Heather Kapplow @ People in Space

Boston-based artist, Heather Kapplow had a special role with People in Space. She actively made herself available to offer her insight during the development stage of the project. This gave her a unique perspective, strengthening her performance concepts to be enacted at the World Expo.

Kapplow’s pieces seemed to serve as premonitions of the chaos that we would experience within this project. Both of the 2 actions that we implemented on Kapplow’s behalf demystified the absurdity of the spectacle of the Expo through simple human interaction.

Her first action “Astrid’s Surprise!” Used humor to transcend language and cultural barriers.

Heather Kapplow @ People in Space “Astrid’s Surprise” from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Kapplow’s second piece came to us with the following instructions:

“Do this occasionally when you feel the need for strength, support or perspective that you imagine I could have contributed if I were there: Stand, focus, and survey the people around you, keeping your mind and heart as open as possible. Inspect your feelings for anything that might inhibit your ability to take the next step of “dowsing” the people in your immediate vicinity. If you feel anything that could interfere with your taking completely open action, say to yourself “I AM THINKING OF A CLOUD!” and then look up to the sky for a cloud. Memorize that cloud and think of it in particular while your peruse the crowd with your eyes and other senses, seeking someone. When you find them, visit them. Tell them who you are and that you are trying to transcend cities and politics and inequity and pasts and futures. Tell them that you feel that the perpetual thing we all have in common no matter where we live in the world or when we lived in history, is that we have all been staring at the same sky and watching these same things that we call “clouds” drift by. Ask them to stare up at the sky with you for a while, and point out a particular cloud that they find interesting. Watch the cloud with them and find out why they find it interesting.  After a while, thank them and move on.”

This action was implemented in English to a non-English speaker.

Heather Kapplow @ People in Space from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Kapplow’s actions were the only actions that People in Space repeated. Both pieces were enacted twice. At the time, this was a decision made because we were unhappy with the documentation. In hindsight, I think these actions offered catharsis. Kapplow created an opportunity for us to be present with expo-goers in a truly humanistic way.

Heather Kapplow is interested in the formal characteristics and textures of digital media, and in investigating very simple philosophical questions about the workings of daily life through performance. These investigations are generally playful, requiring audiences to be active agents in the exploration and art-creation process. Kapplow’s video projects are of low resolution and short. She also makes small ritual objects out of blood, hair, string, wire, bones, keys, burned texts, etc. for particular people that are used by their owners to gain power over situations that they could otherwise not manage completely.
Kapplow had (and recovered from) academic aspirations before having artistic ones. She has a day job in public media.