I'm sitting in an attic made by my friend Andrew and I, that was converted in secret over the course of a year without any of our roommates knowing that such a space even existed. We put down floorboards and brought in books for a library and blankets for a lucid dreaming room. We have plans for a potion room in the near future. Friends dwell here. Ideas about a collective unconscious shared by unseen fort and attic dwellers all over the world fill the space between the dusty beams and corks covering the protruding shingle nails. I'm up here to reflect about the making of a fort. I’m up here because for the last year of my life, it has somehow become my job to build and dwell in places like this. To sit in small spaces and look at items previously owned by the deceased and think of where they have come from. To think about their ghosts. I've become the keeper of other people's wisdom teeth, cat skulls, and letters. What do you do for work, I was asked at Thanksgiving? Collect bugs and steal things from abandoned homes I thought to myself. I find ways to get paid to sleep in the woods, and write poetry on the bank statements of Swiss-German immigrants I’ll never meet.
The majority of 2010 I found myself focused on a single strange task. I was to build a fort bigger than the house i grew up in at a museum. They would pay for me to scavenge, collect, and sleep in strange places. The curators, Tara and Olivia, are two of the bravest people I know for letting me do this. It was a huge undertaking, and it was make with the help of many creative and giving friends.
That fort has now been up for about three and a half months, and with plenty of time to reflect, I have found myself thinking a lot about atmospheres. The vapors put off by the tangible things of a planet. The vapors of the physical beings on earth rise up and hover as a mix of carbon dioxide and oxygen among other gases. This is the ephemeral evidence of the living creatures below. This collection of vapors not only protects the planet from firey meteors, but also acts as a symbiotic catalyst for new life to be made below. The fort has acted on these same simple principles. The vapors from people's imaginations, curiosities, wonders, and personal experiences have formed an atmosphere of thought around the scrap wood structure in gallery one. These vapors have encouraged further thoughts and protected them as well. As Gaston Bachelard put it, “The house protects the dreamer.” Its as if after finishing the construction of the fort, I then launched into space to float around and breath in what people think and speak about while they're in the fort.
Via those vapors I have heard endless stories of childhood secret hideouts from the mouths of middle-aged women. Dashed hopes and forgotten dreams of elderly men. Tears from mothers, and regrets from sons. Experiences of deja vu alongside sinking hallways and world maps. I have heard the squeals of some twenty untamed seven year olds at a birthday party as they raced towards every trap door and stuffed animal in the place. I have had the great privilege of reading intimate words written on typewriters addressed to a woman named Augustine that doesn't actually exist. I have been entrusted with the full spectrum of emotions that vulnerable museum visitors have been willing to offer. I have thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility and care that comes with that trust. I have deeply invested my time into dwelling on those that walk within her walls when I’m not there.
The fort has had many moments which I may or may not have been a witness too, but one of my brightest memories was the night when a collective group of friends and I stayed the night. It was the climactic moment in the life of the fort for me. It was full, but also had moments of quiet rest. At one point there were forty of so people sitting smashed together in the great room listening to songs and stories, sung and spoken by five great friends. Andrew, Joel, Kelly, Meg and Bryan. They saturated everyone and everything with stories of other places and experiences. They made magic out of wood and strings and simple words. We ate food made by another friend named Justin at a table as long as any I have ever seen. Food that made you wish you never got full so you could keep eating. Food that made you feel like you were outside.
We watched Hook and explored the 20 or so different rooms together. I went to bed that night just to the left of the balcony beside the astronomy room and watched the faux blue star light come in through the cracks in the walls and ceiling. I was still. I was in a rickety cabin somewhere in the north woods of Minnesota that night. I felt like I slept in the place I REALLY live. The place where my friends and I actually eat and sleep and make things. A place that doesn’t have a real address or cable bill. This was where everything inside us actually exists, and it there right in front of us. Fiction and Truth were tied together in the dark as we lay still in Coleman sleeping bags.
The fort will be up until the end of December before all its parts are taken down and made into new things. She has had a wonderful life thus far, and other people have chosen to embrace her fiction as truth as well. They have let an inanimate object speak, think, and illuminate the places within them. People have searched themselves and each other, and I would like to say thank you to everyone who has taken time to search inside the fort thus, and encourage those who haven't made it up yet to take the journey to escondido. I hope you continue to process and connect with the people around you. I hope you see the world as a living metaphor and continue to find things to be curious about. To say a line by G.K. Chesterton one more time: The world will never lack for wonders only wonder. Stay curious, search well.
Miss Augustine Greane & Wes Bruce
Wes Bruce's installation, Miss Augustine Greane, will be open until December 31st at the California Center For The Arts in Escondido. Bryan Bangerter is working on a documentary which will premiere sometime in January, we'll keep you posted on the location and time. Watch a video of Joel P West and Kelly Bennett playing music in Wes' Fort here, and finally get up and see this masterpiece before it turns into 20 smaller forts all over San Diego County.