Sunday, April 15, 2012


A close friend and colleague, Trent Walker, recently sent me the following excerpt about a Cambodian artist, Amy Lee Sanford, and her performance titled "Full Circle." In reading and reflecting upon the description of the event (and being made painfully aware of my inability to witness the piece in person; to be present at the performance), I found that many of the images and themes in Sanford's piece resonated with the work of PAO.

The public is invited to observe a durational performance by artist Amy Lee Sanford at Meta House.  Amy, who first returned to Cambodia in 2005 in search of her family and heritage, investigates this process through her artwork.  Initially working with sculptural works that were created by breaking and reassembling panes of glass, her current work focuses on the act itself. 
Full Circle is a piece that is forged over time.  Sitting amid a circle of 40 Kompong Chhnang clay pots, Amy will break and meticulously glue each pot back together, over the course of six days.  After each pot is glued, she will use string to hold the pieces together, before returning the pot to the circle.  This repetition of breaking and remaking brings attention to cycles of trauma, both personal and historical.  Full Circle is a meditative and introspective performance, one that reflects the slow, complex process of mending and transforming.   
For the artist, the physical and mental challenge of maintaining the concentration and patience to carry out the task is an integral part of the piece.The artist states: “Aiding the evolution of emotional stagnation and unburdening oneself from the past is the focus of my artwork.  I create art in order to observe, examine and transform the lasting effects of war, including trauma, loss, displacement and guilt.  Throughout this process, I have discovered movement masked by rigidity, simplicity within complexity and turbulence overlapping harmony.  The process of making art helps me transform these universal aspects of life into a new vitality.”Unlike most exhibitions where the reception marks the beginning, the public is invited to join the closing event, marking the end of this particular cycle of the circle—only to start again at another place and time, perpetuating Full Circle in its infinite course.

Sanford's work asks, literally and metaphorically, how we remember the past in the present.

---how we re-member--(read: re-construct; re-configure; re-mind)

How we re-member actions that are considered complete but continue to reverberate into the present. A rigorous shaking of the fabric making up our space-time continuum. A continual process of making and making up.

Sanford suggests the irreparable damage of trauma as the object she shatters will never completely resemble its previous form. In putting back together all of the pieces, there are inherently pieces of the pot that simply no longer fit into this newly reconstructed version. There are pieces that will be lost. There are lines of glue holding space and holding together two borders that used to touch. There are people and cultures that have been "humpty-dumptied" too many times; and all the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put them back together again.

How then, does temporal duration heal?
How do we make do, tie up loose ends, until infrastructure can again stand alone?
In the infinite scope of the "making and unmaking of the world" [Elaine Scarry], what would happen were we to continue shattering and re-shattering our reconstructed selves? Would we not then all end up knees deep in sand?

Our hands dirtied with the dust of ashes and adhesive.

How we re-member the bodies of the deceased in the bodies of their descendants?
How we re-member the dismemberment of a family, a community, a culture, a past?
How we re-member the masses that have been massacred?

How do we re-member a name and reclaim our power in the silent shattering of a Pot. How we hold in our hands the aftermath and the control to remake it. How the beginning is really just the end.

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