A large log hangs from a twenty-two-foot-tall-tower of timbers, steel, and rigging hardware. This log is reduced entirely to wood chips with an ax alone.
Getting the Hang of It is an expression of full-bodied human work that does not divorce planning and design from manufacture and use. It is an apparatus, a machine, built by and for a single person for a single peculiar purpose.
The design and construction of this machine was treated with life-or-death seriousness, and no expense or effort was spared, yet its purpose remains the support of a humble kind of labor done with both feet firmly on the ground.
Getting the Hang of It shamelessly romanticizes this labor by leveraging the myth of the lone lumberjack or the pioneer, and the structural and material language of 19th century oil derricks, but, the viewer is also confronted with the boggling amounts of individual human energy involved, the requisite toil and tedium, the myths made real, and is confronted with questions about the value and purpose of labor that I am not offering clear answers to.
The common phrase "getting the hang of it" comes to us from the days of logging by ax. Putting a new handle on an ax head is called "hanging" it. A new handle might have a slightly different shape or weight to it, it might not feel quite right until it is practiced with a bit, until one "gets" the "hang" of it.
2015: Getting the Hang of It
This activity is made possible by a fellowship from the East Central Regional Arts Council of Minnesota (ECRAC) with funds appropriated by the McKnight Foundation.