thoughts about documenting performance art…
As an archivist of performance art, I spend a considerable amount of time thinking of how to communicate what actually happens during a piece of experiential art. To document my own practice, I use a hybrid of photo, video, writing, drawing, and a lot of story telling. This system works well for me and translates into archiving the work of others, but often it FAILS…and of course it fails! There is no true way to document a piece of live art. It lives and dies in the moment that it is created in. Even still, there is immense value in the act remembering.
This past weekend, I attended Mobius’ memorial gathering to honor the life of my friend and colleague, Bob Raymond. The service coincided with an exhibition of Bob’s photographs, “This Moment: missives from another world and other works of Bob Raymond”*. Bob spent decades photographing performance art, building an impressive (perhaps one of the world’s largest) archive of live art. I am grateful to have known Bob for countless reasons. He was generous, kind, funny, insightful…but as I admired the work in ”This Moment: missives from another world and other works,” I was especially thankful for Bob’s choice to consistently use his unique vision to capture a portion of the performances he witnessed. Even though this issue of documenting performance art is sticky, confusing and vague, Bob continues to teach me that it is worth working through the inevitable challenges.
* On view at Studio Soto until May 5th
10 Channel Center St. (Fort Point) Boston, MA
Sandrine Schaefer/ Heart Beat Stairs / 2012 / infiltration into public space in Oaxaca, Mexico / duration: 3 minutes / photo by Daniel S. DeLuca
Sandrine Schaefer / “Feeding Quetzacoatl”/ 2012/ location: Mexico
A contemporary sacrifice to Quetzalcoatl on a playground in near Teotihuacan in Mexico. Part of Schaefer’s series, “Adventures in Being (small)”
22 abril 2012
Adventures in Being (In Mexico)
Sandrine Schaefer “Orange Moss” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Xlitla
Xlitla is famous for being the location of Las Pozas, a surrealist garden created by the eccentric Edward James from 1949-1984. Amazing concrete structures peeking out above the trees, waterfalls crashing into turquoise colored water, a symphony of tropical birds, Las Pozas was a slice of paradise on Earth!
Sandrine Schaefer ”Stairs to Nowhere” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Xlitla
Sandrine Schaefer ”A Perfect Fit” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Xlitla
Sandrine Schaefer ”Broken Figure Movement” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Xlitla
Sandrine Schaefer “Broken Figure Movement” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Xlitla
Sandrine Schaefer ”Broken Figure Movement” 2012photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Xlitla
Las Pozas was not the only magical location in Xlitla. We were told about a place called “The Cave of Swallows” where thousands of green Parakeets swarm every day at dusk and dawn. The cave was located behind a family’s home. After paying a small entry fee, we were led down a steep hill with freely roaming cows to the entrance of the cave. After exploring the cave area for several hours, the time came for the Parakeets return. Follow this link to see a video of the performance I did with the flock of clamorous birds.
Sandrine Schaefer ”Scary Cave” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Xlitla
Sandrine Schaefer / Cave of Parakeets / 2012 location: Xlitla Mexico
In a cave in Xlitla, Mexico there is a cave that thousands of parakeets swarm every day at dusk and dawn. Schaefer visited this cave, waited for the birds to return, and did an action with them as part of her “Adventures in Being (small)” series.
Mexico City/ Teotihuacan
Sandrine Schaefer “Revisiting Coatlicue” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Teotihuacan
Sandrine Schaefer “Observatory” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Oaxaca
Sandrine Schaefer “Sun Ritual 9” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Mexico City
Sandrine Schaefer “Fountain” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Mexico City
Before leaving Oaxaca, we visited Monte Alban. Monte Alban is often represented as a Zapotec archeological site, however, many of the relics that have been unearthed in the ruins have created speculation. Some of the figures carved into the stones look Mayan, others appear to be of African decent, and some look Indian. There were also materials found at the site that were not indigenous to Mexico. The idea that Monte Alban as an ancient place of cultural fusions inspired me. I created a design consisting of 3 heads from the hieroglyphs I saw at Monte Alban. I burned this image into my stomach, the part of the body that distinguised females from males on these tablets.
