Sunday, December 3, 2017

Life As a Work of Art (Karen Cantrell)

It has been a while since I last posted here--over a year!--but I wanted to share a new response from the most recent version of the Emotional Outreach Project.

Below is a reply that Karen Cantrell sent back in May (2017) via the FRSGA Yahoo account, in response to one of the vouchers I passed out earlier this year (I believe.) Based on her reply, I imagine her card's emotional exercise read as follows:

If I may quote her email directly, she writes: "The card with the assignment fell out of my bag, and I took its appearance as a sign. A paragraph, however, is hard. I have summarized my day as a work of art to one sentence and included the paragraphs that describe what I saw."

Here is her full response:

I liked picturing myself as a better person, more attractive, stronger, a person who knows the right thing to do and has the courage to perform accordingly.

I first conjured a series of statues – me doing perfect poses, no wobbles even during chaturanga, not though the full moon increased the gravity. Sculptures of smooth, hard stone, all extra padding shaved away, no greasy fingerprints disturbing the gloss, a yogic serenity smoothing my features. 
Second, an animation to capture the papers and toys and books and used dishes returning like autonomous agents to my mother’s living room, days after I cleared the clutter and wiped the dusty cobwebs from behind framed needlepoints. 
A photo of a lonely dog jumping on the little old ladies who deigned to drink tea on the patio, chewed remnants littering the backyard beyond them. A sentence to describe the Rottweiler my sister-in-law brought into the house, a week before she left, a puppy bigger than the little boy he was supposedly meant for. 
In the screenplay, over a shared taco salad, the red shell split in half, the sour cream pushed to the side, I tell Mom what I’ve learned about my half-brother, his reluctance to take the DNA test, his fear of abandonment, his sadness. Then I segue into the question I scribbled in my journal weeks before, the question that inspired me to give her a book: “Do we have to be freed from a secret to really love and thus to live?” 
As a work of art, I am not the self who waits until she spies The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri on the floorboard of her mother’s car, then assumes a pedantic tone as she steps her mother through the questions like a reluctant undergrad. Still the truth is that Mom liked the book enough to want to pass onto a friend, and the story Mom tells, a time her father took his cane to her mother’s zinnias, is the best she can do. Just as I park the car outside Departures and turn back into a sculpture, smooth and hard, no greasy fingerprints disturbing my glossy serenity as I stride through the airport.

Text written and submitted by Karen Cantrell.

Many thanks to Karen for her collaboration, and I will post most responses as they come in. Any readers of this blog should feel free to respond to the instructions above, and write a response along the lines of Karen's and forward it directly to fieldresearchgroup[AT], or center your QR reader app and utilize the QR code below.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

More Emotional Outreach Exercises

After posting Maria Damon's wonderful response to the Emotional Outreach exercise she received, I said that I would post several more.

Here are a few that those of you who have not received the cards directly might find of interest, especially given our extremely fraught and tumultuous political moment. Please read them through and feel free to try one or several. (See below if you do try them.)

Should you try any of them and are willing to share your experience in a paragraph or several, please do so, and forward the note via email to: fieldresearchstudygroup[AT] I will then share them with others, anonymously if you like. PLEASE NOTE: I will not share your email or personal information with anyone else.
You may also send it to that address via the following QR code:

Center your QR code reader on the code
above (enlarge if necessary), and it should send
you directly to the correct email.

Thanks so much!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Emotional Outreach Response (from Maria Damon)

It has been a while (over a year!) since I last posted here, but I wanted to share one response from the most recent version of the Emotional Response Project.

Here is a note that the poet and scholar Maria Damon posted on her Facebook page in response to one of the vouchers (cards) I passed out at the end of a short presentation several Saturdays back at the Worker Writers School on Governors Island, at the invitation of Mark Nowak. (A full writeup is here.)

Maria posted* the following:

Here are some of the responses (the Facebook link is dead):

Many thanks to Maria for her collaboration, and I will post a few more of the instructions and, as they arrive, the responses, over the next few days!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

One Night Only: Ace Hotel Residency Show, January 2015

If you're in New York City, do drop by the Ace Hotel New York, where I think that at least one of the pieces I worked on during my residency there will be on display from January 8-31, 2015.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Emotional Outreach Project 5.0: Emotional Exercises

Starting tomorrow and throughout January and February, the Emotional Outreach Project 5.0: Emotional Exercises, will be underway at This Red Door @ Kunsthalle Galapagos, in DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY.

