Our last day in Clarksdale was cold. We couldn’t feel our fingers and faces as we worked, but before we could leave we had to leave another little piece of our heart there. This piece is dedicated to and inspired by a special river-being and his Canoe mission. John takes people to the Mississippi River, on beautiful wooden canoes that he builds himself. He raises awareness to the way of the River – how it gathers, diverges and flows. And how through connecting to the one that is the river, we become a channel ourselves. There is an undercurrent of collective subconsciousness from which we gather and release back into the world. John’s connection to mindfulness is through the water but there are many ways to tap into the flow. We went down to the river, a group of strangers with a single mission, to row and move on. The rowing united us with it all. With the sounds and with the silences, with exertion and with release, with unconquerable nature in the shadow of never-resting industry. Wilderness is ever near. Even in the city. In the spirit of tiny weeds that grow in cracks in the cement, in the pigeons that roost on our ledges. These concrete caves of ours might be a shelter but nature is always present and amongst us. And like the Mississippi waters, the thread flows as one and as many – countless tributaries converge into the core strand which flows and churns and diverges into the delta. We are all tributaries, we are all delta, and as many and as one we merge into the sea. We flowed on.
Walking through the streets of Clarksdale, Mississippi is walking through history’s belly button. It’s all there, neatly packed in a small, tangled, half abandoned yet utterly alive and kicking town. A center, a core, a backbone, a womb, a birth place, a crossroads, a place that draws you in, that stays with you when you leave, that marks and defines and changes, like the mighty river nearby. We came here to have a cup of coffee with a stranger and ended up staying four days. We created two murals, canoed up and down and across the muddy waters, met people who are a force of nature, all the while accompanied by a soundtrack of the 24/7 no-ads Blues local radio station. We moved on, but shall return.
Heading from Alabama to Mississippi, we took the marvel that is the Natchez Trace Parkway – a road that is a national park that is a journey through history. While still essentially just an asphalt road crossing beautiful landscape, of which there are thousands across the continent, the experience on the Trace is very much different. The intent and the care invested here are felt the second you get on. The acoustics, even the air itself, change. There is quiet, there is peace. And as you slowly pass through this wonderland, you encounter scores of historical markers, progressively accumulating to tell the tale of how this land was won and who had won it. It’s a complex and dichotomous experience – a sense of awe of the enterprise of mankind and heartache from the atrociousness and self-centered hubris that historically accompany it, almost by default. One of our stops was named Witch Dance (see photo below). An almost unintentional spotlight to an ever-present parallel road through human history, one on which powerful and independent women were demonized and prosecuted and burnt at the stake. Yet, progress has been constant throughout the centuries. Like waves licking the shores, slowly turning stones to sand, turning hard unmovable axiom to an infinity of shifting possibilities. Regardless, no matter the atrocities, the spirit cannot be quenched. We will eventually be gone, a mere blip on this earth, and it will shrug off and move on. And for women and for men, for whom time is briefer, we shall carry the stories and lessons of the past within us, from generation to generation, from wave to pounding wave, and eventually shift the tides.
Our daily movements – waking, sleeping, taking a shower, eating and most importantly, walking – all are completely entwined in the making of art. There is no more separation, no buffer, no pause. We work where we stop to eat, sleep where we worked and discover new roads to travel in search of a new “canvas”. Geography, social life, health, finances, all the way to bowel movements – life and art affect each other constantly, are one and the same. This symbiotic relationship makes us somewhat unraveled at the edges. It exposes our nerve endings and blends us into the habitats we explore. There are days that we feel stretched, in the words of Bilbo: “like butter scraped over too much bread”. This piece – the first of a new series called Body of Work – was done at a coin laundromat in Gulfport, just outside Biloxi. It was conceived, prepared, put up, documented and taken down by the time our clothes were dry. We had just passed through Biloxi, a beach city defined by its casino-hotels. This whole stretch of shore felt like a ghost town this time of year. Its wind swept boardwalk was deserted, its huge blocks of hotels on top of shiny casinos were dark. All-you-can-eat seafood restaurants – painted in bubble gum pink and green and with doors shaped like a massive shark and alligator – opened their maws to admit the crowds that simply weren’t there. The striking contrast of it all, on the pale cold backdrop of the sea, was haunting. This city was programmed to have the high tide flowing through its arteries and now, in the low tide, it was struggling to find meaning amongst the empty shells revealed. Us two – who were used to walking slowly upon the sand and admire the shells and driftwood – now, adrift in the flood, we are struggling to find a root to hang on to. We moved on.
For the first time on this journey, we returned to a place. On our stay here a couple of weeks prior – at our presentation in the Temple, in fact – a connection was made. It was this connection that brought us back to Chattanooga, to the Willy Wonka-esque Creative Discovery Museum. On the first day, scores of guests were invited to become active participants in the project, getting yarn hearts to go and mark their spots of significance with. We asked each participant to describe what this Museum meant to them, in one word. On the second day, we returned and created a mural encompassing these words, in the form of a crossword puzzle centered around a phrase. Be here now. A phrase that not just symbolizes the essence of this mural, a tangible art manifestation of life passing a specific place at a specific time, but also the base notion of the entire Mind the Heart! mission to promote and induce mindfulness. Be present. Be aware. Be. It’s also a summation of the most wondrous part of being a child – a state of mind of being in the now, completely engrossed in what you do/build/play with/imagine. We couldn’t envision a more perfect setting and context for all of the above.
