But the Earth’s constant state of flux made my small heart ache.
Here are my simple secrets for marvellous behaviour.
Last week, I left the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei dual exhibition at the NGV feeling disenchanted by Ai Weiwei’s inconsistency when it comes to his activism in support of refugees.
However, I’m loath to admit that part of me is happy that he hasn’t pulled his artwork from the exhibition. It gave me the wonderful opportunity to revel in the art of two of the most interesting artists of the last five or so decades: Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei.
Perhaps I am just an uneducated oaf, but I had never noticed how much Ai Weiwei and Andy Warhol have in common. First and foremost is their mutual admiration for the work of Marcel Duchamp.
French artist, Marcel Duchamp is commonly referred to as the father of Object Art. His series of found objects, or ‘readymades’ as he called them, was one of the most significant developments in 20th century art. The readymades were invariably an everyday object that became art simply due to the gallery context. His work is tongue in cheek and at least to my interpretation, is highly cynical of the pretensions of the art world.
Both Warhol and Weiwei were heavily influenced by Duchamp’s work and its meaning. Here are two examples of Warhol’s and Weiwei’s art that encapsulates found objects turning into found art:
Each artwork makes a strong statement about the context in which they were created, or rather, ‘found’. Warhol’s 1963 Brillo Boxes play on the strange reality of the mundane finding space in the highbrow context of an art gallery. Weiwei’s 2011 A Ton of Tea juxtaposes China’s culture steeped in traditionalism (the drinking of tea being a very prevalent part of Chinese tradition) with its modern trade links across the globe, symbolised by the industrial packing of the tea in the way it is transported across the world.
All of these found objects inspired me. I wondered how writing could link into the found objects movement. As you may or may not have noticed, I am gaining an increased interest in experimental writing and form. So I thought I would give writing inspired by a found object a go.
Unsurprisingly, I am not the first person to have thought about found objects’ place in writing. Check out this great post from What Women Write about one writer’s use of found objects in her work.
When I am ‘pantsing’ (making up fiction as a go along without any planning, which is basically constantly), little snippets of conversation or images of things I’ve come across pop up into my head and make it into my writing. However, this unconscious method is not so reliable. Sometimes I will see something while going about my daily business and think “I’m going to write about that,” but I will immediately forget about it. So my solution is to collect the things I see… and try to scribble down any non-material occurrences.
For my first public found objects piece, I have collected five things I’ve found in my local area to use as a springboard for some creative writing. Here they are:
First of all, I found a little man in a tree. I found this guy while walking home from the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition. I’m curious as to how he got stuck in a tree… I wonder what reasons my strange mind can think up?
Here are the rest of my found objects: a soft llama acquired by my roommate from an art installation (I do not condone the desecration of art, by the way), a nice piece of paper I’ve had in my drawer for yonks, an old plate I found on the street and a nice little bottle made of brown glass.
So, now I’m off to make some art out of writing. Let’s see what I come up with.
Now your challenge: Why not try to do some writing inspired by your own found objects? I’d love to see what you come up with.
By the way, while doing some research for this post, I found something really great: a whole magazine dedicated to found objects, mainly funny/heartbreaking/emotional notes. Check out Found Magazine. I’m not sure if it’s still running, but if you’re from the US and you’ve seen this in stores, let me know as I would love to get my hands on a few copies.
Weiwei has consistently put himself at financial and physical risk in the name of justice. Why would he stop now?
Football season’s over.
My new blue pen scratches on to the first line of the first page of my new notebook. Why is that line so familiar? The opening sentence of Hunter S Thompson’s suicide note, of course. I scribble over it, half out of respect for the dead, and half out of my fear of coming across as derivative.
I am standing on a bleacher, overlooking the high school football field.
Little old ladies are laying out their sagging cakes on foldable tables.
I observe farm hands strategically placing bales of hay. Makeshift seating.
I imagine the hay sticking into the back of my thighs. The same feeling as when I lost my virginity in a friend’s hay shed and ended up picking dried grass from my undies all night.
That was a long repressed memory.
Although it’s spring, it’s a grey day and the metallic chill of the bleachers shoots up my spine.
Over a squashed cheese sandwich, I wonder why I am in America. I wonder why I am reporting on a mid-West town fair.
After a while, people begin to filter onto the football field. I weave between the stalls, peering at homemade quince pastes and Christmas decorations made from sticks foraged by children. I pretend to make notes and nod approvingly at hopeful stallholders.
One of those quaint husband and wife duos start playing some folk tunes on the guitar and harmonica. The man’s harmonica is not in tune with the guitar. It’s cacophony.
I shudder, but no one else seems to notice.
There is always something so terribly menacing about these wholesome community events. Something that I can’t quite put my finger on. It reminds me of those weird Soviet theme parks. It’s mindless, manufactured distraction.
I lean against the goal post when my phone rings. On the other end is a familiar man’s voice. My editor. I have never met him, but I imagine his face to be much like that of David Duchovny.
