Asia Society at Home
HOUSTON, December 14, 2020 — On November 17, Asia Society Texas welcomed artist Cary Fagan for a sculptural meditation performance piece titled Deerwasawolf x Chairs Are People. Through his conversation with curator Bridget Bray, his performance, and responses to audience questions, Houston-based Fagan touched on themes of creation, transformation, and cultural exchange.
“Japan allows you to think loudly in silence”
Fagan developed his initial series of experimental sculptures and public performances Chairs Are People while in residency at Arts Itoya in Japan. He traveled to Japan at a point of exhaustion, seeking the space to rediscover his own capabilities and potential. Through slow and thoughtful explorations of the city, language, and culture that surrounded him, Fagan found a sense of security and the space for experimentation. On the first day arriving at the residency studio, he noticed a group of 10 chairs, and saw these chairs as a potential new medium through which he could showcase his perspective.
Part of the title for this performance arose out of the artist’s personal transformation, particularly related to his experiences in Japan’s Nara Park. Growing up, Fagan felt that his energy had a “wolf spirit” to it, majestic and mysterious. During his time in Japan, he traveled to Nara Park outside of Kyoto, a well-known sanctuary for sacred deer. As Fagan interacted with the animals, he perceived a subtle exchange with them. He offered the deer food and through their reactions to his behavior, he experienced a different sense of vulnerability, and he took this energy into himself and into his practice.
Chairs Are People
Following the sculpture performance, the artist responded to questions from the audience, providing insight into the sensory experience of working in the space. He noted that the process itself is spontaneous. Fagan is able to control the time and dimension of the stacking, but adapts to whatever happens as he builds chair upon chair. And though it is a meditative journey, it does not mean the artist doesn’t feel or react to the situation – when a chair is about to fall, he works through his tension to guide it back into a new position and to move forward. For this performance, in which Fagan created his highest stack to date, he embraced the challenges and uncertainty as a central feature of the live sculpture practice.
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Advice for the current moment
In the fluidity of the current moment, Fagan feels that by doing something creative, you’re doing the impossible. It is important to persist in that creative process as so much of what we observe is currently filled with chaos and conflict. Creating allows one’s energy to be expended in helping one’s voice to be heard. Through these recent months, Fagan has been able to focus on setting his direction and moving forward while maintaining balance.
When everything becomes too tiring or overwhelming, he simply goes for a walk. Walking helps him to nourish his body and his mind, and changes the way he perceives time during the lockdown. The artist left the audience with a recent meditation from one of his strolls:
“When you are able to sort of manipulate time, I think, again, anything is possible. Fear is just an illusion. It also helps you learn quicker. I was just writing today, fear is the rain cloud, would you run away from the rain cloud? Or would you face it? Ideally, if you ran away from it, it would eventually catch up to you. But if you face it, it goes past you. And that’s it.”
Business and Policy programs are endowed by Huffington Foundation. We give special thanks to Bank of America, Muffet Blake, Anne and Albert Chao, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Nancy Pollok Guinee, and United Airlines, Presenting Sponsors of Business and Policy programs; Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, and Leslie and Brad Bucher, Presenting Sponsors of Exhibitions; Dr. Ellen R. Gritz and Milton D. Rosenau, Presenting Sponsors of Performing Arts and Culture; Wells Fargo, Presenting Sponsor of Education & Outreach; and Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), Presenting Sponsor of the Japan Series. General support of programs and exhibitions is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Hearst Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, Inc., the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, McKinsey & Company, Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, Vinson & Elkins LLP, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as Friends of Asia Society.
About Asia Society at Home
We are dedicated to continuing our mission of building cross-cultural understanding and uplifting human connectivity. Using digital tools, we bring you content for all ages and conversations that matter, in order to spark curiosity about Asia and to foster empathy.
About Asia Society Texas Center
With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.