Sandrine Schaefer “Sun Ritual 8” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Oaxaca
Sandrine Schaefer “in the park with Quetzalcóatl” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Mexico City
This image and it’s placement felt appropriate to take with me on my travels from Oaxaca to Mexico City. Mexico City is a place of cultural fusion. One of the most populated cities on the planet, Mexico is crawling with people from all walks of life. I have been inspired by the spaces where these people congregrate. Whether in parks, markets, or the streets, people in Mexico use public space in a way that is completely unique.
Sandrine Schaefer “Organico” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Mexico City
Sandrine Schaefer “Crossing Borders” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Mexico City
Sandrine Schaefer “Frida’s Garden” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Mexico City
March 20th was the Spring Equinox. At the archaeological site of Teotihuacan (near Mexico City) thousands of people visit the site on the Equinox. Often dressed in white, they climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun where they stretch out their arms to receive the sun’s energy which they believe is unique on this day. We traveled to Teotihuacan to witness this event and to make work for this context.
Sandrine Schaefer “snake trail” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Teotihuacan
Daniel S. DeLuca “Nuclear Fusion”
Daniel S. DeLuca has been documenting the work I have been making in Mexico, but was also working on a piece to create at Teotihuacan for the Spring Equinox. Dressed in white athletic clothing, Daniel covered a soccer ball with carmine pigment that he made from crushing cochineals (insects that are native to Oaxaca). For about 2 hours, he repeatedly threw the ball in the air. When the ball fell, it hit his chest, leaving an imprint of the soccer ball on his white shirt.
photos by Sandrine Schaefer
3 marzo 2012
Adventures in Being (In Mexico)
Sandrine Schaefer ” Sun Ritual 4” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca
Daniel S. DeLuca and I have been in Oaxaca de Juárez for about 1 ½ weeks. Oaxaca relies heavily on tourism which is based around its large number of colonial-era buildings and its native Zapotec and Mixtec sites. Because of its indigenous population and abundance of raw materials, Oaxaca is the leading producer of crafts in all of Mexico. Oaxaca is known for its textiles, barro negro pottery, and Alebrijes. In our time here, we have found it necessary to navigate the city of Oaxaca through its industry of tourism. This is an unfamiliar way for me to travel, but tourism makes up a large part of Oaxaca’s identity. Not acknowledging it would be missing out on a huge part of the culture of this place.
Daniel S. DeLuca and I have been in Oaxaca de Juárez for about 1 ½ weeks. Oaxaca relies heavily on tourism which is based around its large number of colonial-era buildings and its native Zapotec and Mixtec sites. Because of its indigenous population and abundance of raw materials, Oaxaca is the leading producer of crafts in all of Mexico. Oaxaca is known for its textiles, barro negro pottery, and Alebrijes.
In our time here, we have found it necessary to navigate the city of Oaxaca through its industry of tourism. This is an unfamiliar way for me to travel, but tourism makes up a large part of Oaxaca’s identity. Not acknowledging it would be missing out on a huge part of the culture of this place.
Sandrine Schaefer “Hands” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Monestary in Oaxaca
Sandrine Schaefer “sun dried wool” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Textile mill in Oaxaca
Because of the Zapotec presence in Oaxaca, it became apparent that my sun burning of an Aztec Goddess was not the most appropriate image to use here. I looked to the textiles of Oaxaca for inspiration.
Huipils, traditional garments worn by indigenous women, are ubiquitous throughout Oaxaca. Huipils are tunics that are heavily embroidered around the neck, decorating the woman who wears it with symbolism that communicates her heritage, personal beliefs, etc. In many of these indigenous cultures, women are believed to be the “center of the universe”. When a woman wears a huipil, her head is surrounded by images and designs, making her the focal point.
