Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Ghost Freeway

I just posted this on the Raymond Thunder-Sky blog I manage  (

In October, we asked a few Thunder-Sky fans to come together to help us envision the future for the joint.   One image we all kept coming back to is the wrecking ball.   Many times organizations built to help/support non-traditional, unconventional, just plain weird people end up monuments to the status quo.  One thing we want to ensure with this gig: we always think beyond a building, and we always keep Raymond’s transience and weirdness at the center of our decision-making process.

We are going into the fourth year of Thunder-Sky, Inc., and I guess I could list accomplishments (I have on Facebook and other places), but really what I want to do is theorize a way to be productive and organized without being an Organization.  We're a non-profit, have our 501c3 and all that, in place.  We have a small board and advisory board, but I have intentionally kept all of this as informal as possible so that all the organizational stuff does not infringe on the reason we're doing what we're  doing.  Thunder-Sky, Inc. is an open book, funded mostly through art sales and donations.  We haven't really pursued grants because again I don't want grant proposals to infringe on the reason we're doing what we're doing.  We have not hired anyone to do anything.  We just keep on doing what we do.

For what reason?

To create a gallery/museum/studio/organization/whatever that never becomes an institution of any kind.  "Institution," of course, is a very loaded word.  So let's just get right down to it.  Here's the cold, hard Webster definition:

institution [in-sti-too-shuh n, -tyoo-noun

1.  an organization, establishment, foundation, society, or the like, devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program, especially one of a public, educational, or charitable character: This college is the best institution of its kind. 
2. the building devoted to such work.
3. a public or private place for the care or confinement of inmates, especially mental patients or other disabled or handicapped persons.
4. Sociology . a well-established and structured pattern of behavior or of relationships that is accepted as a fundamental part of a culture, as marriage: the institution of the family.

The essence of all these definitions is particularity, devotion, confinement, and structure.  I think we have the particularity and devotion covered; it's the other two that kind of complicate things.  Raymond's nature confounded and perturbed:  he was devoted to escaping confinements of all kinds, and as far as structures, he advocated in almost ever drawing he did the demolition of structures that were often mainstays of culture and society.  Prisons, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes were always on his wrecking-ball's radar.  He seemed to find immense joy in destroying what had taken often decades, maybe even centuries, to construct.  One bold whack of the wrecking-ball, and it's all gone, only to be replaced by what can never really be there:  a card-trick clown-suit factory here, a new ghost freeway there.

Raymond's imagination, in other words, delighted in destruction and disorganization.  And in order to build an organization that is inspired by that chaotic bliss, we need to take into account every step we make organizationally.

This is not an easy sale, of course, in the conventional sense of fundraising, board-building, etc.  It's kind of like a parody of it.

So we try to keep everything as simple as possible.  Small board, no paid staff, a little space, six shows a year, a few shows outside of the space we're in, a Saturday art-making workshop for whoever shows up...

As we try to establish this kind of disorganization/organization, paradoxically building a future for it, we're going to need people on board with us who can bifurcate their thinking, redefine what they think an organization is supposed to be and do, and also perhaps understand the unnerving power of transience.  Raymond was always on the move.  Although he was never homeless, he was always searching for a place to be aesthetically, maybe even spiritually.  He rode the public bus and walked city streets in the hunt of it, always dressed in his scary/sweet clown/construction-worker drag.  His presence often bewildered, and even sometimes agitated, fellow travelers.  He got beat up at times for being that figure.  He probably got used to suspicious stares.  But he knew in his heart that he had to get somewhere.

Can we build an organization based on that disarming impermanence?

I guess we'll see...

In October, we had eight like-minded individuals come together and seem to think that we can.  In February we're going to try another round of brainstorming on the subject...  On Raymond's birthday, February.  Freaks welcome.