Sunday, December 10, 2017

Emotional Outreach Project: Life As a Work of Art (Karen Cantrell)

This is a cross-posting, with a few revisions, from my other blog, the site for Field Research Study Group A, where I've shared information for the last few years about various versions of the durational Emotional Outreach Project I've engaged in for over a decade now (since 2003).

Please do visit that blog, and feel free to check out this post and this one, both from 2016, if you would like to participate. Also, at the end of this post, please note the correct email address to which you can send your responses if you elect to write one or several.


It has been a while since I last posted here at Field Research Study Group A--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.

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