Story Keepers and Concentric Stories (2018)
Story Keepers was made in Murun, Mongolia at the invitation of Land Art Mongolia Biennale 2018.
The work begins with story writing and the gathering of objects in Ulaanbaatar. This included the gathering and trading of words (I call found words) and stories from Mongolian people I met. In my process, the trading for words not of my culture sanctions me to employ them in my invented text designs.
Written on Skin: Concentric Stories was a ceremonial or ritualistic process of writing 7 stories as offerings to and on the land. These were written around the auspicious mountain; walking clockwise in a conscious echo of the customary way of walking clockwise in the ger.
The stories were written in flour, salt and water and were meant as a way of feeding the land.
This ceremonial approach included me sweeping and offering a milk blessing to the land.
Story Keepers is a compilation of four Anthropomorphs. These are sculptural assemblages that are composed of chairs, found and natural objects, musical instrument parts, bundles of blankets and traditional fabric and rope. The integrated musical instrument parts are symbolic of vehicles for story. The work references the action of carrying, and the spiritual idea of protecting an ancestral bundle. Ideas of binding, ligature and bundles are intrinsic in my work. Binding symbolizes making a bond with the afterlife. The linking of elements enhances potency and acknowledges power and chaos. The bundles reference traditional and personal medicine, the sacred and healing or repair. In my visual language, the chair has symbolized the witness. In the language of this work, it further references the ideas of home and togetherness as well as those of being seated in a culture, in a language. The assemblages allude to both the human and avian form. Each chair is flanked by images of bird wings (swan, hawk, sparrow, owl).
The role of the story teller/keeper is one that enforces family and culture, binds humans, and relates to the land. This is the antitheses of globalization.Story creates belonging and is usually contextualized by place/land.
My invented text called wordmaps, that contains the history and residue of trade, human interaction and a self prescribed protocol, is inscribed on the instruments. The meanings of the included words are: song, breath, story, laughter and dream.
The chosen colours and motifs are suggestive of ger boxes and doors, alluding to the idea of holding or containing stories and treasured family objects.
Inspiration for this work comes from my perception of the cosmologies and ways of expressing relationship with the unseen that I have witnessed in Mongolia. This includes offerings seen in the temples, milk offerings and the knowing of, but as yet not experienced, practice of Shamanism.
The work honours the ancient Mongolian mythical and supernatural winged bird-humans called the Galbinga and the way in which the people belong to the land.
A thread that binds the work is the reference to sewing and story-as-thread that binds the world, binds humans to one another, to their culture and to the land.
Concentric Story 1
In a green place where time is time and laughter is language, the visionary ones arrived at each other under the night’s milk river. Coming from different worlds, like bright and strange birds, they found ways to belong to one another. And to the land. Watched by the writer in the ger filled with words and the fluttering of moths and by Open Mind Woman, they stood on the earth and shaped themselves into straws. In this way they invited the potent stream to move up through their bodies and out of their hands. Like upside down waterfalls. Sewn together by stories and the wildness of storms, they take with them pockets stuffed with shiny things.
Concentric Story 2
Coming from the direction of beginnings and the waking winds, the blue air is filled with small birds. Like bright thoughts.
They are in the slipstream of the story catchers; swan, hawk, owl and sparrow.
These old ones move between the worlds and show the people that grief and jubilation are twinbrothers.
The hollow bones of theses winged teachers can be used to travel to the sky nations. And also sideways in elastic time.
While moving upwards through the white and bleached bones, they told me, we can simultaneously send roots down from the soles/souls of our feet. Some of us remember how to be this tall.
In this way, they said, we become the hollow bones through which the spirits of the unborn can see the dreams of the ancestors piled deep inside the earth