I met Noah Fischer when he was a grad student, creating immersive multimedia sculpture experiences in geodesic domes. He is one of my favorite artists, and an inspiring friend to be around. Noah’s work is unique, he handles subject matters in intelligent and thought provoking ways, through innovative and hard-hitting themes, and yet it’s all enjoyable. He works with many artists and activists of similar nature. This year, I’ve had the honor of attending a few of this season’s Performa 13 events.
Over the course of two weeks Polish collaborative artist Pawel Althamer and Zen Buddhist activist artist Noah Fischer held an open live painting jam, a community event with live music and savory meals. The participatory performance happening was held in homage to Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, bringing to light the struggles of gentrification, fair housing, and human rights. It was a work of art of activism by candlelight catered with gourmet meals by Bruno Althamer.
Althamer and Fischer built a fifty foot long sculpture of Queen Mother of Reality. She is reclining on her side, inhabiting the scenic Williamsburg Waterfront park, looking out for all her children. She rests in the position of “The Sleeping Lion,” the posture in which Buddha passed into his next incarnation.
A sense of ritual, intimacy, loving poetry was enacted for the closing Gala ceremony on November 19th. Queen mother isn’t a title, it’s a responsibility. She says she stands for all African people, all Mothers. She is a goodwill ambassador to Africa, with ivy-league doctorates, yet she wants to approach everyday people and help with their struggles and insights. Her experiences in Zuccotti park during Occupy exposed a young generation of activists to march in solidarity to her home in Harlem, to experience what many have only heard of in musicals like Rent. This is what it is to live without heat, without electricity, with real estate developers preying upon your land, your home.
Life is a work of art, all your experiences, all your actions, all your thoughts take shape. This is the root of Noah’s work, the Zen of everything. It isn’t a philosophy, or a guide book to follow when others are watching, it’s an actual way of being. I have had the honor to experience and watch Noah’s body of work grow through the years. From his time as grad student at Columbia, to his world travels, to his creation of Occupy Museums. Soft spoken, but very active Pawel Althamer, creates these delicate moments with massive elements.
Late into the night Blakely and Althamer enacted a ritual with a very small audience of five, an intimate gathering away from the crowd, as many had left for the night. Poetry and blessings were spoken by Blakely. A two foot long wire framework fire pit sculpture, mirroring the fifty foot structure, was set afire with orated blessing to the the four directions of the World. Althamer spilled it’s contents to the ground and shaped the wood and plant material into a circle as Blakely closed out her prayers.
As I spoke to Althamer, thanking him for letting me into this world where I painted with him over the course of two weeks, as we were immersed in music and treated with a splendor of world foods by Biba, I told him I would write about this experience. He smiled and said “Yes. Let this work continue”, a document of the self-less act of dedication for something he believes in. I am honored to see and experience these moments of artists creating works of change and love.
Written and photographed by Betty T. Kao