Widowsweave is an awareness raising series of performances highlighting the conditions of Iraqi Widows who often struggle to acquire even basic necessities such as clean water or adequate shelter. Through artistic durational activities the artist and public participants mark 3,000,000 lines representing the number of Iraqi widows from 30 years of war, tyranny and sanctions.


Kevin Valentine will have three new pieces in the Faculty Show at North Central College, Naperville. The reception is April 8th, from 6-8

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


If Red Hot Chili Peppers met Rage Against the Machine

Monday, December 7, 2009

War School - Ctrl.Alt.Shift (Film Competition Winner)

This disturbing short film gets to a point quickly and clearly

Home Fires blog at New York Times

Todays NYTimes online has an article on an Iraqi Translator/Faulkner expert living on a temporary pass South of London, with a stipend that only feeds him, not his wife and four children.  It is part of a series entitled Home Fires:


Home Fires features the writing of men and women who have returned from wartime service in the United States military. The project originated in 2007 with a series of personal accounts from five veterans of the Iraq war on their return to American life; the 2009 version includes dispatches from the forum's original contributors, and from new participants.


Some of the discussion is reminiscent of the discussion with Jaber, Heidi and Chris last night at the coffee shop.  Only Jaber hasn't become disillusioned so much as disheartened I think.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mental Explosion

I have so many Ideas and questions that it's great (except for the lost sleep) 
1. Do I want a fiscal sponsorship or not-for-profit?
2. Both? Is that legal?
3. In other words, how do I support my art and the charity?
4. How do I retain copyright of my art - or artistic control anyway? or do I? or should I?
5. If I sell something, am I the artist or the not-for-profit.
6. If I publish something, am I publishing it or is the not-for-profit?
7. In other words, if I start a not-for-profit, can I still make art? or is it all part of the NFP?

1. I can take my built Cabinets and put monitors in, then chalk the cabinet
2. Can't forget to interview Iraqis and Widows in particular.
3. How to light the granite slab - and should it be polished?
4. Make a documetary
5. Make an independent film


Monday, November 30, 2009

Why? #1

People are asking me why I am doing my thesis-and-beyond work to benefit Iraqi widows even though I am not Iraqi, knew no Iraqis personally when beginning this work, and have never been in a war.

I answer in a lot of ways: about my previous work, my outrage at injustice, global society where we are all neighbors, my formative years watching the Vietnam war and so on.

I woke up at 1:30AM thinking of a very old story in a new light.  When I was a boy - maybe 2nd or 4th grade - some argument ensued, resulting in me being tied for a time to a telephone pole.  I do not remember exactly what it was about, how long i was there (not long), or -most importantly - how it felt.  But I can never forget that my brother never forgave himself for letting his friends do that to me, and not stopping them.  He didn't help them or encourage them, but he didn't stop them.  I did not blame him, but he never forgot. 

I don't want my life to continue without doing something to stop injustice.  I just have trouble sleeping knowing that I haven't tried, when I have the opportunity.  Sometimes circumstances peresent themselves and we have to choose to participate or pass.  No one can fix everything, and not everything can be fixed, but it is the trying, the effort, the caring that makes life a little more worth living.   This is the opportunity.  I have the statement, the time, the support, to do this and so I must. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Francis Alys: When Faith Moves Mountains 2002

Just ran across Francis Alys, whose work When Faith Moves Mountains in 2002 involved five hundred people living in a shanty town outside Lima, Peru using shovels, one step at a time, to move a dune 4 inches.  They live in these dunes along with about 75,000 people without running water or electricity.

His words: attempts to translate social tensions into narratives that in turn intervene in the imaginal landscape of a place. The action is meant to infiltrate the local history and mythology... 
 art operates precisely within the space of myth....
In this sense, myth is not about the veneration of ideals--of pagan gods or political ideology--but rather an active interpretive practice performed by the audience, who must give the work its meaning and its social value.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lines in the Sand for US Casualties

On Veteran's Day I drew 4362 lines in the sand at Montrose Beach in Chicago, one for each war death in the current operaration in Iraq.  It felt empty, thinking about the dead, instead of the living, even though the point is that they are two sides of the same coin.  The weather was cool and the sun set while I was working.  I drew the lines in firm damp sand between a little inlet of water and the beach.  I walked in a circle, covering the whole area, until the circle got so small I was just turning around.  I had just enough room to finish, though the last few rows had shorter lines.  I planted my stick in the center and took a few pictures before packing up at dusk.  The air was crisp, cool and clear.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

This image is from icasualties.org - no contact info on entire site. But must be seen.  Also searchable lists of all coalition casualties with filters for gender/cause of death etc...  Very sad.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Black Rain

Jaber Alturfee found my Black Rain video, which is on youtube at Bodyrewired.  He said that it was very moving and sad, reminding him of the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when the US and Iraqi troops were kicking up so much dust and there was a sandstorm that left black soot all over the city for two weeks.  He wasn't sure what the Black was from, the bombing, the oil and other contamination or what, but that the whole city was black until the next rain, maybe two weeks later.  He showed the video to his whole family.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Interview Without Audio

I guess we all make mistakes sometimes.  I brought a Zoom recorder, and Lav and a Beta57a, but I didn't use any of them for a short debrief after our performance.  And of course our Camera's phantom power switch got switched off in the case.  So I have video, but not audio of the discussion.

I asked if anyone had responses to the performing of the drawing of lines in the sand, and I think everyone felt some connection, to each other, to widows in Iraq, to the bystanders at the beach.  Matt said that at first he was thinking of widows being older women, but that after a while it dawned on him that many of the widows in Iraq are young, probably his age.  I think Sarah concurred.  Jaber said that it was true and that the widows came in all ages and having different economic status, and that it was very difficult, for them and their children. 

We also talked about how at times we were concentrating on the counting of the lines, but how it eventually became more of a meditation.  Jabur said that he was thinking about the faces of women he worked with in Iraq, and the promises he made to help them.  He has hope that together we can make a difference for these women.  He said that he had trouble not tearing up.

We all felt that this was moving, worthwhile and should be expanded.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Widows: Lines in the Sand 11/7/09 Action Day

Today was the first group performance of Widows: Lines in the Sand. Core Project  in conjunction with Bodyrewired and Jaber Alturfee performed and documented on the 31st Beach, covering a large portion of the beach with lines memorializing the repetitive labor of widows in Iraq.  We drew over ten thousand lines collectively while imagining (or in Jabur's case remembering the faces) of widows in desperate need of aid, stability or hope.  Many people stopped to ask us why and what we were doing, and we received a variety of responses from curious to supportive.  I have yet to encounter an angry response.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Busy, Busy

Too busy to blog right now.  Since last:
  • still have to review critique tape 
  • Went to MCA and talked with Esam Pasha, a student named Majd, and Allen Turner
  • Met with Jabur on Monday and talked about projects and life for both of us
  • Met with Paul about registration
  • Thesis class Critique
  • Planned collaborative performance with Core Project and Body Rewired for Saturday
  • Created Emily Jacir homage, installed during Art as Spiritual Pracice
  • Met with Laurie N. about work, not-for-profit, and catch-up

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thesis Colaboration Idea

Kelly suggested that I have a sort of raise-money-for-charity pledge system as one of my events in the installation, where people pledge a cent per line or so, and collected pledges are brought in and a certain number of lines are drawn (1000 = $10)

Thesis Critique

Critiques went well, very smoothly.  I showed video of chalk and sand pieces, talked about the why, the how etc...  I talked about the project and the exhibit.  I asked some logistical questions about the installation.  We also had a debate about how to raise the money for the widows - should I start a 501(c)3 or look for Fiscal Sponsorship?

10/20 Crit Rehearsal/10/21 Thesis Committee Meeting

What I left out of presentation:

Why 3 million?
Why 3 million squares?
show project manifestations?

Talked with Mel and Paul next day 10/21:
I showed them my presentation and talked about some of the changes I wanted to make including adding more backstory to my project, revamping the video (cleaning up), and showing video at the appropriate times, not at the beginning.

10/24 Jaber Alturfee & Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud

Back at the Jeremy Deller exhibit at the MCA, I was visiting with Jaber Alturfee with Ahlam acting as translator.  I listened more this week, as he talked to people.  He was saying that if the Americans pul out now, they are only half done training the security forces (military, police).  Democracy takes time.  After the 2003 invasion, there used to be meetings of leaders from around the country to talk about shaping the future of Iraq, but they had all stopped before he left in 2008.  He noted that the defense agreement between the US and Iraq was for defense from foriegn invaders - or he might have said that it should be - and that there is a great need to build up a civil society.  He stated that the security now is better than it was 3-4 yrs ago. 

We talked about meeting to see what is suitable, what can be done for widows in Iraq.  He said that we need to sit together and think about who to help and what their need is.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Conceptual Art

Lying in bed this morning, when I should be asleep, I realized that my work has always been conceptual art.  I've done my share of landscapes, architectural and figurative work, but all my series have been conceptual.  It also occurred to me that my thesis proposal is basically an enlarged Cabinet, I just never saw it that way.  Now I have to make a Widows Cabinet.

My mind has been spinning all week with ideas.

Friday, October 23, 2009

10/17: Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud al Al-Jabouri and Beth Ann Toupin

Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud al Al-Jabouri and Beth Ann Toupin, co-founders of the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society Chicago, were at Jeremy Deller's It is what it is exhibit talking about Iraq, refugees going first to Syria then to Chicago.  We talked about their work helping settle refugees who know little of our culture, even if they know the language, which about half do by their estimates.  They said that most of our culture they pick up from prime-time TV, so when Ahlam's relatives knew she was in Chicago, they asked if there are a lot of gangs around.

They both explained that when they arrive in Syria, where most of the refugees are because their border remains open to refugees headed to the UN camps, they put their names on the list and about a quarter of them get resettled, with many coming to Chicago, settling in Rodgers Park and Edgewater.  They get one month's rent, a bed (cot) per person, a blanket, a fork, a knife, a plate and a piece of furniture for the living room (can be a plastic chair).  They get a little money, much of which goes to rent deposit and some overhead for the agency that settles them and buys the items.  The Iraqi Mutual Aid Society tries to cook them a meal when they first arrive, and get them donated items they might need like winter coats or sofas etc....

They estimated that 17,000 refugees arrive per year, and about 1400 arrive in Chicago.  There are 2,000,000 refugees in Syria.  As of yet, their group has no funding, just volunteers, and a donated space to store furniture and clothes.   Ahlam said that in Rodgers Park and Edgewater there are about 5 or 6 Iraqi families in a single block.  Beth said that adapting to the culture is challenging.  One of the first things they tell them is not to bribe the police.  If you get stopped for a traffic violation in Iraq, the first thing you do is reach for your wallet, so the police know that you will pay them.  Not such a good idea in Chicago.  But Ahlam said that the police have really helped her twice already.  The first night she was here, she went out to get an item at the store, and couldn't find her way home.  She flagged down a cop who drove her around the neighborhood till she recognized where she was at.

Beth talked about how educated refugees sometimes find it harder to adjust because they might have had a great profession in Iraq, and working sweeping floors for $7 dollars an hour is such a shock to a skilled doctor or architect, for instance.

We also talked about life in Iraq.  In the exhibit their is an actual car, mangled from a car bomb and burnt and rusty.  There are also photos of an historic street market where people come to sell books that they may have read, and to buy books they have not read yet.  There is a before picture, a bombed picture - where one cannot tell that it is even a street - and a new picture of it rebuilt.  Ahlam said that you have no idea when you are told that there was a car bomb, what scale that means.  These things are extremely destructive.  Twice, she told us, she was a block or more away.  First thing is that you cannot hear, and your ears start to bleed.  Then you can't smell or breath from your nose for the smoke.  Then your head hurts like a migraine due to the concussive power of the bomb.

We talked about charities in Iraq and the widows.  Only the small charities and NGO's are left, ones that don't need insurance.  Even Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have pulled out.
The challenge is even more acute in the countryside.  Women there are stuck with their relatives and there is no aid or charity working in those areas.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Second meeting with Mel P.

We talked about the threshold between rooms.   Mel recommended Terance Koh's work (a Whitney installation) Brimming from a Ray of Light for its lighting design.  Mel was mainly concerned with the design of the first room which takes up most of the space, but says less than it might.

She rightly advised me to activate the imagery in the doorway.  It will be extremely important as it is the threshold between the two rooms - the two states of mind.  What should its shape/size/texture reference?

Mel suggests that the doorway, if not an arch referring to Islamic architecture, be a direct reference to tombs.  Should there be one, or three openings the size of caskets?

Meeting with Doug Stapleton

I met with Doug S. at the State of Illinois Gallery about my thesis show.

He also saw that it is an architectural environment. that I am trying to create a passage to a liminal space: that the chalk room is referential to the Kabaa in Mecca: that the intention is transformative in nature - moving from death to life, accounting for the deaths, and tallying the living.

We talked about the cleansing fountain idea as a metaphor - not as an actual fountain. What can I use to symbolize the cleansing?

We talked about the use of an invitation to go home and make 3 million lines to commemorate the widows.  A take away if you will.

We discussed the duality.

He questioned weather it was a type of momento mori

Friday, October 16, 2009

Further Ideas - Lines beyond Thesis

In line with the Circles for child deaths in Chicago, in conjunction with drawing real lines of chalk at sights of murders, I will make a map of Chicago and drawcircles where the deaths occur - then paint over the map so that the circles remain. Again one doesn't have to show to demonstrate, and it might be more powerful than pictures of the dead, because the abstraction forces the viewer to contemplate and imagine.

