On October 2nd, at the start of the US partial government shutdown, I posted this on my Facebook page:
My two ideas for artworks today:
1. Death Shroud for Democracy. Think Shroud of Turin, but on an American flag
2. A performance piece where I take a flag to the Capitol and slowly disassemble it with my seam ripper.
Then I sat and stewed for a week. I couldn’t shake the ideas. I realized that they could even be merged together. The next week I realized they even fit a potential exhibit opportunity. And it dawned on me that my dad and I had already planned a trip to DC.
So, I decided to take a flag with me on our trip and to stop at the Capitol at some point and disassemble it as a metaphor for Congress disassembling democracy (or maybe their actions were metaphor for what I would be doing). I had trepidations, because one can be fined and/or imprisoned for desecrating the American flag, but I kept telling myself that no one would even notice me, and if they did, my concept was strong and my protest peaceful.
Wouldn’t you know it, by the time we wore ourselves out walking through barrier after barrier to see the monuments around the National Mall, Congress had actually made some progress and looked set to pass a Continuing Resolution to the budget and to raise the Debt Ceiling, both without ransom. I felt like the wind let out of my sails. It was a lame protest if progress was being made, no matter how brief.
US politics are still terribly dysfunctional, and I still believe that our elected representatives are tearing apart the system. I still think that America’s reputation is stained. So, I sat on a lesser populated part of the Capitol lawn, and faced my back to the Capitol Police in the far distance (the pictures wouldn’t have worked if I faced the other direction anyway).
I removed a red and a white stripe from the flag and picked the stitches out of several embroidered stars. It was slow going and I was still a bit nervous and feeling bad that I was doing this on the eve of the end of the shutdown.
We sat there barely an hour, but I knew I couldn’t finish disassembling the whole flag in the remainder of the day. So, photos taken, and not wishing to attract attention, we packed up the pieces and returned to the world as tourists.
Back in the hotel, I disassembled the rest of the stripes. Now I will move on to the next phase of the project, which is creating the Death Shroud. I still feel like that aspect is valid. Majority rule and idealistic Democracy is ill. I have hope that it can heal, but not in the near future. So, this project will continue in the background for a while and when it’s done I will share it’s next incarnation.