the View from 2323 by Lew Blink
(this was written directly after the events of September 24th and 25th.)
This project that began as a simple Dumpster Diving experience and spiraled into a complex view of history, identity and cultural exploration. The layers of understanding the nature of this artistic experience needs a written explanation and to reach that gnosis requires a map. We will use Ken Wilber‘s work on the 4 Quadrants as a basis for digging deeper into the Art, the History, the Story and the Meaning behind The Strange Folk Festival installation called The View from 2323
Interior -Individual It began with an envelope and a name. George A Seib. My life as a dumpster diver up until now has been a self sustaining endeavor. When the books, and folders were discovered it began an exploration of identity. Who was this man? What is his relation to the house? Using clues from within the Death Purge, it slowly uncovered a remarkable history that seemed to be forgotten. It was to be me and George in our own journeys of self discovery. Coming at a personal time of disorder and chaos I sought sanity in studying the patterns of his identity and his obsessive drive. The overlaps in our shared interests were nothing short of compelling. After some time and the purchase of a Reel to Reel, my friend Mike and I listened to the otherworldly speeches of Carrie Seib, George’s mother. As strange as the project began it spiraled into worlds that tested my sanity and shook my world view to the core. The Art project took form as I approached Autumn from Strange Folk Festival about presenting these discoveries in the very neighborhood that George loved. Lafayette Square. We begin here with two men, a deceased Anthropologist Medical Doctor who’s life long curiosity of human behavior would culminate into actions to ensure his mother’s passionate spirituality would not be forgotten and a obsessive dumpster diving Artist who couldn’t let the discovery of this story be lost in the sands of time.
Exterior- Individual When the project began to coalesce it was important to maintain a vein of consistency and cohesion. Early experiments in Identity exploration are reflected in the double sided panels. George’s clippings were from a time frame from 1928 to 1982. It is unknown if a selection of the folders ended up in the land fill and I theorize some did. The 30 folders found reflected a wide interest in topics and subjects but ultimately are a collection cultural characteristics mirrored on both sides by his intent and happenstance advertising, news and history of America. In order to display as much patterned data as possible and keep the narrative concise we utilized the collection in a careful manner. Supplies were either dumpstered or gifted by friends. Very little money was used to create the installation. The four main panels are reflections of George and the final panel is for Carrie. The double sided panels are former closet doors built into a frame work of two original Lafayette square French glass doors. I titled the panels in order, 1. Origins of shape, 2. Assembling Obsession, 3. Scripting a Lifestyle and 4. Domestica and the Goddess. Within each Panel is a personal artifact containing the title and the clues to content. Each panel is in itself an Artistic expression using the material of Dr. Seib. Another layer is the overarching journey he took to his unrealized internal obsession, the remembrance of his mother’s work. The Windows in the center are the data collected on the 4 archetypes of our story. Paternal model Conrad Fink, the Merchant Augusta Nasse, the Mystical Carrie Seib and the Scientist George. All of the windows are from dumpsters. A secret Lafayette Square addition is the piano benches from a local Baptist church and the 1940’s era tithing and expense reports inside. The visual experience is not meant to completely tell the entire story but alludes to aspects of the historical continuum. I suggest taking in the entirety and drawing subjective conclusions before delving into the story. Perhaps you will see a bit of yourself within the experience.
Relational-Cultural The term Dumpster Archeology is very apt in this case. We are telling a story via the archeological remains of one man’s life.. To tell such a story requires following the trails and evidence that are left behind. Within the brown carefully folded papers are those clues. Who was George A Seib? His story could not be complete without the story of his mother. She could not have succeed in her spiritual outputs without the house. The house itself is a wormhole of people and influences that manifested in time and was shaped by the culture and history of this neighborhood and city. At the core of this project are 4 people. Conrad Fink, Augusta Nasse, Carrie Seib and George A Seib. Many others are only actors in our story, but stars of their own dramas. Piecing together a narrative involved many months of research and exploration. The basic story involves one man, whose scientific desire at understanding the nature of humanity is put at odds from the one person in the world that mattered more than anyone. His own mother. As she descended into spiritualism, channeling, spirit writing and altruistic sermons, he wrestled with the contrast of otherworldly entities and his own simple understanding of reality. His place within the academic world would indicate an inclusive perspective of race, gender and a shared common ancestral origin. As a proponent to the restoration of Lafayette Square he maintained a monk like lifestyle and community oriented focus on doing the “good work”. After her death, he and his sister would painstakingly honor their mother and attempt to prove her worthy of a historical footnote. The exhibit is an effort to show the details, the history and the passions of very real people. As an artist and amateur archeologist the goal was to show the public a legitimate attempt at historical preservation but with a intuitive reflective eye of interpretation. As we explore the levels of meaning, we must allow the notion that meaning is both subjective and elusive. Moving forward it is simple enough to say that the story is …True Enough
Exterior-Collective Previous to the introduction of the dumpstered materiel, I marveled at the house while I walked my new neighborhood. This house spoke to me. It’s garden overgrown and unusual placement of house. The large fence and worn out exterior were enticing as fodder for a story book tale. I imagine children of the neighborhood avoiding the haunted mansion and a sinister reputation. Other details stood out like the outdoor study, and new beams in the alley saving the brick wall from collapse. This house was loved at one time. As I found the pieces left by contractors refinishing some bathroom and tossing old linen and lace brown with age I became entranced. The folders were showed to friends, and the story told online as it progressed, it seemed as if the eyes of the world waited to see what treasures it would hold. The project never failed to disappoint. That evening me and Mike heard Carrie’s voice the first time come across the Reel to Reel tapes and I understood the words as mystical. My own personal journey with real channelers and spiritual seekers had long taken hold and I asked…. Why me? The answer was simple, no one else but an obsessive dumpster diver with a unusual taste for the weird could have appreciated such a find. The drive to uncover was unusual and manic, equally motivating was the desire to share. The work of Carrie and George needed to be seen. I have joked this project is a sort of exorcism. If the ghost of George haunts those walls, if his consciousness is locked in to the paper-streams and audio files, then surely his dying wish must be fulfilled. Remember her, he whispers throughout the garden. When I found the dusty book of poetry at the WashU Olin Library and her face was on the inside cover, I cried. When I counted the poems per chapter and number of chapters and found 23 and 23 it didn’t surprise me. If reality is as plain and ordinary as television would tell you, then tell me how is any of this possible? Perhaps history is much stranger than we suppose. It could be time to confront the ghosts of the past and let them tell us what they saw without prejudices. As Carrie put it in her first poem. The Truth is in the Light.