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“Renunciation; A Requiem”; Soil, Sumi-e ink, Neon poem, Canaries, Cages, Chairs, Tables, Incense, 60´L x 35´W x 25´H

The air was suffused with the smell of earth and the scent of Aloewood incense. All of the walls were painted with Sumi-e ink to create a vast abstract, gestural drawing. The entire space was lit from above by the light emanating from the words of the following poem by Hafez, made out of neon tubing.

This narrow cage is not meant for a song bird like me.
My home is an enchanted green, to that garden I shall flee.

The words to the poem hung face downward at various heights from the ceiling and were legible only when the viewer looked up. The floor was covered with a layer of soil to record the footprints of the visitors as well as to further emphasize the concept of a passage and a cave-like environment. There were also nine yellow canaries, each in their own cage placed on black chairs and tables throughout the space.

This site-specific installation took advantage of the pre-existing dividing walls and the meandering pathway that they created in the gallery, as well as the height and the grid pattern of the exposed beams/ bars of the ceiling, in order to present a situation that suggested our journey through life, while exploring the very notion of reality and freedom. This piece consisted of three movements; the poem by Hafez that helped to introduce and set the context; the canaries in their cages that presented a metaphor and analogy for the overall concept, and finally the larger context and content of the installation that was suggestive of a desolate environment, a ruin, or a cave, or perhaps some dark corner in the woods. The first two movements could also be compared to the first two lines of a Haiku poem, that prepare a foundation for exploring some of the more refined elements of the last line. Furthermore, each of the materials that were utilized had unique but formal characteristics that offered a number of readings which were harmonious with the overall concept.

As the viewer wandered through the gallery, he was encouraged to ask questions: What is freedom? Is the bird in the cage free? Would he be free if he could leave the cage, but be confined by the ceiling and walls of the museum? How would his freedom be, if he could leave the museum but took no notice of a hawk in the sky or a cat on the ground that are ready to hunt? etc, etc…. Is there an absolute freedom beyond the limitation of the relative and temporary situations and circumstances that merely present a distorted reflection of freedom?