Proposal for “Raze the WhiteBox”
To raze the WhiteBox will be a symbolic action of a greater deconstruction. Working within models of colonization will only develop concepts consumed by colonizing behaviors. Dismantling of this gallery space would be the only method to decolonizing it.
The WhiteBox (any gallery or museum space that hermetically isolates artwork) in its design and conception will always contain/own an object or thought. Property and borders are red flags of colonization. Dismantling a structure which is designed to contain objects and thoughts within 6 sides would be the action to decolonize it. Cement is not fertile ground, it is dead inactive space. A public space that allows community, inspiration and creativity does not exclusively exist as a collection or claim to ownership as does a museum or gallery. Community, inspiration, and creativity by their very nature will always remain fluid and un-owned. These three concepts only empower when used by the collective mass. The process of decolonizing spaces will involve replacing structures in which people collectively perform these concepts.
The remaining land, once this WhiteBox is dismantled, should be a network in which Peoples (any groups that have internalized a colonialist ideology) can regain a culture, but also regain what mother nature once offered in its harsh but nurturing way. The colonization of a People resulted at times with a simultaneous colonization of the land as well. Returning the land to its state of natural symbiosis will plant the seed of change that is necessary for this wounded earth to remember its role and for us to see its glory. This demolition is the only holistic therapy/ cathartic ritual that will remember the many forgotten People, forgotten knowledge, and resources that the colonizers either stole or destroyed. A WhiteBox and its confining walls symbolically and literally censor the past and the land onto which it has rooted itself.
The demolition will be followed by the introduction of indigenous plants and animals. This will inhabit the majority of the land and be integrated in whatever else is built. Some land will remain for agriculture and a stage/ gathering area for community and artist use. In the decolonization of this WhiteBox we must not forget about the inheritors of the colonized state of mind, the children. A place in which children could learn how to engage with nature and relearn the art of symbiosis would replace the structures that now exist on 410 Cottage Home St. If any structures will be built, they will remain small, since the land itself should provide a stage or setting for most things. Monetary means are intangible compared to community action and the blood and sweat of artist and activist. The land will be kept by its users.
If life is art how can life exist in a vacuum? Can the only definition of what art is be contained within a closet, which doors are only opened by someone with the means to own this space? Art removed from life, suffocated in a crate... Is this inspiration? Is art an object free from worldly interaction? Is it a phenomenon sheltered by the very thing that causes its chain-reaction? Transporting artwork produces waste, does this ill benefit this earth? Is a space built like a fortress a structure that welcomes the collective mass?
The brick unit is the beginning of growth. The straight lines imprisons the dirt, the self, the ripple of effect. - Raze the WhiteBox: A Think Tank of Change
May 1, 2016
The practice that is this work is not about criticizing colonialism, it is a allegorical response. A very personal response that I might sometimes consider a universal response. The hope is to filter down not the philosophy but the intent, to get to that universalism. A simple state of being that is efficient only in its holistics. Free of biases and specialization, my hopes is to find a way to learn and observe, to live and exist, to breath and touch, to forget by remembering. For now I see this universality as growth, be it cancer, population or regeneration. Finding the precise balance to explore the external and the internal self is one of the challenges with this exploration of this growth. Why the self? It is the first sensor that we are given to understand this Growth. I theorize then that this must be the best at understanding this Growth, holistically each part of the self canceling out the inherent biases.
This exploration as it pertains to the physical and movement I have called Corporeal Reformation. Corporeal Reformation is the act of remembering and learning. It seems to me that performance work is the most radical thing I can do with art. It sets no boundaries between active and passive. We all become part of the community once again. My question would be which community is this we are suddenly a part of when experiencing a performance. The performer or the audience? Are we invading or uniting? Depending on approach a public performance can be a continuous state of colonizing. I think the only way to remedy this is by the passive and the active both being in full effect, and transferring between the hosts (the colonized and the settler).
