SCOTT HOCKING

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  -- Recent Installations and Photography Projects --
  Seventeen Shitty Mountains 2018
  The Sleeper / Cowcatcher 2018
  OLD 2018
  Hanging Cairn 2017
  Massa Confusa 2017
  RCA 2016
  Babel 2015-2016
  Celestial Ship of the North (Emergency Ark) 2015
  Signs 2015-present
  Narcissus Incorporated 2015
  Lot Circles 2014-present
  Rustic Sputnik 2016 / Rusty Sputnik 2013
  Coronal Mass Ejection 2013
  The Egg and Michigan Central Train Station 2007-2013
  Mercury Retrograde 2012
  The End of the World 2012
  The Quarry / Steinbruch 2013
  The Secrets of Nature 2012-2014
  Garden of the Gods 2009-2011
  Tartarus 2011
  Triumph of Death 2010
  Sisyphus and the Voice of Space 2010
  New Mound City 2010
  Ziggurat and Fisher Body 21 2007-2009
   
  -- Ongoing Detroit-Based Photo Series' --
  In The Strait Of The Crimson Nain 2007-present
  Detroit Nights 2007-present
  Shipwrecks 1999-present
  Delrazed 2007-present
  Holes 2007-present
  Trees 2007-present
  Memorials 2007-present
  Detroit Wildlife 2007-present
  The Mound Project 2007-present
  Bad Graffiti 2007-present
  The Zone 1999-present
  Cast Concrete in the Auto Age 2008-present
  Mid Century Modern Playground Sculptures 2007-present
   
  -- Other Installations and Photography Projects --
  Roosevelt Warehouse and the Cauldron 2007-2010
  Fountain of Youth Vending Machine 2008-2010
  Lao Zhu and the Flour Factory 2009
  Detroit Midden Mound 2008
  RELICS 2001-2016
  Tire Pyramid 2006
  Animals 2006
  Icelandic Saga 2006
  Scrappers 2000-2004
  Found Slides 2000-2004
  Pictures of a City - Detroit 1997-2006
  Alchemical Works and Drawings 1997-present
   
 

THE SLEEPER / COWCATCHER is a site-specific installation created within the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University's Field Station gallery. Made from approximately 300 very old and weathered railroad ties (sleepers) and railroad artifacts, collected from various extinct railroad yards in Detroit and Lansing, the installation deals with themes of Michigan history - from the earliest railroads and lumber industries, to the ancient forests and earthworks created by Natives - as well as MSU's history of being the state's agricultural college. Echoing the forms of early train engine steel 'cowcatchers,' stepped pyramid symbologies, and the architecture of the Broad museum itself, the work also confronts museum goers with the intense smell of creosote - a by-product of coal-tar that was used as a wood preservative in railroad ties, utility poles, and pilings. The sense of smell brings back nostalgic memories of 'walking the tracks' for some, and brings fears of toxic poisoning to others - but for me, its an interesting intersection between the working-class world of the railroad industry and perceived elite world of art. Along with being inspired by state history, the work is also influenced by my personal history at MSU, where I spent one drug and alcohol fueled semester in 1993, wherein I drank beer, smoked pot, dropped acid many times, got my first tattoo, missed most of my final exams, had past life dreams, astral traveled, entered the consciousness of a tree, hiked all throughout the woods and nature preserves of campus, and spent a lot of time walking and exploring along the railroad tracks.

--- Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU infomational page for The Sleeper / Cowcatcherexhibition --- Exhibition review in the Lansiing City Pulse ---

 

The Sleeper / Cowcatcher was also inspired by the books I was reading and music I was listening to around the time of my one MSU semester. In particular, I decided to revisit the book Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions, by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes (1972), which had given me visual ideas for art installations well before I knew what installation art was. The following are quotes from Lame Deer that I vaguely remembered reading all those years ago, and that I found just as inspiring upon rereading, over 20 years later:

