Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dear Chicago on a cold day

Friday, January 18, 2008

The sun fills the blue sky with extraordinary light. It's a spectacular day. World-at-your feet kind of excitement. The energetic magic you knew when your grandparents were the only people in your world who were old, and the universe held only promise: of romance, adventure and discovery.

Dear Chicago,

Held breath in frozen air
lights over your head
Beautiful with drops of air
As neighbor
Love point

This morning, the world has somehow remade itself into perfection, and nowhere is it more glorious than Millennium Park. Well, in Chicago nowhere more glorious. On the streets, not a single person is idly touring - with the cold freezing nose hairs on the intake and gloved fingertips after two minutes.

At Intelligentsia, the music thumps wildly out of control as Gord orders his black coffee. Tim comes in with a box of bolts. Gord announces the business of the day: some paintings to crack open at The Fulton (and I add, the daily press interview, this time someone from as far away as Wisconsin). The Dear Chicago poem is by Jesse Crouse, Intelligentsia crew and a poetry major at Columbia College.

RIVER arrived yesterday, and talk among the twenty-something crew was that it's good to have a ‘more mature’ guy on crew (i.e. someone hip enough to be considered one of them, but exhuding responsible vibes).

Now Gord and Ari are trying to ‘find” (in the computer) the paintings which have been catalogued and photographed. Gord’s got to pull it together soon – all those shards into a comprehensive painting – and a plan for how it will be assembled. He’s been mulling this one over for weeks, like he does. Meanwhile the plates are being hooked up, and there's pressure to stay on schedule.

There are some complications on the horizon. Extreme, bitter weather is forecast for the weekend. (-16 f). When it gets that cold, the plates won't turn on. Monday is a holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. day, which could mean that someone key - an engineer for instance, could be home, when we need them on site. Gord announces that we’re moving a pallet of paintings today, just to see how it goes, the freezer truck is working; we’ve got our full crew.

Art Sutherland estimates that the hoses will be hooked up by end of day. Art is Mr. Refrigeration; his comnpany, Accent Refrigeration bought us the wardrobe of embroidered black navy wool shirts and jackets which everyone wears, everyday. He's been with Paintings Below Zero since before Italy.

Here's the wall, with today's work: needing hose hook ups.

We should be able to fire up the plates – have the whole system cranked-- by tomorrow. By the weekend, spraying flood on the wall as soon as a section is cold.

Erik shows us photos he’s copied from the internet – paintings by Morris Lewis and Matisse, shapes and colors which remind everyone of the work we’re steeped in. Now we’re talking about the rink paintings.

Jaz and Ari are skedded to give a presentation for Little Village high school at The Cultural Center, coordinated by Lauren Rosenberg and Claire Geall Sutton. Followed by a tour of the installation-in-progress. We get up to go. The band scatters.

Later, after Jaz and Ari’s presentation, we tour the site, Gord taking photos of the plates.

The crew is boisterous after lunch.

Gord keeps his distance, seriously into his pensive, tackle-it state, he seems weighed down. I’m guessing it hasn’t broken open for him yet to that place where inspiration sails up and over all other paltry ideas, with confidence that This Idea Is The Best!

Back at the hotel, over huge drawings and notes, after days of sorting through photographs, he cries out. Something like, ‘I’ve got it’. "You have to go with what's in front of you," he says, reminding himself. "Basic things keep re-appearing, you have to be open."

He shows me, explains how it will all work, and he's excited. I can only imagine some of the paintings he’s created – I’ve only been to The Fulton when the press wanted to document, and yet I’m feeling elated, like the day, imagining his plan. It makes me think of the musicians – sitting at their desktops, listening to notes they hear in their minds and writing them down – knowing how the music will unfold once put to an instrument. And I think: it's going to be a symphony of paintings. Once, when facing the impossibility of choices made in our lives he said, if he had to do it over, he'd have been a conductor.

David Shannon, of CBC radio calls at 4. Later, the crew shows up at Vong's our latest favorite place.

And they're exuberant at their accomplishments today: the hoses are hooked up; three pallets of ice were transported in the truck and not a single shard cracked over all those potholes and bumps. Tim drove the reefer truck, Ari performed his own voodoo, reminding the pieces in the back of the truck how content they were being whole.

1 comment:

simplicity at its best said...

To all the workers of Paintings Below Zero:

Hi, My name's Danielle Dai and I'm a Cinema/Media Studies student at the University of Chicago. I'm currently taking a Documentary Video class, and I was planning on making a short documentary (5-10 minutes) on Paintings Below Zero and the Museum of Modern Ice. I'm really interested in this venture, and I think the work you've been doing is really magnificent (though I've only been following your progress through your blog).

Filming would occur in the month of February, the subject being your work, and visitors and their reactions/interactions with the art. I would love to be able to interview you or your crew and/or at least talk about the work in general (where did the idea come from, what was the intention essentially)?

I don't know how else to get in contact with you, but if you could reply to me via email,, I would really appreciate it. Thank you very much for your time.