By Nicholas Quin Serenati
Humanscapes is the final post in a three-part series, which began with Locating Place: Fragments of an Illness.
About the series: Illness experience is a resource for experiential knowledge. To that extent, it is important to understand that life has infinite spaces which can be experienced. My work is concerned with phenomenological experiences that transform these spaces into places. These places become the foundations in our individual lives – the construct of our identity. The work in this series is intended to ascertain an understanding of the ways meaning–making functions as a method for healing, and how the creative process operates to uncover and identify new metaphors that best communicate illness experience to others.
In Bob Trowbridge’s book, The Hidden Meaning of Illness: Disease as a Symbol and Metaphor, a philosophical engagement is established with how illness penetrates the process of being human. What illness does for a person is quite unique and individualized. For me, I find that illness is an experience that can stifle and complicate the order of living. However, I believe that illness experience offers an opportunity to transcend the basic containment of being ill and evolve into a more knowledgeable and inspired being. Similar to the process of art making, illness is a process of discovery. During illness experience, an opportunity arises to untether from the superficialities that compound life and embrace the moments of being vulnerable, confused and weak in order to flourish in strength, beauty and wisdom.
Humanscapes presents an extremely straightforward and customary point of view on illness. The work embodies the typical tone and nature that possesses aggression and horror. Humanscapes is an exploration of the human condition as I perceive it to be through my illness experience. Specifically, the exploration dealt with juxtaposition of content – image and poetry – and in doing so, the overarching philosophical questions emerges: what would resonate?
Death comes during the twilight.
An opera of suffocating screams,
tuned in the key of pain.
Pitch perfect, echoing across barren landscapes.
Injections, ravenous poison, constricting veins.
A lifeless marionette standing on a thorn’s edge of a cacti.
Sand storms perform a ritual dance
to a fiddling devil, vultures circle above.
Breath shallows, eyes hollow, heart slows, flesh blisters.
Red-eyed from hearing my mother’s cry.
Tears from angels come crashing down, loud.
Collected by the hands of a decomposing crowd.
Now, we can bathe, and be covered in a linen shroud.
Traces of red from these fingertips,
Ink that flows and pens this script.
What is left are bloodstains,
from life’s dismissed.
I’d be remiss, if a history of illness went claimless.
Flavored by metallic bitterness of wicked misery,
It sped through my veins.
A devouring plague,
An internal decomposition;
The memory hangs in the timberland of my mind.
Silent, static, yet ever present.
I sympathize with those who lie still.
The light has escaped them;
and now, darkness.
I find it eerily near.
Vulnerability that will always remain.
In the shadows,
just as ugly.
Dark separation is home.
Lying dormant with others.
Overshadowed by internments of negative space,
Reflection blinds the wonder of escape.
Void of definition, exists little to name.
Balanced by masses,
Whispers of nothingness fall short of noise.
Beneath an image is the image.
Transcending the real for a rendering of another;
The antagonistic image that requires such attention.
Light, the consciousness of wisdom;
Darkness, its frame
The Old Oak House
A splintering in the wood on the side of this old oak house reminds me of that winter.
Crackling echoes through the chilled air from slivers separating.
This old oak house is in ruins, decaying inside out.
I stand by the window looking out.
My fingers run across the weathered wood interior,
Pieces of the old oak break away and fall around my feet.
That morning, trees stood still, birds frozen in flight.
Water ran down the grooves of the rusted metal roof, down the pane of glass
Like rain, dropping down upon my forehead.
The old oak house dampened.
The crackling grew louder.
Light from the sun turned away and darkness loomed.
Near the old oak house, a river cut through the land like a knife.
Steam from the water smothered a rolling landscape,
A scorching water flow.
Condensation ran down trunks of trees, off tips of leaves, down the plank wood siding
of the old oak house.
Soaked was the landscape.
Just beyond the old oak house, past the riverbank, into the distance, a forest.
From the thicket of brush and pine, a dark horse emerged.
Massive and stoic it stood, flaring its nostrils, sensing the frigid still air.
Black, lifeless eyes peered in the direction of the old oak house.
With a gait slow and steady, the dark horse neared.
I moved aside of the window, peering out carefully
Fear lumped in my throat as his presence grew broader.
The dark horse approached the edge of the riverbank.
Blood trickled from his fractured hooves into the water.
The red streamed down current.
I gasped from inside that old oak house; the dark horse stared.
That is where we remained.
Nicholas Quin Serenati is an interdisciplinary scholar-artist whose work is defined by arts-based research that explores the potential of medium and discipline in liminal spaces. With a practice rooted in locating one’s place, Serenati employs video, creative writing, photography, sound, installation and performance to investigate forming situations that direct his research around illness and metaphor.
Serenati’s intellectual practice deeply engages the creation of meaning – form and function – and the articulation of story throughout the investigative process. Themes of trauma, identity, illness, disability, experimental narrative, social constructivism, sound and language are all contributing factors to Serenati’s work as a critical discourse. Serenati’s scholarly-art practice is intended to investigate phenomena as a way of achieving profound knowledge of theory, philosophy and art.
Based out of St. Augustine, Florida, Serenati holds a BA in Communications from Flagler College, an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, and is a candidate for his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies: Humanities and Culture from Union Institute & University. He is currently the Art Director / Dept. Chair of the Cinematic Arts program at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and an adjunct professor of media and cinema studies at Flagler College.
Serenati’s dissertation, ReFraming Leukemia: Metaphorizing Illness as Windows, will be completed May 2014, and the installation of the project is set for early 2015 in St. Augustine, Florida.