The Hope of Being Seen

“Most people would trade everything they know, everyone they know- they’d trade it all to know they’ve been seen, and acknowledged, that they might even be remembered. We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment.”
― Dave Eggers, The Circle

University of Texas at Dallas,  Richardson, Texas

University of Texas at Dallas,
Richardson, Texas

Escape Plan

In 1966, Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank prison. All they found of him was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap, and an old rock hammer, damn near worn down to the nub. I remember thinking it would take a man six hundred years to tunnel through the wall with it. Old Andy did it in less than twenty. Oh, Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time. That, and a big goddamn poster. Like I said, in prison a man will do most anything to keep his mind occupied. Turns out Andy’s favorite hobby was totin’ his wall out into the exercise yard, a handful at a time.
—-The Shawshank Redemption

The other day, after the really cool bike ride from the Dallas Contemporary, we all returned and hung out for a while, looking at the exhibits. There was some really good stuff… really good.

One special exhibit, off to one side, was Acceleration – a set from 35 artists run out to honor the 35th anniversary of the space. Walking through it, I came around a corner, looked at a sheetrock wall, and found one in particular that really spoke to me.

It was one of the coolest pieces of art/sculpture/exhibition I’ve ever seen.

A simple work by Bradly Brown, named “Escape Plan.” It was a heavy, sharp compass, mounted against the wall. An unseen force turned the compass slowly, and the sharp steel point was slowly digging its way through the wall.

"Escape Plan" by Bradly Brown, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, Texas

“Escape Plan” by Bradly Brown, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, Texas

The circle cut into the wall displayed a ragged edge where the spike had torn through the outer paper layer. When I looked closely, I could see that it had dug deep, almost through the drywall, and was digging deeper.’

"Escape Plan" by Bradly Brown, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, Texas

“Escape Plan” by Bradly Brown, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, Texas

I watched it going round and round, and talked to some other folks that walked up. I said, “it must have some sort of mechanism mounted inside the wall.”

Then, on a whim, I walked around until I reached the opposite side of the wall and was surprised when, there, I found the other end – the business end – an electric motor slowly turning a shaft that pierced the barrier – obviously turning the compass on the other side. It was set up as another part… a hidden part of the art. It would have been interesting to find the motor first – to see it moving and try to figure out what it was doing. You would never be able to guess.

The back side of "Escape Plan" by Bradly Brown, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, Texas

The back side of “Escape Plan” by Bradly Brown, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, Texas

I looked closely and saw that it was spring mounted – I assume pulling the mechanism through the wall… eventually.

Coming out of the Circle

Sherry Owens, Dallas
Coming out of the Circle 1999 Steel
Frisco, Texas

Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop.

—-Black Elk Speaks


Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all , and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.

—-Black Elk Speaks


I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.

And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, — you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

—- Black Elk Speaks


To the center of the world you have taken me and showed the goodness and the beauty and the strangeness of the greening earth, the only mother — and there the spirit shapes of things, as they should be, you have shown to me and I have seen. At the center of this sacred hoop, you have said that I should make the tree to bloom.

With tears running, O Great Spirit , Great Spirit, my Grandfather — with running tears I must say now that the tree has never bloomed. A pitiful old man, you see me here, and I have fallen away and have done nothing. Here at the center of the world, where you took me when I was young and taught me; here, old, I stand, and the tree is withered, Grandfather, my Grandfather!

Again, and maybe the last time on this earth, I recall the great vision you sent me. It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds. Hear me, not for myself, but for my people; I am old. Hear me that they may once more go back into the sacred hoop and find the good red road, the shielding tree!

—-Black Elk Speaks