March 5, 2011 - Chapter P by Bifidus Jones for the Project 26 collaborative mail-art book addresses the theme of archaeology directly and excavation more specifically. Bifidus has done a fantastic job seamlessly linking the hard work of excavating prehistoric sites to reconstruct the past with the similar activity of digging into language and texts to discover meaning.
I think this was an excellent choice because Bifidus often strikes me as a literary modernist: Below the surface of the work are layers upon layers of well-selected references and narratives; there are many levels of interpretation possible.
Somewhere in the IUOMA labyrinth, I read a posting by Bifidus about archaeology as an art and a science. I think Bifidus weighed in more on the side of the field as an art. Archaeology as a discipline also filters information about the past - human activity that is largely unknowable and indeterminate - through the machinery of rationalism. Throughout Chapter P I see a play of images denoting reason and rationality with others that are - for lack of a better term - nonrational.
Sanctioned (or legitimate) archaeology involves a prescribed system of documentation and compliance with laws and institutional affiliations. The mechanisms for the reading of texts and agreed upon meaning are similar. Bifidus Jones begins with the wonderful parody of an archaeological excavation permit (above) and then begins to dig deeper:
Tremendous work with collage and overlaying on these pages. Bifidus Jones reveals here archaeology's strong ties to myth and the disreputable antiquarians who were essentially non-rational, destructive in their approaches, and had more ties to art than science, particularly Romanticism. Chapter P has a distinct antiquarian qualities in places. I am, as yet, puzzling over "Pandora's Pithos." Even on these pages above, you see the meter and feet scale: a reminder that archaeology is about documenting, measuring, and cataloging. This theme intensifies:
Bifidus presents an amazing four pages of a grid structure. Maybe someone will be convinced it is a calendar. I'm immediately reminded of the grid systems used by professional archaeologists to precisely map excavation sites. Similarly, the work of artists is assigned convenient boxes by critics and theorists. Bifidus has made it into a map of compartmentalized words. Is there a pattern? Was a process of free association used? I am hoping for some guidance. Whatever the root, I thoroughly enjoy this diversity of words boxed against one another to create the most startling and sometimes funny juxtapositions.
This scan above is better view of the grid. This chapter came out beautifully. It's printed on thick paper, and the color and detail are extraordinary - the best work yet I've seen from Bifidus, who is also a master of overlays.
This chapter simply does not slow down - it never loses momentum. The last page of Chapter P is this incredible collage of floating, fractured prehistoric pots. Is this an illustration from an antiquarian book or an image Bifidus created? Either way, it's an extraordinary find. The black envelope is striking:
Chapter P is an extraordinary piece, beauty to behold in your hand that cannot be reproduced in a scan. I can't do it justice on any level in this blog format but hope at least I've provided a few coherent ideas that indicate my response to the piece. As ever, Bifidus, many, many thanks?
Look for a forgotten to turn up in jeans or at the bottom of a handbag. They call him Stephani. A dead squirrel was the first mail-art you received. Talks incessantly about talking incessantly. pigpen. April. Si-yue. Lucky numbers: 34, 12, 31, 45, 6, 37
Mail-art color of the day: Purple
Mail-art Quote for the Day
Jack Gilbert was a heck of a poet, although ultimately some other armed camp claims him. For one, he was a participant in Jack Spicer's Magic Poetry Workshop. I fancy I see the influence, but no one else seems to. From "Factoring," by Jack Gilbert:
'Barefoot farm girls in silk dresses,' he thinks.
Meaning Marie Antoinette and the nobles
at Versailles playing at the real world.
Thinking about the elaborate seduction of ladies
and their languorous indifference in complying.
'Labored excess,' he mutters, remembering
the modern Japanese calligraphers straining
at deliberate carelessness.