Saturday, October 27, 2007

Iwan Wijono: Giving Blood

Iwan Wijono predicts disaster. He told the audience that he sees calamity in coming in the year 2020. We need to be prepared. I see it too--the depletion of fish stocks, the erosion of the agricultural land reserves, and the erosion of third world cultures as they become enslaved to produced the cheap labor that feed and clothes us. Given the pressures of overpopulation and global warming, I can see more potential for natural and economic collapse.

Wijono is a successful international artist, but his business card says he is a healer. One day last week he offered to heal my twisted back in the café where we were sitting. I sat with my eyes closed and he projected his healing energy over me and then encouraged me to do this for myself. He has offered to do a healing circle in Centre A, if we can get this together before he leaves.

Thursday night, As Iwan Wijono lay on the table to have his blood taken, he invited people to come closer, not that they needed much encouragement. The crowd swarmed in on him and without hesitation they were taking photos and videos on cell phone and digital cameras, and at least one vintage Leica. People snapped, then immediately showed the photos to the friend standing next to them, as if the live event had to be mediated by technology in order to be legitimized. It seemed to be a normalized practice in this space: cocktail party seguewaying seamlessly in and out of performance. (This is exactly the kind of performance that is very popular in Vancouver right now.) The chance to give blood was to become an active participant in the performance, creating an intimate link with the performer who thanked each one individually. Four volunteers were people that had been approached ahead of time and came to the performance knowing they would donate blood. Others spontaneously became donors. In fact, although I had not been asked directly, Iwan told me the day before not to be afraid of the blood in his performance, as they were hiring a trained nurse. The night of the performance, he said it again. "Don't be afraid to give blood, Lori."

"Yes, but what was the blood for?" you may ask. The blood was blended together and put into a glass jar for the artist to paint with. It was a beautiful choice for a painting medium, richly pigmented and changing in tone depending on how thickly it was applied. The words that formed a cross/axis of evil against the back wall we "Free Market." These he traced over with hamburger and Coke mush he'd made inside his beautiful Indonesian cotton shirt. Ms. Dragu has pointed out below that we were called to give blood so we could become of mixed blood siblings and committed to joining forces for what was to come--disaster and revolution. For the past few days Wijono has been stating over and over that we need to break down the arbitrary boundaries that keep people apart. The other words were painted on the floor (Belief, Religions, Human Rights, Democracy, Ideologies), doused with spirits and set on fire. I couldn't help thinking about the homes being lost to the fire in California burning right now. Present and future dangers.

As I read it, this gesture of giving blood could be read as emergency preparedness on a practical and spiritual level. The city of Vancouver is always giving out reminders that the stored blood supply is running low, so that if there ever was a major disaster we'd be caught unprepared for a large number of casualties. According to Wijono, we are going to need to be prepared for the worst. He should know. Recently, his village in Java was devastated by an earthquake. In April 2006 he brought in artists to help rebuild the village's houses and an bridge. He invited foreign artists to perform alongside the people who live there and who are in the process of reviving their own traditional culture.

I was left with the message that we all need to dig deeply and take responsibility of our consumer choices as we are all implicated in the present and future of the world village. The borders that keep us separated from each other need to be tested, crossed, and even broken down. In this way, revolution can clear the way so that healing can occur, and maybe some disasters can even be prevented. In the end, I didn't give my blood for art because I was too exhausted, afraid of depleting the energy stores I needed to get home, but I felt hopeful that I had been to a cocktail party/performance that might just help change the world.

Lori Weidenhammer

More LIVE5: To Iwan Wijono Photo Set


bert said...

Worldwide the social, political and cultural conditions have tempted artists to look for a new engagement in their work.
More as ever information about what’s going on in the world can be found, also in the field of the arts, its theory and history.
In my opinion the challenge for artists now is to find ways to link knowledge and experience about artistic quality standards to a way of working that leads to practical improvement of the situation artists involve themselves with. How to combine quality in the arts with engagement!
The life and work of Iwan Wijono is an example for this ‘queeste’.

Bert Hermens The Netherlands

Anonymous said...

Maybe us, the serfs should think about our relationship with the cooperate lords.
Why do we give cooperate lords power over us.
What do we get?

A car?
A flat screen television?
A vacation?
Rent money?
Food money?
Bottled drinking water, because the river was poisoned for the production of consumer products?

My current project is "The Human Cost of War":
I started on October 7, 2007, the anniversary date of the USA invasion of Afghanistan.
The art action: -I bring 100 stones a day at noon,
to Trinity Church in downtown Boston. The project is planned for 2 years.

The action of placing the stones takes a little over an hour.

For me the daily act is acknowledging the number of casualties from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think of those who have died as kin. It is a way to connect with the sacrifice.
Trinity Church has information on their web site:

In September, I collaborated with Tom Plsek -2 images are posted on his site:

Joanne Rice
Boston, USA