What might it need?, The Boston Center for the Arts, Medicine Wheel, Boston, Ma, December 2008

Survival / needs / unity / differences / healing / offering / community / silent actions

9-10 am. Earth. The space is silent. A few people are sleeping around the huge Cyclorama space…it’s a cool rainy morning. Around my neck are two bottles, one filled with water, one filled with clear pill casings, each pill is filled with a different word that expresses the things we all need in order to heal and be healthy. Healing is universal. I am dressed all in blue. I am holding a large silver bowl, which is collaged with the image of the globe and filled with dirt. As I begin walking around the space the sound of the two bottles hitting each other can be heard clearly. I stop, make a small pile of dirt, place a pill on the dirt and water it. This continues for the duration of the hour.
Everyone and everything has certain needs that must be met in order to be in this world. Depending on our health and well being we need different things in order to live, survive and be in good physical or mental condition. What might the earth need?

The Medicine Wheel Vigil- In 1992 Michael Dowling created Medicine Wheel: a public art installation at the Boston Center for the Arts. Medicine Wheel Productions continues this important tradition, inviting community participation in observing World AIDS Day. Using the epidemic of AIDS as a starting point, Medicine Wheel is public art that responds to the human condition revealed in the epidemic.

Each year the wheel is rooted in one of the four elements: earth, air, fire or water. Dowling incorporates a number, which becomes part of the creative process, such as 5 million AIDS cases in Africa, or 16,000 new infections each day. Volunteers help bring five million leaves to create a spiral inside the BCA cyclorama, participants carry 16,000 gallons of water in processional to be poured into a copper moat illuminated within the cavernous circular space.

Medicine Wheel invites community response; the participation which Dowling initiates is an integral aspect of the public art. Through offerings, the vigil, and the processional with the element, people from all walks of life become involved. The public art is the architecture which enables a myriad of experiences: the offering of a letter written to a dead brother, a soprano’s aria, a couple’s engagement, the memorial of a murdered youth, all are connected to the public art, part of the invitation to contemplation, transformation and awareness through art.

The title imagery of the Medicine Wheel is the central metaphor for the organization. There are many sacred places in the world: places that seem naturally sacred and those that are made sacred by the people who consecrate them. The circle has been used by many cultures as a place for ceremony. The ancient Celts used Stonehedge, the Indians the Wheel of Salvation, Buddhists the mandala, and Native Americans the Medicine Wheel. Many folk dances are done in a circle such as the Hora of Israel and Rumania . Children play games in a circle. People often refer to their friends as their circle and people often hold hands to pray in a circle. The work chakra in Sanskrit means wheel or disk and is used to describe the seven power centers in our bodies. The circle with no beginning or end is a way of honoring the connections of all life through prayer, dance, song and ritual. One traditional use of the wheel is to walk in each other’s shoes and to know each other’s hearts by standing on each spoke of the wheel.
Active Offering (Small installations will be created around the space)