Nathan Cummings Graduate Travel Award Exhibition
Harry Wood Gallery, 900 S Forest Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281
Monday, 11 April 2011 – Thursday, 14 April 2011, 9:00AM – 5:00PM

Each day I will be doing a unique participatory performance about mindfulness, art, and society. You are welcome to come and sit with me. Monday we will be painting, Tuesday I am serving tea, Wednesday is a reading day, and Thursday is just for sitting. A full schedule is available on the calendar.


Thank you for sitting with me takes the form of a four-day performance piece in the Harry Wood Gallery for the Nathan Cummings Travel Award Exhibition.  On each day of the performance visitors will be able to interact with me one at a time by sitting on a stool across a table from me and participating in whatever activity I am doing that day.  The surface of the table is not wood, but a thick block of watercolor paper.  At the end of each day the top sheet of paper will be cut off and hung on the wall showing a record of the actions that took place at the table that day.  These sheets of paper will replace daily schedules also hung on the wall that will inform visitors what activities they can expect to do on each day of the exhibition.


My work revolves around quiet contemplation and a desire to facilitate communication between people in an effort to strengthen interpersonal relationships.  While I am interested in verbal communication, I am equally interested in non-verbal communication, like text, touch, and body language, and how this communication can be achieved over distances near and far.  In Thank you for sitting with me my voice will fade from verbal to nonverbal, and the participatory performances will evolve from consumptive to reflective.  For my thesis work I am thinking about making relational objects, like the table here, which engage with the audience and allow for an embodied experience.

The scheduled performances utilize techniques for focusing the mind and heightening awareness.  After undergrad, I studied Buddhist Meditation the Tushita Meditation Center in India.  I went into the ten-day silent course thinking I would have all these great enlightening realizations, but I didn’t.  What I did find was that realizations were not the goal; just sitting was enough.

This piece references the sitting performance work of Marina Abromovic.  It also brings in more relational aesthetic concerns, championed by Nicholas Bourriaud, as typically seen in the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija where he serves food to create a convivial atmosphere.  I, however, will be practicing awareness meditation while simultaneously trying to engage participants in the gallery.  Participatory artwork is important to me as I agree with Duchamp when he said that, “art is the gap between a piece and the viewer,” and I think participation activates that gap. As a shy person, mindfulness training in letting go of myself around others would allow me to focus more on how to best engage people.  The book, The Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art, also relates meditation practice to strengthening visual arts as both are can be seen as life long practices, both strive for moments of realization in our everyday lives, and both rely on the interdependency of existence, be it to create meaning in an artwork or to see that there is no independent self in meditation.

With funds from the Nathan Cummings Travel Award I could fly to Thailand, enroll in a two-week meditation retreat, and visit The Land.  The compassionate understanding Vipassana retreat offered at Wat Kow Tahm is taught in English and would help me release ideas of selfhood in a supportive environment.  Thailand has been a Theravada Buddhist country for over 2000 years, so I am interested to see the art practices of a culture steeped in mindfulness and learn from their masters.  While in Thailand, I would also volunteer at The Land, a sustainable farming and meditation community established by Rirkrit Tiravanija, where my skills as a fabricator could be put to good use.

Traveling through Thailand would give me a unique opportunity to experience Thai Theravada Buddhism and the work of my role model, Tiravanija.  The meditation and interaction practice achieved there would enhance my ability to create engaging relational objects in the future and for my thesis work.

UPDATE:  Photos from first two days

UPDATE:  Photos from the last two days

FINAL UPDATE:  I didn’t win.