Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Body as Ecotone - Part 4 - Laurel Snyder

Bris as Ecotone - Laurel Snyder


_____Priest: To what part of your body do you refer most often?

_____Young Man: To God

__________~Antonin Artaud

So—a baby gets born, and the baby has a body, and the body is good. Then God says, “Cut off a bit of that body, why don’t you? Just the smallest part—”

God wants to see what we’ll do. It’s an experiment.

We prove to be good subjects.

We cut. We snip. We hack a bit of the body away. We prove our excellent listening skills. We get a gold star, a lollipop. We get a god.


Except that now we’re the maker. Or the tiniest part. This dominion is now ours, not because it has been given to us but because it has been taken by us. We held the knife.

And who holds the knife? Who takes?

We have taken charge of the body with the body. And the world has followed the body’s lead. Our ears heard a voice. Our fingers fumbled for a blade. Our offspring (next, better selves) lay before us, waiting.


Our hands become his hands. Our knife is his knife. And his knife is us.

We turned.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Body as Ecotone - Part 3 - Alison Stine

The Earrings
Alison Stine

The earrings are small, hand-beaten gold disks. They look like they were shaped by tiny thumbs. I bought them in London, when I was twenty years old. They were displayed in an aquarium, the tiny jewelry hung from tiny driftwood branches. They cost forty pounds, which was a lot, especially for a twenty year-old girl without pierced ears. I think the store was called Bloomsbury, but the black velvet drawstring bag they came in is so old, the name has worn away.

The name has worn away from me touching it, opening the bag, and dumping the earrings into my hands, and touching them, as I do every few months, every few days, lately.

They are the only pair of earrings I own or have ever owned.

Because I don’t have my ears pierced.

Because I am deaf in one ear.

Because of a rare birth defect which is often much worse.

I have no other piercings. I have no tattoos. I often dye my hair, but it’s usually mistaken for my natural color. I am plain and bare as a plain tree, and I want that to change.

This year for my birthday—January25th—I am getting my ears pierced.

I am getting my ears pierced to prove to myself that I can change, that I can change my body, that I am not too old. I want to change in preparation for a larger change: I am getting my hearing fixed, or at least, I am going to see a doctor to see if it can be fixed.

I’m afraid of the gun, and I’m afraid of the needle, and I’m very, very afraid of the doctor, and what he might say, and how it might be no.

The gold earrings are one of the greatest gifts I have given myself—although most would say I have not gotten any good out of them, as I have never worn them. But buying them, spending so much money to buy them, was a sign to myself. Hang on to myself.

One day you will be strong enough to change.
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Body as Ecotone - Part 2 - Ann Ropp

When Ann Ropp emailed, suggesting her images might fit nicely with the idea of the human body as an ecotone--an ethereal, transitional space--I immediately moved to view her Body of Water series housed at the Wynn Bone Gallery. And what I found were subverted imaginings of bodies in space, the shapes suggestive of the human form, but inhabiting space in ways not immediately recognizable. And then the title: Bodies of Water. And I began to think of her images, sometimes suggestive, sometimes mystical, as translating the body into something more fluid, more liquid than our true form suggests. But given our makeup--mostly water--I suddenly began to think of my own body differently: as a moving, shifting pond full of organisms and undercurrents and gravitational desires.

Suzanne Stryk, whose image graces the mast of this blog, says this of Ropp's work:

Looking at Ann Ropp's Body of Water series, I'm reminded of a line by author Camille Paglia: "Sex," she writes, "is the natural in man." Ropp's recent fleshy-colored watercolors of intertwining bodies and suggestively sexual shapes make the erotic natural. The images in Body of Water led me to think not only of human bodies but also of actual bodies of water, with all their inlets, pools and rivulets. The water marks and bloom of the medium itself conjure up our own anatomy as well as the geological or botanical, again connecting the human and the natural. As an artist myself, I'm aware of how these seemingly simple shapes lock the white of the page into place and how their watery matrix creates form as if it just "happened." This painterly spontaneity feels absolutely right for the sensual subject matter.