Emotional Exercise Card


January-February 2014

Dear Collaborator:

Thank you so much for agreeing to participate in the "Emotional Outreach Project, 5.0: Emotional Exercises." Previous versions of the "Emotional Outreach Project" have comprised a series of business card-sized vouchers, which we originally distributed in 2002-2003 (in New York, Jersey City and Chicago), 2007 (in New York, Jersey City and Chicago), 2009 (in Cuba, in Spanish), and 2013 (in New York, and for the 4.0 version, in Germany, in English, German and Yiddish). The cards have been distributed free of charge and with disinterest to individuals, under various performative and temporal controls and using specified variables.

This 5.0 version of the "Emotional Outreach Project" marks a change in approach. While maintaining a focus on the emotions and affect, this new version proceeds along the axis of a different but linked conceptual approach, that of the "instruction," a perennial of conceptual and performance art, here mobilized toward the practice and goal of an "emotional exercise," similar in concept but different and distinct in its underlying ideological and belief system from the "spiritual exercises" of ancient Greek philosophers (cf. Pierre Hadot, etc.), those of the Church, particularly those of St. Ignatius of Loyola, or more contemporary versions (cf. Michel Foucault, etc.). As with the previous versions of the "Emotional Outreach Project," this version is electively participatory; the unspoken assumption is that taking a card enters one into the process of participation, collaboration and engagement.

On one side of the cards, in bold black ink, we list a series of discrete, simple, perhaps banal instructions, one per card (the total exceeding 100), which range from "Spend most of one day asking questions. Remain silent, and avoid positive or negative assertions of any sort, unless absolutely necessary (with family members, for your job, etc.). Briefly write up the experience," to "Create an imaginary word that means love, and teach it to someone else. Urge them to teach it and continue the process." Each of the instructions is simple and self-explanatory. Rather than identifying an emotion or emotions in an a priori fashion as the prior vouchers did, these allow the necessary emotions to arise from the performance of the instructions, and any subsequent actions the participant engages in linked to them.

On the flip side the cards now read:

Dear friend, thank you for participating in this emotional exercise. When you have satisfied the instructions on this card, please enclose the card or attach it to a postcard & mail it to: John Keene, Rutgers-Newark, Conklin 321, 175 University Avenue, Newark, NJ 07102
You may also email a copy of the card to:

Thus, participants, having fulfilled the instructions, should return the used cards, either by US Postal service to the name and address--or photographed/scanned to the email address--listed above.

We greatly appreciate your collaboration and participation in this project. Thanks so much, and best wishes for the holidays and New Year,

*Email: fieldresearchstudygroup[AT]

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Emotional Outreach Project 5.0 @ TRD/REH-KUNST

(Crossposted at the J's Theater blogsite)
Starting next week, the newest iteration of the Field Research Study Group A durational conceptual work, the Emotional Outreach Project, now at version 5.0, will appear at This Red Door's 2-month sojourn, from July 1 through August 31, 2013, in Berlin, Germany, at REH-KUNST. TDR's Berlin site is directly accessible here.

As with earlier versions, the vouchers are free of charge.

Emotional Outreach Project 5.0 (for Germany)
To refit the cards for German-language participants, I first translated the rationale and instructions (with the help of Verbalizeit, since my ability to write more than basic sentences in Germany is minimalinto German, creating a new plaque to be mounted at the REH-KUNST site, to facilitate the cards' use.  The German text reads:

