The Space Between Contrasting Viewpoints

P R O M I S E D     -      F O R B I D D E N

Volcanic ash from Skull Valley

S A C R E D    -    E X P L O I T A B L E

Red Earth from Sedona

F I N I T E    -   I N F I N I T E

Volcanic earth from Village of Oak Creek

P U B L I C    -    P R I V A T E

Brown earth from Jack's Canyon

Parameters: the presence of earth in various colors; the sounds of high and low pitched notes interspersed with barely audible recorded words; fabricated and rusted metal signs. The words displayed on the signs are adjectives expressing contrasting viewpoints which can be used to describe land in its various aspects: economic, aesthetic, spiritual and ethical. The metal signs are placed at opposite ends of long tracts of earth.      Size: variable to space. 


Soundtrack for Common Ground Installation, featuring the musical composition A Smooth Surface by A Produce (Barry Craig) and voice by Karen Nielsen Licher.

I began to compose my ideas for this work after hearing a lecture by the East Indian sociologist Vandana Shiva. She noted that our definition of certain words has shifted in modern times. For example, the commonly used definition for the word "value" has changed from that of "the relative worth or usefulness" of something, to that of its "monetary worth." With similar ramifications, the meaning of the word "resource" has shifted away from its Sanskrit origins of "return to one's source" (a renewable supply) to that of "a land's capacity for producing wealth" (a limited supply.) Modern westernized thinking has shifted the given meaning of many words. and in doing so has created a new and deadly paradigm. We envision our world through the meanings of our words. The inevitable polarization of the Sacred and the Exploitable is something which needs to be transcended.


I am intrigued by the inherent connectedness of the most extreme viewpoints with their opposites. These polarized positions cannot exist without each other. This is illustrated in the Eastern concept of Yin and Yang. In the area of COMMON GROUND, the space between these polarized oppositions, there is the possibility of a fruitful existence.


Isn't the sacred so often that which is exploited? Alternately, are we not often holding sacred that which we can exploit?  Isn't the eternal actually composed of the infinite? Does not man struggle with the perception of being forbidden the promised land? Doesn't living on this planet necessarily involve private ownership of that which we cannot ever truly own?


In completing the work COMMON GROUND, I was surprised by its resemblance to a burial ground. In his book, Living without a Goal, James Ogilby has written that "we do not find the good by aiming directly at it as a goal. Like a dim star that disappears when you look right at it, so does goodness disappear when I truly set it clearly apart from evil."