She watched. Guilt, crime and punishment. Free will played out daily beneath her feet. She drew breath.
A magpie landed on her shoulder. Eyes glinting, it sharpened it’s beak against her neck. Took flight.
“How many times must I start over?”
She knew the answer.
Until you are done.
#30 of 52: Shawn Callahan
Object: A Statue Of An Angel
Themes explored in this work included;
- The symbolic meaning of angels as messengers, or the executors of acts of justice and demonstrations of a higher power. (As an aside, I was fascinated to learn that in 2009, more people in the United States believed in the existence of angels than in global warming.)
- Commitment to completing a task or achieving a goal, whether self-appointed or externally provided and the challenges that this may present.
- The interplay between agency, free will and self-fulfillment within the constraints or boundaries of an assigned task.
- Our inherent drive to communicate and intermittent struggles to connect with others or to capture their attention.
- Justice and concepts of ’fairness’.
- The perceived passing of time.
The work was influenced by references to angels in popular culture, for example;
- Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic books (graphic novels if you’re that way inclined) and the novel Neverwhere, which depict angels as perpetually dis-satisfied beings, despite or perhaps because of their “superhuman” levels of near-perfectionism.
- The movie Dogma, which also featured “fallen angels” who developed a sense of self-motivation and agency, unwittingly set of a chain of near apocalyptic events.
In the final work, an angel struggles to connect with the recipients of a message it has been tasked with delivering. A rather ponderous character, it does not want to rush the task. After all, message sent does not necessarily equate to message understood. The magpie is a metaphor for the recipients – people who live in a minute-to-minute, information rich, entertainment heavy world, saturated in content. They are flighty, interested in ideas and with plenty of distractions, difficult to engage. They perceive the angel as a figure of stone, still and silent.
This perpetual failure to connect is something of a problem for the angel and yet, this situation is what extends it’s life and gives it meaning. When the message is delivered, the angel will cease to exist. As long as it continues in it’s quest, it has a purpose and relevance. Quitting the task infers a path where meaning either doesn’t exist or the angel must create it for itself.
The rub? You don’t really know how things will play out unless you take that step.
Project52 is a participatory art project that explores intrigue and our relationships with objects and people. Provide a photo of an object. Receive an artwork and 52-word story. Reflect. Playback and share.
The project will culminate in an exhibition, when 52 works are completed.