Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Story Garments

I've been listening to a few audiobooks lately.  I just finished the two Patrick Rothfuss novels, the latest installment in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, and also his Codex Alera series.  I've rediscovered my fantasy fiction geek roots from when I was in junior high, and I'm thoroughly enjoying myself.

Playing D & D
It's put me in a storytelling state of mind.  Not only have I rediscovered that great " I can't put it down" feeling, but it's started me on a path of thinking that I can't seem to stop following...  I don't want to turn around and go back--I'm really enjoying my idea trajectory even though I don't have a clue as to where I'm going...

I've always wanted to tell great epic stories, too.  I think that's why I was such a D&D geek growing up--I like sitting around a table with friends experiencing a great story and participating in it's creation.  I used to read books that allowed me to "structure" my imagination with rules and dice, spinning contexts waiting to become stories with the help of my friends.  That game gave me a method to play "pretend" as an adult.

Set Design for a Play
I think underneath all of that, I've always wanted to comment on the human condition, and create work that is as involving and enveloping as these grand fantasy narratives.  I think theatre provided me another way to share my imagination: plays and dramatic structure.  I think the theatre became my new set of rules, and I eagerly dove into each story to share in it's telling with an audience.

Now, I think I'm ready to move on to my next step.

But not with words.  I can't write worth diddly--not in that structured form, anyway.

Joseph Cornell
Joseph Cornell
This led me to start thinking about how artists tell stories using objects and not text.  Almost any artist does this to some extent--some art is more narrative than others, but every image, painting, sculpture, or performance tells a story somewhat.  I thought of Joseph Cornell, the famous assemblage artist and sculptor, who made wonderful shadow boxes that evoked a sense of nostalgia, abstraction, and reflection, and really set the tone for our contemporary assemblage art.  His little box worlds were fascinating peeks into a sliver of expression that hearkened to any number of emotional states, drawing out of the viewer an individual connection unique to each person.   He juxtaposed everyday objects next to each other, and created an sort of visual poem that elicited an emotional state from each viewer.

Joseph Campbell
Which led me to think about another guy I like.  For a while now I've been an outside fan of the ideas of Joseph Campbell.  For those that don't know anything about him, he's a philosopher that is probably most famous for his work with mythology, and he's often held up as an influence on George Lucas for his Star Wars trilogies.  Lucas used a lot of Campbell's ideas in the formulation of his story.

I've just begun to scratch the surface of Campbell--I've not read any of his work but I plan on it.  He's one of those people that I know I need to familiarize myself with, so I'm exploring his foundation's website and ordering some of his books.  I'm enticed with his ideas regarding the similarities in our global mythologies and epic storytelling.  I'm intrigued by his Jungian expansion of the collective unconscious.

Cat Johnston, "King of Wasps"
I also thought of Cat Johnston (same last name!!  Haha!), a newer sculpture artist that has made her own pantheon of "personal gods".

But all of this is leading up to creating stories without using words, by using art and symbols and garments to draw upon a universal narrative...  I've been trying to wrap my head around this idea as it's been skulking in the corners of my brain lately...  I'm not quite sure how to articulate it, but it's kept my mind buzzing for a while now.  It feels kind of half-formed, really--I don't know how it's going to turn out in the end or if it's even going to result in anything.

But I have this feeling, this protoplasmic idea that I can tell stories with clothes.  "Story Garments".  I'm not sure how...  I'm not sure I can really explain what I mean since I can't even describe what I'm trying to do, but there's something about this that won't let me let it go...  I've been thinking about it for a long while now, and I'm no closer to an end result than where I was when it bubbled up inside me...

Snape Costume
But it's more than a mere costume.  More than a physical distillation of someone's personality or social status or job... These garments wouldn't rely upon a vocal narrative or theatrical expression to make sense.  They wouldn't be a snapshot of a particular emotional state or idea--they'd be deeper than that...  Can a garment tell a narrative story on it's own?  Can a painting?

Should it?  Can a narrative (or suggestion of one) be incorporated into a garment so intrinsically that when one looks at it, one comprehends a tale that's more than the sum of the garment's parts?

We have lots of practice working in the other direction.  We create garments that suggest characterization for different roles--Snape's flowing academic robes ooze "pretentious bad guy".  But do we look at them and distill a story from his attire?  Can that be done?  Can we look at a garment like we do Joseph Cornell's boxes?

"Deathly Hallows" Necklace
I see these collections of props and accessories based on popular literature and movies, marketed by large companies and riding on the backs of stories and movies that have sparked our collective interest and imagination.  Companies like Warner Brothers  and The Noble Collection that are making jewelry and wands and chess sets for various movie franchises...  Harry's wand, the One Ring,  an Avatar choker or dagger...  These are objects representative of a larger whole, indeed.  But you don't look at these items and read a story.

But is it possible to create personal heirlooms, totems, jewelry or garments that aren't just "parts" of the story,  but communicate the story themselves?  Is it possible, in a Sherlock Holmes-ian fashion, to read an object's history or personality like a person would read a book?  Is it possible to guide a person's observations, or "how" one looks at something?

I don't know.  I've heard that Chinese writing is actually made up of characters that are representative of a picture.  That each "letter" is actually an idea abstractly codified in a series of lines and distilled from a picture or image.  Is it possible to do something similar with garments?  One of the fantasy books I read has a language in it that one writes by tying knots in a string, and reading with one's fingers instead of one's open eyes.  Is it possible to sew a language into a garment?

Hm.  I need to ponder this some more.  Any thoughts?

Until next time, Live Life with Relish!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Corey, if anyone can make this happen, I will be betting on you! it sounds like it could be a pretty involved undertaking, but you have certainly been thinking it thru. All you need is that first, workable plan that will carry over into many pieces, right? I'll be looking forward to hearing and seeing more.
    Hope you have fun plans for the weekend!


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