Matter of Life and Death (Bolero)


Installation at Work Gallery

306 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI Sept. 8 - Oct. 6, 2006

Artist Statement


It has been interesting for me to revisit the process and time period that resulted in "Matter of Life and Death (Bolero)." What began this revisiting was the stimulus "Food" that was put forth by Jack Boulton, editor in chief of the London based e-zine STIMULUS-Respond. In response I wrote the article that you see tacked to the wall above the performance relics and spiral of boxes. The pre-performance installation ended up on the cover! And you may download a free copy of that article at this website ( and read it at your leisure. (Go to my "Writing" page where you will find the pdf and a link to the STIMULUS-Respond site & where you may also download the entire "Food" issue #13.)


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The call for Art for the UM Work Gallery "Smorgasbord" show made it possible to revisit the actual objects and relics and re-create the "post-performance installation" that was originally done in the Michigan Gallery in October 1995. The Work Gallery installation is necessarily smaller and only used half of the boxes and containers but I like it very much. It was interesting to pull out the old boxes ten years later in 2006 and see their almost vintage quality. The writing on the boxes arranged in the spiral creates a colorful cacophony that is readable in many ways. As we installed it, younger artists in the gallery were recalling eating the cereal as children. One of the cereal boxes is actually dated 1993 as part of the surface ad. And one of my personal favorites is "Critics Choice Cornflakes."


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Perhaps the "Critics Choice" resonates with me because I have often felt the intentions of my current project, "The EBB Project," have been misunderstood. It is a long-term multidisciplinary project that sprang from a dream I had around the time (October 23, 1995) that I was presenting "Matter of Life & Death (Bolero)." I remember feeling that I was not able to help or solve any of the environmental problems we faced as a species - through my work. As an artist I was cut off from this. I was showing the problem but not able to present the 'how' we got here. While my valuing the "trash" that the containers were at the time might have somehow been part of them becoming valuable (re-cycle-able) in some mysterious way - that was not enough for me. I saw us hell bent on a course of destruction.


I followed the cues in the dream and began researching the life of a Victorian poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Along the way I discovered things about this poet's image and work that needed to be re-envisioned and I became a published scholar to do so. This is part of the role of the artist: to speak for other artists even though they are dead. Isn't this what Lorca did for the Baroque poet Luis de Góngora? The artist's perspective is of value in many ways.


I am now engaged in a deep and rigorous process that is similar to the lengthy process that the piece installed and pictured here at Work engaged in and that frankly all my work has engaged in. (The dots of my work do connect!) That being said, the creative process of The EBB Project involves much more research into the philosophical underpinnings of our society. I am applying my artist /scholar process to a project that seeks to sort out the thought patterns that continue to create the world as we know and experience it. I am following in the footsteps of my precursors. I don't know yet how successful I am in bringing these ideas to my people - reaching their consciousness. What must be changed is deeply engrained in us. But I can say that in my experiences thus far, I find the audience / viewer / reader eager and hungry to be involved in the process, for direction, answers, and willing to hang in there with me. It is not over their heads. They are consistently underestimated. I think it is part of my responsibility as an artist to engage them in this discourse and will continue to do so no matter what. I always have. I think it is a matter of life and death.


barbara and alivia


It has been a pleasure for me to take part in this exhibition. Thank you to the UM School of Art & Design's "Work" Gallery for generously sharing this valuable space with area artists.


Left: Barbara Neri and her daughter, artist Alivia Zivich Return to top