Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sweeping up: Essay by Michael Wynne

Broom with Red Painted Handle.
Mason Jars with Dust from “My My Misfire” exhibition site.
Framed Dollar Bill signed, dated and inscribed “Beer Boner”

On May 1st 1970 Joseph Beuys with two of his students swept the Karl-Marx-Platz following the annual May Day Parade. After the Germans celebrated their Labour Day holiday they left the “guest workers” from other countries to do the clean-up. Beuys joined in and, after making his point, sold the rubbish to Rene Block who deposited his collection in the Neues Museum in Nurmberg.

This brings to mind another artist who a few decades earlier did janitor duty at his gallery. When Robert Rauschenberg finished sweeping the floor at The Stable Gallery he stood in front of his painting and was paid for one thing and not the other. Just like everyone I’ve ever known he took his money, bought some beer, went home and tried to relax.

When I dream of my grandfather (and I do quite often) I dream of him in his feed store. As a small boy my job as part of the family was to put the coke bottles in the wood racks and to sweep the concrete floor. I would take a handful of red cleaning powder, throw it on the floor and then sweep it back up. I thought it was a strange thing to do making the floor dirty in order to clean it.

As a younger man during the depression my grandfather would jump a train to the oil fields and roughneck to feed his wife and child. When I knew my grandfather he was the age I am now. He was happy to stand in his feed store. I was happy to sweep the floor.

In my dream, after I’ve done my chores, I go behind the sacks of feed and climb down the stairs into the world under the floor. I’ve often dreamed of this place which never existed. It is a room made of concrete with a channel of running water cutting through. I jump the channel and go into a large gymnasium type shower room. There is never anyone there but I can tell that soldiers have recently showered and left. In the floor is a trap door that I lift and climb down a ladder into a world under that world. It is full of dull metallic walls and machines. In it are generators and water heaters for the worlds above. There is no color except for a red sign whose white letters I read but can never remember. I go through a narrow passage to the left into a large room that contains art I made but forgot about. I’ve been away a long time so it is dusty and needs sweeping which I do. It’s my room and I’m happy to be there.


Thanks to Vicki Fowler and Randall Garrett who swept Dallas floors before me. Also check out Larry Leichliter’s “Davey” (Adventure Time episode 56a)

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