Deborah Boardman visits Art as a Spiritual Practice

Deborah Boardman visited our Art as a Spiritual Practice class, with ideas about her rituals, practices and themes in creating work.  She mentioned that when in doubt or uncomfortable with what she is doing, she likes to sweep her floor, for long periods.  Sweeping is task oriented and gets her out of her knots. 

This is akin to what I am achieving with my chalk and more strongly with my sand drawings.  It's a way to clear ones mind of distractions leaving space for a meditative attitude in which one can find new inspiration.

Meeting with Cliff M.

Met with Cliff on Tuesday Oct. 6th.  He referenced a number of architectural sites, both historical and contemporary.  The Temple at Karnak in Egypt, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Libeskind in particular.  We talked about the ceremonial aspect, the transformative aspect of the architecture, the structure of the pillars referencing a processional.

We also talked about the Monument Against Fascism by Jochen Gerz, a column that lowers into the ground and disappears as its surface gets the signatures of witnesses to the monument.

I need to pay more attention to the reasons for creating the space.  I know that I want it not to be a blatant referance to a mosque, an Iraqi graveyard or a Western funeral parlor.  It needs to be a metaphoric space which creates a transformation from the gloom and sadness of the entryway of rememberance (of the dead) to the affimative, healing, comfort of the memorial to the Widows who have survived.  That is the point of the two rooms - it's not just the aesthetic, but the spiritual passage from grief to hope that I wish to capture in the final installation and performance.


On Wednesday, Oct 7th I went down to the 31st St. Beach and drew 800 lines in the sand on the 8th anniversary of the Afghan War.  (see birddenoftruth videos on youtube or in sidebar)

Then I went to Columbia, to the park on 11th and Wabash to join in the Die-In sponsered by the Artists Activists (now Art Activists) at Columbia along with Critical Encounters.
A dozen or more students wrapped themselves in sheets an lay down around the park and on the sidewalk. four of us read names, ages and dates of one hundred selected names from a list of war casualties in Afghanistan. The red carnations symbolized the bloodshed.

Later in Art as a Spiritual Practice class, I showed one of my Night Vision cabinets, I sang and played Kind of Pressure and we all drew lines on chalkboards to commemorate the widows in Iraq.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Too Much to Process

Lots of ideas and avenues this week, but no time to blog yet - maybe this weekend.  After meeting with Paul Catanese again this Tuesday and continuing research, I have come to the conclusion that I need a Iwan (vaulted entry), a Musalla or Prayer Room (the chalking room) and  a Sahn or courtyard (with fountain?) to symbolize mosque architecture.  Hopefully a Mihrab (niche) indication the direction of Kaaba as well?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Two-Room Installation Ideas (After meeting with David Greene)

These are sketches for two-room manifestations of the Widows installation.
A figurative concept would distract form the nature of the piece - focusing on the death of men rather than the need for healing and support for the Widows.

A solution with a path of stone or material to be determined which one must pass in order to enter the chalking (weaving) room seems to be the most elegant solution to the balance of the two rooms and the memorial/ceremonial functions of the separate rooms.

The sticks used to write and chalk the Widows action days may be placed on either side of the entry way, along the side walls of the vestibule, as symbolic remnants of the years ordeal, and emblematic of the tribal nature of contemporary conflict, particularly in Iraq.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Meeting with Annette B. 9/16

We talked about the Interactive Department, and I explained my piece, showing some images and some of the video on the blogs.  I told her that I was thinking on not having any technology in my exhibit, which she said was very brave.

I then of course by dinner drew an exhibit (now changed again) that incorporated a video screen in the wall.  She said (as did Mel) that she would be interested in working with me even if I didn't pick her for the "committee", which is very generous.

Meeting with Mel P. 9/16

We talked about strategies to continue working, like grant writing and positioning work to get it shown after graduation. I explained some of my new ideas to her about the room and we discussed simplicity and a clear vision.


Eduardo Kac Telepresence kac.org
Genelle Baxor: Generative & Algorithmic art?
Ars Electronica
Indira Freitas Johnson: Evanston artist
Wafaa Bilal: at SAIC www.wafaabilal.com

New Project Description

Widows: Lines in the Sand will be a participatory installation with durational inhabited performance components to include video and/or object-based elements and artist-audience cooperation resulting in the drawing of three million lines to commemorate widows in Iraq.

The exhibit will consist of an entry room, symbolizing loss, with real and mediated “lines in the sand.” Video projection will portray the sand lines on the floor, while a central element, filled with sand will have lines drawn in it by the artist and participating audience members.

A second room with all black surfaces is to be chalked with white lines over the duration of the exhibit. These white lines, representing hope, drawn by viewers and the artist will cover all surfaces of the room including the floor and ceiling.

This fusion of media, installation, performance and interactivity, comprising this memorial to the living victims of three decades of war in Iraq, aspires to heal wounds through awareness, empathy, advocacy and hope.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meeting with Paul

Paul talked about the inherent futility in the drawing of lines in the sand.  We talked about how drawing the lines in public incorporates and element of risk - one never knows how the public will react.  Paul loved the fact that the guard on the beach just came up and drove over the lines at Oxbow.

We talked about what the exhibit will be: monument, ritual.

Think about:
What is show?
What does show?

Make a funtionality list from potential functions of the room.  I can change what I do.  I can schedule what I do.
  • Change how I work on the lines - gesture
  • Panel discussions
  • rituals
  • cermonies
  • headquarters for fundraising
  • switch up objecthood and performativity and participation
Sara Schnadt
"What We Want is Free" Ted Purves, ed.
"Unmonumental" show - rhisome: (newmuseum.org) Nina Katchadourian
"America's Army" - Joseph DeLappe goes into game and starts reciting till he gets blown away.
New Media Caucus

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pile of Sand: Another Fundraising-Exhibit Idea

A Mountain of Sand, Blown Away:  1,500 people bring to a gallery two liter bottles (or 3,000 people bring one liter bottles) and climb a ladder to funnel the sand into a mountain of sand.   3,000,000 cubic centimeters of sand will pile on the floor. A single pedestal fan aimed at the sand plows it in a pattern across the floor for the duration of the exhibit.
Each participant pays a certain amount which is collected for the Widows of Iraq.

There is now 3 tons of sand on the gallery floor.  Therefore a contractor or volunteers be to be prearranged to dispose of the sand.

Another way to do this is on a beach where the sand can remain.  A fan may or may not be required.


Just as there is no end to human suffering, there is no end to human compassion.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Widows Project Ideas

These are sketches for three separate projects around the Widows work.

The first is a reverse lighting situation, of the interactive book/video - triggered by infra-red and lit from inside (below) the book.

The second project is a variation of the projected piece, to be projected on a brick wall outside, with multiple layers of me drawing alone with a live performance of the chalk piece.

