Field Trip Fun

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The final piece in the gigantic installation Until by Nick Cave

Last Friday I took myself on a field trip to Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA. I’ve had mixed experiences with the contemporary art there and by mixed I guess I mean: perplexed. Example: several 6-7 foot tall cairn-like objects made from interleaved foam-rubber and cleaned mango pits. Didn’t get it, don’t get it. But sometimes you need to shake things up and present your brain with ideas it doesn’t quite get. It’s good to question and to wrestle with ideas that make you stretch: what does this make me feel? why? do I call this art? In a time of such deep division in our country, where one side disdains, dismisses, and demonizes the other, maybe it’s good to practice being challenged and seeing things from a different perspective. Maybe we should think of art museums not just as places to admire what we already think of as beautiful and valid, but also as public places to practice the art of seeing from different viewpoints, of seeing thoughtfulness, curiosity, and humanity even in things we don’t fully understand, things that don’t easily reinforce our strongly held biases.

That’s not what I set out to write…but, the ideas, sometimes they arrive unbidden when you sit down to do some work!

My recent visit to Mass MoCA was easily the most fun I’ve ever had looking at art. Yes, fun. Explode Every Day – An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder nailed it’s stated mission. From meditative, thought-provoking videos, to beautiful but unsettling color photographs of 1950s-era nuclear weapons testing, to new ways of perspective drawing, to a new appreciation for silk from the perspective of the caterpillar – this exhibit invited the viewer to get closer, study longer, in some cases even to touch! Can you imagine – being allowed to touch the art?!

The consciousness-tickling, massive installation by Nick Cave (Until) left me wowed but still trying to puzzle out how spinning lawn decorations, among other curious objects, answers the question: Is there racism in heaven? The installation was over-the-top. Jaw-dropping. Mesmerizing. But it’s starting premise – wondering about racism in heaven, just didn’t work for me. However, it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed in a photo I took, that the final sculpture, with industrial fans and long, colored pieces of shimmering Mylar, spelled the word Flow. It was right there in the title of the piece, and still, at such close range I couldn’t see it. Maybe that tells me something about the exhibit as a whole. I need more distance and to consider it from a different viewpoint.

I hope people discovered copies 4 and 5 of the first volume of Lost Mitten Fiction. On Friday, they were left lying about.

I’m trying to decide if I should record the text of the stories here or just leave them to the IRL world. If you’re reading this and didn’t come here from Instagram, you can check out my feed @lostmittenfiction. I’ve been playing around with photo-fiction – writing a micro-story for a picture that inspires me. There’s probably some plug-in or widget I can add for an Instagram button, but haven’t figured it out yet.

And here are this week’s copies of Vol. 2. “Backhoes and Marshmallows.” Each one handmade, the text of each every-so-slightly different because I’m a writer and can’t not tweak a story when I have the chance. Now to leave them lying about.

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Lost and Found

20170111_091133_hdrTurns out I’m not that keen on leaving pieces of fiction lying around like I’m some kind of religious fanatic sprinkling pamphlets in the paths of unsuspecting citizens. I did leave one copy at a library; I hope someone’s found it by now. That person will have the only copy with the title “Public Display of Fiction.”  When I got home yesterday, I tried doing a search for this site in its original form”publicdisplayoffiction” and got the helpful Google message: No results found. Did you mean public display of erection?  I promptly changed the title of my site.

Here is copy three of the first story, “Butterflies.”. I might head over to the Country Girl Diner for a20170111_092427_burst01-1 blueberry pancake and real maple syrup. Could be a good spot to drop and run.

Why this experiment? I’m tired of all the digital stuff. I’m tired of flat screens under everyone’s fingers. Do we even remember the different textures of paper? Do we remember what it’s like to see other people’s handwriting? Do we remember what it’s like to discover a note or a list or an envelope inside a book and feel like we get a tiny glimpse into some unknown life? I want to put something out into the world that offers a sense of discovery, a moment of surprise with something other than our phone screens. A minute’s pause to look in a different direction.

I toyed with the idea of not having any web presence at all to really keep the experiment analog. I even thought about renting a P.O.Box where readers could drop me a note if they wanted to tell me they’d found a story. But even to me, an epistolaphile (I probably just made that up), that seemed too much to ask of the modern person.

My hope? That people will enjoy finding these little stories. That it will motivate me to practice the art of micro-fiction. That a few people – after finding a copy of Lost Mitten Fiction – will look for this site, leave a comment, feel a connection that started with something real. Maybe a copy or two will get hung on refrigerators next to drawings of rainstorms and a wallet-sized school photo. Maybe a few will be passed along to friends: “Look what I found today. What do you make of this?” They’ll pass a stranger’s handwriting between them – my hand touching theirs. That would be success.