The house is tucked tightly between two others. A bundle of sticks bound and lying on the shallow porch is the first indication of who might live here. Because Ive recently seen the artists sculpture, made of oak sticks and wampum, Im quite certain Ive found the right address.
To respond to memory is to honour a personal acceptance of experiences.
The place appears unoccupied. None of the windows are open. Everything is tightly shut.
I knock on the front door. When welcomed inside, I realize what has been carefully locked out is the intense wall of heat.
With the windows covered, all views outside are obscured. The square skylights piercing the ceiling are the only sign that there is still daylight; its as if the hot afternoon is elsewhere as we talk.
I am given two sheets from "Vestiges". Loose leaf sheets. One line of handwriting near the middle of each page. (Why not elsewhere on the pages surface? Why, so explicitly, in the middle?) And because Ive seen them carefully pinned to the wall, there is no mistaking them as accidents.
He gives me:
Try not to worry too much.
Ive left you some quarters.
How perfect! As if I could stop worrying! (The stress does remain on trying.)
But what of those quarters? (An allowance as a child. Trying to select a candybar )
Someone elses handwriting from a long ago past. The twinge it gives to those who can recognize it now; the hands work, familiar despite its displacement, combined with the reproductions duplicity. I have been tricked into believing I am reading handwriting rather than the scanners mimicry.
The original notes and letters have been left behind with their accompanying good wishes and intimacies. Hints of concern detected in the matter-of-fact words.
Are they aphorisms? implications? gifts?
I think back to the lines of poetry which I unexpectedly found in the subway car, lodged between virility advertisements, on my way to Gregs house:
.A life might be full
of such small losses or full,
equally, of small, dense gifts 1
Something found. Something extricated, carefully saved, could still be easily passed over.
The writers voice hopes and persists, though it too could easily be ignored.
It is as if the writer was saying "Although the note, the phrase, is ample proof of my not being here or there with you, I send a message, a surrogate, to let you know."
"I hope...", "Try...", "Thanks...". These are the routine signs, stand-ins for the unspoken messages such as "Ive thought of you", "Ive remembered you", "I want to let you know once again that I love you".
Presence may have no need to be corporeal after all.
What do the sheets of paper do at this moment in the gallery, near the unobstructed window? What seemingly mundane - yet in their repeated isolation, oddly urgent - messages do they impart to us now? Dont the photographs do the same thing, albeit visually? What if we consider them as the same but different?
Once again, to be reminded it takes time. To take them as signs of what we are being asked to do.
There is no need for ironic distance.
Imagine taking one of the paper sheets with you as you wander upstairs. Tender lists. Thin, delicate, expendable, precious, like the photographs.
Both are made to be infinitely reproducible, derived from the small events noticed. Situations witnessed, attested to, now gone.
Imagine the artist walking, finding, collecting. The phrases accompanying him are the enterprise before it even begins.
All highlighted texts are composed by Greg Staats.1Rhea Tregebov, Elegy for the Gift (Elegy for the Light), The Strength of Materials, Wolsak and Wynn, Toronto, 2001, p. 66.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Staats is launching his self-published, bilingual catalogue entitled Greg Staats: Animose, with an essay by François Dion and design by Lewis Nicholson. Gallery 101 is a co-publisher of this catalogue.