Thoughts From Hillsdale

My mother has been raising rabbits professionally on a national level since I was about two years old, and I am constantly surprised by the amount of pointless information I have accumulated throughout that time regarding the little fuzz balls; not of my own choosing mind you. While I did take 4-H as a child, winning a number of awards for my own rabbit stock, I guess it should be no coincidence that I know a thing or two about them. Yet, despite fully understanding the reality of what it means to raise rabbits professionally, I am still occasionally disheartened when I see the less perfect go off to slaughter.

Saturday tends to be the prime time for us to take a car-load of rabbits to the Hillsdale Auction; a weekly ‘catch-all’ sale held at the fairgrounds in Hillsdale, MI. Though mostly popular with the stereotypical hillbillies and rednecks, it has become the target location for us to remove unnecessary rabbits from our possession in a legal manner. Like any auction, those interested in purchasing our goods, in this case rabbits, can place cash bids; and the highest bidder wins. We walk away with cash in hand, and they walk away with snake food, dog food, and/or pet store inventory.

Depending on the time of the year, we tend to take around 15-30 rabbits per trip. While this may seem like a high number when discussing the quantities of rabbits, bear in mind that the stock within our possession is probably around 150 rabbits in total. I do remember a couple of incidences as a kid when we had around 250-275 altogether; though fortunately that has slowed down considerably since we moved.

As I get older though, I am finding myself thinking about the fate of the rabbits within our possession more and more, especially when my parents become unable to care for them all. Right now everything is structured like a well-oiled machine, but that isn’t going to be the case forever. My mother is currently ranked #1 in the nation for Chinchilla Dutch, so I can only imagine how difficult it is going to be when the inevitable release from that title comes into play. When so much of our life is intertwined with that which we love; whether it is cars, collectibles, art, or rabbits, removing that deep-rooted bond can be earthshattering.

I worry.

Thick Chunky Paste

What does it feel like?

It feels like I am having an argument with someone who just keeps repeating the same phrase, ‘something is wrong.’

On most occasions nothing is wrong, but my mind fails to understand clear objective facts during these bouts with OCD. A minor inconvenience that may be seen as benign or miniscule to others ends up expanding into a swirling vortex of clenched teeth and second glances for me.

There is no calm.

The thought of failure is constant. It pushes out happiness, desires, daily tasks, simple cognitive functions, and the bigger picture. Everything funnels down into a thick chunky paste of fight or flight.

Nothing is wrong.

But what if something is wrong?

This constant dialog loops in my head. I can’t control it; it’s a rollercoaster without any breaks. Unfortunately you’re stuck on the ride until it stops on its own.

How long does that normally take?

Depends; sometimes a matter of minutes, other times it can last an entire day.  Up, down, left, right, over and over. I’d be surprised if my brain had a stem, considering how much it spins around in my head.

You lose sight of who you are and reduce down into a puddle. Comforts ease the tensions occasionally; food, porn, music. Yet, even with the screams blaring in my ears I can still hear the monotone voice echoing from the distance-

Something is wrong.


 

Sometimes when I am having a prolonged grapple with OCD I’ll type out my conversations with myself. Helps to drain the soup from my head, plus it makes for an interesting read later.

Underwater Basket Weaving

How quickly we come to an end.

While I try not to focus too extensively on the inevitable realities of death, it is hard for me to overlook how quickly we vanish from thought once we pass. Our actions, experiences, memories, ambitions, are flipped off like a light switch. While acquaintances can certainly carry on with the reflections of our life for the years to follow, what happens when those individuals pass as well?

There is nothing more surreal than throwing away the possessions of a deceased loved one. Old books, magazines, tchotchkes, items once held in the hands of the living, now void of significance because the hands are no longer there.

My grandfather passed away a decade ago, and recently we have been acquiring possessions of his as my grandmother relocates to an assisted living facility. Many of the objects consist of old books about World War 2, which he had been an active service member, uniforms, dinning sets, cabinets, and photographs. While I had developed my own assumptions of who he was as a person simply from my visits with him as a child, riffling through his belongings has given me a better understanding of his character.

