Souvenir- a sculpture

When Maternal Mitochondria was asked by a gallery for an artist’s book, we did not have one on hand. Our work over the past year has been mostly ephemeral installation in public spaces. But we were intrigued. After all, we often combine suminagashi and text.

We are not traditional book artists so we decided to play with the form of a book– keeping the interactive and narrative elements, and evoking the sense of wonder that comes from opening a volume for the first time. A box, like a book, holds the unknown. Working with sculptural elements instead of a traditional printed book gave us the opportunity for the narrative to be carried through to the outside form, offering a tactile experience that serves as a link to memory.

The poem came first. It is 36 stanzas of linked verse, in the tradition of the Japanese renga. As a homage to its origins, the renga opens with our translation of Basho. In addition, this renga is divided into thematic sections which include travel, home, the Gothic, astronomy, and the seasons.
We wrote it collaboratively over a two day period, alternating stanzas or links. Each section of poetry responds to the previous one, both reflecting it and breaking away on its own. The sculptural element can be viewed as the first and last stanza in the poem, or even a kind of shadow that tags along, something that stays with the viewer while they are engaged with the text.

The text was then printed on to two decks of 18 cards each. The cards follow the poem, and include suminagashi done in the traditional approach with black ink.
The box is collaged with Japanese paper. It references boxes of cake found everywhere in Japanese train stations. The treat is taken home to share and the box serves as a memento.

The title “Souvenir” evokes both memory and immediacy. How do we perceive and express the moment? Can that expression also be what reminds us of where we’ve been?

The poem was written collaboratively by Miriam and Isabel. Concept by Miriam. Fabrication including printing, design, suminagashi, and collage by Isabel.

How fun!
this spring, again
the traveler’s song
-Basho

songbird’s tiny egg
in chicken yard

under a cactus
psychedelic desert
skull, gently resting

a lizard
on petrified wood

four planets
hang brightly at dusk—
red lampshade

the door propped open
crickets chirp in the moon

Milky Way
separates the lovers,
you take my hand

waiting for the dawn
on the roof, trespassing

children move rocks
in the arroyo,
chamisa blooms

wish upon a penny
an eyelash, a sidewalk crack

woman in white
stares at us through the window
glowing red eyes

the grownups won’t believe us—
pinky swearing our secret

river
wears the canyon down
as time does me

a mushroom peaks through the snow,
no fairy rings this time

vast caverns
the drip drip
of patient water

cracks run through the earth
like memories, like words

too hot too soon
we sleep with windows open,
edge of the bed

wedding guests
chat about divorce

love in Ohio
spring storms, trees and wires
litter the streets

gentle rain
open mouthed kiss

black dog
under the truck, shadow
in the shade

traveling across my land
coyotes eat the berries

snail
leave me some lettuce
please

a bull snake in the tree
is carefully relocated

is that
a woman wailing
or just the wind?

an old story
to scare bad children

a fox cooks udon
in mist, only the hungry
can find him

the witch’s house
turns on chicken legs

New Year’s day
everyone on the train
is going home

a single pink mochi cake
a celebration

the kami return
to the mountains,
cranes start flying

huddled in the kitchen
sustained by hot tea

a stranger
In a strange land
the rabbit’s ear twitches

car radios’ oldies
aren’t old enough for me

going nowhere fast
I feel limitless
who are you?

just another pilgrim
staff blooming in spring.

text on suminagashi, reads- love in Ohio/spring storms, trees and wires/litter the streets

Photographs by Matthew Morrow

 

 

Spilled Ink

Found a copy of Maternal Mitochondria’s art project Spilled Ink in the shelves… If someone tries to buy this, Collected Works Bookstore is going to be really confused! Spilled Ink is a small chapbook filled with poetry, photography, and suminagashi from an artist residency at Wildacres in North Carolina. We had just read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, and I participated in the community that grew up around the book, sending free copies to people around the world (and sometimes getting weird, awesome book art in return). So we decided that Spilled Ink would not be purchasable, and would mostly be given to people who asked for it… I say mostly because I definitely foisted off a few on my poor friends! So it’s super fun to still find copies of this hidden around town.