When learning about water and it’s influence in the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis in the Fall of 2016, I frequently thought of water’s symbolic association with emotion. The emotional aspects of our residency has manifested in many ways. We connected with the Dakota women by providing an emotional context for historical events on our Bdote Tour. We learned about the emotional connections of contemporary community in Frogtown when biking with Seitu, observing him interact with friends family and business owners along our bike tour.
Personally, the archetype of water as personal emotional experience was most present in my mind throughout the residency. I believe that our personal emotional responses mirrored the larger curations of the program. As a loving cohort, our sympathetic and empathetic abilities were exhibited during more challenging moments, such as the Bdote tour.
I remember Mona speaking to empathy as obstacle, and held onto this idea throughout the whole residency. I felt this concept greatly illuminated the reality of the head and heart relationship. Sometimes, the head shuts the heart down. Other times, the opposite occurs. And on different occasions, the two realms stalemate, and we are unable to make a decision between the heart and the head.
This continuous meditation was further intensified when Mona shared videos she had created and embedded on the Bdote Tour website. In one video Translation of the Word Mnisota, Chris Mato Numpa provides his take on the translation of Minnesota ‘The land where the water reflects the sky and heavens’. The more common translation is the ‘land of sky blue waters’.” While numpa believes that both interpretations are correct, he prefers the former, and states that “my (translation) will be accurate whether or not it is cloudy or the sun is shining. The water will always still reflect the sky.” (1)
This, to me, spoke to the idea that even when we are experiencing tensions or conflicts between the heart (water) and the head (air), they are still always connected. They always see each other, show each other off as reflections, and communicate with each other.
This brought me peace, and I decided it was a helpful concept to construct a project around. I created a box, painted visceral red and black colors on the outside, and a deep yet calming blue within. I strung lights across the box’s ceiling, added clouds with white paper and chalk, and draped a translucent sheet across the top to create a slightly atmospheric effect. In order to enter this space, one had to lie down and place their head on the ground, inside of the box. They then were told to listen to a recording of water as they spent a few moments inside.
This idea reflected all of the feelings I had been experiencing during an exceptionally “watery” residency. The idea of being someone fixed in one’s own head, contrasted with the idea of a limitless sky. The idea of this “box”, the head, being full of racing ideas (air), contrasted with the sound of water in one’s ears. This sound was meant to remind the participant that while thoughts raced through the head, seemingly stuck in this box, that water is always moving, running inside of us, and around us, and that we can use it for calmness and emotional release. I appreciated this non-dualistic approach to stillness and movement, as air and water are highly mobile elements but the piece did not involve movement on the behalf of the participant. This idea was highlighted by Mona’s video entitled Healing Place:
“Healing and movement go hand in hand, but movement is also about stillness. Paying attention to ourselves first and then others around us, and that includes paying attention to where we are, and where I am standing right now. To know how you are connected or disconnected to this place. I can’t tell someone how sacred mother earth is to them.
Instead of saying ‘Tell me what this means’, try to experience it yourself. Stop your mind and open up your heart. Because I can’t tell someone what spirituality means to them.
Healing and movement go hand in hand, but movement is also about stillness. Paying attention to ourselves first and then others around us, and that includes paying attention to where we are, and where I am standing right now. To know how you are connected or disconnected to this place.” (2)
I felt that this point was very relevant to the work we are doing in the Nomad program, Both on the macro and micro cosmic level. It is important for us to stay mindful of the effects of our emotions and thoughts as we explore new terrains and mindscapes, and transform empathy from an obstacle into a tool for compassion.
Healing Place. Bdote Memory Map. Minnesota Humanities Center and Allie, 1 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Oct. 2016. <https://vimeo.com/bdote>.
Translation of the Word Mnisota. Bdote Memory Map. Minnesota Humanities Center and Allie, 1 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Oct. 2016. <https://vimeo.com/bdote>.