  (Chapter 9: Medicine, Good and Bad, page 157) “If Wakan Tanka [the Great Spirit] likes the plants, the animals, even little mice and bugs, to do this, how much more will he abhor people being alike, doing the same thing, getting up at the same time, putting on the same kind of store-bought clothes, riding the same subway, working in the same office at the same job with their eyes on the same clock and, worst of all, thinking alike all the time. All creatures exist for a purpose. Even an ant knows what the purpose is – not with its brain, but somehow it knows. Only human beings have come to a point where they no longer know why they exist. They don’t use their brains and they have forgotten the secret knowledge of their bodies, their senses, or their dreams. They don’t use the knowledge the spirit has put into every one of them; they are not even aware of this, and so they stumble along blindly on the road to nowhere – a paved highway which they themselves bulldoze and make smooth so that they can get faster to the big, empty hole which they’ll find at the end, waiting to swallow them up. It’s a quick, comfortable superhighway, but I know where it leads to. I have seen it. I’ve been there in my vision and it makes me shudder to think of it.”       (Chapter 6: The Circle and the Square, pages 112-113) “You know, it always makes me laugh when I hear young white kids speak of some people as ‘squares’ or ‘straights’ – old people, hardened in their ways, in their minds, in their hearts. They don’t even have to be old. You can be an ‘old square’ at eighteen. Anyway, calling these people ‘squares’ – an Indian could have thought it up. To our way of thinking, the Indians’ symbol is the circle, the hoop. Nature wants things to be round. The bodies of human beings and animals have no corners. With us the circle stands for the togetherness of people who sit with one another around a campfire, relatives and friends united in peace while the pipe passes from hand to hand. The camp in which every tipi had its place was also a ring… The [Sioux] nation was only part of the universe, in itself circular and made of the earth, which is round, of the sun, which is round, of the stars, which is round. The moon, the horizon, the rainbow – circles within circles within circles, with no beginning and no end. To us this is beautiful and fitting, symbol and reality at the same time, expressing the harmony of life emerging from death – life winning out over death. The white man’s symbol is the square. Square is his house, his office buildings with walls that separate people from one another. Square is the door which keeps strangers out, the dollar bill, the jail. Square are the white man’s gadgets – boxes, boxes, boxes and more boxes – TV sets, radios, washing machines, computers, cars. These all have corners and sharp edges – points in time, white man’s time, with appointments, time clocks and rush hours – that’s what corners mean to me. You become a prisoner inside all these boxes. More and more young white people want to stop being ‘straight’ and ‘square’ and try to become round, join our circle. That is good.”       (Chapter 6, The Circle and the Square, pages 116-117) “Four things make the universe: earth, air, water, fire. We Sioux speak of the four virtues a man should possess: bravery, generosity, endurance, wisdom… We Sioux do everything by fours… Seven is a holy number too, representing the seven campfire circles of the Sioux Nation, the seven sacred rites, the seven bands of the Teton Sioux, but four is more ‘wakan.’ We set up four colored flags for all our ceremonies, which reminds me of the symbolism and the power of colors. Black represents the west; red, the north; yellow, the east; white, the south. Black is the night, darkness, mystery, the sun that has gone down. Red is the earth, the pipestone, the blood of the people. Yellow is the sun as it rises in the east to light the world. White is the snow. White is the glare of the sun in its zenith. Red, white, black, yellow – these are the true colors. They give us the four directions; you might also say a trail toward our prayers. One reason we are so fascinated with these colors is that they stand for the unity of man – for the black race, the scarlet race, the yellow race, the white race as our brothers and sisters.”  

 

