In Guernica in Sand, I used Picasso's Guernica as the departure point for a different view of the damage done when human beings are victimized. Instead of simply being critical of what happened in the Basque town of Guernica in 1937, I wanted to use the concept of impermanence as a lens for focusing on such violent events in terms of the ongoing phenomena of destruction and creation. I used sand to symbolize these processes, since its "lifespan" includes being "born" from the erosion of rock by the action of water or wind, and being reformed into rock by the action of pressure or heat. My goal was to draw attention to the creative power of transformation rather than to the pain caused by clinging to things as they are.
I began the project by creating the majority of a sand-painting version of Guernica before the exhibition opened. I then created the remainder of the piece within one day, midway through the exhibition. This performance started at sunrise and concluded at sunset. Throughout this day, one person at a time was allowed to walk (ideally barefoot) on the sand-painting, effacing it at the same time I was creating it. Visitors were allowed to view this process of simultaneous creation and destruction from the vantage point of a platform constructed next to the sand-painting. At sunset on that day, four participants were invited to sweep the sand toward the middle of the installation, and the project was then left in this condition until the exhibition closed.
2007 The Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago