Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thankful for this Gift

An old man speaks to us from a chaise lounge. He is going for a swim, he tells us. His doctors have warned him not to, but he does anyway.

"We have, in our lives, the opportunity to create our own spaces, not predetermine them by the calculations of how much stress the walls will withstand. The walls, can be light as air, membranes that we move about to our own best intentions. The supports for our habitations, merely have to come from other sources. Not the walls. Anyway, I am going swimming. Who cares what these experts think."

He swims and returns to his cottage, a house projected.

He thinks he is lost, his house is not there, but he meets a group of young men with an American flag, and starts talking to them. They think he is crazy to be looking for a house here on this empty lot.

Lights begin to shoot from the ground in circles, matching the position of the pillars and he begins to dig, projected is the inverse of his house, under the ground.

He sweats and digs, pulling out a raw block of concrete, browned from the rain. "Breton," he muses.

An Indian man appears. "Are you using that?"

"It appears to be extra. But I am not sure that they are finished."

"I am not sure I am finished. May I have it?"

"But they are building a city, friend. The city takes much material."

"And makes much waste. If this is material, and wanted, I will go, but if it is waste to you, it is not to me. And I will have it."

"For what purpose?"

"In the night, I take what is being built and build from it, under it and over it."

"Where do you build, in what area?"

"Chandigarh? You know of it?"

"Where in Chandigarh? I know of the place well, it is all somewhere up here, (points to his head,) most parts. This is exciting. Yes, I know of it. I have the plans somewhere here."

"The plans?"

"I, yes, I...planned the city, the capital, after the partition, I planned it and even designed some of the main buildings."

"I should go.

"Do you know it is a planned city, a new city."

"I am a road inspector. I know the plans."

"And the building you are building is where?"

"I need to be on my way."

"Are you in the city limits? What are you building, maybe it is in my plans?"

"My work is on the outskirts. District IV."

"The lake? Outskirts, no, that is part of the boundary. What are you constructing?"

"You misunderstand, me."

"There is no zoning there. A green boundary around the city to..."

"I am not constructing. And I know why the zoning was implemented. If you have no use for that stone, give it to me, please. If you have use, I will be on the road, now."

"Please, stay. Help me dig, would you? My house has been...inverted. I believe it has been inverted. It is under the ground, and I believe it is upside down."

The Indian Man helps him dig. The old man tells of how he gifted a lake to District IV. The Indian starts to tell of his work:

"I know the lake, and my work is there. When the city was reinvented, a new capitol, there was much left over from the old and the new. I was walking home one night and...a construction site, and all of its beams and concrete and iron bars in a heap. But I saw something there, in the rubble, a half moon of smooth ceramic, bowed out in the middle. Where would it be taken? I picked up another, and another. I put them into my vehicle and kept them there. I drove out though, several times, loading more and more."

The Indian tells of how he took the rubble to moonlit forest and laid the pieces out. As he tells this he pulls pieces from the dirt and begins to lay them out, adjusting them. "A straight piece here. A straight piece there, until... An indian woman appears, holding a basket. He is delighted.

"Beautiful. Beautiful. I began to see, in the rubble, a family, so I constructed more."

The old man and the Indian are interrupted by an official with a flashlight. The official has come in search of the road inspector.

"I am him." The Indian says.

"You are under arrest. The District IV lake region is not to be developed upon."

There is a confrontation. The old man steps in to the argument. He asks why this official arrest for just a few random sculptures.
The official answers:

"There had been reports of activity, constant leavings and goings at the lake during the night. Far up on the hills. You'll follow my story, now. Investigation is necessary. The reports increased, I sent several men to the area over the years, but they came back with no evidence of illicit leavings or goings. You'll appreciate my predicament. Reports continued, but the geography of the lake is difficult and to dispatch men to search such a large area takes them time of which I would appreciate being spent on other endeavours. You'll see my side of things. I went myself to the area. I saw, at first, a wall, with ceramic set into it. A curved wall that ran off to the right, under some trees. You'll imagine my surprise. I followed and came upon, you'll forgive my language, his damn sculptures. You will afford me the opinion."

The old man, says, "But arrest, for a few sculptures, couldn't they stay, hidden there. This man is helping me."

The Official: "You'll forgive my assessement of your capacity. You do not understand the magnitude of the offense. These things were on public land, a clear conservatory of natural beauty. A boundary and gift from those who designed our city after partition."
Old Man: "In his description there is beauty, though not natural, and it seems to me that a few figures may be delightful to come upon in the forest. I mean how can a few pieces of raw and discarded materials create such an offense."
The Official and the Road Inspector are silent.

The Official: "The reports, you'll remember from my detailed account just now, continued for years."


"When I came upon the group of sculptures, these figures, I noticed another curved path, which led me to a waterfall, at which were positioned another group of figures. Then more, and more. You will not misinterpret my awe, but there just seemed to be no end. No end at all. There were, at a rough count, some forty."

"Forty sculptures?"

"No, Forty Acres."

"How many sculptures?" The old man asks, looking to both men.

The road inspector: "I forget."

The official: "Countless."

During the preceding, figures appear, like the sculptures, and begin to help dig.

They finally unearth:

The Old Man rememembers a monastery he built on hillside, and the grass beneath it.

"Is this the offspring?"

Can beauty be made on the windswept plaza of this landmark? Will the mayor build his new monument on the waterfront?

The ability to fight City Hall takes on a new meaning when faced with an entity conceived in the solidity of brute materials.

Who will win?


The preceding was brought to you directly from the mind of a playwright trying to find dramatic and theatrical connections between different ideas that are starting to reach out to one another.

It may not be a play I ever write, it may be one I write and discard, or it may be that it ends up looking nothing like what you seeing here.

But this is the beginning, definitely the beginning. This is the part of the process where I am starting to see connections, hear dialogue, feel a structure/story.

Consider the above an action snapshot of how a play is birthed in my mind.

This is creativity, the gift for which I am thankful.


The architect Le Corbusier can be wikied here.

The inverted Villa Savoye is the award winning project, Park of the Lost Object by Jacky Bowring.

More on Nek Chand's fantasy Rock Garden in Chandigarh here.

Here is an interesting history and evaluation of Boston's City Hall from Walt Lockley.

Geoff Edgers' reporting on the City Hall fights with Mayor Menino is here.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Novel said...

Do you know the story of the lost black Taj Mahal?

Art said...

No, I don't know that.

Thanks for the tip!

Hope you're able to rest from your recent travels.