Saturday, May 3, 2014

Taken Aback

 "This boundary stream, that mound, the scattered vestigial enclaves and their speech forms, the lime-washed sacral enclosures; so far by means as fragile, vulnerable and scarcely tangible, these the elusive things of the world have, in a tattered fragmentary sort of way, been tabernacled for us."
 - David Jones,1959,The Dying Gaul + Other Writings

"The mystery of memory is in its loss, the process of oblivion, which brings a flood of recriminations and a multitude of second memories: screens of memory, shows of memory. But the dirt, the ashes and the air of memory still lie around the city. The language of every fragment must be collated with its imagery, with its noise - the components stripped down, with utter brevity, as raw material for identity."
- Stephen Barber, 1995, Fragments of a European City
I and my family have had the pleasure of living in Milledgeville for almost five months in conjunction with my Newell Scholar Residency at Georgia College. On my third day in town I met Elizabeth Wylie on her third day in town. It was kismet. I learned about the beauty and historical fabric that is Andalusia and discovered her approach to engagement and improvisation is like mine. Wham! a collaboration was born. It has yielded an astonishing array of convivial activities from farm-to-table dinners to an exhibition by my seminarians to launch Andalusia's new exhibition and program space. In my seminar "Taken Aback" we engaged place and collective memory. We began by binding a 16th century journal – a field dossier. Our work then involved inventing cartographic translations of remembering, reclamation, and resistance. We traversed the uncanny, and the unknown, regarding place. We looked for fractures, niches and recesses in the continuity of the fabric of our lives, as temporal inhabitants of place; sought the unexpected evidence of histories amber-trapped all around us. We identified intervals, incongruities and ruptures as portals. We laid claim to memories on which we had no moral purchase and then fought for their legitimacy. The seminar involved field research across our town, the study of ecological patches, relearning tools, philosophical readings and discussions, community meals in our portable kitchen, and the printing and binding of our investigations. The prototyping of a book, to eventually send our ideas back out into the world, launched the seminar. In our concluding exhibition at Andalusia, we welcome you to taste the ideas and possibilities we brought to ground to celebrate our urban entanglements and our material archive.  In the exhibition, in collaboration with Elizabeth Wylie and Andalusia, we now present data from our walks, journeys, dreams, and investigations over the last 15 weeks. It is our hope that we have conjured a chorus of voices, situated somewhere between the claims of the past and the needs of the future.  No solutions, just clues.

- Leon Johnson
Georgia College Martha Daniel Newell Distinguished Scholar 2014

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