JENNIFER NELSON : “From Zero to Gold”

JENNIFER NELSON: “FROM ZERO TO GOLD”    

                   

Myths are the soul of our action and love. 

We cannot act without moving toward a phantom. 

We can only love what we create.   

(Paul Valéry, A Fond Note on Myth, 1928)

Jennifer nelson as a living Caryathid under the lintel of the National Bank of Greece

JENNIFER NELSON  at the National Bank in Athen (Greece)

 

THE LIVING CARYATID, by Rosanna Albertini

 

This is a story of time going in a circle and art losing the pace 

of climbing eternity and rather emerging from human turmoil 

like a white lily from the mud

for Jennifer Nelson is an adhesive substance attracting 

as a magnet the needles that four years ago History scattered 

in Greece giving the country entropy in a broken vase leaking 

disorder and randomness feelings of pain and dreams of hope

that usually remain buried for us looking from afar

under the surface tension of the news

and sink and disappear in the ocean of human despair

which remains untold because life collectively doesn’t have commas or periods

those only belong to single humans not so clear about their meaning

 

her family life in Greece was blessed by motherhood a spring of joy 

while austerity appeared like a collective disease invading the citizens’ soul

stifling them under neutral computation as if numbers had ingested 

a secret justice held by the clock of the European Central Bank

International Monetary Fund European Stability Mechanism

 

July 3, 2015 Alexis Tsipras  OXI Speech NO to the EUROVULTURE

 mythological politics where time present and time past are only one

 “…it was from this very place that Zeus abducted Europa.

 [and with her generated the Minotaur]

It is from this very place that austerity technocrats want to abduct Europe again

from its democratic traditions. NO. We tell them NO on Sunday. 

[The referendum brought up 61% of NOs]

Our NO will make History. Whatever happens, we are the winners. 

I urge you to ignore the sirens of terror. Greece is and will remain

the cradle of European civilization.”

From LINKS, International Journal of Socialist Renewal. July 31, 2016

had the prime minister mentioned the small man in the streets of Athen who 

revealed some time ago in the past the beauty of human conversation 

including lack of illusions and ended his own life Socrates drinking cicuta

to obey a power stronger than his philosophical approach to life

this contemporary prime minister would have known he was only

postponing his poisonous drink …. nine months after

“Europe offered Greece 86 billion euros of loan in exchange 

for a tightly policed Greek government implementing a package of reforms:

pension cuts tax increases privatizations labor market deregulation”

and Tsipras said YES

We were at that speech in Syntagma Square. It was quite moving as we got off the train, we couldn’t get out of the station, there were so many people. 

And everyone was amazed. We’d all thought we were alone in our thoughts and then suddenly it was clear that we were a massive democratic block standing against this insane policy. 

As everyone looked around in surprise to find that people of all stripes and persuasions were agreeing with this resistance, a chant of “No” broke out in the metro.

The square was, in fact, a huge party that night…But democracy didn’t help us. The banks were more powerful. (Jennifer Nelson)

 

Nothing grandiose or expensive was possible for Jennifer Nelson 

American artist who moved to Greece to discover she was married 

to the place with “heavy commitment and light material” 

“wind in and wind out breath and sound and voice held by the lungs 

ingesting the seeds of grief from which one gets coughs and bronchitis”

 

Greece 2015 – Austerity time

Pointless to add that any country could fall into the same pit. 

Debts: the way they become visible, is on paper. People read them as if they were a natural outcome of the banking machine, “instead they are constructed, games of power, art isn’t any different,” says the artist. One has only to decide what kind of game, who are the participants. Jennifer wanted to be fertile despite every challenge, to do something out of nothing. 

An artist friend who had been close to Joseph Beuys, Soulis Moustakidis, showed her the way: ZERO CAN BE GOLD. Moustakidis made an underground press carving messages in potatoes and used potatoes to stamp on papers he stuck under unknown cars so when the cars moved all the papers flew around like leaves. This action took place under the Junta dictatorship.

