Posts tagged ‘performance’

Recent NY Times article recognizes social practice art – something we know a thing or two about!

Last week in The New York Times, Randy Kennedy, arts writer, took a look at something the ASU Art Museum has been thinking about for many years: socially engaged practice.

In an article entitled “Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture,” Kennedy examines the history and current exploration of social practice, whose “practitioners freely blur the lines among object making, performance, political activism, community organizing, environmentalism and investigative journalism, creating a deeply participatory art that often flourishes outside the gallery and museum system.”

“Leading museums have largely ignored it,” Kennedy writes, “But many smaller art institutions see it as a new frontier for a movement whose roots stretch back to the 1960s but has picked up fervor through Occupy Wall Street and the rise of social activism among young artists.” He highlighted museums such as the Hammer Museum, the Walker Art Center, and the Queens Museum of Art, all of which are working to extend their reach in the socially engaged practice sphere.

ASU Art Museum has been focused on socially engaged practice for more than 5 years, with the launch of our Social Studies initiative in 2007, which provides opportunities for artists working in various media to interact creatively and collaboratively with students, other artists, and faculty and community members. The social interaction of the museum-as-artist’s-studio setting encourages participants to explore new avenues of creativity and ultimately enhance their understanding of their world and each other.

The museum has hosted several social practice artists to date as part of the Social Studies initiative, including Jarbas Lopes, Anila Rubiku, Jillian MacDonald, Gregory Sale, Jennifer Nelson and Julianne Swartz, among others.  In 2012, the museum launched a new social practice speaker series as part of the Socially Engaged Practice Initiative at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and welcomed artist and dancer Elizabeth Johnson as the new Coordinator for Socially Engaged Practice for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Johnson is building a socially engaged practice certificate/focus at HIDA, and is housed at the ASU Art Museum  because of the museum’s work in this area.

Finger Dance between mothers and daughters

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, second from left, takes part in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance” at the ASU Art Museum on April 2, 2011, as part of Gregory Sale’s exhibition It’s not just black and white.

If you’re curious about the history of the museum’s dedication to socially-engaged practice, take a look back at some of our blog posts showcasing the art and artists we’ve had the pleasure of working with: https://asuartmuseum.wordpress.com/category/social-studies-collaborative-projects/

For Kennedy’s full New York Times piece, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/arts/design/outside-the-citadel-social-practice-art-is-intended-to-nurture.html

–Juno Schaser, PR Intern

March 28, 2013 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Passion in motion: Elizabeth Johnson and Socially Engaged Practice at the ASU Art Museum

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, second from left, takes part in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance” at the ASU Art Museum on April 2, 2011, as part of Gregory Sale’s exhibition It’s not just black and white.

Art is active. And for those like Elizabeth Johnson, it can move them in more ways than one.

As the Coordinator for Socially Engaged Practice at the museum, Johnson uses dance in order to organize collaborations, promote dialogue, and investigate pressing issues of our time.

Part of how she does this by harnessing people’s natural movement and putting shapes around questions that people then answer physically.

It’s not as abstract as you might think.

“We move to communicate all the time,” Johnson says. “We improvise every moment we have a conversation. We have an idea, we have a vision and we act on that vision or we don’t act on that vision. I just offer ways for people to show that. It’s a very fluid process.”

Before accepting this position, Johnson had never worked for a museum before. Having received her BFA in Dance from Connecticut College, Johnson traveled around the world organizing community engagement events and projects, as she says, in everyone’s community except her own.

Johnson explains working at the ASU Art Museum has made her rethink what a museum is — especially this museum: “I’ve never been a person who felt like I could concentrate with something still on the wall, as beautiful as it might be. Now that I’m in a museum, I’ve realized that a museum is a place that can hold ideas and is a place for the public, not just the people who know about art.”

Johnson’s work uses unique activities to connect with the community and have people think about artmaking and relationships formed through art. She bases her work on the idea that intangible social interactions can constitute the core of an artwork.

“That’s why I’m here,” she says.

When it comes to Socially Engaged Practice, Johnson explains she’s not just a planner but also a practitioner of the process: “There’s a lot of preparation that goes into collaborative events. I tend to set up things, but I also get involved with them. I facilitate and coordinate but I also practice and do. I get myself involved in a lot of interesting things.”

Through dance, Johnson creates meaningful cross-disciplinary collaborations and builds sustainable partnerships.

