Monday, November 28, 2005

A Flock in the Wind

One of the occasional commenters on this site, Kit Stolz, noted that he couldn't figure out why the new Burning Man sculpture in the Civic Center Plaza was called "Flock." He said that maybe it was more obvious when you saw the piece in person.

I didn't understand the name either, so I wrote to the sculptor, Michael Christian and presumptiously asked him what the title represented or if it was meant to be mysterious.

He wrote back today with the kindest note, and an explanation that veers towards the more "mysterious" interpretation.

"as for the is intentionally ambiguous being both a noun and a verb. it does have personal meaning but i don't feel its that integral to the piece itself. id say its somewhere between the noun and the verb. someplace between flocking to and being a part of a flock. i also liked the idea of one word describing many. one body or being representing many. i could go on but you get the idea."

I discovered Kit Stolz in the comments section of Lance Mannion's blog where he had written something short, brilliant and filled with original thinking.

So I followed the link to his own blog, called "A Change in the Wind" which you can get to by clicking here.

It's one of my favorite blogs on the internet, combining essays about nature, literature, politics, and ecology in an eminently sane voice which is rare.

He's also a great, adventurous reader who quotes brilliant stuff liberally from all over the world. Do check it out.

And one of the joys of "Flock" is the fact that there are real flocks of birds flying by in Civic Center, framed by puffy white clouds.


markleym said...

As always - perceptive, moving, intriguing. I'll flock to Flock as soon as I can - Thusday, to be exact.

I can't read and keep up with all the blogs you read, Mike - I don't know how you do it and then find time to wander around, camera in hand, to say nothing of doing your research and writing - and not missing anything that goes on on your turf.

But I always go to the pages you give links to and read at least a little and they're always fascinating - and so varied! I find it wonderful and reassuring that they're there, even if I can't keep reading them - a whole mysterious world, an iceberg I've barely seen the tip of. In Kit Stolz's blog I read about listening to the land and his dog, Djelka.

Houston said...

I also work in the Civic Center, and when I saw the sculpture going up, I waited with an open mind. I feel like the character from Chorus Line who sings, "Nothing! I felt nothing! (And he said, 'Nothing' could get a girl transferred!")

Don't get me wrong. I like public art, and I don't require it be anything. I work in a building with a huge conical shaped piece of nonsense that is somehow supposed to represent the redwood trees of California. What nonsense. It represents the dildo that California taxpayers got fucked with. This piece of nothingness is, well, nothingness. Does it mean something? I have no earthly way of knowing. Is it art? Big doesn't make it art. Names that don't have any relationship to the piece, doesn't make it art. Being "interesting" doesn't make it art. So, pray tell, what exactly makes this piece of nothingness "art"?

sfmike said...

Dear Markley: Thanks as always for the sweet words. You help me to keep going.

Dear Houston: What makes some people love Wagner and others hate him? The same goes for John Adams. And Henry Moore. And Claes Oldenberg. And David Hockney. They've all made "art," but those artworks are certainly not to everyone's taste and it's perfectly acceptable to feel "nothing!"

I assume you can't stand "Flock" and I know for a fact that you're not alone, though personally I love the structure and I can't even tell you why. It has something to do with its size, its strangeness, and its twisting metal beauty. Still, if you hate it there's the consolation that it's going to be gone in a couple of months and we can go back to a bare lawn.

By the way, would you call the lighted Christmas tree that's just gone up next to the sculpture "art"? How about the weird lighting on the newly pruned sycamores? "Art" or "decoration"?

In truth, I don't have a clue what makes something "art."

Kit Stolz said...

Thanks Mike! I'm not worthy, but I'm hugely honored. I have a birthday coming up; discovering my new "unknown friend" (in Emerson's words) will almost certainly be the best gift I could hope to receive this year.

Houston said...

I do not dislike "Flock." What I feel is ... well, nothing.

However, I'm suspicious of public cons where the artist has to stand close by to explain what it is he's created and it's relevance to us.

In one of our oldest fables, the tailors have to run along next to the king telling him and the public how beautiful is his new suit of clothes.

I paint the walls of my home to make them more aesthetically attractive, but wouldn't presume to call my painting art. I decorate a tree in my home, much like the one just put up in the Civic Center, but wouldn't call it art. In both instances, I use a knowledge of art, color, design, and dimension to guide my eye, but in neither instance would I presume to pass off my work as art.

I do not know the point Christian wants to make with this piece, and that's sort of my point. Let's just say that Dadaism is not my favorite school of art.