Monday, December 17, 2012

Versluis | Behrens Cicada Montage

Cicada Digital Collage (2012) © David Versluis & Roy R. Behrens
Above In an earlier post, I talked about a series of digital collages (or montages) in which graphic designer David Versluis and I collaborated (exchanging files by email) during a period of several weeks in the winter of 2011-2012. I can't remember how many works were in the series (probably ten). Each work progressed through stages. Often, an earlier stage might be just as compelling as a later one. I think this is the final stage of one of my favorites. It began when David emailed me a scan of a cicada from his Iowa insect collection.


From R.V. Jones, “The theory of practical joking—its relevance to physics,” in R.L. Weber, compiler, A Random Walk in Science. London: Institute of Physics, 1973, pp. 10-11—

[American physicist] R.W. Wood is said to have spent some time in a flat in Paris where he discovered that the lady in the flat below kept a tortoise in a window pen. Wood fashioned a collecting device from a broom-handle,and bought a supply of tortoises of dispersed sizes. While the lady was out shopping, Wood replaced her tortoise by one slightly larger. He repeated this operation each day until the growth of the tortoise became so obvious to its owner that she consulted Wood who, having first played a subsidiary joke by sending her to consult a professor at the Sorbonne whom he considered to be devoid of humor, advised her to write the press. When the tortoise had grown to such a size that several pressmen were taking a daily interest, Wood then reversed the process, and in a week or so the tortoise mysteriously contracted to its original dimensions.
From Roy Paul Nelson, The Cartoonist. Eugene OR: Seven Gables Press, 1994, pp. 57-58—

Combining frequent spraying with baby talk, Margaret [a co-worker at a newspaper] worked hard to keep a bevy of plants alive in her work area. She paid special attention to a demagnetized cactus plant she kept next to her computer. This prompted a newsroom prank.
A.L. (Al) Blackerby’s wife ran the Cacti City store in New Camden. With her cooperation, Al and I sneaked back to the office each Friday night to substitute a slightly larger cactus for the one Margaret had grown used to that week. As someone with an art background, I drew the job of finding a cactus that matched the shape of the one to be replaced. The intervention of the weekend helped mask any inconsistencies. The growth change was just enough to catch her attention each Monday. She even wrote a feature, “Computer Nearness Spurs Cactus Growth,” about the phenomenon.
Then, of course, we reversed the process, making the plant grow smaller each week. Eventually we made the changes so dramatic and erratic that she couldn’t help but catch on. She traced the prank to Al and me, and, for a time, she wouldn’t speak to either of us.

One day, after we became friends again, she came to me to ask if I would teach her to drive. It was something I didn’t particularly want to do.

"What about your husband?" I asked.

"Oh, he already knows how."