I wish I could remember the exact written passage where the image of a bottleneck captured my imagination. Back tracking through my books has not revealed the exact source, however, I do remember that the context came from biology and more specifically the history of life. Of the five great extinction cycles, the one that closed out the Permian period (roughly 245 million years a go) was the most brutal and efficient. All those trilobites that had been so successful for so long hit the wall. At this time the super continent Pangaea existed. Millions of years of continental drift and the resulting global climate change are the leading hypothetical causes for this extinction. Regardless, the effect was that the majority of life’s diversity as it existed then and which filled up that particular metaphoric bottle…did not make it through the bottleneck. Fortunately, some life did survive, but it would take subsequent millions of years for life to evolve and radiate out to regain its former glory.
We like to think that we stand atop life as its ultimate achievement. We frequently miss the bigger picture of which we are small part and are even oblivious to the effects we have on everything else around us. The bottleneck effect has been adapted by other systems to illustrate that which is a hindrance or impediment to progress. The basic idea, however, remains the same. Whatever is in the bottle is going to get squeezed on its way out that is if the contents do in fact make it out. In my own blog, I don’t mention U.S. politics much, but lately it is in the news and it’s troublesome. Our seeming inability to govern ourselves…to in effect allow small selfish groups to manufacture bottlenecks strikes me as self-defeating and doesn’t bode well for the future.
At the Falls of the Ohio State Park, I literally find bottlenecks all the time. Unlike their plastic counterpoint, the glass ones don’t break down as much. There must be something about the material strength of glass that is increased when it is forced into a tube that makes it extra resilient. Over time, their sharp edges do get worn down and their surfaces become frosted through tumbling in the sand. Personally, I find glass to be a far more attractive material than plastic. I’ve come to look at our artifacts in much the same way I might regard a fossil as examples of objects that have been touched by and affected by life.
There’s something about the process of “finding” that is compelling if not compulsive for me. I try to stay watchful for opportunities, particularly if I come across an image or material that I can apply through my art. The process of collecting, examining, and comparing is also personally meditative and relaxing. I started photographing bottlenecks years a go with no goal in mind. Just more documented stuff among all the other stuff along the riverbank that I come across each time I visit the park. Looking over my photographs, forgotten images of bottlenecks would catch my eye again.
Other than take contextual images, I guess the next thing I did with bottlenecks was to stick them on the ends of branches and sticks. This allows the light to play through the glass revealing its jewel-like attractiveness. It might also cause someone else to notice that there is a lot of smashed glass in the park. Granted, the river floats a lot of bottles in here from upriver, but there is also a lot of drinking that goes on here via the local folks. Why pack your empties out when you can just throw them on the ground? One bottleneck on a branch led to more…in fact the whole arc of these now bottleneck projects has trended in the “more” direction.
I guess this last image is a bottleneck candelabra? I find many of the bottlenecks I’ve used near stands of willow trees by the water’s edge. I suppose bottles that float in are snagged in the tree’s exposed root system eventually breaking through contact with floating logs and leaving the shards in place? People also throw bottles against the trees which has the same effect. Rarely, do I need to walk very far to find enough glass to create a small project and image.
Here’s one project made from bottlenecks collected around one particular willow tree. I liked the way they looked collectively stuck in the mud and their tubular arrangement reminded me of fossil corals which also references the Falls of the Ohio. Here’s a few other similar site specific groupings of bottlenecks.
The next couple of images are from my last bottleneck piece. In addition to lots of waste glass…I also find discarded fishing line, often in the same places. I brought these two materials together for this ephemeral work. Recently, I was talking with a good friend of mine and we were remarking about how much of our lives seem mediated by and require reading various kinds of screens. This last glass project may have something to do with that because the bottlenecks are arranged in a flat, parallel screen hanging from a horizontally growing willow branch. I wonder if anyone else ever saw this and what they may have thought about it?
Well there you have it! I suppose these bottleneck projects will now crop up on occasion like my found coal pieces do as intimate site specific expressions. For now, it’s enough to present them as images without trying too hard to extract every bit of meaning from them. Bottlenecks in the broader sense are challenges. May we always remain open to meeting them. So long from the Falls of the Ohio.