Hay Installation Reflections by the FIU Students of Art Society Conflict 2018

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FIU Honors College students of ASC 2018 working together to construct the Hay Installation at the Bakehouse Art Complex (Photo © Shalenah Ivey)

Hayday
by Julia Abreu

Moving hay around. That’s how I first thought of the project offered to us by Robert Chambers. He gave the class an abstract idea, an interactive space built entirely with hay, and kindly allowed us to toy with the idea, throw it around, shape into something concrete. At first, my original thought seemed to be the truth, with different members from the class throwing hay around at random, each with their own idea. And then, the magic happened. We started to come together, think in the same wavelength, connecting through those that spoke up to bond us and our work. We went back to the drawing board, discussed as a class, and reached an agreement before returning to the Bakehouse Art Complex. The shock of the first contact with hay subsidized by the second day. The smell danced through my nose as soon as I turned down the hallway. The spikes in the hay felt soft, welcoming. The allergies were the same, as my sinuses can attest. But the main change was the work. Now we had a plan, a goal, which led us to come together, right now, work together, now together. Together we powered through the heat and the heavy bales of hay, building a beautiful work of art, much beyond my first thoughts. In the end, the wonderful experience was worth the difficulties and allergies. It was ASC’s Hayday.

A Collectivity to Falling Apart
By Isabella Marie Garcia

For an exhibition titled “Collectivity,” I found the fact that we were using hay as the foundation for an installation to be ironic.

As the bales of hay that entered the gallery gradually joined each other in stacked piles, the actual particles of hay were falling off in clumps and sticking to our pants and our shirts, even finding a home in the soles of our shoes.

How could we use hay to reflect collectivity when the ground was full of clumps of it, making us dangerously slide across it, with even one bale towards the end completely falling apart?

It’s not the hay, though, that makes for the collectivity.

It’s the gathering around the hay that creates a collective.

A unity as we come together while surrounded by the falling apart.

I think of the hay ride I once took in elementary school. My neighbor across the cul-de-sac from me and her end of October birthday festivities. The year I was in second grade, her parents organized a hay ride for the kids of the neighborhood. I think of my shy self riding in the back of that truck full of hay, feeling like I belonged when I only knew one face in a crowd of strangers.

I think of my idea of a career in high school and possibly becoming a veterinary assistant. In my junior year, we were taught how to care for equines, horses and ponies alike. We memorized the best grasses to feed these intimidating but beautiful creatures. Timothy. Alfalfa. Bluegrass. I think of a career I lost to the memories of high school but a fondness for the hands-on.

Most of all, I think of the course I enrolled in back in the spring that my graduating friends had recommended I take. They had another idea of this class with a final exhibition at the end. That had fallen apart for this inaugural course before we all had begun to enroll. I think of these expectations that I had about previous end of the year student-run exhibitions and whether we could live up to that fame. I think of the other students who didn’t know what Aesthetics & Values was, who didn’t have friends who had put on beautiful exhibitions and who I felt I had to live up to, who entered this class with a clean slate and eager eyes.

I think of us entering the gallery unsure of what to expect and leaving unhappy with ourselves during the initial construction, a curator’s eyes not too happy with what we had done. I think of us in our designated classroom coming up with ideas on how to come together, and then the day we began again, we were ready. We were ready to make something new from the used, to create something whole from something scattered, and we did. I think of us lifting bales together to cover pillars of concrete and make pillars of hay, giving each other gloves, warning each other to move when hales would tumble over. I think of the lesson that comes with being open-minded to change.

Break your expectations every once in a while.

You never know what might come together.

Thank you to those at the Bakehouse Art Complex for opening up their space to us and to Robert Chambers for allowing us to work on the installation, and thank you to Professor Bailly for allowing us to work on an installation so early on in the semester. I feel closer to my peers in working hands-on together.

All that Glitters isn’t Gold
By Shalenah Ivey 

Touched by farmer’s gold;
Eyes turn ruby red, skin too.
Blue light.

Yellow as far as the eye can see.
We become gilded,
Dripping in farmer’s gold.

