STATEMENT FROM THE RED LADIES
We are not what you think.
No matter what you think, we are not that.
The Outdoor Interventions
'Each mission is a unique response to the architecture and the people of the city.'
'When the Red Ladies arrive in a city, they transform it, appearing on rooftops and in doorways, in places of political or architectural interest, commandeering their own limousines, their own brass band, once even their own helicopter.'
In association with Clod Ensemble.
You know, it COULD be. If only the Hollywood actors were not appropriating performance at this height of visibility. Is that what is hard to swallow with the current renewed trendiness of performance: the power and privilege of the “artist,” allegedly without a grounding in the lineage of the discipline, just trying it on? Because, when presented by celebrities, performance becomes widely recognized as this slick and surfacey exploration: neon spandex and all. Not that running for 12-hours is easy, physically, even psychologically… but ARTmaking demands some conceptual rigor and compositional/visual development.
Read about it.
Classes are just starting, and I read today about the Columbia University art student who is making her senior project a performance work to protest the leniency shown her rapist by campus officials. Read more about it. I am impressed by this student, Emma Sulkowicz.
UPDATE: Sept 11, 2014: From Rebecca Solnit’s Facebook page:
Today in feminism: At 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday, a group of students helped Emma Sulkowicz, CC ‘15, carry a mattress from the East Campus courtyard to her class in Schermerhorn Hall. The collective carry event was in support of Sulkowicz’s visual arts senior thesis project, in which she’ll carry a mattress everywhere she goes for as long as her alleged rapist attends Columbia. According to the rules of her performance art piece, Sulkowicz is not allowed to ask for help to carry the mattress, though she can accept help if someone offers it to her.
The collective carry was organized by Carrying The Weight Together, a group of students and alumni who want, according to the group’s site, “to help Emma carry the weight of the physical mattress, give her and other survivors of sexual assault in our community a powerful symbol of our support and solidarity, and show the administration that we stand united in demanding better policies designed to end sexual violence and rape culture on campus.”
"When I heard about Emma’s thesis project, I had a really strong reaction and felt I understood what Emma was doing as an artist and wanted to be in solidarity with her and other survivors," Allie Rickard, BC ‘15 and one of the organizers of Carrying The Weight Together, said. "I think there’s been a general feeling from people among both schools that there’s a great sense of support for Emma and other survivors and this would be great for people to get involved on a daily basis, and just show solidarity, and give Emma and other survivors support."
Rickard said that she envisions that the collective carries will last as long as Sulkowicz continues to carry her mattress around campus.
"I really appreciate how public and open she is about what happened to her becuase, so often when people experience a traumatic event, they keep it under wraps and they hide it," Sarah Murray, SEAS’18 and one of the students who participated in the collective carry on Wednesday, said. "I think it’s so brave that she’s so public about it, and so I just wanted to be a part of supporting her and her bravery."
A second collective carry is planned to help Sulkowicz carry the mattress to a Stand With Survivors speak-out on Low Plaza, which will take place this Friday at noon. Students are asked to bring their own mattresses to that event to show solidarity with Sulkowicz.
"As students, I like the fact that we can step up and share the weight with her—that she doesn’t have to do this all alone," Bridgette Tolbert, CC ‘18, said.
UPDATE September 17, 2014:
another article on Hyperallergic
UPDATE, October 16, 2014
I just discovered this essay on Hairpin that contextualizes Carry That Weight within the feminist performance lineage of Mendieta and Ono and more. A worthwhile read.
If you happen to faint during a performance, and fall from a 5+ foot high boulder into a trench filled with sharp stones, it may be a good idea to be wearing an inflatable dress. That way, you can wake up, stand up and finish the performance. More info on the Longva+Carpenter work, Come, presented at the amazing performance triennial Between Sky & Sea in Norway, as the photos get organized.
This photo was shared on facebook by Diamanche Rouge.
