ABOUT

As the 2012 White Mountain National Forest Artist-in-Residence, a residency presented in collaboration with the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, Xavier Cortada led a participatory art performance entitled Surrender at Tunnel Brook, in which the artists and his participants engaged in the futile attempt of rerouting the flow of a brook at White Mountain National Forest to conditions prior to Tropical Storm Irene. Participants also created a ritualistic installation lining up 100 white flags amid boulders along the path where a man-made road ran prior to it being washed away by Irene. The culmination of Surrender at Tunnel Brook was an educational discussion about the processes of nature, as well as the effects Tropical Storm Irene had on the Forest. This performance encapsulates anthropocentric desires of changing the natural environment and the overall futility of such a goal, the outcome of which is an acceptance of nature and its ever-changing qualities.

The intention of this performance was to present nature as it is, an unstoppable force that cannot be molded to fit our own desires. This was achieved through the various processes Cortada led his participants through, from moving boulders individually to an attempt at levitation, none of these actions having any effect on rerouting the flow of the brook. The performance culminates with this comprehension, participants placing white flags along the path that previously existed, a universal sign for surrender. The placement and usage of these flags also references the charting of a hurricane, Cortada using this reference as a mediation between what we perceive as happening and what we actually have the ability to change. What Surrender at Tunnel Brook effectively addresses is this disconnect many have with nature, a misunderstanding of the permanence and the futility of the natural environment.

A major aspect of this performance, and part of the success of Surrender at Tunnel Brook, is the educational component that was integrated throughout. Cortada not only aims to address the futility of attempting to change nature but offers an explanation of the natural processes that create these types of problems. This is pertinent to the discussion, as it allows for the performance to present both a practical and conceptual understanding of the effects of Tropical Storm Irene on the environment of the forest.