Huipils can be found everywhere. They are sold in markets, exhibited in museums, and worn by multitudes of women. Their intricacies are fascinating. I decided to burn an image of a Zapotec Huipil into my chest. As I have been exploring the layers of spaces in Oaxaca, my body carries an image that invokes gender, economy, history, and art-related practices.
Sandrine Schaefer “El Silencio Mata” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Oaxaca City
The contemporary art scene in Oaxaca is exciting. There are many galleries, artisan markets, street art, and printmaking shops that are a haven for artists making political work. It is common to see wheat pasted and stenciled images all over the city (my personal favorite is the image of Frida Kahlo donning a mohawk). The streets of Oaxaca City are the home of Alejandro Santiago’s public political sculpture project 2501 Migrantes.
Sandrine Schaefer “Migrantes” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Oaxaca City
My work has been impacted by the quantity of living bodies and representations of bodies that infiltrate the public spaces of Oaxaca. I also feel connected to the street artists here. They stencil on the walls; I am using the sun to stencil on my body.
Sandrine Schaefer “cebollas” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: market in Oaxaca City
Oaxaca city is considered the food capital of Mexico, and after being here, I know why. Committed to my veganism, I haven’t tried the infamous Chapulines (grasshoppers), but I have tried several varieties of Mole, cactus, peppers, and chocolate….(oh the chocolate!) Aside from being a staple in the Mexican diet, cacao is used medicinally and was historically used as currency. Oaxacan chocolate is often mixed with cinnamon, almonds and sugar. It is the best chocolate I have ever tasted!
Sandrine Schaefer “Cocina” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: market in Oaxaca City
I learned that Mexico has survived on a specific food structure for centuries: Corn+ Beans+ squash+ chiles. Other foods have made their way into Mexican cuisine, but this combination has survived in every part of the country. The combination of these foods is nutritionally sustainable and easily accessed in many other parts of the world, making it a portable structure of survival. I have been told that this food structure is why fast food doesn’t do well here. It exists, but is far less common than in the States. Food connects the people of Mexico, regardless of background, social class, etc.
Mourning in Mexico
Last week, we received news that our friend and colleague,Bob Raymond passed away. Bob was a staple in the Boston Performance Art community for over 30 years. He was a long time member of the Mobius Artist Group. In addition to being an intermedia artist, Bob was committed to documenting and archiving the work of countless artists from Mobius and beyond. His expertise and sensitivity to time-based media was always apparent in his photographs. He approached documenting performance art with the utmost respect and it was considered an honor to have Bob Raymond document your work. In addition to these contributions, Bob was a phenomenal person. He was kind, generous, funny, and a good friend. He always supported The Present Tense by attending our events and photographing for us. In addition to supporting The Present Tense, Bob had a great impact on me personally. In the past year, Bob offered his wisdom and helped me tremendously with my preparations for Mexico. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to know and learn from him. His presence and contribution to the movement will be missed enormously.
It has been especially difficult to be away from my community in Boston during this time. However, Mexico’s unique celebration of the dead has made it an interesting place to mourn. The following images document actions done in response to this loss:
Sandrine Schaefer “Resting Place” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Mitla- Zapotec Ruins
Sandrine Schaefer “Mourning” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca location: Oaxaca City
Coming Up: Mexico City
Adventures in Being (small….in Mexico)
Sandrine Schaefer ” A Nicho for Coatlicue” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca
1 week ago, we arrived in the city of Puebla, our first destination in Mexico. Awestruck by the landscape and feeling the effects of culture shock, I began to question my work and it’s relevance in this unfamiliar place.
photo by Daniel S. DeLuca
Puebla is known for many things, but its varied architecture is one of its most noteworthy characteristics. Tensions between the indigenous population and the Spanish are apparent in styles of the buildings and how people interact with them.
