The economy is in a down turn. The arts are under attack. What is the value of an artist? How is my gift being received? What motivates me to move forward in confidence? All these questions swirled through my head as I sat down yesterday to enact my first performance of the semester. As an artist I wanted to come to terms with the freedom of interpretation presented in each art work. I wanted to present myself as a neutral body making an offering. And I wanted to show that even if the worst of times generosity is an important value to embody. So for two hours during the lunch hour, I sat in my cafeteria blindfolded with a hundred dollar bill in my hand.
The artist often acts as a space where the viewer can work out their projections. I figured people would either see my act as a trick, as a test, or as a gift. The longer the performance went on, the more potential it had to make people think, but I had to surrender to the fact that the performance was over as soon as the money was taken, and that this could easily happen very quickly. I came to the performance with as little expectations as possible and this made the result effect me even more profoundly.
After five minutes, someone took the money. As planned, I would then count down from 100 in my head, and then take off my blindfold and leave the space. But before I got to zero something unexpected happened. Someone put something back in my hand. It was some sort of long smooth tube. I was caught off guard and chose to remain seated to see how it played out. Over the next two hours people continued to put things in my hand, while also taking objects at times.
Blinded, I could only speculate what sort of transactions were taking place. The temptation was almost irresistible to take off the blindfold and see what was in my hand. But I waited until the very end. Then, as lunch ended I finally left the room and reviewed my new acquisitions. In my hands, were a doodle someone drew me, a note of encouragement, a bus ticket, a brand new tube of oil paint, a nickel.....
and my hundred dollar bill.
During the entire performance people had swapped things in and out, but no one actually kept the hundred dollars, and many responded to my gesture by giving me a gift. This astounded me and made me reflect on the very special reality art school provides-a truly unique realm that operates outside the typical operations of day to day Life. Artists are the wonderful humans who attempt to create these spaces of shared imagination for more and more to experience. And these opportunities to reach deeper into our human potential, to see futures built on different paradigms, and to confront what is repressed in the "real world" is valuable beyond words.
Its hard to imagine the same reaction happening anywhere else in the world- trying to give away $100 and walking away with so much more. My performance reaffirmed to me that when you give your gift selflessly to the right people, your energy will be returned tenfold. I never imagined coming away even richer than when I started, but beyond the material things I gained, I walked away with the inspiration to continue serving the beautiful souls who surround me.