Schooner Bay Symposium: Piano
Overlooking the lay of the land, Piano urges reflection, contemplation, re-connection to an inner space. Resident artist Antonius Roberts led the group to a perch above the houses, the harbor, and the limestone roads of the Schooner Bay town. It was earmarked for a central feature of the community, the Temple.
On the occasion of the third Schooner Bay symposium this year, a diverse group came together to create art. The team included resident Schooner Bay artist Antonius Roberts; Curator of the National Art Gallery John Cox; two professors from the School of Art at George Mason University (GMU), Virginia, Peter Winant and Tom Aschcraft; Popopstudios junior residency prize winners, Veronica Dorsett, Stephen Schmid, Christina Darville and Yutavia George; former pastor of the New Providence Community Church, Clint Kemp and myself, a PhD student of Cultural Studies at GMU.
Creating art took on an alternative form to studio practice where solitude and silence often dominate a process of deliberation, mark making and evaluation. While silence was integral during the course of the three days, creating art was about community building through dialogue, learning through practice, decision making through collaboration. The success of the group hinged on team members willingness to listen to others, to let go of a sense of self-importance, to be keenly aware of relationship with the physical environment and to re-kindle a sensual existence.
Peter Winant and Tom Ashcraft from GMU are also members of the Working Man Collective, a collective of three artists who engage communities in building new symbolic and physical markers and dynamics of community. Their thinking and practice merged seamlessly with the artistry of Roberts and Cox. In birthing shifts in the expected modes of art practice, conversations took form around every corner, at every meal, at every juncture. Dialogue dominated the process and through it a sense of a collective sacred emerged.
The exercise of walking on the beach to collect objects, debris spit out by the sea, proved to be a process of thought rather than an action of gathering and collecting raw material for the art object. The idea of art making as ‘space-making’ rather than object production was introduced, leading to further dialogue and scoping out of the Temple site. Conversation in this new direction opened the opportunity to employ new tools of art-a D8 and a roller, rakes, shovels, pick axes, machetes and boulders.
Clearing the trees with the powerful machines of modernity created access to a still undetermined objective. Through these tools, processing of conversations and witnessing the awe-inspiring craft of an invisible hand spread out in greens and blues before us, the promise of creating an object of art paled in significance. Drawing attention to the signifiers of the land, the flora, the fauna became the objective of this arts practice.
Clearing with machetes and rakes allowed us to shape a space for pensiveness for the wider community and ourselves. Tracing the natural contours of the land, the group created stonewalls and seats that eventually delineated the site. The process allowed us to appreciate and re-learn the tender balance between individual achievement and community success.
Navigating the diverse possibilities and potential for creation took us on a journey that required the quieting of internal clamor and external noises of modernity. In musical terms, we moved from the forte, to the fortissimo and finally to the restful softness and contemplative tenor of Piano. The Temple site, Piano is an invitation to reflect, a space that welcomes community.
By Marielle Barrow
Published: Friday, July 6, 2012