Blueprints of his house which he had built by hand, grocery store receipts he had used as bookmarks, letters from his past wife regarding his extramarital affairs, newspaper clippings about the unionization at his workplace. He was a hard-nosed, republican hating, womanizer, and abusive father; and here I was, throwing his possessions into boxes to be donated. I did not feel upset by this process, but rather it turned my attention toward my own sense of being. Scrap by scrap, his existence was disappearing.

What happens when the pages begin to crumble?

What happens when the photos begin to fade?

What happens when I too pass?

His life will be but whispers in the wind, a legacy forgotten, a name not remembered.


 

My mother, who aspired to be an artist as a child, was constantly belittled by her father regarding her dreams to make art. His most infamous line being, ‘what are you going to do with art? You might as well take up underwater basket weaving.’

Do Flies Go To Heaven?

SLEEP

First you have the action of the crash itself; the initial collision and its’ subsequent reactions. With any high speed vehicular impact, the sheer veracity of a one-ton mass colliding with an equal body will immediately rip away at both the exterior cosmetic and interior structural metal of the car; peeling it away like soft tissue paper.  From this point, the seatbelt tensioners located within the vehicle’s cabin will engage and lock, and all airbags will deploy from their respected housing. The paint, now under immense pressure due to the shifting parts, begins to crack along the vehicle’s bodylines, inevitably releasing from the stress. These chunks of paint can range from the size of a penny to the average scale of a human fist. The rust that had built up under the car’s chassis is the next to fail, expelling outward from the wheel-wells in large plumes of brown soot. The velocity of the impact may result in the detachment of exterior accessories from the core structure of the vehicle; such as side-view mirrors, hubcaps, front fascia, and rear bumper cover. Dependent on the location of the impact, the forward momentum carried by the vehicle may cause it to lose tire traction; resulting in rollovers, sliding, and unforeseen impacts with foreign objects. With all of the momentum eventually slowing to zero, the vehicle will then come to rest; never to be driven again.

 

DO FLIES GO TO HEAVEN?

I had been watching it circle around the living room ceiling for the last two minutes. Occasionally it would swoop down toward me and attempt to land, though I would hastily swat at it whenever it got too close. More than anything it seemed curious, perhaps taunted by my agitation. It tried to catch me off-guard a number of times, sneaking along the back of the sofa where I sat, and slowly crawling on to my shoulder. I would catch a glance of it out of the corner of my eye and quickly brush it away with the back of my hand. It was certainly persistent if nothing else. Eventually it landed next to my laptop and sat; its body fidgeting as I continued to type on my keyboard. I briefly paused to stare at it while it diligently cleaned its wings; rubbing its front legs over its abdomen in a repetitious motion. Its head would twitch side to side as if it was attempting to straighten its hair before the next big journey; perhaps to make its way into the kitchen where loose vegetables casually laid in the open. I contemplated how old it must be, for it was much larger than the ones I typically see navigating around the house. Maybe those were its offspring. After our momentary gaze at one another, it jittered toward my hand and climbed on to my finger. Spreading its’ wings it took to the air, flying away out of sight.


 

I hate to break a writing up over the course of a couple days, so I’ve been experimenting with very short, quick writing sessions to keep my brain on its toes. By doing so, it becomes far less planned and more mind-mapping than anything else; which I enjoy.

Rinse & Repeat

The phone rang and my eyes shot open. I had been sitting in the living room attempting to motivate myself to write, yet failing miserably by falling asleep in the process. Typically when someone calls our landline it is a telemarketer that never leaves a message. However, the faint murmuring echoing from the kitchen let me know that there was life this time. After roughly a minute the message ended, only for the phone to begin ringing again. Slightly agitated, and knowing full well that it was probably no one, I rose to my feet and made my way into the kitchen. After three processions of ringing, the answering machine triggered. I stood next to it and waited with mild impatience.

Low and behold, and to no ones’ surprise, it was dead air on the other line. I let out a sigh and looked down at Tank, who was locked away in his kennel as punishment for eating a piece of taco bake from the garbage. I should have probably pushed it down further into the bag when I threw it out, knowing his tendency to dig around in the trash. If I was a dog I would have done the same I guess. I rolled my eyes and unlatched his kennel door, to which he sprang out and proceeded to run about in the dining room; squeaking his stuffed duck lodged in his mouth. I sluggishly walked back into the living room; the plastic sound of squeaks following me in toe.

It was a surprisingly beautiful day out, despite having zero urge to go out and enjoy it. I cracked the blinds open slightly and sat back down on the sofa; propping my laptop on to my knees. The empty Word document that I had attempted to fix prior to dozing off was staring back at me. I began to lightly tap my fingernails on to the keyboard, typing out the first words that popped into my head.

‘Butternut squash, kumquat, trichotillomania, exacerbated, dermatitis…’

I leaned my head back against the sofa cushion and watched the ceiling fan spin. I don’t know why it is so difficult at times to figure out what to write about. I try to let myself wander, spreading out my thoughts without a second glance; though today I was in such a dense fog. With my mind still pacing back and forth, I closed my eyes and listened to the rhythm of the fan blades slice through the air.

One, two, three; One, two, three; One, two…

The abrupt high-pitched shrill of the kitchen phone broke the silence again, and at that moment I started to type.

‘The phone rang and my eyes shot open.’

Before I Forget

Half of the time I don’t even know where the hell I am at. A combination of anti-depressants and blood pressure regulators put me in a dense medicated fog every morning when I first wake up. Hiding my eyes from the morning sun does little to prevent the thoughts from racing through my head in a spastic jittery blur. It felt as if my brain was doing somersaults in my skull, or perhaps attempting to force itself down my spinal cord; twisting, jumping, spinning, like a plump tomato being forced down into the bowels of a juicer. It typically takes around thirty minutes before the thoughts eventually subside, so I developed some coping mechanisms to help distract me.

I managed to pass the time by sheepishly browsing over the white ceiling tiles in my room. 9 tiles wide, 12 tiles long, 108 in total; though to be honest I had never counted them all individually. One particular tile always attracted my attention due to a random nickel-sized hole drilled into it. Supposedly the previous owners of our house had used my room as a nursery, so I tend to think the hole was from a mobile that dangled over a wooden crib.

‘What an ugly room for a baby’ I dazedly thought.

Having my fill of counting tiles, and with my thoughts slowing to a crawl, I rolled over onto my side and aimlessly fumbled with my laptop’s power button. 10:43am.

I could hear my younger brother making his way down the stairs on the other side of my bedroom door; carefully taking each step one at a time, a quirk that he had done since he was a little kid. Debating whether I should get up now or continue lying in bed for a few more minutes, I tossed myself onto my back once more. Despite my lackluster attempts to fully cover the windows with blankets and garbage bags, the sunlight always managed to peek through the cracks I had missed; illuminating slivers of the room with a harsh yellow glow. I hastily sat up in bed with an abrupt lunge, and proceeded to run my hands through my hair in a half stupor. Tangled knots never received any mercy from me, as the broken bits of hair fell away from my fingertips in defeat. The pungent taste of bile rolled around in my mouth as I slid my tongue along the interior of my mouth guard. Gritting my teeth in anticipation, I pried myself upwards on to my feet amidst an orchestra of crackling joints. Morning.

I cautiously descended the staircase, taking care to brace myself against the walls of the stairwell; streaks of dirt and grease lightly stained the blue paneling from the numerous times I had done so prior. Our family dog, a golden retriever named Tank, happily awaited my arrival at the base; a saliva filled smile upon his face as I lightly patted his head. Half awake, I made my way into the bathroom and adorned my seat on the porcelain throne, kicking my shorts off in the process. Painful headaches tend to follow after the sporadic thoughts ease up, and this time was no different from the rest. It felt like a metal pipe was being pushed slowly through the side of my skull. I held my forehead and stared down at the crusty blue carpeting of the bathroom.

