Been thinking about the type of art projects I have been interested in recently, and, increasingly I’ve noticed that they have a starting point with Kickstarter a creative project site which encourages people who are interested in seeing a project through, to reach fruition. Usually 30 days to reach a target and pledges are made. But only if enough interest is shown for the target to be reached does the project happen.

Laura Isaac started her project specifically for Rank Miami in November raising money for printed t shirts stating where do you rank? for people to take and wear at Art Basel Miami.

Laura Isaac's project

Laura’s project was funded by Kickstarter

And the Escape From New York project also earlier last year enabled over 100 artists to hire empty warehouse space in New Jersey creating a group exhibition.

EFNY warehouse space
EFNY warehouse before the event; image courtesy EFNY blog


Along with these is Man Bartlett’s latest project #140hBerlin WITH A VERY PROMINENT LINK TO IT HERE. (she says encouragingly!). Which will complete on January 29th 2011.



#140hBerlin video still
Part of the video explaining the idea (scroll down to see it)

All of these are proving successful in many ways not least by the extra involvement from those *donating* by either receiving a *reward* (usually art related to the project) or just being involved in actively raising awareness of it. Either way this style of art funding somehow seems refreshingly social in its involvement. Not to say that standard Arts Funding should be replaced by any means, but it does offer something different and, it could be argued, less at the whim of arts councils/government agendas for art. Having said that Kickstarter are switched on to a whole host of ethical and social ways of conducting  themselves; (unfortunately only US recipient bank accounts for the moment), although with paypal etc., global participation is common.

Laura Isaac’s recent Preview (trial run) : A three hour performance set to coincide with her exhibition Getting Rid of The Skull at VALA Gallery in Mission, Kansas City. With the main eight hour event at a later date, was of the type that didn’t require funding on the scale of other Kickstarter projects.

This is Laura’s description of the event:

“In Tonglen practice the meditator visualizes breathing-in another’s suffering, taking it on themselves and transforming it into joy and calm, and then exhaling this relief back into the world. Surrounded by the pain, losses, and suffering of my friends, loved ones, community, and the world in general I practice Tonglen as earnestly as I can. But I’ve also wanted to take it a step further: to offer myself and my practice to the community, to allow them to literally inscribe their fears, suffering, and stress on me and my cushion as I meditate.”

Also her very honest and descriptive account of the whole of her experience.

And although from a distance, never having met Laura, albeit frequenting the same twitter pages and linking to various art projects that are similarly connected. The idea of joining a participatory performance was something familiar and yet also intriguing because this project gave the participant the space to share a troubled or painful situation with the artist while she performed Tonglen mediation in the gallery. Each shared response was written and pinned to her garment while she practiced this.

At first I found the idea of sharing a deep seated trouble of mine a bit daunting; effectively letting (my personal) trouble loose via a gold-fish-bowl-media (twitter) in order for it to reach its destination. Laura did offer email responses for such dilemmas and I did end up responding in this way.

I was intrigued with the idea of Tonglen (inhaling while taking in another’s pain and exhaling its release) and the wider idea of sharing a trouble. Although this is a well versed rhetoric, as in a trouble shared is a trouble halved, and the benefits of not *bottling it up* or keeping to yourself, with only one view point. Letting go of your thoughts about a specific trouble or pain, while it may not alleviate the physical  – it does reinforce the idea and practice of letting go of real and troubling worrisome thoughts surrounding physical illness or troubling situations, they all affect the mind and in turn can aggravate breathing responses.

This art project coupled the slow inhalation and exhalation of Tonglen meditation with a wide participatory involvement. The artist shared one-to-one involvement, offering wide participation by enabling people to see what was taking place through a stream. A symbolic and relaxed, grounded breathing and meditation technique all the while letting go of those shared thoughts. A personal and group-shared release.

Laura isaac's Tonglen Project
Laura Isaac’s Tonglen Project

Screen shot from stream
Screen shot of the stream during the three hours

Laura Isaac's Preview Tonglen Project

It was a great project to have been involved in and I had a much needed re-realisation of a basic but often forgotten principle of life; letting go of troubled thoughts with a relaxed breath! simple no?.

All the rhetoric on the lines of: If a clear answer is apparent it will more probably surface with a calm mind than a worried one! and if you can’t do anything about it, worrying probably won’t help. Is so easy to forget! even if learned by rote.

But the physical connection between breathing and thinking certainly does take practice. I for one keep forgetting! and therefore too, it is so good to share!

Thank you Laura!.

Man Bartlett’s intriguing project #140hBerlin is also near completion on kickstarter, if not familiar with his work:

New York artist Man Bartlett creates performance-based works that take one task to the extreme for an extended period of time, while encouraging dynamic physical and virtual participation.

 Check out his video, join in !!, and you will take yourself on a journey into great art, believe me!