Praxis (Brainard Carey and Delia Bajo) is an internationally acclaimed art and performance collaborative best known for their appearance in the Whitney Biennial 2002, in which they performed by offering services that included hugs,foot washings and other acts of intimacy. Forget Me Not (opens September 7th at P.S. 122) is a Mass which celebrates living and tells the story of the artist’s mother’s unusual death and burial. Praxis engages the audience in ritualistic exchanges and offerings, providing solace and “tools for living” while raising questions of how we care for the dead and dying.


As in most of our projects, it was our current situation combined
with our interest in confrontation and exchange. Brainard’s mother
died last April after an unexpected bout with cancer and we all moved
our stuff into storage to take care of her in the remaining days of
her life. To care for a rapidly dying person, let alone a mother,
summons all your strength both psychologically and physically. The
stress of it all made us sick, literally for two months. And at the
same time it seemed an honor to be in the presence of a situation
like this. And that we were entrusted with this task was something we
wanted to meet with all the power we could summon in ourselves. As we
read about death and dying in different books we came across some
interesting facts, like most terminally ill people die in the middle
of the night to spare themselves and their relatives the stress of
watching someone take their last breath. When we told Joan this fact
(Brainard’s mother) we said that we wanted her to die in the afternoon
while we were all present. She agreed and said she would, and in fact
she did die at 3pm in the afternoon with all of us around. So, this
process of dying took a month to happen and then more time, perhaps
endless, of grieving and coping. At that time we were working on
several art projects and the PS122 project was one of them. PS gave
us the opportunity to explore anything we wished in a more immersive
space. Normally we like to work with the passerby, and in theatre you
have this trapped audience. So we wanted to take advantage of that
and create an intimacy that naturally comes with being trapped in a
space with others. Our previous work was largely about life itself,
and it seemed time to discuss death.


The New Economy began in 1999 with our meeting one another and the
first project was washing feet out of our storefront on East 10th
street between Ave A and 1st. We were living and working in this tiny
storefront and began talking about what kind of changes we wanted to
see in the world around us. Mostly, we agreed that we hated working
for money to pay the rent and buy necessities. We could think of no
one who would disagree with this fact. I mean, some people may love
their jobs, say you are an editor or publisher and love it, or a
writer that gets to travel all over the world to review landscapes or
something, but even those people would prefer to not be bound to the
job that they love, and look forward to a vacation. If they were
given the choice to have their dream job or their dream vacation,
which do you think they would choose? So we found this idea
fascinating, that is, that no one really wants to work, and in fact
anyone that is, is compromised somehow and not using their fullest
potential. So we thought, what would a world be like where no one was
working dumb jobs for money and instead were pursuing whatever their
dream was, even if that dream changed everyday? It seemed to us that
would be some kind of utopic environment. And since we had very
little money because we were trying our best to not work and just
play, we looked at what we do. We stayed in bed a lot, sleeping late
and making love, ate delicious things, drank good liquor and smoked
the best pot. We liked having friends over for dinner, hosting
parties that featured inflatables and friends taking turns DJing, and
traveling to Europe and going to the beach.
After doing all the above, the pot and liquor began to drag us down
and felt like we were losing some of our enthusiasm. You see, we
often don’t know when enough is enough and like to experiment in
extremes. So to change the script so to speak, we went on a seven day
fast where we drank only water. After that fast we came back to the
city and felt like we wanted to wash peoples feet out of our
storefront. We also became raw foodists and didn’t drink or smoke. So
we put out a sign one day a week and began washing feet out of our
storefront. People came in and loved it. Conversations began and we
felt this was what the New Economy might look like. That is, we
thought if people just come in off the street and receive a foot-
washing for free (we didn’t accept donations) it looked to us like
the world we imagined, The New Economy, where money isn’t God, but
actions are, and there is no context for any of it except that you do
what you like to do and you don’t need permission for any of it.
We were very excited by this idea and called ourselves Praxis, as in
practice, because our work and our collaboration was about practicing
a way of being that had no end or beginning. We quickly added more choices to our New Economy menu which was a
hug, or a bandage (for a visible or non-visible wound), a dollar and
a prayer. A few years later we added in more things as we were
invited to different venus, like wine and marijuana and more, and
began developing more economic theory and a campaign manifesto.


There are several moments that are memorable. One day when we first
began on 10th street in 2000 I think, Karen Finley came in and had
her feet washed. She was full of compliments and of course we knew of
her work and were flattered. But what was amazing was that after her
feet were washed, she seemed truly humbled somehow and told us how
she was just in the moment, in this moment of caring. She had few
words to really describe the experience. And you know, this is the
woman who has an extremely acerbic manner and can be very aggressive,
so it was powerful to see this stranger in such a different light.
One thing that was always fascinating to us about The New Economy
menu, was that almost no one took the dollar, that is, we offered a
dollar with all the services or instead of the services and had a
very hard time giving them away, no one wanted it! Even the homeless
men that camped on our doorstep who once asked for a dollar and we
gave it to them without question, never asked again! Its hard to say
why people did not want money from us, but it strengthed our belief
that in the context of The New Economy proposal of ours, money was
meaningless. Really our favorite moments are hard to describe, like
the times when we have hugged people and they don’t let go at first
and you stay longer and feel a tremendous warmth and intimacy that
feels very sincere and with great depth though there are few words
spoken. Those are really are favorite moments and they are wordless
encounters where a type of understanding passes between us and them
and it restores our faith in humanity, in art, and in life.


Rituals are a practice, or praxis, to us and we feel that with
repetition the action of a ritual becomes very powerful. Even if it
is to have a big salad every afternoon, there is a cumulative effect
of this which is complex. If you pray every day for yourself or
someone else, it does create a shift in you consciousness somehow. If
you worked in a soup kitchen one day a week it would create or
inspire change, if you smoked pot every evening or every morning it
would create a change, so all rituals have a powerful effect, its
more a matter of which ritual you decide to choose. All are valid and
most we do involuntarily, but the fact is we have a choice and as we
make any change in our daily rituals we will see the difference one
choice can make and how we can foster positive addictions to a ritual
of any kind.


Its strange to think about. Really we want to exist outside any art-
related venue, and we want to work outside of art related venues,
but it seems that is the most attractive thing to art venues! So as
we get invitations to perform or create conceptual works within
venues we find ourselves interpreting the New Economy within an art
structure. Ideally what is next is our own country, without law,
because we don’t like the police, we don’t like credit agencies and
all the other beauracratic structures that make us all fit into a box
of some type, like paying taxes or not, resisting the war or not, etc.
So next after PS122 will probably be further interpretations of the
New Economy and it can take any form. The theatre is a fascinating
form, so we may go on a tour of Europe, then again we don’t like
stress and demanding schedules so we may find a way to work that will
allow us more freedom to be with each other and our son.
If you want to find out what the latest project is, check our website
which we update all the time with current information as well as DVDs
we continue to produce.

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