Scrapping Ceremony by Maya Gurantz



Scrapping Ceremony by Maya Gurantz

On my desk in front of me, I see seven external hard drives, two iPads, my desktop computer, a tiny digital point-and-click camera that is 10 years old thus not of high enough quality to be worth using, a broken clock, my phone, a packing-tape dispenser, a stack of CDs and some plastic device that is supposed to keep organized the charging of these devices.  Most of these items were gifts or hand-me-downs.  Someday, they will all be discarded.

It haunts me.  Not a day goes by without this experience: I glance at a coffee cup lid—or trip over a piece of my child’s Lego—or use a toothbrush—and I immediately imagine the object multiplied by 100,000 at the bottom of the ocean.  I imagine this every day.  Every day.  It’s become a constant pulse underneath my experience of the physical world.  It took me years to admit to this.

Alchemy parted ways with occult practice when it became chemistry—when it became science.  Not that science doesn’t inspire musings on the spiritual, but the spiritual used to be integrated into actual laboratory activity.  (One notable holdout remains Jack Parsons—co-founder of Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Aleister Crowley sex magick ritualist, explosives expert—my favorite occultic scientist of our modern era.   Fifty years after he blew himself up in a lab accident at home, Parsons remains the exception rather than the rule, and that has made him a counter-cultural icon.)

The ability to distill, to reduce, to extract, to fuse—this inspired awe in alchemists, who noted and notated greater philosophical and personal implications to these processes. Alchemy was a mechanical and mystical pursuit.

In this ceremony, I reverse a laptop device machine into its component, constituent parts, scrapping and separating the materials.  I will use Aqua Regia to extract the gold from the chips.  Pull out the copper from the wiring.  Organize these items by their elements.

Obviously, there is only so far I can go—I cannot reverse plastic to its original oil.  Nor could the alchemists transmute lead to gold.  But they attempted this transmutation to also enact a purification of themselves.

So I set myself to this task that is doomed to failure–the reversing of this magic object into its materials.  I incite certain powers, recall value from trash, recapture the elemental potential, recover myself from waste, take myself apart, apply heat, strip, reduce, put more work into the extraction than went into the construction, and mostly, invoke magic as a cry of and against despair.


Performance Documentation,  Human Resources, April 19-20, 2014

Maya Gurantz is a Los Angeles-based artist and writer.  Most recently, her work has been shown by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, High Desert Test Sites, Autonomie Gallery, LAX><ART, and workspace gallery.  She has written for Notes on Looking, The Awl, This American Life, Avidly,InDance Magazine, Theater Magazine, and co-translated two novels by Israeli novelist David Grossman.