I envision this piece to be an exercise of the dialogical imagination. I intend to take this serious idea of Bahktin’s in a whimsical direction and conduct a study of a community of things I have come to call Refuse Sculptures. As a succession of nomadic, shape-shifting, anonymous works of art, these Refuse Sculptures prompted me to capture their images, take this class, and re-think things. There will be an obvious back-and-forth that I hope will allow you to find meaning in the in-between and to hopefully also locate a space into which you can insert your own meaning.
The portions in italics are to distinguish one side of the dialectic, I find it to be the one where I felt the things speaking through me. I was often in contact or close proximity to the things themselves as I wrote these sections, even to the point where I recorded portions on-site. Following Jane Bennett who was inspired by Thoreau, I hope to augment my receptivity to thing-power through writing about it, “by giving an account of the thingness of things that might enable me to feel it more intensely.” (Bennett, 349) The portions in non-italics are the sections in response to my experiential meditations, an attempt to induce a conversation with some of the thing-theoreticians that also have something to say. I reference thinkers whose ideas regarding ‘things’ I felt resonated with this community of things that captured my imagination as I made my way to the university each day.
“It is never we who affirm or deny something of a thing; it is the thing itself that affirms or denies something of itself in us.” –Spinoza
The water’s edge is where the community gathers, like the far-off image the animals of the African landscape, navigating hundreds of kilometers in pursuit of the water’s lip. These objects have found themselves there presently, the migration a combination of many, many trajectories some spanning long and meditative water-borne miles, some originating in foreign lands or subterranean worlds, and others just a short flight from suspension to the earth.
When approaching these objects it is not clear whether they are facing us or have their backs to us. Are they more intent on watching us go by and by, or are they staring out into the water, transfixed by the shifting surface and the steady rhythms? As sculptural forms, they do not have a face, they are multi-faceted and have eyes on all sides. Set against the backdrop of the water, they appear more fixed than they actually are. The water, sky, ships, distant buildings, flying creatures and machines make up an ever-changing canvas that methodically brightens and darkens like a very slowly blinking eye.
The structure is tall, it is short. It leans tenuously, it is rooted firmly. It is made up of ugly unsavories, it is a construction of beauty and balance. It finds the north star, it is swallowed by the coming tide. It is smooth and weathered, it is rough and ravaged. It swings freely with the southerly wind, it stands stout with boorish authority.