April 27, 2017

The Art of Listening: Cheryl Pope at 62nd monthly CreativeMornings chapter in Chicago

February 24, 2017: Cheryl Pope’s multimedia projects are composed with a sensitive mix of words, spoken and visible, situated to provoke interaction from her audience. But in her address to the Chicago CreativeMornings chapter, the focus was not on expression, but listening, claiming that it is “the most political act.” Her personal manifesto starts with:
“The role of the artist is to make the invisible felt.
To help a people understand their experience.
To document this search and understanding.
To challenge, question, and ask.
To shed light in dark places.
To listen.”
Her adjacent influence is, as she put it, “the physicality of language.” One of the best, and most formidable, unions of listening and language, to my recent recollection, was Marina Abramović’s “The Artist is Present”—performed from March 14 to May 31, 2010, at the Museum of Modern Art. For 736 hours and 30 minutes, Abramović sat in front of 1,545 sitters across from her. Hi-fi. Lo-fi. Listening without losing.

After being present with Abramović, Yazmany Arboleda, also an artist, shared this account:
“Walking around the museum, people on different floors stop to ask me how it felt to sit with her. ‘How long did you sit for? How was it? How did it feel?’ My friend, who had come to document the entire ordeal with her camera, turns to me and exclaims: ‘It’s as if paintings could talk.’”
And when paintings have something to say, it’s a chance to glean what the message could be. To Pope, art offers space—a listening room for one’s mood, even state of mind, to be reached. To be “the channel,” as the poet Gabriela Mistral practiced:
“I write poetry because I can’t disobey the impulse; it would be like blocking a spring that surges up in my throat. For a long time, I’ve been the servant of the song that comes, that appears and can’t be buried away. How to seal myself up now?…It no longer matters to me who receives what I submit. What I carry out is, in that respect, greater and deeper than I, I am merely the channel.”
Joining the pursuits of Abramović and Mistral, contributing to the artistic ledger of meaningful transactions, and reinforcing the advantage of art on the side of the vulnerable, Pope’s work and talk urged CreativeMornings attendees to endure this challenge: Still listen.

• • •

Pope’s artistic practice includes boxing. The soundtrack while writing featured prominently rapper LL Cool J’s hip-hop hit “Mama Said Knock You Out” (1990):
“Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years…
I’m gonna knock you out
Mama said knock you out…”
• • •

Big thanks: to AgencyEASavage Smyth (who also hosted), Green SheepLyft Chicago, for being Partners of Chicago CreativeMornings #62; to new organizer Jen Marquez who accepted the chapter’s hosting responsibilities from Knoed Creative who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers for greatly helping to have CreativeMornings happen monthly in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008.

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Read more CreativeMornings coverage.

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