Chinatown directed by Roman Polanski (1974)
A private detective investigating an adultery case stumbles on to a scheme of murder that has something to do with water in Los Angeles.
Joshua Tree, CA
The trajectory from the playlist to the written/2-dimensional inspiration to the work at Intersection:
Megan Wilson: My playlist was developed as a meditation on “vanquished terrains” as territories of conflict, defeat, and victory. I selected: 1) the film Chinatown based on its complex narrative reflecting the historical disputes over land and water rights that raged in southern California during the 1910s and 1920s; 2) the location Joshua Tree for its majestic beauty and its representation of the ability of life to adapt to and flourish in the face of extreme and unfavorable conditions; and 3) Arvo Pärt’s Sarah Was Ninety Years Old from the album Miserere for its slow, meditative tempo and minimalism.
Hugh Behm-Steinberg: My response to Megan’s playlist was that I found the prompts to be heavy, almost ponderous. As a counter I picked a species of bird, the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet found in Joshua Tree that, despite its fancy name, is one of the smallest birds found in North America, and a very energetic bird, always in motion, resourceful, flitting (for the past year I have been working on a series of poems incorporating species of birds found in various bio-regions). I then took language from the Chinatown script pertaining to water and combined it with biblical text, which struck me as about delight, of the absurdity of becoming a parent at the age of 90. The poem is full of will, of deciding amidst set boundaries, mixing information about the biology and habits of these birds with imperatives and struggles drawn from the Bible and the script. A tiny bird in a place not much inclined towards tiny birds.
Megan Wilson: My response to Hugh’s poem was inspired by the decadent, baroque imagery that the work elicited for me in contrast and support of the struggle and elegance I reflected on through my playlist. Based on this opposition/accord, I conceived of a hungry, yet dignified pigeon and its offspring demonstrating their need for help in contrast to the decadent and precious Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.
Re-interpretation/contemporary expression of the traditional “broadside”:
For the exhibition at Intersection for the Arts Megan created a series of hand-painted signs with:
1. Decorative imagery and imperatives from the text of Hugh’s poem; and
2. The plea “Help” in different languages
3. The birds images from the traditional broadside
The installation reflected on how the demonstration/protest sign has become one of the most used and effective forms of viral messaging as a contemporary broadside. The signs were made from 1/4″ plywood, ranging in size from 8″ x 6″ to 28″ x 18″ with text and imagery painted in black against color backgrounds.
In addition to the signs on the wall, the installation provided stacks of signs on the floor for visitors to take for FREE.