Sunday, July 29, 2007

Iraq Names Project

A woman named Nancy Hiss has begun a temporary art installation she's named the "Iraq Names Project." Slowly, laboriously, she's writing the names of the dead on the sidewalks of Portland, Oregon. I didn't know about the project until this afternoon, when I came out of my local Buddhist center and saw the names stretching down the block:

She has subtitled the work "honoring sacrifice and interdependence," which is quite appropriate in the Buddhist context. A central piece of Buddhist theology rests on the idea of interdependence--a simultaneity of causes and conditions that create the arisal of circumstances and objects, including people. Much like the "six degrees of separation," it doesn't take long for us to start seeing the threads that tie us all together. She also adds, I think quite necessarily:
"As you reflect on these names also remember the hundreds of thousands of nameless Iraqis and others who have been scarred by this war."
The artist is tying these names into the web of city streets, bringing them into our experience. Drawing on another central tenet of Buddhism, her installation is tenuous and fleeting. As soon as the Oregon rains fall, the names will be washed into the streets. Names woven into our lives, but, like our lives, impermanent. It is a wonderful inspiration.

(Sorry about the photo quality--it's a cell phone picture.)

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