Abstractions in the Seismic Medium
She was an earthquake artist in the storm of the western dream and her appearances were like the visitation of an angel. She would dress in black with metallic shoes and gloves and her hands were long and she was tall and her long dark hair streamed behind her like a dark river. Her performances had altered landscapes along multiple coasts, river valleys, mountain ranges. Skylines had been reconfigured. Cities metamorphosed. Neighborhoods transformed. Landscapes altered. She played the coasts and large cities. Metropolis mutated. The elements of neighborhoods transmuted. Economies revolutionized. The iconography of intersection and roadway translated into languages heretofore never conceived of.…..
I had been a fan and followed her performances intently. In a way, I had been transformed by her art. My house had been filled with scale models of mutable cities. I entered my house through a twisted wooden staircase. Doors had become windows, and my basement had been transformed into a small pond with glowing neon lighting. In a way though, the transformation I had undergone had been only that of any other obsessive fan. I could have very well been just a baseball card collector who knows countless statistics but has never played the game, or anime otaku holed up in a Tokyo one room, or a suburban punk rock mall rat, buying collectibles and life style accessories, taking on image without essence. Later on, after we had all been transformed by the disaster, I could just say, like everyone else, I had never understood her.
The petitions had been signed, the referendum had passed, she had been invited, cajoled, convinced, and highly paid, to come and perform her actions upon our city. She stood with grace and posture on stage before assembled dignitaries, payers of high priced tickets, the mayors, council members, community representatives, and winners of random lotteries. Projected all around were numerous video screens showing different views of the city. Maps, stereographic projections, geodesic maps, topography, satellite photos, bus maps. On other screens historic newspaper headlines were projected. “Storm shuts down city for three days” “Mayor arrested in Payola Scandal” “Crowds celebrate end of war” On other screens a collection of old photographs. A couple kissing in a park, a building on fire, a crowd standing waiting at a movie premier. Every second, ten new photographs. We could smell fireworks on the Fourth of July, the musty wetness of the waterfront, leaves burning on an October evening, the acrid scent of a plastic factory. Old posters, parking regulations, minutes of the city council. The most popular songs of the old era. The sound of traffic at an intersection. The whistle of a train in the night in the hill. A conversation on a street corner. The sum of all recorded and collected information. The history of our fair city. Multimedia sensory wafting in cataclysmic orgasmic sensory stimulation history - moments that had been forgotten, times we had ceased to remember, the future that we once dreamed of, the reality of what we had today, on this very day, as we streamed into the performance and looked up at the street cameras as we walked into the door.
She had been wired in to the mechanism. High capacity fiber optic cables extended from her fingers. As she moved across the stage the displays changed, A new photograph, zooming in on a satellite photo, the blueprint of a skyscraper, blueprints, landscapes, zoning codes, bus maps, train schedules, opera performances, punk clubs, baseball stadium seating charts. She moved intently, and we all watched the displays with equal intent.
If you go online you can see the records of her performances. The Paris Surrealistic Exposition of 2023. The Eiffel tower had been shaken into a structure that broke upsideways and backwards and simply and now elegant you could take the elevator through its folded sections forth and back and contrary. The St Louis Convocation, where the Arch had twisted into a double knot and the Mississippi broke its banks and left the structure embraced in the dividing river. The Santa Cruz return, where brown hills and apricot orchards had replaced sprawls and superhighway, and a tidal wave had washed away vertical concrete sprawl impaled against the beach.
She called herself an earthquake artist, but her art was, had always been of transformation rather that destruction. I had known her when she had worked on a smaller scale and rearranged rooms. The physics of place was somehow altered and a door would become a window and a refrigerator would become a bed. A spinning ceiling fan might change its positions and become an abstract sculpture of beckoning hands.
You could enter a city after one of her performances and not even be able to say what has changed. Her art would alter maps. A street that once curved along the river from would rise up into the hills above the city. A collection of buildings around a square would be dislocated to various section. Busy thoroughfares might become one way streets, ending in staircases. The results were so inevitable it was as if they were always there.
You could also enter a city after her performance and the utter dislocation and transformation would be immediately apparent. A skyscraper might be laid out on its side, windows sideways, elevators proceeding horizontally, and the cornice being laid out into a sculpture garden in a public park. A downtown might be flooded, its skyscrapers only reached by boats in a post modern Venice. Mountains could arise, leaving a city perched like a glowing beacon over a desert plain..
So we all sat and applauded and watched fascinated up at her and the visions projected. The mayor cut the ribbon, and the fire tugs sprayed water in an arch, and cars honked their horns, and the crowds waited in the parks with picnic baskets and we sat with bated breath.
And as it happened, everything changed.
Now I walk these new labyrinthine streets, the mutating, metamorphosing streets; in the place where the maps have changed, where all destination is in motion. Where what once was the way up, is now the way down. I watch the faces in crowds, like petals on her flowers, who look upon my face, as I look upon theirs. I don’t even know if they remember her. But I can see her eyes in the motion behind windows, hear her lips speaking in the noise of the crowds, her hands touch me through passing strangers, her skin in the changing facades, her mouth in the mutating alleyways.. She was an earthquake artist in the storm of the western dream and her appearance was the visitation of an angel.