“What art can do is hold complexity,” she says. “And I kind of believe that when you bring your body into this, it brings out this human experience that we all have and gives us the capacity to have compassion in a way that’s different than if we just read a newspaper.”

Johnson is currently pursuing an MFA in Dance from ASU with her thesis focusing on exploring women and crime, a subject she became interested in after collaborating with Gregory Sale for It’s not just black and white in 2011.

“It really had me think what it’s like for me to be in Arizona and for me to be in a community that was my own.”

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, left, and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief MaryEllen Sheppard talk with girls who participated in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance.”

Johnson considers curriculum integration the biggest and most important aspect of her job — how to create a program that trains the artists of the 21st century that gives them skills to not only hones their craft but apply it in multiple contexts.

Johnson currently instructs Socially Engaged Practice: Engagement and Community, but she is also in the process of designing a new program and curricula for a certificate in Socially Engaged Practice at the undergraduate and graduate level.

“I have a real passion for this kind of work and what happens when young people see how big art can be and how many possibilities there are,” Johnson says. “The actual engagement of young people is really interesting to me. And I thrive on it, which is why I’m in a university.”

Next semester she and the director of the ASU Art Museum Gordon Knox will teach the new class Socially Engaged Art, which will examine the role of the artist in society from an anthropological perspective. Knox and Johnson also plan to use the course to push students to think about how to use art to moderate conversations and assess the complexities of a given social situation.

Johnson explains she has learned more about socially engaged practice uses dance in a way to share, not perform.  “You combine your experience with somebody else’s and you see ‘Oh, it’s a more complicated picture,’” she says. “More interesting, more broad. [Working here] has definitely expanded what I know.”

Johnson’s intern Lindsay Henika, a senior studying Art Administration, has found her time at the museum to be an opportunity to learn about special event planning and media marketing. “It’s been so great to see how the museum works from the front row,” she says.

Johnson has her hand in many different projects, but her next upcoming event is At Home in the Desert: Youth Engagement and Place. The project partners the faculty and staff in ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts with community-based organizations, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan PhoenixThe Boys and Girls and Club of the East Valley, Girl ScoutsArizona Cactus-Pine Council, and South Mountain High School.

Johnson has been working with the Girl Scouts by studying the desert and making dances about what they find. The public event will take place on Dec. 1 at the Diane and Bruce Halle Skyspace Garden on the Tempe campus at 4:30 p.m.

To learn more about what the Socially Engaged Practice community is up to, check out its blog and Facebook.

Mary Richardson

November 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm 1 comment

Notes From Underground: Fall Season Opening

Guest blogger and ASU student Veronica Rascona writes about the ASU Art Museum’s Fall 2012 Season Opening Reception:

At 6:30 on the evening of September 28, the ASU Art Museum launched its 2012 season. People gathered in the darkness at the front of the building to talk, eat and watch a performance by the mixed parkour, martial arts, dance and acrobatics group Movement Connections. The group, dressed in white, took advantage of the museum’s unique structure as they silently crawled, leapt and ran all over the walls and stairs of the Art Museum’s entrance.

In a touching moment, a little girl got caught up in the mix and one of the performers invited her to perform a stunt with him—a simple handstand, nothing dangerous. After performing a few more acrobatics on their own, eventually the performers climbed up onto the cement pillars in the front of the Museum. They performed a few stunts and then began pointing toward the façade of the museum upon which a video was being projected. It appeared to have been filmed from the window of a car and depicted an expanse of desert landscape rushing by.

The video continued to play as Movement Connections wrapped up their performance. People then began to shuffle down the stairs, waiting for the next sequence in the evening’s activities. Some ventured into the Museum to look at the current exhibits on display, while others, like myself, sat just outside the doors, taking in the array of lights that filled the underground courtyard—part of the “55: Music and Dance in Concrete” performance that would start at 7:30 p.m.

I sat to one side of the courtyard and began to notice other elements—a video of an eye opening and closing and rolling around in its socket was projected onto the back of the pillars that outlined the courtyard. Above and below the eye was the phrase, “Don’t touch me!!” projected backwards. It was somewhat disturbing,and I did not know what to expect from the performance after seeing these images. Just before the performance began, the audience was instructed as to where to stand in order to best view the performance, but were also told that the performers would be moving throughout the space alternately providing various vantage points a better view.

The crowd gathered, and from my vantage point I witnessed three of the visiting dancers, each dressed in red, black and white, slowly fill the empty space between us and the Museum. I could not see what was happening on the other half of the courtyard as it was blocked by cement pillars and benches, but this was how the show was meant to be viewed: people seeing different parts of the show, each person having a unique viewing experience. The three girls on my side slowly moved into position.

