The Shan-Tea Art Shanty Project


Of Ice and Tea:

In the dead of winter, at the frozen centre of the continent, hundreds of bundled bodies rush outdoors and flock to the frozen surface of Medicine Lake, Minnesota.  Their destination? The Art Shanty project, a yearly festival, experimental community, collection of non conventional dwelling spaces, public performance, and social experiment, inspired by traditional ice fishing houses that dot the state’s lakes in winter. We, Oolong John Silver and Earl Grey-Beard, are amassing a crew of International creative explorers and visionaries to amalgamate our diverse abilities and talents, to create, the Shan-Tea: A metaphor in three dimensions, a building in the round. Corner-less, and filled with bliss, heating hearts and tongues of visitors, young and old, to warm from cold. A merry-go-round; tea pot shaped, with a door for a handle and a stove for a spout: the Shan-tea's structure is inspired by the nomadic Mongolian  dwelling space of the yurt.

 The Shan-tea, utilizes tea, and transience as platforms for hosting, co-exisitng and thriving in a group, during the coldest months of the year.  We will  invite visitors into it's round interior, offer them a warm cup of tea, in exchange for a smile and a story.

 The Shan-tea revolves around notions of hospitality, warmth and cheer, taking place in extremely chilly conditions,  during the coldest months of the winter.

This project considers hosting, as an artistic act, challenging the following dichotomies of private/public; host/guest; stranger/friend.  The border between artist/spectator and resident/guest is further dissolved by acknowledging the power of Medicine Lake as a liminal space.  The lake is a place between, an everyman’s land and a landscape familiar to every Minnesotan- a common ground.  Guillermo Gómoez-Peña talks about such spaces when discussing his utopian New World Order,“’s all margins, meaning there are no ‘others,’ or better said, the only true ‘others’ are those who resist fusion, mestizaje, and cross-cultural dialogue.”  Here the conventions of society can be cast aside and new schemas formed

Various events and gestures are planned, to break the rigidity of social interactions amongst strangers within the Shan-Tea.

Oolong John Silver, (Kelsey Nelsen) will be hosting the Great Tea Cup Trade, an ongoing performance, that trades hand made tea cups for  stories, dialogues, knowledge, art, crafts, love letters, baked goods, etc.  Offering these bits of  art and self to visitors will act as a springboard for dialogue and will engender a similar self-evaluation and giving in those who participate in the trade.  A remarkable element of giving, is that it requires a certain amount of self-appreciation.  The gifter must value their ability or history enough to both share it and deem it worthy of trade.

Earl Grey Beard, (Amber Phelps Bondaroff) will be organizing a collaborative choreographed ice performance entitled Tea for 2 (or more) on a Frozen Lake, on January 23rd 2010.  The performance will utilize the power of synchronized group movements to reveal mutual dependencies between contrasting entities.  Tales will be told and histories traces, using costumed bodies, pattern and shapes.

From Japanese tea ceremonies to Victorian tea parties, the mad hatter and the march hare to Eichū  the Japanese monk, historical and literary reference will be examined at different phases of the art shanty project, acting as springboards for dialogue and interactions amongst visitors and  members of the Shan-Tea crew.

Oolong John Silver
and Earl Grey Beard