Myth For Allies: THESIS, Day 79

[Below is a text I have written for the catalogue for the 2017 OSU MFA thesis show. It is a sequel to a previous Minus Plato post, which you can read here. Congratulations to all the graduating artists: Allison Rose Craver, Tess Elliot, Nick Fagan, sarah goetz, Jessie Horning, Emma Kindall, Yuanyuan Lu, Sean R. Merchant, Sa’dia Rehman, Hillary Nicole Reed, Cameron Sharp, Sam van Strien, Britny Wainwright, Andrew Wood and Melissa Robert Yes]


I will never forget that day. It was the time after the inauguration, but before the wall. You used to meet downtown every morning, all of you together, the whole group. You would tell me about it afterwards, describing the specifics of the weekly ritual. How you would grab coffee and then walk along the river for an hour. You were all so sad and angry, but still you needed this time to laugh together, arms around each other’s shoulders, talking about your work and what you were planning next. You told me that you knew it would end, that it couldn’t last, but none of us knew about the disaster ahead. Remember the nightmares? How you would wake in the middle of the night, sweat dripping down your face and beard, with her screams ringing in your ears and the image of her being pulled by her hair into the car and them driving off. You knew you all had to run, but how could you let her go after what she had shown you? There was so much guilt and shame after that. Then came the monitoring, the arrests, the deportations. First the meetings, then the phone calls stopped. Some of you left town. We never again met in person and then you stopped calling me. You disappeared. I always wondered if you went back home to the UK. All I have left now is the memory of that precious day when you invited me to join you.

We had met up early – Flynn had just resigned and you wanted to tell me how you thought this would be the beginning of the end. The investigation would have to start and then he’d be impeached. Then the time came for you to go to meet the group. You turned back to me and said: “Today, you are coming too – there is something you need to see with us”. You started running to the river, with me struggling to keep up. When you arrived at the group, assembled by the benches, they all looked at you, then at me, a stranger, breathless and lagging behind you. You told them it was ok and that they should follow you as there was something they all needed to see. Leaving the river, we came to a tall glass building. You gestured at the window and told us to look through the glass to the cavernous room below. We could make out some words on a wall. “This is for us”, you said, “And don’t you forget it!”. Reading the three statements, well, they were more like instructions numbered 1, 2, 3, we laughed nervously as we realized your joke. Moving away from the window, ready to head back to the river, you stopped us. “There’s more inside. Come on. Let’s go in”. Some of the group were worried about breaking the routine, the ritual. Others agreed. “Come along with me”, you said, “today we will hold a different kind of parade!”

So in we went, holding our collective breath. After going down some stairs, we arrived at a long corridor with strange pictures and objects hanging on the walls on either side accompanied by small white plaques. “Come on, we have to move quickly. I have to introduce you to someone”, you whispered impatiently. There was palpable excitement in your voice as you led us down the corridor towards a set of open double doors. Waiting for us was a small middle-aged woman in a blue pantsuit. Her eyes glittered as she welcomed you. “You made it. Oh, and you brought the group. Good. Very good”. “Can you show them too?”, you asked. “Yes, of course. But first, let me explain. What you are about to see is only for you and your group. You have to keep it to yourselves and not tell anyone else.” At her words I felt everyone’s eyes turn on me. I looked at you and pointed at the door, suggestively. But you made a gesture with your hand indicating me to stay put. “Everything here was made for you. In fact, although it may be strange for you to hear, everything here was made by you. I am told it is called the Myth for Allies – I know it is an odd title – it supposedly has something to do with an ancient tablet or perhaps a chariot. I don’t really know. Anyway, I am just a caretaker here, I have no more I can tell you”. Then, with a twirl, she moved aside and pointed into the cavernous room we had glimpsed through the outside window. Slowly, all together, arms around shoulders, hands in hands, the group shuffled into the dark.

The sound was the first thing that struck us. There was a faint echo of someone singing, accompanied by the pulsating rhythms of an intense workout session. At one point I thought I heard the opening piano theme to the old children’s TV show Bagpuss. As our eyes became accustomed to the dark, we started to see some vague sources of light. In one corner, a monitor with a moving figure was set above an armchair with an illuminated game controller with the subtle glow of a vitrine to one side. In another corner, the flicker of disco-lights accompanied a cellphone, which on closer inspection was playing a video of a group of partially masked people involved in a weird parade. At the back of the room there were three large screens all connected in a U-shape and then behind us I could make out three smaller screens with words and a figure dressed in red. As we examined the walls in this half-light, we could see ghostly faceless portraits of a family, a building accompanied by indecipherable text and a whole wall covered in multitude of geometric forms. In the center of the room was gathered a strange assortment of objects. There was a group of things made from the same kind of material – a section of wall built onto some kind of bed or stretcher, a series of tile-like objects precariously balanced on plinths and then colored blobs that seemed to emerge from the floor. Behind a white wall and a rickety wooden house-like structure, there was what could only be described as an armored bicycle. At the very center of the whole assemblage there stood colorful cut-outs of humans and a black dog next to a tangle of iron within which I could decipher a word in Latin and various body parts. I remember you picking up a bow and arrow which you found hanging on a wall and aiming it at me, wryly demanding me to explain everything I saw. The whole group was buzzing and chattering as our guide led us back into the well-lit corridor.

In the light, I looked around at everyone else. I had no idea what had just happened, what I had seen, what it meant, but I quickly realized that you were all grinning and vibrating with a special kind of joy and excitement. You all somehow understood exactly what it meant, this Myth of Allies. Some of you started singing in a kind of spontaneous karaoke and you were still hugging each other as the caretaker ushered us all out into the morning light. We all know what happened next – the car, her abduction, the fear, the separations and the sequence of disasters. But you must understand, I needed to write this down so that there was some kind of record, no matter how partial and inadequate, of that moment of happiness you all felt in the cavernous room. You once told me that attention is the fuel of experience and perhaps I just wanted you to know that I was paying attention. I don’t know if this will every reach you. But if it does, please share it with the others. Tell them I remember. Tell them not to give up. Tell them to stay allies together.

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