Monday, July 14, 2008
Ever so often the garbage in the ditches of the road that passes through our farm, tossed out by fast-food chomping motorists, offends my sensibilities and I take a bag and spend an hour or so picking it up. While part of my mind rails at the voluminous packaging of things I would never put in my mouth, wondering how many forests are plundered to make cardboard fry boxes and bags with snappy slogans, etc., another part greedily consumes the information that discarded things tell about those who discard them. Garbage picking is my version of People Magazine. You really wouldn't believe some of the things people throw out of their cars.
One of the most curious was in a white plastic bag. I could see that it was full of something before I picked it up, a cautious pick-up, because sometimes what's inside these bags can be very unsavory, a very ex-pet for instance. But this bag was not so heavy and seemed to be full of paper. When I looked inside, it took me a moment to understand what I was looking at - the bag was full of paper matches with the matchbook covers torn off, hundreds of them.
My guess is that the matchbook covers had some sort of coupon, or serial number, or something that if you had so many of them you got something else in turn, and someone who had a source for these particular matches had torn off the hundreds of covers to exchange for that something else. As far as I could tell, all the matches were identical in shape and age, so they hadn't saved them. And surely they hadn't bought all of them just so they could tear off the covers... mysterious.
I read somewhere that art is primarily about tidying things up, but my studio refutes that - certain things, like the corners and areas under chairs, are advanced particle accumulators and I don't want to spoil their effectivity by pretending I care. But i do like certain things to be put in order, and after staring at the matches for a moment I decided that I could do something with them.
The something was to glue them in a spiral on a round piece of plywood which had been laying around waiting to have them glued on it. My idea was to set them on fire and watch, no wait! video-tape the spiraling ignition, a catherine wheel of automotive society detritus, life imagined as fireworks, an exploding accelerating snail - the art of insurance risk.
But then it turned out to be kindof pretty just as it was and so I postponed the lighting and hung it on the studio porch.
It's been there for years now, and I doubt that the matches are still ignitable. The color has softened and the object itself is seldom noticed. I never expected it to be, and I never planned on showing it to anyone in particular when I made it. I found the matches and this is what I did with them.