The Body as Ecotone - Part 1 - Pregnant Bellies

I never thought that having a baby was particularly odd until my friends started having them. I very distinctly remember the day that my friend Lili went to the hospital to give birth. The idea that my friends Lili and Ben would go to the hospital but Lili, Ben and A BABY would come home from the hospital seemed just unfathomable. While sort of obvious in an abstract way, it just didn't make any sense to me when it was something I was actually seeing happen.

Around the same time, I was the witness in my friend Sarah's City Hall wedding. It was quiet and lovely, we went out to lunch in Williamsburg, Brooklyn after, the husband, Guy, the wife, Sarah and me, the witness. Even though we were close friends, I felt a little bit like an outsider, like the child, the less evolved one, even though we were all essentially the same age. Now, they were my married friends, not my friends who lived together in sin. And I was the witness to it! Again, getting married seemed so normal until I actually participated in it.

Now, Sarah (in the photo), who lives in LA, just had a baby. It seems less weird when you don't see the person every day, but looking at photos, I am struck with that same uncomfortable sense: this is my friend, her expression is so familiar, but now she has a baby. It is quotidian and yet, mind-blowing. This photo of her sums it all up. She is still Sarah, she has funky taste in art and would put a weird-ass drawing on the wall of her baby's room, but her body is doing the thing that we were put here to do--the least funky thing possible, really.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Body as Ecotone - An Invitation

Ecotone: a transitional zone standing between two connected, yet separate ecosystems.
Body: the physical representation of a soul in transition.

We're interested in exploring the body as an ecotoneas a transitional place separating past and present, fantasy and realityand invite you to submit artistic expressions of this idea. (We're open to anything: striking text, video, finger paints, sand sculptures...)

Has your body served as a transitional zone physically through body art, pregnancy, injury, plastic surgery? Or perhaps through grief, stress, starvation or alchoholic binges? However you view your body as an ecotone, we're interested. Surprise us. Give us something brilliant, something edgy, something addictive, and we'll launch your piece into the blogosphere (also called rogue publishing). You never know who might be watching.

You can send blog submissions to davidhg[at] or associateeditor[at]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Blogosphere as Place

When a journalwhich attempts to redefine and reinvent the concept of placedecides to enter the blogosphere, what should happen?

Sitting around the table, discussing this very question, the immediate answer amongst our editors was clear:
We'll do exactly what the journal does, except edgier. With cameras and lights and reckless abandon.

And I agreed—couldn't wait to enter the Wilmington, NC environs with pad and camera and analytical mind ready to observe the ideas of place that exist around us which have been constructed out of thin air: the contemporary, main street mall with apartments located above the Banana Republic; the streets that run up to Wrightsville Beach, upon which city workers regularly attack the sand with leaf blowers; the airport terminals where nobody is meant to be for any period of time, and so find ways to escape even while there.

But then I thought,
Is the blogosphere, this ethereal landscape we've now entered, a place? And if so, how would it look on a map, or in a photograph, or roughly etched into the grain of gypsum?

The idea of the blogosphere
as place—this virtual landscape in which physical landmarks are connected by thematic, relational or irrational links—is not a difficult one to enter. But consider this: the screen, two dimensional, flat, pixilated, contains the idea of three dimensions, reflections of three dimensional lives digested mostly through text. And the text contains multitudes, contains regional cross-sections of lives pulsating upon a three dimensional globe spinning wildly, contains the daily struggles and milestones and rants and musings of people plugged in, sitting in an office or living room or coffee shop, plugging all of this into—where exactly?

Try stuffing a basketball into a business-sized envelope. And when you cannot, instead produce a paring knife and peel off a small sliver of orange-tinged leather. Slide it into the envelope. Seal it.

