Lee’s Stories

Lee’s Stories

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posted on October 10, 2016 | Sculpture and Art
Eternal Flame

Eternal Flame.

This is one of a series of
stories in the Vancouver Observer,
each about or inspired by
Experiments, an
evening-length dance production expressing the
essence of scientific creativity, performed at
the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver.
It is about one of several ways
working in Experiments
changed my life. 

This story
branches off from one in

On the Genesis of Experiments, so I
need to back up a bit to get you started. 
that story,
Larry Dill, one of two SFU behavioural
ecologists who came to the grand opening of the Lee
Gass Gallery and long time colleagues of mine,
told me about a dance-science collaboration
that changed his life. 
It changed my
life too and led, ultimately,
to Experiments. 

Larry had just
finished his story when I saw
the other ecologist, Mark Winston, walking
toward us across the street so
I went out the door
and diagonally across the intersection to greet him.  We
talked on the corner a while, then started back toward
the gallery.  E
ven before the middle of the street, Mark
started telling his own version of the story about
the dance collaboration Larry had
just told me inside.

It changed
Mark’s life too.  He’d barely
begun to speak 
when suddenly, right in
the middle of a sentence, with no warning to
me (or, apparently, to himself),
he took off in
a whole new direction. 
He stopped, put
out an arm to stop me, looked me
in the eye, and asked if
I knew what I’d

I nodded through
the door toward Eternal Flame,
exactly as it sits in the picture, asked
That one?
He nodded yes, I shook no,
and so he told me. Then a minute
or two later he told Lu. 

Before I tell you
what Mark told me that night,
I need to give you some background. 
of other people already knew what Mark was about
to tell me that night.  But I didn’t know and Lu didn’t
know, which connects to a story about how
Eternal Flame got its name

That’s one thing.

The other
that the story about
Mark Winston and Eternal Flame
erupted instantaneously from his story about
taking less than the blink of an eye for both
of us to flip, suddenly, into another reality. 
After Mark
said one word and before he said the next, something
snapped, a light came on, we went over the lip
of a
catastrophe manifold, and we
were in another space.

When the stories
switched, we were were almost
precisesly where I had stood when I
took this picture, earlier that
same afternoon.

In one instant, Mark
danced in a street with a scientist about
dancing about science.  In the very next instant,
in the middle of a sentence, he was dancing with a
sculptor about sculpting.  Only a sentence or two
later we flipped again, into that story
I haven’t told you yet. 

It amazes me that
we went through those transitions
so quickly and didn’t skip a beat.  Over and
over again, that kind of thing happens, not just
in my own life, but, from what I’ve been able to tell,
nearly everyone else’s.  Not always, and it doesn’t
always work.  But it works often enough to
make me wonder how it happens.


I also find it phenomenal
that re-shaped rocks like Eternal Flame
can engender such events!


What Mark said
about Eternal Flame is simple.
Synogogues have an eternal flame,
ner tamid, usually a lamp or light
above the altar, that never goes out.
In the middle of a sentence about
something else, my sculpture
reminded him of that
and I think that’s
just wonderful!

Later, Mark published
an article about that connection
in the
Jewish Independent newspaper.

First published in the Vancouver Observer.

Edited March 2021

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