slugliness

JULIE PATTON / SLUG ART
ecopoetics 1

I’m reading Why This World, a Biography of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser. One of the main themes of the book is Clarice’s search for God in her writing. I am suspicious of all searches for God. These searches mask the real search. The fundamental search is for an explanation for why we humans are different from the rest of the natural world.

I say this as an introduction to my thoughts about “Slug Art.” The piece seems to be touching on the way that we are different, possibly unconsciously.

My first impression: the piece suffers from aesthetic flaws. The hard edges of the border bother me. The font bothers me. The arbitrary positioning of the text within the white spaces bothers me. The mixed directionality of the horizontal text and slanted leaf veins bothers me. The question whether the leaf cutting was really the work of a slug bothers me. (The slugs I know don’t cut leaves, they just demolish tender sprouts completely.)

I couldn’t get past the overall presentation to access the text, and reading it multiple times did not help.

Why would someone put words in these chewed-out spaces? (“Someone” because it’s not clear if it was Julie Patton or Jonathan Skinner, as a footnote states “montage by JS.”) Is the piece trying to make contact with the slugly worldview? Trying to leverage the rather chance-like design of the slug’s operations? Taking advantage of an interesting, “natural” background to draw attention to the words? If so, I think it’s a failure.

But one thing in it’s favor, it is not a search for God. It is a search for how we are different from slugs. The piece states that we are very different from slugs, lacking intuitive points of contact almost completely. Placing things made by two different species in a montage is not much of an investigation, but all the “aesthetic flaws” point out clearly how we are different from slugs.

I’m not convinced that words belong in a piece like this. A more successful choice may have been to trace the cut-leaf design with a pencil. Or investigate opportunities for capturing the silvery slime trails on paper. But wouldn’t that be an attempt to say I’m not that different from you, slug. There is a possibility of contact.

Do I believe intuitive points of contact with slugs are possible? Slugs don’t care that we are reaching out.

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