no grounds is a durational performance experiment performed at the PASEO Festival in 2018 by Sarah Ashkin. As an evening-length series of choreographed movements, no grounds explores the marking of territory, the negotiation of land rights, and the complexities of safety, security, and ownership. Aided by the participation of audience members, no grounds is a scored performance that holds space for productive tension in its address of people’s relationship to property.
Dressed in a suit and heels, lugging a wagon piled with cones and fencing, Sarah moved through the festival grounds hunting for land. Once she found a ‘parcel’, she asked festival goers to help her sanction off a piece of land and build a fence to enclose her holdings. Inside her claim, she was taken over by a dancing nightmare. All those who came in contact with the performance were given ‘her business card’ which detailed the history of Blue Lake with instructions on donating to Taos Pueblo.
The work was commissioned by curator Erin Elder for her guest curatorial project, We Are All Time in Space, a collection of four site-responsive works that acknowledge the complexities of coexistence with each other and the land, including the work of Winter Count, Christine Howard Sandoval, and Anaïs Duplan.
How does the discourse of white ownership, belonging, and home intersect with histories of colonialism, genocide, and the reservation system? How can I use my platform as a white artist to take accountability for the history of white bodies like mine upon this land?
PERFORMANCE by Sarah Ashkin
SOUND by Daniel Obzejta
MUSIC by Harold Budd, Dark Star
DESIGN by Gary Ashkin
CREATED FOR/WITH The Paseo Festival, Taos, NM (2018)
PHOTOS by Avi Farber
no grounds collaborator bios
DANIEL OBZEJTA is a writer, director, and sound designer visual artist from Oradell, New Jersey. His work is interested in systems of layers, collisions, and collages evoking the grotesque and tender. https://obzejta.com/
accountability practice + partners
During the making of no grounds, a work that focused on colonial concepts of land ownership, Sarah researched the history of land stolen from Taos Pueblo. She learned about Blue Lake, a sacred lake and water source that was stolen by the National Forest in 1906 and later returned by the US Government to Taos Pueblo in 1970. This unprecedented story informed this durational performance. Having grown up in Northern New Mexico, Sarah understands her white identity as tied to and complicit in these histories of stolen land. By asking others to join her in “securing parcels” throughout the festival, she worked to highlight our communal culpability in colonial behaviors. Sarah paid her commission from the Paseo Festival to Taos Pueblo and encouraged her large audience to do the same.
no grounds was made for and on the land stewarded by the people of Taos Pueblo. GROUND SERIES gives thanks to the people of Taos Pueblo and commits to continuing to uncover and dismantle colonial relationships to land, ownership, and self.