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There Were Many reimagines the ubiquitous alphabet primer of the elementary schoolroom as a place where mystery abounds; an arena connected to nature, our origins and the power of the mythical; a place of fluid time, beauty and possibility. This work asks the viewer to slow down, to listen, to observe. It also contains a story of a world that is quite similar to our own. A parable. a call to action, an elegy-- perhaps all three. This work proposes that we find mystery again in the everyday, that we take the time to really see and love the things around us and that we cultivate beauty in all that we do.
It is clear now that our writing and language has not prepared us for the challenges and crises of our current world. In fact, language has been used to cleverly obscure the very real and pressing issues of our time. It is time to reconfigure the uses of an education. Would it be that children were taught the values of reciprocity, taught to bring the utmost care to both our use of language and our relationships to each other and the natural world.
There Were Many was drawn with a brush using ink and gouache in two-foot segments, culminating at a length of twenty feet. The animation is a slow pan of over 17 minutes through the entire drawing accompanied by Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita in D minor. Bach’s music has been a beacon for me in these troubled times--a masterpiece of emotional intensity that resonates with beauty, loss and hope. I have listened to it hundreds of times.
Special thanks are due to my friend and colleague Oran Suta without whose assistance this work would remain just an idea. His patience and enthusiasm were a blessing. I also owe Channel Classics Records a special thanks for their permission to use this recording of the Chaconne by the masterful musician, Toyohiko Satoh. And finally thank you to the University of New England who provided me with sabbatical leave and grant funding to pursue my creative work where the initial spark of this project began.
Arts and Humanities | Fine Arts
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© Stephen Burt
Chaconne played by Toyohiko Satoh used by permission; © Channel Classics Records. Please do not use for commercial purposes.
Burt, Stephen, "There Were Many" (2021). Creative And Fine Arts Faculty Projects. 1.