  (Chapter 7: Talking to the Owls and Butterflies, pages 123-124) “You are spreading death, buying and selling death. With all your deodorants, you smell of it, but you are afraid of its reality; you don’t want to face up to it. You have sanitized death, put it under the rug, robbed it of its honor. But we Indians think a lot about death. I do. Today would be a perfect day to die – not too hot, not too cool. A day to leave something of yourself behind, to let it linger. A day for a lucky man to come to the end of his trail. A happy man with many friends. Other days are not so good. They are for selfish, lonesome men, having a hard time leaving this earth. But for whites every single day would be considered a bad one, I guess.."       “...Eighty years ago, our people danced the Ghost Dance, singing and dancing until they dropped from exhaustion, swooning, fainting, seeing visions. They danced in this way to bring back their dead, to bring back the buffalo. A prophet had told them that through the power of the Ghost Dance the earth would roll up like a carpet, with all the white man’s works – the fences and the mining towns with their whorehouses, the factories and the farms with their stinking, unnatural animals, the railroads and the telegraph poles, the whole works. And underneath this rolled-up white man’s world we would find again the flowering prairie, unspoiled, with its herds of buffalo and antelope, its clouds of birds, belonging to everyone, enjoyed by all. I guess it was not time then for this to happen, but it is coming back, I feel it warming my bones. Not the old Ghost Dance, not the rolling-up – but a new-old spirit, not only among Indians but among whites and blacks too, especially among young people. It is like raindrops making a tiny brook, many brooks making a stream, many streams making one big river bursting all dams…. Listen, I saw this in my mind not long ago: In my vision the electric light will stop sometime. It is used too much for TV and going to the moon. The day is coming when nature will stop the electricity. Police without flashlights, beer getting hot in the refrigerators, planes dropping from the sky, even the President can’t call up somebody on the phone. A young man will come, or men, who’ll know how to shut off the electricity. It will be painful, like giving birth. Rapings in the dark, winos breaking into the liquor stores, a lot of destruction. People are being too smart, too clever; the machine stops and they are helpless, because they have forgotten how to make-do without the machine…” “…I think we’re moving in a circle, or maybe a spiral, going a little higher every time, but still returning to the same point. We are moving close to nature again. I feel it, you feel it…”       (Chapter 11: Yuwipi – Little Lights from Nowhere, page 183) “Imagine darkness so intense and so complete that it is almost solid, flowing around you like ink, covering you like a velvet blanket. A blackness which cuts you off from the everyday world, which forces you to withdraw deep into yourself, which makes you see with your heart instead of with your eyes. You can’t see, but your eyes opened. You are isolated, but you know that you are part of the Great Spirit, united with all living beings.” (page 186) “In the old days one man had a stone which he sent out to look for buffalo. He always spread a red-painted buffalo skin for the stone to return to… The stone also had a returning place, a square earth alter made of fine red powder… A medicine stone is a perfect work of Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. It is made up of one kind of matter only. Its surface has no beginning and no end. Its power lasts forever. Such stones should not be dug out from the ground. Stones thus embedded have been put there by the lightning, by the thunder powers. A ‘yuwipi’ man, unless he is also a ‘heyoka,’ a contrary, does not use them. He finds his stones on the surface of high buttes. To white people this kind of talk seems strange. They have short memories. I have heard that in all the prehistoric caves the world over one finds painted pebbles used in religious rites. Your bible is full of stories of sacred rocks set up in high places. Think of the Rock of Ages, of St. Peter, whose name means ‘rock.’ Think of Stonehenge. White people have forgotten this and have lost the power which is in the rocks.”       (Chapter 12: Looking at the Sun, They Dance, page 202-204) “The sun dance really began with the choosing of the ‘can-wakan’ – the sacred pole. It was always a cottonwood, our sacred tree. If you cut of the top branches, make a clean cut with your knife, you will find a design resembling a star at the core of each branch… The scouts rode off as if going on the warpath – painted and armed. They were looking for an ‘enemy’ to capture – a wooden enemy, a forked cottonwood…” “When the tree was down, four medicine men who had been chosen earlier cut off all of the lower branches and covered the ‘wounds’ made on the trunk with vermillion paint. The of the sacred tree and the topmost branches with their leaves were left untouched. A buffalo robe painted red, or a scarlet cloth, and a weasel skin were tied to it together with the figure of a man and a buffalo made of rawhide…” (page 209) “The sacred pole has been chosen in the ancient manner, the buffalo skull is in its place and the suffering is as real as ever. That sacred cottonwood means so much to me. Its leaves are shaped like a heart. When they are twisted they look like a tipi, and when they are flat they symbolize a moccasin. The trunk of this tree represents the Milky Way. The fork, where a limb branches off, symbolizes the place where an old woman – ‘hihan kara’ – sits in the spirit land. If we have a tattoo on our wrists ‘hihan kara’ lets us pass. Our tattoo marks represent a kind of baptism. Without them we could not go to the spirit land but would have to walk back to earth as a ghost.”       (Chapter 14: Roll Up the World, pages 228-229) “Some of the Sioux were traveling some more to get the full story on that dance [the Ghost Dance], men like Short Bull, who had already visited the Ute prophet, and Kicking Bear, a fierce, scowling warrior from Cheyenne River. These two became leaders of the ghost dance. They told people that they could dance a new world into being. There would be landslides, earthquakes, and big winds. Hills would pile up on each other. The earth would roll up like a carpet with all the white man’s ugly things – the stinking new animals, sheep and pigs, the fences, the telegraph poles, the mines and factories. Underneath would be the wonderful old-new world as it had been before the white fat-takers came. “They said, ‘The spirits of the dead will live again on this earth. The ghost dance will bring back our dead relations. It will bring back the buffalo. Everything will be good and pure again. There will be no killing. The white men will be rolled up, disappear, go back to their own continent. There might be a few good ones. One could give them an eagle feather to stick in their hair, then they could come too, be a part of the new world, live like Indians. Only a very few could make it. The earth will shake and a big storm will come up. Then we’ll be reborn. Men and women will take their clothes off at that time and not be ashamed, coming again from the womb of grandmother’s earth.” (page 235) “I am trying to bring the ghost dance back, but interpret it in a new way. I think it has been misunderstood, but after eighty years I believe that more and more people are sensing what we meant when we prayed for a new earth and that now not only the Indians but everybody has become an ‘endangered species.’ So let the Indians help you bring on a new earth without pollution or war. Let’s roll up the world. It needs it.”                                                                       CLICK HERE TO RETURN TO INDEX