I created a performance based installation in a small Cedar Grove at Smoke Farm in early September. The piece was born from the desire to be in and honor the intimate natural sanctuary created by the cedars and to connect significantly with anyone who entered it.
I asked festival goers to participate in the performance by spending quiet time in the space and leaving any burdens with me. I, in return, read the burdens and made offerings of words and tokens in the form of “prescriptions” and “remedies”. The exchanges were anonymous. I could not see who was in the space and I was in a masked costume.
My intention was to make a prescription/remedy for every person who left a burden; however, I received hundreds of burdens and did not have time to address them all. Someone suggested I bring them home and put the project online. That seemed like an excellent solution. I brought the burdens home and made replies to several of them (see previous posts), but the process began to feel false. It is very different to sit in my basement studio and write to anonymous people (who may no longer care or ever read this) than being among the cedars and the people. I felt like the project had shifted to an Ann Landers or Dear Abby sort of thing. I also began to feel unqualified to make “prescriptions” for anyone about anything. I am certainly not a doctor nor am I a trained counselor or in the clergy.
I began to tell myself that the project was over and to let it go – that it was no longer art and I had no business making any kind of suggestion for people suffering with real and acute anguish.
Then yesterday I took a walk with a close friend who is suffering. At the beginning of her telling me her important things, she said, “This is for your ears only. Please don’t tell anyone.” I am someone to whom she does not need to say those things. I believe she knows this to be True. I respect her privacy because I want to. It’s an honor for me. And I know she honors mine. Still, she said the words and they ring in my ears because it is exactly that sort of safe space, a measure of intimacy, that I hoped to experience with participants in the cedar grove, if only for a moment.
So I may never know if participants return here to pick up their prescriptions, but if connection and/or relief is even a possibility then I am renewed in my energy to see this project through. The question of “Is it art?” no longer seems important.
Thank you for visiting.