This third sketch is the first rendition of my thesis project, involving a simple black room, with a black bar or trough, filled with black sand.  Drawing in the black sand represents the futility and grief.  The darkness.  Perhaps a fan slowly blows away the lines, smoothing out the marks.  the walls, ceiling, floor are covered in a sand paint that will hold chalk line.  Over the duration of the exhibit, lines will be added to the entire surface of the room, creating a lightness out of the dark.  If possible the light will slowly increase in the room, until it becomes all lightness, perhaps blindingly light.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

War Panel at CAA 2009

New Media Caucus' page on works related to the war in Iraq: Mail Away: War Correspondence at Home and Online.
Artists create/ hack video games to comment on the human and political costs of the War. Check out Joseph DeLappe's piece which uses the America's Army recruiting on-line war game to Memorialize American troops lost in Iraq.

Cross-Cultural Art: IRUS

An exciting art work/collective between artists in Iran and American artists from Denver has a representative in a new Interarts and Media program graduate student, Morehshin.  The work is entitled IRUS for Iran and US.  I will talk to her about the work more this week when I see her. 

Research Unrecorded

I've been remiss in not talking about theory of late.  Relational Aesthetics (Bourriaud)  has lots of points I want to discuss soon, as well as some things I've begun reading in two other books: Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art by Grant Kester and Collectivism After Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination After 1945, Blake Stimson and Gregory Sholette, Ed.  All three books deal with art which involves the audience in completing the pieces, art which can only be understood as it effects an environmental or group dynamic, not as individual art objects.

Hopefully I will get to writing some of this down this week.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

800,000 pages for Rwanda

William Snyder III manages an art project to commemorate the 800,000 Rwandan's killed in 100 days in 1994.  One page for each person, bearing the muddy prints of participants around the world, are sown into 250 books displayed in 100 crates, one for each day of the war. The participants also have raised milions for the Rwandan The Kayinamura Foundation.  

This bears great resemblance to what I am trying to achieve with my thesis work on Iraq.  It's a wonderful actualization of such a horrific and inconceivable number.

Iraq Veterans Swap Weapons for Art/BBC News

American Veterans turning uniforms into sculptural paper works with poetry. Weapons for Art

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ideas for Thesis Show

A truly successful memorial to living widows should invite interactivity to facilitate healing and community building.  It would have artifacts testifying to the activity of the Lines in the Sand (or Lines on a Chalkboard) project, an element of line drawing activity, documentation and, as a measure of its sincerity and efficacy, a foundation to support widows in some concrete way.

The question is not what can I do for thesis, but what can I do for my thesis show?  The Lines in the sand is undoubtedly a powerful metaphor, as is the chalkboard grid... and the idea of raising awareness, empathy and advocacy (and money) for Iraqi war widows, but what will make the most effective, powerful show.

I've been lying in bed thinking about all the possibilities which present themselves.  I could of course retreat to performing the chalkboard, but I'd rather do that at shows during the year in galleries.  Cliff M. asked, how do I show the Lines in the Sand? I cannot cart in tons of sand (though that might be fun), but the alternatives are equally fun.

It reminds me of an earlier blogpost about a Widows Memorial.  Cities, countries have veterans memorials - but what about Widows Memorials?  What would they look like?  They would have to be meditative spaces, oasis from work and commerce - peaceful.  They should be places of healing, and places to activate healing or closure or outpouring of emotion.  But isn't that what some memorials do already?  So I would say that they should invite interactivity.

A truly successful memorial to living widows should invite interactivity to facilitate healing and community building.  It would have artifacts testifying to the activity of the Lines in the Sand (or Lines on a Chalkboard) project, an element of line drawing activity, documentation and, as a measure of its sincerity and efficacy, a foundation to support widows in some concrete way.

Artifacts could include: a chalkboard, a sandpaper-board or sandpaper-floor, with sticks of chalk or paint to draw with, a sandblasted window over  video-documentation which activates through sensors when drawn on with sticks or pounded bamboo brushes (still sticks). Artifacts can also be a pile of sticks used to draw the three million lines or bronze castings of those sticks.  There can be piles of used chalk and chalkdust.  There could be a bench made from the sticks or the stick-castings.  There can be castings of the lines in the sand done in plaster or metal.

People should be able to draw lines in any of the ways above.  And tally them.

Video or still imagery should document the process. Or drawings.

There should be links to charitable opportunities, suggestions of ways to help, links to pertinent information or the project's website and charitable fund.

Thesis Class: Week 1

The following are Susan's notes from my mini-presentation for our first Thesis class, week one:

Widows: awareness, (elicit) empathy (for the number of widows in Iraq), advocacy. Variations: Chalk lines on chalkboard, interactive book, commemorative book, video performance with chalkboard. Ethereal white lines that build up, layer and get wiped out. Lines in the Sand: silkscreen double-sided banners, drew lines in sand. Community action days to have people help draw 3 million lines over a period of a year. Meditative, emotional, remember to count. Local, national, international effort. This piece is no longer about me. Starting with my idea, but has been advocacy art. How to frame it in such a way we can see the effect of it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Widows Empowerment Project

It's disheartening how hard it is to locate any charitable organization actually working with the issue of Widows in Iraq.  I may have finally found a match in the Iraq Foundation's Widows Empowerment Project which trains widows in vocational skills, such as sowing, and educates them as to their rights under Iraqi and international law.  This is the most promising project I've seen to date - even if it has only touched a few hundred women to date, in a couple of cities.  Wonderful work.

On the other hand, Sourcewatch lists the Iraq Foundation as a Neo-liberal group founded by bankers to help make post-(2003)war Iraq look better-off and grateful to the US for its intervention.

So, great work, but much political baggage.  I wonder what educating them as to their rights really means?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Can't Miss This!

Great news of a new show regarding Iraq coming to
 Chicago's MCA in October.  I can't wait!
Jeremy Deller invites experts and concerned parties to inhabit the gallery and discuss issues pertaining to Iraq.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Body Revisited

Bodyrewired met yesterday to catch up on summer news/thesis ideas/past projects/Bonesbare3 ideas.
It's going to be a busy but exciting year.  For Core Project's Bonesbare, we discussed humor and decided to try to have ourselves in public places wearing masks we make of ourselves.  We can wear our own or switch.  We only have about a month to come up with a rough edit of all footage, so it will be a real challenge, but it should be funny at least!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Loving Hugs

Loving Hugs
I ran across an old aquaintance from college on facebook and she's doing wonderful things for underprivelidged children the world over.  Check it out!Loving Hugs

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing No. 63, 1971

I was looking at Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing No. 63, 1971, again yesterday in the Modern wing at the Art Institute of Chicago.  It was executed by four artists from his instructions.  This is something I will consider for my sand drawings or chalkboard performances if I cannot be in enough places to meet my goal of three million lines.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Emily Jacir

Emily Jacir's work is conceptually clear and politically moving. Check it out.

Link to Emily Jacir's Wikipedia entry:
Note that her 2009 entry to the Venice Biennale was denied at the last moment by unknown outside influences.

