Friday, March 02, 2012

Things are crashing down

Aroostook potatoes

This evening I participated in another collaborative art performance on behalf of a friend Carol, a conceptual artist finishing up her MFA this year. I was reluctant, at first—whatever is going on with me is affecting my desire to be around people and making me troglodytic. Nevertheless, I drove to town as I'd agreed Carol's project focuses on the intersection between art and a farming community, and asks questions about how art and farming intersect. Tonight, we mourned the death of the potato, the central crop of Aroostook.

All 25 of us wore black, standing in a wide circle outside of the Maine Potato Growers' Association, with our hands spread out open. We lifted potatoes from a small coffin and handed them one to another, as slow as the sun rising, until all of the potatoes had been moved around the circle. I'd participated in one of these collaborative performances before (remember when we were roasting potatoes over a fire in the middle of February?) and I knew exactly how cold I'd get, so this time I wore every last piece of warm clothing I had—two coats on top of each other.

At first, I'll admit I was skeptical. What could we possibly learn by handing potatoes around? But we were supposed to move slowly, as a human machine, a living conveyer belt, and over time, over the 45 minutes that we stood together, staring straight into a portion of our city street, I began to sense the intuitive center of the project. At first, my eyes had to find the person to my left or my right, hunting for their hands so that I could trust them with my potato. Over time, I began to have faith that their hands would find mine. The person to my left would deliver the potato to me, and I would release the potato into the hand to my right. I didn't have to look. All I had to do was feel, to trust, to release, to let the potatoes move through me.

It became a spiritual connection, the group of us mimicking the rhythmic movements that used to characterize the farms up here, the industry that is dying moment by moment. The circle connected to the larger circle of farmers. It felt eternal, as if the potatoes could last forever, as if we could stand there forever. And when, at the end, we turned to face each other, it was as if all was whole again.

No comments: