How beautiful these slabs of kitsch. Runic neologies embossed in denim, bogus Biblicism, false mysticism, pictographic lettering, dioramic logos, imagined histories, bloody offsets, drips, sexualized gang signs, hackneyed verbiage further emptied of meaning: Obituary, Death, Slayer, Pestilence, Enslaved, Carcass, Exodus, Darkthrone, Coroner, Bethlehem, Burzum, Cannibal Corpse, Satyricon, Bathory, Deicide, Voivod, Drudkh, Summoning, Sepultura, Possessed, Deeds of Flesh, Mercyful Fate. They first register as worlds not words—this is the extraordinary accomplishment, testament to the powerful fantasy-energy the vests possess. Few poets, few artists, if my memory is correct, were capable of creating this instantaneous word-world event. I’ve also noticed the woven caricatures of a softshell turtle and a manatee—two creatures once endemic to the region. Embroidered spider webs creep into colonies of hem lines and band buttons. Each patch is a territory-in-itself, their confluent crazing mapping the literal, the absurd, the non sequitur, the esoteric. While their meaning intrigues, I am even more intrigued by attempting to imagine the kind of human, the kind of hesher, superfan, or mini-mall flaneur who brandished these sleeveless glyphic assemblages. Perhaps it was the bands themselves, their groupies or siblings or service animals who wore them, or mounted them to the walls of the dingy chambers of record stores. At any rate, I, becoming-dolphin, combined with the vests and they combined with me, an affective interaction, a mutual modulation of bodies, that allowed me for a time to experience what it was to become-vest.
The fascinations of the vests are multiple. Yet what continues to hold my attention is the technics of their creation, the nuanced morphology of fossil, the anomalous material in front of me. Each vest is, as am I, as is the Tampa biome, a trans-habitat— molecules colliding, combining, breaking apart, exotic mineralia vibrating inside the lightboxes I have used to preserve, display and study them. The fossils bring to mind Pompeii and summon Vesuvian paradigms. I also imagine moments of impact when atomic bombs were proven in the deserts of the American Southwest and a new mineral, trinitite, was formed. What sort of catastrophic, serendipitous event led to their creation in the Tampa region a century ago? A volcanic eruption followed by a monsoon of acid? A molten entombment unlocked by a boiling sea? Decades of cooling in soils saturated by heavy metal? A miscegenation or a mutant sequencing of all of these events? The soft denim and floppy patches are now ceramic, reef-like, rock hard yet are blanketed with a soft chalky substance, pubescent micro-topographies whose appearance is that of stained glass become opaque or stardust fallen on cremated remains. They have a strength and a delicacy unlike any other fossil I have ever seen. I have identified some of the contaminating elements, trash pigments, obsidian chunks of plasma-scorched garbage, and decomposed ort that have articulated their profiles: carbon blacks, chromium greens, forest ash greys, cobalt blues, manganese oranges and yellows, pollen pinks, rainbows of copper and iron oxide. The display has been completed but miraculously remains multivalent and shape-shifting, a dayglow coprolite, oil slicked upon stingray leather, a holographic carcass, an oblique blast radius from a radioactive explosion rendering a solarized specimen.
I too am part of the display. My mutational condition is worsening. My morphology, my texture and color, my Umwelt, my thoughts, are becoming-dolphin at an accelerated rate. I would like to say more but I must sign off for the day. I would especially like to relate further details regarding that most extraordinary event, the moment in which I experienced becoming-dolphin becoming-vest. Unfortunately, the event is far too complex for me to evoke accurately with the dolphin vocabulary that is slowly taking over my brain.
Max Hooper Schneider would like to extend a special thanks to the Saxe Patterson studio in Taos, New Mexico.