Day one: Celebrating the beginning of SF Summer Arts Collective

 

Today we began. as we did last year. with a poem from Emily Dickinson. A master of form, of making the ordinary strange, of aptly conjuring the overlooked. Dickinson is always a good place to start when thinking about creating. Here's her poem #591. 

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died - (591)

BY EMILY DICKINSON

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -

The Stillness in the Room 

Was like the Stillness in the Air -

Between the Heaves of Storm - 

 

The Eyes around - had wrung them dry - 

And Breaths were gathering firm 

For that last Onset - when the King 

Be witnessed - in the Room -

 

I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away 

What portion of me be 

Assignable - and then it was 

There interposed a Fly - 

 

With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -

Between the light - and me -

And then the Windows failed - and then 

I could not see to see -

As before, we spent some time engaging with the language of the poem, looking at her use of spaces and em dashes, listening to sound devices, pointing out imagery and describing our impressions. This particular poem was especially prescient as one member of the collective had recently lost a loved one and had been told that the departed often appears to the living in the form of winged beings: flies, butterflies, birds. Another member described one of their ongoing projects that involves stitching flies into miniature window frames. Synchronicity was in full swing which indicates fertile ground for new connections and shifting perspectives. 

After studying the poem, we broke into groups of three and were asked to spend about 45 minutes constructing a visual response to the poem. Below are some results. 

  This piece asks the viewer to view the fly through the funnel. The viewer occupies the position of the dying speaker confronting the fly while the rest of the world collapses into this singular moment.

This piece asks the viewer to view the fly through the funnel. The viewer occupies the position of the dying speaker confronting the fly while the rest of the world collapses into this singular moment.

  This group created the bed chamber as a cenotaph with the path of the fly a residue in the air. Small glimpses can be made of the fly and its path is rendered with gold thread. The mirrors reflect the ceiling - the view of the dying speaker - thus ensuring the viewer shares her perspective. 

This group created the bed chamber as a cenotaph with the path of the fly a residue in the air. Small glimpses can be made of the fly and its path is rendered with gold thread. The mirrors reflect the ceiling - the view of the dying speaker - thus ensuring the viewer shares her perspective. 

After our lunch we came together around the big table again. Inspired by the games of the surrealists, specifically the exquisite corpse, we sat in a circle and were given a short time to respond to and build upon an object that was handed to us from the person on our left. Because these pieces travelled through the same hands, much of the work has a consistent quality. The surrealists believed that games such as these revealed the hidden subconscious of the collective and so, if there is any truth to this, behold the SF Summer Arts Collective's subconscious.

  An overview of the finished pieces. 

An overview of the finished pieces. 

  A close up of a sculptural element. The eye on the top is quintessentially surreal. 

A close up of a sculptural element. The eye on the top is quintessentially surreal. 

  An assemblage-style response to the object - a ping pong paddle - that has lost its usefulness. 

An assemblage-style response to the object - a ping pong paddle - that has lost its usefulness. 

  Inside someone's head. 

Inside someone's head. 

Thank you to all participants! We are looking forward to day two and the work that will follow. 

Salome Milstead