Paul Elliman leans against a curved wall of St Paul’s Cathedral, illuminated by a shaft of light. He’s in the dome’s whispering gallery, and in the photo it looks like he’s listening to the building, trying to hear its secrets. In a way, he is. Elliman is a listener, a sifter of signs from buildings and subways, the streets and the underground, trying to uncover the words we give to the world and what those languages say about us.
Published first on The Weeklings then on Salon: THE FROST GLITTERS darkly. It sparkles as if all the constellations of the sky are knit to the ground. Walking down the block in the predawn light, I have on a hat, ridiculous orange, I’m embarrassed of even with no cars on the street and no one to see. It’s 5:30 AM, and I wear two of everything as if I’m preparing to flee or dressed for some Noah’s Ark of winter: two pairs of long johns, two wool sweaters, two hats, two pairs of gloves (plus hand warmers) and one old down jacket (dark purple, just to add to my ridiculous color scheme. I also carry an orange backpack, less bright than the hat, but still…). My winter boots have soles so thick I’m a full inch and a half taller. I’m not sure how to dress, but it’s 17 out, and I’ll be sitting for hours – not moving, not talking. Waiting, watching things rustle and the sun rise and the day shape over a hill by a field in upstate New York. I am going hunting.
Published on The Weeklings and also Salon 10 Minutes – Length of time Adam Lanza was shooting 90 (more than) – Number of bullets shot 38 – Number of mass shootings in 2012 $50,000 – Average cost of medical treatment per homicide shooting victim $2.3 Billion – Total lifetime medical costs for gunshot injuries (as of 1999) $6 Million – Those medical costs per day
1. PRESENTS. IT’S NOT that I don’t like them, but… No, actually I do dislike them. I have this split response torn between extremes, the manic and the depression. 2. At first, a gift feels full of possibility – all the possibility in the world. Really I’m talking about here the “idea of a gift.” It’s all expectation and anticipation and that anything could be contained therein, anything that might make me feel connected and loved and, I don’t know, good. I’m sure scientists have studied this and that presents must activate the same part of the brain as heroin. But, there’s the part afterwards when the wrapping paper is torn and the ribbons balled up and whatever was concealed inside is made tangible. Real. Not so full of anything but only one thing.
AT OCCUPY WALL STREET, Colleen Asper carried a blank placard. She’d set up a space in Zuccoti Park where people could make banners, but her own? Just an abstract shape. She couldn’t figure out what to say. People would ask her what she was holding or think she was being ironic or assume hers was a platonic shape or say, “Oh, that’s the logo for that new architecture firm.” But, it was the only thing she could carry, and those blank spaces keep coming back in her work.