Students walking around New College from Feb. 7 through 9 may have noticed a strange object circulating throughout campus. Having just directed The Fog at New College in 2022, Logan Gabrielle Schulman (‘17)—artist, educator, organizer and theater maker—returned to campus from New York to showcase their most recent project, a sculpture titled KEEPING ON (breathing). Schulman sent an email to the student forum prior to setting up their sculpture, giving a brief explanation of the piece and stating that their “greatest hope is that this sculpture doesn’t alarm anyone any more than we are already alarmed.” Schulman wrote that their piece is meant to be a “sculpture in protest and community,” as stated on their website. Inspired by recent events on campus related to the new Board of Trustees (BOT) and incoming Interim President Richard Corcoran, Schulman also drew much inspiration from the concept of a goses—a term which means “dying person” in Jewish law and ritual tradition.
“My art practice, since even when I was at New College, has been focused on the way we grieve and don’t grieve as a society, especially in America,” Schulman explained in a phone interview with the Catalyst. “We don’t really like to talk about death as indicated from the last three years of [the] pandemic. From news, it’s evident that we as a society don’t know how to grieve, and I don’t think I know better than anyone by any means, but I do feel that it’s important to me that as a society we figure out how to best take care of ourselves through an act of acceptance of loss and being able to process that loss.”
Over the course of many years, Schulman has been developing their practice of poetic and dramatic explorations of Jewish grief rituals as a framework to share their art practice.
“Jewishness contains a lot of wisdom and numerology in the ways we grieve; in the number of days we don’t go out of our house or the amount of days we don’t go to work,” Schulman said. “It holds all these rings of time for us to exist within, and for a society that has no frameworks I find it to be a pretty fruitful exploration. So the project I brought down, KEEPING ON (breathing), is a sort of evolution of a number of years of projects that is continuing to evolve.”
Schulman explained that two key concepts in Judaism played a role in the sculpture’s creation, “shmira” and “goses.” Shmira is the act of sitting with the body of a deceased person after they have passed until they are buried. It is an act of care for someone who has lost their life. A goses is a person, or in this case an entity, in an in-between state of life and death.
“Regardless of that, one treats the entity with the utmost decency and respect as if they were still a fully functioning person,” Schulman said. “We don’t close their eyes or pray over them, we just exist with them the way we would anyone.”
The question then becomes, is sitting with a person within this in-between state the only thing one can do?
“While this is a protest work that I hope ruffles some feathers of those whose feathers I want to ruffle, more than that its first goal is to act as a space for students.”
Schulman also explained that a faculty member suggested they reach out to the Sarasota Tribune, yet they worried students who wanted to gather may not have due to a reporter being present. “My concern for students is that any press is good press for Gov. Desantis. I really don’t know what to do because there is so much power being exerted over the school, and that power is held exclusively.”
Ultimately, Schulman made the piece to give students a safe space to grieve.
“It [the sculpture] was for when you’re sitting there with a loved one and you don’t know what’s going to happen to them,” they said. “There isn’t much you can do, unless you went to medical school for it. What I can do is make spaces for grief and confusion and that’s what I was really attempting to do with the sculpture. Not as an admission of defeat, but just a big exasperated sigh when we feel at the whim of something so much greater than ourselves.”
“If their aims are to destroy the community, the hope, the vision or the idea that we are connected and responsible for the betterment of one another, then an object which says, ‘No, it’s okay, come together, it’s alright to grieve,’ that’s in direct contrast to what they want,” Schulman concluded. “If their aims are disillusionment, then being held in community is the opposite and is the antidote to disillusionment.”
Rebirth is the end result in the cycle Schulman has presented through their sculpture. In the face of the changes that are yet to come, rebirth is a daunting idea for New College—but through the lens of Schulman’s sculpture, the concept doesn’t necessarily mean the destruction of New College’s legacy.
“If people keep doing projects like this one, and like so many others have done regarding New College and its history, then we’ll be able to be accessed,” they said. “This space will not be gone, and so I think there’s rebirth there.”