Clark Flood’s 20 "Objects in the Mirror" essays, published in 2006-2007 on Glasstire, were widely disseminated and discussed around the web. His new book Clerk Fluid (which is available for sale at our shop)
includes all 20 "Objects" essays, photographs taken by Flood, and
finally, previously unpublished, unfinished and unedited drafts
straight out of his hard drive.
The following is one of those drafts.
#21. AT THE CINEMA
Hi, I’m Clark Flood, Scorpio, and I’m probably best known to you as a pattern of pixels quietly glowing in your home. Most of you have probably never thought about me having a corporeal body, and a corresponding time-boundaried physical existence, and that’s understandable, given the godlike quality of my prose and my supernatural talent and all. Nonetheless I am a person too, technically.
If you were ever to penetrate my security far enough to come within viewing distance of my high-tech cocoon I might even wave a pale human limb at you, tricep wobbling. But I usually forego such intimate social interactions. I prefer to making my life meaningful by having low-wattage aesthetic epiphanies, usually with my vast accumulation of found, purchased and stolen signage.
The other night I was stealing the VIP PARKING AVAILABLE sign from the Edward’s Cinema and I felt a pang of concern. Was my collecting out of control?
My companions were disgusted when I dragged this large sticky piece of trash out of a stairwell in the parking garage. They made fun of me because I said, Can I stick it in your trunk?
The joy and excitement I felt at acquiring the sign outweighed the social backlash. Now, staring into its coolly resolved blue and white lettering I get the feeling I get when I look at great art. That feeling always helps me forget about pesky human relationships.
Maybe I’m too compulsive about acquiring these poignant souvenirs of our civilization. I have approximately 25, 000 signs now, crammed into a warehouse. Part of my rationale is that no one else seems to understand how beautiful and important they are. If I don’t drag them down off their poles and fences and enshrine them as objects worthy of contemplation, maybe nobody ever will.
Yes, I’ll admit, it’s a compulsion.
How did it begin? When I was young my family and I spent a lot of time in Mexico and Central America. Mom was a witch, more specifically a priestess in the 1960s version of what later became known as Santeria. We spent a lot of time performing rituals and power-gathering ceremonies in moonlit fields and abandoned buildings, killing the occasional stray tourist so we could drink his or her warm pulsing blood; cooking the bodies down into invigorating stews. Good times.
We visited pre-Columbian ruin sites seeing what demonic entities might still be lurking around, ready to barter with mortals. It was from these ruins, rather than from the antibiotic swabs of museums or the drone-zone of books, that I received all my ideas about art.
I loved the design ethos of those ancient cultures and as I played around their massive stone remains I observed how that ethos inflected every single inch of their material culture. The “art” permeated everything; it wasn’t segregated in some chamber of aesthetics perched on top of the pyramid, although it might’ve climaxed there, red, wet and hot, all over a now long-gone set of costumes, implements, paintings and social types. I wandered attentively through vast fields and courtyards almost paved with broken ancient pottery. I would pick up tiny shards with the familiar whorls or zigzags painted on them. Those broken vessels must have been everyday objects, yet they contained the magic.
Back in H-town, I concluded that the same rules applied. I perceived that the green fluted Coke bottle, from which I daily chugged, embodied the multiplicitous soul of the U.S.A; hard, grotesquely beautiful and menacing; sometimes full of a pseudo-nutritional, purely symbolic, foaming black bile of a capitalist product; sometimes empty, like our religion, our political platforms and our civic life. The Coke bottle was us; and when all that was left of us was an endless field of broken Coke bottles, some future consciousness would catch our reflection there, gleaming off the jagged fragments of green fluted glass.
Billboards seemed to be the dominant pictorial manifestations of our spiritual life. Invisible behind masks of familiarity and triviality were the looming impassive faces of our implacable gods, their superhuman cruelty demonstrated in the shaming taunts and manipulative teases of advertising, their divine arrogance embodied in monstrous size and overwhelming scale. Every piece of commercial signage was our version of a stele, covered with our hieroglyphs, delineating the agitated passage of our fifth-wheel souls. The Mayans had marked their species of time with date-obsessed singularities carved in stone; we indicated our sinister achronicity by carelessly exhibiting and indifferently discarding millions of craven pitches, plugs and notices; our time dissolved into a murky puddle of perpetual present, perfect for compulsive shopping, and resigned wage-slavery.
