Giant Heads on Sticks! illustrates capitalist excesses

Amy Sandquist

Lawrentians gathered outside the conservatory May 20 at 4:30 p.m. and marched to Hurvis Crossing to participate in a celebration and a skit created by senior Elena Amesbury. Amesbury’s performance art piece celebrated the supremacy of love over America’s materialist culture.
For the visual aspect of her performance, Amesbury constructed large papier-mƒché heads propped up on sticks and carried by other students. The artwork was partially inspired by the Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont, a group that Amesbury described as a “radical political group who has put on productions since the 1960s.”
Amesbury noted that creating props helped her realize the importance of “hand-built, community based, human-to-human communication,” something that she hopes her performance emphasized.
Amesbury hopes that refocusing students on the importance of communication and interaction with each other will illustrate the insignificance of consumerism. She believes that those who spend their lives loving others in a broad, inclusive sense will find greater fulfillment and happiness than those who concentrate on accumulating wealth.
Citing Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute animated video that advocates for people’s awareness about the excesses of consumerism, Amesbury summed up her message in the words “less stuff, more friends.”
A senior studio art major and English minor, Amesbury was originally inspired to put together this celebration as an assignment for her sculpture class. Tailoring Assistant Professor of Art Rob Neilson’s assignment to make “public art,” Amesbury chose to fulfill the assignment through performance art. Amesbury noted that her studies at Lawrence influenced her decision to create a unique celebratory performance.
“A bunch of my senior friends in the department last year were really good at doing performance art, at being out and exposing their art and ideas to the Lawrence public,” Amesbury said.
She credits those friends for inspiring her project and regrets that there has been a lack of performance art at Lawrence this year. “There has been much too little ridiculousness happening,” Amesbury said.
Her digital processing class this term, taught by Assistant Professors of Art John Shimon and Julie Lindemann, exposed Amesbury to the power of art as a vehicle for activism and helped her choose this performance’s subject.
Amesbury’s work is also largely influenced by her imminent graduation. She explained that college graduates easily “get caught up in the money-making mindset,” and acknowledged that today’s unpredictable economy engenders panic about paying for food, rent and student loans.
Especially in the midst of a recession, Amesbury understands that “it would be easy to take a nice cushy job with tons of security and forget who you are a little.”
For these reasons, Amesbury concluded that her performance should remind Lawrentians, particularly those who graduate next month, of certain truths. “We’re still young, we have goals and na’ve aspiration, and we don’t have to immediately start working to shop,” said Amesbury.
By presenting those in her audience with a colorful and lively performance, Amesbury attempted to impress upon them the need to “get a job and pay rent, sure, but go out and meet people and have fun and plant trees, because ultimately that will make you happiest.