How To Explain Pictures to a Live Paro (2016)

How to Explain Pictures to a Live Paro

By Sahar Sajadieh

Pictorial Installation: Mengyu Chen and Sahar Sajadieh




“How to Explain Pictures to a Live Paro” is an interactive durational performance artwork about gun control policies in the US, and the safety and security of students. It is an invitation to a conversation about these issues and a tribute to the students who have lost their lives in shooting incidents at schools. The artist will be performing with Paro, a robotic baby harp seal (a therapeutic robot), which is scientifically proven to be helpful in hospitals, elderly houses, and trauma therapy. Paro has come to help facilitate the interaction, communication, and healing through a dialogue that has been long postponed in our community.

This piece is a digital reenactment of Joseph Beuys’ “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare.” The original performance was about Beuys’ relationship with his artworks and his frustration with “explaining art” to the people intellectually. He completely ignored the audience in his performance and talked to a dead hare for 3 hours about his artworks. This digital reperformance, however, is an invitation to the audience to interact with the artwork and talk about the pictures on the wall, which are polemical and disturbing. The pictures are of the victims of every mass shooting that has happened in the last eight years in American schools. In the room there are Twitter feeds updating live from popular gun control hashtags with different perspectives, in conversation with one another: #guncontrol, #stopgunviolence, #gunviolence, #gunsense, #2a, #nra. Despite various efforts and conversations over the course of the last presidency, school shootings are still clearly a big problem in our society. Now that we are entering a new era with a new presidency, what should we do as a community to hopefully put an end to this violence as soon as possible?