“Some Context (Part 1 of 2)”
By Amy Stacey Curtis
In 1998, I began what would be an 18-year commitment to art-making, nine solo-biennial exhibits from the year 2000 to 2016. In the end, I will have installed 81 large-in-scope, temporary, interactive installations in the vast mills of eight or nine Maine towns. Each solo biennial explores a different theme, while inviting audience to perpetuate its multiple installations.
I committed to this 18-year project to convey our interconnectedness, that we affect everyone and everything while everyone and everything affects us, no matter how small or fleeting the contact. I examine this concept through nine broad related themes—experience (2000), movement (2002), change (2004), sound (2006), light (2008), time (2010), space (2012), matter (2014), and memory (2016)—in hopes that my exploration is thorough, the total of all biennials’ imagery making a cohesive whole.
Three of the video works presented as part of “9 walks” at the Portland Museum of Art, are taken from three previous solo-biennial exhibits: forward II (from CHANGE in 2004 at Brunswick’s Fort Andross), forward V (from TIME in 2010 at Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill), and forward VI (from SPACE in 2012 at Winthrop’s former Carleton Woolen Mill). My exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art gives me opportunity to push even further/learn even more from the ideas behind these works.
I am currently working toward my eighth of the nine biennials, MATTER, open for participation October 4-24, 2014 throughout 15,000 to 26,000 square feet of one of Maine’s vast abandoned mill spaces. As with my previous biennials, MATTER will comprise nine large-in-scope, interactive works—each an audience activated experience.
Each solo biennial is a 22-month process. Within the first 5 months of MATTER’s 22-month process (which spanned February 1 through June 21, 2013), I devised its nine installation concepts and began a series of drawings which also support the concept of matter (these happen to be on view at June Fitzpatrick Gallery through November 2, 2013). For the next 15 months, I continue to fundraise, and to bring my installations to fruition while scouting/securing the right space for the work, the space determining the final configuration of several installations. During months 19 and 20 (August and September 2014): I clean and prepare the mill space; transport materials from my studio; install the work…
The Maine community is especially engaged during this time and the exhibit itself, as each biennial re-energizes and brings attention to one of its historic mills. The biennial is open for participation for three weeks within the 21st month (October 2014). During the 22nd month (November 2014), I organize my storage and documentation (update website, video, artist materials, talk, etc.). Then, I rest for two months before beginning the 22-month process for my ninth and final solo biennial, MEMORY.
As with my previous biennials, many of MATTER’s installations require participants’ physical touch, effect or perpetuation while others function through active and purposeful perception. Each installation is accompanied by instructions, an integral part of the experience. Audience is asked to manipulate, maintain, enter, notice, distinguish, recognize–challenged to contemplate matter in new ways (”matter” being something, object, substance, that occupies space, has weight, has gravity, has inertia, has definite or indefinite quantity).
Without the audience’s careful participation, my work is unfinished. My biennials’ installations, in a way, are given over to the audience once each exhibit opens to the public. The work is no longer my own, rather, for each participant, an introspective experience, as I invite participants to touch, move, maintain, change, to be inside, part of, or in close proximity to my work.
In giving my work over to my audience, it requires from me a certain balance of control and surrender. Each installation has a desired progression and result, but through the relinquishing of my work, it sometimes proceeds in a contradictory way. The audience does not always follow instructions, sometimes through interpretation, sometimes through a kind of internal rebellion. This has always been part of my work, and an interesting, powerful contrast to the control I try to maintain with my instructions. In the end, whatever happens, happens.
Following each biennial, my installations exist only through documentation, dialogue, and memory.
Because of the independent nature of these projects, the only ways to know the whens and wheres of MATTER and then MEMORY, is to “like” me on Facebook, or better, to be added to my e-mail list or mailing list. Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org to add yourself to one or both of these lists. If you have missed my first 7 solo biennials, they are well documented on my website: www.amystaceycurtis.com