Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ephemeral Art at X

I recently had the honor and privilege of creating art for an amazing event at a Google campus.

X (also known as  the moonshot factory and formerly known as Google [x]) is the advanced research arm of Alphabet (of which Google itself is a subsidiary). They work on cutting edge projects such as self driving vehicles, drone-delivery balloon powered internet, and Google Glass. These are the projects the world has heard about, but many of the projects X employees work on, never make it to completion. 

Several years ago, in an effort to engage the emotional and psychological impact this can have on the employees, X began conducting their own version of the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. In the traditional observance of this cultural celebration, altars are made to remember departed loved ones (I recall collecting and displaying dioramas of skeletons doing every day activities). The X version of the observance honored the projects that have essentially ‘died’, while also opening up a dialogue about the emotions that are part of this process.

When I was asked to be part of this project, I was an instant ‘Yes’. I love when my art is able to be part of something more than just itself, when it can serve as a context or visual expression of something bigger. We batted around ideas for few rounds, settling on me doing a large mandala painting made of colored sand, akin to Tibetan sand mandalas.

After weeks of research and practice, designing and redesigning the artwork, figuring out and modifying the tools, I was ready to roll. Over the course of 2 days (2 veeery long days), Kelsi (my arts biz partner) and I created this artwork in the 3 story atrium:

The larger event was an ornate gathering which included offered thought and emotion provoking speakers and eulogies. At its conclusion, those who were interested in participating in the closing ceremony joined me at the sand painting. We formed a circle around the artwork, spoke our releases, and then began sweeping it up. What took over 20 hours for two people to create was swept up in a couple minutes. Some of the sand was placed in baggies and given out to employees to disperse where they wanted. The rest was placed in a beautiful vase to be displayed in the building.

In sum this was an amazing experience. I am very proud of the completed artwork, especially considering it was my first time creating in this medium. I wish I could have spent a little more time with it though- literally as soon as I made my last dot, the ceremony gong rang out. I am thankful to the visionaries at X for hosting this event and inviting me to contribute to it. In my work with Elemental Team Arts (fostering creativity, team connecting, and personal development) we have been attempting to bring high level discussions into the workplace, and so i recognize how tough that can be. I applaud X for tending to emotional well-being of their employees by fostering difficult conversations such as the one during this event: Death. 

And I look forward to doing more sand paintings, spreading the joy and power of ephemeral art! 

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