Friday, January 2, 2009

Sculpture as Community. Sculpture as Ritual.

Every one may not agree on what kind of art they like, but most agree that sculpture is an art form.

How many would consider sculpture as community or ritual?

I've been making a New Year's Scape Goat for the past 29 years. It's a large sculpture made out of old chairs, cardboard, and things that are too good to throw away but aren't good enough to keep. Packed with fireworks and set it on fire, the yearly rite allows friends and strangers to gather together on the last night of the year, think about what they'd like to call into their lives or let go of in the coming year. Anyone who wants can write their wishes, prayers, resolutions and place them on the sculpture. Some are hidden secretly, others are tied or taped to the biggest firework, right up front.

Religions have temples and rituals to remember the intangible because it's difficult to keep the invisible in mind. There has to be some form or container to ground the remembering. That's why if you follow some belief system it's called a practice. I make no spiritual claims for the New Years Goat, but I have noticed that this annual event is as powerful as it is fun. It's a tradition as old as humanity to gather together in the winter in front of a fire. It invites people in. Some help create the sculpture, everyone adds to it with their wishes and their participation.

The fireworks ignite the ritual with a chemical excitement and their noise and fountains of color. They also bring the unexpected and an element of danger. Everyone is alert. What's amazing is to feel the transformation from the excitement and noise to a tangible sense of group calm as the fire catches and burns. Talk dies down with people standing outside in the middle of the night, in the midst of winter. In the silence of the fire, If we're lucky, someone will notice the sounds of geese flying overhead.

To misquote Lily Tomlin's Trudy from the Search for Intelligent Life, "the burning is soup, the gathering together is art."


Susan GT said...

Love it...I want to see it next year!!!


Patrick said...

You are on the guest list now.

Barbarak said...

Your tradition has spawned others. I burn family wishes every New Year, in a bonfire of sage and 100 year old juniper. The FIRST bonfire was a life-size Bonnie Raitt with cowboy boots and guitar. Now, a simple pile of greens picked on the family compound in Kanab. It's the wishes going up so quickly that I love.