Approaching an Exchange: Albuquerque
Performative Walk and Exchange
Orchestrated by Claire Long and Anna Keleher
Dispersal/Return 2005 – 2006: Land Arts of the American West
University of New Mexico Art Museum, August 28 – November 25, 2009
Details of Exchange Journeys
Where: Center for Fine Arts Building, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque to Tijeras Pueblo Archaeological Site, Sandia Ranger District, Cibola National Forest, east of Albuquerque, New Mexico
When: 10:00am – 3.30pm September 25 – October 3, 2009
Who: Tim, Connie, Claire, Anna, Mark, Paul, Debbie, Joan, Aimee, Stephen, Sophia, John, David, Astrid, Julie, Kyrsten and Chris
How: Car or Rental Van and On Foot
Kits in use during Performative Walk and Exchange
Bringing Diorama into Life Kit
- 5 4-inch ladders made from local sticks and yucca fibre
- 2-inch long bundles of kindling bundled with yucca fibre
- Water bottle
- Small Hand-made Chamisa Broom
- 7 sets of binoculars
Buffalo Gourd Speaks Kit
- Mp3 player
- Mobile speakers
- Buffalo Gourds and Leaves
- 1 Silver Plated Teapot
- 8 Blue Enamel Cups
- 2 Thermoses of Hot Water
- Sweet Bread (variable variety)
- Wild Mint from Northern Rio Grande Valley
- Table Cloth
- Home-made Hummus Wraps (wrapped in newspaper)
- Fresh Carrots and Red Peppers
- Home-made popcorn (served in cups made from newspaper wraps)
- Lemonade Berry Drink
First Aid Kit
- Bandages, Rescue Remedy, Tea tree Oil, Sterile Water, band-aids, pain-killer, cell phone
Start of Journey: Center for Fine Arts Building to Tijeras Pueblo
Tijeras Pueblo is approximately thirty minutes by car from the University of New Mexico, providing the Exchange groups with half an hour of informal time to chat. Upon arrival at the parking lot, everyone hops out, gathers supplies and uses the facilities before proceeding on to the Pueblo. The following text outlines the details and experience of the short, curated journey on foot from the parking lot to the place chosen for the Exchange.
Following the path created by the Forest Service through the site, this short illuminated, curated journey on foot was designed to bring the site alive for participants and to prepare them for the Exchange. The three participatory stations created for participants were the outcome of Anna and Claire’s own explorations of the site and reflect their processes and novel data collection techniques.
Performative Walk and Exchange: Bringing the Pueblo Into Life
Anna and Claire’s rucksacks bulge with wrapped picnic food, thermoses, sitting mats and other artist-orchestrator props for the journey. The participants are mindful of their chosen Exchange objects hidden inside bags, pockets and minds and seem curious of what is to come. The group crosses over a wooden bridge into the pueblo for a short introduction to the history of the site and the different peoples who once lived in the remains of the pueblo that they see before them. The group peruse the interpretive information boards, which provide useful drawings and a site-habitation timeline. Participants are then guided to the first of Three Stations.
Station 1: Puebloscape – A Participatory Panorama In-the-Round
Action – Claire takes the participants on an imaginative, whistle-stop, 360 degree, rotational tour of the site, taking in sights, sounds and smells of the living pueblo as it might have been. She points to the directions, painting a sensory scene with words.
Speaker – Claire (with arm extended, pointing as she describes)
I would like to introduce you to this site as it might have been 700 years ago. As I rotate in place, follow my hand with your gaze and stretch your perception to encompass the past.
In the North, on the horizon, we can see a young boy sitting on a hill on the look out for friend or enemy. He sees us, but does not appear alarmed. Now drop your gaze down to the flat patch of land above the bank of the arroyo. There is corn planted here with beans climbing up the corn stocks and squash growing below.
To the East, we see the arroyo, snaking back up into the hills to its source at a spring. It provides the pueblo with irrigation for fields, water to drink, bathe and cook with and is a haven for wildlife.
Turning to the Southeast up on top of the hill is a big-horned sheep, chewing its cud. Down below a rock outcrop are two young women weaving willow mats in the shade. We can barely hear their conversation from here.
Moving to the South we come to another arroyo with food growing along its banks. We can hear the music of the water flowing steadily over rocks. In one section of the arroyo, where the water is calm grows a stand of cattails. We watch as a man collects the reeds into bundles, cutting them with a sharp obsidian knife and tying them with yucca fibre.
To the Southwest, we see an outlying building. It is fall, the time of year to re-plaster the pueblo buildings. Four young mean energetically spread and pat the fresh adobe into place in smooth motions. Feel the texture of mud in your hands.
Looking West we see women washing pots in the spring fed arroyo, as it continues its journey down hill. We can hear their splashes and laughter as they go about their work. Above them, on the flat land above the arroyo, and below the pueblo, there are people tending fields of corn beans and squash.
Moving our eyes over and up to the pueblo, we see skins stretched and drying in the sun against the South wall. We can smell the aroma of drying tanned hide, which drifts upwards towards the pueblo rooftops, where women are grinding corn in stone metates. A woman stops to attend to her baby as it begins to cry from its place on the roof nearby. The sound of rock grinding stops for a moment, but soon starts again.
Smoke curls up through an opening in the pueblo roof and drifts, horizontally, where it joins smoke from another outlying building and drifts up to the hill, where the young boy has not moved from his watchful position.
Now, let’s walk into the pueblo.