The lights changed from bright white lines filling the space to a strange speckled effect, and music composed of electronic sounds, “from 55 improvised and 55 composed pieces” started to play. The dancers began to move. Their dancing was rapid; they moved convulsively, throwing themselves at the cement walls and against the floor as the lights continued to change and pulse. The effect was alarming and intriguing. As the dancers moved throughout the space, the crowd adjusted to watch each new scene; at one point the only male dancer shut himself behind a gate while a video of him stuck in what seemed like a jail cell played on the wall behind the bars. The video cut from scenes of him in the cell, to the real dancer performing similar movements in the real, jail-like space.

The music and lights continued to change as the dancers set and reset their stage, from one side of the courtyard to the other, to behind the bars, to on top of the cement benches, to at one point taking the elevator in the middle of the space up to the second floor where we lost sight of them for a moment. The performance, meant to engage the audience in sight, sound and movement, felt like a piece about escape; the dancers’ jerking movements gave the impression that they were almost trying to break out of their own skin.

What was most beautiful about the whole event, however, was not only the performances, but the interaction between the performers and their audience. I looked over the faces in the audience and everyone’s eyes were on the performers, completely captivated. The decision by both performance groups to use the space around their audience created an atmosphere in which we were all connected. Not only did everyone get to watch a fun and intricate performance, but they were encouraged to feel like they were a part of it all.

Thanks to Sean Deckert and Veronica Rascona for the use of their photographs.

55: Music and Dance in Concrete  premiered at Fort Worden as part of Centrum’s Reverberations series, in addition to premiering at the ASU Art Museum. The project received initial funding from the MAP Fund and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, as well as support from Arizona State University, and RBMA. The project is supported by the Japan Foundation through the PerformingArtsJAPAN program. The Centrum Artist Residency program is made possible by support from the Washington State Arts Commission and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Additional support was provided by 4Culture Site Specific.

Miguel Palma’s Trajectory is supported in part by the FUNd at ASU Art Museum, the ASU Art Museum Advisory Board and Friends and Margarita and Willie Joffroy.

October 11, 2012 at 10:34 pm 1 comment

Want a sneak peek of the Fall 2012 Season Opening?

The ASU Art Museum’s Season Opening is this weekend — Friday and Saturday night, from 6:30-9 p.m. — at both the Museum and the Ceramics Research Center.

The events are free and open to the public, and there’s something for everyone, from the premiere of a video/dance piece in the Nymphaeum to a parkour team using the building as their canvas to food trucks in the parking lot.

The parkour group Movement Connections will perform from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Then, at 7:30 p.m., composer/musician Wayne Horvitz will premiere 55: Music and Dance in Concrete, his collaboration with choreographer/dancer Yukio Suzuki and video artist Yohei Saito.

You can get a taste of 55: Music and Dance in Concrete here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3x6OPYI6ZE4

Below are some shots by photographer Sean Deckert of Movement Connections in action, plus some photographs (also by Sean Deckert) from ISEA2012, in Albuquerque, where artist Miguel Palma presented his “Desert Initiative Remote Shuttle,” which will be on display at the opening as part of Palma’s show Trajectory.

Join us on Friday and/or Saturday night for the big show! So nice, you might just want to come by twice.

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September 25, 2012 at 10:51 pm Leave a comment

Redesigning the future with Emerge

What it means to be human is changing. Emerging technologies are transforming our minds, our relationships, everything we own and the very landscapes in which we live. What kinds of humans will we become? What kinds of humans should we become?

These are just some of the big questions that artists and scientists explored March 1–3, 2012, when Arizona State University hosted Emerge – an unparalleled campus-wide event uniting artists, engineers, bio scientists, social scientists, story–tellers and designers to build, draw, write and rethink the future of the human species and the environments that we share.

On April 10, the exhibition Emerge: Redesigning the Future opened at the ASU Art Museum. This unusual show gives audiences a chance to sample some of the futures imagined during the three-day Emerge event, and includes hands-on activities that make the viewer part of the project.

On Tuesday, April 17, we’ll celebrate the opening of Emerge from 5 to 8 p.m., at a reception sponsored by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. The exhibition will be up through Aug. 25, and is free and open to the public.

Many thanks to the partners who worked so thoughtfully and so hard to bring this exhibition together, and to the sponsors and partners who made Emerge possible!

