Monday, December 12, 2011

koyaanisqatsi - a guided tour


                                                                  image courtesy of niba





Koyaanisqatsi (pronunciation: /kjɑːnɪsˈkɑːts/)[1] also known as Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, is a 1982 film directed by Godfrey Reggio 


koyaanisqatsi is the theme for my contribution to this show.  i chose to represent several things i see as being life out of balance or crazy life.  


j.b., the man in the photo above is a friend and a patient.  he was 92 when i photographed him last year.  when i first saw him, he was wearing a winter hat with ear flaps.  the front of the hat read "navajo pride."  because he'd recently had eye surgery, he was wearing shades that he picked up at a gas station upon leaving the surgical center.  he reminded me of rammelzee.  


i spent some time with him at his home.  in fact, i was there the day he got back onto his favorite mule after not doing so for a year because of another injury. 











i came to glimpse j.b.'s wisdom and from my perspective of being in the same spot on the rez for 24.5 years, i see how what he has to offer is at risk of getting lost with the youth.  so j. b., with his head askew and ear to the ground to hear what's coming next, represents life out of balance, or crazy life - traditions being lost.

meanwhile, getting the image up on this wall was a big challenge for me.  i'd scouted the wall a few times and had a sense of what it had to offer if i got it right.  then i started hearing from friends in phoenix that there was essentially a running bet that:


a.   i couldn't effectively wheat paste the wall and 
b.  "whatever i do will look like shit."  


so, i took it as a bit of a personal challenge to getting something up i'd be happy with.  after 2 ass busting days, when i pasted the final piece, i stepped back, saw it in it's entirety for the first time and laughed.




memorial for a roadside stand






my very first pasting less than a day after i put it up already coming off the wall.
june 14, 2009



anyone who knows anything about my wheat pasting project has some sense of my relationship with the roadside vendors.  i love those guys.  they spend a lot of long, hot days hoping someone will stop and buy something.  when i first started pasting, i knew that i wanted the pieces to be seen by people from the road since western agency gets a lot of traffic between lake powell, zion, the north or south rims of the grand canyon, monument valley and flagstaff.  many of the initial roadside stands i started out using were abandoned stands that hadn't been used for a couple seasons.  i watched the decline as i drove between inscription house and flagstaff.  so i put my pieces there.  

i had the experience with a fellow (i later learned to be named hugo hernandez) of stopping by as he was rebuilding an abandoned stand.  he said that someone had put pictures of code talkers on the wall of the stand and so many tourists were stopping to take pictures that he decided to start using his stand again.  i told him i put the photos there and he thanked me and asked for more on the other side.  that was cool.  he later let me paste his house that he's had construction stalled on for the last 7 years.  hugo was the first person to mention in 2009 that pretty soon all these stands will have to come down.  i didn't know what he was talking about.  he said yeah, adot has said all the roadside vendors have to clear the right of way.

so, after not thinking about this for some time,  it surprised me over 2 years later when a woman who manages the bead stands by "the cut" outside page and at navajo bridge, told me that arizona department of transportation has told all the roadside vendors that they're a distraction and an accident risk.  they all have to clear the right of way and have the stands down by 2014.  as i understand it, adot is going to make designated vending stations like the one they have at navajo bridge.  This will consolidate the activity and create less of a road hazard.  after 25 years as a fixture on the northern arizona landscape, chief yellowhorse ("friendly indians behind you"), is gone.  

a way of life is slowly shifting; lives and livelihoods will be impacted.  people won't be allowed to sell burritos or navajo tacos from their vehicles any more.

langston hugh's poem "dreams" is dedicated to the roadside vendors:

hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die
life is a broken-wing bird that cannot fly.





the people speak




i'd been talking with my buddy + fellow photographer, activist, q, about doing street art to raise awareness around the use of reclaimed waste water on the peaks.  it's like, we've got the means to craft the message about the desecration of a sacred space and a method for disseminating that message, let's use it.

then one day while driving to flagstaff it hit me.  i wanted to use images of elders to express how they felt about the situation.  then, whatever they said, i'd excerpt a bit to write on their faces.  now, what elders do i know who will let me do that?  photographer, artist, activist, sam minkler was the first person i thought of.  i called him by antelope hills, just north of town, and less than 2 hours later we'd knocked his session out. 

sam said "...faces are sacred.  faces are beautiful.  we walk on the face of the earth.  the mountain is a beautiful, sacred place that needs to be protected.  in beauty i walk."








sam, not wanting to wash the words off his face.
(stencil by ryan allison.)


artist + dj, rey cantil sat down with activists klee benally and his wife, princess.  rey jotted down some of their initial thoughts before they settled on expressing "...what we do to the mountain, we do to ourselves."












stephanie jackson (aka "step," "no drama"), has been working with me on the wheat pasting project for the last 2 years.  i've known her since she was 8.  now she's a grad student at nau in climate change solutions and guides trips down the san juan and the mighty colorado with grand canyon youth.  as an assistant and friend, she rocks!  when asked how she felt about using reclaimed waste water to make snow, step chose to address a plethora of ills confronting us. she said "...i am the change.  industrialization, pollution, drought, water, air, earth, fake snow, co2."





                                                                          step at the hive


the beautiful thing about that weekend was how this group of people came together on a moment's notice as artists, activists and concerned citizens to pool our resources and to make a collective shout at the machine.

                                                             image courtesy of niba


                                                          image courtesy of niba






jetsonorama for 350.org



to preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of co2 in the atmosphere from it's current level of 392 parts per million (ppm) to below the tipping point of 350 ppm.  it's an uphill battle to go back downhill.  link to my blog posting about 360.org...







i know why the caged bird sings



my last piece for koyaanisqatsi is of stephanie, my assistant, laughing her head off at the sky.  i titled this piece "i know why the caged bird sings" after the poem by maya angelou.


this piece is a collaboration with breeze.  what can i say?  he rocked it.  i first put this image up a year ago on the navajo nation just outside tuba city.  it was a relatively mild december day.  



                                                                            december 2010


i'd had an especially brutal period at work and needed to put a positive vibe out into the ether.  it's this vibe that represents my hope for this life out of balance.


a free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange suns rays
and dares to claim the sky.

but a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
can seldom see through his bars of rage.
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his mouth to sing.

the caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

the free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

but a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

the caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.


    maya angelou   
peace.











photo courtesy of stephen helffrich




additional resources:  


Indigenous Action Media 
(IAM) was founded on August 25th, 2001 to provide strategic media support and action to directly address issues impacting Indigenous communities.
indigenous action media




BNE Water Foundation

is a registered non profit organization founded
in 2011 by world famous graffiti artist BNE. We
are a global movement dedicated to bringing
clean, safe water, and sanitation to people living
in extreme poverty. 

350.org
To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million ("ppm")to below 350 ppm. But 350 is more than a number—it's a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.  350.org

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