FLIP

2012

One of my obsessions is the impact of other species (particularly dogs) on my own consciousness. What is the impact on me when I work hard at imagining how this other kind of animal feels and thinks? I’m especially curious about their non-survival pleasures, like when they play-act (“we are wrestling and I am pretending to be mean”).


In general terms, FLIP is an ode to the clumsy smack joy makes, but specifically I am looking at that inelegant, sudden, somersault that dogs do. With big dogs, it feels like they shouldn’t even be able to move their bodies that way. It looks like they got a sudden injection of gymnast; or a spurt of circus contortionist. Except that the dogs are always too cumbersome in their execution to be a gymnast or a circus performer. And the dogs are always joyful, and never self-aware. Perhaps they are having a burst of ecstasy á la Saint Theresa.


As the dog’s audience, I see the movement described through the physics of a waterwheel: a full-body flop to the ground transfers a flow of joyful energy into a linked machine (me). Or, sometimes, I see the movement through the yogic practice of inversion in which we turn ourselves upside down to encourage realignment and reconsideration. With this lens, follow-look-walk-run-ball-garbage inverts into smell-rub-twist-feel-throw caution to the wind. We like to say that animals live in the moment but they don’t always (the dog photographed here spends his park time figuring out escapes back to garbage he’s seen, or escapes up to garbage he anticipates); and by comparison, in the flip, the dog is entirely living the moment. Perhaps it is a dog meditation. Or maybe, it’s a dog epiphany.


In any case, it is a full-frontal confrontation with joy and it is beautiful to see. Or more precisely, it is beautiful-clumsy to see. Or beautiful-sloppy. It is ugly-true. It is hilariously over-serious. But to the dog, maybe, it’s none of these. Maybe it’s something I haven’t imagined yet. Or something I’ve already dismissed.