Wednesday, October 30, 2013

my talk from "Superstizione" today

This Inaugural exhibition for the new School of Design Gallery at the Owings Mills North campus will include photography, video, print, sculpture, and performance art related to Italian film traditions and superstitions.
Superstizione features work by Catherine Borg; Adam Farcus; Dina Fiasconaro, Assistant Professor, Film and Video; Terence Hannum, Assistant Professor, Art; and Allison Yasukawa.

installation shot of Superstizione

Adam Farcus - Crier (tablecloth and Garden Defense Owl) 2013

Artist Talk

The information presented in this talk will require some interpretation by the listeners and viewers as I will be defining, describing, and expanding upon my piece, Crier. I am going to read some poetry and text that I have written as well as poetry and text by other authors. I will note when I am reading from other authors. All other text is written by me.

Coal City Superstitions

Bare Cottonwood Trees
If the cows are laying down in the pasture, it will rain soon.
If you stomp on a rat, and it doesn't die, your mill is in trouble.
To avoid the curse of a black cat about to cross your path, curse profanely until you pass it.
Hedge-apples will keep rodents away.
If you hear an owl, you have a guardian protecting you.

Leftover Paper Plates
Step on a crack, break your mother's back.
Looking at pornography will make you go blind.
Falling into a mine shaft is a bad omen.
The left thumb will turn black in sympathy for a smashed right one, and vice-versa.
Drinking pop after dinner will cause nightmares.

Train Flattened Keys
An upside-down penny is unlucky.
An open door says friends are nearby.
You will trip over old shoes.
A lucky penny, once washed, will no longer be lucky.
You are in love if your cigarette will only half-light.

Craft Fair Booths
The darkroom beneath the stairs will protect you from tornados.

Garage Sale Tee-Shirts
If you see an apparition in your rear-view mirror, put a tea leaf on your back seat to keep him away.
A neighbor's haunted attic should always be unfinished on the west side.
A girl thrown from her bed by a ghost will grow freckles over her bruises.
A full moon casts long shadows.
A broken bone, caused by falling into a mine shaft, will be haunted.

Cornfield Arrowheads
Coal brings bad luck. A cows tooth brings good luck.
Buried trauma will always be dug up.
Finding a Trilobite fossil is a sign of wisdom.

I wrote this piece in response to the myths and superstitions from my home town, Coal City, Illinois. Some of the superstitions were believed by everyone in town, some are from friends, some were only mine, and some I created. These beliefs, and most superstitions, are created to give name to that which is undefinable.

In Italy owls are assigned a superstitious power that is akin to Americans’ supernatural understanding of a black cat. They are both bad luck and harbingers (or bringers) or bad fortune. In the case of Crier that fortune may be external, such as a storm or disaster, or internal and personal to the viewer.

Michael Earl Craig
Night Visit

I'm awakened at 3 a.m. to the sound of an owl.
It takes me a minute to find my glasses.
I press my face to the window.
A silver flash crosses the yard.
It settles into an owl shape on a nearby post.
My nose and eyes are stinging.
A stinging behind my face.
Like some kind of problem behind a billboard.
Why would a man look at an owl and start to cry?
My body is trying to reject something.
I have no idea what it is.
The owl is sitting in the moonlight.
The yard is completely still.

The home, and domestic living, is signified in my piece through the inclusion of the tablecloth. The owl hides (although not successfully) under the tablecloth and is subsequently turned into a ghost. Crier is a harbinger that comes back from the dead to deliver its warning message.

Some Italians do not keep any birds in their homes, especially owls or representations of owls, because they are thought to posses the "evil eye." I do not know of any time when a wild animal in your house would be anything but a negative sign, but this should remind us of the famous local poet Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe
from The Raven

And the Raven, never flitting, still sitting, still sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above of chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
                                Shall be lifted – nevermore!

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