“Performed on the 16th of July at the Venice Biennale in 1976 with Ulay. In Relation in Space (1976) they ran into each other repeatedly for an hour – mixing male and female energy into the third component called “that self.”” (credit)
Category Archives: Rituals
Diane Borsato, Touching 1000 People (2003)
Marina Abromović, Shoes for Departure (1991)
“Shoes for Departure”, an art piece by Marina Abramovic (1991). In her artist statement she says, “Then I have crystal shoes. I have instructions for the public to take off your shoes and, with naked feet, put on the two crystal shoes, close your eyes, don’t move, and make your departure. I’m talking about a mental, not physical, departure. So the public can enter certain states of mind helped by the material itself. Material is very important for me. I use crystals, human hair, copper, iron. The materials already have a certain energy. ” (credit)
Joseph Beuys, Ausfegen (Sweeping Up) (1972)
“On May 1, 1972, after the Labor Day demonstrations, artist Joseph Beuys was sweeping up the Karl-Marx-Platz in West Berlin together with two foreign students. This action took place at a time when Beuys had become politicized after the events of 1968 and had first founded the “Deutsche Studentenpartei (German Student Party)” in 1971, then the “Organisation für Direkte Demokratie durch Volksabstimmung (Organization for Direct Democracy Through Plebiscites).” In 1972, he was also expelled from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Since then, Beuys was performing political and ecological actions and interventions, in addition to the more elaborate art performances.
The cleaning squad from May 1, 1972 only requires a small gesture to make plain what Beuys meant by his extended concept of art. He refers to social differences and to a problem of leftist politics: Those who had to clean up after the Labour Day celebrations and demonstrations were the “guest workers.” Yet, the unions had never done much for the foreign workers who were paid low wages. On the other hand, throughout the 1970s the political Left kept mentioning international solidarity between the lower classes. In this respect, the group of three also achieved some considerable social clearing work. It is no coincidence that the two students and Beuys swept up not only on May 1, but also at Karl-Marx-Platz. While Beuys subscribed to Marx’s analysis of the economic relations, he had a different conception of alienation. Beuys shared the view that every form of capital is a form of slavery, but he saw actions as a way out. Moreover, to him every person was a subject and not an object of history. Hence, picking up the broom is a step towards Beuys’s ideal of self determination. via” (credit)
Sarah Rodigari, Strategies for Leaving and Arriving Home (2011)
“Walking is a type of process-based research which informs my performance practice. I use walking alongside other social modalities such as conversation to document relational knowledge and to consider how place is historically determined, invented and retold.” (Catalog, “From Here to There: Australian Art and Walking)
“A six-week performative walk in which I relocated 880 kilometres from Melbourne to Sydney in the winter of 2011. I On my back I carried a tent, a sleeping bag and a four-day supply of food. As no ‘official’ walking route exists between these two cities, I mapped out my own path, choosing to follow the train line as best I could. When this was not possible, I followed the Hume Highway. I walked approximately twenty kilometres per day. I had no support vehicle; instead, I invited people to be my support by walking with me or joining me via the project blog.
In addition to documentation presented through essays, maps and the blog, I have included images of people who participated in the project by either walking, offering accommodation, food,a lift, or passing conversation and local knowledge. The inter-personal affective relations experienced in this exchange expose a vulnerability found within the embodied image of this walk: a woman walking alone along a highway. In turn, this mediation changed the process of the walk and thus shaped the nature of the project.” (credit)
Han Bing, Walking the Cabbage (2000-09)
“Social intervention performance” is how Chinese artist Han Bing (b. in 1974 in Jiangsu, lives in Beijing) describes his Walking the Cabbage series, which he discusses with the New York Times linked video. [credit]
“From Ginza to Times Square, from Tiananmen to the Champs-Elysées, Han Bing and his cabbage have traveled the world. Through his photographic series, Han Bing asks viewers to stop and consider: What do we hurtle towards? And at what cost?
Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen (2000) features an androgynous figure walking a cabbage in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Nothing unusual about that, his easy pose and arm akimbo seems to suggest. The artist behind the work – and in front of the camera – is Chinese artist Han Bing. Han specializes in photography and site-specific performance art in which some of his performances span nearly a decade and cross continental divisions. Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen is part of one such series of performative photographs. Han produced the Walking the Cabbage series over a period of eight years, from 2000 to 2008.
Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen is one of the earliest photographs from the series; the journey continues with Han Bing walking the cabbage in the Houhai district of Beijing, Han Bing walking the cabbage in a subway carriage of Beijing (2004), Han Bing cradling his cabbage in Jiangsu Province (2005), Han Bing walking the cabbage in Miami Beach, USA and Chinatown (2007). Han Bing walks and walks, posing with his cabbage as if oblivious to the gawking crowds and ever-present camera.
According to the artist, his intention in making art is for “people to see how much of our daily lives are routines that we’ve blindly absorbed.” And in this work, Han does just that through his subtle manipulation of hackneyed imagery which raises important questions about contemporary Chinese social norms.
Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen is a particularly ambitious undertaking. In it, Han takes on one of the most iconic of symbols of China – the Forbidden City. To the everyday Chinese, the Forbidden City is a symbol of imperial power; this frontal view from Tiananmen Square is also a place of great historical significance in modern China. Here on the first of October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China, reportedly declaring that “The Chinese People have Stood Up.”
Today, the site’s political and historical significance is overshadowed by its new identity as the necessary photo-op for seemingly every tourist who passes through Beijing. In this sense, Han Bing’s photo is so obvious as to be banal.
But all is not as it seems, for the composition demands viewers to ask questions. What is the artist doing with a cabbage in the midst of Tiananmen Square? And here lies the creative brilliance of the composition. Han ignores a half-century of art history discourse as he seemingly fails to realize that his is an age where iconography has become decidedly passé; this series of works employ ordinary symbols to create meaning.
The Cabbage is a particular favorite in Han’s oeuvre. According to Han’s website, the Chinese Cabbage is “…a quintessentially Chinese symbol of sustenance and comfort for poor Chinese turned upside down. If a full stock of cabbage for the winter was once a symbol of material well-being in China, nowadays the nouveau riche have cast aside modest (monotonous) cabbage in favor of ostentatious gluttony in fancy restaurants where waste signifies status…Yet, for the poor and struggling, the realities of cabbage as a subsistence bottom line have not changed—what’s changed is the value structure that dictates what—and who—is valuable or worthless in Chinese society.”
Omit the cabbage and the picture becomes almost ordinary as the requisite tourist picture in front of Tiananmen.
Knowing the iconographic significance of this site, Han Bing plays with the imagery through his composition. From the low-angle view of the camera, Han Bing dominates the composition; he literally stands head and shoulder above Tiananmen’s great wall.
This striking view point lends a monumentality to Han and his cabbage that the camera emphasizes by focusing on the foreground and blurring the background. This viewpoint brings to mind the imagery of old Communist posters depicting the exuberant triumph of the proletariat. And if one so chooses, one could read into the picture a political statement.
With his casual stance, Han lulls the viewer into forgetting the meticulous framing of the image; he sneakily causes us to forget what is missing from this iconic view — the framed portrait of Chairman Mao. But the image could just be another tourist photo, where the tourist in his eagerness to show friends that he’s made it to Tiananmen, inadvertently blocks out the nation’s most famous face. Make of that what you will, the image suggests.
Perhaps politics is indeed a distraction. Although Chinese art in the West is often viewed politically, with Ai Weiwei being the poster child of political criticism, Han’s works seek instead to confront the problems faced by ordinary Chinese people in the march towards modernization and urbanization. In this image, Tiananmen Square becomes a mere backdrop for Han and his cabbage, a suitable starting point for his photographic series and his critique of contemporary Chinese values.
