Last Seen June 21st – A Collaborative Art Project
Tapestry is a new and ongoing Shrill Cats narrative open for all artists to contribute in.
Each narrative is written based on the best art and photography works submitted by our community for inclusion as key elements in the final story. In essence, before each challenge closes for submission, your photos can affect the as yet-unwritten-outcome. Our aim is to challenge the conventional perceptions of art and to increase its role as a social and collaborative undertaking.
The initial motivation behind Tapestry #1 – “Last Seen June 21st”, can be found here.
I remember June 21st fondly. No, it wasn’t anyone’s birthday. In fact, it started out as an ordinary day on a morning stroll in the park overlooking our little slice of the ocean. Sometimes, I forget how fortunate I am to be greeted by such beautiful views since I moved out here last year. Today, the tourists were plenty, with the shutter of their fancy cameras clicking away at a frantic pace, just like a mating call between the birds.
Determined to seek solace, I walked for 20 minutes and made my way to my secret spot on the beach to escape the crowd. I sat, legs folded, and braced myself against a strong wind that made me momentarily weightless. Words defied the moment. Here, I was at once vulnerable and comfortable at the same time. There was something cosmic about it all, like hiding in my own cardboard box within my own home. I love coming here, it is really my favourite place to be. Well, the truth is, this wasn’t always my secret place. A woman named Sierra came here before me. She had an air of noble mystery about her, insisted on proper formalities in our conversation, and kept her hair wrapped up and hidden from view at all times.
Come to think of it, that was one year ago today when I first met her – June 21st, 2016. I have never seen her since, and no one in town knew anyone by such a name. I thought little of it at the time, but tonight, this perplexed me once again. I found myself in the bathtub for 3 hours, refusing to leave long after the water has turned chilling cold. I couldn’t help but wondered who the mysterious woman was. Arms outstretched and face down, I put my head into the water, with my vision obscured by the milky white bath. “It’s better if you float”, echoed a distant voice in my head: “Just relax, and look around you”. Some say that we are really dreaming when we are awake, and that all the world is a dream, or a computer game. Tonight, I couldn’t agree more.
Lately, recurring visions cloud my mind. A visit at the art museum started it all. A skull in a picture frame adorned a deep green wall, and the morbid beauty of it captivated me. I have seen this image a thousand times, and yet, I could not look away. Beneath our flesh, this is what we are all made of. Distilled down to our skeletal remains, are we smiling? Weeping? Are skeletons happy, or are they sad? Unlike a multiple-choice test, there was no objectivity, no answer key, no expert to turn to. We could be amongst our best friends, and yet no one would ever know the answer to these mysteries. “Hide away”, I said.
Perhaps this was why my flashbacks included many photos with my face scratched out, and my identity unknown – a self-portrait with myself but without the self at the same time. Bizarre as it may be, even the Polaroids of my selfies materialized as sharp fragments out of my camera. The self did not want to by captured for public consumption. No, it is sacred and rages hard against my identity and my soul being shelved away as a keepsake. Here I laid, naked and awake in bed and contemplated the meaning of these visions as I attempted to arranged a dozen pink flowers on my hair to ease my mind. Only one thing is for certain, and that is the face of a man on the street with a cat perched atop his shoulder. His black cat was not what you would call adorable. Instead, he was there almost by complete happenstance, as if photoshopped after the fact. “No, you may not pass”, the cat says. How ridiculous! Cats cannot speak.
I finally got out of bed at 1pm and headed out for a stroll to an old part of town- an abandoned train station that became a casual hangout for teenagers. No, this wasn’t a secret spot like the beach, but I began to miss the company of strangers today, and this was the perfect escape. As I made my way down the street, a blond-haired girl walked beside me. I loved her floral wardrobe and wanted to complement her, and yet the words never came out. At the end of the path, we went separate ways as I navigated down a narrow flight of stairs, just wide enough for one person at a time. Then again, there was no one else here, just me. Some say that this train station used to be a lovely little botanical garden in a private estate. Whatever it was, few people knew about it, and even fewer have seen it.
At the train station, a girl sat by the platform. I couldn’t remember her face, but she stood there with no watch, no purse, and no belongings as she waited patiently. My only recollection was the tapping of her right foot to the chirping of the birds, almost like her own timekeeper. At the far side of the platform, a small crowd gathered. Apparently, a collection of faces had been drawn here overnight. A blond-haired girl in a denim jacket joined me, as she moved right up to the wall to fully be absorbed in this special moment. While I did not catch a good glimpse of her, the embroidered portrait of a mysterious, caped character on the back of her jacket called out to me. Anyway, the faces on the wall were incredibly expressive, if abstract, as their gaze held your attention with an inexplicable fascination. In a sense, perhaps they wanted to reach out into our world, but were rendered frozen in time in their two-dimensional reality. Actually, this makes me wonder if our faces appeared static in time from their point of reference, like a photograph that is locked-in forever. What was real? In a moment of epiphany, I now realized what the girl was looking at. Written in the smallest possible font, a personal message was left on the wall: “To my dearest Sierra – life is but a dream. Let’s meet again someday at the edge of the universe”.
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