What Goes Up


With each of my 9 solo biennials, as soon as it’s gone up and opened for participation, I’ve begun the process of taking it down.

I reserve the 26-foot truck(s) to get everything back to my home/studio; 

and reserve the dumpster for the drywall;

and recruit help to pack up, move out, then into our house, then to clean the mill one last time;

and take home each weekend any tools and things needed for installation I won’t need for de-installation (5-to-8 carloads);

and devise various take-down choreography to unbuild and pack up each installation—scenarios for if I have plenty of help, and scenarios for if I don’t;

and prep the house for the massive amount of materials that’ll take up its space again…

Taking down any exhibit, is usually easier than putting it up.

What makes my take-downs challenging, is the small amount of time I schedule for this large task.

What goes up after 18 months of thought and preparation, then 9 to 11 weeks of installation, has always come down in 4 to 8 long, intense days.

I’ve dismantled each exhibit as quickly as possible, for 3 reasons:

First. With the arrangement I’ve made to be out of the mill owner’s space “by midnight October 31st,” he’s been more apt to say “yes” to my project.

Closing each exhibit Friday at 5pm (the last Friday including a Saturday and Sunday so I’m sure to have at least some volunteers), my exhibit will have been open for participation as long as possible, while he can count on his space being empty—and cleaner than it’s been in years—in time for any potential next-month tenant.

Second. I aim to be out by the end of October, because I need all of November (the 22nd month of my 22-month process) to organize the materials and tools at home.

Everything (except the drywall), that I carefully arranged and assembled throughout the vast mill is now forced into the much-smaller spaces of my much-smaller-than-the-mill home.

This, in addition to after-math administration, sorting and processing my documentation, writing grant reports, etc., is a huge mental and physical effort. My solo-biennial process isn’t over until it’s over.

Third. It’s better to rip a bandaid off quickly, than to pull it slowly off your skin, each hair and micro surface screamingly tugging and lifting one at a time. It’s better for the intense pain of this inevitable succession to happen in an instant. 

I unmake what I made as fast as I can, take this work down in as few days as possible, so the pain, always present while I do this particular task, is over fast.

And this one will hurt the most.

Taking down what would be my 1st of 9 solo biennials, hurt more than the others, until during the process I realized the exhibit was a beginning, not an end.

I went to take the 1st spaghetti sauce jar off my 30-foot shelf (started to disassemble the 1st of 9 works)—the start of the end of an intense 3-year process—

and started to cry.

Bill suggested I put the jar back, that we go for a walk around the Bates Mill. 

And it was during this walk around the mill complex I would use again for my 9th and final solo biennial 16 years later, I would come to this multiple-mill, multiple-Maine-exhibit idea, which in turn helped me “get through” the process of taking down this 1st exhibit. 

This exhibit was a beginning, not an end.

And, that’s what I’ll try to keep behind my eyes as I rip the bandaid off my last solo biennial.

This exhibit was a beginning, not an end.


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