The Book of Changes: Notes and Gestures

The exhibition of Ted Goodden, ceramic sculptures, and Cornelia Hoogland, poems, is a collaboration. Specifically, these artists are responding through image and text to the 64 hexagrams contained in the ancient book of wisdom, the I Ching, or Book of Changes. The I Ching itself is a collaborative text, having been compiled over several centuries with commentaries from a distinguished lineage of Chinese sages, each of them responding to earlier commentaries, to create a palimpsest which combines Taoist and Buddhist influences with Christianity and Confucianism. Goodden and Hoogland situate their work within this broad context as a contribution to a contemporary commentary to the I Ching.

“For thousands of years the I Ching has been consulted as a philosophical taxonomy of the universe, and as an organizing principal for personl, ethical conduct. The depth of wisdom contained in the Book of Changes, and its canniness in reframing our concerns into larger contexts, continues to amaze us. As artists, we value the I Ching as a practice of spiritual wholeness in psychically dismembering times, and as a philosophical counterweight to western hyper-individualism. Our sculptures and poems echo the elemental imagery and form, as well as the open-ended interpretability, of the I Ching. Here, the self is embedded in natural, social and political frameworks, all of which condition self-expression.”

Ted Goodden, (Hornby Island)

I have created sculptural variations with a single male figure and a ball. The balls can be viewed in any number of ways: as a plaything; as the world in its roundness; as an obscure object of desire; or as an embodiment of the circumstances that surround us at any given moment. The ball animates the figures and creates attitude and intention. The sculptures are not illustrations of the hexagrams. After the forms have been fired and finished, in collaborative method John Cage would appreciate, I used the I Ching to assign each sculpture to a particular hexagram. In an early black and white photo, as a one year-old, I am seated and holding a ball. It’s not the expression on my baby face, but the particular way that I am holding the ball that gives a sense of personality, or personhood, to the photograph. It is the whole body, its postures and gestures, that is revealing and meaningful, especially when animated. That’s where the ball comes into play. Who would Sisyphus be without his ball? I gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Hornby Island potter Heinz Laffin, whose patient firing technique allows me to create forms that push the boundaries of clay.

Cornelia Hoogland, (Hornby Island)

Collaboration also guides my work for this exhibition. I collaborated with the sculptural figures themselves, the text of the hexagram contained in the I Ching, and with the poetic constraints of this project. I intend the poems to attract the viewer with their haiku-like brevity, and with the Chinese sense of economy and withholding. Many of the poems engage the viewer with a question, and a glimpse into the interior world, or the emotions, of the ceramic figure. They direct attention to sculptural form and individual gesture. Collaboration allows something fresh and exciting into my work, I invite a broader spectrum of forces to inform my poetry. The collaborative activity not only includes, but requires, the viewer to complete its meaning. My goal is not to produce spiritual or nature-based poems, I’m interested in creating awareness that allows me to capture a moment in time. The classical Chinese poem does not recognize the Western distinction between poet and subject, and so the real subject of the poem becomes the mysterious unity of opposites. The I Ching provides a rich source of visual images and poetic metaphors, rooted in observations of the world and its cycles. I gratefully acknowledge Edwin Carswell’s recording of my poems.