October 04, 2021

A Figure That Decomposes

The model Fabio killed a goose while baptizing Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg on March 30, 1999. Or the roller coaster killed the goose and Fabio was the accessory. Fabio sustained minor injuries that looked spectacular because of all the attention and because headwounds bleed profoundly. The goose had been tending to her nestlings on the wooded creek that preceded any roller coasters. Fabio understood the tragedy: “It was not a freak accident, and it’s going to happen again. A person — or even a child — [or even a goose —] can be killed.”

Some people like that sort of adjacency but not me.

When I was twenty I went to the Lenbachhaus by myself to see a large room for one sculpture by Dan Flavin. I thought I went because I was lonely but now I know it was to see the sculpture, a white fluorescent tube mounted across the far left corner. As I faced it the security guard came to tell me I could step inside. I ducked under the tube and looked out at the bisected room. If the marine layer is low at sunset the horizon can glow sort of like this. I am reminded of an installation artist I used to be acquainted with who was angry and jealous that all “they” used to have to do was paint. Well, it seems to me that painting has come back around and also that “we” don’t have to do anything at all. Art is funny in that it can explain or justify or necessitate many kinds of emptiness.

In the state of California you can’t just go get yourself eaten by a bear anymore. I’m manifesting being eaten by a grizzly bear. I wish I were a caveman, having a nice life then being a bear’s dinner. Less of everything, more getting eaten by a bear. To enter bear and become bear. Ursus arctos californicus went extinct in 1922 or 1924 so it’s not like you had to be prehistoric. I can’t be certain that none of my ancestors were eaten by a bear but everyone would think I’m the first. I never asked for anything except this useful bear death. When the technologists travel to Mars I’ll stay here on Earth and get eaten by a nice warm bear. Do any humans ever get gently eaten on the bear cam? I don’t want the bear to get in trouble. Tell them it was my idea.

There’s another white fluorescent tube hanging like a crooked painting in a cramped hallway at the Met. Sorry Dan you can’t just paint anymore.

“He was dead and approximately seventy pounds of him was consumed or lost as fluid.” As Stephen Herrero explains in Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance (which I perused although my goals are different), under normal circumstances and counter to their reputation, bears are not inclined to attack humans. Even amongst themselves most conflicts are settled through performing a willingness to do violence, because a bear  — even a mother bear — can be killed.

In other circumstances, such as when “we” install ourselves and our great heaping piles of edible garbage into a bear’s circumstances, I mean how is the bear to know the difference? I extrapolate.

“You could eat maybe twenty pounds of me.”

grizzly bear mother and cub walk down through green brush from upper right to lower left of image. a pixellated and green and red hued stripe of river is appended to the bottom edge of the image.

The river is swift and shady brown-green, with clear riffles over smooth sedimentary rocks, and steep wet banks and trees overhead. The river is too shallow for swimming and there are water striders and small rainbow trout. The river gets sun at the swimming hole but you have to walk along the railroad tracks to get there and there are cautionary films to discourage that. The river dries up sometimes. The river looks slow but is too deep and wide to swim and many people have died trying. You hike to the river and find a scratched-up tube of SPF 45 wedged between boulders. There is a highway on one side of the river. The river is lazy. The river’s industry was abandoned for coal. The river is so deep in the gorge it made you can hear but not see it. The river looks oily and its broad flat muddy banks are flecked with sparkling trash and fragments of crab shells and there’s one bright white egret and some Canada geese. There are perfect round tufts of tall grasses. The river doesn’t appear to flow one way or another and smells beautiful, like decay. This is how I remember it.

Thank you to Megan Prelinger and the Prelinger Archives for the video footage, GrizzlyBearsMamaBabyTrundleThroughGrainySoftFocusTooClose_M-0027.mov, which has been altered here.

Comments (1)

  • fantastic. love the transition from flavin and the emptiness of contemporary museum to you are consumed as bear snack – you vanish but the bear is full. the imbalance of culture and environment made my hair curl just a bit more than peppery soft drinks.

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