Now call that envelope a place, disconnected from the vandalized, publicly exposed ball. It seems to me all that can be said about the envelope is this: it's nothing and everything. Nowhere and everywhere.

And if this is true, then the blogosphere, like God, exists independent of us, but cannot exist without us. In other words, it is the absence of physicality. A body without form.

Is that a place?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

On Airports and Ecotones

I was thinking about this last time I was waiting around in Charlotte. Since this was Charlotte, every single person there was on a delayed flight, and everyone had his laptop open and was not even there, at the airport, really, but instead, in his own personalized internetland.

So right away you have: this physical place of transition which is not even really the city where you are, just the changeover spot, and then you have this added internet element, so no one is even in the nonplace. They are there, twice-removed.

In crowd situations, I'm the first person to retreat into my book or yeah, to the internet, if I have my laptop, but since Everyone was doing this, it made me feel petulant and rebellious. Usually we solitary types like being solitary alone. If everyone's doing it, you're just a sheep, you see.

Right. So I’m there, feeling kind of self-important about wanting to be Present and Seated in my Environment like a living, breathing creature on this planet. For about…a minute. I mean, you might be seated in the damn plane next to whomever you talk to. Then you're stuck together for the next five hours in some space that’s really got no intrinsic value all its own. Which can be uncomfortable for both of you. So I did end up opening up my laptop after all. And that was that.

Then there are airport bars. All these young men watching their home teams, all these businessmen talking about cities like they're not cities, in this sort of modern-cowboy frontierspeak: “Oh, I did Charlotte, today. Tonight, it's Daytona, and then (low whistle), I am gone-!”

There's this complex thing that happens to your brain when you are in an airport. I think it happens because you're still in the place you were leaving (or in some weird middle place that you would never want to go to like Charlotte) but you haven't yet gotten to the place that you are going. So, you aren't exactly yourself. You are place-less, adrift. All you have is a gate number and the bizarre food choices that the airport has chosen to offer you.

It's a liminal space, really, where you are both free from yourself but SO MUCH yourself. In the real world, I have trouble sitting still and I can't make decisions, so when I am in airports, all that gets oddly exacerbated. I wander around, I stare at the screens, I try to get on earlier flights, I go through this elaborate decision-making process about whether or not to eat the bad-for-me food they sell there. Last week I talked myself into and then out a McDonalds snack wrap. Even though in my real life, I would never each such a thing. In an airport, when things are going well and you aren't having to fight with a customer service representative about how to get yourself home after your flights have all been cancelled, it's all you have to think about.

I walked away from the McDonalds with the intention to go to the airport bar, in LaGuardia it's the Brooklyn Brewery, but I have such a complex relationship with airport bars. All I want to do in airports is drink, and yet, I don't want to be the KIND of person who drinks in airports, even though I AM totally that kind of person. I drink all the time: why can't I drink in airports? So, I walked up to the bar and then I realized that there wasn't one woman in the bar at all, just a bunch of middle-aged dudes watching the Jets on big TV's. And I imagined someone asking me about the book I was reading or talking to me about why the Jets and the Giants play in New Jersey, but they are still said to be from New York, and I just couldn't handle it. So as quickly as I had talked myself out of the snack wrap and into a Bloody Mary, I was talked out of it and then I had nothing to do but just go to the gate and watch a woman pick up the Cheerios from the floor that her baby had thrown there.

I hate that the moments we have free time end up being when we’re in places like airports, doing things like that: watching the woman pick up the Cheerios. Like we were born for that moment. But maybe we were.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Skiing the Beach

In the blogosphere, nobody pays attention to beginnings--unless what progresses from such a beginning becomes striking enough that the masses are inspired to go back. To investigate. To see from where all the brilliance originated.

Oh, and we will be brilliant. You'll come back to us, to this post, where our editor-in-chief--David Gessner--sets the tone for this online companion to Ecotone, UNCW's national literary journal.

What is an ecotone? Well, technically it's this. And as you'll see, it's also this: