the evolving pastoral

Rousseau’s tomb on the Ile des Peupliers, Ermenonville.  Design by Hubert Robert with sculpture by Le Sueur, c. 1780-1785.

René de Girardin’s tomb to Rousseau was a monument to the natural man before he is corrupted by society (Richard A. Etlin, The Architecture of Death, the MIT Press, 1984).  The moral force of the landscape garden prompts virtuous thoughts as death loses its frightful mien.  Death, decay, and its disintegration into nothingness are nowhere to be found.

A stroll through the eighteenth-century landscape garden “was like a journey through an externalized portrait of the mind and a record of the heart.” (Etlin)

John McCracken, Guardian, 1985

McCracken’s hand-crafted objects are labored over to reproduce the seamless surface of technology.  The hand-rendered technological object produces an effect he thought of as a hallucination of an alternative reality, or UFO technology.  Here, death in the garden is cold, the elegiac has become alien.  It sits apart on the landscape, its dialogue exists only in its surface reflection.

Like the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, it questions life.  The reality of the monolith stimulates a group of apes to violent, aggressive behavior mocking the moral virtues of Rousseau’s natural man.  As the bone-weapon is launched by one of the apes, the film cuts to the floating satellite.  The natural (a piece of skeletal remains) morphs into the technological retaining its destructive potential in human hands.  Life can only be examined in relationship to its opposite: death. Kubrick’s film is set against the blank canvas of space, The Blue Danube its only reference to the pastoral.  Man’s technology is the winner and man himself is the loser in the dance of life and death.

This drawing continues to catalog the development of the kitty-quilt piece.  The drawing shows the placement of text and the addition of large fiberglass panels that repeat the geometric perspective of the box pattern from the quilt.  The archaic craftsmanship of the quilt contrasts with the flattened geometry of the fiberglass resin boxes.  The monolith is self-mocking, the quilt is traditionally produced as a laborious “record of the heart” here made dystopian by photoreproductions of cats from the internet.  The pastoral stimulant of a garden stroll to promote virtue supplanted by the passive viewing of the screen which becomes a “retreat from the burdens of modern consciousness, from boredom and isolation and helplessness.” (Steve Almond, “The iPads Are Coming!,” New York Times Magazine, June 23, 2013.