Katrina Boemig's practice places the importance of the everyday back into the lives of people confronted by their own mortality, isolation and insular modern lifestyle. She works in social engagement and reflection; she exhibits various media, performance, installation and memory mapping.
Some of her projects follow...
Back from the desert…
There are more than two ends of the American aesthetic spectrum: The South West desert and the New England Fishing Village are definitely two opposite points on the star. As you head from Arizona to New Hampshire ochre turns blue, and Red turn green. Clear bronze air turns silver, and cotton gives way to polar fleece, while the cactus blossoms turn into shellfish.
The day before yesterday I landed in Boston after a week in the Arizona desert with a group called Signal Fire. The clapboards and clean white trim were a shock to my system, as was the volume of the inhabitants, and the act of sleeping indoors. The first thing I wanted to do before diner was return outside onto the deck to sit, to just be with the air. My cousin and her friends thought it was too cold to stay out there long, but they sat with me for a moment after they saw the panic of white walls crossing my expression.
…And Today I cannot write unless I sit on this porch, wrapped in blankets. Indoors just feels wrong. (There are wind chimes near me emphasizing nature with their man made charms and I realize they are meant to bring-to-light what we can not constantly have. It makes me wonder at the popularity of wind chimes and office jobs.)
Thinking back to the desert I am not sure how to process what we just did.
Twelve very different socially, emotionally and physically -abled humans met in Tucson to spend seven days in the Apache National Forrest and its Blue Range Primitive area. We hoped to see wolves, or hear wolves. Instead we saw tracks and picked up bones.
The bear tracks made some people nervous. And they made all of us hum a little. (I was involved in a rendition of Islands in the Stream and a few Neil Young variations.) The comforting tracks included Snowshoe Hare, these I misinterpreted as several gigantic hopping one-footed birds. The Enormous elk tracks had prints the size of science fiction and they often stood cuddled strangely close to the movements of tiny deer. We also saw a snake swim towards us at a river crossing, a pink Horny toad startled by the twenty four eyes staring down him, two wasps named after two terrorizing animals, and a million wee lizards that seemed to always be waving hello.
It was magic, Yes, utter clichéd magic. But it was also very real and hard and there were moments in which I remembered pure terror… not because of nature, or the humans I was traveling with, but because of outside people, in fighter jets swooping in on us, happy to have citizens to strike fear in. (How odd it was that our first contact with other humans was a reminder of violence. )
There was also a giant wound in the earth that took us over half and hour to drive through, on our way from Tucson into the wilderness. An open pit hungry for human workers. Workers in need of a living digging up copper for our cameras, computers, jewelry and commodity fetishism. Seeing this pit was a direct confrontation with the ways we make our planet sick. As I looked out on to the emptiness I touched my copper hoop earrings with shame, not able to take them off and not able to pretend they did not exist.
Before I went on this trip people kept confusingly asking me what it was. My answers bounced around the word artist residency… a term that often takes additional explaining. And a thing that even after explained seems pretty absurd to any non-art-related types. But I will say, this residency was different: It was not safety, and pockets of verbiage, instead it was a pure experience, which is in itself the best sort of education.
Because of the people on the trip I can point out a plant that will relax you, I can show you the edible part of a cactus, and perhaps, for the first time in my life I can actually see the difference between a raccoon track and that of a baby bear. (Something many of you know I will not admit was ever a problem.) I also learned how to appropriately pack for the wilderness, filter sketchy water and to keep an eye open for sand building itself a protective roof, among many other things.
Most unexpected was how much time I would spend in my head on our journey. I am used to days of walking and talking with social and artistic collaborators, but in this case I had to pay such specific attention to my body, health and person that I did not get out much… and even surrounded by amazing new friends I was kept in a state of constant process, focus and concern for survival.
I did not expect to be so focused on my body during our journey but I was constantly reminded of my feebleness as a weakened animal. My period arrived two weeks late causing a surprising anemia, my stinging insect allergy tickled my ears, and my knees shyly ached reminding me of their dysfunction while my nose sore from the dry air filled with clouted blood. So, I could not help but focus on my person. I had headed on this journey looking for collaborators but I left Arizona ready to collaborate with myself….wondering if all the collaborating in years past was my way of avoiding the mirror. And what a shock the mirror was after seven days sans showers and mirrors and soap and hair brushes….
I remembered how little a person needs only after looking into the mirror. We need people, and guidance, nurturing and empathy but we most of all need ourselves. We do not need the extras, the padding, the devices and the constant linear decisions. I think I needed this trip more than I knew, and I definitely needed it more than my compatriots understood. Now that I have done it I can finally move forward again, instead of just attempting to change, I can finally be change.
I am super thankful to Signal Fire for inviting me on this trip and I am hugely thankful to Amy for all the extra effort she had to put into the trip to make it work for all of us. She is truly an inspiration, an amazing and seemingly fearless woman who went back into the wilderness by herself just to pull us all back out on the other side. Also, to the people on the trip you are all dreams and thank you for your support even when you might not have wanted to give it. It was such a beautiful week experienced through twelve very different sets of eyes and ears.