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.


  1. Awesome shots! Very Ana Mendieta. Powerful subject matter as well. i hope your daughter feels better soon!

  2. I would say 'cocoon' followed by 'fantastic'.

  3. Very nice and very relevant Shannon ... great images -- ceremonial burial is a vision-quest tactic used in many cultures but often seen in ancient Amer-indio-latino cultures from Mexico to South America ...