tsatsas a 14th street pilgrimage:  
new york, october 1-10,2011

Tsa-tsas are miniature versions of Buddhist stupas, or markers of sacred space.  In Bhutan, where I bought the mold I use to make my tsatsas, they are usually produced in batches of 108, to mark an important occasion or intention, and then carefully placed around temples and natural landscapes as offerings. In setting out 108 tsatsas along 14th Street, I say: mindful attention to small features of the urban landscape is a catalyst for experiencing sacred space, and – more radically – for causing it to occur.

This ongoing project follows in the footsteps of other experiments I've done in sacred-ordinary space, especially the 100 Names Project and Becoming the City that Planted Trees. There’s an old Zen story:

A teacher is dying, and a student despairs over this fact. The student asks what she can possibly do to honor the teacher. “Build me a seamless monument,” the teacher says.

Meaning: live in such a way that sacred and ordinary are one. Live in such a way that there are no secrets. Live in such a way that there are no unimportant places or people.

If you have found one of the 108 NY tsatsas during the course of the Art in Odd Places festival, I hope you’ll take time to send me a story or a photograph, by emailing mustaphaputtgen [at] gmail.com. I'll try to add new photos and messages to this page at least once a day (October 1-10, 2011). You can also add your voice to the project by uploading your tsatsa story via the broadcastr website. You'll need to set up an account to do this - but it's free & easy, so why not? Make sure to use the tag nytsatsas with your story, and to pin it roughly where you found your tsatsa on the map.

For more information about the project (& my personal history as a recidivist pilgrim), you can listen to my handy 3-minute project audio guide. Enter "aiop2011" as your search tag, and scroll down till you see A 14th Street Pilgrimage. For more about the festival, go to AiOP's excellent website, which has all kinds of information about the artists & projects. 

I dedicate this project to the good of people traveling the streets of New York.  May all your journeys be for the good, and may you be well.


October 1st, 2011: First day of A 14th Street Pilgrimage
I am discovering that 14th St has a lot of auspicious tsatsa spots, including ornate ledges in the doorways of the old city; disused corners of Catholic facades; utilitarian structures like standpipes and phone booths; and the hands of a heroic-sized Buddha and Superman who are practically neighbors on the same block. Some rain today, and so while I embrace the idea of the tsatsas' impermanence, I found myself looking for niches & nooks & not paying much attention to open spaces. Today's walk was from 8th Ave to Ave C; tomorrow I will go west to the Hudson. So far, no participants' stories have come back to me. I know at least some of the tsatsas are moving around, as when I retrace my steps I do not see them where I left them.
above: doorways of the old city. [roll over to see closer views]  
above & below: four common tsatsa-friendly stuctures - bus stops, standpipes; pay phones; and parking pay booths.  
above: two churches on the 14th Street pilgrimage. the one on the left is near AiOP artists Patrizia Cazorla's and Laurie LeBreton's projects. someone painted the pink marble facade grey, which seems like a) a crime against humanity, and b) a good metaphor for the blandification that can seem necessary for participation in organized religion. above the now-disused fount on the right, the stone says, "All Who Thirst."  
above: still thinking about Those Who Thirst, I set down a tsatsa on someone's empty sidewalk bed. I hesistate to do this, as it seems could be an invasion of privacy, but then I go back to the intention of well-wishing and it's OK. I notice the bed is made of Joy.
above: the Buddha and Superman on the same block! hoorah.  
above: two shrines of idiosyncratic enterprise - Rags a Gogo and the Russian Souvenir Shop. the latter had seemed sealed up since time immemorial, but today, just as I was setting up my tsatsa, a gnomely Russian person came out & invited me into his Cavern of Ali Baba, Wooden Eggs and Soviet Epaulets Division. inside, I pined briefly for a painting of St. George spearing a cloud while riding a cross-eyed dragon-horse. coming out, I saw the tsatsa I'd left, now broken in half. perfect: it will go in the river tomorrow.  
14th Street project pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


Art in Odd Places 2011: RITUAL is guest curated by Kalia Brooks, MoCADA Director of Exhibitions and Trinidad Fombella, El Museo Del Barrio Exhibitions Manager/Assistant Curator. Festival Producer, Lucia Warck Meister. Founder/Director, Ed Woodham.

Art in Odd Places (AiOP) aims to present art that stretches the boundaries of communication in the public realm by presenting artworks in all disciplines outside the confines of traditional public space regulations. AiOP reminds us that public spaces function as the epicenter for diverse social interactions and the unfettered exchange of ideas. www.artinoddplaces.org