Friday, December 26, 2008

Chicago reawakening

Chicago Compass
Originally uploaded by union_clown

I remembered a part of myself today, a part that went missing years ago that I didn't notice among all the clutter of trauma and flurry of running. It is a part of me that once reawakened caused me to mourn it's absence even though I never noticed that it had gone. It came back to me during my trip to The Field Museum with my dad (though I was left to myself most of the day as I "take too long" to go through an exhibit) where I spent the day wandering amid the relics of civilisations past and dinosaur bones, including the dinosaur that for the first half of my life was my beloved brontosaurus (now apatosaurus (I don't know if the Field Museum was calling it an apatosaurus growing up, all I know is that I called it a brontosaurus and had a brontosaurus lunchbox) Sidenote: brontosaurus shows no red squiggly line of bad spelling whereas apatosaurus does. Hmmmm).

Amid the carvings and the idols of the ancient Aztecs I remembered that child like quality that I had lost for so many years: my need to experience things tactilely. When it was gone I do not remember. I do remember walking through Chicago and having to run my hands over every different kind of stone surface that I would meet. To not just see the buildings and hear the city, but to touch it, to know it, to feel it. I remember, back in art school, asking to run my hands over paintings that were not flat, always liking those with texture more then the others (and making them that way myself). To feel the complexity of emotion, the hidden layers where mistakes and old feelings were hidden away beneath a new coat of paint. To interact with something that was not just flat, and to me that makes it flat in more ways then one-funny for a printmaker, but rich and complex and layered. Knowing that whatever was buried there was just a few scrapes away from exposing itself to the world.

It came to me staring at the first piece in the Aztec exhibit which was a statue of some unknown stone pockmocked with tiny craters. I knew that if I could just touch it my experience would be fuller. That I would somehow understand it more; that I would become more involved in the exhibit. So I did all that I could do: I imagined what it would feel like. I flipped through every single piece of rock that I had ever touched until I came across something that resembled the one standing in front of me. I recreated it's features, even the pieces that had succumbed to age and had fallen off and especially those that were crumbling. I continued to do this throughout the rest of the exhibit. Through the rest of the museum. Imagining what the ancient papyrus in the Egyptian exhibit must feel like, at one point actually getting to feel hieroglyphs. Touching the models, knowing that the texture was wrong but the topography right in my journey from the beginning of the earth.

I missed this. I'm realising as I type this that I have been doing this to a small extent as I have visited my ancient old growth stands, but that is more like caressing an old friend. But these streets, these buildings, all these things that I encountered...they can be friends too. Possibly just acquaintances for a brief time, telling me their story and moving out of my life forever, but at least there will be that.


The Mad Chemist said...

LOL...I take too long in exhibits too! My family hates going to museums with me.

I also like to experience things tactilely. I have to remind myself when I am in museums that I am not allowed to touch. Particularly hard when looking at marble sculptures for some reason....