Creating a global community: One Story at a time

“There’s a constant concept of A, I’m a human being who walks on two legs; B, I eat, drink and sleep; C, I’m a creative person. I’m an artist. Down the line you may be from Cairo, you may be from Bulgaria, you may be from Santa Clara Pueblo, but your story is your story. I think when we begin to put those stories into boxes and have expectations of what you believe those stories will be and it’s based on sort of what the consumer wants, then that is very, very frustrating and I think that for a long time [American] Indian arts has been kept in sort of this box and it hasn’t been able to evolve . . .. I really feel like creating these relationships mostly with the other artists from the different countries and realizing our incredible similarities, our incredible understandings are building this family, this real family. It begins to thread. The string begins to thread to all different places in the world and I think our line becomes much more metaphorical than just this clay thing we made. It became so much bigger than that.”

Rose B. Simpson, American Indian Artist from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico (click on this link to watch a video of Rose at Vernissage TV)

Rose B. Simpson is the niece of Nora Naranjo Morse and the cousin of Eliza Naranjo Morse. The three women are the first American Indian artists to be included in a contemporary art biennial at SITE Santa Fe since its inception in 1995.  Their work ”Story Line” is a clay, nylon, rice and waddle rope that drapes around the city, coming up from the ground, dangling down from the trees and winding its way into the museum to shatter and splinter across the white walls. It was created for “Lucky Number Seven” the seventh international biennial. Their clay thread interacted with other artist’s installations and wove in an out of the community of emerging artists from 16 countries who came to Santa Fe to create work for this exhibit.

But the idea of creating a community became a radical experiment in the world of contemporary art. Community undermines independent power, control, and authority. Community is antithetical to individualism.

“It’s amazing and I’m still reeling from the realization that the idea of community is radical.” Lance Fung, curator of the “Lucky Number Seven” said.

Fung wanted an exhibition that was about process and experimentation, about collaboration and in the end, an exhibition that was ephemeral, temporary, and non-product oriented. The artists came from around the world and had to create their work in situ, reacting to the place in which they found themselves—Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of the oldest cities in America with a bloody history of Colonialism and the intersection of Anglo, Hispano and native populations all beneath a seemingly beautiful facade.

The notion of recycling film or video, which captures something transitory and fleeting in a form to be kept for a longer period of time, was difficult for some artists.

“I think this is very naïve,” Egyptian filmmaker Wael Shawky said. “I’m not going to destroy these videos. There is no meaning for this. I cannot accept destruction of work for this fashionable process.”

Fung did not intend for the films to be destroyed. “What I did not want to happen in this biennial was for works of art from this utopian process to then be pimped out and sold into the marketplace.”

Shawky uses film, performance and installation to “criticize the dominant systems that transfer the sacred into a consumer product.” His focus is often on religion, his own Muslim faith and Christianity. But transferring the sacred and making it a consumer product is not only something that happens with religion, it is what happens with art, with film, with these words I am writing. At some point, the sacred process of creating is transformed into a product for a marketplace—even in Fung’s utopian biennial. Since their works cannot be for sale, the artist themselves becomes the product sought after for more exhibits, more performances, more installations and yes, more films. Whether they sell to the marketplace or are part of government-funded system or have a patron, someone is paying them to create.

This global focus of the art world, the film world, the creative world on the demand of the market has eroded a sense of community.

New media, online magazines and blogs such as this one are becoming virtual gathering places, central points of intersection, and we are creating a community for culturally engaged, socially active, conscious explorers. A global community created one story at a time.

I am human. I eat, drink and sleep. I am a creative person. I am a woman. I happen to be from America. But my story is your story. It matters not what the market wants or needs. My words are my story.

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