I have begun weaving the net which I plan to use to use in aerial work to guard in case of a fall. Its finished size is going to be 18’ x 50’ and will contain about 9,000 splices with 500 edge knots. I started with the arrival of 6600 feet of rope. Eleven spools, ten of 5/16” rope and one spool of 5/8”, were shrink wrapped on a palate weighing 250 lbs. I cut the 5/16” rope into 40 foot lengths and then marked it every 4”. This marks allow me to locate the splice, the intersection of the two ropes. I have approximately 9000 splices to make which when weaved together will form the surface of the net. I have to be quite aware as to not make any error. If I do make an error, it only can be undone be excavating it by undoing a wedge of splice from the nearest edge. So far I have made one mistake, splicing a rope off center by 4 inches. I noticed the mistake after doing about 30 splices which I then had to undo to fix the error. I hope this to be my last. It is simple to weave the net, but also easy to make a simple mistake. It is a good exercise in attention in the most basic definition of the word. Sometimes when it is a simple and repetitive task, it is the hardest to stay present.
Sitting cross legged on the floor is proving to be a challenge as well. Last week before coming to NYC for the winter residency I spent many hours sitting cross legged weaving the ropes and I felt some pain in my knees and back. It may turn out that I have to work standing by constructing some sort of table which allows me to do the work erect. I figure with so many hours ahead I must employ a system to ease the task. I am finding the technique which is most vital to speed the weaving is keeping track of the ends of the rope. To form the splice one rope must travel through the other and then the second back through the first. This means that every time I make a splice I have to find the end of the ropes I am splicing together. This sounds simple and it is, but over several hours it means handling thousands of feet of rope hand over hand in search of ends which are concealed in a sea of lines covering the floor. If I can work out a system where the ends are keep organized, I will not have to go looking for them and this will cut in half the labor of handling line.
I have never done anything on this scale which is so singular in its labor. In choosing to do this work I feel a paradox of desire. Is it an attempt to solve a problem of desire. In setting the hands to a task, the mind fixed on a simple undertaking, perhaps a sense of purpose and peace can be achieved? As Louis Khan says “It is the human desire to do.” The desire is to create something through touch, something which becomes a vehicle for our human desire. The Tantric philosophers tell us that human sexual desire is merely a manifestation of the universal cosmic desire to create, which in their minds manifests itself in all matter of the universe. In one conception my net can be understood as a metaphor for my own sexual desire to create. But the most basic explanation of its existence is that I want freedom from a safety tether. I want to be “naked” on the line without a cord swinging and knocking against me. I don’t want to think of negotiating around it and avoiding becoming tangled dangerously in it if I fall and fail to catch the wire. The net will allow me to work safely on a high wire without needing the tether. I also think that the net in itself will be a beautiful object and a great challenge to rig.
I wanted to write a brief response to the critique of my work which I presented during the winter residency. It seemed from the response to the work that many wanted to be taken out onto the wire. They wanted to hear my thoughts and my breath as I struggle with the challenge of the void, to be brought closer to the physicality of the endeavor. They wanted me to transcend admiration and virtuosity by providing a more transporting experience of human endeavor. This is certainly the challenge in presenting this work. I, however, am not at all certain that the solution to this problem is found in portraying more details from the experience throught documentary forms.
I cannot take anyone onto the wire, they most go there themselves. Only they can step out over a great void supported by the insubstantial “ground” of the wire. They can never truly know this experience through images of my body, writings of words, or recordings of sounds. The dream in this project is not to be a simulation of working upon a high wire, an attempt to translate the untranslatable. Instead it is a focusing of my own human desire directed through discipline and love at a difficult and rewarding physical practices. At this point it is not for a gallery, nor is it for leisure, but it is in search of mental clarity and acceptance that I work tirelessly upon the wire, trapeze, and yoga mat. It is in this process, in the development of a trust of self and the trust of friends, which I believe will emerge a beauty not approached directly, but tangentially as a byproduct of the desire to find mental and physical courage. John B. said that he felt gravity was the medium which I am working in and this is an interesting perception. To me time is also an important medium in which the work will be developed. More than attempts to create “art” I want to develop self and my relationship to others— not in a narcissistic sense but in a simple sense, by making myself honest, vulnerable and sincere. I do not know where this work leads me or how it might come to manifest, but I trust that through devotion and passion the path will unfold. I feel more and more that I find satisfaction in growth, not growth in the sense of attaining an external resource such as money, property, or acclaim, but in the development of compassion, capacity and wisdom. If one can find a practice which releases a progression in the self of ideas and capability, rather than looking to fill a lack, a freedom is exposed. As Plato says, life is a meditation and preparation on and for death. No amount of material wealth or the admiration of others changes the fact that we are born through love and come to death along a path shaped in part by the channeling of our desires. The true wealth lies not in the results, but in the struggle itself.