Category Archives: Traces

Diane Borsato, Touching 1000 People (2003)

Touching 1000 People

Performance intervention and photographs

2003

I read a study that suggested that when people are subtly touched, it can affect their behaviour and well being. For a month I went out of my way to delicately bump, rub past, and tap 1000 strangers in the city. I touched commuters, shoppers, cashiers and taxi cab drivers on the street, on the metro, in shops and in museums. The exercise was like a minimalist performance. I was exploring the smallest possible gesture, and how it could create an effect in public.

The action was performed for one month in various locations in Montreal in 2001, and repeated for ten days across the city of Vancouver in 2003.

EXHIBITION HISTORY

Vu, How To Draw Winter, Solo Exhibition, with catalogue essay by Amish Morrell, Winter 2006, Quebec City

Artcite, The Moon in my Mouth, Solo Exhibiton and Visiting Artist Talk at University of Windsor, Spring 2006, Windsor, Ontario

Truck Contemporary Art in Calgary, Sleeping with Cake, in ‘Mountain Standard Time: Festival of Performative Art’, Fall 2005, Calgary

Mois de la Photo, How to Eat light, Solo Exhibition curated by Martha Langford at ‘Occurrence’, Fall 2005, Montreal

CAFKA – Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener, Solo Exhibition as part of ‘Peace of Mind’, 2005, Kitchener, Ontario

Gallery TPW, Warm Things To Chew For The Dead, (Solo Exhibition), during Contact 2004: Toronto” (credit)

Beverly Buchanan, Marsh Ruins (1981)

Beverly Buchanan (1940-2015)

This text originally appeared in ART PAPERS Fall/Winter 2020, Monumental Interventions, as part of a special dossier highlighting seven artists who have fought—and continue the fight—to transform their public spaces by uncovering suppressed histories, resisting oppression, and telling formerly silenced truths. 

Beverly Buchanan’s practice referenced southern vernacular architecture to interrogate relationships between Black people, history, and the landscape. In 1981 Buchanan (1940–2015) placed a triangular formation of three sculptural mounds on the edge of the tidal marsh in Brunswick, GA. Titled Marsh Ruins, the large amorphous forms were made by layering concrete and tabby—a concrete made from lime, water, sand, oyster shells, and ash—and then staining the forms brown. This grouping is the most referenced work in the series of sculptural markers Buchanan placed in Georgia to memorialize sites of Black presence. Buchanan often explored the concept of ruination to uncover the transformative powers of distress and destruction. These markers symbolically bear witness to the 1803 mass suicide of enslaved Igbo people who collectively drowned themselves off the coast of nearby St. Simons Island. Although their exodus was forced by the traumatic capture and abuse of their bodies, their act of defiance made them free. The work remains visible to the public, though it is not clearly marked and blends in with its natural surroundings.

Tabby was used throughout the American South to construct shacks and quarters for enslaved people. This material functions as a protective shield for Marsh Ruins. Buchanan’s use of tabby, rather than such enduring materials as marble or steel, gestures to the material historically employed to construct Black people’s homes, which she revered. Vulnerable to nature and unstable marsh ground, these forms were intended to be lost to erosion. Buchanan welcomed nature to shift, fragment, and disintegrate her sculptures, knowing that, like the body, they would one day be completely obscured or forgotten. Succumbing to the earth, the materials live on in new forms. Marsh Ruins rejects the representational form of conventional monuments and memorials to speak poetically through the languages of materiality and ephemerality.” (credit)

There is also a 96-page book on this artwork.

Jeremy Wood, My Ghost (2000-2016)

“The qualities of our journeys are as subtle as the strokes of a pencil.
Our travels are textured as we squiggle on foot, dither at junctions, speed along motorways, and fly through air corridors.

For fifteen years I’ve record all my journeys with GPS to map where I have been and how I got there. It is a form of personal cartography that documents my life as visual journal.

Our journeys are shaped by the rules of the landscape. We route along engineered solutions as defined by paths and boundaries that tweak and tamper with our travels. At a time when it’s getting harder to experience the feeling of being lost perhaps we should try and stray away from recommended routes.” (credit)

“Jeremy Wood is an artist and mapmaker whose work is an expression of the poetry and politics of space. For over a decade he has been exploring GPS satellite technology as a tool for digital mark making on water, over land, and in the air.

Wood started GPS drawing to investigate the expressive qualities of digitally tracing his daily movements. His work binds the arts and sciences by using languages of drawing and technology to present a personal cartography. By revealing ones tracks the technology can introduce new approaches to travel, navigation and local awareness. GPS drawing engages a range of creative applications and challenges perceptions of scale by travelling as a geodetic pencil.

