Working on Our Survival Posture 02.25.11
This past month, an impromptu group of twenty people took part in a social experiment on survival. They each chose a task essential to their survival that they didn't know how to do, and within the month of February, learned how to do it.
Cleveland puppeteer Diana Sette worked with a master weaver to learn how to process and spin wool, and built a large-scale "human loom" made out of people. Emelio DiSabato and Joel Solow chipped away at snow on the Abbey Bridge in Tremont, attempting to clear a path on one of the two walkways into their neighborhood that becomes unpassable to pedestrians and cyclists after snow. Simon and Giulia, members of a new farm collective in New York state, began the process of brewing a cup tea from scratch and spent the month learning how you decide what trees in a healthy woodland can be harvested for firewood and how to use a chainsaw. Maria Miranda, of Cleveland's Whisper to a Scream, translated the assignment into what it takes to survive within culture as it currently stands. She spent the month being "beauty-compliant," wearing makeup and fashionable clothes, processing her hair, and consuming the media and products marketed to her to craft a "successful look". Several people learned how to sew for the first time, Carmen Tracey making homemade menstrual pads after researching the toxicity of feminine hygiene products.
What they learned and how they went about it will be chronicled at Survival Postures, a community dinner and exhibit held at SPACES on Sunday, March 20 at 5:30 pm.
Survival Postures takes a cue from feminist performance artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who, since the late 1960's has used her art to make visible a hidden, stigmatized world of maintenance work that shores up our whole society. She once said that her work is a conscious attempt to re-link cultural practice with how we practice our own survival, saying that, "Art begins at the same level as basic survival systems."
We've seen a huge growth in interest lately in re-localizing the work that provides for our community's basic needs (the exponential increase of participation in Cleveland's urban farms, community gardens and farmers' markets is one great example). Many people are confronting head-on the profound disconnection of work we do to raise income from work it takes to produce the goods we need to live.
In doing so, it's become pretty clear that as an overall culture, we are very much in infancy when it comes to being actors in our own survival. Many basic skills are no longer in our vocabulary, and we rarely flex the muscles that make us producers rather than consumers, making for a strange atrophy.
The Survival Postures project is about practicing a culture that can take care of itself-- to re-link culture and survival deep within our own bodies.
Come on by on the 20th and see how it went.