Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hand Solo

A simple rock and my laptop both get me excited. They call out to me to be creative; to make something or design something new. There are several cool software programs like Sketchup that allow me to experiment with digitalized spaces and planes and eventually visualize new garden structures and landscape features, just as there are piles of sizes and shapes or rocks that lend themselves to experimenting with, and coming up with new dry stone features, much like doing jazz improvisations.

Both mediums are more like having a big sandbox. ( again, sand is made up of silicon the basic ingredient of rocks and my laptop.) They both allow me to mold and add to and take away from an idea or a structure that does not yet exist. They are virtual building blocks.

Every creation whether it be a wall or an entire dry stone folly is an extemporization that if built skillfully enough will last a good long time. Every choice, every placement of every stone, is a creative act. The computer can barely match the potential waiting to be uncovered in a random pile of stones!

Every day, the resulting work of my 'hands' can be a unique installation. Because I work with random material all day and not modular prefitting maunfactured products, it requires that I extemporize and constantly problem-solve. This is not like laying blocks or fitting computer parts together. The stones can not be conveniently locked together in a dead mass of concrete, but will require skill so that they fit utilizing their inherent natural shapes.

This kind of dry laid stonework is an event. It can even be a spectator sport . For those involved, it's a hands-on full-participation happening!

Certain wall projects can be like a kind of jam session in stone. Most dry stone walling is 'performance walling'. Instead of musical or comical or theatrical improvisation it is a 'stone improvisation'. Though you dont often have an audience (until after you've finished perhaps) you go out in just the same way and start stacking, not knowing how or if all the pieces are going to actually fit together, or what exactly it is going to finally look like.

With a random pile of stones you are always taking a risk. This is not like building shelves from a plan in popular mechanics.

Every wall I build is a 'hand solo'. It has never been done before. There are no instructions, no repeating, no rehearsed lines or actual detailed script. My hands discover a way for the shape to get out.

This is why it captures the imagination. It is an evolving process, a building upon itself

After all, if Bobby McFerrin can do musical improvisations with his voice. Why cant we do it in stone?

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