Monday, August 25, 2008

DNC: Day two

We're on day two of a two-day installation, and there are already more than a dozen articles and blog entries about the show. Click on the title to see a thoughtful review of the show with a few photographs taken in the installation.

As expected, last night was quite remarkable. We've gotten used to being an island of calm surrounded by chaos, but the mood in the installation seems to become even more powerful around sunset. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the area around us was quite charged at dusk. Police on horseback, police in SWAT gear, police wearing face shields and gas masks confronted protestors also dressed largely in black, many of them wearing goggles or with handkerchiefs tied around their faces to help them contend with pepper spray. The showdown between the groups had turned into a standoff right at sunset.

At just that moment, we played the Adhan (or "call to prayer") over our loudspeakers. It's sensitive territory, incorporating elements from Islam into our art piece. We don't want to send the wrong message to any devout practitioner of any faith. But we thought it was worth the risk: to remind us all that Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same god; to invoke the idea of sincere devotion to a higher power; and, frankly, to inject beautiful sounds into a chaotic and unpleasant environment.

Not long after the muzzein informed us for the last time that there is no god but God, we began to see a trickle of visitors coming from the direction of the police/protestor standoff, some of them with tears in their eyes. As one man approached the exhibit crying, he thanked us for the reminder that we are all God's children. (His words, not mine.)

The moment reminded me of one of Rumi's poems:

Where Is God?

I tried to find Him on the Christian cross, but He was not there; I went to the Temple of the Hindus and to the old pagoda, but I could not find a trace of Him anywhere.

I searched the mountains and the valleys but neither in the heights nor in the depths was I able to find Him. I went to the Kaaba in Mecca, but He was not there either.

I questioned the scholars and philosophers, but He was beyond their understanding.

I then looked into my heart and it was there where He dwelled that I saw him; He was nowhere else to be found.