A waterstrider traverses the surface of a goldmine pool in the High Sierra, March 2014. Photograph © Quintan Ana Wikswo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerridae
1. AT, INTO, OR ACROSS THE SPACE SEPARATING (TWO OBJECTS OR REGIONS)
Perhaps between is the closest we can come to being, or perhaps it’s the closest that I can come. When we create, we must live between the frictions of the already and the not-yet. It’s a place both slippery and abrasive. It does not allow full union. We are navigating obstacles, in the midst of merge and lane change, we have been diverted from the known by the unknown. Ancient, we move between the pole stars. Between the mountain ranges. Between the legs. Between a rock and a hard place, between the valley and the shadow of death. Between the worlds of the living and the dead. We are Sojourner Truth and Moses, in between the unsustainable, the impossible, and the tenuously imaginable.
As an artist, I find myself migrant, emigrant, and immigrant, concurrently exiled and escaped. Making a run for it in the cracks between what is and was and is yet to be. Making maps of lacunae. Learning to make a map of what’s missing. The borderlands between unknown and known.
Sleepless nights in an Algerian border town brothel, and finding a strand of a stranger’s long hennaed hair on my pillow. These fragments snag in transit. In between, we are snagged and tangled in departures and arrivals.
Migration between mysteries is learning how to enter and leave the pools of light and dark on a street whose origin and destination are indeterminate. In these transit points of the between, our guides are unlikely interlocutors: the woman in Guadalajara in the mud-crusted dress prophesying ghost stories from her cardboard box compendium of dreams – who stops to listen? Who walks away? These are the stories of history and erasure. Tall tales of the living and the murdered. The exile lands of the disbelieved. To go down, or to rise up, but into what? For what purpose? And with what result? The between will only whisper in our ear, in a mostly silent language.
2. IN THE PERIOD SEPARATING (TWO POINTS IN TIME)
I suspect artists are those who have a period of stamina and tenacity for extended in-between-ness. For the extended gestation that never begins in tangible conception nor ever ends in a terminating birth.
Between is a site of lost and found. Time is always between. The work I do is with ghosts, however we define those entities. I scramble down a High Sierra ravine to a riverbed ravaged by miners with a high fever for gold. Their fever has quelled and their hallucinations have evaporated, because they have died. Yet between my hands is an opium tin – oxidized, half disintegrated, a thin aluminum membrane that speaks of solace and addiction – left there by a Chinese slave laborer when he was between his old world and his new, and this opiate was necessary for that cut-raw and jagged traversal. On the highway above, techwipes and glassholes speed their Teslas to their own fevered ravines, jacked on their own data opiates.
Between these times lies this space.
For four years I inhabited the rape brothel at Dachau during the SONDERBAUTEN project, and I knew when its inconsiderately beautiful flowers were blooming, and when visitors were taking selfies in the crematorium. I was between my 21st century studio in Los Angeles, in Brooklyn, in Berlin and some other unidentifiable appendage of me was in a 1930s Bavarian beer garden, an Agfa camera factory, a crime against humanity. And I shuttled around like a spider, between the interstices, between the vast chasms of empty space through which I could sometimes lay my web.
3. IN THE INTERVAL SEPARATING (TWO POINTS ON A SCALE)
When we the spiders of the in-between are in between the anchor points of our projects, we pace along an iron filament, a tensile membrane of gut and sinew strung from a deep-inhabited site in our guts where we spiders lived and loved, feared and suffered, filled with union and communion. Across the vast void is the other site.
We propel ourselves through empty space towards a site that is only yet enigma wrapped in miasma of the future.
Its ghosts may not have names.
Some coming-into-being place that we enter, inexorably and inextractibly.
We are going somewhere, and nowhere, in time and space. It takes a cobweb.
4. INDICATING A CONNECTION OR RELATIONSHIP INVOLVING TWO OR MORE PARTIES
I often wonder how the artist of the in-between wants or fears the union of a whole. Do we even have the capacity to be one? What is the allure of the multitude of self, the fractals of perspective required to create an artwork that speaks to many, to most, to none, to all.
It is an extended seduction that cannot be detailed or buzzfed.
So much of our lives are led in between the legs of ourselves and those we love or want, or want to love, or want to be loved by. And yet that region – enigmatic, disobedient, awkward, and incorrigibly messy – is only a portal between two other sites. The site of the body, but also of the psyche, a site of entrances and exits, arrivals and departures.
