Map of performance route, Blocks Away (2010)
Blocks Away was conceived in October 2010, about a year before Occupy Wall Street began, during the height of the xenophobic “Ground Zero mosque controversy.” A media firestorm had erupted around the proposed building of the Park 51 Mosque and Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan, about a block away from the former World Trade Center site. Nationalist detractors of the mosque and cultural center portrayed the WTC site as hallowed ground whose proximity should be protected from "undesirable" elements.
Around this time, the poet and scholar Kate Eichhorn had invited me to run a workshop for her Civic Action and Interruption class in the Cultural and Media Studies Department at the New School, so I decided to engage the group in an action that would practice what I had been thinking of as “social poiesis.” The word poiesis, root of our modern “poetry,” was first a verb, and it referred to an action that both transformed and continued the world. Poietic work might be said to reconcile thought with space and time, the person with the social world. What I was interested in exploring was a poetics that could imbricate itself in conceptual and epistemological space-times but also in the physical space-times of power, through embodied poetic experiments.
On October 1, 2010, thirty or so participants met at Ground Zero, and from there fanned out in a starburst pattern in pairs, each pair taking one of the vectors I had mapped in advance while walking in silence and noticing the material and affective characteristics of the terrain they moved through. Throughout the walk, each pair was invited to stop periodically at a location of their choosing and scrawl a sign/poem that would ask passersby to think about their bodies in urban spaces and in relation to nationalist discourse.
The documentation of this performance was exhibited at the Skybridge Art & Sound Space in February 2011.