So it seems that the act of decolonizing can be many messy deeds. In a post-colonial system the colonized and the settler becomes muddled and both become agents of each others restrictions. They both share the initiation rituals of the colonized. Both share symbols and stories in which the powers that be, the first settlers have establish. The colonized start to assimilate the settlers approach, find new land, growth credited partly from new places that one has never seen nor understood. The settlers lost in empty promises lose their own heritage in hopes that assimilation and whitism will provide more than what came before, since it has made a few wealthy and untouchable. Little do they know that the settlers are cattle just as the colonized are the human resource that is a staple of an industrialized nation.
There were limbs everywhere. We were also lucky that we owned a portable bandsaw mill. That winter day we spent most of it milling the trunk and bigger limbs to sizable slabs so we could put them in our pick-up trucks and haul them back to the shop. The interesting and dangerous character of the Iron bark is that it is a very high growing tree that is brittle due to the weaving of the fibers and density. This particular tree seemed to have been rotting in the roots. One strong wind and it gave.
The scene was just awe provoking. The tree literally fell broke and bleed. As we moved the pieces around and stood some up water ran out in streams creating pools of clear blood. It was a very curious and eye opening experience. The, smell fantastic. A fallen giant in our Urban Forrest.
|Fred Rose working the Mizer.|
One trip with just a fraction of the tree in my truck made it bottom out. I estimate one trip was one ton plus.
A prime example is performance art. With performance art there is now a forum where the experience is at the core of the art. Not only does this art form enriches our understanding of existing in the now but grounds us in a place of the performance, thus we have the concept of time/space to play with. Once film and video collided with performance art a new dimension was added. With a way of documenting the act, the act became frozen in time. What remained was an event with a fix point but with infinite occurrences. The question now at which I present is how can one create a work that focuses its attention to the here and now but has a third possibility of infinite now’s and be successful? To explore this possibility of an art that can be about the here-and-now but can have infinite “now’s” I will investigate three subjects, Bruce Nauman, my personal work and Gestalt Therapy in the clinical sense. With less of an empirical approach and more of an intuitive feel I will try to explore Bruce Nauman’s and my work as attempts in Gestalt experimental interventions.
First lets explore what is the approach Gestalt Therapy takes in shifting ones experience from the known and assumed to the present and new. Gestalt therapy is a method of awareness, by which perceiving, feeling, and acting are understood to be separate from interpreting, explaining and judging using old attitudes. This distinction between direct experience and indirect or secondary interpretation is developed in the process of therapy. The client learns to become aware of what they are doing psychologically and how they can change it. By becoming aware of and transforming their process they develop self-acceptance and the ability to experience more in the "now" without so much interference from baggage of the past. As it goes “ clear perception of the immediate present leads to ‘good gestalten’, well formed or well-represented relationships…To handle present demands well, a person needs to be able to clearly see the necessary relationships among important elements of the current experience without importing concerns from the past or about the future.”
An important tool in gestalt therapy is the intervention. “The foundation for intervention in Gestalt therapy lies in this dictum: the most potent interventions are existential, experiential, and experimental. The existential dimensions leads the therapist to the here-and-now of interactions with clients: the experiential dimension focuses on the knowledge that emerges from awareness of any phenomenon: experimentation builds upon the belief that we learn the most important personal truths by discovering them for ourselves.” Because the structure of Gestalt therapy lies in relying on the phenomenon occurring at the present moment the process of this form of therapy is a “touch feely” one. To have success with gestalt therapy client and therapist must have full concentration, therapist and client must not be aloof.
In Bruce Nauman’s Work entitled “Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square” (1968) one can see that the central focus is the act itself. It is a classic experiment from Gestalt therapeutic techniques in which “exaggeration brings the inner experience in to focus”. Nauman pays close attention to the action he is engaged in. Every movement he makes is conscious and momentary. Because of Nauman’s intuitive approach the work becomes art about the act. As he said the way he works is “much more intuitive…It has to do with working on something and finding out ‘wow, that’s far out or interesting.’ And then thinking about it, trying to figure out why it interested you…it has to do with intuitively finding something…I never seem to get there from knowing some result or previously done experiment.”
