Barry has started publishing these improvised moments in image and sound with his recent project Porch Swing Orchestra. He emails them out to his followers regularly, and you can sign up for them here. I’ve come to appreciate each edition as an opportunity to slow down and reconnect with my own wonder about the way life looks and sounds and feels.
Barry has a way of altering each image just enough to make you look longer, and differently, at something you’ve seen many times but moved right past. Some capture dailyness: a backyard scene from the neighborhood, a familiar tree canopy possibly from the greenbelt. Others, like this morning’s foggy shoreline, pull the viewer from routine with a reminder about vastness, or emptiness, or awe.
And then everything changes. The image/sound collages on Porch Swing Orchestra don’t stick around and they aren’t archived. When I emailed him this morning, Barry told me that they are ephemeral by design. “They come and go,” he wrote. “Also, sometimes the images are further subject to chance when I rearrange the code of the photo to create a generative glitch.” So depending on when you click the link above, you may or may not see a foggy shoreline—and if you do, it probably won’t be the same foggy shoreline because the glitch will have altered it.
Of course, that’s how it is. With all things.
Right now, my heart aches just a little that I can’t have that moment back, the one when I opened Barry’s email and delighted in what I saw and heard. Even if I do click back to the image before it changes, my inner response to it will not be exactly the same. That was a one-time deal.
Front Porch Orchestra offers me a small and easily digestible way to observe and explore what Buddhist’s call dukkha—a sort of suffering that results from clinging to what is impermanent. When I experience Barry’s work, I have a subtle but palpable inner experience that I want to hold onto—and it hurts that I can’t. But my suffering in this case is pretty small, so I can practice releasing my grip and even relaxing into the nature of ephemerality, letting it wash over me.
Many experiences in life are much, much harder to let go of. I long for them not to change, or for them to revert to how they felt when I enjoyed them the first time around. But like these images, it’s all fleeting.
I don’t know if Barry purposefully makes art about impermanence and dukkha, though I hope he’ll tell me. Doubtless he feels it just like the rest of us. All the time. All around. Impossible to miss.
Thank you, Art—thank you, Artists—for bringing me to this moment as you do.