Monday, January 18, 2016

The Tortoise and The Hare

Hannah Hughes arrived from Santa Fe with several ideas in mind. Adopting a desert tortoise, riding dirt bikes and practicing her aerial silks maneuvers. While these were intriguing activities, I wondered how they would unfold and what would result. Hannah arrived in time for a wonderful Joshua Tree Thanksgiving. Once the holiday mood had passed, she got down to pursuing her activities.

The tortoise came in the form of a 6-month old cutie, courtesy of the local Desert Tortoise Rescue organization. Hannah fostered the tortoise while in residence and then took her back for eventual adoption. The tortoise lived in the studio in a spacious (for her) cage with a little house in it. The tortoise was quite active, loved to climb up the side of the cage and would explore the studio perimeter when let out for a  walk.

For the bikes, I managed to connect Hannah with Nicos and Rosie, a couple with land out in Wonder Valley who are reported to have a boatload of toys - including a boat. Hannah was able to go over there, ride out into wild, beige yonder and work on bike handling skills in the tricky desert sand.

Meanwhile, back in the studio, Hannah installed a hook in the crossbeam, hung her silks from a sturdy hook and starting maneuvering. From time to time, various objects would arrive with Hannah - desert findings which accumulated into interesting sculptural forms. Occasionally, she would dress up in outfits and go outside for some film and photo selfies. The wedding dress outfit and the fluorescent pink short jumpsuit were favorites that definitely caught the attention of workers building the new artist's quarters.

In our chats, Hannah began to explain her approach centering on the tortoise as a mythical figure with powers of divination and her interest in games without rules. The bikes played a role in a retelling the tale of the tortoise and the hare. 

These theme came together at Hannah's open house. Actions were performed with Hannah bringing the tortoise into a circle below the silks, grabbing a canceled pack of cards format he nearby Tortoise Rock Casino and maneuvering above the circle while the playing cards fell to the ground. The audience was invited to ask questions of the divining tortoise though the questions were connected to tortoise welfare than to larger life themes.

The other action which took place was a bike race between Hannah and a friend, escorted by umbrella bearers. The objective was to win the race by being slowest while not stalling out. Steady does it as the maxim goes.

Visitors to the open house seemed in turn engaged, mystified, amused, concerned and inspired. A successful showing overall. Many thanks to Hannah for bringing her unique approach to performance art to BoxoHOUSE and the Joshua Tree community. Safe slow travels.

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