A commemorative refugee tent:
Link to Emily Jacir's 418 Villages That Were Destroyed, Depopulated and Occupied by Israel in 1948:

Buddhist Prayer Beads

Here's a link to a page about Buddhist prayer beads, as per conversation with Marge Roche. We talked about the nature of thought during the repetitive act of chalking the board or drawing in the sand. She brought up the Rosary and Buddhist Malas - how the repetition is creates a space in which one can free thought from the banality of daily life and lead into meditative or prayerful avenues.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

NGOs and procurement

I heard the end of Worldview tonight where the spokeswoman for Dalia in Palestine was saying that procurement for items donated through charitable NGOs must be from the country of origin. Something like a kids soccer team in a refugee camp was going to the national playoffs and needed soccer shoes. An Italian charity donated to an American International charity which gave the money to a Palestinian charity. Each group took a cut for overhead, and in the end they could not find any soccer shoes whose country of origin was Italy (they are all made in Asia?), so they bought them t-shirts instead. She said that it makes the NGOs and the coutries where the aid comes from look like fools or at best like they don't care. Especially in Palestine, where they really want a political solution to their problem, not t-shirts.

First Reply from Oxfam

Jennifer Abrahamson: Oxfam Regional Media Manager for Middle East, Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States replied early this morning that they will respond to my letter of inquiry requesting contacts relating to my Widows thesis project.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Email Inquiry

The following email was sent to four contacts from the Oxfam "silent emergency" news pages posted last March. It appears that Oxfam has not been working in Iraq for security reasons since 2004, but I'm hoping that someone who reported on the story might have contact information that will prove useful in strategizing as to the nature of my project or the objectives of any fundraising that might occur.

Dear ______,

I am an artist whose work has been intertwined with issues in Iraq since 1991. Currently I am entering my thesis year at Columbia College, Chicago. I would like to help the widows of Iraq in a tangible way through my thesis project.

After hearing Nawal al-Samaraie on NPR talking about her resignation, budget problems and the number of widows in Iraq, I began a series of works referencing the number (three million) that was used in that report. My thesis work this year continues to explore this line of inquiry – I plan on attempting to draw three million lines in the sand, around Chicago, the United States and, if possible, the world. This would be done both individually and as community awareness-raising action days. I would also like to try to raise money with the intention of helping the cause of widows in Iraq.

My first step is to contact someone who can help me navigate the world of aid agencies/NGOs/ charities /Departments-of-State in order to discern how best to achieve the end of actually helping the situation of Iraqi widows. I would not want to disrupt work already underway, insult any parties that might cause more grief, or waste effort and goodwill with counterproductive initiatives.

If you could help direct me to appropriate persons or contacts or avenues in order to develop effective strategies I would be very grateful.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Kevin Valentine

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Iraqi widows - Oxfam search

Once again I was searching the web for contacts to advocacy in Iraq. I saw some disturbing videos on Youtube of young girls from refugee camps sold, tricked or impelled into prostitution parlors outside Damascus - these barn sized places where they dance around while men decide who to take home - then many send their profits to their family.

Anyway searching, I found the Oxfam report from Women's day in March talking about the "silent emergency" of women in Iraq. There are lots of solid emails at the bottom to the Oxfam point people for this issue in America, England and Baghdad.

Last night we went to hear Greg Mortenson talk about Three Cups of Tea and Pennies for Peace. It was very inspiring, especially at Loyola School of Education. He had just stepped off the plane from Afghanistan where he was consulting about using decentralized peaceful strategies in the war, such as building schools, water projects and the like.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Writing with T3

Sunday T3 met at Audrey's and for the first time I was able to make it, as did 18 other people! We talked logistics - what we wanted to do, how meetings usually go etc. Then we broke into three groups. Our group did three different writing exercises including Hemingway's 6 word novel.
(His: Baby shoes for sale, never worn)

I wrote three in five minutes:

Broken down
roadside dark
no gas

conflicted longing
protected intimacy
night alone

raspberry fingers
chocolate mint
welcoming eyes

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Concrits - with Core Project

Concrits were today down at the Dance Center. It was a great privilege to watch these great agile dancers "think" through using their movement in these rehearsals. The critiques seemed more about movement and flow than about "dance" or content. I felt that they had already talked through content - or that they just understood the body motion in ways that were beyond my expertise. I did understand or feel a lot of it and enjoyed watching each peice unfold and each critique get to the point: how to make it work.

Susan and I both showed some video work, and Susanne's work was also shown, so Bodyrewired had full representation. I showed the part of my shorter Lines in the Sand documentation while talking about a group action day. The group felt that they would be able to help when I get my concept down clearer. I mentioned that perhaps diferent movements could be represented to further the mimicked domestic chores begun at Oxbow. There was some discussion about exploring the differences between the solo act of my drawing of the lines vs. the group action of dancers vs. the interpretation by passersby. One person thought that documentation of the different types of line made by different participants would be interesting. My saving of the sticks used to make the lines was also of interest, as it resonated witht the desire to bring things back from digital virtuality to 3-dimentional reality.

I mentioned that I still have to contact not-for-profits and or State Department resources to see what help can actually be offered. Matt said that in working with one charitable group, someone had said that sometimes just doing something beautiful to raise awareness is enough. I'm not sure yet. We'll see.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Iran-Iraq War

The Iran-Iraq War began on September 22, 1980, and ended in August 1988.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Dr. Steve mentioned in working with the Interfaith Council that people, even thought they have an idea of One God, it can be a vastly different idea of God, even within Christian Protestant religions. He recommended that I continue to study Islam as I plan to do when I return from camp.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Lines in the Sand - History

Here's what Wiki has to say about lines in the sand:

"A line in the sand is, metaphorically, a point beyond wich no further advances will be accepted or made."

The Spartans used a line in the sand in defense of Greece. The Romans, Maori, and Alamo defenders all used lines in the sand to divide between here and there, between those for and against.

"The phrase may also be used to denote an invisible or implied boundary or rule, which may be easily transgressed by those unaware of its existence. This is precisely because of the ephemeral nature of a line drawn in the sand which quickly disappears however emphatically it may have been drawn in the first place. This means that transgressors are usually unaware that they have "crossed the line" until too late.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Widows’ Memorial

Saturday, July 25, 2009
Widows’ memorial

I woke up this morning thinking of Felix Gonzales-Torres’ candy piece and was wondering about on-line directions for people who make lines in the sand. What if the sticks used to make a certain number of lines were sliced into thin biscuits, then piled up in a corner or on a table. Viewers could take one, apply a stroke of black paint, and keep it. More chips would be added? Or the number would diminish until the pile was gone representing healing?

Also I was thinking about a Widows memorial, like the war memorials in DC, only one in every country. Was widows sacrifice a part of their lives. Where is there memorial? Why can’t we have a memorial with benches, trees and a garden for people to come and contemplate, and remember?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lines of Inquiry

Here's a list of some of my upcoming lines of inquiry. Stephanie Brooks recommended that I make a list of 20-50 things that something can mean/that I want it to mean/that I want to look into -then narrow it down to the best 2-4 or so. Art can mean so many things, can be so expansive that it helps to focus on a few meanings at a time, though they may change, otherwise the message gets lost.

