'A Madness Shared By Many' (2016)
Curated By Sammy Dalati, in collaboration with No Home Gallery
Hosted By The Mess, October 8 - 22, 2016
For 'A Madness Shared By Many', artist Thomas Mars engaged with the prose poem Desiderata from the perspective of a performance artist, riffing off and complicating its confusing history in a series of video-recorded interpretations.
Desiderata was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann of Terre Haute, Indiana. It was found on Adlai Stevenson’s bedside table after he died, has been read publicly by Leonard Nimoy, Joan Crawford, and Pierre Trudeau, among others, and probably adorned the door of a classroom in a school you went to, or was recited by a fellow student or a teacher when you graduated. The poem’s simple and straightforward enjoinments—“be gentle with yourself,” “listen to others,” “strive to be happy”—have encouraged people around the world since it was written, and point to a communal sensibility that’s simple and timeless.
On opening night, six artists, a class of students and their two teachers were invited to perform original and classic material to create a polyphonic, multimedia poem that melded voices from the urban avant-garde with those from the more conservative hinterlands. Kernel corn, meant to evoke the Corn Belt environ that Ehrmann hailed from, was spread on the floor and distributed on the pedestals.
No Home Gallery and Thomas Mars believe the poem exists at the crossroads of what’s popular/avant-garde, rural/urban, universal/particular, and that it encourages ice-breaking vulnerability. Thus, in a very divided country like ours, Desiderata is very important.