I began worshiping billboards then; back when they were still printed paper pasted onto huge wood and metal structures sat atop giant poles. Nowadays billboards are digitally printed on enormous length of lightweight, translucent vinyl and then stretched over frames. After a month or two they’re taken down and sold to junk dealers who resell them to be used for tarps by grubby businesses.It reminds me of how they used the blocks of the pyramids to build the cathedral.
Sure, I have a few hundred paper billboards of yore, neatly folded, pulled out of the dumpsters of various printing companies or otherwise acquired. Sure I burst two discs in my spine trying to salvage massive pieces of billboard wreckage left behind by hurricanes. Does that mean I have a problem?
I used to have rules for what I would acquire, but over the years they’ve fallen away. Now I’m approaching some kind of total indiscrimination. I’m entranced by the little phone cards in Spanish lying near the few remaining pay phones. The scratched off gambling cards. Club bracelets. ATM signs.
I’m compulsively gathering up those cheap little numbers that spring up like toadstools along the road, vinyl on vinyl. Need a lawyer? Sell us your ugly house. Marriage problems? Earn money at home.
Don’t judge me.
Even the humble garage sale signs look to me like exquisite mementos of vanishing moments. Big Garage Sale. The sacred event. Multi-family. A community event. The beautiful pointing arrow, like a direct instruction from a god. The address and the date, sacred time and sacred space co-joined in one ritual, a household flung open and all its secret inner stuff displayed for judgment in the burning light of a lawn; laid out for all to see like a beating heart! It’s who we are, and it’s beautiful to me. One day only.
I’m dumbfounded by the current trend to display arrays of corporate logos, row atop row of trademarks indicating just which of the many dark gods of capital are involved in the particular product or performance. It looks like a grid of glyphs to me.
Lately I’ve been casting some cold eyes at lost cat and dog flyers. Needless to say, it isn’t concern for the missing pet that turns my head. It’s the mania, the sickness. I wonder, Did Schwitters have this? Cornell?
I even get the feeling from stop-signs. Are they beautiful because they’re ubiquitous? Of course not. That’s what makes them ugly and invisible. But isn’t it wonderful how the entire spectrum of society’s need for control, to deter individuals from doing what they want, is summed up in that screaming red octagon?
It’s easy enough to see the artiness of the whole road construct, the formalist compositions of yellow and white stripes, the forest of instructional and coercive messages all around. An incalculable weight of steel and concrete, enough to make the spinning earth stumble on its axis, has been deposited so that we can approach, in driving, a spiritual ideal of weightless freedom. We hurry from nowhere to nowhere driven by the supernatural necessities of consumption and production, whipped along by the gentle stings of slogans and spokespersons, eager to establish and immortalize our personal existences.
Our individual statuses, elaborately embodied in our whizzing metallic tombs on wheels, are poised to explode at any moment into fiery hells of sacrificial destruction. If you’ve never observed one of the human insects fatally roasting inside a flaming disaster beneath the ominous full moon of an indifferent billboard, I can tell you what it says with its eyes as it looks beseechingly out at the receding world through smoke, heat and a shattered windshield.
I love this VIP parking sign. A little bit of the stardust of existence has drifted down from the Milky Way, from whence we all drift, and gotten carved into this VIP sign and it feels like all the good times at the movies and the special feeling of being a VIP and driving. It’s all so obvious it’s invisible, but not to me. I can see it. The faint afterglow of warmth that spots the places where nearby passing human hearts have pumped human blood over and over through those beautiful interlacing networks of veins. Somebody was here. They left a mark.
I guess one can never leave enough behind to express oneself to a future where one no longer exists, if one is the sort that imagines such futures.
Remember me! I was one of the billion gnats on that sunny day of our civilization, frenetically circulating in a confused cloud of desire and imminent death.
Clark Flood is a freelance writer living in Houston.
Also by Clark Flood:
also by Clark Flood
- Clark Flood hard drive dump, Pt V: Level Four Infractions - May 14th, 2010
- Clark Flood hard drive dump, Pt IV: Dear Artist #3 - November 10th, 2009
- Clark Food hard drive dump, Pt. II: Each in Turn - November 30th, 2008
- Clark Flood hard drive dump, Pt I: Spirituality and the Arts - November 14th, 2008
- Objects in the Mirror #20: London Calling - February 4th, 2007