Thursday, March 27, 2014

Litter Witching

On the far side of the school yard there was an unused parking lot, away from the main play areas. This lot was just sitting there, ringed by a curb, the lines painted on the pavement fading away. I would walk along this narrow concrete curb, balancing and looking down for things lost or forgotten. Small fragments of broken toys, pen caps, coins, washers. I would scour the area looking hard. These were my first attempts at looking to find things. I found things. I still do.
    Finding things has been a huge part of my identity since those days in grade four, grade five when I would set out on my missions. A happy corollary has been my love for decaying urban areas, crumbling curbs, weeds breaking through asphalt, odd cement structures, metal rings embedded in concrete for absentee poles, painted sigils once communicating something to someone about a job that needed doing. Loading docks, parking lots, any place where small broken items can be laid out bare to the elements, dry, clean, scuffed. I don't go looking for treasure in tall wet grass. I don't want to wipe mud off of something. I want it like I want a pebble or a quarter, ready to go into pocket. A small photograph, the leg of an action figure, a lego block, a widget, a screw, a bead, a tab, a nut, a slug. Small things for small hands to put into small pockets.
    I'd keep these things in empty vitamin bottles, in breath mint tins, in shoe boxes. I'd empty pockets when they got too full. I'd string them together on key chains, on safety pins. I'd wear them hanging off bags or jackets. I'd make necklaces with the parts I'd find. I'd make bracelets, earrings I wouldn't wear. These were magical things. Some rusted bits I'd lacquer with my mothers clear nail polish.
    Into college and university I would have clusters hanging off of me. I had a structure I made on my bedroom wall that things would get tied to, get hung off, get added to. Litter. Pure litter witchery. The spell was in the act of finding, claiming, bestowing with meaning, rearranging, wearing, changing. My friends joked, pointing out an old tire in the fields, 'why don't you make an earring out of it ?' They'd present a washer to me to add to my collection, with a grin. Their washer didn't resonate with me. It was inert. They didn't get it. I had to find it. Or it had to be really special. Occasionally a friend would get it, laugh at me with a knowing wink. My happiest moments were me left alone in a lot, finding items and lining them up on the curb, too numerous to take with me, they would be left there, an evident sign that some witness passed through that place and left a sign. I saw that was all art was, a witnessing, scratching a deep line into a rock as if to say, I was here, I saw this place, I leave a mark for others to know that someone else has been a witness to this. 'This' was life itself. Leaving a mark was akin to collecting a mark left my design or by accident. Taking things found and bringing them to a new place, a new context. Finding things, finding meaning. Making things, making meaning.