Mai Ueda was hard to miss on Friday afternoon for Human Impacts Institute’s10 Days of Climate Action. Spotted wearing a mirrored kimono, Brendan Schoenman, HII Youth Leadership Coordinator, and I followed Mai Ueda into Central Park on one of the first, stunning fall days in New York City. As we walked around the park and Ueda performed, heads turned and people remarked, “How beautiful,” almost every other step. I don’t think we heard one negative comment, which is unusual for a performer doing something out of the ordinary in a public setting. Ueda performed a traditional tea ceremony and meditative performance; something an average New Yorker does not see everyday.
Mai Ueda’s performance piece, “The Revolution Begins Within” was a meditation on the individual’s role in his or her environment. Her silent movements were mesmerizing. The stark contrast between her thoughtful, serene performance and the buzzing of tourists and city dwellers made one of the many viewers reflect on the ideas of solitude and community. As part of the HII team, Brendan and I were there to inform the public of the context of her piece and invite them to engage with the artist. We invited viewers to have a meditation of their own, and reflect on their place and role in the environment. We received some really amazing responses, such as:
“It all starts with me.”
“We’ve learned to fly thru the air like birds, to swim thru the sea like fish, all that remains is to learn to walk the earth like men.”
“Serene, calm, visually very impacting.”
The feedback from park-goers was positive and refreshing. When we stopped in high traffic spots, such as Times Square, people were more interested in the spectacle of the piece, taking photos and filming, and less interested in meaning. However, despite the location, I believe the performance was successful in engaging people and translating a sense of positivity that left people feeling happy and inspired.
As the first event of the 10 Days of Climate Action, Mai Ueda stimulated a lot of people in just a few short performances. The following days are filled with more exciting public works and art pieces that will encourage viewers to think more about themselves and climate change. You don’t miss a day!
–By LeAnne Harvey, Environmental Leadership Intern