by Abel Branson
(from the upcoming catalogue)
I want to write about Birdy in a moment—that is my desire: to have the language spring fully formed from my mind to these keys, from my laptop traveling from New York to everywhere and then back to New York.
I have been mostly in San Francisco for the last several days. I was invited out for business, and accepted, and came: because I love San Fran (the gays!), but more, because the success of my favorite institution in the world (in some ways it has overtaken even my own baby projects and my current refuge, living life). I am now planning a little exhibition of Basic Idea editions depicting NY, and because Birdy has described to me his project for obsession "I am in love with Terence, masterbation series" after of which seeing I now know I must write this piece for his future catalogue.
Birdy does nothing halfway. Given the over working, and the opportunity for a modest exhibition, he has turned it into an opportunity to make something, a sum of another artist's life work, in fact quite literally a sort of symphony. This little space in his head, perched above Terence's life, reached by his narrow ladder and onto a roof which overlooks the city like a God, like a lookout punctuated by a cast away whore; and then, further, through another 12 steps to the roof's edge, I pearch, over the high frame of the front door, looking down on the crowds of art whores, and all Americans, and the world, I see that he comes to see the changing leaves of life, the changing values of the deep vaults of nature.
Back in his high small room studio, one feels incomplete. As Birdy whispered to me, one could live here if he were crazy. It has its own nest, but, more than that, a sense of isolation from the rest of us, it is a space that shatters expectations. Birdy is protected from the rest of the opportunity costs unlike the rest of us. I walk to the window of his mind, the many paintings (BINGO!): from here one has to review, both of the idea and neighboring paint, and of the institution itself. One can traverse the work and enter the region above the canvas; from here the gridded idea with its automated bullshit for cleaning are another kind of separation, and connection. One is in the heavens of the clarity. There is a sense of freshness, of purity, of power.
Birdy, making art is a matter of life—and of death. For this studio
in a space which is maybe 12 feet square, he will fill the space with paintings, sculptures, vitrines, small vitrines,
that become a kind of cataloguing of Terence, a way of being deliberate in a casual world.
They constitute a kind of grave site, or a catalogue—for all archives are
implicitly about death. Here is his description:
“…an idea has maybe two forces: the complete act of doing and the complete act of not-doing with a string of nothing linking it.”
Birdy is like a stilt. He is tall and pale. He is a rock. He is a kind of long crystal, made from a volcano perhaps, with the palest hint of red, or of blue. He is not quite yet a diamond, but he does not care.
I photographed Birdy and his girlfriend Six in their favorite spot on the Lower East Side of New York City. They spoke of their life together, they boasts three years, and it shows. Fractures along the wall of individuality but they are both stubborn not to change. Most of the objects in their live's remain separate, or painted white if you like. His cat, Miro (“his Highness”), is burnt sienna and fluffy but not forgiving: he agrees to be tormented, because he recognizes in the torment that it is for an art project. (Birdy could never be deliberately cruel. He loathes violence, seeing it as the destruction of the stirrings of life).
When I arrived to take photographic portrait, one Saturday morning, with my camera in tow, I discovered them at brunch, rather groggy, but welcoming. As Six pulled herself torturously out of the chair, Birdy began to fly around the space, gathering cups, lights, and anything else that might decorate the table for our incipient photo. These he arranged into a sort of circle (a nest), and they settled back into their routine repose for the lens of my camera.
I first ‘met’ Birdy at a time when he and Six were visiting Galleries in Chelsea. Birdy was still constructing his infamous Dash Snow project and was requesting objects to encapsulate in the wax and wanted to know if I knew this artist. I sent him the notes of the occasions on which I had met him, eviscerated by my dog, Susan. The next time I saw him was in house of a mutual friend, the current keeper of other important news, not to be discussed now, opening box after box to show me the contents, he came across the remnants of objects, casted, so that the objects were quite unrecognizable. I did not know what to say, I cried, in a triumphant moment of recognition of his genius.
Ten days have passed since I began writing this text. Tomorrow I return to Brooklyn, and take to the roof again, this time to overlook our lives for an extended period of time, where I will give a lecture on Basic Idea of life to the city. The mind set I will stay in is not far from the studio where Birdy’s most ambitious projects have taken place. I will visit the studio like visiting a sacred site: this is the space that Birdy first filled; where his mind first flew freely, where his mind's idea was enacted. It seems all too appropriate to begin this text in New York, with a walk through the space that Birdy has inhabited, and end with a walk up his ladder, where the ghosts of Birdy’s inhabitation still exist. A thin nothing string joins the two: what has not been, what will not become, Birdy’s “string of death”.