Opening: September 10, 6:00pm-9:00pm
Informal Artist talk: October 8, 7:00pm
Closing party: October 8, 6:00-9:00pm
For its fourth exhibition in the converted historic DiCasoli corner store on Beacon Hill, Fresh Mochi presents “Safety,” a group show tackling the many interpretations of the word.
Artists Meghan Elizabeth Trainor, Amanda Manitach, Sharon Arnold, Sheila Klein, Marie Bouassi, Elizabeth Jameson, and Eve Cohen offer a range of protective paraphernalia: Trainor’s signature alchemical sculptures meld electricity with witchcraft via masks and “protection circuits” composed of material like copper, clay, crystal oscillators, and carnivorous plants.
Klein offers a collection of soft and complex shielding textiles, while Manitach’s intricate drawings are inscribed with paradoxical prescriptions and talismanic truisms.
Marie Boussai brings her bawdy drawings to the walls in a series of women with fangs, attempting to protect what's left of our woods and water, while Fresh Mochi founder Jameson unites with Cohen in a collaboration dubbed “EXE” to create objects inspired by their shared obsession with vintage medical objects and nurse uniforms, Red Cross imagery, and first aid manuals. Sharon Arnold will round out the show with an essay on the subject of Safety.
Protective punch, a Safety Manual zine, and other safeguarding accoutrements and will be available.
RITUALS OF SAFEGUARDING AND SOLIDARITY
by Sharon Arnold
What is safety? What does it mean to be safe? I suppose some folks have an immediate idea, but I do not. For me, the idea of safety becomes a question depending on our proximity to what it could mean, or what it doesn’t; whether we feel we have it or not. Who feels safe? When and where does safety occur? Is safety actual, or theoretical? What provides it, where is it found? How do we build a sanctuary?
For many of us experiencing complex life circumstances and identities, safety may be a word that doesn’t fit in our mouths. Its shape is unfamiliar, its meaning indeterminable. Intellectually, I understand what it could mean; what it should mean. Of course. But this is an abstraction. Protection, however; protection I know. To protect oneself is to acknowledge the lack of a stable state of safety, to take precautions and know how to circumvent peril and minimize risk. To protect oneself doesn’t mean that one becomes safe; only that one may endure the impending danger with minimal damage. So we create safe spaces with and for whom we share lived experiences and solidarity to build sanctuaries as a form of refuge; of protection.
Protection’s synonyms include safety but also armor and safeguarding. Each of these spin off into an array of further specifications outlining the different ways protections appear; most of which describe the efforts of a group of people. I find this more interesting than anything else, because it illustrates what I do believe in, which is the dynamic capacity for transformative action beyond the individual to protect the collective. By “collective” I don’t mean that it has to be a large group. I mean that what’s important is coming together with others to resist and combat the catastrophic effects of individualism, isolation, and neglect. To engage in solidarity is to find we can hold the many difficult complexities of being humans with differences, in community with each other, in ways that offer some semblance of security and protection. I find this within certain groups. I find this with close friends. It always comes down to relationships. What I've learned through these relationships is that small, intimate, even individual actions can lead to collective care.
RITUALS OF SECURITY THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
Technology is a ritual. We create all sorts of devices and technologies in order to protect ourselves, our health, our kin, our communities, and anyone or anything else that is important to us. Throughout history, humans are especially adept at inventing devices that are highly ritualized mechanisms requiring some method of infusion, a harnessing or focusing or pouring of energy into an item in order to furnish it with a charge. Perhaps the item is wrapped in red thread or copper and placed somewhere particularly important. For defense against more targeted malices, a container may be filled with bodily fluids, broken glass, string, nails, and other items; then sealed and buried in order to distract or otherwise thwart the offensive entity. We carve signs and sigils into the beams of our structures, scrawl them in chalk on the front steps, or pen them calligraphically on a petition with ink. Words and phrases, glossolalia, are arranged into a grid, a square, or a descending triangle on lead, paper, or wood. This isn’t anthropological. This is something ordinary people do every day. If you’ve ever hung a horseshoe over your door, then you’ve done it, too.
Adornment and language are technologies. We may not wear literal armor but we shield our soft bodies from injury, invasion, or investigation through what we wear; which protects us in some sense from unwanted approach or affliction. We include a sense of bonds and belonging in our adornments, protecting our culture and heritage by presenting them through our textiles and jewelry. We enchant amulets and talismans with protective will and sew charms, spells, and prayers into the seams for defense. We author prescriptions and petitions to the spirits for protection. To ward means to guard or protect; a ward is a shield; and a shield can be conjured and we conjure with words. Can safety be found in a charm, a chant, a spell; an incantation? Is it a blessing? A curse? We gird ourselves with all sorts of phrases, rhymes, and rituals as we leave the house to form a barricade or to open a channel, to determine whether we’re seen or not seen through various glamours. We set the scene for stealth or impact; performance or obscurity. Each of these are methods of security.
Land stewardship is a form of safekeeping, relying on collaborative technologies for mutual protection. Generally, people understand we need to protect ourselves, and that we must also protect our planet. But the dualism brought about through modernity has disconnected us from understanding how these two acts are connected. We've been led to believe protection of the land is found through severing humans from the places we designate as nature, some place away from ourselves, placed far away from harm. But therein lies many other harms, and the protections have failed. As I type this, the arrival of heavy September wildfire smoke is blanketing the Pacific Northwest region from British Columbia, to Northern California, and parts of Idaho. This smoke is not an unusual or even a “bad” occurrence in nature—many of our forests' species need fires in order to proliferate, and thrive—however, it’s the increasing severity and frequency of the fires that is concerning, and unhealthy. Westernized thinking believes that if we leave nature alone, nature will protect herself to flourish once again without us. To some extent, through the lens of expansive geological deep time this may be true, but at what cost? What loss? Humans are not separate from nature. We must work together, humans as part of and in collaboration with all other forms of nature, to protect all life.
REFUGE THROUGH RELATIONSHIPS
How can our communities, our gatherings, our spaces, our Earth become a refuge? How can we come together to protect each other, our livelihoods, our present, and our future? It is time to depart from ideas of safety that are so often human-centric, to move towards a vibrant, present world in which we revel in, celebrate, and safeguard our mutual interdependence. We need to build relationships. This connectivity is critically necessary in order to secure the world's vitality, which in turn protects us all. Not one human’s suffering is disconnected from the suffering of any of our other relatives and kin; plant, animal, or mineral. Our solidarity is required. We must collectively author our modes of protection, nurture, security, and healing to protect one another, human and more than human, seen and unseen, material and immaterial. If we have any hope at all to eventually find true safety, it is through these acts to build our world into a verdant, thriving sanctuary.