This August, five Baltimore artists were invited to live at the Elsewhere Museum in Greensboro, NC for one month. I was fortunate to be one of these artists, and my time there was a transformative experience. Elsewhere is a three story "living museum", created using the contents of a former thrift store, who's only permanent collection is an ever-shifting series of installations made by resident artists. Artists are invited to work with "the collection": materials left behind by Esther, the thrift store's former proprietor. It is an experiment in collective living and reuse. During my time there, I worked in the Ribbon Room, establishing a system to sort and store the thousands of ribbons that made the room inaccessible. I used a drill to wind ribbons, and built a storage unit for the wound spools. Because of the nature of Elsewhere, I was given an opportunity to create a resource for future residents to pull from.
How to wind ribbon
Enter the pile
Define your solid perspective of the task at hand
Sink your hand to the floor
Who knows what lives in the depths of that realm?
Look to your dreams for truth or for some form of revelation
Do you see the sleeping pile while you rest?
I saw the recurring house of my childhood, overflowing with all the sinking weight to which I still doggedly cling
Boxes and boxes of ribbon, tossed on the floor and left to mingle
Their permanence secured and maintained by sheer volume
I came to this place, seeing only stratified chaos and dysfunction gathered in that room
I fancied myself some sort of material savior
And so I began my work, a colonial force!
I would impose my will, rejecting all offers of help. I must be solitary!
My spatial dominance taking the form of service to a system I did not understand
Can there be any non-coerced labor that is not, at root, self-serving?
How, in this world structured around cycles, can we break from oscillation,
using methods that still honor nature and death?
Select a ribbon from the pile
It’s good if you can find the end of one to get started
And pull, until it all comes out
It will all come up
You will reveal more than you meant to
There will be so many knots
Put some muscle into it
Lean into your task
There will be dust and debris
Be resolute, be stubborn
Some ribbons will slide out of the pile, as if liberation were their sole physical purpose
You will learn to recognize these
You will develop your favorites
The ones that fit snugly and with purpose into your methodology
Sometimes you have to cut a ribbon free
but try to limit these moments
only cut when absolutely necessary.
Collect your ribbons in a metal wash bin.
Be warned: with every ribbon you exhume, the pile will grow.
The pile does not stop growing: I am convinced of this.
Meditate on the futility of your task
on the potential ephemerality of your labor
It makes sense that I would have a singular recurring dream while immersed in this redundant and fruitless labor.
Time is melting, sometimes I sleep in the ribbon, but I can’t discern if that is dream or reality
Nestled between two eclipses.
collecting all the skins I must shed
fighting perpetual lethargy
at war with preconceived notions
I thought I could drop the ego!
As if it were some sort of optional shadow
Keep winding the ribbon
Wind ribbon every day
To make your task easier, use a drill with a large drill bit
hold one side of the ribbon against the bit
and depress the trigger, slowly
the bit revolves and winds your ribbon
Secure every wound bobbin with a small metal pin
This part must be done with tenderness
be sure to tuck in the sharp end of the pin
Containers are hard to come by here
you will have to find boxes on the street
these can be used in your sorting
find color families that resonate
When you are ready, these wound ribbons
can be placed into the large box
our collaboration grows in a sedimentary fashion
or not, once the box is shaken, moved, from one room to another
composite layers will merge
our patterns will mingle and lose their authorship
We work together.