Lines of Inquiry:

Oud - music and instrument
Weaving/Widow's weave
Widow's plight more specifically
Arabic language
"Lines in the Sand" - meanings
Chalkboards - meanings in Iraq
Group action/activism
Activist art
Political art
Durational Art
Grid art
Advocacy art
Repetitive labor as metaphor/symbol
Action Days
Not-for-profits in Iraq

Tuesday: Paul Catanese

I talked to Paul about what I've been doing this summer since David's class, and he asked the big question again of Why?: Because I want to advocate. What can I do to heal?

Also re-shot the Widows media project in the installation room with sound.

Saturday at Marge's

Saturday Mary and I visited our longtime friend and fellow artist Marge Roche, who is an art friend I have known since I first moved to Evanston. A founding member of the Figurative Art League, she has travelled to Nepal, bringing art and conversation to a remote village there on many an occasion, and returning with stories, sketches, and watercolors.

We talked about my project and I shared stills and video of the Widows so far. She likened the chalk lines and the lines in the sand to Buddist monks who carve a phrase into a small bead, the same phrase over and over for 12 years. She also brought up the Rosary as a means, like the monks', not of getting to a certain number, but as a means of meditation, of getting beyond distracted everyday thought into a prayerful, focused realm.

She also asked if she could help. I had mentioned the man on the beach who had calculated that it could not be done (three million lines in the sand in one year). She thought a few of us could go down to the beach and do a few hundred lines. What a selfless and wonderful idea. Again and again, I find that I'm coming to the conclusion that it is not about me, it's about the healing possibility: what can be do to advocate? not what can be done to validate my art?

Still Friday

Friday, after cleaning the studio, we had an open house at Oxbow with up to 100 in attendance. Visitors wandered around the grounds from studio to studio. I had put up the green-white banner on the wall which reached along a-wall-and-a-half. "Widow's Banner" also a print "Widows" and my double flag "Flag for Iraq"

Later at the benefit auction, a "Widows" artist's proof was purchased for $70 to go Oxbow.

Friday Still: Temporary Services Visit

In the afternoon I met with Temporary Services, the artist collective who among other thing does projects addressing prison conditions and reform. We talked about how the number three-million is arbitrary, abstract and anecdotal.

They mentioned what I had been thinking the night before: going to Iraq

They suggested I look into Emily Jacir's work in Palestine
Paul Chan's work
Dave's stories
and a piece
"Talking Stick"

They reminded me to find out what the Iraqi woman need, to talk to organizations who would know what would actually help the widows in Iraq. It was pointed out that my artistic plans might not match up with what really is needed. Sometimes they do, sometimes not, but that if I want to be an advocate, I must be willing to go in directions that I had not even thought of.
Mark talked about how he had to spend an enormous amount of time and emotional effort saving Angelo's roommate from death by advocating for health services. His reasoning (in fundraising) was that the artist/prisoner Angelo needed his longtime roommate for mental stability. So Mark had to organize Temporary Services' support base to raise this money and they pulled through. But he said that it was tough, scary and rewarding.

Temporary Services: http://www.temporaryservices.org/
Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin, Marc Fischer

Oxbow Friday Continued: Lines in Sand Critique

We looked at some excerpts of the lines in the sand video. Many felt that this video was about me not about the content. But then the discussion was about the repetitive labor, the meditation which was going on during the performance. Some thought that the fact that I went in and out of frame until about 300 lines was a mistake, others like this. discussion touched upon the relative value of the three-million number, the interaction with the public, the video documentation itself, the artifactal nature of the numbered sticks. Some classmates would prefer to see still shots of the project than video.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Friday at Oxbow

I've been averaging under 4 hours sleep, but managing it well all week. I got up early and printed eight extra prints on the buff paper, of which maybe five were really clean because the screen is getting old and they have no real screen tape (actually I couldn't find any tape at all). Back for a quick breakfast then off to set up my tent in the meadow, in the wind. I set it up and moved the off-center silk screened banner over off and on all morning till it was centered on the tent. I didn't look like a cabana, but then again it didn't quite look like Bedouin tent either, or rather it didn't look like my impression of an Iraqi Bedouin tent - more like something from western Afaghanistan or Mongolia, but made by an artist - but I don't really know.

Critique was fun and informative. I opened by saying that I had three pieces, two time based pieces and ...Oh, wait, I have something for you.... (rummage in back pack for a while) I can't find it... I'll give it to you later" then I just looked out at the class and waited. People were looking and waiting and finally Allison said, "wait, this is your piece, isn't it?" I waited a little more (later people said I should have milked it longer), and said, has anyone heard these words in the last two days, repeating the prompt" Kate raised her hand, and one by one everyone recognized that this had happened to them. Some wanted what that person had. Some couldn't believe that I know enough about them to know who to ask. Omair said that it was somehow sweet that I had taken time to observe and investigate who would be perfect for each person.

Then we looked at the smile cam, which I find interesting to watch and Stephanie didn't think that it was as successful because of the plain-vanilla quality of the action. Everyone loves to smile. I kind of agree, though it was fun to set up, it didn't entice that many people into participating. Perhaps some more unusual instruction would be more interesting - or I could put a secret surveillance camera on the person behind the camera, and post that instead?

Oxbow Work Day

I'm trying to remember Thursday clearly on Monday morning. Thursday continued to be a work day with my covert/overt projects and setting up the tent, finishing editions and silkscreening. It's a little bit of a blur because I had a list of nine things I wanted to get done, and I just kept finishing as many as I could.

For Overt/Covert I continued to hand out the slips of paper requesting people to tell different people: "I have something for you" ...rummage around... "I can't find it right now" "I'll give it to you later" I assigned a different person to each member of the class including Carson and Stephanie. I tried to find people who would actually have something for them. Roommates, friends, coworkers. It took about two days to cover all bases, but by dinner it was all set up.

For the Overt part, I set up a Smile Cam in the dining room at dinner and left it up through dinner the next day, but I think that it was too much to ask for people to start and stop the camera. Or the directions were too bland. If I had a surveillance camera system, one that wouldn't automatically shut down ever ten minutes like my DV cam, I think it would have worked mu better. Perhaps I will try some combination of these projects again in some form. The instruction was to make your friend smile on camera without using words.

I signed all my prints in the Widows edition, despite the fact that some were varients, with unprinted corners, or slightly darker printing. It was either that or switch to buff paper in the middle. I had ink but no more Rives Heavyweight White paper.

I captured, edited and rendered selections of the Smile Cam, and the Sand drawing. I went to meet with the Temporary Services group of visiting artists, but I had signed up for the wrong day. the sheet had no break in the middle - say Thursday at the top, and 3:30 at the bottom, but in the middle it change from Thursday to Friday. If only I had taught them graphic design:)

Late night I went over to cut my tent stakes down 7 inches to since they weren't going to sink into sand on the meadow. I helped Michelle put together some construct of a miniature doorway. After putting all the tent stuff in my room, I don't remember what else I did; perhaps that's when I wrote the Lines in the Sand post?

