded through a hook in the wall, and then pulled down to earth (again). At this point, a clay form is shaped at a potter’s wheel — a manifestation particular to that moment, developed without forethought. Once the clay form is completed and cut off the wheel, the dangling strand of wick is threaded through it. The clay’s weight pulls the wick taut down to the floor, holding the entire system of wick in tension. Then the process starts up again — tying on the wick and looping it along the continuum. Over time the procedure becomes an intricately patterned dance, which requires increased dexterity as it progresses, as more and more crossing strands block the flow of the wick’s passage up and down. Ultimately the proceedings are “boxed in” by the network of “phenomenal excursions” and forced to a stop. The clay forms gradually dry in the air, inevitably losing their luster and taking their places the dead landscape.