As part of our newly revamped Wolfman Residency Program, we ask our artist residents to write a short check-in during their time here, reflecting on what they're doing, or just sort of thinking through their project. Here's the first in the series from our current resident, Patricia Sazani (and holy business, it's great!). Stay tuned for more updates on the project and for the release of Patricia's publication very soon!
A GUIDE TO READING/INTERPRETING MESSAGES FROM GOD
By Patricia Sazani
Five Fridays in residence at E.M. Wolfman and I have filled almost an entire notebook with writings and drawings about the Binders: a fictional sect of Christianity re-colonizing a future California, made empty by environmental disaster and radiation poisoning.
As the Binders settle in their fertile river valley, they are faced with the riveting question: How will we teach our children?? What educational philosophies are in line with our extremist beliefs?
I am working on a textbook— a guide for teachers. Lesson plans, definitions, histories, prompts and exercises for students. Central to the Binder religion are the figures of instruments (a term borrowed from the Shakers), people that receive gifts (again, Shakers) from God in the form of poetry, song, dance, drawing.
But how do you teach this? How do you teach receptiveness to religious visions? Is it a muscle you can strengthen? I’ve been rereading my Baltimore Catechism: Are worksheets a good idea? (Answer: No, they are not.)
What’s been really fruitful is trying to imagine what the needs of Binder teachers would be: How to distinguish between a false and true vision. How to offer emotional and physical support to a fellow instrument after she’s received a gift and she’s just completely and spiritually exhausted.
Or, a truly frustrating task: How do you explain the subtle semiotic categories of Charles Sanders Peirce, on which the teachings of the religion are loosely based? (Why is Secondness desirable? What does it mean to live between things? How to understand Firstness when “every description of Firstness must be false to it”? How can a sign be hollow?)
I began a daily exercise at the start of the residency: Using a deck of flashcards I made a couple months ago, I pick at random a line from Binder scripture. I then reflect on and write about and expand upon the line— the way I imagine Binder priests and instruments spend their days. This is the card I pulled today: Chapter 3, Verse 8 of Mother Corita’s Sacred Categories:
(It’s a good one because I’m writing today about the Binders’ obsession with path-making, and realized paths can be this kind of bridge.)
Stay tuned for more thoughts from the Binder universe!