The gear shifts between experiences on this 6+ week summer performance art tour have been fast. I’m currently back in Norway, with many artists from the Sokolowsko Festival in Poland (as part of that exchange) and some significant friends met in Norway last year during my sabbatical. Yet I am still a little bit in Salem, thinking about all the artists I loved getting to know in Germany (photo above). More photos of all the performances and some of the experiences to come as soon as I am home again, home again. Still a few more glorious days as Longva and I prepare for the upcoming Herdla Festival, Between Sky + Sea.
Herdla, photo by Traci Kelly
A review of A Maiden Still Less in the regional paper is available here.
Google Translate seems a little off on this; I’ll update with the help of a German colleague. Photos of the performance coming soon! Image above by Chris Inken Soppa.
A Maiden Still Less
A durational visual art performance
Based entirely on site-specific research, both visual and scholarly, at Schloss Salem and the Lake Constance region in Germany, “A Maiden Still Less” conflates the artist’s fascination with materiality, time and presence—fascinations historically shared by the Cistercian monks themselves. The monks’ daily practice of devotion in this place is the starting point; from here the artist applies a feminist perspective to reveal the darker history of witch persecutions of the Early Modern Period that extended to any wise or brave (therefore outcast) woman. In fact, the title itself is adopted from a record of those locally convicted and burned for witchcraft, unnamed: “…The apothecary’s wife and daughter. The prettiest girl in town, aged 19. Four strange women found sleeping in the marketplace. A little maiden, nine years of age. A maiden still less.” The title also refers to the age and experience of the woman here, strengthened now, able to release the burden, no longer an innocent maiden.
I consider the site of Schloss Salem a collaborator in terms of inspiring the golden stones. All that gilding is powerful. The connection I have with fellow artist Alessandra Beltrame is also important; she uses gold leaf often in her work, and made sure I had the right glue to get started:
I was also lucky enough to be asked by interdisciplinary artist Laurie O’Brien to be filmed for inclusion in her amazing micro-installation with video. She makes quirky gorgeous dioramas that include mini videos of people interacting with the space. I will be dropping some stones for her work, allowing the viewers to see the image live outside in the water then see it again in her imaginary cityscape inside the exhibition space. More images to follow… but here is a sneak peak of us filming in front of the green screen:
With a little fun after the shoot:
First just look at the beauty of Lake Constance and the view of the Salem2Salem palace-of-residence at Spetzgart:
The exhibition opening and performance is Friday, two days away, and after significant conversations with fellow performers Jenny Hillenbrand and Anna Katharina Aichroth I remembered to simplify, simplify, simplify. I let go of the excess materials (salt and honey and milk etc.) even though I love them, trusting that they will be available again if needed in the future.
All this performance needs is the woman in her dress of gloves, some stones, some other stones with gold, and a walk in the water. Simple beauty like the view of our magic tree:
I am in the part of the process of constructing a new work where my thinking becomes circular. Some things keep sticking, coming ‘round and ‘round again, while other ideas get thrown out by the centripetal force. What I can’t let go of yet includes notions of the waterway in terms of function and metaphor, wise or brave thereby outcast women, the duality of my connection to the historic Cistercian/Bernardine monks (known as the White Monks, due to their robes) at the Salem Abbey—the lure of their devotion, and the repulsion of their misogyny.
I learned some important facts on the tour of the Palace cathedral: first that the monks prayed standing for 8 hours over the course of each day, starting at 4:30am. They slept for 8 hours, worked for 8 hours and prayed for 8 hours. They had specially constructed choir stalls that provided a brace for standing over lengthy periods. Here I am testing one:
A central philosophy of the Cistercian order included a profound awareness of death, and life’s fragile fleetingness. As such, there was a clock placed in the nave high above the altar. These corporeal and temporal practices certainly compel me: the power of devotion trumping all.
