Sunday, October 31, 2010

Final Project

My daughter came down with RSV on Wednesday and has not been feeling up to much explorative art or being very patient. As a result, I spent some time trying to reconfigure a project without her. First, I thought I could do photos with her out of the shot but imply that she (or something) is off screen. Then, I realized that I probably couldn't pull off that level of photography, and be doing the art, and be taking care of her all at the same time- I'd be lucky to manage just two of those at once! So, unfortunately or no, I took my project in another direction.

I wanted to maintain the inspiration from Ana Mendieta and also shift from the tensions between being a woman and a mother or lover to the tensions between humans and the earth that are so current today. I want to make a larger point about how many of the things we make create barriers between ourselves and the earth and it is impossible to harmonize those elements with the natural. I also wanted to suggest that the human elements are stifling, constraining, or even suffocating us from reaching our most fundamental personhood. We are so enmeshed with our own products that we are unable to function or survive without things like cements or gasoline or plastics in a myriad of forms.

I decided to use plastic to illustrate my idea. I chose plastic bags, drawing from Megan Mueller's presentation in class as well as capitalizing on their availability and their  near-universal recognizability. I drew from Mendieta by using my own body as part of the process and used myself to illustrate the tension, the stifling, and the eventual death of humans that is in complete chaos from the natural entropic order.

First, I collected plastic bags. Then, I found a muddy spot (with a few friends in tow for safety) with a fire pit. I was unsure if fire would be relevant and honestly afraid to venture too close while covered in plastic. I repeated a process of spending time on the ground alternately by the fire, in the mud, and on plastic bags (the barrier). The fire and the mud both left a physical impact on my body. After sitting in the plastic, however, there was no trace left that I had ever been there and there was no trace on my body that I had connected, yet the plastic is the substance I and we come into contact with most frequently every day.

To experience the death of humans in disconnect with the earth, I wrapped my body in the plastic and attempted to bury myself beneath more natural elements: the mud, the underbrush and decomposing leaves, sticks, and rocks nearby. Even as I lay totally submerged, a moment never arrived where any of the matter penetrated my plastic bag shroud. I was literally buried and yet completely insulated from the effects the earth might have had on me. I think that this illustrates well the disconnect we have with the environment and nature today, particularly in this society. I tried this process a few different times, laying just in the mud and brack, laying face up in my shroud, laying face down in my shroud, curled in a ball in the shroud, and standing and kneeling in front of the fire in the shroud.

The product is the final one for our class but can't be called the end result because it seems like an idea that will need to be explored further and repeatedly. Possibly going forward I could use other "barrier" substances, different natural elements, different people in the work. The pictures, I'm hoping, document the project fairly well.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ana Mendieta

Ana Mendieta's work is very inspiring to me. I am most interested in how her works that involve her actual body might inform my final project. I really love this piece:

And, I hope that might help some suggestions come my way!

She seems so purposefully simple, and yet she seems to say more and more, the more we discussed her in class... it really is amazing how well executed and well planned the "big guys (and girls)" within earth art  are/were.

final project ideas

I want to do a project that involves my body in a very physical way, in some sort of process. I am not sure yet whether I want to complete a process or only begin one to continue on later. I know I have a few ideas, including:

speaking to the tension of being a mother and a lover,
the tension between (wo)man and earth,
that between mother and child,
as the child is so primal and I am so separate from the earth,
yet I teach her to separate herself as well (or will she end up teaching me?),
and the tension between being considered as kin to the earth as a woman and whether that really holds true,
and I am also interested in exploring transitions in the stages of Earth, like the seasons, because I see these transitions as fairly significant shifts that could speak to the tensions I am concerned with and how one might overcome them or at least unpack them somewhat.
I am very interested in cyclic patterns that, for me, speak to an order and a completion to the chaos. even where there are tensions and transitions in us and the earth, I believe things do complete a process and often (usually) begin anew.

I want to comment on many of these things (though that may not be possible in one piece) and I want to do so as simply and concisely as I can with my body and the earth. I am hoping to develop a statement on the tensions I am experiencing and a (dis?)connection to the earth, again, in as simple a manner as possible. I am considering the position of the body and things like clothing seem important to catching the mood. I have considered ideas like pictures recording my daughter nursing while we lay in the grass, or encircling her with my body in some material (I am not sure what- dirt, grass, sand, water, etc). Maybe something else will strike me as I go out exploring. I will probably have to do it in my yard if I wear few clothes and I will likely choose a location otherwise based on the material that seems suited to what I ultimately hope to say.

Ashes, Ashes, make a cairn of sorts

I loved this find! Even though my pictures don't do this spot justice, it is a very cool story. Even though this is not a technical cairn by the definition of using stones, I feel it is reminiscient of some of the work we saw like "Long Cairn" in Great Britain (though not so grand). The small cairn is actually the former spot where MCV clinicians took the ashes from cadavers donated to science after their completed projects and scattered them for many years. My own grandfather is here, which is how I knew where to find it. Only 3-4 years ago, they stopped using this spot, and now grass has grown over what was once an eerie earthen mound of dozens or hundreds of bodies. Now it looks beautiful and innocuous, but the hill remains and you can probably make out a line in the grass surrounding the outskirts. I suppose some organic matter in the ashes changed the soil composition slightly, but that is just a guess. What is more ritualistic than the repeated returning of scientists to scatter ashes? I find it very interesting they set up a ceremonial location for this. I hope you can make out the hill, it is not very large but I tried to capture it. The farther zoomed picture just shows where the little ceremonial spot is located within the larger area.

Hollywood Cemetery

My computer has been broken for a while, but last weekend I went to Hollywood Cemetery too. Some of the things I found interesting were gravestones that had sort of transitioned into liminal space over time- the edges were grown over to many and it was impossible to tell how large the original markers were.

Also, a large monument erected in memory of Civil War soldiers was built using large stones but absolutely no mortar- the "chinking" technique we talked about using in class. That, to me, seemed like it fit right in to Earth Art- it has been there for hundreds of years and is impressively large.

I also found the rows of headmarkers in the older sections reminiscent of Richard Long's lines in various areas of the earth or Carl Andre's row of wooden blocks through a field.

The last thing I found there that seemed like a really unique kind of Earth Art (to my inexperienced eye) was a living tree carved by someone for a grave marker in place of a traditional stone. Over time, the tree has taken on an appearance of being cast in stone, but it was at one time a living, thriving plant. Because it is hard to tell which parts are "original tree" and which are "carved add-ins" I felt like it was an excellent example of liminal space. Where is the tree? Where is the carving? Where is the gravestone and where is the nature?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sand-Land Art

When I was trying to think of cool things I might go looking for that would qualify as Earth Art, sandcastles at the local park came to mind. Even though sandcastles per se aren't exactly Earth Art, I found a guy who does use sand to make Earth Art. Jim Denevan does some really neat things, and true to the 1960s/70s concept, all of them are eventually eroded or washed away by the wind and the ocean.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Going with Golf...

Going with the golfing theme...this is an Earth Art project by students at Cornell University from 2008. They completed it on a golf course and I think this fits much more obviously into the Earth Art category than my own picture! My favorite part of this piece is that they included local kids to complete it. Students from a Montessori school made the ribbon pinwheel for the blossom.