I just wrote a small essay on my attraction to Ancient Old Things at No More Potlucks.com and wanted to share it here as well. (Originally published at http://nomorepotlucks.org/site/ancient-old-things-annie-katsura-rollins/)
I work with old things, really old things: Chinese shadow puppets. The intricately carved leather figures are old and have an even older history. And, every time I hold one, I feel their accumulated past, heavy in my hands: their age is on them and in them.
I was initially pulled to them because of this oldness, this weight. Living in the modern Western world, I feel increasingly distressed by our growing preoccupation with newness and planned obsolescence. I still hate to throw things in the garbage or buy something I can’t pass onto the next generation – but there are only so many times you can darn a sock or glue your pleather wallet back together. The stuff of our world is meant for now and only now.
Certainly, my attraction to the shadow puppets was motivated by a fetishization and nostalgia around ancientness: a hope that by sheer proximity, the shadow puppets would teach me something better, smarter, wiser. And they did. Mostly, that nothing is forever and old is just a word to express the impermanence of everything.
In the fictional world of absolute permanence, the words old, age, and ancient have less meaning. Without a beginning or end point, what can age communicate? Not much, with all things existing equally alongside each other. But in this real world of absolute impermanence, old or aged importantly delineates our current place on an individual timeline in relation to someone/something else’s – because no age is absolute. I mean, how old is old? And how old is ancient? My old is not your old. North America’s old is not China’s old. Humans’ ancient is not the earth’s ancient. Even objects that seem permanent in their relation to a human lifespan are not immune. Stonehenge will eventually disintegrate, as will the pyramids, the palaces, and the pineapples. “A thing is just a slow event” (Stanley Eveling, quoted in Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 2004, 59).
Read the rest at the link below, with accompanying paintings:
~Thanks for reading!