Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Things Found in the Kitchen at Flux Factory

A 15-roll sack of Bounty paper towels. A five-pound plastic jug of honey with sticky cap. A 32-ounce bottle of red hot sauce. A two-quart vat of Kikkoman soy sauce. A crate of oranges, a crate of grape fruits, a crate of tomatoes. Two 20-pound bags of apples, Granny Smith and yellow delicious. A tin of Twinings English Breakfast tea containing 200 bags and measuring 10” by 10” by 18”. An eight-pound bag of red onions. A 65-ounce jar of artichoke hearts in olive oil. Two four-dozen cartons of eggs. Three 60-bag boxes of Hefty 33-gallon garbage bags. A box of Honey Bunches of Oats containing three pounds, four ounces of cereal, measuring 6 1/2” by 9 ½” by 13 ½”. A similar sized box of Quaker Oats containing nine pounds of cereal. A bag of 20 7” pitas weighing 1588 grams. A five-liter can of Berio olive oil. A bottle of Ultra Dish Liquid containing one gallon and 3.781 ounces.

Ian Montgomery was heating a bagel in the microwave at 2 AM. He is 24, tall, strapping, with a tumble of red curls tickling a neck embossed with a smudgy black tattoo that is supposed to be temporary but is enduring. He designed the habitat for Grant Bailie using wood dowels, clay-caked muslin, and panels filled with soil and sprouting seeds, a graceful, rustic dreamscape offered to one artist by another. He worked on the installation/domicile for weeks leading to the opening, allowing for improvisation on core ideas. Now it was time to clean his room and fertilize his own life. How had he learned to live in a commune? By growing up with parents in Iowa who practiced transcendental meditation and sent him to a school where he practiced meditation twice a day. What did he do with the irritations that built up, as inevitably do when you share bathrooms, a kitchen, and a library space with 20 people? “I let go of them.” He made a gesture like balling paper and tossing it away. “They don’t serve any purpose. . . . Though maybe not right away.”

The next morning, on the table, sat a NY Times editorial denouncing The Novel project: “The more seriously the writers take the proper business of making their own work, the more the installation trivializes the nature of writing.” I don’t know about you, but first thing in the morning (it was actually 11), before composing text, there’s nothing I like better than being termed a barbarian tearing down the gates of civilization. I felt a twinge. I have barbarian issues left over from childhood when my father referred to cousin Terri as “a perfect young lady who knows how to conduct herself” and I was anything but. I don’t refer to myself as a novelist, but yesterday and today a bit of fiction seeped out, enabled by the caretakers of Flux Factory. Contrary to what’s been suggested in some articles, we’re not being exhibited like zoo animals, nor are we incarcerated in cramped hovels or starved for food and companionship. The meals are healthful and delicious. We take breaks when we see fit, but mostly the three of us are so far enjoying the chance to play with words without distraction and stay put for many hours. The Times states: “Each [writer] has promised to finish a novel by June 4. That is 25 days away. Odds are that these will either be teeny-tiny novels or very bad ones.” For the record, I will feel accomplished if by the end of this thing I’ve written 20 pages that don’t make me vomit. A teeny-tiny novel? What a good idea. A very bad one? There’s always that risk, even for people far more practiced than me, but if I thought about that while I was here I’d be squandering the sweetness of this lark.

3 Comments:

At 12:29 AM, Blogger ocracokepost said...

I'm glad the dumb editorial didn't get you down. Your bemused response is perfect because it's not worthy of being indignant about.

 
At 12:47 AM, Blogger mitch said...

yo, check out the letters in the drawer under Ranbir's floor...

 
At 9:40 AM, Blogger Devon Ellington said...

With criticism, the most crucial questions I ask are: Who is this person in my life? What is this person's agenda?

If it's someone whose opinion actually matters, whose work I respect, or someone who's paying me on a for-hire job, I pay attention. Otherwise, I shrug and move on.

To me, reading the editorial and the NEW YORKER piece, it seems there's a tinge of envy in and amongst the smugness of the pieces.

Experiencing the project through your blog entries makes me somewhat uncomfortable; not in a bad way -- I simply feel the response I believe I would have in a similar space, which is very different from yours! It's intriguing.

 

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