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© Yoko Toda, New York, 2010
© Akshat Nauriyal, Delhi, 2011
© VestAndPage, Beijing, 2009
© VestAndPage, Beijing, 2009
© VestAndPage, Beijing, 2009
© Yoko Toda, New York, 2010
© Yoko Toda, New York, 2010
One Earth's Dreaming
Interactive installation and performance of varying duration.

798 Art District, Beijing, ROC. On the occasion of 10th OPEN International Performance Art Festival, October 2009. Curated by Chen Jing/Martin Renteria

Grace Exhibition Space, New York, US. March 2010. Curated by Jill McDermid

Sarai Centre for the Studies of Developing Societies, New Delhi, IN. On the occasion of Open Minds, April 2011

One Earth's Dreaming is a communion of man and woman, individual and collective, earth and man, thought and material. One of the urgencies of our times is to point out possible healthy relationships that the Homo Economicus and the Homo Technologicus could interlace with Earth.

A wide field of grass is installed inside the gallery space. Pagnes is covered by earth and turf, shaping a hill, flowers cover the field. A headset transmits his breath to the space. Stenke collects flowers and stitches them with twine to her hands. Labels and pencils are given to the visitors: they are invited to write down a thought. They knot the labels on Stenke's dress and then shift earth from the hill. When Pagnes is freed from the earth, he stands up, washes and dresses in a simple suit. Stenke takes off her dress with the written wishes. They both open a window inside the grass, revealing a partly broken mirror underneath. They hand out pieces of the broken mirror to the visitors.

The body acts because the spirit talks: what seems divided ends up unveiling its insoluble relationship with something else. Nothing stands for its own: the breath of the man under the earth lets flowers grow. The stitching of those flowers to the body of the woman uncover the buried body. The action gives rise to thoughts and feelings to the spectators. These thoughts and feelings are written on paper and buried under the earth. These thoughts give breath to the buried man, which let grow flowers, which are stitched to the body, to uncover the body, to motion the spectators – and so forth.

The happening is reduced, smooth and gentle, and the meditative repetition of a limited series of acts create a sort of time bubble that allows one to free oneself. To free in this case means to recognise, reveal and accept the invariant, nature-given coherence that holds everything together. To be free here is to give oneself over to something bigger.  The action of stitching the flowers to the skin is not painful - it is a logical consequence and momentum that happens to the artist as a materialistic visualisation of an ethereal psychological event. Once the male artist unburies from the earth, he dresses up and becomes custom, ordinary. The levels of existence are not fixed. Each component can transform into something else during the journey of mutual exertion of influence. Everyone is invited to join this circle. Everyone is already part of it. It is a re-activation of lost or buried genetic memory of natural coherence and positive, fertile dependencies. This entire construction chain is pure fragility and pure beauty.

Read the essay by Dana Altman, "The Reinvention of Time" in The Fall of Faust

Photographs by Yoko Toda


Once again, there is definitely the question of the communication process going on between the two performers, and between them and the audience, a flow of energy and signs that is being transmitted between all participants, and who become a whole during the event itself. Language is materialized by the actual writing, it becomes a sign, and the flowers given to everyone are another level of materialization, like a sign of absolution from the alienation, (...) like it was relinquished by means of the ritual to an instance that can further it and help clarification. One cannot be passive, cannot just sit and wait for everyone else to exorcise their fear of communication and hold back in the process of recreating unity. The need to let go and do it is too strong, and the atmosphere too encouraging. There is no judgment, and there is in fact no direct request. There is just an opportunity to do it, which is being provided in a conducive environment. And once again, each one of us is handed a loose script and allowed, or more likely, encouraged and supported to improvise according to our personal horizon of expectations. Once again, two issues on which Pagnes and Stenke have focused in the past is intimately entwined in the fabric of their performance: the importance of communication, and the ritualistic aspects involved in facilitating it, as well as a personal version of bypassing alienation, the fundamental and rarely acknowledged problem of contemporary society. Once again, a person has to go over the fear of allowing him/herself to bring to the fore an intimate wish, verbalize it, and also objectify it and in the process of objectification, relinquish control and hope for the best.

Dana Altman in “The Reinvention of Time,” originally published in The Fall of Faust - Considerations on Contemporary Art and Art Action by Andrea Pagnes, Florence: VestAndPage press, 2010.

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