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, 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:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Body Rewired

We met with each other, and then consulted with David Jude Green. We want to accept Core Project's invitation to work as media consultants, or assistant media persons or directors or whatever, though not so formally as to be actually a part of Core Project.

We spent some time talking to David about collaboratives, the Chicago art scene, and college teaching. I think that we first need to work together on some project, see how it goes, talk about our common interests and come up with a tentative mission statement. Then we can see how it will work. Also we need to start seeking exhibition opportunities for our individual and collective work.

Widows - Take 4

Finished my chalkboard today, and filmed an all-white chalk of blackboard version which was still moving for me, even this 4th time. I performed in 207, against a brick wall, using one of the department's new Sony HDV cameras. A filter setting was either left on, or accidentally set with a large toggle button on the outside of the camera! The entire performance is overlaid with a grain, making it useless (unless I can think of something). I then filmed the erasing, and spent more of the evening trying to clean the board.

Every time I perform, I lose count in some way and have to try to figure out how to come up with the right number. this time I did one, then ten, then thirty (total) then one hundred ten. It was supposed to be one hundred, but losing track I did thirty-plus-eighty. Then I went ahead and did twelve times the twelve pack, so I should have 254 in each quadrant, or over three million squares. Usually I go under do to breakage, falling chalk etc. Statistics are so general. Did I blog this already today? I'm definitely having deja-vu.

Widows IV

I completed my portable chalkboard, and brought it down to Columbia. I filmed the piece in the room with a larger field of vision, and this time all in white chalk on a black board, as opposed to some colored chalk on green board. I always get meditative when doing this piece. Something about the rhythm, the counting, my silence with the chalk speaking for me.

Every time I do this, the numbers change. I am still seeking 2000 x 1500 lines to create the symbolic Three Million squares, but It never comes out exactly the same. I thought that I was short about a third the first time I tried, though that was supposed to be a demo. The third time, I may have done way too many lines, but I'm not sure. This time I know that I was a little over. It is a moving analogy for me, knowing that when one makes a statistical claim that something happened to three million people, one is talking in generalizations. Plus or minus ten percent means three-hundred thousand unaccounted-for lives.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Post-Theory Theory or the Rabbit Hole and Why I'm Not Dead Yet

I am seeing how every art work can be viewed from multiple theories, whether the artist intended the piece to carry that or not. Just as every historical fact can be viewed on many ways, depending on what aspect of history or society one examines. Art work holds these interpretations within and
audience brings them to the viewing. In this sense all art is collaboration, thus the removal of authorship, and the "author is dead." But the author is "not dead yet" in the words of the old Monty Python sketch. What is it that is not dead yet? If it is not the artist, could it be God? Yes, I said God. God meaning what? Well, god is also what we bring to him through our lens, like theory, but also has authority. What authority? The very definition of God is for me "Good." So the question is, is there good that has fixed meaning? Is there at the core of art or fact, goodness which is fixed beyond translation of theory through the viewers senses, or is all in fact theoretical?

For that matter is there any fact at all in the entire universe which can be said to be scientific or indisputable and not subject to interpretation through theory? We observe the rabbit-hole, and fall in with a never-ending series of theoretical calculations and interpretaations, but is there in fact some thing we are interpreting?

Author/no author: fact/theory: good/subjectivity: science/fact: are they all intrinsically different ends of the same rabbit-hole, different sides of the same coin?

Monday, June 8, 2009

New Ideas Flowing

I've been looking at Felix Gonzales-Torres and at Relational Aesthetics. Gonzales-Torres had a few pieces at the new Modern Art wing of the Art Institute of Chicago when we visited last Thursday. His "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) 1991 so beautifully captures the type of elegy I am seeking to create. I would like to use the art to move past loss to a place where healing can begin. As in my song, Generation Unintended, "This is where the healing begins."

Other sweeping thoughts:

ALOTT as a name for an online not-for-profit web presence to manage my new pieces
A Leaf Of The Tree as in "The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations"

I picture the tally marks commemorating the survival of the Widows on Iraq being joined by the circles to represent healing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Leaves for a more blanket cause. More on this later.

ConsciousV is my web name and also to be my name as a musician/songwriter.
BirdDenOftRuth remains my publishing name.