Action – Having concluded the Puebloscape Panorama, Claire and the travellers continue on the path to station number two.
Further along Anna prepares the next interactive station, laying out binoculars on a bench and assembling accoutrements from her kit.
Station 2: Bringing the Pueblo into life – A Diorama
Action – Claire invites participants to sit on the bench and select a pair of binoculars to train their vision on the second station, a model of the prehistoric pueblo. Claire then continues on to the third station to prepare it.
Action – Anna takes up her position behind the model and begins a ceremony to bring the diorama into life.
Bringing into Life Ceremony
Now she scoops up a handful of dark molehill earth and sprinkles it gently over the silent cement slopes of the pueblo.
Now she picks up a handful of dry yellow sand from the path and sprinkles it around the diminutive village plaza.
Now she picks up small stones and rocks and leaves them as boulders stranded on the lower slopes of the hill beneath the pueblo.
Now from a box she produces tiny ladders made of thin sticks, rungs bound in place by fine Yucca twine. She carefully places the ladders against the outside walls of the pueblo houses.
Now she lays tiny bundles of kindling sticks by the stream and sprinkles a handful of seeds onto the riverbank.
Now she takes her drinking bottle and removing the lid lifts it high to allow a thin stream of water to cascade into the dry head of the arroyo. The water pools and shoots off downhill its wet tongue staining the parched streambed dark slate.
Now the pueblo is alive.
Now begins unmaking of the pueblo.
Now the ladders are drawn up as if in protection.
Now the stream runs dry and picking up her bundle of slender twigs bound tight with yucca fibre she begins to sweep the earth and stones off the hill-side.
Now she sweeps the sandy surface of the plaza with her scratchy brush.
Now she blows softly and dust whirls across the sloping land.
Now she blows hard and the dust rises and is lifted in a flurry.
Now the pueblo returns to stillness.
Now it’s only a model village.
Action – Anna collects the binoculars and stows her props. She hands participants small yellow gourds to carry with them and they move off up the path to where Claire is waiting.
Station 3: Buffalo Gourd speaks
Action – Participants are asked to crouch down in a semi-circle around a patch of wild Buffalo Gourd growing along the path.
A voice appears from the gourd patch. Buffalo Gourd is telling his story. The participants listen once and then listen again.
Speaker – Man’s voice on small speaker from within gourd patch
My sandpaper leaves and prickly vines provide traction and defy temptation of passing creatures to snack on my leaves and stems. Babies gnaw on my leathery hide with pink gums and at fiesta time, my jumping seeds shake the dancers into life. I am ancient and I grow in abundance climbing up over trees and stems to reach the sun. I lure people into sowing my seeds in their fields with my musical and medicinal properties and they work for me planting my seeds beyond my reach.
The party moves off and walks in silence to the site of the Exchange.
Arrival: Site of the Exchange
A cloth is spread on the warm red earth and mats stretched out on a shady patch of ground. Claire and Anna invite the participants to have tea with them at the place of the Exchange. They ask people to gather juniper berries and piñon needles from the trees, which border the picnic spot and add them to the silver Exchange teapot. The teapot has travelled from England in Anna’s backpack to join the ritual and set the stage for the Exchange at this new site in New Mexico. Cake is cut and offered, tea is drunk from blue, enamel cups and the group finds its rhythm through conversation.
Participants have been requested in advance to bring something from their lives and cultures to share with the prehistoric people of Tijeras Pueblo. As hosts, either Claire or Anna begins the Exchange, introducing the suggested format to participants. One by one the Exchange participants speak with the original inhabitants, sharing and describing what they have brought to the Exchange and why. The words are recorded using two digital audio recorders.
From barbed wire to a Santa Fe fiesta, contributions are excitingly varied. The participants in the Exchange speak with respect and intelligence and there is often a palpable sense of time dissolving, connection and possibility. In-depth conversations stem from the objects or ideas of Exchange. From these conversations new ideas and glimmers of insight emerge that may shape future Exchanges at other sites.
Each guest has also been asked to consider a gift that they would like to receive from the ancient people of Tijeras. Again the requests are varied, from sharing gossip to asking for knowledge of their navigational systems. Together the groups share moments of sadness, regret, humor and pride.
On-site at the Exchange something seems to happen which remains difficult to grasp and harder still to explain.This phenomenon can only be fully experienced firsthand by the growing community of participants in the Exchange.
Action – When everyone has spoken, Claire photographs each object or idea for the Exchange archives.
Lunch Time: Lemonade Berry Juice and Popcorn
After the Exchange, cool lemonade berry juice is poured and offered to the participants. It is a local brew made from wild lemonade berries gathered from the banks of the Rio Grande. A brown paper bag is opened and participants are given wrapped newspaper lunch parcels. Each contains a delicious salad and red pepper hummus with black olives in a tortilla wrap. To finish the meal, the hosts produce a large brown bag of homemade salted popcorn. Guests scoop it into newspaper cones folded from their lunch parcels. (Cone-folding technique introduced on-site by Exchange participant, Aimee Deans.)
Return to 2009
After the picnic the party follows the remaining length of path together around the site discussing the people, their pueblo and the place along the way. On the way we stop to look at an ancient malachite mine and point out the parallel, but contrasting modern gypsum mine across the road. Its presence is felt at the site as a constant low roar of machinery.
Finally we arrive back at the vehicle, which will take us all back UNM, to Albuquerque, and to our lives in 2009.