 

Jennifer Nelson’s ART piece: UNTITLED ( MESOGHEIA) 2016

The Caryatids Porch of Erechteion, Athens, 421-407 BC (Wikipedia image)

Intricate hairstyle of a Caryatid, displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens (Wikipedia image)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing between two columns underneath the lintel of the Greek National Bank,

Nelson embraces the posture, silent exposure and stillness of the feminine statues   

holding the ceiling of the porch that sticks out of the Erechteion, a temple placed on an Acropolis ledge facing an ocean of petrified waves. Poseidon’s rage after throwing his  trident against this temple? This is the city of Athens. The six Caryatids, steady and quiet, lift a knee as if starting a step to fly out of their temple. If they go, the porch doesn’t have any more reason to be.

JENNIFER NELSON, Untitled (Mesagheia), 2016-present, Bills, Home made glue, Gold paint (from Germany) Work in Progress,  Photo Panos Kokkinias

A PAPER WEDDING DRESS. Jennifer’s phantom is in her mind. The idea moved her knee towards an art piece born in Greece, wrapped by the stone walls of her husband’s family house. The PAPER DRESS  was her reaction to the hours spent in long lines in front of the banks’ doors waiting for the weekly money, like everyone else, in a dignified solitude. Banks were shut down. It was like “being taken prisoner of the contingent numbers and times” Jennifer says, “you can loose house, electricity, commodities, but also something bigger. Dead end has been experienced individually, in secret and in shame, within each small family unit.”

Delving mind and hands into the bills’ paper our Jennifer artist captured the numbers negative energy, and touched the paper’s resilience, to readdress them into a new life of opposite sign. She collected as many papers she could and used them to make a replica of the traditional Attic wedding dress, symbol of fertility and richness, mostly embroidered with gold and covered with jewelry. Around her, with her, many other hands -children, women and men- worked and are still working to accomplish the artwork. The enormous neckless is exclusively made out of paper bills whose fibers were broken and made flexible again by human tips of fingers, also by her son Nasos’s fingers.

Working Hands, Photo by Athena Stamatis

Her long hair braided exactly like the Caryatids’ hair, Jennifer Nelson has made herself a Caryatid of our time. Nameless and voiceless. Except for her dress that spreads a j’accuse louder than thunder, and brings the feelings of shame to a glorious, collective ending.  

As she wears them, all those numbers printed on paper, credit cards, bonuses, bank symbols, are changed into embroidery, decorations, become talismans. But the art is not the dress by itself. It is the dress around the artist’s body, touching her skin and bones, keeping her flame alive. 

Jewels of Debts

Fragility turns into strength. Such a delicacy is probably the best adhesive substance. It gave to the makers of the piece an uncertain space in their minds through which a personal dream could appear, for a second or perhaps forever. We don’t know. Socrates again: the value of thinking, and of exposing thoughts to the public. Ancient myths were based on the belief that, when we think, we touch something despite distance and separation. Our mind’s eyes have fingers. Sensations from our physical life are saved inside the mind, their energy can be replicated and amplified. 

This PAPER DRESS is the kind of art piece I would like to see as the prototype of a generation of pieces, all over the world, the talisman to get out of a misery that is not from lack of money. As T.S. Eliot’s words put it:

“Internal darkness, deprivation

And destitution of all property,

Desiccation of the world of sense,

Evacuation of the world of fancy,

Inoperancy of the world of spirit;

This is the one way, and the other

Is the same, not in movement; while the world moves

In appetency, on its metalled ways

Of time past and time future.

T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets 

 

And Jennifer Nelson:

Of egg opportunities lost

and debt that won’t be forgiven

naked to your math,

I loved I love I will love 

The Alchemist’s Account (four line excerpt)

JENNIFER NELSON, Democracy is a Party, 2019, videostill

 

Bibliography

T.S.Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950, Harcourt Brace & Company New York, San Diego, London, 1980

Rosanna Albertini, Technological Rituals, USC Annenberg Center for Communication, 1999