Taboo – 7th Online Performance Art Festival

I was thrilled to participate in the 7th annual online performance art festival on February 11th, 2018.  “Taboo” was a visual exploration of stigma towards women’s health. The piece was broadcasted live and around 15 people tuned in to see the improvisational performance. I had originally wanted four male players for the piece, but due to weather and other circumstances I ended up being one of the participants, as well as my husband. I am constantly thankful for his support in my zany art. The piece is still up online so go check it out and let me know what you think!

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Taboo

  • duration: 10 min
  • watch: 11th February 2018 at 9 pm UTC

DESCRIPTION: Four anonymous male figures are guided to move feminine products (clean unused ones) around as a commentary on the taboo of a women’s period in today’s society and to bring attention to the stigma of these so-called luxury items and the reproductive cycle. Using parameters as prescribed by the improvisational form “object chess” the players will spontaneously engage with the objects to create new connections between the players and the objects. Players take turns placing objects into a field. There are three options. 1. Introduce a new object, 2. Move an object already in play, or 3. Introduce themselves as an object (in this case their hand). There will be three, three minute rounds, in which a different cast of objects will appear in each round.

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Nesting – A Sacred Mixed Media Art Workshop

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I had the opportunity to co-lead the art focused Creative Playshop at “The Body Now” Summer Retreat with Turning the Wheel this past week. It was a treat to guide our intimate class through the stages of creating a beautiful mixed media sculpture. The theme this year was “Living our Joy” and after much deliberating me and my creative partner, Dodi, settled on creating nests this year.

Nests are such a powerful image of growth and home. They encapsulate so many aspects of a healthy life. Manifesting, nurturing, protecting, growing, snuggling, nesting. Dodi and I steered our lovely group of participants into new relationships with the materials and their own inner artist. My personal agenda for the Creative Play session was to spark a new way of relating to art in the individuals. We played with the materials beyond the visual realm, relating to the way they felt, the way they resonated, the way they brought us joy.

At the end of the week each person had a perfect little capsule of the joy from the class filled with intention and beauty. I’m always shocked at the buoyant creativity each person brings to the table. Each nest was a unique expression of the creator. I modeled the steps each day by creating my own nests. We had two options for creating. One started with a decoupage bowl base, and the second started with a paper bag. I ended up creating two, while everyone else dove deeply into one creation, which lead to a wonderful depth in the sculptures. That being said I’m still very happy with my two little treasure nests.

We ended the week with a showcase at the closing celebration.  Watch the Video Here.

Huge shoutout to Dodi for being the best mentor and partner in guiding this class. Love you!

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My two nests side by side. The top is made from a paper bag and the bottom is decoupage.

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Each magical addition added to the story and the joyful power.

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On day three we shared our joy with each other by creating tokens for another persons nest. I cherish my token from Suzanne!

Sad to miss out? You can sign up for next years camp right now! Check it out.

 

Zen Playground: Inspiration, Analysis, and Interpretation

It is as difficult to understand Zen Gardens as it is to understand one’s own self. (Parkes, p.10)

Zen Playground” was a performance I created in December and various different inspirations were synthesized to create my final project. Artists discussed in classes, concepts discovered in other lectures, and previous aspirations from my own life came together to create this performance piece. The performance revolves around three key ideas: physicality, inspiration from children, and appropriating Zen imagery for a western audience. The original concept came to me many years ago when I discovered this small play area that evoked the image of a Zen garden to me.  The work had been bubbling away in my mind since I had first found the playground back in high school. The play park had a series of small rocks alongside various play apparatuses in an somewhat circular space. I immediately was struck with the idea of recreating a Zen-like garden in the playground. Since this initial inspiration I have learned more about Zen and have created a clearer vision for my appropriation of the Zen garden concept.

Several artists from the Gutai movement sparked my interest from Ming Tiampo’s article Gutai: Decentering Originality, because they drew their inspiration from youth. Murukami Saburo’s “At One Moment Opening Six Holes” from 1955 was originally inspired by his son throwing a tantrum and ripping through the paper screen in their home. This work is extremely provocative because of the amount of physical involvement the artist had on its creation. Watching the artist struggle his way through a series of screens is almost painful to watch. At the end of his performance he is panting and sweating in front of his audience. The Gutai movement is deeply entwined with two of the main principles for my own performance- physicality and children. “Early Gutai sought originality by investigating the nature of creativity. One place they looked to as a model was children’s art, (Tiampo, p.24)” I wanted to use the children’s playground to this same affect, drawing inspiration from where children play rather than how they play.

