October 31, 2017

Words and Water


By Adele Ardent
Muley Point, Bears Ears National Monument, UT
October 4, 2017

There have been many words shared during this trip, both weighty and light—traditional DinĂ© stories, tales of the impacts of fracking on local communities, stories about far-off family and friends, poems, songs, jokes, riddles. There have been many words spoken in these places over the course of this trip, but I’ve captured almost none of them… At least, not in the expected way: transcribing, recording, capturing the living words and mounting them lifeless with shiny glass eyes to the pages of my journal.

In the past, as someone approaching art from the perspective of painting and drawing, I’ve been very concerned about the artifact, about the final product. I am trying to feel my way towards a way of making that is less about fixing some physical remnant into place, and more about allowing something to come also alive in the spaces between living beings.


Of course, I’m not yet sure how this should work...

As a start, I’ve asked everyone in our group to let me draw their eyes, but while we sit together and my hands are busy, I’m also hoping to draw out whatever part of their story they are willing to trust to me, face to face. I’m also experimenting with different ways of bringing water to the desert plants whose home I’m sharing, using my hair and mouth.

We eat with both mouth and eyes, consuming the world around us in different ways, but our faces are built to give back as well as to take: the tiny muscles around the eyes and mouth are little open gates where rills of feeling can flow outward. Other animals feed their young from their own mouths, and while we’ve forgotten this art, I hope that words and fully offered attention will have their own power to cultivate fallow spaces.


Still from “Water Sharing Experiment,” 2017

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