I printed a set 25 impressions of the screen print on a two yard long peice of nice cotton canvas (twill?). I came out well, but somehow looked smaller, not larger. I think that it would have to be much, much larger for it to carry the weight of the symbolic number, three million. I know I did this late, but it was probably Wednesday.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lines in the Sand

I drew 1000 lines in the sand, starting with a short, back-breaking stick. I traded up twice to get to two and a half feet - still very hard to draw in the sand. I was making the lines about sixteen paces long.

One family walked by and I asked them if they saw a longer stick on their walk, could they bring it to me.

The guy on the dune buggy rolled up & over when I was at 314 lines. White hair, broad chested man, taking $5 from visitors to the private beach, but Oxbow is free. I told him I was drawing 3 million lines in the sand for the widows in Iraq. He said, "Well... it's about time somebody did something for all we've done to them. Did you know that those teenage girls are forced into prostitution." We talked some more; he said that he doesn't usually talk politics, but this really bothers him.

I get emotional doing these pieces. I almost teared up when I was only in the 200's, thinking about all those widows. That sounds really cliche, but it's true that these meditative explorations into repetitive labor focus the mind and body on the at-hand task in a way that creates a real life cathartic connection.

3,000,000 marks is a whole lot more than the 3500 chalk marks I've been doing, especially if I try to do them one at a time. The first ones I did were about sixteen paces, dragging the stick behind, bent over painfully. It became a little easier when the family came back with a longer stick - actually they brought two. They took my picture, wished me luck and told me they know I would make it and when they hear that I finish a year from now, they'd have the picture from my first day. Emotional again.

At least this saved my back, but my quads and calves were sore by 700 or so. I switched to a side step which changed the gesture from dragging to sweeping - how futile to sweep sand with a stick. Bedouins have sand floors. There are up to 5 million Bedouins of various tribes in Iraq. They were killed in large numbers early in this last war.

I spent about 2hrs. 40 mins. on 1000 lines and 30 more writing so far. As the guy on the dune buggy said on his way back, "I've been calculation and you're never going to make it like that." True. I figure that at this rate it would take 8-10 yrs. But shorter strokes representing other domestic chores will speed ti up. I will try to resist the mass approach (e.g. using a rake), but again as this man said, "It's the gesture that's important."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oxbow Update

Tuesday I took my time getting up after another short sleep. I had not found the Catch Phrase game, so I went stargazing. Earlier Nick had done a fire piece on the dock, lighting two strips on fire and watching them go out over astronomical twilight. Then I talked to Matt from NY, a fellow, about stars, because he's taking astronomy this fall, and because the stars were great, with lower humidity and a later rising moon. Antares was up, but Sagittarius was still behind the hill. I did see two shooting stars. We talked also about sky-art making and I mentioned Trevor Paglen's work. We talked about models of the universe, science and art, and MAX/MSP. Before that I completed the Cube pieces, painting six landscapes looking different directions from the same point of view. I covered myself with clothes all except my fingers and face. The mosquitoes were swarming in the evening woods.

Wednesday I woke up and went out to hang the blank cube in the woods. I'm not sure about the shape or how cliche it is, as I discussed with Omair and Landon, but I had it made and it helped the piece. I think that putting photos of the cube in the woods, in the gallery would help a lot, and maybe a video too. It is too simple a statement to just switch the scene (switcheroo, as Kate aptly put it) - I need to bring the blank cube back inside. Crits went well, with people pointing out shortcomings in the logic of the piece and giving helpful suggestions. I might also try a mirrored shape sometime, hanging on the woods, the problem being that at the height at which had hung it, a mirrored cube could be really dangerous. But it was so satisfying to just go out and paint.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Landscape Cube

I finished the investigation of interior/exterior organic/inorganic assignment. It was fun to do, involved painting six watercolors in the late evening in the woods with plenty of interaction - with mosquitos.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


After thought and discussion I decided not to put up the tent yet as the imagery and references were too muddled. My installation consisted of two banners, each 24 feet long stretched on poles in the sand (at the beach) upon which were printed silk-screens of a grid pattern of strokes - one banner in black, one in almost white (light mint green). There was also a flag for each banner, and a larger flag with both images on the same face.

My ideas included: two sides in Iraq killing each other, two tribes at war; despair and hope, death and survival as two states of widowhood; a game where two sides try to win.
piece asks too much of the viewer, even with the title Iraq, those who did not know my intentions had trouble guessing even the simple metaphoric meanings with or without the title. That being said, I think that it could still be a useful piece if I can make more connections.

The performance aspect of the chalk Widows is powerful for me as well as the audience - this piece may need to be translated into a performance. It would be great if the tent was an actual Bedouin design. If I could learn to weave it would be that much better hand-made. And if I could serve people in the tent with Coffee and pillows and weavings on the wall, then I might have something.

I still plan on putting up the tent to document and see what it looks like. Tomorrow I'd like to go to the beach and put it up to see how it feels, and what I could be doing in there - maybe doing the chalk piece inside?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bedouin Tent

Yesterday my project on a temporary structure, based in an historical movement in art or architecture switched from a Weaver bird’s nest to a Bedouin tent. The nomadic culture, which is in decline, reaches from North Africa to Western Asia. Their tents can be complex, held together with pulleys and ropes have up to five rooms, with movable partitions of varying decorative value. Traditionally the women would weave the tent or parts of the tent on giant looms staked to the ground, up to twenty-five feet long. Strips would be sown together to create the tent, with the most complex weavings on the partitions facing guest and men’s meeting areas. More tents are using purchased white canvas for all but the best partitions and some decorative strips on the walls.

I bought wood for stakes and fabric to make a 2x4 yard tent with low walls about 45” high, with a peaked roof. I have almost finished my decorative strip on with silkscreen prints of a Widows grid or weave. It’s eight yards long on an Army green cloth. But I’m wondering if just the strip or banner of cloth might be more effective than the whole tent. We talked Monday in class about the dematerialized object. Making a tent is literally material, 18 yards of material. Might it be more effective to have the staked poles and just a movable banner?

What I’m trying to capture is the loss and the ability to persevere in the face of that loss. It is a loss of culture, time, and of family. In Iraq, there are up to 5 million Bedouin people, and in some places there were up to 300 tortured killings a day of men in some areas by the militias after the US invasion. Many of the remaining men joined tribal militias themselves to fight the killing. What of the women? One can imagine what unwritten horrors they have witnessed or lived through.

Monday, July 6, 2009

from Ox-Bow

We are working on an assignment to create a structure or residence based on historical architectural or artistic references. I am considering a Weaver's nest in reference to Widow's weaver's guilds created to sustain widows after wars. The best reference I have found is to Jessie Vasey, the Australian advocate who became a war widow herself. She founded guilds in all the provinces of Australia, and worked on housing, pension and legal issues.

