"My project is writing a novel as a physical act of making, a novel-as-sculpture. How is a book made? What are the materials? I am using this fiction space to experiment with the exchange between the making of things and the act of describing them."
For Do this while I wait, Rosenberg concentrates on the character of Annette, an artist with a day job who can only spend eight hours a week in her studio due to her work schedule (a case of fact bleeding into fiction as Rosenberg, like all of us, aims to find balance amidst life’s obligations). Annette spends as much time making objects as she does listening to guided meditation audio files on her phone. These meditations create a narrative in which domestic cleaning objects are the key to decluttering her mental landscape. In the novel, Rosenberg writes: “In her meditations household cleaning equipment took on supernatural powers for energetic maintenance. How depressing she found her imagination for transcendent object conjuring; an unending accumulation of brooms, sponges, drain catchers and exhaust pipes filled up her pathway to spiritual oneness.”
For the Mattress Factory, Rosenberg exhibits the objects that Annette has been making – some she has written about and others are made on behalf of the character and remain as yet unwritten. And what are these objects exactly? They are hybrids, much like Annette: shredded books or cast crow’s feet become broom bristles, a lamp becomes formless, a pillowcase becomes a bucket, and ceramic spaghetti turns into a mop. These transmutations get at the heart of how we tend to care for objects rather than ourselves or other humans and how this is further complicated when the imaginary becomes material and vice versa. Rosenberg, us visitors, and the objects alike, all become form and emptiness, like a 21st century Miss Havisham, of who Charles Dickens wrote: “But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its luster, and was faded and yellow.” In Rosenberg’s work the world doesn’t yellow (lemons aside) but it frays at the edges while tenuously keeping its grasp on the material reality within a world of words.
I typically begin with reading; authors capture something I am already noticing in my environment but then the reading reinforces that noticing. Making anything at all or even unmaking a made thing produces formations of matter that bring something new into existence. I think about all the ways we have used language to generate the imaginary and how that same imaginary is always poised with the potential to become real. Maybe imagining something is what starts its becoming. There are many things that become outside of language, things that we don’t make for ourselves from our imagination, things that exist that we don’t have names for yet and have to find language for.
My current project is writing a novel as a physical act of making, a novel-as-sculpture. How is a book made? What are the materials? I am using this fiction space to experiment with the exchange between the making of things and the act of describing them. The novel is a place to write about things that might be made and to write about things that have been made, it is a container that uses narrative as a tool for meaning making and for a deep consideration of material. In the narrative, characters serve only as tools for moving objects along in their task of assembling form and meaning.
In this iteration, the practice of maintaining the artist studio collides with the practice of meditation as the character Annette struggles to both make time for the studio and to use that time to make things. Instead of detaching from thoughts in the form of language and disconnecting from her physical self and surroundings, her meditation attempts to experience the mind outside of these linguistic and material containers result in a kind of failure where she instead produces a growing assembly of imagined tools that start to crowd the space of her mind which she is trying to empty. I am intervening in Annette’s inability to produce work by giving form to her imagined existential cleaning tool kit and Annette is intervening in my studio as a framework.
Place aside, for the moment, all of your physical matter, worries and concerns, you will not need them during this exercise and they will simply get in the way. Do this while I wait.
Thank you to Denise Markonish, Danny Bracken, Natalie Miczikis, and everyone on staff at Mattress Factory Museum, Laura Bernstein, Lyndon Barrois jr., Isla Hansen, Paz Ortuzar, Amalia Wilson, David Rosenberg, Davant Dodson-Rosenberg, Jared Miller for supporting me in this exhibition.
Lydia Rosenberg is an artist currently based in Pittsburgh. Her work, primarily in sculpture, is concerned with the impact of language on our perception of physical things. She received her MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from the University of Pennsylvania and a BFA in Intermedia from Pacific Northwest College of Art. She has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions throughout the US and abroad in Belgium and Chile. She has published written and visual works. Her project of writing a novel as a way to make a sculpture began in 2018 and is ongoing. Recent solo exhibitions include The complete subject at Napoleon, Philadelphia for which she made several hundred sculptures in the shape of lemons based on written descriptions of the fruit found in paintings and Spaghetti Restaurant at BasketShop Gallery, Cincinnati, which transformed the gallery into a pop-up, cost-free spaghetti-restaurant-as-sculpture. She is a co-founder of Anytime Dept. a now on pause artist-run exhibition project which was based in Cincinnati.