We make love to what does not exist outside our own imagination. We conjure it into the tangibility of being.
A love affair between the disincarnate and incarnate.
These sensations tear at the tensile fissures in the body, strain the muscles of the heart – parts of us simultaneously joined and separated, adjacent but parted, with the blood flow contained in long and winding transmission, tunnels and tubes that are tenacious but easily broken.
There are long expanses of time and space within bodies – human and planetary – and we know so little of how to travel them. Of what can be found between the ears, the fingers and the feet, ribs and mountain ranges, and the worlds upon worlds within the membranes in between them.
5. BY COMBINING THE RESOURCES OR ACTIONS OF (TWO OR MORE PEOPLE OR OTHER ENTITIES)
In December, the fieldwork for my new project OUT HERE DEATH IS NO BIG DEAL took me to an ultimate between: a mountain between the United States and Mexico.
At the top of the mountain is the Apache Point Deep Space Observatory at which telescopes look out across timespace to observe the galaxies at the edges of the known universe, recording light from millions of years in the past.
At the bottom of the mountain are Ciudad Juarez, and the femicide mass graves of thousands of murdered women: graves that at this moment are constantly being filled and emptied and re-filled.
Across the mountain are the ranges of the wars of colonialism: the Spanish, the new Americans, the Apache and the Navajo and the searing brutalities of space trapped in time, and the point we cannot traverse to retrieve the dead.
I have no explanation for this kind of nexus. It reminds us that we are small and large at the same time. That discrepancy makes me dizzy.
The existential vertigo of in-between.
6. IN OR ALONG THE SPACE SEPARATING TWO OBJECTS OR REGIONS.
Once upon a time, a small and unimportant tree grew in a small and unimportant spot of land. The seasons came and went, and the angles of the sun separated cold from hot, snow from sun, and amidst it all the small and insignificant tree grew leaves and lost them, and grew them again only for them to fall and then sprout anew. Eventually this ignominious tree fell to earth and a small fissure in its trunk allowed in a woodworm. In between the desiccating space of bark and flesh, the worm nibbled and gnawed, tunneling through to create a lacy network of passageways.
Last week, I was walking with a friend through a forest and we found this piece of tree, a small broken branch of its body. We picked it up and admired the raw filigree etched into its surface. As someone once explained to me, I explained the story of the tree and the worm and its passages through the bark.
Oh, said my friend. The worm must feel such pressure and such comfort, moving between the flesh and the bark.
Yes, said I, I think it does.
(QUINTAN ANA WIKSWO is recognized for adventurous trans-disciplinary projects that integrate her original literature, visual art, performance, and video. Her thirty-seven major projects are exhibited, published, and performed at prominent institutions through Europe and the Americas. Wikswo’s works – created using salvaged military cameras and communications equipment – navigate the borderlands between known, unknown, and mythic worlds, where crimes against humanity have taken place. Wikswo’s artistic and intellectual practice explores the volatile borderlands and lacunae between intimate internal worlds and external geopolitical upheaval, especially those surrounding gender, sexuality, warfare, science and shamanism.
Her book THE HOPE OF FLOATING HAS CARRIED US THIS FAR is forthcoming on Coffee House Press (Spring 2015) and other literary and text works appear regularly in anthologies, exhibition catalogues, and artist books as well as magazines such as Tin House, Gulf Coast, Conjunctions, The Kenyon Review, New American Writing, Alaska Quarterly Review, Denver Quarterly, and more. Other publications include four DVD collections of her performance-text-video installations.
Her work has appeared in solo museum shows in New York City and Berlin, and include theBerlin Jewish Museum, the Jewish Museum Munich, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the MOMA/Ceret, the Smithsonian-affiliated Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History (NYC), (France), the Lyon Musée des Moulages, Schloss Pluschow, and others.
She performs regularly in New York City and Los Angeles at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, (Le) Poisson Rouge, Incubator Arts, Dixon Place, Beyond Baroque, Cornelia Street Café and many others. Her collaborative performance works have premiered at the University of Southern California, the University of Maryland, the University of Colorado, the Pew Foundation/New Spaces New Formats, California State University at Fullerton, MicroFest, The Composer’s Project, Theatre de le Main d’Or, and more.
She has been honored with fellowships from Creative Capital, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Cultural Innovation, the Theo Westenberger Estate, ARC/Durfee, Yaddo, Djerassi, the Puffin Foundation, Ucross, the Millay Colony, Montalvo Center for the Arts, the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and more.)