project image
N. Rich

first performed on September 30, 2016
The City Library, Salt Lake City Performance Art Festival, Salt Lake City, UT
performed three times in 2016


Minneapolis, MN


How can books armor and heal us? How can we read to each other, read each other better?

My three hour, durational performance art work—“hewn and forged”—explored and activated these questions. Key materials included one hundred de-accessioned books, five thousand pennies, my body and voice as a black feminist performance artist, and the game presence of a family crowd. The work aimed to honor how books have helped me process grief and heartbreak.

This is my heart. These are my friends.

These lines opened the work and punctuated key performance actions. At the start, I stepped into a giant heart fashioned out of books, outlined with pennies, then invited everyone to choose a book of their own.

Take a friend and make friends with your friend.

Make your friend make friends with the space.

Make friends with other friends.

People pressed books against the windows and chairs, against other books in other people’s hands. Then we would play, read aloud, tell stories, strike poses inspired by words on the page, and mouth words in silence. Over time, as people continued picking up books, the dull gleam of another heart became perceptible. This was a heart fashioned out of pennies that had been hidden underneath the books. Under the direction of children, we made a river of pennies, a currency of wishes. People walked on this river while others read blessings to them from books.

Who here needs a blessing? Come forward. Pick a friend.

A blessing is both a wound and a gift.

Where do you hurt? Place your friend where you hurt.

And we here, place all our power into our friends and

send that energy out to bless and heal.

For two days, I worked with books for hours, holding them in my hands, making friends with them and with people who held them. The work was improvisation, live happening, and alchemical activation of self and community. By the end, we were hewn from those books and forged together.