2005, color video loop with sound, 11;11; well of ornamental ceramic bricks, 52” diameter. Video may shown separately.
Fleece is a one-ring circus containing an “animal act,” self-reflexive surveillance, and a place to wonder and dream. It addresses issues of animal nature, the promise of rescue and the fear of attack, and the protection of or control over our most vital resources, water and air.
Fleece can be a sculpture/video installation or a single channel video projection. The well is 52” wide with an inner diameter of 42”. A video projection from the ceiling fills the floor of the well, creating the illusion of a recession that penetrates the gallery floor. Three speakers are mounted inside the bricks near the bottom of the well so that the sound reverberates within and is most audible when the viewer peers over the edge down into the cylinder. The bricks are substantial, inviting visitors to rest comfortably on the rim as they gaze downward. The video projection, when shown alone, includes the image of the well’s rim with the same video and sound imagery as the sculptural version.
The images and sounds include: a silent white sheep splashing at the bottom as it circles the parameters; a reflection of a helicopter hovering overhead with the bleating of an absent sheep; and the reflections of clouds in undulating water that appears to breath, accompanied by labored human snoring.
Beginning now for your entertainment, a tragedy of all terrestrial animals, dire for many, but maybe not you! It is a tale of thirst and surviving imminent desiccation, set in a hole so deep, it is named well! This communal well, from time immemorial, grants powers and takes them away! Man and beast who drink its waters are domesticated! And those who don’t are banished!
The time is of the quarantine and that it is ours. The light is harsh, the heat oppressive.
85,000 years ago (at the Neolithic site of Atlit Yam, submerged since the last ice age off the coast of contemporary Israel), before pottery, a well of clay and stone bore into the earth, its cavity littered with bones of sheep, goats, and gazelles. The clouds pant as herds on high; the water seeps beneath consciousness. Poison dwells in the well’s depths while the chroniclers declare the poisoner at its periphery.
Witness the maligned, marginal, impure — caught at the edge! Grasp the well’s cold hard rim where Athenians blamed Spartans and Gentiles, during the black plagues, slandered and slaughtered Jews!
Ironically, Palestinians (and Amnesty International) prove “Wild Cat” settlers the villains today. These antagonists of peace in Gaza sow rat poison lethal to sheep, goats and gazelles near wells contaminated with dead fowl. The stench of carcasses visits this well, a constant companion of expedient pollutants. The strategy of dumping the dead is particularly effective for the dead decimate on multiple levels. The animals cease their labor. They no longer provide sustenance or income. The water they contaminate is useless.
“Chattel” (meaning goods, cattle, or slaves) and “capital” are both etymologically derived from the proto-Indo European “Kaput,” meaning head of animals, the measure of wealth. The one act of poison both creates and destroys, eradicating livelihoods and spawning subservience. The shepherd is repeatedly fleeced.
Look through this existential oculus! Observe the fleeced, stripped, cheated, swindled ¾ year in and year out! Look down on these tamed dumb beasts! Peer into this peep show of animal locomotion! Take pride in the noble lineage of these fine specimens parading for your pleasure! No mere shadows going round and round in a ring in this greatest show on earth!
The well harkens to the zoetrope’s rotating drum, an early cinematic device that animated still images. Here the well stays still. The sheep move of their own accord and the water churns in circular and slow motion. In maintaining the static camera position and singular take, the origins of cinema and the documentary impulse of its practitioners, the Lumière Brothers, is invoked. The well is a one act stage ring, but the theatrical is eschewed through the restraints of the monocular and monotony. Fleece is a meditation on the ontology of moving pictures.
Levels of mediation are layered. At its greatest depth, the image is a flat, single take projection, an unedited record of “real” time. In between this record and the actual well is the well’s mirrored projection, the transition from the reflected to the “real.” Most immediately, the well stands as a concrete structure, framing the viewer’s experience as the media frames (and separates) all our experience.
In this ring behold our first act, the most popular Border Leicester with Cheviot blood, “founded” during the Age of Enlightenment! Cast your eyes on the lustrous long wool sheep of Leicester that has resided in the “British” Isles since their earliest recorded history! Hear how it beckons in the shade for Jason and the Argonauts to pluck its fleece from the realms of the real!
Also in this very same ring, before your very eyes, a marvel of Modernism basking in the sun, the Katahdin, sired by the ram King Tut and brought to you by the amateur geneticist Michael Piel. From the mountains of Maine, feast your eyes on this tasty, lean, meaty meal in the waiting! Save your shears, for this new and improved breed of white “African Hair Sheep” GROWS NO FLEECE!
Cast your gaze on your own fleeting shadows! Listen to the disturbed breath, almost human, of creatures who have slumbered between the dawn and dusk of man. Beginning now, for your entertainment, a tragedy of all terrestrials…