Dena Hawes

9. Prognostic Casualty/Arbitrary Birth, 1994

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Still Point Theatre 01

University Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara

At eight years of age, a palm reader read my palm and told me that I would die around the age of thirty. To address this prognosis I built a boat (a six foot dingy). Building the boat became an act of reinterpreting this ‘omen’ of death and changing the course of destiny – it was the beginning of the process of re-writing my personal history.

This installation is a story of personal transformation. I made eight sterling lockets that were shaped and proportioned after a trolling sinker. A trolling sinker is used in fishing and is designed to sink straight down. When closed, the sterling locket resembles a trolling sinker that has the ounce weight on the outside. When opened, the objects looked like a 19th century locket, and inscribed inside were snippets of my story of transformation. The opened lockets represented the weight of history. Snippets of text engraved in each locket included: engraved on her palm; something tangible; of light; as there was this omen; to rewrite her own history.

Inside each of the lockets is a photographic image representing the steps I took to choose a metaphoric rather than a literal death. Here, I walk into the ocean wearing the eight sterling sinkers, submerge myself as a gesture of death, and then I am returned to a new life, being carried metaphorically by the boat that I built.

This idea of sinking to ascend is documented on an intimate scale by the line of sinker/lockets, and on an immense scale by the proportions of the room itself (50’ x 50’). The large scale projection at one end of the room was of myself at the ocean’s edge. This image established sea level. The line of lockets arcs across 50’, as the viewer reads the evolving text in each locket, walking the distance from one locket to the next establishes a transformative journey of a woman’s death and re-birth.

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