It’s funny how your expectations of people’s faces never quite work out. It’s like finding out that that radio voice of crushed velvet is coming out of someone not unlike Danny Devito.
He asks me the usual editorial questions: How is it going? Many people there? Is it as fucking boring as I imagine it to be? And I reply with the usual cynical answers when I hear an unmistakeable noise.
It washes over me and now there’s a buzz in my ears.
I remember when my brother built his own gun and out of curiosity. After hitting a few targets, he shot himself in the hand. I just wanted to see what it felt like. I stood watching at the window agape as the hot lead lodged itself into his skin and he remained calm, despite the blood. He threatened to shoot me if I ever dobbed him in to Mum. I never told her. And she never noticed how Jack could barely use his hand for over a year. The bullet is still in his hand, you know. He beat the infection himself somehow.
I drop my phone and run into a bush. I peer out and a can see a boy, no more than 17, wielding a semi-automatic hunting rifle.
The illogical, unfeeling part of my brain wonders if David Duchovny on the other line somehow lined this up as a favour. You know, to boost my rather uninspiring career in journalism. From town fair to mid-West mass shooting in two minutes.
And then I see a kid, about six, running to his mother. The shooter zooms in on the child and shoots him in the back. He falls down right in front of me and the mother screams. I want to scream but my most basic instincts keep me silent.
This can’t be real.
It doesn’t make any sense. Why am I in America? How did I get here?
I don’t even know what town this is.
But the sensations are real. There are screams and shots and screams and shots and the iron scent of blood entwines with the chilly air and the gunpowder to form the odour of war.
I can hear a distant, high-pitched beeping. It’s not a car and it’s not an emergency alarm, but it gets closer and louder.
The shooter notices the beeping coming from my bush. His eyes lock with mine so I run, but the beeping follows me.
I feel heat radiating from my shoulder deep into my chest. I fall to the grass behind a donut stand. There’s another woman laying there too, most likely dead.
I still hear this beeping, but the sound is being distorted by the pain.
How did I get here?
I remember that I have to be at work back in Melbourne.
I need to call them. I need to tell them I’ve been shot. My mind is racing.
I close my eyes and open them again – they are filled with sunshine nothing like that of the frosty mid-West.
I am in a bed. My bed. I’m at my house.
It’s 8.40. I need to be at work in twenty minutes.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
My heart is throbbing to the rhythm of my morning alarm.
I wrote this dark piece of fiction in response to my previous post Writing from the Dreamscape. It is based on a dream I had a few weeks ago that really disturbed me. I wanted to play with the idea of writing dreams into my fictional pieces. This is my first attempt at blurring the lines between reality and very vivid dreams.
Have you had any dreams recently that you have written/would like to write about? Let me know in the comments below.
I often hear people say that other’s people’s dreams are boring. This is something I’ve never been able to get my head around. Call me a frustrated psychoanalyst, but I find it fascinating what other people dream about. It tells you a lot about their characters. Some of my friends who I would consider more highly strung than others often seem to have a lot of anxiety dreams or even nightmares. People of the more relaxed persuasion do not seem to remember their dreams, probably meaning that they sleep deeper than others. It also gives you a fascinating insight into the essence of people: their fears, wishes and foibles.
When I first meet people, I often ask them the following two questions:
- Do you dream in colour or black and white?
- Do you see faces in your dreams?
I don’t know why I ask these question, but their unusual icebreakers and I find that even though most people hate hearing about dreams, they really love to talk about their own.
I know I sure do.
I was recently in Europe. When I got back to Australia, the jet lag was messing with my head and causing me to have very lucid dreams. At one point, I thought I was awake and I was speaking to a strange man in my room…. until my room turned into an Istanbul marketplace, so I willed the walls to collapse and bring me back to consciousness. What power the mind has! The dreams got darker each night for about a week. They culminated in a dream in which I was on a small-time journalistic mission in a country town, reporting on a school fete or something. It all seemed very wholesome until I witnessed a primary school shooting. It was really, really awful.
An awful nightmare, but great writing material!
Or is it? In writing from an inspiring dream, I would like to preserve the je ne sais quoi of the dreamscape – that surreal, nothing-really-makes-sense feeling of a dream. Can this be an effective way to write, or an engaging thing to read? I’m not sure.
Mary Shelley sure pulled it off pretty well with Frankenstein. In case you didn’t already know, she wrote the classic horror novel following a vision she had in a waking dream that went something like this:
“I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.” – Mary Shelley’s introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein
To be fair, I’m probably no Mary Shelley. I can only dream of Lord Byron challenging me to write a good ghost story.
So, here‘s my attempt at experimental dream writing.
To my writer readers out there – have any of you attempted to write your dreams into a real story? How did you find it?
If any of you would like to join me in my experiment, please let me know as I would absolutely love to do some online workshopping with other fiction writers.
A few good years of borderline poverty and frequent workplace molestation by Italian-Australian restaurateurs with gangland associations have left me fawning like an kicked dog.