We make things: tables, chairs…deals, dinner, trouble, our way, friends, good time, enemies, waves … the list goes on and on. Making is our way of being in the world. Making is a way of outering or uttering what we know, feel, believe, desire. Our objects --both made, bought and gifted-- become our milestones, and our millstones.
Making is creating order and --disorder-- patterns and --new patterns--on the materials around us. These patterns, textures, forms are the ways we try to understand who we are and how and why we are changing. Making is as fundamental as breathing. Making is both an in-breath and an outbreath. doing and undoing. It's a process, a practice, not an end in itself. It is a way to explore the less obvious, less accessible parts of ourselves. We can make our way into the unconscious. We can develop objects and tools to help us know better the fleeting, shadowy, elusive parts of ourselves which nonetheless carry great power over our actions. As my teacher Al once said, "As above, so Below. Those objects are the R&D of our daily life. Make more!"
Imaginal Artifacts are objects which resemble tools, furniture, art, but perform ambiguous and changing functions. They are the work of the bricoleur, that imaginal artisan who senses that certain objects are looking to get into the material world to do their work. He helps that process by finding the materials and the forms for that to happen. The objects are familiar and strange; precious and common; fragile and durable; timeless and ephemeral. Dan has been making such objects for years. They were misnamed "sculpture". He is currently concentrating four forms:
ANIMA. Since 2004, Dan has been collecting pieces of water-worn bark from the banks of the Hudson River. Working with the natural patina and textures of the bark, he carves away to reveal human-like features.
IMAGINAL CARDS. These are playing card-size collages done in a light meditational mood. Someone called them "psychic flypaper"
IMAGINAL TOOLS Tools are devices to concentrate enegy. (Lordy, there are more tasks in the world than hammering a nail or sawing a piece of wood.) So, these are assemblages which resemble tools and actually help identitfy the task they are needed for...
I have a few of these and have been trying out different fillings. After Hurricane Irene demolished our local farming community, I put a rotting onion in a gumball machine and for a Quarter, you could get a handful of putrid air... (I raised $3.25 in Relief Money.)
In keeping with my interest in Surrealism, I have filled a machine with do-dads. For a quarter, you get between 10 and 16 of them. It's a form of working with accident and chance...
TRY IT... EXERCISES
These exercises are explorations in the power of making objects. Nothing requires any special skills in construction, design, art or craft. They do require the ability to recognize your own moods, feelings, distresses and joys.
First, Meet Your Gang, Your Posse, The Mob, Tribe, Pack, Cast.
Who are they? What’s a very familiar voice? Who’s always overlooked? Why do they need Imaginal Artifacts? Are there other creatures of nature as part of you?
Second, What are your Tasks?
Develop a list of tasks that might benefit from an Imaginal Artifact.
Tools and Cards are simply ways to attract and concentrate energy to help with a task. Do you need help to:
Remember BE Remembered Forget
Contact Someone Finish Something Get More Air
Get Grounded Get Started on Something Get More
Reveal an old s’elf Reveal a new s'elf
Keep things the way they are Make things the way they were
Make things the way they should be
Identify what’s missing Find the missing
Make gifts for family or strangers Make memento mori, grave markers
Make directional markers, compasses
Things you now know you’ll never do: deliver milk in rural France
What’s the Other Side?
Memories of nature Fears blessings
Third, Start by picking Materials, Colors, Textures and Shapes you like or really, really hate.
"All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." Eli Siegel
- Use at least three elements in any artifact.
- Consider combining what may seem like opposites…
- Do a few at once so no one becomes too important
- Try not to over-think the work; Just do it; Do it again
- Watch other people and learn from them