Placing the focal point on Han and his cabbage on a leash, Han seeks to address ‘the way our everyday practices serve to constitute ‘normalcy’ and our identities are often constituted by the act of claiming objects as our possessions’. The modest cabbage on a leash “offers a visual interrogation of contemporary social values.” Once a symbol of well-being and a full stomach, it has now been discarded for bigger, better, more expensive, more impressive and more frivolous thrills. And those will, in turn, be cast off for something better.” [credit]
Ana Mendieta, Silueta Series (1973-78)
“The “Siluetas” comprise more than 200 earth-body works that saw the artist burn, carve, and mold her silhouette into the landscapes of Iowa and Mexico. The sculptures made tangible Mendieta’s belief of the earth as goddess, rooted in Afro-Cuban Santería and the indigenous Taíno practices of her homeland. Exiled from Cuba at a young age, Mendieta said that she was “overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature).” Seeking a way to, in her words, “return to the maternal source,” she used her body to commune with sand, ice, and mud, among other natural media, as a way to “become one with the earth.”
Yet these works resist easy categorization in form or theme. The “Siluetas” are not self-portraits or performance pieces, except perhaps to the few who witnessed them. Each piece was subsumed by the earth, meaning photographs are the only remaining traces. Similarly, the thematic complexity of Mendieta’s life and these sculptures resist collapsing into neat categories of nation, diaspora, race, or gender. By using the body as both an image and medium, these aspects of identity are complicated. Mendieta’s earthworks occupy a liminal space between presence and absence, balancing the inevitable politicization of the self while searching for meaning in older, sacred traditions. …
The “Siluetas” were an ongoing, ritualistic relationship between Mendieta and the land. I read each work as a spell, a fragment of an ongoing incantation that was not “the final stage of a ritual but a way and a means of asserting my emotional ties with nature,” as Mendieta once said. She wanted to send “an image made out of smoke into the atmosphere,” so that each work was designed to disappear, to be reclaimed by the force she revered in an effort to come closer to it.” [credit]“Spanning performance, sculpture, film, and drawing, Ana Mendieta‘s work revolves around the body, nature, and the spiritual connections between them. A Cuban exile, Mendieta came to the United States in 1961, leaving much of her family behind—a traumatic cultural separation that had a huge impact on her art. Her earliest performances, made while studying at the University of Iowa, involved manipulations to her body, often in violent contexts, such as restaged rape or murder scenes. In 1973 she began to visit pre-Columbian sites in Mexico to learn more about native Central American and Caribbean religions. During this time the natural landscape took on increasing importance in her work, invoking a spirit of renewal inspired by nature and the archetype of the feminine.
1. Ana Mendieta, quoted in Petra Barreras del Rio and John Perrault, Ana Mendieta: A Retrospective, exh. cat. (New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1988), p. 10.
2. Ana Mendieta, “A Selection of Statements and Notes,” Sulfur (Ypsilanti, Mich.) no. 22 (1988), p. 70.” [credit]
Paige Tighe, Walk with ME Project (2012-14)
From Tieghe’s press release:
A Desire for Connection: “I began the project in LA out of a sense of frustration about the terms of everyday touch in America,” says Tighe. “I was having a massage, and as the massage therapist began working on my hand, all I wanted to do was hold her hand. Not out of a romantic impulse, but from a simple desire for connection.”
“What does it mean to live in a culture where people hug hello only rarely, almost never kiss each other on the cheek in greeting, and hardly ever take another’s hands unless they’re sleeping together? And what would it mean and feel like to hold hands in public with people who’ve volunteered to experience that connection? I decided I was going to hold hands and walk with as many people as I could.”
As they walked with Paige, her partners spoke of their dreams and aspirations, worries and plans while holding hands.
Tieghe also has an artist book documenting one iteration of the project.
Tendai Buddist monks, Kaihogyo (1310-)
“It is March. It is midnight. Snow still covers the trails of Mount Hiei, which lies just northeast of the ancient city of Kyoto, in central Japan. Kakudo Suzuki, an aspiring Japanese Buddhist spiritual athlete or gyoja, attends an hour-long service in the Buddha Hall. He sips a bowl of miso soup and chews on a couple of rice balls. Then he dresses. His outfit is pure white—the color of death—the same thins he would be dressed in at his own funeral. It is cotton and consists of a short kimono undershirt, pants, hand and leg covers, a long outer robe and a priest’s outer vestment.
