This is a post I meant to finish several weeks ago, but never did. I’ll post it now in the interest of showing how ideas are developing over time, but keep in mind a fair amount of the individual project information is stale. The first two projects are less likely now (though I still intend to taxidermize a rat).
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This rat project is blooming. It feels good to be back tilling the fields after 7 months of fallow with no ideas. I’m still in the mental soup stage, in which I let my free associative brain wander and build connections on its own. This is a crucial stage and can’t be forced. If I try to BE CREATIVE and come up with ideas nothing will happen. It works best when I sit there and daydream, just let my subconscious drive the car and hold the map. It’s not a passive process. It’s like imagining your childhood bedroom in three dimensions and as much detail as possible. It’s like traveling through your neighborhood like a mental Google maps car with a third eye. How much detail can you see? This is when the wildest ideas come and censorship has no apparent role.
This envisioning inevitably produces solid images. The project as it exists in my head now is finished, wrapped up and presentable. What’s in my head is shallow, however, and nothing like the way it will really turn out, but that’s how I move through artistic processes: backwards revisions, like remembering the future. The trick is to be flexible in my thinking so the project can evolve on its own. For this, I allow decisions to be made based on coincidences and confirmations, I follow the serendipitous and the correlative signs that have no place in critical or logical progression of thought. Since I’m neither a scientist nor a truth-seeking artist, necessarily, an allegiance to the empirical is not needed. In a certain way, I have very little interest in truth since fiction can illicit the same emotional responses; a narrative discourse can be truthful without a basis in reality. I thank several artists and writers for this realization, most notably Roland Barthes, Deborah Hay and Omer Fast.
Now onto rats.
There are several projects I’m pursuing that all fall under the rat umbrella. Again, these ideas are imagined final products that help me understand the process as I move through. These are quite literal, with very little nuance. Not all of them will happen as depicted below, and there will be more that come up along the way. Some of these may never happen at all! Here’s what I have so far:
- Rat Abortion Apparatus: how to solve the rat problem. Picture this: a brown rat splayed on its back with it’s limbs stretched and pinned back. Brown fur is real, taxidermized from an NYC rat. The mouth is opening and closing ,the limbs are shuddering. A person is allowed to operate the controls, one of which operates a scalpel. Vivisection. The scalpel makes a T-cut from sternum to anus, like in an autopsy. Another control pries the incision open exposing the insides of the rat are exposed, but rather than guts there are countless rat fetuses made of green plastic. The control panel reminiscent of a back-hoe controls a scooper that excavates the rat. It seems rather real even though it is a simulation. The scooper is able to remove several fetuses at once, kind of like one of those games at the arcade that drops a mechanized hand onto a stuffed animal and drops it into a chute. Not a delicate process– brutal, direct, destructive. An antechamber behind the rat is filled with more plastic fetuses that are pushed upward as more are emptied. People can take home their prize. The apparatus distances the person from the repercussions of their actions, it emphasizes the machine as an enabler of gross activity. The entire interface could be viewed through a spy camera, which would add a layer of difficulty as well as distance. This may also draw parallels to surgery on humans. Is that a can of worms worth opening? I’m currently researching how to successfully taxidermize a rat. I have no interest in a store-bought rat or any other rat I would have to kill myself or know that someone killed for this purpose or something similar (feeding a snake or a science experiment). I am interested in a rat that I would find on the street, fresh, poisoned or maybe killed by a dog (I’ve seen this happen in Washington Sq. Park). There is a certain amount of respect and duty I feel towards rats as a species, and rather than using a produced rat, I’d rather use a rat that is the equivalent of road-kill in the country. A wild NYC rat A rat that wouldn’t have to die if we humans were not here. A rat that wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for us.
- Rat Spermicide: sterilizes, safe and easy to use. Oral. Pellet form. A plastic bottle that looks like it could contain over-the-counter drugs like Advil. A safe alternative to poison. Sprinkle the same as poison, in safe area away from children and pets. Make a mold of a bottle, print label stickers with corporate design. Pellets are little, colorful, candy-like. Make a flowchart for use a la nyc.gov. This could also reference the fact that we humans have our own birth control problems. Why is the onus on the female to protect herself by taking birth control or telling the man to wear a condom? There should have been a male pill long, long ago. Here it is, but with obnoxious comments like: “It is time for men to have some control. I think it would empower men and deter some women out there from their nefarious plans…” According to Caroline Bragdon, an official at the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene with whom I spoke on the phone recently, the city has already tried sterilization as a means to control the rat population, but it didn’t work as well as simply killing the rats. One rat can breed hundreds of rats in the lifespan. Humane number reduction/control was trumped by simplicity and efficiency.
- The rat costume. (will write more later)
- Tracking wild rats in NYC using RFID, and camera traps. (will write more later)
- A series of new rat trap designs based on the current relationship we have with rats. (more later)