Year 5, Piece Four: 33. Blue Blue

That's the colour of my room where I will live.

Blue, blue, electric blue that’s the colour of my room where I will live. Blue, blue. 

That’s the line that popped into my head when I drew this week’s card, Blue Blue. It’s my third Blue in a row. I swear I’m shuffling. It’s almost as if after the last two, this card came along to say: “No, really. Blue. Blue BLUE. It’s Blue time.” Okay. I’m paying attention.

Pale blinds drawn all day. Nothing to do, nothing to say. Blue, blue.

I had never thought about David Bowie’s song “Sound and Vision” in the context of quarantine. What it means to be living in one room, day in day out. I don’t even know what color (or colour) I would call this room I am in. Peachy beige? And I suppose I’m not really in this room all day because we are assuming at this point that everyone in this house also has COVID, though gratefully (blessedly) three out of four of us are asymptomatic. And the symptoms I do have are very mild, considering. Even so, when the weekend rolled around I finally claimed the opportunity to fucking rest, breathing freely in one room without a mask. So I laid in bed in that beige room trying to heal, maybe not totally unlike Bowie attempting to sober while writing that song. 

I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision.

One of my very first photo animations I set to “Sound and Vision.” It was technically part of my final project in a Color Theory class. I haven’t thought about this video in a long time, but it popped back into my head along with Blue Blue and that song. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it wasn’t that far off from what I am doing now. Both in technique and in inquiry. Sure, the genesis was a little different: I’m remembering now that my stop-motion practice emerged from being stoned and taking far too many photos on my digital camera. 

But it remains for me a different way of connecting to and capturing a moment. What I do now is perhaps more intentional, but still in the spirit of discovery.

This “Sound and Vision” video was made before I would have (or could have?) easily shared such things on the internet. But I scoured a hard drive, and just as I was about to give up, I found it, along with another video I made at the same time. For both, I had taken all of my (very colorful) clothes and laid them out on my bed in rainbow order. I was probably stoned when I did that too. I followed colorful objects with my camera, looking for moments that matched, assigning significance when they did. I was 19 years old, which I know quickly was fifteen years ago because my sister is 19 right now. And somehow here I am again (or still) making stop-motions in my environment, searching for layers of meaning in colorful objects. The persistence of this practice caught me off guard. What am I looking for here? Whose breadcrumbs am I following? 

I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision.

So now, fifteen years later, here are all the blue things in our house. Not literally all of them because it was a lot of effort just to gather these ones, and certainly not all of the blue things I own because many are in boxes or in storage. But a lot of blue things. I arranged them and photographed them earlier in the week when I should have been napping while the baby was napping while my mom read to D over FaceTime. It felt like a natural thing to do: if I am constantly picking up and sorting toys and dishes and clothes anyway, why not make an installation out of it? So different from that clothing rainbow long ago, mostly in that my possessions have now grown to include a family. A family’s.   

So Blue Blue: what am I trying to communicate and what is communicating through me? With a double color, it goes both ways. This week I am mostly desperately grateful not to have communicated viruses to anyone else. But in a longitudinal sense, as an artist, what am I communicating over time? Does everyone have something like this, some thing trying to make itself known through them? 

Drifting into my solitude, over my head.

Most of the time I’ve spent isolating and resting in this blue blue peachy beige room has been spent reading (reading!) sci-fi, specifically N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy. Her characters listen to and through an angry Earth. Are colors another way that Earth speaks, and that humans speak to Earth? Color is just one tight band of electromagnetic frequencies when the full spectrum is so much more than what is visible. It’s all information, from radio waves to gamma rays. So what is so special about this particular small set of wavelengths? Is it the color waves that are special or the fact that our eyes are tuned to them? Our human eyes are tuned not just for these colors but for this particular planet, this blue blue planet with its skies and oceans.

There is a huge environmental and even human cost to our colorful objects. The mass-produced ones and their untold (and told) toxicities. But even ones dug from the Earth, the crystals and certainly the gem stones. Hell, even the fresh flowers grown and chilled and flown all over the world. The colorful objects I use to adorn myself and my kids and our environment are themselves symbols of how removed I am from their production and their impact. I am terrified of the power we have in this moment in history to conjure and create pigments. And yet I can’t pull myself away. So I collect. And I photograph.

Don't you wonder sometimes about sound and vision?

What are you here to communicate, and what is communicating through you because you are here? 

Blue Blue. 

Animated loop of a baby playing in a pile of blue stuff.
I left the pile of blue out overnight and the next morning I found E playing in it, blue pajamas and all. I’m not saying I am above putting him into the work like that, but I am saying I didn’t do it on purpose. This time.