When we work in nature we leave no trace behind us. A piece is created, breathes for a minute and is then torn apart – its existence remaining only in documentation. Something that has taken an hour to build is dismantled in one minute. It’s a good exercise in zen and in letting go. This piece, however, stayed on site for a couple of hours, as we felt the need to give it some time to be while we were making a few more works close by, on the same beautiful and mostly empty beach. After we finished (and took them all down) a woman approached us and asked what we meant by “don’t let go”. She then told us that she considered this a message from god, took a picture of it and sent to her daughter. “My daughter, a recent rescue from human trafficking, is a drug addict. She’s in a bad place. She lost custody of her two year old child and disappeared for eight months. A month ago we got a phone call from a hospital in South Carolina. The doctor said that if we want to see her alive we should come immediately. She’s with us now, struggling to get back on her feet. Struggling to believe in life again. This is a message to her, to continue, to believe, to not let go.”
For a week in late September, in mostly sympathetic weather, we created this large mural right at the city square of Decatur, GA. Our hosts -an exceptional dance group and powerful Amazonian tribe called CORE. Here is a poem and text we wrote to accompany it:
You develop a sense of self,
you define your borders,
you defend the land.
But it’s only when you let others in and let yourself out,
when you embrace the fear that is inherent in connection,
it is only then that you can truly be”.
Human connection is at the core of our being. The word ‘being’ itself encapsulates a life cycle – You come into this world (be). You define your own self (be I). But it’s only through connection, through becoming a part of something bigger than yourself (be in), that you can truly be (being). The Black Birds encompass a duality: a tension between the pulling force of the ground and the endless promise of the open sky. Our history, our past, our roots can all be sources of great strength or chains that hold us back. But the birds and their ‘chains’ are made of the same, soft material. That which can unravel them, also grants them wings. If they choose to fly high enough for long enough, they will unravel the tangle and get all the thread they need. If they so choose, they’ll be free. Lastly, the building or breaking down of a word (adding or subtracting the next letter) is a conceptual act that aims to strengthen or weaken an idea, to bring something into or out of existence.
And on the same shore, scattered with souvenirs of death and of life, and jellyfish-like-blobs, lay a toppled corpse. Its brethren stood stoically behind its flailing roots, keeping watch. And the waves came and went, and the schools of baby fish silvered the surface, and eagles glided along the shoreline between water and land. And as all of these things happened, minimalist and monumental at once, from the upturned toots blossomed a new forest. A new eclectic explosion of life, which heeds not to what was or what should be, but just is.
As the blankets of night descended upon us, on route from DC to Atlanta, we stopped on the shores of an enigmatic lake where waves materialized from nowhere and crescendoed upon the sand, laying roots bare and tumbling trees. The solemnity and totality of nature were an elixir after several hectic and human-filled weeks. We had left almost all we knew and owned on other, faraway shores, to facilitate exactly this – an all encompassing life process that embraces the unknown, lets go of the past and future and leaps right off the edge, into the now.
Falls Lake State Park: https://www.ncparks.gov/falls-lake-state-recreation-area
walking in a maze of my own make,
the walls keep shifting with every step I take.
put it down, lay it out, then
pick it up, confront the doubt.
A few years back we saw a small, enchanting indie film called “Liberal Arts.
(A 35 years old Jesse returns to his college for his favorite professor’s retirement party. On the way out, he takes a trip down memory lane and stumbles upon a fairy-student, Zibby, in a dorm party. Zibby studies acting and decides to take on the first rule of her improv course – say yes – to the next level.)
The story line is simple and familiar in a way, but there its inner beauty lies. It shines of little truths, of precious moments, of naive passion to live life to the fullest, of optimism and joy. Not because it is childish or unaware of harsh realities, but because it chooses to say yes in the face of worry, criticism, darkness, loneliness, cynicism and doubt. It chooses to say yes in spite of the fears, as a remedy to the soul, as an act of trust and gratefulness.
That little yes was among the first seeds of this phase of this project.
Some days you just got to go out and do it.
Off the recommendation of a girl from Boston whom we met at the edge of a peninsula in NH
and with a mistaken assumption that we could get breakfast here,
we arrived at this cool fermentation joint in Portland ME serving a plethora of tasty fermented liquid concoctions.
A few Saturday morning beverages later, but unconnected to that fact, we offered the guy at the bar to create a wall-piece for them.
be longing. belonging.
This is what we felt here. At that moment we felt this was just about the place, the vibe, the communal sense of it.
But looking back and writing this, I wonder if it’s not also about the two of us,
flying far from home, always staying connected to our source but always carrying on, putting faith in letting go,
belonging to the longing for the interactions and creations, always new but all connected to the one great source
from which all is drawn.
“time will tell”.
Deep in the White Mountains of New Hampshire,
where the moose are elusive and the moss is ever-present.
