"How to be a Ghost" was created at the Safehouse Arts RAW (Resident Artist Workshop), Safehouse Arts, San Francisco, CA 2016
Original video work contributed by Giffen Clark Ott
“How to be a Ghost” delves deeply into an artist's desire for meaning and airs personal questions of significance, the soul, and the self. Confronted with the ephemerality of human life and the absolution of death, we question the probability of a soul. “How to be a Ghost” depicts the idealist, realist, and pessimist beliefs concerning the soul and its residual ghosts. It investigates the sensation of presence and examines the body, the ego, and the soul as separate components of the human experience. By utilizing research within sculpture and performance, the work examines our definitions of the body and the object, the animate and the inanimate, the permanent, the changing, and the ephemeral. The work depicts both art and the body as a vessel for meaning with content as the soul. In an attempt to interpret the human need for profundity and portray the conclusion of our common fate, “How to be a Ghost” is a make believe guide to coping with an existential crisis.
I forget how big a room is. I wake (feverishly) assaulted by how closely a ceiling lay over my eyes. I am my truest self at 3:00 am. I forget everything and start over. Default, re-configuring memory. I am at that moment a vessel that does not yearn to be filled. I cherish moments when I forget everything.
That which is empty can still hold shape. I make no promises. Presence within this room does not imply presence within. What do our bodies allude to? Are we hinting at space? Are we containers or the contained?
The Ocean is deeper than the tallest mountain. The ambition of Mt. Everest can only raise us an eye above the tide. We are more deep than tall, more in than out. Gravity is absolute yet bathymetry shifts. When is a mountain at the bottom of the sea and when is a mountain not an island? When we do ascend to greatness? Are we to sink or soar? Geology informs geography. My idealistic self is a dune, waiting for time and pressure to form me eternal.
My Mother has an old house. My Mother had a cistern. Beneath our feet it pooled and each day it rose to kiss me. To wash my hands, my face, my lips. At first it would arrive cold, pulled from old iron pipes. I’d let it run over my hands until it warmed. It came from the grave to kiss me and to give life.
Water never disappears. It’s our blood, our urine, and our tears. It escapes in our breath on cold days and out our eyes when it’s windy. Fleeing underground, into the air and sea. The ocean is salted by our skin and tears.
By definition, I am a plumber’s trap.
Baroness Elsa von Freitag-Loringhoven
When I drink a glass of water and urinate in unison, I am a waterfall.
I like to think I am a waterfall. That’s when water catches flight, when it is also air, when it is also alchemy. I am without weight. An attempt at flight, jump off a cliff to become mist, to be missed. Waterfall, waterfall.
I erased my pencil; a shallow canyon, serpentine on the field. As water resting on clay pan, seeking shade in soil. By my hand, by memory, there’s a weight left from words. There’s a grave.
I don’t know what to do with my body. I like to find use for things. People and things are valued for their usefulness.
I pray that I can be a vessel, simply enough.
Fine china in a cabinet. On glass, levitating crafted porcelain, made of bone and intention.
ghost ghost ghost.
God I pray for something
People are valued for their usefulness
Faith, closer to the sun. I stand on a stack of encyclopedias to get closer to God
Snakes have the sun, we have a furnace.
Like honey, crystallized by the cold. I place a shimmer on my finger and watch it come back to life. 1,000 flowers.
I drink tea to rise in temperature.
Walk towards the sun, feel the heat on your face. Walk away from the sun, feel the heat on your back.
We always burned things when they had no use. When we had land (space) we gave everything a second chance. Broken furniture and worn clothing, we heaped it into piles in spare bedrooms and sheds, pulling them out when they were briefly needed. A pageant. We always burned things without use. A large caldera in true-black inky ash. There the skeletons of mattresses, cars, and chairs would collapse into each other like a poorly dug grave. In the spring it became a bramble for morning glories, but we always burned things without use.
Manzanita is serotinous. Its seeds lie dormant in the soil for generations until the hills are swept by fire. It wakes after death, after ashes.
The soul escapes in little breaths, out your pores and orifices. I don’t know what memories a ghost will retain. Maybe its energy that flees my body to become friction in carpet. Maybe it’s all the love I’ve given, all the love I’ve restrained. Shooting into the chest of those in the room, a crystalline spear. Unapologetic romance. My ghost is my heart leftover.
Energy never dies, it transfers. My brother died when he was 19, when I was 17. Am I his ambitions? Unfinished business?
(Loud sound) That deafening slight ring of failing, a woolen blanket over the voice of strangers. Clarity, Its absence is present when you can’t hear music.
It’s a great white shock. When you spend years within the confines of skin to emerge into daylight. Blindness, disregard everything, stumble while dancing. You can’t bruise
I don’t know if it’s erosion or drowning. Is it a weight on your lungs or is it falling apart? I only know that it is a surprise. As if you find blood on the floor only to realize you’ve cut yourself earlier. It comes as a surprise.
At 3:00 am, the door that is often closed is open. Blindly I wander uncharted territories of the hall. Conscious of the sound of my heartbeat and the weight of my feet on a third floor. I am confronted with a wall, my breath bending away from its presence. It is implied, half historic (canonized in my memory) half missing in its future self. A renovation, the breath is the wind. I stand before a window.
It’s a lot like falling. It’s the muscled grasp of your ankles when you fear a fall. The ghost anticipating escape, hoping to fly out from the bottom of your feet.
Permanence and stillness are not real. Mountains bend in wind. Your bones are seeking freedom from flesh. They push through your fingers and skull, hair and nails moving as fast as mountains. Giving pressure, they want you to be a beast, with claws, wild, looking like death. We are always concealing death.
I don’t know where ghosts go. Hiding in the hinges of doors, under the veneers of old tables, seeping into porcelain. Objects become antiques by contact with flesh and time.
When you walk into a room the mass of your body displaces air. It passes through panes of glass and presses into your lungs, a haunting. It pulls past the door behind you. Is this the breath, the ghost, the gas of a house taking flight? Is this your spirit, the mass of your body measured and pushed out? The weight of your words?
A house sits in a grave, its feet in soil, it’s foundation in earth. A house reaches towards heaven, with the ambition to be a tower. Every architect seeks to build monuments. A home is occupied, filled.
A woman is possessed by unborn children. A woman is a house for future ghosts. Pilgrims seeking enlightenment (light) when the time is right. A woman is an apartment building. A woman is plural, she is multitudes.
sourdough - mother yeast - rise - fire – consume
house – home
woman – mother
sea – tears
body – soul
Walls are not real, by definition they are not absolute. Gypsum, white powder, your barricade is chalk dust. It’s porous skin, soaking in my breath.
When my brother died, my mother took a bat to a wall in the hallway. The bedroom had no windows. She broke it through, smashing through the absolute to let the light in. Ventilation, a punctured lung to keep from suffocating.
Hinting at empty spaces, undetermined but existing firmly in my mind. The perception of pure feeling and perception itself. Ghost stories
Some songs are louder in silence, more resounding in absence. White paintings - 4:33
Where do I stop? Where are my possessions not the possessed? Is the sweat on my pillow me or mine? Is my breath my body when it is in my lungs? When it is exhaled? Is a ghost mine or is it exhaled? If I give heat in an embrace, if I give love, make love, do we become each other? Hearts give heat, do they give love, give life to strangers? Life beyond body and life after death.