effigies & familiars
sticks and stones from the darkness
tamessa & z’ev


click to enlarge
in the begining:
in september 2010 my friend the artist ellen zweig came to visit me in london
the reason for her visit was that since 2007 she had/has slowly but surely been working on
a film about me and my work
so ellen was in london and staying at anstey road and after some few days realized that
I don’t go out to eat, or to pubs, or see movies, concerts, galleries etc
so she asked me – besides going out to buy food, go to the library, or to ken hyder’s place to pursue
the real time or ghost time projects –  was there anything else i did in the city outside of the house and garden?
so i thought about it and said that yes, in fact, although I did not go that often, probably my most favorite aspect of london was the river thames, and in particular a spot in the deep south east where one can get down onto the river bed at low tideso we made a plan to go there at the next possible low tide and on the 26th september 2010 we visited the river and spent a few hours there
so towards the end of that time I was walking well down to the water line and came upon 3 pieces of wood and 3 of metal
5 pieces were within a few feet of one another, but the round ‘face’ was some distance away
so i took them back to anstey road and assembled them into an initial configuration in the garden

click to enlarge
so a few days later I left for two months worth of my annual fall season of performances
and during this trip I had constant thoughts about my relationship to the thames with regards to developing a project around the general notion of sticks and stones and the specific notion of the possibility of this project being a collaboration with a personification of the elemental energies of the thames itself
so I returned to london at the end of november and began some concentrated musing and dreaming on the projectso a bit of history:
the catalyst for my relationship with the thames would have been grounded in my working with the london performance project, the bow gamelan ensemble between 1986-90
and especially:
there were two projects i collaborated on with them that took place around and on the thames
the first was in 1987 when we spent a few weeks preparing a performance in the derelict dry dock facilities on

lots aight, a small islet in the middle of the thames across from watermans art center

the second was in 1989 when, as part of the london intl festival of theatre, we spent a little over one month based on a 60 foot barge (with another 90 foot barge in tow) preparing for four performances on the thames, as far west as richmond and as far east as upper bow creek, with stops at watermans and waterloo bridge

so a bit of herstory:
while i had always felt that the thames was a female entity, for the projects sake it seemed meet to produce some verification of/for that
an initial search for celtic goddesses suggested that the river was named after their goddess tamessa by the brythonic celts (or britons), who inhabited most of the mid to south east of the island and later migrated to brittany

this led me to the encyclopedia of indo-european culture, and in its pages I read that thames was derived from middle english temese, recorded in latin as tamesis
and a part of the upper thames nearest its source is still referred to as thames-isis

so there it was and is
as her name, tamessa, is compared to other cognates such as middle irish teimen = dark grey and welsh tywyll = dark, and a pre-celtic indo-european root tã- = melt (hence muddy), i didnt think it was going too far to translate it 

as the darkness for use in the project title

it begins:
so on the 11th of december i formally declared (for want of a better term) my intentions* to tamessa regarding our collaborating and proceeded to sleep on it
*she would deliver sticks and stones to the river bed for me to gather and set

i woke early on the 12th with an awareness that 
for the next year i was committed to greeting at least one low tide each week i was in london
and set off for the river

so here’s some snaps of 3 of that days gatherings: [click to enlarge]

a note on my use of the term gather in this project:
in the past when ive written about my work and its basis in the found-art tradition 
ive generally just used the term finding to describe the process
(and mentioned that ‘the finder’ has been my nickname in some circles)
so the reason im using gathering in this instance is that it better describes the process
on one hand:
the finding mode can be compared to a mental state of wide-band reception, that is, 

as i dont know what im looking for, by my expectation my sensitivity is heightened, 
and im scanning all frequencies
on the other hand:
the gathering mode differs from this in that, as i know what im looking for when im on the river bed, 

all of my sensitivities are attuned to the reception of the tamessa bandwidth[note: both the terms gather and reception resonate strongly through my qabalhistic work as well)

a very interesting phenomenon:
while for over the past 30 years ive always made it very clear that my work with acoustic phenomena 
was based on my relationship with elemental energies, no one ever looked askance at that positionbut it seems that now I have severely crossed into the land of delusion by stating that i am
actively engaging with a thought form, that is, a personified elemental energy

and my response to that is that this ignores the fact that since at least some 3000 years ago the celts had recognized their goddess in this river – not in a tree, not in a stone, not in a spring
but in this river
and all I am doing then, is reinvigorating a tradition that has lapsed for, at the very least, well over 1000 years

a more graphic response:
on 25th december 2010, while walking along the river bed i was speaking in my head to a sculptor friend about this project, and they were joining in the expressions of skepticism regarding the validity of this collaboration
so at one point i stopped and looked down
and there at my feet was this definite affirmation from tamessa to me that, yes, while this project does engage my imaginal abilities, she, and it, are not products of my imagination 

click to enlarge
and of course skeptics were/are quick to point out that this could just as likely be an N as a Z
however there are three facts that counter this:
first, i did not approach it from an angle which would have caused it to be read as an N
(and with regards to the gathering, this is meant to imply that in fact i was led to this piece)
so even if it is an N it was presented to me as a Z
second, if i had in fact seen it as an N my first thought would not have been,
“oh i can turn this on its side to read it as a Z”
(because for me a b is a b, not a mirrored d, or a vertically flipped p, and etc)
third, all other inscribed bricks ive come across are inscribed on a horizontal orientation
regarding the evolution of the project:
while the title sticks and stones had come into my mind from the very beginning, 
it was not until the summer of 2010 that stones began to be gathered in any appreciable amount
at which point
the use of stones for ‘setting’ both sitcks and stones was able to eventually arise
it was only in october 2010 that the distinctions of effigies and familiars became associated with, 

respectfully, sticks and stonesthat is, for the most part, sticks are effigies and stones are familiars
and so as far as im concerned in clarifying this distinction:
effigies are representations of mythic thought-forms
familiars are anthropo/zoo- morphic concretizations of elemental energies

put another way:
effigies are lenses for focusing on/the focusing of mythic powers
familiars are objects of subjective power(s) in-and-of themselves

the end of  year one:
on the 12th november i was on the river bed for one of the last days id be spending there 
before leaving for italy on the 24th until 4th january 2012
so this month then was the functional end of the year
and so i was walking along and saw something in the distance that stopped me in my tracks
and this was also the one time i wished that i had a camera

a slight digression:
when i told ellen in december that i was starting this project she suggested i take a camera 
so i could  document the process – taking pictures of the pieces as i found them etc
and si i did take a camera with me the next time i went – but quickly abandoned any idea of using it 

because it became immediately clear to me that while i was walking with the camera id left gathering mode 
and was in some sort of third person documentarian mode, that is, 
observing what i was doing rather than simply doing it
so that was that for photography

to continue:
so what stopped me in my tracks was a moment like something out of john sayles’ 1994 movie
the secret of roan inish,
for a ways down river ½ in and ½ out of the waterline was a fairly life sized object (1.25m / 48 inches long)
and the closer i got to it the stronger grew the conviction that this was tamessa
and on top of that, after gathering her from the water, and going further up the river bed 

i fairly tripped over the flint piece that sets her

in conclusion:
so ive every intention of continuing this collaboration for the rest of my life, regardless of location, 
because, like mother nature, the darkness is an ever present fullness to be found and ingathered