If you choose to believe me, good. Now I will tell you how Octavia, the spider-web city, is made. There is a precipice between two steep mountains: the city is over the void, bound to the two crests with ropes and chains and catwalks. You walk on the little wooden ties, careful not to set your foot in the open spaces, or you cling to the hempen strands. Below there is nothing for hundreds and hundreds of feet: a few clouds glide past: farther down you can glimpse the chasm’s bed.
This is the foundation of the city: a net which serves as passage and support. All the rest, instead of rising up, is hung below: rope ladders, hammocks, houses made like sacks, clothes hangers, terraces like gondolas, skins of water, gas jets, spits, baskets on strings, dumb-waiters, showers, trapezes and rings for children’s games, cable cars, chandeliers, pots with trailing plants.
Suspended over the abyss, the life of Octavia’s inhabitants is less uncertain than in other cities. They know the net will last only so long.
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Octavia has swirled in my mind for its bravery and joy, the sense of chaotic installations by mad builders and inventors, the energy and gestural beauty that draws strength from its eventual end. It sketches the idea of a city that has grown slowly through a series of small decisions, experiments, and defiant acts. This inspires my suspensions, small contributions to the vine-like cityscape that could germinate and multiply, inspired by the strength of steel, while embodying fragility by pushing structural limitations. These suspensions provide a small sanctuary space to reimagine the world, one of twisting walls and paths, color and balance, intricacy and joy.
At times I have pursued my work in the maintaining and reworking of our household, our personal vision of the spider-web, in order to adapt to the shifting needs of children as they grow, as their school collapses from pandemic, as they need space away from each other, as gatherings have to happen out in the yard, with screens, platforms, shelving, partitions, gates and grates, outdoor couches and lighting, our own small habitation suspended over the abyss.
Recently I began trying to draw on the iPad late at night, when I was not able to sleep–worried about the abyss of Covid and modern fascism. In that darkness, at 2 in the morning, I found some form of freedom and joy, layering loops and lines, finding form and beauty in a mass of chaos. But as I have worked on it, the drawing has started to impact my sculpture. The composing, refining and experimenting with color that I have been doing in drawing inspired me to bring the fluidity I found there into my sculpture that had been more angular and hard-edged. Finding that freedom in slivers of midnight drawing reinforced the idea that small projects would allow me to get to the crux of my work. Inspired by Calvino, I slowly add more strands to my web of fragile and resilient constructions.