Exhibition credits

Emerge exhibition team

Daragh Byrne, School of Arts, Media + Engineering in the Herberger Institute

Sarah Davies, Center for Nanotechnology in Society

Aisling Kelliher, School of Arts, Media + Engineering and The Design School in the Herberger Institute

Cynthia Selin, School of Sustainability, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes

Lead developers of Emerge

Thanassis Rikakis, director of the ASU School of Arts, Media + Engineering and the Digital Culture Initiative in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Joel Garreau, Lincoln Professor of Law, Culture and Values at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

Cynthia Selin, assistant professor, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes and the School of Sustainability

 

Sponsors and partners

  • Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
  • The Center for Nanotechnology in Society
  • ASU Office of the President
  • Intel
  • The Prevail Project of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • School of Sustainability
  • Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
  • ASU LightWorks
  • ASU Art Museum

Image above: A moment during Immerge, a performance on Nelson Fine Arts Plaza during the Emerge conference. Photo by Tim Trumble.

April 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm Leave a comment

An Alternate Reality Check

The ASU Art Museum’s exhibition Performing for the Camera deserves an encore. The exhibition is a collection of large, glossy, striking photographs. This is no mere point-click-shoot scenario; these pictures are scenes, not snapshots of a moment in time. Every crisply displayed image is performance art at its finest. The splendor and exquisite precision of the images illustrates the same dedication and patience as a wildlife photographer entrenched in the jungle waiting for the perfect shot. However unlike the photographer who must ultimately rely on luck, the images in Performing for the Camera are the result of the artists’ talent and ingenuity. These artists have moved beyond the concept of the photographer and his camera as merely operator and tool. By expertly staging the captured image, these artists have used photography as a medium to construct alternate, imaginary worlds inhabited by the beautiful and bizarre.

Moving from one photograph to the next, the viewer will experience anything but the ordinary. Spencer Tunick’s work features hundreds of naked men and women, uniform in their nudity, distributed across the landscape. Individually and unclothed they seem strangely small, lost, and nondescript, but as a collective they form a striking human monument.

Charlie White’s work, titled Sherrie’s Living Room, toys with our sense of intimacy.  White’s photograph mimics a scene common in every home. In a (Sherrie’s) living room a nude couple reclines on the couch, bathed in the warm glow of dim lamplight. He lies on his side brooding and dejected as she comforts him. She is an attractive brunette, he is a humanoid puppet. It is as creepy as it sounds. Looking at White’s work, the viewer can’t help but feel unease and revulsion. The familiarity of this interaction between couples, combined with our perception of the home as a place of privacy and comfort, allows White to create a distortion disturbing to some intrinsic value within us. One can also not help but feel an odd empathy for the puppet. Despite our discomfort, the puppet is just human enough to symbolize the insecurity and alienation equally as intrinsic to us.

Some works in Performing for the Camera also overextend reality into a reflection of our hopes.

Duane Michals’ Grandpa Goes to Heaven is one such piece. This series of slightly unfocused black and white photographs depicts a boy waiting patiently by his grandfather’s bedside. From one photograph to the next, the child’s grandfather, displaying what is unmistakably a pair of wings, rises from bed and waves good-bye to his grandson before departing out the window. In the final shot, the child leans out the window and waves after his grandfather.

The presentation makes the images feel like a half remembered dream one can only hope is true. The old man got to wish his grandson farewell before going to heaven, and the boy, not yet comprehending death, only knows his grandfather is now gone but happy. The child’s innocent acceptance of his grandfather’s quite unusual behavior invokes an odd mixture of hope and melancholia.

This is a story we all wish were true. Yet with age and experience we cannot believe in such a miraculous occurrence like the child can. Do yourself a favor and see it. We might be tired, stressed, and jaded, but seeing Grandpa Goes to Heaven evokes memories of childhood innocence at which we can’t help but smile (even if just a little).

Duane Michals’ Grandpa Goes to Heaven. Courtesy of Stéphane Janssen

– Karen Enters, Intern

March 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

Magic Fridays, continued: Crowns!!!

Above: Visiting artist Matteo Rubbi and his crown in downtown Phoenix.

You may have seen the earlier post on this blog about “Magic Fridays” at the Museum. They are the brainchild of visiting artist-in-residence Matteo Rubbi, from Bergamo, Italy, and his girlfriend, French artist Béatrice Bailet, both of whom have shared their fine cooking and their insights with the Museum staff and lucky visitors at several congenial potlucks served in the Museum lobby.