I was unprepared for how familiar people are with seeing bodies in small spaces. “Nichos” are built into buildings, busses, domestic spaces, etc. to house sculptures of saints. Shrines in the cathedrals display sculptures of saints and virgins in small glass boxes. In the United States, my intention with “Adventures in Being (small)” is to provide an unmediated experience for people to encounter a space in an unfamiliar way. How does this process change when the people around me are already familiar with seeing bodies in small spaces?
photo by Sandrine Schaefer
I began to explore the concept of layers in Puebla. When the Spanish took over, the indigenous communities built their cathedrals. It is said that the indigenous people built idols of their own deities into the churches in Puebla. When they were forced to pray to the saints, they would be praying to something they believed in, even if they were hidden. Many churches throughout Mexico were built on top of ruins. Even contemporary architectural styles contain physical layers. The majority of the buildings have fascades. Whether it’s faith, class, gender, etc. the physicality of the spaces in Puebla illuminate the complexities of identity. I have been thinking about how my own my identity takes on new layers in this place.
image from Sun Ritual, photo by Daniel S. DeLuca
The sun has a presence in Mexico that I have never experienced before. I have a deeper understanding of why early civilizations were influenced by the cycles of the sun. It has had a profound effect on my body and mental state. While meditating on the concept of layers and identity, I decided to incorporate the sun into my work here. The Aztecs named what is now known as the City of Puebla, Cuetlaxcoapan, which means “where the serpents shed their skin”.
Sandrine Schaefer “inbetween” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca
I began engaging in sun rituals where I sunburned the image of Coatlicue, an Aztec serpent goddess into my back. As I fit my body into spaces throughout Puebla, I simultaneously placed this fading historic icon into contemporary situations.
Sandrine Schaefer “A Nicho for Coatlicue” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca
Sandrine Schaefer “A Nicho for Coatlicue” 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca
Adventures in Being (small….in Mexico)
For the past 8 months, I have been planning to travel to Mexico on a Travel Fellowship to implement Adventures in Being (small). After months of budgeting, fundraising, researching, and brushing up on my Spanish, the time has come! In 4 days, I will be in Puebla, Mexico exploring the “City of Angels” for small spaces to put my body into. I will be blogging about my experience as I travel from Puebla to Oaxaca, to Mexico City, Xilitla, and any other places “Team Mexico” might end up. Stay tuned!
Sandrine Schaefer’s feature on LivingGallery.info
Feminism in art of artists born on or after 1970
SANDRINE SCHAEFER ADVENTURES IN BEING (SMALL)
Adventures in Being (small) is a project that addresses how humans fit into various environments, both corporally and conceptually.
After mindfully losing a significant amount of weight in 2009, I began exploring found spaces that I could not previously fit. What started as a playful exercise in measuring my transformed body has evolved into a comprehensive series of site-sensitive performance art installations titled, Adventures in Being (small). Fascinated by the shared human experience of understanding one’s body within various environments, I have fit myself into hundreds of spaces across the planet. I have traveled across the US, to Shanghai China, and will be implementing this work throughout Mexico in early 2012. I have pushed my body through fences, underneath benches, inside bike racks, piles of abandoned tires, coin-operated children’s rides, etc. I’ve also explored natural environments like salt flats, crevices between stones, and trees. I may seek out a place, but never a space. I stay inside of each space as long as my body or the space will allow, and I leave the space as I found it. This project is designed in such a way that it is often created and witnessed by chance and my body is often observed in stillness. My goal with this work is to create an unmediated living image that challenges how people may consider their surroundings.
After 2 years of being invested in this project, I have seen it develop as a cultural survey in how the body’s gesture informs the physicality and psychology of a space. Spaces assume certain truths. Environments are affected by the perceptions that humans assign to them. Many of these perceptions are linked to acceptable interactions with space based on ideas about gender. Through this work I have confronted ways in which awareness of an environment changes when my female body interacts with a space in an unexpected way.
Even in the 21st century, discomfort arises when a female body is present in some environments. I believe that this is a conditioned response that I aim to challenge with this work.
Understanding space and the possibilities for the bodies that inhabit them is an important practice. When we engage in the act of re-imagining our environment, we acknowledge it’s infinite potential. When we re-imagine what our bodies are capable of, the seemingly impossible becomes possible.
ADVENTURES IN BEING (SMALL)