"The kind of artist who works at the beach has noise in their head," he muttered into his zither, as smoke curled out of the sound hole. Sunlight streamed in rays from the wooden planks that panel the radio shack walls. Quantus sat in there, with a silent cup of tea, not playing the zither, but periodically brushing a noise-tone from it: the chirp of the field-cricket, crackling of an Ohio cigar, the clang of war by sword. Here in the farmland, sounds are grains against silence–it reflects the emptiness of the landscape. Between every town, there is a deep cut that you cannot see until you are on top–the river valleys. They are like a piece, a flow of water with narrative, that pierce the regular sound-effecty silence of the land. The opposite of mountains, these pieces are invisible until you're in it.
The Black River flows downward to the ocean: an ocean of freshwater known as lake Erie. The waves lap sand here, and little beachfront towns totter on old sticks, a fence of houses around a rusty core of long-cooled steel. The steel mills recede into the landscape like ruins, and houses become only a fertile metallic patch in the pasture. Blanc deluded himself to be living at the ocean beach when he merely lived at the shores of a lake, albeit eerie and great; this false cognition was a source of bemusement to Quantus and the other members of the Ji Sect.
"Blanc moved to Northern Ohio in 2007," Quantus informed his zither. "He purchased a condominium in the Lorain, with large windows and a deck that leads over the dunes onto the beach. He likes to pick through the flotsam for shells, driftwood, and little rounded pieces of plastic, their origin erased by erosion. He moved his brushes and paints into the sandy basement of that house and works alone there, practicing only this: painting pastoral and maritime scenes on beach trash. He will host the Ji sect meeting tonight. I worry that our activities have violated his inculcation on webcams." Quantus ran his fingernails along the string to make a blaster sound. His long silk sleeve then brushed the zither, whispering harmonically.
That dog returned to the radio shack, fresh from sniffing the fields for somatic growths on cow dung. "Monkletto does not come to the meeting, as he is a downcast member of the sect–degraded. Bing Zi and the elves also do not come, since they are laymen–do they even exist? There are other members of the sect who set audio/video policy at this meeting, but it is important to focus on Blanc. I fear he will be lambasting the presence of media artists as an attraction to party-people." As a coda, Quantus made three disparate, woodworker like motions on his zither–knock, wobble, and twang.
It is night. The sound of crashing surf on the dock of Blanc's house: Quantus reviews his notes from the council's exhortation on webcams in the temple.
"But you have your paints, that is a medium!" Quantus had stammered at the heavy oak table. The council sat around it, exhausted from Blanc's exhortation on media art. A stained-glass dining lamp hung above the table, projecting warm colors of the womb on inhabitants: orange of flesh and red of the virgin umbilical blood.
"I am a medium artist and a beach programmer," Blanc declared. "There is a difference. I have eliminated the multiplicity that exists in media art, and boiled it down to the singular medium of pigment on shells."
"But you have your shells and bits of rounded plastic, are they your canvas?"
"Yes, they are the canvas, and paint is the medium. There is nothing else–no feed of vintage polaroid simulacra, DIY music videos, 8-bit art–the list never ends for media art. And furthermore, an exhibition of media art attracts an equally disparate crowd of party people, who distract from the message of our practice. They are degenerates, like Monkletto, who is not present here at the council table. I used to bring my computer to the beach..."
Quantus imagined Blanc sitting at the lagoon, watching ducks eat poop, with his laptop, coding. He couldn't help snorting, earmarking the transition to Blanc's beach-programming theme: "I would program microcontrollers to draw complex geometries with a felt-tip pen, and also do byte-beats. I thought the purity of the noise, and the salty wind in my scalp somehow made this practice holy and meditative. I was in my twenties, and already tiring of the party-people who seek hypercolor art and computer music as a bed for their sociality. I realized, however, that I was only seeking noise, and the beach is the true source of that: a massive sound environment of crashing and gusting, and the erosion and entropy beneath our feet. I removed the computer from my dock, and now only scan the beach for flotsam, which I use as canvas: the ultimate artistic self-abasement as trash-man."
"You, Quantus," Blanc continued, "you have your zither–it is your medium; the canvas is the Honda Civic you use to transport it–is it connected to the internet? The reason why not is that you have chosen a palette of physical wood, wire, and circuits, as an extension of your practice as friendship bracelet weaver. I think you have quite successfully avoided the fracturing and social anarchy of the media artist..."
Later, over coffee and cake, the council-members either drifted off or sank into Blanc's overstuffed leather chairs, gazing at the display cases of beach trash painted in muted pigments: scenes of cows drinking from trout-water, an old iron lighthouse on the isthmus, rocky piers. Blanc seemed to be attracted to trash and dead animals that pervaded the lake–he studied the shape of fishkill washed up on the sand, their bodies mummified and contorted, then smoothed and streamlined by the blowing sand. Their hollow eyes allowed him dramatic shading for his paint set.
Meeting at Blanc's house on the lake was not unlike meeting at the Theosophical headquarters in Cleveland. The massive brick building also stood on the lake, had a giant oak table, and also warm womb-like lighting. However, the intimate and outskirted nature of Blanc's made it more like a retreat. On the dock, Parson comforted his friend Quantus. "here, artistic manifestoes can emerge from the oily blackness of the lake," he said touching his arm in the friendly way of a musician. The city, even a rusty one like Cleveland, brought a mediocre-media-arts audience to the Theosophical Society, which was not present at the small Ji sect council, and thus its members thus spake with such frankness.
In the next installment of "Quantus Barney: Secluded Residence,"
Do Bing Zi and the elves exist on the radio shack compound while the masters are at the lakeside retreat discussing audio/video policy? More noodle slurping and anus-darting.