Earlier this month, “Magic Friday” coincided Epiphany (Jan. 6), and for the occasion, Béatrice made a galette des rois, or “king cake.” This delicious confection — thin layers of pastry with a frangipane center — contained two dried beans, and the finders of those beans each received a paper crown, and became king for the day.

That evening, which was also First Friday on downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, Matteo and Béatrice took the tradition to the streets, making paper crowns with passersby outside the house in which the two artists had been staying.

Béatrice wrote a blog post about the event, which is on her blog:

http://beatricebailet.over-blog.com/article-c-r-o-w-n-96645968.html

And here is our own rough translation of Beatrice’s post, which was originally in French. Merci, Béatrice!

Every First Friday of the month, the center of Phoenix is swarmed by people.

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, in the United States. It’s a city of extraordinary dimensions, with a density of 1,084 inhabitants/km2, and an overall surface area of 1334,1 km2 (Paris: 21,196 inhabitants/km2 for 105,4 km2!) It’s built in the Sonoran Desert, which allows it to expand without limits. This fact means there’s a good quality of life, with a private garden for everyone, but prevents those moments of meeting that occur in a city built on a human scale. In Phoenix, you don’t walk or borrow the rare shared mode of transportation. You have to take your car, even for short trips.

That’s why First Fridays are such a big success: In the arts neighborhood in downtown Phoenix, a kind of art market takes place in the evening, allowing the art galleries to stay open, the food trucks to gather, and musicians to play in the street.

It’s within this context that I suggested a crown-making workshop. Everybody was free to stop and make a crown with the salvaged materials we had available (paper, stickers, images, pens…)

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January 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm Leave a comment

Magic Fridays at the Museum with Matteo Rubbi

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Matteo Rubbi arrived from Italy a few weeks ago to begin his six-month residency at the ASU Art Museum, and he has already changed the way we do things here (in a very good way). Last Friday, Matteo and his girlfriend, French artist Béatrice Bailet, invited the Museum staff to eat lunch with them — mushroom risotto, quiche Lorraine, pasta Bolognese — under unusual circumstances. They called it “Magic Friday,” and there will be more of them in the future. Chris Miller, the Museum’s exhibition specialist, was moved to write about the experience:

Today the ASU Art Museum staff was treated to a delicious lunch prepared by the 2011 Furla Prize winner and visiting Artist in Residence Matteo Rubbi, and his girlfriend, Beatrice Bailet. While it’s not uncommon to find us gathered together in small groups for lunch, or the occasional birthday or going away celebration, today was a bit different. Tables were set up in the lobby and the door to the museum kitchen was open and decorated with lights, and the savory smells from within drifted out into the open spaces of the museum. Music played, laughter and conversation filled the room, and we all wore the smiles of people who were being fed. I understand there was an element of performance involved on our part, in that, while we ate in the lobby, people entering the museum would be immediately aware of our banquet. Any other time we would be doing this behind closed doors, trying to minimize the impact on the museum patrons, but today there we were enjoying a meal out in the lobby for all to see. What’s all this cooking and eating in front of everyone about?

 –Chris Miller, Exhibition Specialist

December 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm 1 comment

“Securing a free state: The Second Amendment Project” – Calendar of public events

Check this calendar for an updated list of public events and panels connected to the Securing a free state: The Second Amendment Project – Jennifer Nelson, Social Studies 7, including an artist reception at the Museum on Nov. 4. We hope you can join us!

 CALENDAR OF PUBLIC EVENTS

Open gallery sessions with the artist

Saturday, October 8 – noon-1:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 15 – noon-1:30 p.m.
Participants are encouraged to attend for the full 90 minutes.

Public panel on the topic of how people find security,
individually and collectively.

Tuesday, November 1 – noon-1:30 p.m.

Panelists include:

Kim Hedrick, Trauma Survivor

Nick Katkevich, Co-Director of the Phoenix
Nonviolence Truthforce

John Kleinheinz , Captain/Commander of the Maricopa
County Sheriff’s Office Special Weapons and Tactics
(SWAT) Division

Scout McNamara, Counselor specializing in trauma
resolution, mood disorders, addiction and relationships

Jim Neff, Firearm Instructor, Generations Firearm
Training

Moylan Ryan, Somatic Coach

Field trips

We recommend that you attend more than one field trip to better understand the
full scope of the project.

To sign up, call Lekha Hileman Waitoller at 480-965-0497 or email at Lekha.Waitoller@asu.edu

Thursday, October 13 – 6:30 p.m.

