Book of Layers
The Book of Layers: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. Chapter One: Nothing Happens without You, Lord. 2012. Each panel, 18" x 41"; 6 panels total. Archival inkjet print of 2012 photo by Bliss; text from Bliss' May 13, 2012 journal entry; archival inkjet print of 1927 photo by ethnomusicologist Ole Mork Sandvik bagged with found hawk feathers; composed sound from field recordings and interviews with residents of Ballinskelligs, County Kerry, Ireland.
Transcript of audio recording:
Singing male voice with guitar accompaniment: Nothing happens without You, Lord; nothing happens at all. Nothing happens without You, Lord, if it happens at all… (fades and continues softly throughout rest of audio.)
Male Irish voice: And I had this vision of the Lord. I was just out for a walk. I was on the beach, and something hit me. It was God. And He said, “Now I have you here, now I’m going to show you what I want.” And I just couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t put it all together. Why was God now back again in my life? Why was He stronger than ever before? What was God doing with me? So I came back home, and I said to Lillian, “God has told me to close down the restaurant.” And the Lord told me that I was to close down the domestic kitchen and turn it into a prayer room. Take everything out, and He gave me the design of it. The complete design of the way this room was to look. I spent months taking out the plumbing, the fridge, the freezer, everything that was in there. I took it all out and I started to work on this room. I had no idea what a prayer room was. I didn’t even know what it was supposed to do. So when I was finished, I thought, “What now?”
Song/guitar: Nothing happens without You, Lord; nothing happens at all. Nothing happens without You, Lord, if it happens at all.
Text on panel reads:
Dream: Night of May 12. Second full day in Ireland.
A farm. Suzanne W. The farm is going under; they can’t keep it going anymore. There are trays and trays of frozen baby chicks (or sheep?) laid out like cake decorations in great piles upon baking sheets. This early stage needs to be taken to the next stage - they need transferring.
There are so many, it is exhausting. Suzanne is exhausted. Al is exhausted. Money is gone. Al complains, bemoaning the $ put into shoring up the barn, saying it’s a waste. Suzanne is bereft: they’d had to try to save this one building, but now it’s all for naught. She is depleted.
There I am, witnessing. How can I not put my body to help? I step in, step up - offer myself. It feels huge - so beyond any difference I could possibly make, but how can I not act? Suzanne is grateful.
It’s dark inside the barn, and dirty. I begin to transfer the almost-embryos, and as I do, some break and split. heads come clean off, horns are knocked to the floor, legs shear from torsos. it’s a waste, but unavoidable. I continue the work, awed by the enormity of it, and know that it is never-ending.