Some of the unique stains populating the carpet held notable experiences; such as the light maroon droplets near the sink from when my brother had an explosive nosebleed, to the off-green blotch near the toilet from a vomiting episode I had during a battle with food poisoning. I watched the carpet with eyes slowly glazing over. Portions of it began to dance and wave like foam-filled blue currents of the ocean; their ascending and receding bulges providing a brief reprieve from my headache. I ran my feet along the floor pretending as if they were submerged in a pool of water. Sometimes you have to lose yourself temporarily in order to keep yourself stable. Making my exit from the pleasant comatose state, I jerked my head back up with a sigh, coming face to face with my reflection in the massive eight foot mirror above the sinks. The beautiful shimmer of stars twirled in the corners of my eyes, most likely due to the sudden burst of oxygen to my head.

Staring blankly back at my reflection, I couldn’t help but chuckle under my breath as I noticed my hair flipped on to one side of my head, prominent purple bags weighing down below my eyes, and the sparkling skim layer of grease plastered on my face.

‘That’s a look’, I thought with a smile.

After concluding my business amidst the land of hand soaps and toiletries, I tossed my shorts back on and made my way into kitchen; the smell of artificial pomegranate and mango wafting from my damp hands. I greeted my brother with our typical good morning grunt of acknowledgement, like two disoriented cavemen saying hello as they pass by one another. As he busily fiddled with a package of apple cinnamon oatmeal that refused to open, I prepared a cup of decaf coffee; the hum of the Kuerig machine coming to life and awakening my senses. I walked over to the cabinets above the stove in search of a worthy mug, nearly tripping over Tank in the process, who apparently took pleasure in lying down in the most unorthodox locations. He happily squeaked his stuffed duck lodged in his mouth, perhaps finding my near-death experience entertaining. Browsing over the numerous glasses at my disposal, I settled on a large black mug covered in images of my mother’s rabbits, hastily tossing it into the brewer.

The sweet pitter patter of dripping coffee had always been a pleasant chime to my ears. Leaning against the kitchen counter, I scrolled through the potential activities that I could accomplish that day in my head: work a little on my art, perhaps research more on the cognitive effects of loneliness, take a trip into to town to pick up some odds and ends from Goodwill? Not that I would actually do any of these activities in the end, but it’s the thought that counts.

With a fresh cup of caffeine in hand, I dragged my feet into the living room and slipped into my step father’s chocolate brown recliner; the tantalizing warmth of the mug radiating into my fingers. Lying my head against the back of the chair, I glanced up to see the ceiling fan begin spinning as my brother made his way into the room with a steaming bowl of oatmeal, promptly taking a seat in the sofa next to me. I clanked my fingernails against the side of my mug, slowly taking a sip while looking out the window.

The corn had grown surprisingly fast this year, taking the liberty of blocking out all signs of civilization with an abrupt eight foot tall perimeter of green. I don’t normally mind the years when we become stranded in a sea of corncobs; after all, the solitude had always been relatively pleasant. However, this time was different, I felt far more isolated than normal. The occasional car flying by helped to reassure me that life was still present, but for the most part time stood completely still. The cornstalks swayed in unison with each passing breeze; perhaps waving for me to join them, perhaps trying to signal to me that I was not entirely alone. I took another sip of coffee and closed the blinds.

 

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1 in a Million

If you happened to be strolling through any mall, you may have passed by a Build-A-Bear Workshop; a brightly colored children’s wonderland where you are given the opportunity to build your very own stuffed animal friend; for a price of course. Much of the store’s interior is laced with an assortment of fuzzy critters for you to choose, as well as optional clothing and accessories for your new friend. Near the back sits the magical fluff machine, a bulbous yellow contraption that brings your new friend to life by means of filling its head full of cotton. For any child, the mysticism of this experience, the experience of ‘metaphorically’ bringing a friend to life, is one filled with excitement and wonder; planting the seed for a long-lasting relationship with their creation. It comes to a surprise to me then, when I happen to be scouring through the piles of stuffed animals at my local thrift store, how often I stumble upon these former friends; tossed away by the child for one reason or another.