Lieber Freund:  
Vielen Dank für das Mitmachen beim "Emotional Outreach Project 5.0". Das "Emotional Outreach Project" umfasst eine Serie von Gutscheinen in Businesskarten Größe, die ursprünglich in 2002, 2003, 2007, 2009 (in Kuba) und 2012 umsonst und mit Desinteresse an Personen unter verschiedenen performativen und zeitlichen Kontrollen und vorgeschriebenen Variablen verteilt wurden. 
Auf einer Seite der Karten steht in schwarzem Fettdruck und in Großbuchstaben auf Deutsch, Englisch und Jiddisch ein emotionaler Zustand, eine Reaktion, eine Etappe, eine Eigenschaft oder ein Prozess (wie zum Beispiel Hass, Freude, Schadenfreude, Kaltblütigkeit, Selbstlosigkeit, Entsetzen, Gleichgültigkeit etc.) mit dem klaren und kleingedruckten Untertitel "Free Emotional Voucher"("Gratis Emotionen Gutschein"). 
Auf der anderen Seite: 
Lieber Freund, bitte nehmen Sie diesen emotionalen Gutschein entgegen. Obwohl er keinen geldlichen Wert hat, sollten Sie frei von seinen anderen nutzen Gebrauch machen, insbesondere wenn Sie glauben, dass Sie diese Emotion benutzen müssen oder falls Sie sich von diesem Gefühl freimachen oder reinigen wollen. Sich über seine eigenen Emotionen bewusst zu machen und mit diesen zu recht zukommen ist äußerst wichtig für das psychologische und physische Wohlempfinden.
FSRGA (JK c 2013) 
Als Teil dieses Projektes bitten wir Sie mindestens eine von diesen Karten in den nächsten vier (4) Wochen zu nehmen und an verschiede Personen, die Sie kennen oder nicht kennen, zu verteilen, insbesondere wenn Sie glauben dass der Empfänger eventuell Nutzen an einem haltbaren Mechanismus, der jegliche affektierte Probleme - persönlich, öffentlich, oder anderweitig - anspricht, machen könnte. 
Sollten Sie selbst davon Nutzen machen wollen, bitten wir Sie dies zu tun. Falls Sie herausfinden wie der Empfänger der Karte (Sie inklusive) sie benutzt hat, melden Sie sich bitte bei uns unter, und unter der Themen-Linie "Emotional Voucher" ("Emotionen Gutschein") können Sie uns ein paar Sätze als Beschreibung oder Schilderung senden. - FIELD RESEARCH STUDY GROUP A

The German description (for TRD Berlin, July-August 2013)
The German plaque
Next I translated the free emotional outreach vouchers (cards) themselves into German by myself, taking care not just to find the German approximations for English-language emotions (Love = Liebe; Fear = Angst/Furcht; Hope = Hoffnung, etc.), but also emotions specific to German-speaking countries, such as Torschlusspanik (fear of one's life's door closing without achieving what one hoped to), Lampenfieber (a feeling akin to stage fright), Waldeinsamkeit (fear of being stuck in a forest), and Geborgenheit (complete safety), to name a few. As with prior versions, each card's front side features an emotion, the caption that it is a Free Emotional Voucher (translated as Gratis Emotionen Gutschein in German), and, on the back side, a brief explanatory text about how the recipient might use the card.

Given that the exhibit is in Berlin, Germany, I also thought it appropriate to produce a certain number of the cards in Yiddish, again approximating both English and German emotions (Joy = Freude = Freyd; Grief = Treuer = Troyer; Humility/modesty = Bescheidenheit = Beshaydenkayt, etc.), as well as some that are specific to Yiddish (and Americans), like Chutspah = Ballsiness/Shamelessness, and Shpilkes = Nervous energy. On the Yiddish cards, I included both the Roman and Hebrew spellings of the Yiddish words. These, as well as cards bearing English-language versions of the emotions, with German texts on the back, have been fully mixed in with the German-language cards.

Emotional Outreach Cards 5.0 (for Germany)
Examples of the vouchers (cards)
I don't think I can afford to go to Germany to catch TRD live, but if any J's Theater readers are in Berlin and do drop by TRD, please do take a card, let me know your thoughts and send me a snapshot of yourself with the card (at fieldresearchstudygroup [AT] gmail [DOT] com or yahoo [DOT] com). Also, if you give it away as part of your own (extension of the) outreach project, use it in a ritual, and document yourself doing so, please let me know! Should I get to Berlin, I'll certainly report on TRD, the cards, and more.

Emotional Outreach Project 5.0 (for Germany)
Part of the package on its way to Berlin