Monday, January 26, 2009

Vicariously Enjoyed: The Greater NYC Smudge Cleanse

So I went to the Power Plant's symposium "We, Ourselves and Us" on Saturday. Generally the day of talks was meant to address ideas of collaboration and community in artmaking, with the Nina Montmann-curated exhibition "If We Can't Get it Together" serving as a jumping-off point.

There was lots to digest during the day, and I may do a mini-report for Canadian Art Online later this week. But the main highlight for me was Emily Roysdon's talk. It focused a lot on her own personal artwork as well as her longer-term collaborative publication LTTR, which stands for "Lesbians Tend to Read," among other things. But one of the works she highlighted that I really enjoyed was from artist Jeanine Oleson, who spent 4 days in Fall 2008 performing "The Greater New York Smudge Cleanse" meant to wipe out "classism, heterosexism, imperialism, election anxiety, gentrification, eco-destruction and greed" around the city.

For those who don't know, a smudge is a Native American ritual that uses smoke from a bound stick of sage to cleanse bodies, spirits and spaces. It's a ritual that's long since been appropriated by new agey types and other non-natives for use in healing ceremonies. So Oleson and her helpers basically made the world's largest smudge stick--it looks about 10 feet long--and carried it to four locations--the site of an oil spill in Greenpoint, say, or of the Stonewall riots, or Wall Street financial meltdown.

The images of this massive smudge stick and its tie-dyed purveyors are priceless--just the right mix of sincerity and absurdity. It really resonates for me because of my own past participation in smudges from native to new-agey contexts (thank you Ghost River Rediscovery), and how this optimistic, fruity--and actually much-needed act of symbolic cleansing--constrasts with the typical mindset of urban environments.

Also, the pics are 200% awesome examples of sexing the city in a queer feminist way--including a "Tarot for Tomorrow" booth! Yes!

All images from Credits: Marina Ancona, Khaela Maricich

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I noticed that they left "fascism" off the list. Considering that the last century can be seen as the age of fascism (proceeding from the age of imperialism) it might be a good time to clean house and clear out the bad smell of fascistic thinking.

Of course, we are all guilty of petty fascism, as our society is a mono-statist Democracy (ruler-ship via popularity contest when, in fact, we've no need of rulers at all)

We all act like our fascistic shit don't stink but it do.