Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ashes and Stains

Ashes & Stains

A multidisciplinary, interactive art project that seeks to open paths for conversation and reconciliation within communities that have faced and/or are struggling with the tension of police violence and/or violence against police.

The project will unfold in multiple stages and cycles with the intention that it will travel to various locations both locally and nationally to work on its development. It is understood that this project does not have a temporal conclusion but is ongoing as new incidents keep occurring. 

1.  To create space for receptiveness to "feel the other side" by holding the loss close at hand and focusing on that rather than details of each specific event.

2. In communities where the violence has been acute to provide a space for healing, collective mourning and acknowledgement of the extreme loss. 

3. To provide an active, intentional and safe space for discussing the root cause of the violence- the decision, in one or many moments, to lose sight of each every life as having value and the potential for redemption.


Over the course of several hours, a day or up to one week, a rotating group of participants will come to the project site, cycling through the tasks in small groups. They will each individually travel through the space to different stations ultimately recording the names of seven victims of either police violence or violence against police on a fabric banner piece. The names from these two banks will be integrated and the "volunteer scribes" will not have any indication which group their assigned names come from. They are of course free to research the names and stories of the victims after they have left the project site.

When entering the project site, scribes will first sign into a log book and they will be asked to agree to uphold and honor each name they receive keeping foremost in mind the loss that the family, friends and community of the victim have experienced. Scribes are to remember that the project is not seeking justice but acknowledging and providing a space to mourn the needless loss of so many fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, cousins and neighbors who are no longer present with us and the raw, gaping wound that is continuously growing as each new event occurs.  

Entering The Factory

Fabric wrapping

Once agreeing to the terms of the project, scribes will check their phone in (no phones or devices allowed in the active project space) put on a work apron which they will wear until they complete their cycle and exit the space. They will then move to station 1 where they will prepare a banner cloth for dyeing, wrapping the cloth around a thick wooden dowel and then tying it at designated places with twine to create a resist which ultimately form the baselines for the text that will be written. They will also take with them a long white 12inch wide cloth that will be their practice cloth and eventually a prayer mantel/shawl.

Scribes move to station 2, carrying their fabric wrapped pole with them and the mantel, putting on heavy rubber gloves they will submerge the cloths in clean water in the first of three aligned tubs. Keeping the pole wrapped they will gently ring out the water and plunge the pole and mantel into the second tub of rust/blood colored dye. They will repeatedly dunk and agitate the pole in the dye for a few minutes but leave the pieces to soak for at least one hour. They remove the gloves and move to the next station. [Scribes do not return to this station. Facilitators will remove and unfurl the cloth at the correct intervals].

Drying rack & iron
At station 3 scribes will remove a banner cloth and mantel from the large laundry drying rack that have been previously dyed and are now dried. They will take these to the ironing board and press the cloths flat, setting the dye and preparing the cloths for writing.  

Entering the Meditation

Scrivener’s desk

The previous stations should have cold metal surfaces that invite clanking and a sense of a laboratory or a production facility, hence the title of "the factory." When scribes finish ironing they should carry the warm cloth to the new environment of their singular, natural wooden desk and chair. The charcoal/soot writing instruments, instructions and the 8.5x11" hole-punched card with their 7 assigned names will be already present on the desk. Each scribe will use their mantel cloth, working horizontally, to practice writing his or her 7 names each 7 times. With intention and contemplation, scribes will work here at their own pace pouring as much time and concentration as needed to legibly and with care, record the names, one per line on the banner cloth. On completion, scribes will don the mantel, leave the banner on the desk and take their card of names to be reinserted in the project catalog.

The Return 

After leaving the quiet, contemplative space the scribes will be shown back to the start of the cycle where they will immediately escort the next person entering the project to the log book and they will hand off their apron. The transfer should be a bit jarring as they are forced to leave their own internally quiet space and extend themselves to introduce and guide the next person on how to begin the process. This should harken a similar feeling to receiving lines at funerals. 

The Side Chapel/Debrief

When scribes have completed the full cycle it would be helpful to have a separate space, perhaps a side room or even outside, for participants to commune and share about the experience. I do not anticipate creating a formal reflection of any kind, just a calm space for engagement or prayer.

The Display- 

Eventually the hundreds of banner cloths will be displayed as a set, connected by an "Unbroken Line". The final display or container is still in development. My working idea at this point is that the cloths will be hung one next to/on top of the other within a clear sided container so that only the top layer is actually visible- the most recent addition to the catalog. The rest of the cloths are essentially buried. 


As the project is added to and moves to a new location, there is an idea that the "Unbroken line" of banners would be processed through, around, or to the next space- This procession would be the only time each individual banner is visible after it has been created; unfurled and revealed. As the project grows in length so does the next procession requiring more and more people to carry the load of the line.  

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