I was completely mesmerized by Shinji Turner-Yamamoto's installation at Holy Cross church this past weekend. I think it very well might have been the most captivating installation I've ever visited in person.
Cincinnati is littered with these grand, old, forlorn and gorgeously decayed "deconsecrated" spaces. It's encouraging to see new life enter one of them. I actually got to speak with the artist about his process (he was there!) and thoughts behind the work. He talked about clearing the space out (it was being used for storage). Removing the bodies of birds that had evidently flown into the space without knowing how to get out, sweeping a thick layer of dust covering every surface, while collecting the gold powder that had eroded from the walls for use in other works of art.
He described the dead tree that supported the live one as a "current." I'm not sure whether he was envisioning electricity or air or water or just the abstract concept, but Sam commented earlier that being in the space gave him a feeling of being under water, looking up at sea level where the live tree emerged. I also felt like I was subterranean.
In a video I watched before I saw the piece, the Japanese born artist talked about savoring the wabi sabi nature of the old space's decay. As much wonder the beauty of that space had to have inspired and now continues to do so, there's no denying it's impermanence, the way it currently stands. And the imperfection inherent there can also be a source of beauty, to some eyes more meaningful than the day it first opened it's door, because we can now relate to it with in our own imperfect, impermanent bodies...embrace it as a deeper truth.
I love it when art can simultaneously show me the beauty and truth in another's culture, while reminding me of the depth of my own and subsequently build a connection. This piece seemed to cross so many cultural lines: in a christian place of worship, inspired by buddhist thought, people from all stripes (and those who'd rather not associate with any stripe at all) were drawn to it's beauty in context as hallowed ground.
As I experienced this piece and thought about the appreciation of impermanence and imperfection, the lines of a favorite poem by Wendell Berry came to mind, "Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years." But I love this poem too much to not quote the whole thing. Just. Can't. Do it. Luckily, I think it's words fit nicely with the wordless poignancy of Hanging Garden.
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front (by Wendell Berry)
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.