The strand like the spirit. The spirit like the breath.

Over a period of eight months, while living in pandemic-induced isolation, I started collecting the packaging that was passing through my life –– the wrapping around loaves of bread and apples, carrots, marshmallows and books loaned from the library, the ink and tracing paper I ordered, the hamburgers, the fries. I painted over the clear plastic bags with gesso and cut them into thin strips, creating a fringe.

Installed at the University of Guelph and included as part of the online group exhibition Performance Drawing at C4RD, co-curated by Carali McCall, Birgitta Hosea, and Maryclare Foá, September – October 2021.

Made from: eight foot pieces of pine cut down into six and four foot pieces, joined by wooden dowels, nylon zip ties and chicken wire, staples, and all the things around the things, the packaging and the scrap paper. Grommets, a floor fan, and hundreds, maybe thousands of careful folds and cuts. My voice humming with the fan through a Bluetooth speaker and breathing, and a photo from four winters ago, looking out across the neighbour’s field, out towards the wind and the woods in every direction.

The Norse goddess Freyja –– her name an almost-homonym for the English word fraying, fray or frayed –– is associated at once with sex, love, lust, beauty, and fertility, as well as with death, war, and an Old Norse form of magic known as seiðr. This magic (as researched by Eldar Heide) is significant when considering the sound-association with fray or fraying since seiðr etymologically means thread or cord, and the practice of it was understood as a form of spinning thread –– with the threads that were formed being “spirits sent forth in the shape of threads in order to attract things.” And while the noun fray might indicate some central form of action –– a usually disorderly or protracted fight, struggle, or dispute, as in being drawn into the fray –– the verb, the action, of fraying happens along along the outer edges of the fabric. It happens on the fringe. And fringe, incidentally, is another mechanism for attraction made from threads.

There is also some evidence that in seiðr such a ‘mind thread’ could pass through respiratory passages, through breathing. This idea comes in part from the slippage between the words for breath, wind and soul or spirit –– they share the same word in many old languages, including Old Norse, Saami, Finnic languages, Latin, Ancient Greek, and Hebrew.

As Heide describes, “the reason why the idea of soul or spirit is derived from breath is of course that we breathe as long as we live and stop when we die.”