Tracks of Our Lives

LSU, Baton Rouge, LA

DISPATCH BY: STEPHEN STAPLETON

We arrived about 5 hours late at Jeremiah (Jay)'s house. It had been a lot slower than expected ... CULTURUNNERS first ever day on the road. We hit a few trees reversing our 34ft Gulf Stream RV into Jay's yard. It was too wide to park on his road, Lover's Lane (song playing in my head). He had invited his colleagues and students to welcome us so it was kind of embarrassing to be so late.

But Jay is kind so was OK with it. We talked late and drank beers on the porch. He had a lot of interesting things in his house but the best was a giant cheaply printed, folded and stitched together American landscape photograph (above) which was stuck up with sellotape on the kitchen wall; a series of tracks cross-crossed a scorched foreground and disappeared into a Western desert. A small cloud just visible on the horizon. The landscape reminded us both of a trip we took together in 1999, bicycling across Wyoming. Jay brought out a book with photos from that trip and we talked a bit about the interconnected tracks of our lives.

Jay's sketchbook, Wyoming 1999

My Photographs of Jay, Wyoming 1999

Jay's sketchbook, Wyoming 1999

My Photographs of Jay and my bike, Wyoming 1999

The girls slept in the house and John Mireles and I slept in the RV which we parked in a hospital car park at the end of Lover's Lane (song playing in my head again). A security guard woke us up in the middle of the night and moved us on (no permit) so we ended up in an abandoned Gas Station. When I woke up I took a few photos.

The RV spends its first night in an abandoned Gas Station at the end of Lover's Lane

Custom Security System (Love)

Screenprints on the boarded up entrance to the abandoned Gas Station

When we woke, we came across a group of people sleeping behind the gas station at the end of Lover's Lane.

My old friend Jay is now Associate Professor at the College of Art and Design, Louisiana State University. He had invited us to Baton Rouge to give a talk. CULTURUNNERS' first public engagement on the road.

After months of emails and planning, of course we don't have the presentation ready. Ava is still choosing her images. John is looking for an adapter. Sarah needs a password for the internet in this part of the building; and we need a mac adapter from a laptop to a projector.

Things eventually work themselves out and about 50 students have gathered. Jay introduces us and hands over to me. I looked around and see John asleep at the back of the room. I hand over to Sarah Abu Abdullah.


Sarah shows a really crazy video she made at Rhode Island School of Design. A kind of punk assemblage portrait of (extra) ordinary life. No idea what the LSU students thought. They looked shocked. Any questions? Sarah hands over to Ava Ansari.


Ava talks about Subway, a documentary film showing Ava dancing along New York City's Times Square Subway platform—performing gestures and interactions that would be illegal in her native Iran. I thought how inspired I would be if I was one of these students witnessing these two women, one from Saudi, one from Iran, here in Baton Rouge sharing such radical projects.

Ava explained, "Through mobile media, the performance was shared with men and women in Iran, who were able to contribute to the performance in their own ways. An Android app allowed participants to re-stage the dance frame by frame, in public spaces throughout Iran, as well as include their own poses. While dancing is forbidden in Iran, striking a still pose for a snapshot is possible. In that way the app subverts the boundaries of oppressive laws, pointing to their capriciousness and absurdity."

Ava's video brought to mind a collage (below) I made during that trip with Jay in 1999. It was about a film called Footloose about a young man who moves to a small town in which, as a result of the efforts of a local minister dancing has been banned. The film is loosely based on events that took place in the small, rural, and religious community in Oklahoma where dancing was banned for almost 100 years. This ban was lifted in 1980.

Go West, Collage, Stephen Stapleton, 1999

FOOTLOOSE (1984)

"From the oldest of times, people danced for a number of reasons. They danced in prayer... or so that their crops would be plentiful... or so their hunt would be good. And they danced to stay physically fit... and show their community spirit. And they danced to celebrate." And that is the dancing we're talking about. Aren't we told in Psalm 149 "Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song. Let them praise His name in the dance"? And it was King David - King David, who we read about in Samuel - and what did David do? What did David do? David danced before the Lord with all his might... leaping and dancing before the Lord."


After the talk, we explored LSU Campus where the Student Involvement Fairs was taking place.


Before we left, Jay gave us a few Mardi Gras necklaces for the RV and, to my great delight, the American Landscape Photograph I liked so much.

Our first CULTURUNNERS talisman ... I called it Tracks of our Lives.

ARTISTS: Sarah Abu Abdullah, Ava Ansari, Jeremiah Ariaz

DATE: 23 September 2014

EVENT: EOA Artists' Talk

Poster designed by Ghazal

Introduction:
Jay Ariaz - Associate Professor, LSU College of Art & Design
Stephen Stapleton - Founding Director, Edge of Arabia

Speakers:
Ava Ansari - Artist and Associate Curator, Edge of Arabia
Sarah Abu Abdallah - Artist

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