Like many children, I grew up with a hodgepodge of stuffed animals at my feet; providing comfort on the darkest nights, and an open ear for my deepest secrets. Never one to judge my actions, stuffed animals became a stable foundation for me in a relatively unstable living environment.  From an objective standpoint, stuffed animals are objects with a high functional capacity. They are used to console, to celebrate, to play, to enjoy. They are objects that embody experiences; past, present, and future; both good and bad. They are vessels that neither record nor document, yet when we see a stuffed animal we understand that it has been through an experience. At some point throughout its lifespan, it has felt the touch of human hands, the compassionate eyes of a child, or the tears of grief. It is these experiences that I am increasingly drawn to. When I browse over the piles of brightly colored fluff at thrift stores, I do not see cuddly critters; rather, I see records of time, past relationships, experiences that are familiar, yet not of my own doing.

Recently I have been acquiring these thrown away friends; partly out of sympathy, and partly out of a growing interest in documenting them. Like an unrecognizable language scribbled on a cave wall, I know not the journies they have been through, but I can feel them trying to be heard.

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(WIP) Matthew Dangler, 1 in a Million, thrift store stuffed animals, 2018.

Mouth Full of Glass

A dry roasted peanut broke the wisdom tooth. Who would have guessed that a cheap snack nonchalantly tossed into my mouth would be the start to years of future pain. The tiny chunk that had been taken out of the bone by a vindictive nut soon grew in size, splintering piece by piece out from my lips with each passing meal. Chips, candy, granola, food that I had never given a second thought prior had now made their way to the center of my attention. Every kernel and crumb lodged within the cracks, digging their way into the tender nerves below, infecting and pulsing with each heartbeat, tears rolling from my eyes with food still moist in my mouth, unable to swallow. I would have ripped the little shit out of the gums myself, but money had always been an issue.

The second time that it happened it was a toasted onion bagel, all while trying to enjoy an average Saturday morning breakfast. Without even a warning shot, the crispy bread sheered a bicuspid clean in half. An audible snap shook my jaw, like cracking open a fresh peapod. Surprisingly enough the break was so clean that it came out completely intact. There was no initial pain. However, the fact that the tooth was positioned so close to the front of my mouth ran waves of anxiety throughout my body. ‘How the fuck am I going to smile now?’ I thought. I rolled it around in the palm of my hand. It was hollowed out by rot, so the chance of saving it was beyond slim. Nonetheless, I placed the tooth within an empty Lexapro bottle; perhaps I believed there was a way to put it back in my head, or maybe I just wanted to hold on to the experiences that resided in the tooth itself. It’s hard to say.

Bite Your Tongue 2
Matthew Dangler, Bite Your Tongue; wood, toolbox liner, expanding foam, acrylic, clear coat. 2018.

Momentum

With a brief walk across the stage, one chapter ends and a new one begins. It is hard to believe that two years has passed by so quickly. While it is a deeply bittersweet moment, one must not dwell too heavily on the past. After all, there is plenty of work to be done.

On graduation day I returned back home to the endless miles of baron cornfields; an environment that I once loathed as a kid, but now find deep meaningful comfort in as an adult. After spending so much of my time amidst the concrete, advertisements, and congestion of a city, I have become more humble toward my upbringing within the sticks. This country lifestyle, one that is filled with bouts of extreme boredom and solace, has been the primary influence on my artistic practice throughout the years. Its’ impact has granted me the ability to produce artwork with literally next to nothing at my disposal, and work within a space no bigger than a standard closet. I do not need a lot to thrive, and I take pride in this accomplishment.

Upon returning home I took the liberty of gutting my bedroom and converting it into a makeshift studio space. Countless garbage bags of junk and old wooden furniture were happily tossed on to our burn pile in order to make room. Believe it or not, a majority of the artwork that I submitted within my CCAD MFA application was produced in my bedroom, so I know the space will be sufficient enough for me to work with. While I will not have the capability to produce large-scale work anytime soon, I have been diving back into illustrating; my first true love and my dominant hand as an artist. Illustrating got me through many tough moments in my life, and I look forward to getting back on the horse and experimenting with it again. Lets see what this country boy can do.

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Matthew Dangler, Tooth & Nail 1, ink on canvas board, 2011.