Our first day on the road in our mobile home/studio.
A day full of gut feelings & intuitions, truly inspiring human encounters, new experiences,
great unknowns, winding roads, thunderstorms, aligning fear to faith, trusting it all,
minding our hearts.
incomplete. in complete. complete.
We continue saying our goodbyes here in Israel, this time to Tel Aviv
whose walls welcomed our first works, 8 years ago.
A different text was originally set for this piece, a poem about longing across the seas.
But once the separated yarn halves were up, that initial text just didn’t feel right.
So we left them there, dangling and incomplete, and went to do some soul-searching.
What was born is this – a piece about relationships, about belonging, and… about longing across the seas.
As our days here in Israel wind down
and the On the Road phase of this project beckons,
we are dealing even more than usual with the cyclical nature of things.
The end allows for a beginning, a beginning necessitates an end.
Behind doors that have long remained shut and dormant
wait the possibilities of a decisive action.
The expectations, my fears, the people and animals whom I love, love, love more than words.
The set of clothes for a special mood, the bookcase(s), my own bed, the excellent shower, the table on which I work, the collection of large color markers, the countless spice-jars (shelves full of them!)
All that connects me to this place… my home base.
This is a lesson in release.
I train myself in the way of the unexpected and the unbelievable. :-‘)
Up on the mountains that oversee Jerusalem,
there once lived a quarry where machines and men ate into the mountainside,
in turn feeding other machines that digested the stones and earth, turning them to powder
that other men could use to make their own brand of stones and earth, and build homes and roads.
The bellowing clouds of dust which incessantly encompassed the nearby town
eventually led to a citizen revolt, which led to the quarry being shut down, two decades ago.
Abandoned and derelict, its skeletal remains crumble slowly but somehow majestically.
Perhaps absorbed at night, with no soul to witness, back into the scarred terrain.
Saturday afternoon in the port of Haifa.
Dedicated to all who crave for starry skies and distant horizons.
Haifa is dotted with more than a dozen crumbling colossals,
relics of a time when cinema was larger than life and cinemas were its churches.
These huge majestic buildings stand out even today in their girth and magnitude.
Shut, hollow and abandoned, it seems no present-day venture has a use for such beasts.
The Hadar Cinema is actually the smallest member of this family.
It sits between the railroad and the flea-market, its doors and windows barred.
While life whizzes around it, its rows of chairs remain buried in darkness and memories.
The text of the work reads:
there are no answers
between the lines
“What is this nonsense? Draw something beautiful!”,
the old man shouted at us from his 2nd floor window across the street.
“I’ll erase it, just like I erased the previous nonsense that was here.”
Well, that explained the white coat of paint, expressively brushed on the wall.
“Draw a horse, a bird, something beautiful!”
I tried to de-nonsensify the work to the man in the window,
hoping to change his mind about erasing it,
hoping to grant our work at least a few days of life. He wouldn’t have any of it:
“Why don’t you draw a camel, something beautiful?”
In the meantime, an old homeless man stopped by with his overflowing shopping cart of found treasures.
“All these graffiti hooligans, defacing the city. It’s just ugly.”
While he and Maya began discussing street-art and vandalism,
my exchange with the man in the window continued:
“Draw a lion, a bird. Something I understand.” And there it was.
He hated it, really hated it, because he did not understand it.
I translated the text, explained in details the positivity of the message,
brought his attention to the relative fineness and delicateness of the work.
He heard, but I wasn’t sure he listened.
Same for the homeless man, who continued to decry the “ugly, self-promoting graffiti”
and long for “actual art” to be done on the streets.
As we got into the car to leave,
the man in the window retracted silently into the darkness behind him.
The homeless man, though, rummaged through his cart, pulled out a gold spray-paint can,
and with a serious smile and devious eyes, said: “Now I’m gonna go make some real art”.
The Bat Galim Casino in Haifa was never actually a casino,
but it is a cool name, given to it at birth in the 1930’s.
Built literally on the waterline, defying past and present construction laws,
this 3-story building never lived up to its immense potential.
Even with the tide coming and going right underneath its glass floor
and the sea winds caressing its rooftop terrace, it’s almost as if it was cursed.
From a cultural center under British rule, to a cinema in the 50’s, to a night club in the 70’s –
no matter what it tried to be, it never lasted.
And then the aforementioned laws caught up, and put the Casino at an impasse.
One cannot renovate it, because it’s illegal to build right on the water.
One cannot tear it down, because it will harm the marine environment around it.
And so, for most of its life and for the past 30 odd years,
this could-have-been gem is a hollow shell slowly whittled away by the salty waves,
whistled through by the winds, bleached by the summer suns.
the text of the work reads:
with our incessant creation —
colossals upon the water —
the beating wind — and the two of us —
and should they dare enter the eye of the storm —
they will never be able — not for a moment —
to calm us.
Photo by Naftali Shoshani
(Translated from Hebrew)
As I tether my fate to your rope
As a shepherdess, a Messiah, a noose
Blanket myself in your breath, in your skin
Stumble through the haze of the dream
The embers of past ignite in the dark
And my heart misses a beat