Puppets For Peace

a Collaborative Social Practice Puppet Show

What Is Puppets For Peace?

Puppets for Peace was a group project made by the students and professor of the “Art as Social Practice” pilot course at CCAD. It was my idea to explore social practice and language as a puppet show, but I credit the success of the project to the rest of the group.

My original proposal involved the group members and public participants performing absurd mini-plays, wherein all the dialogue would be drawn from a hat during the performance. We built a cardboard theater and took it to the favorite testing ground: the quad. Our cardboard theater did not stand well to the wind–and it was cold. As soon as I started grabbing scraps of paper and reading fragments of speech, I knew my idea didn’t make any sense, and so did everyone else.

I was inspired by the way two people can communicate through nonsensical language and gestures, like chemistry between close friends, or what is often referred to as to being “the same kind of weird” or “on the same wave length.” I imagined looking at another person and being able to empathize with them even if they did not speak the same language, and the sounds of whatever words I said would just be like place holders. The idea here was that the rational structure of words was just extra, or at least not the most essential aspect of two people being able to connect. There’s a saying I remember that all grandmothers can communicate with each other over language barriers. I also imagine people smiling at each other.

Social Practice thrives on accessibility, and deliberate absurdity is…not that. A puppet show was the wrong method for exploring this concept. Instead, we put theater into context, and made Puppets for Peace, a platform for the public to share their voices. Participants could either choose or construct their own puppet with the supplies provided. Then they would compose a poem or statement to perform or have a participating volunteer (such as myself) perform in their stead. It was a hoot.


Alejandro, Eric and Jack at the Puppets for Peace event

Puppets for Peace Selected Poems

Her father is dead!
She wants to find him and help him along.
I thought I’d help her by singing a song.
Sing: “If you go
To and fro
Through the red
And out of your head”
But then I stopped singing.
And she stopped searching.
“My father is dead/” I think is what she said
I went to the doctor
Who said I’m hard of hearing.
As it were, he was not DEAD,
But had simply gone to BED
Please forgive me.

Razmataz Loves Jam by Haley, Sam, and Allison

Kat is a red headed girl
Kat loves Razmataz
Razmataz loves jam
But Jam only loves jam
Razmataz is one of the financially
Stable whales for tales
Spidacat. He has his
Own agenda, a jam agenda
Jam like to sting Razmataz,
Who likes to scratch Kat
They are not friends.

Giraffe man was flustered, because he wasn’t able to make rent on time. So he needed 3 strawberries. But he ate them, and couldn’t make rent. So the landlord came along. He said, “you’re going to have to work for me by picking apples,” because he bit off his hands while eating the strawberries. He couldn’t pick up apples. He said “I’m going to need some oranges tp help grow them back, because you made me bite my hands off because of rent. The thing is Mr. Giraffe man, ‘m gonna need a banana tree to get you those oranges giraffe man turned into a bear who loves the U…S….A
So everything was ok

Reflections on Social Practice Art:

“What is Art as Social Practice?”

A lot of the art in that category maybe serves to simulate the social experiences of people who are less preoccupied with intellectualized concepts. In other words, the social practice artist is too shy to invite people over for dinner, unless they invite strangers to a gallery for dinner to demonstrate social interaction as a high-concept. The irony here is the artist’s disconnection with how ordinary people coexist naturally. The artist pits his or herself against the world to some degree, so that they can confront society in a dramatized intervention. I’d call that a rehearsal for “real action.”

Or at least that is what I think when I’m in a bad mood.

Someone who is an artist (or who is actually self aware) cannot honestly stand to simply live a life. They cannot stop thinking, hence the whole “living naturally” thing goes to shit as soon as a certain threshold of intelligence is passed. After that you have to consider the absurdity of how everyone goes about living. Social practice explores these absurdities in order to realize different visions for what life could be.