In the Desert

Birthdays are of the strangest rituals we practice: singing the same song in droll voices, giving loved ones preprinted platitudes, and celebrating our inevitable march toward death.

Using the text of Stephen Crane’s 1895 poem, “In the Desert”, along with the visual cues from contemporary celebratory platitudes this piece explores what it means to celebrate and the places we derive pleasure from in life, even it’s difficult moments. At a length of 248 characters, including punctuation, the banner is absurdly long in contrast to a standard celebratory banner, so long it crosses the gallery space ten times–once for each line of the poem, so the pacing of the reading of the text is tied to the source material. The banner is made of laser cut foil paper, cardstock, and brass brads, while the cake was purchased from grocery store and displayed in my mother-in-law’s cake stand which was topped with balloons.

Following the class critique, the cake was eaten, and standing outside we enjoyed some lighthearted conversations before placing the remainder of the cake back into the cake stand. Eating the cake wasn’t “bitter” as was the heart being eaten in the poem, but there certainly was melancholy in the air as the semester ends and the pandemic continues. Over the following day, the balloons began to sag to the level of the cake stand, forming a colorful cocoon around it, then one by one they grew heavier and slumped to the sides of the pedestal–the cake had become a fitting metaphor for the passing of time.