Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scratching the Surface

For this project titled Stop Carrying Out Your Intentions and Wait For My Signals, we're considering the blog as a distant cousin to the ship's log. Our intention is to update entries related to our work in Portland, our research into the maritime history of the region, and how this may all fit together; an archive of what goes (went, eventually) into this experience. Taking our cue from the protagonist in Herman Melville's White Jacket or, The World in a Man-of-War,

It was nothing more than a white duck frock, or rather shirt; which, laying on deck, I folded double at the bosom, and by then making a continuation of the slit there, opened it lengthwise-- much as you would cut a leaf in the last new novel. The gash being made, a metamorphosis took place, transcending any related by Ovid. For, presto! the shirt was a coat!

The image above is a prototype. All of the signage for that work and the pieces that will appear in Portland can be deciphered here.

Something we keep thinking about is how this project (and our time in Portland) in some ways mirrors our life on the Thea Foss waterway in Tacoma. Photograph above is of the Murray Morgan Bridge, now closed to vehicular traffic (this image was taken March 18, 2007). Murray Morgan was a bridge tender there, where he penned his work, Skid Road. Thanks to History Link for this essay, and thanks to The News Tribune and Tacoma Public Library for archiving his obituary here, and more importantly, a collection of his essays here.

The House Bill commemorating Morgan's achievement utilizes language in a manner similar to Melville. Is language maritime? Maritime language? Son of a son of a sailor?

A deep interest in investigating the signal flags is how they have been compromised in terms of their content-- when we went out to decipher the flags (above), we were saddened to find that the letters didn't add up; nonsense. What does this intone for our proposal? As (now) students of the language used for centuries to safely traverse foreign waters, what does it mean that the language has been (if not lost, then) transferred to something..else? Does it look better? What is the purpose of a visual language without a translation?

The images above were photographed at Tacoma's Tall Ships festival on the Thea Foss Waterway, for an upcoming project at galleryHomeland as part of the program Scratching the Surface.

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