He wraps a white “cord of death,” around his waist with a sheathed knife tucked inside. Tendai Buddhist tradition dictates that if Kakudo does not complete his prescribed marathon runs and walks, and all the accompanying tasks, he must take his own life by either hanging or disemboweling himself. He also carries a small bag that holds his secret holy book, which will guide him on his journey and help him remember the 250 prayer stops to make along his 18-mile trip around Mount Hiei. Some of those stops will be to honor monks of the past who did not make it and died by suicide. Kakudo also carries candles, matches, a small bag of food offerings to the deities, and a rosary. Mount Hiei has five main peaks, the highest being O-bie-dake at 2769 feet. It is a lush landscape of rain, high humidity and winter snows. The mountain is located in temperate western Japan, but the combination of relatively high altitude, trees that block out the sunlight and frigid air masses that move in from Siberia turns Mount Hiei into the “frozen peak” during the cold months. The mountain is a wildlife preserve full of forest animals — fox, rabbit, deer, badger, bear, boar and the famous Hiei monkey.
Kakudo puts a pair of handmade straw sandals on his bare feet, and carries a straw raincoat and paper lantern. In stormy weather, the rain destroys the sandals in a couple of hours, extinguishes the lanterns, washes out the routes and soaks the spiritual trail runner to the bone.
Kakudo is one of the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, and this will be only the first of 100 successive nights that he will get up at midnight, attend the service and start his marathon run/walk (kaihogyo) around Mount Hiei, completing the route between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. He will then attend an hour-long service, followed by bathing and the midday meal. After lunch, Kakudo will rest, then attend to temple chores. The last meal is taken around 6 p.m., and Kakudo gets to sleep around 8 or 9. The only variation in the 100-day ordeal will be a special 33-mile run through Kyoto, robbing him of one night’s sleep altogether.
During the route, Kakudo will sit down only once—beneath a giant sacred cedar for two minutes—to pray for the protection of the imperial family. After a first run with a master, Kakudo will be on his own. He may suffer cuts, sprains, stone bruises and punctures to his feet and ankles. He may run a fever, experience back and hip pain, develop hemorrhoids and diarrhea, suffer from frostbite dehydration and hunger. But by about the 30th day, according to the predecessors’ accounts, his discomfort will lessen as his body adapts to the pain and strain. By the 70th day he is run/walking with a smooth gait, head and shoulders erect, back straight, nose and navel aligned. He will continually chant mantras to the god Fudo Myo-o. His spiritual goal is to become completely absorbed in the mountain and its surroundings, so that the pain and discomfort of the physical ritual will not be noticed, or at least be ignored. Kakudo hopes to achieve a state of Enlightenment—the pure spiritual joy of feeling one with the universe. As rugged as it appears, however, this test is merely a warmup in the ultimate spiritual quest of the Marathon Monks—the complete process entails seven more years and becomes progressively and unfathomably more difficult.
It is not clear exactly how these spiritual mountain marathons began, but records show that Chinese and Indian Buddhist texts of the eighth century stated that, “Mountain pilgrimages on sacred peaks is the best of practices.” From about 830 to 1130, pilgrimages took place to mounts Hira, Kimpu and Hiei. Kaihogyo, as the rituals are known today, evolved from 1310 to present.
Since 1885, 46 marathon monks have completed the 1,000-day journey—an ordeal that is an option for the gyoja who passes the 100-day test. Two monks completed two full terms; another died by suicide on his 2,500th day, trying to complete three terms. The majority of monks who complete these odysseys have been in their 30s. The oldest completed his 2,000th day when he was 61 years old. The number of monks who actually died or committed suicide along the path is not known, but the route on Mount Hiei is lined with many unmarked gyoja graves.
When he finishes the 100 days, Kakudo can petition Hiei Headquarters to be allowed to undertake the 1,000-day spiritual challenge (sennichi kaihogyo). If this petition is accepted, he must free himself from all family ties and observe a seven-year retreat on Mount Hiei. Kakudo will then commit himself to 900 more marathons over a seven-year period. The first 300 are 18- to 25-mile runs undertaken 100 days in a row, from the end of March to mid-October over three years. Starting in the fourth year, Kakudo will be allowed to wear socks with the sandals. During the fourth and fifth years, he will run 200 consecutive marathons each year and will be allowed to carry a walking stick. At the completion of the 700th marathon, Kakudo will face the greatest trial of all, called doiri—seven and a half days without food, water or sleep, sitting in an upright position and chanting mantras day and night. If he lives through this trial, which brings him to the brink of death and therefore to the ultimate appreciation of life, he will have attained the Buddhist level of Saintly Master of the Severe Practice (ogyoman jari).