Artificial Limb Specialists, 2916 N. 3rd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85012

Sunday, October 23 – 11 a.m.

GPS Defense Sniper School

Saturday, October 29 – noon-2:00 p.m.

St. Luke’s Behavioral Health, 1800 E. Van Buren
Street, Phoenix, AZ 85006

Enter through the main entrance, signage will direct you to the
Behavioral Health Auditorium

Artist reception

Friday, November 4 – 5:00-7:00 p.m. Closing remarks by Jennifer Nelson at 5:45 p.m.

Gallery events

Friday, October 21 – 2:30-4:30 p.m.

Performance by visiting dance artist Tim O’Donnell

Thursday, November 3, noon-2:00 p.m.

Nick Katkevich of the Phoenix Nonviolence
Truthforce, will provide an introduction to Kingian

Nonviolence focusing on the fundamental strategies and
aspects of nonviolence based on the philosophy and movements led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For more information, updates and further opportunities to engage in the project,
please check the ASU Art Museum blog: asuartmuseum.wordpress.com or contact
Lekha Hileman Waitoller at 480-965-0497.

October 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm 1 comment

This terrible thing has happened, I will never be the same: “Securing a free state” — Jennifer Nelson

When this project was percolating last year, thinking choreographically I
initially approached it with a dumb pun about the right to bear arms. I was
thinking about the way the mind fills the fire-”arm” with its
intention, and the way this intention penetrates social space with its
imperative to stop an attack (I’m taking a good-faith approach that those who
are armed for self-defense do not wish to do harm beyond stopping an attacker).
On the other side, I was thinking about the body’s integrity being violated by
violence, and the psychic and social consequences of that. I imagined a person
missing an arm to violence. I was wondering about phantom sensations in
the missing limb, and about the experiences of someone trying to heal by making
the body whole again through the use of a prosthetic limb. Can mind inhabit the
inanimate? What relationship can a person claim to the now public place where
his or her limb should have been?

But as I thought further, it became clear that the project would go deeper. I
would shift away from “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”
to the heart of the Amendment: “the security of a free state.” What
is a securely free state? What does that mean intimately? How do we carry this
in our bodies? We live with mortal vulnerability, and with the possibility,
however statistically slight, of facing violent conflict. We look for ways to
live with this terror, particularly if we have already been wounded and our
trust has already been broken. The evolving project sets out on this deeper
quest. So when we approached Michael Pack, owner of Artificial Limb
Specialists, about a field trip to his site, I carried both my first intention
and the evolving question.

Michael’s work, as a designer of custom prosthetic devices, is that of a
life-changer. He works with clients, most of whom have suffered a traumatic
injury from war or accident (rather than the #1 cause for limb loss: diabetes)
for months or even years to get the right prosthetic fit. It truly makes the
difference of whether a person can live a full and free life or not. Danny
Lujan, a client of many years who was present on our Thursday night field trip,
said that his psychological recovery from the loss of his lower leg only began
when the limb fit perfectly and he didn’t need to think about it anymore. We
spent the evening learning what it takes to design prosthesis to fit perfectly –
to become an extension of the body – and speaking with Danny about his emotional
relationship with both his lost leg and his prosthetic one. We also got a tour
of the workshop — a sculptor’s delight — for casting and shaping these amazing
devices. Michael’s clients compete in triathlons, scuba dive, rock climb, and
play with grandchildren. Danny was able to move forward literally and figuratively
after his accident. He got a degree, found his wife, and has a rewarding job.
But he says the first several years were really hard. His sense of personal
security changed. He feels more vulnerable. He still feels the lost leg,
sometimes it still hurts. Michael explains that a patient needs to bond with
their prosthetic leg to move forward, and for some people, life events make it
so difficult to take a forward-looking view of  loss: This terrible thing
has happened, I will never the be same.  How will this cause me to grow?

We’ll be examining that question in more detail on the field trip on Saturday,
October 29th to St. Luke’s Behavioral Health. Check it out – there are
participatory events for post-traumatic growth.

This Sunday at 11:00 a.m. we’ll eat pastries at a sniper training range while
discussing letting one’s guard down with sniper training instructor William
Graves. Please contact Lekha Hileman Waitoller if you would like to join us
(480-965-0497; lwaitoll@mainex1.asu.edu)

Jennifer Nelson, Social Studies artist

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All images by Sean Deckert.

October 20, 2011 at 10:04 pm 1 comment

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