Monday, September 26, 2016

36 Owls

for Jason Dodge

This poetry ritual was performed at the opening of Jason Dodge’s inimitable exhibition “Behind This Machine Anyone With A Mind Can Enter,” at the Institut D’Art Contemporain in Lyon, France.  It is not up to me – nor is it interesting to me – to write a critical review of the artist’s work.  I will say there is no other artist whose work I enjoy more in our tattered, bleeding, often unexpectedly beautiful world.  Thousands of bits of trash the artist gathered from around the world over the years arranged through seven large galleries.  Small, low doors for jaguars or leopards carved into the walls and one room where the florescent pink and white bulbs were changed continuously by a team of dedicated light bulb changers, rolling the room, keeping it in flux.  Standing still for that MOMENT where every bulb is PINK or WHITE like two opportunities inside the artist’s soul to FLICKER an epiphany, a secret, a ransom note, I love this, I do!

During the crowded, excited, busy opening I followed 36 people, one at a time from a distance, quietly watching them.  With each I would eventually stand still and stare at their clothing, shoes, jewelry, then shut my eyes to imagine them.  Then I would suddenly replace their heads with owl heads:  Barn Owl, Spotted Owl, Burrowing Owl, Great Horned Owl, Elf Owl, Screech Owl, Saw-Whet Owl, Gray Owl, one even insisted on becoming a Snowy Owl.  I took notes for the poem as their heads turned 180 degrees and back again, poking among the exhibition at their feet.

Next I sat on a wall outside the museum with a clear vantage of the large opening to the first gallery.  There with my notebook I watched 9 people walk into the show and later studied their faces as they eventually emerged again.  The three who made their way to the refreshment table I approached with a bunch of tiny tomatoes to share and ask what they thought of the show.  Excellent, exuberant reviews all three, one saying she was not sure what to think at first, expecting to see art hanging on the walls.  But then she began enjoying how things fit together into political and familial frames in her life and the world at large.  Her husband mumbled something, his glass of wine tilting back and forth but she waved her hand at him, saying to me, “Do not listen to him!”  Then closer so only I could hear, “He does not like to THINK!  Hurts him up here you see,” she said as she tapped the side of her head with a laugh.  I returned to the wall to take more notes for the poem, which is titled, “Ready To Get Bleeding.”

P.S. The exhibition title, “Behind This Machine Anyone With A Mind Can Enter,” is from Matthew Zapruder’s beautiful, “Come On All You Ghosts.”