The weaver bird creates beautifully woven nests which are entered through tubes at the bottom of the nest which is suspended from a branch. I would create some reference to the woven habitat to fulfill the assignment. It might be some form of installed nest, or perhaps a performance of weaving on location somewhere on campus.

Meeting with Stephanie Brooks brought out two names: Agnes Martin's grid paintings and
Rosalind Krauss a critic who writes about the grid in 20th Century art. I have looked at a little of this, but will continue the research. She commented about how interesting it is to have something reference grid paintings, without being about the grid at all, but rather about this other situation in Iraq with the resigned minister.

Another word for the Widows piece is advocacy. The work can advocate without being about fundraising, but then to what degree is it successful. We talked this morning about what "good" art is vs. "important" art. Is this either? Both?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Technical Goof

As it turns out our new video cameras have phantom powered mics. The switch was off so that I have no sound for either the performance or the thirty minute critique that followed.

Things I think I got from the critique:

People liked it, and were moved, but some were confused as to the significance of using a chalk board, i.e., why chalk (as per spring crits)? I answered why chalk was a useful medium, as I've already articulated, but now that I have built a chalk board, there was discussion as to that object.

It was said that it might be too laden with reference to school, or have too much permanence as an object to thematically capture the ephemerality of the performance. But the opposing point of view was also posited. I recalled Cliff's view of the board as no more than representing school memories, and I expressed that this was a valid response, and that putting a whole written portion on the board or in the video would take away the "art" and make the piece solely a political statement.

Once again there was talk about the physical accumulation of chalk, both on the board and dropped pieces, dust and cardboard on the floor. Concern was expressed that the number of dropped pieces of chalk and the rapid application of chalk sent the message that I didn't care, that it was a casual relationship with the numbers. I said that this was due to the haste needed to keep up with the video. Paul asked why I had to keep up with the video, why I had to hurry. I explained how though I wanted to appear to try to carefully count, I wanted some breakage to occur to represent missing, inaccurately counted or misrepresented numbers of surviving widows.

Other means of applying multiple chalk lines was discussed (as it was in Spring Crits). A holder was mentioned, used to draw music staves, but I pointed out that that brings another image set, that of music into a performance we are trying to make clear and simple. Discussion ensued about creating an artist-made holder or series of holders. Ridiculously large holders would be thematically correct, but might become comical instead of tragic.

There was also discussion as to how best to proceed, saying that it was close to thesis material, but needed to be investigated further. Future ideas were discussed. People liked the performance aspect, the liveness.

Discussion of gallery dynamics of a show included talk of how to keep the video running, and sometimes I would be there, sometimes not. Would I occasionally erase the board and start over? Would I just keep adding lines. Would I put in regular hours? Punch a clock? - I think that again would bring with it too many connotations as to the meaning of the count. Could audience members add lines?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Thesis Proposal

The birds are already chirping at 3:38 am and I've been awake for almost an hour. Perhaps Paul Cananese is right: silent prayer is the most powerful. I know that's true, but I wasn't sure about using it in the middle of the night to generate a thesis project.

In thinking about my final performance for the summer media class with David Jude Green in front of an audience of about eight, none of whom had actually seen me perform Widows live before, I believe that they universally felt the connection that I feel when I perform the piece - its inevitability: that is I must complete those lines because the Widows already exist. Even the one audience member who did not know what the work was about was hoping that the lines added up to something, that the grid symbolized something and was not just random. She was searching for the logic to help create meaning.

Conclusion: the live performance delivers the power, the genuine memorialization that is at the core of the project.

I see a performance where I come out and begin drawing lines, tallying, creating this memorial for the unnamed survivors around the world, the Widows. Their story is at once collective and individual, triumphant and bitter. Hopeful or hopeless, with terrible or wonderful stories, these women continue with their lives.

I see a performance where I come out and begin drawing lines, tallying, creating this memorial as I carefully add lines, as the chalk accumulates. I envision ghosted videos of myself adding lines as well, recorded live and fed back through a time delay, till there are three or more (?) ghost artists working on the project with me. If I take a break, they remain.

Conclusion II:
The multiple ghosted videos are a powerful analogy to the many lives lost and the gigantic, surreal proportions of the numerical reality.

Around the world, there are more chalkboards. They are the same size. Women and men, remembering lost ones, commemorate their own widowhood or widows they know by drawing a simple line. This line represents continuing --continuation in the face of what life is now. The lines join these people in a network of lines, a sisterhood or fellowship of hope. They have survived and are here to create this Widow's Weave (thanks Lessa). They are now part of this fabric, woven together with each other.

These lines are added to my lines, both by remote video, and on a website, where the lines accumulate to create a vast complex of lines from persons around the world.

Conclusion III:
True live interactivity demonstrates immediacy and transfers ownership of Widows to the audience. This piece is not about me, it is about those who have suffered and survived. Giving them a chance to participate is more powerful than anything I could say - it is a healing activity.

This would be a wonderful thesis work which would be accessible world wide to all who wished to participate.

If I could be your mother,
I could not start too soon
This is where the healing begins.
from "Generation Unintended" - Kevin Valentine

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Widows - Take 5 update

Thursday will be the next performance of the new indoor version of this piece. There will be projected video of up to three ghosts of myself projected on the actual wall and chalkboard. My live self will enter when the video me steps off to the side. At first I will do an opposite action (walk right when the video walks left) then I will copy the action as closely as I can. After about two minutes, I will try to complete as many lines as possible using the box of chalk, until the video ends. When the video ends, it should be completely black in the room while I continue to chalk.
Then all sound will stop, and the lights will slowly come up, if I have time to render a new ending.

This piece gets more emotional, or rather stays emotional, as I continue to find new symbolic ways to represent the feelings I am portraying - those of despair, loneliness, memory, grace, beauty. The ghosting of the live performer lends an eerie echo to the elegiac aspect of the work, while symbolizing the hollowness of widowhood. The nature of the act of tallying three million squares translates the loss into the ineffable silent ritual, punctuated only with the screeching chalk and the occasional fallen piece. The dualities seem more evident, as I am tallying both the widows and the lost men, remembering the loss and honoring the living, highlighting the neglect as I smudge out layers of chalk representing thousands of individuals.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Widows - Take 5

I edited down the Take 5 video to about 9 minutes so that it will loop about three times during my performance, if I complete the whole piece. The video is projected directly onto a the wall where it was shot, hightening the three dimensional effect of both the video and the wall, while collapsing reality by incorporating me into the video itself. When taped on my digital camera, I become part of and indistinguishable from the video. At times there are three ghosted images, partly opaque of me drawing on the chalkboard, as well as myself in real time drawing on the board. I am also partly transparent, as the wall and chalkboard are projected upon me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Amazon e-mail

Got this list of new books from Amazon with some interesting and some scary titles. A snapshot of the summer of 2009: