Even Silent Ruins Speak

by James McColley Eilers

Regarding his work, the artist says:

When people from around the earth visit the island of Alcatraz, they are already informed to some extent about “the Rock.” The island’s philanthropic board, administrators, and rangers are allowing its symbolic meanings to thrive and expand, with the island open to art events, but also with an ongoing conscious meditation on the past and present of the crucial social issues of crime and incarceration. The island’s physical reality, textured and painted by climate, fascinates, but listening to the stories researched by a friend who is a night guide there can make the place feel haunted by the past. The ghosts evoked by its history might have found freedom at last, riding on the wind permitted here to flow through walls between the Pacific and the San Francisco Bay. I photographed what seemed a lyrical abstraction of floating rectangles, but felt, as well, the many meanings a ruin can evoke, as if such windows as these allow the past and the present to look at each other.

James McColley Eilers' verses, translations, essays, and photographs have been published in various literary magazines, including Subtropics, San Francisco Reader, Modern Words, Estero, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Mouth of the Dragon, Gay & Lesbian Review; on the websites InTranslation and Poetry Ark; and in the books, How to Bury a Goldfish (2000, 2008) and the anthology, Imprints (2014). His one-act play, Turning, was performed in San Francisco in 2001.

Comments

By Cynthia Low on May 22, 2016 23:17 (UTC)

This is so interesting, seeing the dreamspace within a tragic structure, disturbing, I like it

By Steve Susoyev on Jun 07, 2016 01:42 (UTC)

Mr. Eilers's work has inspired me for several years. This photo, and the photographer's succinct paragraph concerning its meaning to him, are hauntingingly poignant. After I saw the 2015 Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alcatraz, which contained a number of pieces honoring political prisoners around the world, I contacted Mr. Eilers to ask if he knew about the exhibit. As I should have expected, he already had seen the exhibit more than once.

By Paul Harmon on Jun 07, 2016 17:05 (UTC)

Jim Eilers is one of the undiscovered voices of this generation of San Franciscans. He has combined poetry and photography to create an important record of the last few decades.

By Alan Acacia on Jun 07, 2016 22:42 (UTC)

The worlds of those who lived before us are often invisible to modern Californians. We are unaware of the layered wealth at our feet, deaf to the echoes of the past. The result is that we encounter the places where we live as unrelated and indifferent to us. We experience our own lives as flat and discontinuous.

For the past to become vivid and full, it helps to have references designed to open our imaginations. James Eilors is a master at this. He revivifies history and restores nuance to the land. He dis-impoverishes us.

By James Eilers on Jun 08, 2016 02:55 (UTC)

Just published on SUBPRIMAL and find myself among interesting contributors I want to explore closely -- and did not realize that it would also garner such sweet opinions from people who know me.

By Martha Hubert on Jun 12, 2016 15:53 (UTC)

Both this photograph and writing are exceptional. Ours being the country that incarcerates more of its people than any other is shameful. I commend Mr. Eilers for bringing our attention to those spirits so wrongly deprived of their freedom. What will it take for us to STOP MASS INCARCERATION ?