In his book, The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, John Stevens sums up the greatest contributions of these spiritual adventurers: “The most admirable thing about the Hiei gyoja is their warmth, open-heartedness and humanity … Facing death over and over, the marathon monks become alive to each moment, full of gratitude, joy and grace … [They] have much to teach us: always aim for the ultimate, never look back, be mindful of others at all times and keep the mind forever set on the Way.”
>What is Tendai Buddhism?
Tendai Buddhism, practiced by the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, is a Buddhist sect that was started in the 8th century by a much-heralded and respected monk named Saicho, which means “Highest Clarity.” Saicho was a great synthesizer who brought together the teachings of Korea, China and Japan to form his own interpretations of Buddhist philosophy and form a “great unity with insignificant differences.” Saicho had many followers, and after his death, the modest monastery on Mount Hiei grew into one of the largest religious complexes in the world, a state within a state. Tendai Buddhism has endured over the centuries and its followers still gather together on Mount Hiei to practice its principles and meditations
Dave Ganci, the Rogue Senior, trains Navy and Army Special Warfare troops on desert survival. He describes himself as “a middle-aged desert rat whose skin is hard and wrinkled from too much time running, climbing and drinking cheap beer under the sun.”
This article originally appeared in our March 2003 issue.“
Fran Crow, WALKING TO SAVE SOME SEA – MY 46000 CHALLENGE (2006-7)
“I have always loved walking by the sea and was increasingly disturbed by the amount of plastic I was finding washed up on the beach. But in 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme reported that humankind’s exploitation of the oceans was ‘rapidly passing the point of no return’ and I was really shocked to discover that they estimated that on average there were around 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square mile of ocean, leading to the death of over one million seabirds and over 100,000 marine mammals every year due to entanglement with or swallowing of litter.
We now know that over 12 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year, travelling on ocean currents to every part of the globe. These plastics endure in the marine environment indefinitely: items from the birth of plastics are washing up on our shores, virtually unscathed. Scientists estimate that plastic can take 1000 years or more to degrade in seawater and even then will continue to pollute our environment with thousands of microscopic fibres: samples taken from a Northumbrian beach were found to have over 10,000 fibres in just one litre of sand… But disposal of plastics in our oceans isn’t just harming wildlife now. We are also providing a toxic legacy that may last an eternity. Moreover, plastics can be found throughout the food chain, even ending up in the food on our plates.
plastics, like diamonds, are forever…
I was so shocked by what I had learned, I felt I had to do something and resolved to ‘save’ one square mile of ocean by collecting 46000 pieces of litter whilst walking on the beaches near my home. Every time I visited the beach I picked up all the litter I could carry. My challenge took exactly a year to achieve (September 2006 – September 2007) and in total I walked over 200kms and carried away nearly a third of a tonne of rubbish.
But sadly my challenge will never really be complete. Scientists estimate that the amount of plastic in the sea is increasing at a rapid rate, doubling every 2 or 3 years. I’m still collecting (I can’t stop!). But this could be a lifetime’s work and I still might not save a single square mile of sea…
My efforts may only be a literal splash in the ocean compared to the immensity of the problems are seas are facing. But what if everyone tried to do something about it? Luckily there is a lot more we can do – have a look here at the things we can all do…
Whilst walking, I took photographs and created a book of what I saw, contrasting the seemingly unspoilt beauty of the landscape with the man-made debris which inhabits it.
See my photographs in sequence from the beginning of my challenge.
To see specific locations, click the following links:
Aldeburgh – Bawdsey – Covehythe – Dunwich – Felixstowe – Orford Ness – Shingle Street – Sizewell – Southwold – Thorpeness – Walberswick
I have saved and photographed nearly everything from my walks.
See some of my collections.
The plastics I have collected have become my materials: I create huge installations with what I have found, ‘recycling’ it as art with potent message, playful but deadly serious.
See photographs from some of my exhibitions.“