Anakena: the Easter Island Project is the culmination of an interdisciplinary artwork spanning seven years, seven cities, and the island of Rapa Nui. It explores the human urge to create and procreate, and our potential to transform through art, collaboration, and ritual.
First I was a happily childfree woman. Next, a happy stepmom. Then I was walloped by the biological clock, a surprise attack that plunged me into deep grief and existential meltdown. Questioning my life path and belief in the sanctity of art and creativity, I invited audiences in the Northwest, New York, at Burning Man, and elsewhere to join me in exploring what it means to create. The “seeds” of creativity they made—tiny sculptures, writings, dances captured on video—are the true stars of the Easter Island Project.
A slow, arduous change occurred as I integrated the participants’ creations into the work and the generative urge into my life. Eventually I reached Rapa Nui transformed and very pregnant. A suitcase of “seeds” came with me.
“Anakena…” documents the transformative process and shows the “seeds” themselves. An installation unfolded organically fall 2012-fall 2013 at the Cooley Gallery’s Caseworks series at Reed College. Over the months, I changed the installation at Caseworks every few weeks, letting it move and grow, starting minimal, getting more chaotic and lush over time (just like life). Additionally, the college hosted a reception and one-day-only, seven-screen video installation, artist talk, and multimedia event. The project’s soundtrack, over 24 hours long, was improvised in collaboration with Eric Hausmann and is available free online at Soundcloud.
Thank you for the conversation.
Over the years, the project has opened up the cultural conversation about childlessness and parenting in our culture, the human urge to create, and the ability of art to make meaning. Thank you to everyone who was willing to engage in that conversation… those who liked the art, those who didn’t; those who appreciated my decisions related to the art, the travel, the ritual, and eventually the pregnancy, and those who disagreed; those who already thought that the issues faced by the childless and childfree are important, and those who started off by dismissing those concerns but opened their minds to a new dialogue. It has been a wild, creative, inspiring 7 years of making work and life.
Thank you for making wonderful stuff, from the first tattoo onward.
The Easter Island Project began in March, 2007, when the first participant made the first “seed”… it was tattoo artist PJ Blanchard, and he tattooed his bird painting onto my hip. He said it represented travel and new life. Since then, hundreds of people have made this whole thing happen. I cannot thank you all enough! Participants, artists, funders, collaborators, presenters, volunteers, innocent bystanders, reporters, friends, people who’ve engaged with the written and real-life conversations that sprouted from these seeds…
And thanks some more.
I’m deeply grateful to the communities of Reed College & the Cooley Gallery (Portland), Studio-Current (Seattle), Performance Works NW (Portland), Goddard College (Port Townsend, Washington), Synthetic Zero (the Bronx), Burning Man (Black Rock City, Nevada), Prescott College (Arizona), Myrtle Street Review (Oakland), The Well (the interwebs), New Oregon Arts & Letters (Portland), Plazm (Portland), Tiger Food Press (Portland), and Drowning Rat (Oregon).
But wait, there’s more!
Special gratitude to Steven Fritz, who photographed the Oregon events, and to Kathleen Bonilla, for inviting me and my weird project into her family’s life. I am forever indebted to her daughter Josefina Nahoe Mulloy, impeccable host of the Aloha Nui Guesthouse in Hanga Roa, and inspiring human being. Josie is the granddaughter of William Mulloy, the first and most distinguished archaeologist on Rapa Nui (a.k.a. Easter Island); she shares his knowledge and that of her Rapa Nui family with visitors in her tour guide service.
No, really. THANK. YOU.
Clare Carpenter, Joshua Berger, Stephanie Snyder, Allison Dubinsky, Eric Hausmann, Vanessa DeWolf, Lena Munday, Emily Stone, Nora Robertson, Linda Austin, Jeff Forbes, Sussu Laaksonen, Mitsu Hatsudishi, Ted Brown, Jessica Plumb, Meg McHutchison, Gary Wiseman, Camas Snakechurch, Ellen Rosenblum, Scott McNeely, Anne Adams, Cynthia Lahti, Millicent Zimdars, Inara Verzemnieks, Lindsey Kugler, Courtney Nyseth, Rebecca “Kate” Sechrist, and Nancy Boulmay. And thank you, Ben Bittner, for making this site!
My gratitude also goes out to the publishers, writers, and radio hosts who delved in, publishing my writings on this subject, interviewing me, pointing people to the shows, and widening the conversation via The Oregonian, OPB/Oregon Public Broadcasting, Oregon Humanities, and Willamette Week.
And finally: thanks.
Anakena: the Easter Island Project is supported by RACC, the Regional Arts & Culture Council, the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College, New Oregon Arts & Letters, and Viator Travel. You’re invited to nose around the videos, music, photos, and tales of this story on magdalen.com. —Tiffany Lee Brown