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Ritsuko Taho
Carl Barron Plaza

Title: Multicultural Manifestoes
Date: 1995
Materials: Glass, brick, granite, grass
Dimensions: Half acre
Location: Intersection of River Street
and Massachusetts Avenue

"Dreams are very personal and a real reason people immigrate to this country. But there is a loss of public space here in which people can expose their private thoughts. There is little social interaction among cultures. I thought about how the public space can be designed to facilitate that interaction, that interchange of thoughts about social issues, cultural issues or something very private." -- Ritsuko Taho

Seeing and experiencing

In Multicultural Manifestoes, Ritsuko Taho transforms a busy public place - the heart of Central Square - into an intimate site for dialogue and meditation.

Her installation includes three "dream towers," each etched with the word "dream" in many languages, reflecting the fact that Central Square is a vibrant multi-ethnic neighborhood. Are any of the languages familiar to you? How many can you identify?

Taho is interested in the intersection between public space and private thoughts. She collected personal dreams from Cambridge residents and inscribed them on the towers' "dream wheels." Walk around the towers, spin the wheels and read the texts. Notice the individual styles of handwriting. Do you share a dream with anyone? If you could add your own dream, what would it be?

Where does this installation begin and end? What sounds and smells do you experience? Taho wanted to create a calm, protected space that could bring people together by encouraging reflection and conversation. Do you think she has succeeded? What elements of the installation contribute to an atmosphere of intimacy?

How do reading the dreams and being in the midst of this piece change your experience of this intersection?

Why do you think the artist chose the title, Multicultural Manifestoes? (A "manifesto" is a public declaration of principles or intentions.)

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Onsite

What you will need:
Paper, crayons (be sure to peel off the paper), pencil.

Make rubbings of the dream wheels or write down the dreams that you like best.

Hand-on

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Hand-on

Drawing
What you will need:
Piece of 8.5" x 11' paper, pencil or pen.

Using Multicultural Manifestoes as a jumping-off point, create a group poem. Choose a line or fragment from one of the dream wheels. Fold a piece of paper like a fan, with eight "accordion" sides. Write your chosen line on the top face of the fan. Then pass the fan to someone else. He or she will add a sentence on the next face of the fan (they can use a line from Taho's installation or invent a line of their own). Then he or she will fold over the first sentence so the next person can only see the preceding line. Pass it on. Continue until you have eight lines.

Fan book

Now have someone else in your group make a fan and write the first line. Make as many fan poems as your group desires. Now read your poems out loud. Did anything surprise you?

Drawing
What you will need:
Shoebox, paper, scissors, light-colored fabric (an old sheet works well), acrylic paint, wooden pole, permanent marker, staple gun, found objects (bells, ribbon, string).

Taho's installation shows how art can be an interactive process. The artist didn't just work alone in her studio, but got out in the community to create art with other people.

Try making your own community-oriented piece - one that gets you out into the world, working with and listening to others. Make a slot in your shoebox. Now create a sign that asks passersby to write their wishes or dreams on a piece of paper and put it into the box. Collect 30 dreams from different people.

In many countries flags convey public messages of prayer and hope. Choose some of your collected dreams to make community dream flags. Cut your cloth into strips. Use your permanent marker to write a dream on each strip. Paint accompanying images or designs. Staple gun or nail the strips onto the pole. To add movement and sound, attach bells, ribbon, string or other found objects to the pole.

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