July Synchronized Chaos: Stacking Stones by the Roadside, Ritualizing Memory

Greetings to our worldwide Synchronized Chaos family! Happy Fourth of July to the Americans, also wishing a fun and growth-filled summer to our worldwide assortment of readers.

After much thought and consideration, our theme for this month is Stacking Stones By the Roadside: Ritualizing Memory. Each contribution this time around represented quite a lot of thought and a unique community or artistic vision, and we reflected for quite some time to uncover the unifying thematic thread and cultural zeitgeist. We will discuss the work later in this editorial.

First of all, a few announcements and an honorable mention for some special work we editors have recently discovered. A teenage brother-sister pair of graphic artists, Savetheseals and Santacruiser on ratemydrawings.com, have produced some incredibly detailed and vibrant work. The brother, Santacruiser, creates fantasy pieces and some new abstract representations of American culture an d identity (http://www.ratemydrawings.com/user/santacruiser/) and the sister, Savetheseals, works with themes of childhood and imagination and has recently done a tribute to Farrah Fawcett and her struggle with cancer (http://www.ratemydrawings.com/user/savetheseals) Please feel welcome to look over their work and to leave comments and critiques if you so choose, they are quite polite and responsive. We would love to see them featured in Synchronized Chaos some day, whenever they are able to spare a moment to talk with our staff!

San Francisco’s Artist X-Change gallery, a quirky, classy place in the Mission District, is looking for local bands (no requirement to be signed, as far as I know) to become part of their inventory of local music…they have a new listening station with sample songs and CDs for purchase. If you’re interested please email their music department at music@artist-xchange.com

Also, the Da Silvas, a family some of us personally know, are fundraising for a special van to safely transport their disabled son to and from medical appointments and family outings. They have a blog here:
http://avanforlucas.blogspot.com/ and people are commenting and offering to host benefit events and/or sell items and artwork and donate some proceeds to Lucas.

As for the month’s theme and submissions –

Stacking stones by the roadside to create a memorial goes back to Old Testament Biblical days, when people wished to remember or share with future generations that something important in their history had happened in a certain place. Also, the ritual has a practical function for hikers, letting people see where they have been and not get lost or stuck walking in circles.

Why, and how, do we remember our past? What do we capture as a memory, and what do we consider part of our history? Each of July’s contributors grapples with these questions by presenting an approach to choosing and rediscovering past events, or re-imaging and setting aside present events, as significant. Visual artists Lisa Amato, Katie Quenneville, Eddie Freeland, Tara Knutson, the First Exposures photography students, and Stephanie Pui-Lim Law all capture parts of life they observe and find beautiful or intriguing. Amato and Quenneville’s photography attempt to take snapshots of moments and details of the ordinary world before our eyes – leaves, tree branches, staircases – in order to appreciate and savor these everyday pleasures.

Law’s work, and much of what Quenneville creates besides her spur-of-the-moment photography, involves capturing images from dreams and celebrating the power of our imaginations to provide us with archetypes and representations of aspects of nature and life. Freeland and Knutson bring craft, style, and patience to the representations they create of ordinary scenes…dogs, other pet animals, landmark bridges and streets in San Francisco. Their art consists of finding unique methods and materials to convey often-represented images, thus calling our attention again to the pleasure we can find in celebrating life by enjoying our favorite pets and tourist destinations.

The First Exposures/CameraWorks students combine photography with self-publishing and magazine production, stepping back from and adding to the direct snapshots to comment on and curate the images. The mentorship aspect of their program, like that of the Future Leaders Institute, presents and explores shared experience as ritual designed to pass on cultural values. Making art, performing community service, writing about and teaching history, etc can all be seen as modern public rituals, which attempt to bring people together to remember and process certain aspects of our past and present.

Not every memory is pleasant, and not every current reality will become a happy memory. Authors Staci Ferrick and Edward Mock write of a potential, especially devious terrorist plot, transforming the fear and disempowerment many feel in the face of today’s news headlines into craft. Even if one can never completely protect oneself from violence, one can choose to use the fear as raw material for creativity instead of becoming paralyzed with terror and leaving a literary record of this aspect of our times.

Didacus Ramos, in Stories from Growing Up Portuguese, takes varied incidents and emotions from his own and his family and friends’ past and changes them up, adding events to heighten the drama. Somewhat akin to Latin American magic-realism or early American folktales, his work abstracts the laughter, pain, joy, loss and love of his personal memories to create fiction which draws a wider variety of readers in emotionally while still incorporating specific details of his Portuguese heritage.

Reuben Rutledge deals with actual history, writing academically on very early Buddhist mummification/funerary practices and cannibalism among ancient tribal Hindu-influenced peoples. The peoples he studied were coming to terms with death, with people leaving us behind, in various ways. Those who provided a positive cultural example could become mummified as an honor – traitors, spies, and cowards could get killed and eaten. One’s choices in life determined one’s destiny and legacy, and for some, how they would be remembered was even more important than one’s comfort and survival. The desire to create and honor memories, to become part of the larger human and spiritual story, was stronger than life itself, even for people living close to the edge of survival.

Kate Grenville’s novel The Lieutenant also draws upon and abstracts actual history, taking as a starting point the life of a sixteenth century British navy sailor, astronomer, and abolitionist. Unlike Ramos, she does not incorporate fictional elements in order to heighten drama and create interest. The tone of her whole piece is calm, studied, rational, meditative – with a calm friendship contrasting with the brutality and unreason of the larger political empire.  Rather, Grenville uses her fictional elements to fill in gaps in the record and create a complete, cohesive story while fitting the already-present moods and sensibilities of the characters.

Finally, Augusta Collins, versatile jazz drummer, brings up a great deal of musical history while discussing his past performances and influences. Music represents another, powerful way to capture and communicate the moods, spirit, and emotion of one’s times, and Collins pays tribute to that history, re-tracing our heritage while locating his own metaphorical ‘stacks of stones’ along his pathway to success.

We invite you to visit our communal ‘sites of remembrance’ through this issue, and to reflect upon what is important in your own lives as you read July’s work.