HISTORY OF MANKIND SOUVENIR STAND OLYMPIA 1990’S
I dig the Joycean array of motifs in toy cluster behind me: “grey alien” figures from the nighttime visitations of our collective unconscious, next to what are certainly bootlegged Minnie and Mickey Mouses from our premier American corporate myth maker Walt Disney. A rodent Adam and Eve. The smallest, meekest little creatures whose image has conquered the planet in our age of hyper media saturated globalization.
They hang below a big bunch of electric guitars, the instrument that changed the world in the latter half of the 20th Century. The wandering minstrel’s lute gone space-age insane. A super-charged catalyst to countless revolutions and revelations. From Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner out into a million directions. These totems are themselves situated next to a cluster of baseball bats, the tool that generates the propulsion that is essential to the game that at least once was referred to as America’s pastime.
The cartoonish proportions of the bats also suggest a caveman’s club, which to my mind evokes Stanley Kubrick’s vision of man’s violent first step toward the stars in the opening scene of his masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. A film which incidentally my mother saw upon its release in a theater with me in her womb in 1968. Above the clubs hang the equally cartoonish spiky ball of a battle flail from the middle ages, a weapon only slightly more sophisticated in its no nonsense brutality. The flail was a weapon specially designed to penetrate a knight’s steel armor. This technological one-upmanship represents an early example of the arms race dynamic that would centuries later push our species to the brink of total annihilation in the nuclear age.
The flails are situated next to an oversized first generation cellphone. A tool that at the time this photo was taken was an object worthy of a child’s fetishistic coveting but which today is so common a child would likely have little interest in a toy facsimile and would instead demand the real thing. That real thing of course is usually no longer just a phone but rather it is a computer connected to a global web of servers and other computers that taken as a whole resembles a neural network containing and sharing something akin to the totality of man’s aspirations, machinations, and information at lightning speed.
Finally to my left you can see an upside down hand mirror reflecting the world back at itself. This mirror represents to me the self reflective nature of our species. A trait that seems to be the only thing that truly makes us an anomaly in the animal kingdom.
There you have it: the journey of homo sapiens on this planet from the monolith to the starship represented in one souvenir stand, at one summer festival, in one small city.
What do I do in the face of such visual poetry? I goof around and ham it up for the camera of course! After all if we’re indeed made of star stuff, and we’re perhaps destined for the stars, why not make like you’re a flippin’ star and shine a little while you’re here?
(Photo of me at Lakefair by Tae Won Yu from my personal archives)