Wood specialises in public artworks and commissions with an original approach to the reading and writing of places. His work is exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collection of the London Transport Museum, the V&A, and the University of the Arts in London.” (credit)

Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Most Serene Republics (2007)

Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds, (Cheyenne/Arapaho, 1954-)

This work was a temporary memorial for Native Americans who died in Italy as part of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in the late nineteenth century, and was installed at the Venice Biennale in 2007. It consisted of a series of 16 outdoor signs to remember and honor their loss, 8 outdoor signs that serve as commentary, several signs in the water-taxis encouraging repatriation of the Native people’s bodies from Europe to the U.S., as well as a large billboard at the Venice airport that stated ‘welcome to the spectacle, welcome to the show’ as a faux welcoming sign, which was visible as people walked through the airport check point. These Lakota warriors were formerly imprisoned in the U.S. and were given the choice to remain in prison, or go perform in Europe, which was not much of a choice.

Joseph Beuys, Ausfegen (Sweeping Up) (1972)

two people sweeping street

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)

Catherine D’Ignazio, It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston (2007-9)

(credit)

“Catherine D’Ignazio ran the entire evacuation route system in Boston and attempted to measure the distance in human breath. The project also involves a podcast and a sculptural installation of the archive of tens of thousands of breaths .

The project is an attempt to measure our post-9/11 collective fear in the individual breaths that it takes to traverse these new geographies of insecurity.

The $827,500 Boston emergency evacuation system was installed in 2006 to demonstrate the city’s preparedness for evacuating people in snowstorms, hurricanes, infrastructure failures, fires and/or terrorist attacks.

It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston consists of:

  1. a series of running performances in public space (2007)
  2. a web podcast of breaths (2007)
  3. a sculptural installation of the archive of breaths (2008)

Website & Podcast

Project Website: www.evacuateboston.com

Archive of Breaths (sculptural piece)

Medium: custom-made table, 26 jars, 26 speaker components, wire, 13 CD players
Dimensions: 45″x72″x16″

I created a sculptural & audio archive of the collection of breaths. There are 26 jars on a custom-made table which correspond to the 26 runs it took to cover the evacuation routes. Each jar size corresponds to the number of breaths from that run. The speaker inside the jar plays the breaths collected from that run. (Better documentation coming soon)

This piece is on view in Experimental Geography, a traveling show curated by Nato Thompson and produced by ICI.

Nici Cumpston, Shelter I & II, quartzite ridge (2011)

rocks outdoors

Nici Cumpston Shelter I & II, quartzite ridge, 2011 pigment inkjet print on canvas hand colored with synthetic polymer paint diptych, 98 x 196 cm

“I am connected to the Murray and the Darling River systems through my Barkindji family, and since 2000 I have been documenting the backwaters and inland lake systems in the Riverland of South Australia. I have found many ‘signs’ in the landscape, Aboriginal artefacts and trees that bear witness to Aboriginal occupation and reflect the connection people have had with this place over many tens of thousands of years.

Everywhere I walk I see evidence of Aboriginal occupation prior to European settlement. I find remnants of flints and grindstones that were used to manufacture stone tools and to grind native seeds and grains. Bark was removed from the outer layers of eucalypt trees to create canoes and coolamons – vessels used to carry food and small babies. The scars left in the trees act like street signs, indicating areas of abundance and safe shelter. I get the strong sense that the ancestors had only just gone, leaving subtle calling­ cards to let me know how important these sites are for them.

Using a medium format film camera slows my pace. Spending as much time as I can in the environment, and speaking with cultural custodians to get a true sense of place are significant steps in my process”

(credit: Catalog, “From Here to There: Australian Art and Walking”)

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.

By fusing her interests in Afro-Cuban ritual and the pantheistic Santeria religion with contemporary practices such as earthworks, body art, and performance art, she maintained ties with her Cuban heritage. Her Silueta (Silhouette) series (begun in 1973) used a typology of abstracted feminine forms, through which she hoped to access an “omnipresent female force.”¹ Working in Iowa and Mexico, she carved and shaped her figure into the earth, with arms overhead to represent the merger of earth and sky; floating in water to symbolize the minimal space between land and sea; or with arms raised and legs together to signify a wandering soul. These bodily traces were fashioned from a variety of materials, including flowers, tree branches, moss, gunpowder, and fire, occasionally combined with animals’ hearts or handprints that she branded directly into the ground.By 1978 the Siluetas gave way to ancient goddess forms carved into rock, shaped from sand, or incised in clay beds. Mendieta created one group of these works, the Esculturas Rupestres or Rupestrian Sculptures, when she returned to Cuba in 1981. Working in naturally formed limestone grottos in a national park outside Havana where indigenous peoples once lived, she carved and painted abstract figures she named after goddesses from the Taíno and Ciboney cultures. Mendieta meant for these sculptures to be discovered by future visitors to the park, but with erosion and the area’s changing uses, many were ultimately destroyed. While several of these works have been rediscovered, for most viewers the Rupestrian Sculptures, like the Siluetas before them, live on through Mendieta’s films and photographs, haunting documents of the artist’s attempts to seek out, in her words, that “one universal energy which runs through everything: from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy.”²

Nat Trotman

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]

Robin Hewlet and Ben Kinsley, Street With a View (2008)

Google street view photos

Hewlett and Kinsley invited the Google Inc. Street View team and residents of Pittsburgh’s Northside to collaborate on a series of tableaux along Sampsonia Way.

Technicians captured 360-degree photographs of the scenes in action and integrated the images into Street View.