Perpetuating Possession

‘The proliferation of faddish gadgets reflects the fact that as the mass of commodities becomes increasingly absurd, absurdity itself becomes a commodity. Trinkets such as key chains which come as free bonuses with the purchase of some luxury product, but which end up being traded back and forth as valued collectibles in their own right, reflect a mystical self-abandonment to commodity transcendence. Those who collect the trinkets that have been manufactured for the sole purpose of being collected are accumulating commodity indulgences – glorious tokens of the commodity’s real presence among the faithful. Reified people proudly display the proofs of their intimacy with the commodity. Like the old religious fetishism, with its convulsionary raptures and miraculous cures, the fetishism of commodities generates its own moments of fervent exaltation. All this is useful for only one purpose: producing habitual submission.’

Society of the Spectacle – Guy Debord

 

I spend every Sunday evening carrying out the same task without fail. I hop on to Ebay and browse numerous pages of collectibles to see what kind of rare finds are available before they are taken off the market. Many sellers of collectibles set up their auctions to run on one week intervals; making Sunday the most likely day to snag a treasure from the watchful eyes of other hungry buyers. Many times I walk away disappointed and empty handed, but occasionally a rarity falls into my possession. It is a game that I have been playing for quite some time, but only recently have I been asking myself ‘why am I doing this?’

On my previous blog post I briefly mentioned the addictive properties that possession can have on a subject. Like any addiction, possession has the capabilities of making a subject blind to their own actions. When we see something that we truly and deeply want to possess, the conflicting questions that run counter to our actions take a backseat to our desires. For example, when I am on Ebay looking for an addition to my collection, I never think – ‘Do I really need this? Will this truly make me happy? What are the consequences financially if I purchase this object?’ Rather, the sole thought running through my brain at that precise moment is ‘if I do not have this object, my life is incomplete.’ However, the cruel consequences that arise by giving into this addictive indulgence are that the subject is never truly satisfied in the end. With any addiction, the longing for that next drink, that next drug, that next object, is always clawing at the subject’s mind. One of anything is never good enough; and so the cycle continues.

I have been reflecting on my thesis installation with regards to the addictive properties of possession; primarily from the viewpoint of a collector. As is stated within the passage by Guy Debord above, there certainly is a desire to showcase proof of my intimacy with the objects. However, there is also a cautious reluctance to do so. Within my first enclosure, I will be displaying all of my treasures to the viewer; however, a consistent barricade around the enclosure will prevent the viewer from ever gaining possessional access to the objects. Viewers will be able to look, but never touch. This rather narcissistic approach epitomizes the mentality of a collector. To proudly display to others what you have, and what they do not.

The second enclosure is my attempt to break from the cycle of possession; to give myself a temporary intervention from the grips of my treasures; to showcase the objects for what they really are; systematically breaking down each object into their bare material essence. Each object, now stripped of their hierarchal value structures that were placed upon them by the subject, i.e. me, are then organized within glass test tubes to then be put on display for the viewer outside of the enclosures. However, similar to the first enclosure displaying my possessions, the second enclosure will be barricaded as well; prohibiting the viewer from entering or taking part in this cathartic endeavor.

Now one may think that the objects, now destroyed, removed from the enclosures, and put on display for the viewer, would call forth an end to the cycle of possession. However, this is far from the case. Despite destroying my treasures; despite allowing them to be removed from the confides of my grasp, am I truly letting them go in the end? The answer is simply – no. If anything, I am only perpetuating the cycle of possession to continue. Even though I took the liberty of destroying said objects, placing the remnants within glass test tubes for the viewer, the test tubes themselves are an enclosure as well; an enclosure that I have solely dictated to hold the remnants of my treasures after being destroyed. Though visually the test tubes are much different to the larger-scale enclosures housing everything else, they are still an active barrier preventing the viewer from accessing the objects. During no point throughout my entire installation do I truly ever relinquish possession over anything, despite the object’s physicality changing throughout. This attempt to fully remove myself from my treasures is all but a façade; a false hope that is never successfully reached. And so the cycle of possession continues yet again; the cycle of never letting go.

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