This art installation was one I created in the early 1990s at Simon Fraser University where I studied second year visual arts. The location of it was in the campus area called the quadrangle.
In this installation, named “RhymeCatch,” I created three figures made from the plastic coated green wire, the kind they use in chain link fencing. Each figure has another element or two added to it.
Figure 1) Baby in the treetops, is a baby, with a soother in its mouth, laying in a see-through plastic cradle hung in a tree. This was referencing the nursery rhyme/lullaby:
“Rock a bye baby, on the treetops, when the wind blows the cradle will rock, when the wind blows the cradle will fall and down will come baby cradle and all.”
I always thought, as a child and even now, that this was a strange lullaby which puts a baby in harm’s way and lets it fall. Rather than thinking of it as the metaphor for falling asleep, instead, it haunts me as something I interpret as both frightening and prophetic, falling from innocence perhaps?
Figure 2) Little girl hiding, is identified by me as a girl, but in fact, the figure is androgynous and could be a little boy or little girl. In retrospect, I am probably identifying it as me. She is hiding behind a tree in her rubber boots, a child’s game and yet a game with primordial roots. What do we do to survive? We hide and we seek. Yet, in our modern society, I would argue, to survive we also hide “ourselves” and then become seekers of our true selves.
Figure 3) Young girl reading, is a young adult (again, androgynous), reading a book for young adults from the 1950s that I found and covered in clear plastic glue so it would survive the weather and viewers could read over the shoulder of this figure the text. The day I took the photos of the installation some unknown person had left a plate with cookie crumbs by it as if the figure had just finished eating a cookie. I was thrilled at this interaction and addition!
The passage that the book starts with that the viewers could read starts with a dialogue between two young adult characters:
“Aren’t the Russians terrible?”
“They certainly seem to be making things as difficult as possible.”
“Sometimes I think that we should just drop the atomic bomb and have it over with.”
“Maybe they have an atomic bomb too.”
It goes on to wonder if Stalin is as bad as Hitler, etc. and is a capsule of the cold war era.
Like the baby in the treetop I was surprised to see a book for young adults with such frightening ideas in it but was also glad there was an open dialogue, whether you wanted to agree with the points of view in the book or not. I essentially included this book as I had been very active in the peace movement for the disarmament of nukes, but also, at the time of this installation, we were heading towards the first Gulf War (Canada did participate in this) and I would eventually create a collaborative theatre piece/video about that, and would decide I did not want to bring children into this world.
The installation as a whole really is about the threat to innocence. The loss of innocence and how human beings try to protect (their people) like crazy and in the process often bring about more harm. This is really a piece about our own craziness. Can it be solved by dialogue? We will find out, because we seem to be at that crossroads yet again.
I also want to say that I loved the aesthetics of this piece. Both the medium and the chosen site have a harmony that people responded to. Note that in the photos, when the sun came out, the shadows of the winter trees mimic the wire of the figures. Likewise, on the cloudy day, photos of the branches of the trees against a white sky mimic the wire of the baby figure that you can see through the plastic.
I was very satisfied with this piece and when I found these photos of it I realized I wanted to show people. I did not want this for my own ego as you might think, but because I could see that the ideas were timely in this Trump world which is now on the brink of more global disasters, this time climate change as well as nuclear war and distrusting our old cold war enemy, Russia. And, I realized that this theme of protecting innocence is still one I am working with to this day and may very well be important to reflect further on. So, I am adding it to my blog, which goes out to some via email and also will go out on social media. Maybe someone will get something out of it?
I am a writer and I don’t consider myself an artist, but I have long since loved to use visuals to help and inspire me to write. Whether it is to add photos and graphics to a blog post or to add elements in my book, like the Loteria cards depicted and created at the beginning of chapters in my book, The Happy Hammock.
I found the art installation photos because I am currently moving, and so scanning a lot of my older works, but I realized the subject is timely to not only what is going on in the world, now, but thoughts and themes that I am now writing about. There are coincidences that seem very serendipitous. Remembering this piece not only allowed me to see it with fresh eyes, but reminded me of the importance of innocence as a theme.