the shelah marie

encouraging healthy women from the inside out.

The Art in Odd Places Festival

Yesterday I stood completely still in the midday heat, in Union Square, and invited strangers to wash and pray over my feet.

Why?

Why not?

I came across Rob Andrews, who was putting together a performance piece for the Art In Odd Places festival. I thought to myself, "Well, that's disgusting." If you know me, you know I am hardly ever barefoot even inside my own house. The only time I go without shoes is in the shower, in bed or maybe in rehearsal. Also, the thought of someone I don't know touching my damn feet makes me itch. I also don't sit/stand still very much at all. So, naturally I thought this would be a good thing to do.

AWESOME!

So, along with 30 or so other artists we agreed to stand still a collective 12 hours from sunup to sundown on October 8, 2002 in Union Square.

10:00am -- I get off at the W4th Street Station and underestimate how lightheaded I'm going to feel by the time I get to Starbucks on 15th street where I am meeting some other collaborators. Mind you, I am carrying three large Ball Jars (two which a full of water), two sheets, a grass mat and I haven't had coffee yet.

I get to Starbucks and take three sips of coffee, eat half a green apple, some cheese and some nuts. Then I wait 18 minutes to use the one restroom in Starbucks, until I say eff it head next door to Au Bon Pain. I doubt I want to use the bathroom after 18-minute guy anyway. God only knows...

11:10am -- I'm running behind as I was supposed to be standing from 11am, but it's 18-minute guy's fault! I walk up to the part of Union Square that we are "occupying" (isn't that the buzz words these days?) and I look around. The only person washing feet is Rob who fulfilled his part in the piece by washing feet from 7am to 7pm. Let that marinate.

I breathe, and set out my items. The jars full of water for washing, gauze, the mat to stand on, the instructional cards that read, "Clean these feet. Dry them. Hold them in your hands. Be silent. Pray." and my black sheet to cover my body.

12:00pm -- Surprisingly, I am keeping a very good sense of time and I pretty much know how long I've been standing. It helps that a bell is rung every thirty minutes. Nobody's washed my feet yet. I'm just standing there entertained at the way people are reacting to us being there. One lady walks by and spews, "IN THE NAME OF JESUS!" Mothers clutch their children and one girl says,

"I would wash this girl's feet but she might kick me and if she kick me I'mma be sad."

12:30pm -- Now it's getting hard, mainly because of the heat. Four people washed my feet, one guy tenderly washed the cuts on my foot from an unfortunate kitchen-cleaning incident where I dropped a jar of honey on my foot. Nothing weird (not weirder than me standing in Union Square asking people to wash my feet I suppose). A shit-load of skateboarders blocked traffic for like twenty minutes. That was cool. It's hot. I can hardly breathe. I'm starting to sway. Where's that bell? Come on 1:00pm!

12:50pm -- Time to go before I pass out. I kneel down, breathe, slowly gather my belongings and calmy walk back to Au Bon Pain and chug an entire bottle of cranberry juice.

4:00pm -- I return with the intention on standing for another hour, but I decided I don't like passing out in public as performance so I declined. The press came and documented the event. the highlight was watching Rob and his son wash someone's feet. Yeah, germs and that's gross and blah, blah -- but it was beautiful to see them very respectfully and carefully washing feet.

We were also joined by another AIOP festival artist, Lawrence Graham-Brown, who's semi-nude black male body provoked a different kind of fear. The kind that had a policeman there in less than ten minutes.

Guess that's all there is to say about that.