Last spring, amid the end-of-school-year insanity heightened by our daughter’s graduation from high school, I was preparing for the rebirth of the Weigh your Words project that I started at Artomatic in the summer of 2012 (see the post on this blog from May 17, 2012). My seesaw and sorting bins for Weigh Your Words were accepted as part of the FIGMENT NY event on Governors Island, a short ferry ride from South Ferry (Manhattan) or Brooklyn.
This festival is like a mini-Burning Man – free arts event with no sales allowed in order to focus on creativity and exploration rather than commerce. Participants who need an established space and/or need to transport/install more material than they can carry in on the festival days are juried in. Anyone else can just turn up and perform or demonstrate during when the event is ongoing. It is a perfect venue for a contemplative, interactive installation geared toward a wide range of ages. Plus, you get to take the ferry there, and I am always happy for an excuse to ride on a boat.
We installed in the rain, but the weather was lovely over the weekend when the show was open. I was tucked along the edge of the grounds, so I had a relatively slow and steady trickle of visitors – ideal for an installation that requires some concentration. At first, I used the rubber mats just as a place for people to sort through the stones, but then I rearranged it with an empty space in the middle for special arrangements.
People participated alone or in groups. One mother and daughter stayed at the site for over an hour, having a very detailed and intense conversation about which words they were picking and why. Then they took a “selfie” lying on the rubber mat with their words surrounding them.
This became a theme, with some wonderful variations:
Some people got pretty obsessive about finding all of the right words and arranging them:
Some people just wanted to play with the stones and dump them in piles. That was OK too…
And the seesaw got lots of action as well. I monitored it a bit, helping people figure out how to balance it (if they wanted help) after they had filled two bowls with words/stones.
They particularly seemed to enjoy the revelation that, in order to balance two sides, you could take a stone from one of the bowls and place it along the edge of the seesaw, closer to the center, to alter the weight. Then we could have a conversation about how to pick which words should be moved. If two people were playing with the seesaw, and each had described themselves, but the two sides didn’t balance, could they eliminate or move words that didn’t describe them as accurately as the others? Or could the other person pick a word that they thought was less accurate? If a person had filled one bowl with positive aspects of their personality and the other with negative ones, which ones are really closer to the middle and could be moved to help the two sides balance better? A simple mechanical solution could become a deeper psychological exploration.
Some people just liked to sort through the stones, filling bowls and thinking about words, and adding missing to words to my ever-growing list.
I had a wonderful time, and I think visitors to my installation enjoyed themselves. Some people expanded their vocabulary, some had a mini therapy session, others just goofed around. All in all, a great experience. I will continue to post information about this project as I find more venues to show it on the separate blog devoted to Weigh Your Words.