In contrast, however, the tourguide mentioned that one of the important rules of the church was that during services “the monks should not be disturbed by chattering women.” In my research about Salem as a potential site of witch persecution, I have discovered that this Lake Constance region was in fact an early (if not the first) site of witch trials in Germany. The local town Ravensburg hosted a famous trial in 1484, attended by a Dominican monk Heinrich Kramer, known for his skill in detecting heretics, who soon after wrote “The Witches Hammer” (“Malleus Maleficarum”) the first printed and widely used how-to manual for exposing witchcraft. Today the book is defined by its unstructured and confused configuration, its extreme misogyny and its deliberate falsification of historic facts.
I am also still spinning with my choice of materials:
•Rocks from the local landscape and river/lake beds
•Gold inspired by the abundant and gorgeous gilding in the Palace (and as related to alchemy/transformation)
•Honey as a nod to the existing symbol of the sweet verbal skills of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the leading reformer of the order
•Milk because the accused witches of the era often were blamed for milk and butter spells
•Salt as it brought wealth to the abbey and this region historically, and according to “The Witches Hammer,” use of salt was an indicator of witchcraft
•A timer as related to the clock in the church.
I remain visually certain about the white gloves on the white dress, (invoking archive, art and the intangible/untouchable qualities of what we most value: devotion, time, connection beyond the corporeal). I am now sure that I want to place a stone in each of the 40 gloves, to weigh me down, visually and poetically.
Now my room is looking like a real studio:
Just a little more research to trigger that final, vital “aha!” and resolve the action of the performance.
Many thanks to the staff, other resident artists and local artists who have helped with translating texts and providing additional research topics, especially: Kerstin Rock, Chris Inken Soppa, Ralf Staiger, Alain Wozniak and Felicia Glidden. More soon!
As I see and learn more about the Salem Palace, some of my initial ideas are becoming reinforced. In the first days, I was obsessed with gilding, and stones and hands (and the ways one can both touch and not touch an object of value—or anything really—through the typical archivist cotton gloves). I have collected all these things, not quite knowing why. Returning to the Palace today, I saw a lot of gilding:
Right now, the ways I am making sense of this is to sew 20 pairs of white archivist gloves on a white dress, gold leaf a stone or two, and see if I can receive permission to perform in that waterway right in front of the Palace.
I am also doing an additional bit of research on local witches and other outcast women in history, as well as alchemists (as related to the gold) mostly due to the name of the place, and my connection to it, by proximity and ancestry.
For more information on the other artists in residence as well as the program in general, please click on this Salem2Salem link.
And following are some links to articles about our residency:
Visit to the Zeppelin Museum
I’ve been in Salem, Germany for 5 days and the research is just starting. There have been lots of meetings: meeting the 24 other artists, meeting the German program staff, meeting and greeting at the Opening Receptions; and trips: a trip to the scrap yard, to the art supply store, and to the lake to swim at sunset!
This is the Salem Palace, the center of our research, community and the site of the exhibitions.
I performed a little ditty, borrowed from Longva+Carpenter at the Opening Reception at the Salem Palace, at the request of Dr. Stefan Feucht, Project Director. I wanted to offer a durational visual art performance as the rest of the multi-media performances (experimental sound, vocal, music, readings and video performances) were presented on the stage. I performed for only 45 minutes, as the guests entered up the grand staircase, filling the space with the sound of inauthentic laughter/crying, slumped, face pressed to the wall. Longva and I had just performed this as part of a larger work in Poland, so it was what I had up my sleeve on only the 3rd day after arriving. (See the Longva+Carpenter website for more information.)
US Consulate General, Kevin C. Milas offers his remarks in the gorgeous Palace Library.
Kerstin Rock, Project Coordinator; Stefan Feucht’s daughter Lily and US artists Danielle Adair, Amanda Schoofs, Paul Mitchell, (me) and Matt Chinian at the end of the reception.
NOW the art can start! Here is just a wee visual tease: some of the items I picked up at the scrap yard and at the art supply store: