A postcard from a citizen to the President of the US begins thus: "Here are our terms for your surrender." Here, for a change, is an exhibition with a lot of entertainment too!
Kalahita Art Foundation is presenting an exhibition of works by Sheryl Oring titled I Wish To Say, The Birthday Project, from 28th March to 7th April.
The conceptual and performative work shows the artist donning many roles in order to project the people’s views in the context of contemporary America. The works show a documentative approach of a historian, and a therapist bringing out issues and anxieties, balancing at the same time, minimalist aesthetes. A sense of play is also conveyed as the artist dresses up to explore history.
Sheryl Oring grew up in North Dakota, attended college in Colorado and then moved to California to pursue journalism; thereafter she left for Germany to study art theory.
I Wish To Say, the words from the poem by Gertrude Stein, obtained a new meaning in the performance-oriented work of Sheryl Oring. Her project was conceived in October 2003 and realized in February. The project is titled I Wish To Say, which allowed passers-by to write a postcard to President Bush. She provided the card and the stamp for the messages.
During the Republican National Convention in New York City, Sheryl dressed up in a 1950s style attire, and set up a secretarial space with an antique typewriter bought from a New York shop. The typewriter attracted people. It was chosen to play the role of a symbol, reminding everyone of a different era when people had the time and need to write letters, when people slowed down and listened to each other.
The project got extended further in the year 2004 as Sheryl felt the need to carry it out of New York and go around the country. This enabled her to reconnect to an extent with her place of origin after living outside the country for six years. During this time another 1,200 postcards were generated.
Sheryl’s articulacy on the subject of suppression of speech and the book-burning in Nazi Germany throws light on her longstanding academic interest in free speech. This played an integral role in attributing significance to I Wish To Say which evolved into a special edition in 2006, as The Birthday Project, corresponding to the 60th birthday of the President of America.
Sheryl’s choice in role-playing and costumes, and of the typewriter for conveying messages, is reminiscent of the 1960s. As Sheryl would set up her secretarial space in public places, people would come up to her in a state of curiosity and that would begin the whole process of listening intently to what they had to say. She would simultaneously type the messages in a non-judgmental manner.
Each show was conducted over a stretch of two to three hours and an average of 30 to 40 communications were typed. The little space in the cards could only hold concise messages but the results were powerful. People sometimes did not want to get a card made as they did not know of the consequences.
The project surfaced with concerns of common people, about deportments and relatives in Iraq. The mention of the Iraq war that had disappeared from the media still generated a sense of disquiet amongst people. Sheryl reflects that while doing the cards, people felt that they were listened to and this brought in a sense of satisfaction to the artist.
The idea for the project firmed up as a result of being exposed to a common European opinion that all Americans think alike. Sheryl’s experience of travel and living in many parts of the country made her think that this couldn't possibly be true. This project essentially brings out the fact to the world the diverse contexts, opinions and issues that people of America are concerned with.
Some of the quotable quotes to the President of USA, George Bush Jr, are given below:
Wrote one person: I voted for Nixon twice, I voted for Reagan twice, I voted for your father. You and your administration deeply trouble, anger and outrage me.
I am a Christian not voting for you, wrote another.
Still another postcard began: Here are our terms for your surrender.
In California, a woman wrote to the President about health care: If I were President, I would give every American the same health-care coverage that you and every member of the House and Senate get.
In Brooklyn, a little girl asked Oring to write a note about the war: Dear Mr. President, bring my uncle home. My aunt needs him.
While the White House maintains privacy of people’s correspondence with the President, Sheryl feels inspired by the transformation that the people themselves feel through the simple process of expression.
For further details, please contact the art gallery at 2335-0543.