Son of Samson

Son of Samson
new work by Hills Snyder
July 3 - July 26, 2003.
Reception Thursday, July 3, 6 - 9 PM / Cactus Bra

Dear Sam,

I think I heard you were doing something with The Double?

Is that for real?  

I can still remember when you did that thing with The One and The Many.
Wasn’t that at Three Walls, right next door to Cactus Bra?

Anyway, you are a Titan if there ever was one.  
And something is going to happen at 8:30, right?

Would it be weird if I showed up?




Son of Samson

Ridge and Furrow, 2003
re-sewn flags
72 x 48 inches

Princess and P, 2003
paperback books, red floor paint, birch and miniatures:
paint can, brush, stir stick and newspaper
17 1/4 x 21 x 20 inches

Fuzzy Logic, 2003
paperback book, birch, haircut remains
22 3/8 x 13 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches

Phone Booth, 2003
antique mirror, vinyl lettering, piano recording from Man on The Train, Borgnino piano
(Mary Had A Little Lamb), night sounds, cape, phone booth, the events of July 3, 8:30 pm

Goofy’s Just Pluto with Clothes, 2003
vinyl lettering, two dimes and miniatures: Victorian love seat,
harmonica, dog bed, carpet
5 1/2 x 12 x 9 inches

Bark of The Tree, 2003
stuffed toy labrador, chain link gate, sod
41 1/2 x 29 x 36 inches

Goodbye Dolly, 2003
sheepskin, birch
29 x 20 x 4 inches

Big Bowtie, 2003
line cut in pre-existing sheetrock wall, dust remains
97 x 112 inches

Chance Meeting, 2003
sheetrock dust and miniatures: piano, bench, sewing machine,
flags, carpet
4 x 12 x 9 inches


Phone Booth (synopsis)

Two characters:

The Barber, dressed in black, black sandals, the words head Curator in “biblical” old english letters
on the back of his shirt.

Son of Samson, long dark hair, dressed in white, brown sandals, eyeball cufflinks.

The Barber appears at Cactus Bra with a black barber’s cape and white cloth draped over his left arm.

A few minutes later the piano piece from the film Man on The Train is heard to loop endlessly. Listeners
also hear Mary Had A Little Lamb, plunked as a child would, on an out of tune piano. Cicadas are heard
steadily in the background throughout the piece.

A copy of Don Quixote is seen to be haphazardly placed on a small table in the center of the room.
The cover of this book bears a photograph of an identical table, also with a book on it. Son of Samson
approaches the center of the room, removes the book from the table and sits down in its place.

Son of Samson faces an oval antique mirror on the opposite wall. Above the mirror, following its contour,
are the words, Hail mute beast! Below the mirror, on the floor, a tiny vignette: harmonica laying on a
Victorian love seat, oriental rug. Nearby, on the corner of the rug, a miniature dog bed in which are placed
two dimes, heads up. Arcing on the wall above this scene are the words, time for some change.

The Barber (approaches Son of Samson from behind, makes eye contact in the mirror, and speaks):

Time for some change, huh?

SoS: I reckon.

The Barber: So what'll it be?

SoS: I don't know...maybe something between fresh out of jail and world class soccer player...but I
don't have much time, I have to be at a chance meeting in 3 minutes.

The Barber: Let's get started then.

The Barber fastens the cape on the front of SoS and puts the cloth over his own shoulder, then begins to cut hair.

The Barber (after cutting hair for three minutes, The Barber blindfolds SoS with the cloth, directs his
face to the mirror and speaks):

How's that?

SoS: Perfect.

The Barber removes the cape, shakes it out and places it on SoS so that it hangs from his shoulders down
his back. The cape is only now seen to bear the words “titan reformed.”

The Barber stands SoS up. SoS returns book to table. The Barber proceeds to steer the blindfolded SoS out
of the room, into the street, and down the row of Blue Star Galleries to RC Gallery at the far end.

Once in RC, The Barber opens a door marked telephone and pushes SoS through, shutting the door
behind him.

In a few minutes, SoS emerges from behind the door dressed normally and disappears into the crowd.


Ridge and Furrow:

Excerpted from The Book of Sam (Hills Snyder, 2003)

Brain coral: a massive reef-building coral having the surface covered by ridges separated by
furrows so as to resemble somewhat the surface of the brain.

Delirium: The Latin verb “delire” (to be deranged, crazy, out of one’s wits) appears in the
Coventry mystery plays in 1400: “God wyl be vengyd on man.... That wyl nevyr be schrevyn,
but evermore doth delyre.”


The Oxford English Dictionary (1971) defines delirium as: “a disordered state of the mental
faculties resulting from disturbance of the functions of the brain, and characterized by incoherent
speech, hallucinations, restlessness and frenzied or manic excitement.”  Etymologically,
the word is a metaphor, derived from the Latin “lira,” a ridge or furrow in ploughing, meaning
“to go out of one’s furrow.” Mesulam’s (1985) definition is: “a change of mental state in
which the most salient features occur in overall attentional tone.”