Naumans own words leads us to understand that the success of the work lies in the three modes of Gestalt intervention existential, experiential, and experimental. The focus of the work is the action of walking in an exaggerated manner around the perimeter of a square. The existential element is seen in each movement, which seems very intentional and focused. The experiential element is the knowledge gain by Nauman’s experience of the phenomenon of walking in an exaggerated manner around the perimeter of a square, one can even go as far as to say that Nauman's “Figure and Ground” (in Gestalts term) collides with the viewer’s “figure and ground” to become an intersubjective phenomenon that is walking in an exaggerated manner around the perimeter of a square. When this occurs what is learned for Nauman by experiencing this phenomenon is his awareness of his body, his weight and familiarity with the boundary that he has made for himself. Nauman becomes a vehicle in which the viewer can learn some important “truths”. We become Nauman and we understand the awkwardness that it is to me human and mobile. We all are preprogrammed to walk but there are infinite possibilities of how to walk. What the viewer learns is the same sense of body, weight and boundary but this investigation can go further for the viewer it can be seen and studied over and over again. The here-and-now is suspended and infinite.
This Gestalt dictum in which the existential, experiential, and experimental are important elements in intervention has some how emerged within my work. Most likely it is the influence of some years of studing psychotherapy, being in therapy and some studies in eastern philosophy which Gestalt theories have also been influenced by. One good example is a work entitled “Sweep” (2008). This piece was in part performance and video documentary. The work consisted of various performances in which I recorded sound and/or video of me sweeping specific areas of the city of Long Beach. The location was not important only the boundaries I set. The boundaries I set were arbitrary, mostly they were determined by an area I found interesting in some form or another to sweep. In each performance I concentrated on the technique of sweeping towards me systematically going from one side of the perimeter and back until every inch of the area was swept and touched by the brooms bristles. Rhythm and intent of movement was crucial so was continuation of the act with no intervention from anything. With the audio/video material I obtained I created a video of the various acts. The P.O.V. (point of view) of the video was a view above the broom towards the floor; the camera was mounted on the broom so the only stillness in the image was the broom. What was vital in the video was the P.O.V., the collage of various events that were represented by video and audio, and the action itself.
My Gestalt intent can be heard in my own words, which were written as a proposal for the piece,
“Through many exposures to various activities that I have been intrigued with and have practiced throughout I am slowly getting at some sort of activity that affects every part of me that I intend to enrich. What will be the result in the end is negligible, and to what extent the overall enrichment will be is unimportant. Yes the drive is to eventually get at some unification that will be all consuming, but really what is only needed is the drive.
The body physical, the spiritual, aesthetics, and the tool are basic parameters for this piece. I plan to pick various locations in the urban that I will sweep with one broom. This broom will be a standard straw broom. The action will only consist of sweeping, there will be no displacement of the substance that is swept, and it will only be left in a pile. With each meditation I hope to learn something new: what will be the next location, how much, how long, and to what extremes or lack of extremes the next meditation will be.
I feel that the proper meaning is unimportant as of now. I believe that the only proper way to further explore this concept is to sweep. With the meditation I will find more insight to which way the concept will go.”
A here-and-now attitude was need for me to experience the motion of the performance, the phenomenon was getting lost in the action and having the here-and-now come and go as I tried to focus on the stroke and rhythm and what was gain for me and hopefully for the viewer is an infinite feeling of the here-and now of the performance even if it is temporary through the video piece.
Gestalt theory and practice can be helpful in understanding human relations, self-awareness and can be a useful tool for the artist as a studio practice. Viewing Bruce Nauman's work and my work using Gestalt theory and practice we can see that there is a way to investigate the art practice as a form of intervention for the artist and viewer to learn new things about the artist, the viewer, (the figure) and the world around us (the ground). With this view and the artist/video as a vehicle for intervention one can have an experience of the here-and-now with infinite occurrences. What we then have is a form of art that can intervene in infinite moments of various viewers, each having a separate here-and-now with intersubjectivity.
1. Margaret P. Korb, Jeffery Gorrel, Vernon Van De Riet, Gestalt Therapy: Practice and Theory, (Pergamon Press, 1989) 7.
2. Ibid., 91
3. Korb 103
4. Jane Livingston and Marcia Tucker, Bruce Nauman: Work from 1965 to 1972, (Praeger Publishers, 1973) 2
5. DBL, “Sweeping Meditation: Proposal for Performance” (2008)