Response to Spring Crit

Last Saturday’s crit went very well. Four of us were critiqued in one session so it was quite dense. In the time between the crit and now, I have been totally absorbed in a high wire project across a gorge and, I unfortunately, I managed to l misplace my notes, so I must write this reflection from memory. I apologize ahead of time if I confuse any details. I asked the group an open-ended question. This question was, how does a thesis project which has primarily been about gravity and space, taking place outside in natural settings, be represented in a gallery space, when the work is more of a personal endeavor rather than something easily recognized as an art object which could be displayed. Chris mentioned that the sculptures which I showed recently could be used since he felt this body of sculptural work arose from my wire walking practice. This makes sense and is certainly an option which I will keep open, but these sculptures feel tangential to my funambulism rather than part of it. Beauty brought up a theme which seems very interesting. She mentioned that the sections on falling and failure in my manual were of particular interest to her. Perhaps it is these sections which seem most universal. We all can relate to failure and recognize the growth that can accompany failure, but the avoidance of challenges which might lead to failure are for various reason often avoided. My wire practice incorporates failure as part of training. I practice falling from the wire and catching it and I practice falling into my net. I believe it was Nethery who mentioned that I might want to think about taking video footage of myself falling into the net. Christian mentioned that repetition could be an interesting way to capture the nature of practice. These comments seem clairvoyant as I attempt to walk my high wire across the gorge. Walking it is far more difficult than I imaged.
While trying to balance on a 330 long foot wire above the gorge, as I react, I kick oscillations into the cable which travel in pulses through the wire reflecting off the anchors and travelling back along the wire. The wire weighs hundreds of pounds, so as its mass dances about, it is a formidable obstacle on which to balance. Reacting to these powerful oscillations, I kick in even more instability and soon I feel like a dingy in the North Atlantic, unable to understand my balance, a wobbling point lost in space. I am only able to take a couple of steps before I must sit down or reach for the wire as I begin to fall. All of my practice falling is the only way I am able to engage in this learning process. If I did not trust my ability to control my loses in balance, this whole endeavor of walking on an out of control cable would be too dangerous to attempt. I find that the way I must walk this wire is by keeping it as calm as possible by not introducing the violent waves into the heavy cable which out weighs myself by many times. I have a better sense of why in every picture I have seen of a long and high wire, the funambulist is carrying a long pole. Since I do not use a pole, I have produced a situation where failure seems the only outcome, the wire is too wild. Without a pole my movements in balance knock the wire into an angry state, yet perhaps the wire also is too slender and thus I cannot apply enough tension to it to properly calm it. But as I practice, reflect and immerse myself in this practice which for me is profoundly difficult, slowly I will come to a solution within myself. If my steps and my balances become gentle enough to keep the wire slumbering, I will be able to cross it without disturbing its sleep. This ability may be the work of a lifetime, but its cultivation starts today.

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