Compassion & Cannibalism: A Spiritual Guide to Recycling

Vials and seafaring ephemera that inspired the installation.

Tracey Morgan Gallery is hosting an immersive, interactive installation by WNC artist and poet Ted Pope, who employs recycled, everyday materials that would otherwise be discarded in a process he refers to as “compassionate cannibalism.” The exhibit includes several small, hand-embellished boxes displayed in a large cabinet, a paper sculpture of ancient cephalopod guardians, and a large-scale suspended drawing. When creating the installation, explains Pope, “Many of my interests converged. I began to think of recycling consumption as a process of human beings consuming their grief about damage to the environment and the planet.” 

Pope is also interested in Polynesian and Pacific Island culture, and especially how ancient humans learned to navigate vast distances using small navigational “stick charts” made from seashells and coconut fronds, to illustrate specific wave and swell patterns surrounding different island chains.

“A Wailing Wall/Western Wall of Recycled Soup Cans”

“I’ve read that these ancient mariners often trailed a hand in the sea and could feel when they were approaching an island or archipelago,” Pope says, “and ‘compassion and cannibalism’ is my version of stick charts to navigate our daily voyage through life.”

But when it comes to navigating the writing of widely performed and published poetry, Pope a regular contributor to the annual international conference held by Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center reveals, “I can’t do anything straight. My mind refuses. At times, when composing poetry, a word or phrase will occur to me that makes no logical sense in the moment. But I go with it, trusting my poetic brain over what makes sense.”

Detail from Compassion & Cannibalism: A Spiritual Guide to Recycling (a site-specific installation)

The installation also features an interactive piece titled “A Wailing Wall/Western Wall of Recycled Soup Cans,” comprised of numerous cans containing poems and prayers written by the artist. Viewers are encouraged to take any particular prayer or poem that inspires them, and will be provided with materials to create their own prayer or poem to leave for the artist, or perhaps another patron. 

Pope hopes that visitors may discover “a lifelong mantra, or even better, a lifelong friend.”

Tracey Morgan Gallery, 188 Coxe Ave., Asheville. 828-505-7667. The exhibit runs through July 16.

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