Spoiler Alert

If you want all 9 installations of my 9th solo biennial to be a complete surprise to you, don’t read beyond the SPOILER ALERT graphic below.

When people visit my studio, after giving a tour of my storage, and any pre-production I have going on, we head up to my room. First I show them my drawings, then we go to my desktop, where I explain my to-do list, open my desktop’s biennial folders to show how I organize, and share post-biennial concepts I’ve been working on since 2009. If they still have time, I ask:

“Do you want me to tell you about the installations I am doing at my biennial? Or do you prefer to be surprised?” If there is a hesitation, I ask:

“Do you want me to tell you about a few of them?” Most seem to opt for this option. Few say they prefer to be completely surprised. And several repeat visitors have said something like:

“Tell me about all 9 installations for this biennial too, because where you don’t have any thing for me to see (again, I don’t do drawings of my installations), what I experience at the exhibit is different from what I pictured in my mind. Sometimes way different.”

concepts file for MEMORY
screen shot of my concepts file for MEMORY

So, after much editing and mind changing and rearranging, I have determined the 9 installations I will do at MEMORY. Even though I am always confident I will find my 9 ideas, I have a sense of relief when they are found. I am also excited and charged to begin the physical making process.

If you work this same way (we all work so differently), where you come up with an idea, then make it physical, are you excited and charged to begin too?

Part of coming to the 9 installations in my concepts file, is arranging them in the order they will be presented. As a whole, the works should become a kind of experiential narrative around the theme, with a beginning and an end. Sometimes the mill tells me that a different order (and sometimes different dimensions) will be better, and I go with this.

installation shot from MATTER
installation shot from MATTER (Robinson Mill, Parsonsfield, Maine, 2014)

What follows are the first 3 installations I intend to present, the beginning of an interactive “story” about memory. Like many stories, things can change as I write. Also, like many stories, it will get better/deeper/more resolved as you proceed past this beginning, to the middle (installations 4-6), and finally the end (installations 7-9).

One of these first 3 works is revisited from a past biennial. I always repeat an installation from a previous biennial to convey how these themes relate (and are part of a whole).

spoiler alert

Near MEMORY’s welcome signage is a receptacle filled with small shoulder-strap white canvas bags. Participants take 1 bag, wear it throughout the exhibit, and return the bag once finished with their last participation.

1. sort VI (n. A group or collection of similar persons or things; kind. v. To arrange according to class, kind, or size.)

sort VI is two 8-foot-tall by 12-foot-long walls, one at the start of the exhibit and one at the very end. Upon the start wall, is a precise array of 900 white, 1.5″, blank cubes on shelves. Each participant removes 1 cube to reveal a number on the shelf hidden behind the cube (“1” through “900”), the numbers, 1 per slot, positioned randomly via algorithm. The participant memorizes this number (to the best of his or her ability), and places the cube in his or her bag before being guided to the 2nd installation.

At the biennial’s end, participants approach the end wall, which has the same configuration of shelves, but numbered left-to-right “1” through “900.” Each participant removes sort VI cube from his or her bag and places the cube in the spot corresponding to the memorized number. Once all the cubes have been sorted, or the exhibit ends–whichever comes first–the installation is complete.

2. shift II (v. 1. To move, convey, or transfer from one place or position to another. 2. To change; switch. 3. To convey from one surface to another. 4. To get along; manage. 5. To make a life change. n. A change from one place or position to another; transfer. 2. A change of direction or form. 3. A strategem; trick. 4. A life change.) Revisited; originally presented at SOUND in 2006. 

shift II is 9 tape recorders on nine 4-foot-tall pedestals. As I read books about memory, I searched for 9-word sentences, noting only those with connection to memory. Then I selected 9 to use for this installation. At the start of MEMORY’s opening, I record upon each recorder a different 9-word sentence. Participants choose a recorder, press “play” to listen once, rewind the tape to the beginning, then press “record” to repeat the sentence to the best of their ability.

3. visage II (n. 1. The face or facial expression of a person. 2. Appearance; aspect.)

Over the course of ~1 year, I video 99 people in my life, each counting from 1 to 99. They are prompted to state each number at the same time, for a ~1:30-minute-total sound. Presented on a monitor in an 8’x8’x8′ room with a door, is the collective, merged visage, a super-imposed video of all 99 people speaking these numbers, this visage presented in looping video with sound.

If you happen to come to my studio to visit or assist, and you want to hear the rest of the story, I would be happy to tell you.