No Oregon winter
With frozen pearls
Suspended in mountains.

Now struck by farmer’s gold.
What does it mean to be Byzantine?
To play as animals do?

Soft carpet beneath our tired feet.
A rooster crows on Miami streets,
Cloaked in farmer’s gold.

The amber sun, an October rain;
A blue eyed dog licks hello,
Silver shield of armor.

We found the needle in farmer’s gold.
Hands forged into fists,
No acres left unkissed.

Hello new friend,
I have not forgotten your name.
You laughed with me again.

Never enough farmer’s gold.
Heavy as it is humble,
Horses gallop in harmony.

To push then to pull.
Bonded with hearts full,
Touched by farmer’s gold.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Hay Bale
by Kassandra Casanova Luna

1.

Alfalfa is a forage crop, known in other parts of the world as lucerne. It was first cultivated in ancient Iran, and today is used for grazing, hay, and silage. It resembles clover, but it’s not. It has clusters of small purple flowers, like the small violets painted on the perfume you bought for me.

2.

The ancient Greeks, and then Romans, are believed to be the first to cultivate alfalfa as a livestock food. Harvesting is our ancient destiny.

3.

The first time I took you to my farm I showed you the stack of alfalfa-timothy hay bales in storage. You helped me load them into the barn to feed the sheep and cows, and put a hay straw in your mouth, the way cowboys did in those Western novels you loved to read. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t. I really wish I had taken a picture.

4.

Ancient Romans created ustrinum, giant mausoleums used for storing the ashes of the dead. They built giant pyres, called rogus, which were filled with hay straw and other kindling and set ablaze to incinerate the bodies of their loved ones.

5.

You gave me thanatophobia.

6.

Thanatophobia is the extreme fear of death, whether it is the idea of one’s own death or of the death of those they desperately love. I have an inescapable fear of losing those I love.

7.

Christ ascended to heaven on the third day
but I am stuck in the perpetual second.
I called your name and begged you
to come back, if only in dreams,
but you never answered or appeared.
I wish I was like Mary Magdalene.

8.

I can’t really remember what the last words I said to you were, but I’m pretty sure they were I love you. I hope it was I love you.

9.

Some argue that thanatophobia is not the fear of death itself
but the fear of the unknown that follows it.
I want to know where you are
and if you can at least see me.
Will we continue our story,
or face a cruel and empty nothing?

10.

Alfalfa has an extensive root system that can grow to the depth of 49 feet. You were buried at six. Its strong roots can prevent erosion, the same way strong will won’t let you collapse. I don’t know how much longer my Rome will hold.

11.

I want to plant alfalfa over your grave
so that their roots may grow with your decay,
so that they can lift you back to me
and bloom.

12.

I desperately wish I could be as full
and substantial as a bale of compressed hay.
I desperately wish I could give back the same life
they will give to countless beings. I wish I could be used
for art. I wish I could hold onto the ones I’ve lost
and the ones I love the way string holds the most
central strands of alfalfa together.

13.

I really, really hope it was I love you.

after Wallace Stevens

To Build a Place of Hay
By Victoria Smith

Perhaps at first silent students
Hiding under a quality of prudence
We soon were gathered here
And then a purpose became clear

To build a place of hay
It’s intent to bring people closer
Proved to do just that
While we acted as composers

Given the music, or task 
To build the artist’s creation 
Our goal was now to ask 
And this led to collaboration

To build a place of hay
Now how were we to do it? 
So we thought of different ways 
But did not quite yet commit 

Open to different ideas 
Each expression from our peers 
Was heard by everyone
And I thought “This will take years!”

Perhaps for a single person 
To build a place of hay 
But together we were faster 
And we did it in two days 

To build a place of hay 
Meant to bring people together 
And as we came to know 
Friendship made the silence lesser

Back to “Collectivity” Opening at Bakehouse Art Complex (BAC)

AUTHOR(S) AND LAST UPDATE
Stephanie Sepúlveda & John William Bailly  17 November 2018
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