To have on the brain: to have constantly in one's thoughts, as a sort of monomania.

From Felice Koenig interview, Glasstire, July 7, 2003

FK: Back to my gut reaction - political. I am remembering the catalog, Smile, that the work in it
also had a social edge to it. Do you feel your work is political in general?  That you are trying to
make commentary on society? Son of Samson seems more pointed than Smile, though I did not see
the latter in installation. It seems extremely timely to be making political work right now. Have you
intensified that edge in response to the times?

HS: I think you must be referring to Gloville, though I’d like to hear Smile, if anybody has a copy.
I would say that this concern you are calling “political” has been constant in my work from the beginning.
“Commentary” is another word like “symbolic.”  There is a quality of separateness in these terms that makes
no sense to me. Is water a symbol of wetness?

FK:  About the piece, Ridge and Furrow. I respond to the formal beauty of this piece and it seems to
set the tone for talking about America. By creating a flag with no stars you create a sign. Recognizable
yet foreign. As with all of the individual pieces in this show, I have a strong response to this piece.
That's why I want to write about your show, but I wonder. What references am I missing?  Does it
matter?  How would you like viewers to approach this show?

HS: Ridge and Furrow is a good way to get into expanding the previous answer. It is three flags
re-sewn to create one without stars, but it is also a stripe painting. Maybe more important
than either of these static positions is the idea that it is both; that there is a constant oscillation
and that our observation of it as one or the other stops it in some sense. When You Say That, a piece
from Yesferatu, works in a similar way. It is a smiley face super-imposed on the rainbow flag,
which is an object from the early seventies/late sixties. This flag was about diversity in general and
was appropriated as an emblem of Gay Pride. I, in turn, used it again for my own purposes. So yes,
the piece is “political,” in that it supports gay rights, but it is also about the silliness of flags and the
vampiric nature of appropriation. Is this exploitation, cargo culting? Perhaps...or maybe it’s
something else…or it’s just a stripe painting. I would invite viewers to approach the show any
way they choose. Whatever rewards the work offers are proportionate to the responsibility
put forth by the viewer. Viewers are my collaborators in building what the work means. People are
always telling me things I don’t know about what I’m doing. For example, Arend Zwartjes pointed
out that all three works installed in the Valve Room at Finesilver a few years ago were titled referencing
physical handicaps. Blind, Braille, Access. What makes this interesting is that I didn’t know I’d done
it. Also, when he mentioned this to me, neither one of us remembered that the small figure leading
the eye into the Valve Room was peg-legged and walking with a cane…

From Operation Cement Pond, Part 6 (Hills Snyder, 2001) ADDITIONS NOVEMBER 13-15, 2001  

Dept. of Form Follows Function:

Everything changes after 1775. In one decade, the decade of the American Revolution, the stripe, still rare
and exotic a generation earlier, begins to invade the world of clothing, textiles, emblems and decor.
This is the beginning of the romantic and revolutionary stripe, born in the New World, but which is
going to find the soil of old Europe particularly fertile ground. In fact, it is the beginning of a very
widespread phenomenon that will last more than half a century, involving all social classes and
profoundly transforming the visual and cultural status of stripes and striped surfaces. The explosion
of this new order of the stripe was favored by the decline of the pejorative character it had had since
the Middle Ages. Without disappearing completely - later we will see how it is still present in our
contemporary societies - this pejorative aspect, still very marked in the seventeenth century, becomes
more discreet and more circumstantial in the following century. Typical in this regard are the treatises
by naturalists on the zebra and the place accorded this animal in the value systems. While zoologists in
the sixteenth century and at the beginning of the seventeenth century considered this "wild donkey"
to be a dangerous and imperfect, even impure, animal, Buffon, on the contrary, saw it to be one of the
most harmonious of creatures:

"Perhaps of all four-legged animals, the zebra is the most well made and th most elegantly dressed;
it has the figure and grace of the horse, the lightness of the deer, and its coat, striped with black and
white bands, arranged with so much regularity and symmetry, makes it seem as though nature used
a ruler and compass to paint it." Buffon is the son of the Enlightenment; stripes do not disturb
or disgust him, as was the case for his predecessors. On the contrary, they intrigue and captivate
him, as henceforth they will intrigue and captivate his readers and his contemporaries. Certainly the
romantic trend in stripes is owed neither to Buffon or his Histoire naturelle, but the work is clear
evidence of a new attitude with regard to them. The rage for stripes can begin. The origin of this
fashion is found among the Americanophiles in France and in those countries hostile to England at
the end of the 1770s. The American Revolution itself is an offshoot of the Enlightenment, and
the flag with the thirteen red and white stripes for the thirteen American colonies, rebelling against
the British crown, appears as the image of Liberty and the symbol of new ideas.

- Michel Pastoureau, The Devil's Cloth,
A History of Stripes and Striped  Fabric,
Columbia University Press, 2001.


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