Another idea that I drew inspiration from was my lectures on Zen in professors J.P Park’s “Art In China” course. We spent two weeks discussing the origins and principles of Zen in his lecture. Three concepts from the Zen practice that stuck with me were that (1) enlightenment could occur at any time, (2) that children were closer to enlightenment than adults, and (3) that enlightenment could be achieved through repetitive tasks. The masters that codified Zen practices were anti-sutra and in general contrary to previous Buddhist beliefs. Instead of sitting and reading about enlightenment, actions and thought had to be taken to reach it. Spontaneous action in juxtaposition to repetitive action replaced previous Buddhist traditions. The act of working on a garden was a logical repetitive task that could possibly lead to enlightenment and also served to help the monastery through the cultivation of food.

Allen Weiss discussed the various aesthetics, symbols, and stories that have come to be included in Japanese thought, specifically in regards to gardens. He explained the experience of a Zen garden as follows:

Each person arrives with different beliefs, different expectations, different protocols of viewing. Where one finds the living presence of nature, another seeks a revelation of the transcendental void, while a third discovers sublime beauty. One need not become a Buddhist monk seeking satori to appreciate the Zen garden, yet, as with all art, the form and depth of appreciation depend on what one brings to the scene. These temples and gardens are thus simultaneously sites of meditation, magic, devotion, knowledge, curiosity—even commerce, play, and profanation. (Weiss, p.128)

His explanation of the function of Zen gardens lead me to believe that any artistic license I took on the concept would be acceptable. Huineng, the sixth patriarch of Zen, was often in favor of breaking down old traditions and re-appropriating ideas. In many ways Zen is all about anarchy, paradox, and irony. Zen gardens also function as a form of visual Koan. A Koan is a form of riddle that has no answer. Through puzzling through the nonsensical question with a nonsensical question enlightenment might possibly be reached through escaping normal trends of thought. The synchronicity between the inspiring artists of the Gutai movement, my own inspiration for this performance, and these concepts within Zen Buddhism was extremely exciting.  Keeping this in mind I went forward with creating my own garden at the playground.

I chose to use a child’s toy rake to groom the garden. Not only did it create an aesthetically pleasing line in the sand, but it also visually linked the viewer to a child’s role in the performance. Raking the garden was much more physically exhausting than I anticipated, but the repetitive and concentric circles helped establish a rhythm and reflected the physicality that had inspired me in other art pieces. In the end I was quite happy with the garden I created. Unfortunately I had wanted to work on the garden for more time but technical and weather issues prevented me from executing the performance as perfectly as I wanted. Originally I wanted to stop whenever a child appeared to play in the park, and start over once they left. No children came to the park for the full duration of my performance, and ironically as I was packing up my materials two families came to the park. This aspect of the performance was out of my hands. Also it snowed and was cold the first day I planned to perform, and so I had to reschedule to a day when there was no more snow.

Luckily, I was struck with another ray of inspiration for the music of the piece. Two men came to play basketball in a nearby court while I was working on the garden. The sound of the ball hitting the rim for the net reminded me of sounds I associated with Buddhist temples. I looped the audio clip to create a rhythmic chime. This creation of a sound that would perceived as authentic, when in fact it was completely fabricated. This idea is similar to the music Jaye Rhee created for her “Cherry Blossom” performance. She plucked at a chinese instrument to create a composition that sounded asian, but in fact was not. Incorporating this into my final video finalized the appropriation of Zen visuals and sounds for a western audience. In all I was very happy with the performance and it accomplished almost everything I hoped to.

Bibliography:

Berthier, François, and Graham Parkes. Reading Zen in the Rocks: the Japanese Dry Landscape Garden. Chicago, Ill. [u.a.: Univ. of Chicago, 2000. Print. 

Park, JP. “Zen.” Art in China. Visual Arts Complex, Boulder. 18 Oct. 2011. Lecture.

Tiampo, Ming. Gutai: Decentering Modernism. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2011. Print.

 Weiss, Allen S. “Heimits Of Etaphor: Ideology And Representation In The Zen Garden.”Social Analysis 54.2 (2010): 116-129. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.

Inspiration Thursday: Zhang Huan

Zhang Huan is a contemporary artist, primarily involved in performance art. Over the past couple years he has flitted in and out of my perceptions, but this last semester I learned about him in much more detail.

The work that brought Huan into the spotlight for the contemporary art world was 12 square meters (1994). While living in a rundown house in a small provencial town outside Beijing, Huan decided to create a performance commenting on the conditions of where he was living. The rental only cost him .75 cents a month and contained a shared bathroom with no door or running water.

He sat naked for 2 hours covered in honey (or sugar water depending on the source you read), and fish sauce while flies slowly became stuck to him in the public bathroom. He did not move for the entire time, except to blink the flies away. After the 2 hours he walked to the nearby pond, which was also highly polluted, and walked until he was completely submerged. In photographs documenting the performance you can see the swarm of dead flies floating around his head, which had previously been attached to him.

All of Huan’s works comment on the world around him through taking his body and consciousness to the extremes. His body of work reminds me of other performance artists such as Marina Abromovic, and artists from the Gutai movement in Japan.

The information for this post was abbreviated from my Art in China lecture at University of Colorado with professor Park.