Mentoring Session

Ann Arbor Art Center, 1997

Materials: wooden ladders with script, two maple chairs, plywood corn crib, arm/hand cast in bees wax, stock tank, shelled corn, animal skulls cast in bronze

Beginning on December 10, 1996, my wife was forced to attend a series of disciplinary meetings, referred to as "mentoring sessions."  In reality, these unethical sessions were interrogations, and precipitated her termination from the University of Michigan-Dearborn where she was teaching.  These sessions initiated the design of Mentoring Session.

During the 1970's, government and university agricultural "experts" advised farmers to "get big or get out."  At the time, these officials did not reflect on the consequences of their advice.  Many farmers followed that advice and got out, fleeing the fields to get manufacturing jobs in cities.  Others got big and ended up losing their farms during the ongoing farm crisis that began in the 1980's.  Many farmers took their own lives.

While some people may think that the agricultural revolution succeeded because America produces more food, cheaply, with less hands, we continue to witness the affects of this advice through unprecedented soil compactions, erosion, and depletion; through the pollution of our watersheds because of chemical runoff; through the annihilation of our agrarian communities; and now through the invasion of prime farmland by urban sprawl. 

A few days ago, on July 24, 1997, I visited a local dairy farmer who is barely making ends meet because he is feeling the strain of competing with industrial agriculture.  One can only imagine that in a few years, his once fertile land will be lost forever, swallowed up by land developers.