2nd Law of Thermodynanics – Law of Entropy
aka Murphy’s Law
In particular, Murphy’s Law is often cited as a form of the second law of thermodynamics (the law of entropy) because both are predicting a tendency to a more disorganized state.
It is impossible to delineate all the tasks that need to be accomplished in a multi-media installation nor to predict all the problems that will need to be addressed. To-do lists and post-its are often inadequate. So for the most critical of needs, my hand becomes a bulletin board.
In her one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Lily Tomlin portrays a homeless woman who was once an executive and leads her life via the post-its attached to her clothing. http://www.amazon.com/Search-Signs-Intelligent-Life-Universe/dp/B001O9CFCC
Murphy Challenge #1: Weather
Temperatures would be in the upper 80’s during the entire installation. (Maine in September!! Who knew?)
The Maine Jewish Museum is not air-conditioned.
TEN: Prepping Walls
Maine Hardware is the go-to place for most Peaks Islanders. http://mainehardware.com The employees are knowledgeable AND they provide FREE popcorn.
Ladders, tarps, paint, coffee, blue tape, levels, sand paper, spackle, scrapers, coffee, buckets, paint trays, rubber gloves, coffee… a seemingly endless list but the multiple trips enable us to replenish, not only supplies, but popcorn. (Which is important if, in addition to the coffee and donuts, it becomes another source of nutrition during the 10-day installation.)
NINE: Painting Walls
Etz Chaim synagogue was built in 1921. After several incarnations and years of disuse, it was restored and became the Maine Jewish Museum. http://mainejewishmuseum.org The 1920’s construction and previous renovations meant locating studs was an ongoing struggle.
Murphy Challenge #2: Construction
The spackling, sanding and painting of the museum gallery walls took place the same week that construction began on the new bathrooms …There were moments of dueling drills and lurching ladders but we were able to share the space as well as extension cords – and of course, the donuts.
Working around the daily operations of the museum, as well as respecting religious tenets, resulted in a type of shift work. The key to progress was FLEXIBILITY. (And a willingness to ‘couch surf’ after missing the last ferry.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CouchSurfing
While attempting to wrestle a Journey Loom through a door way that was a smidgeon too small…. I noticed a helmet clad bicyclist chalking arrows on the road.
Noticing my plight, she helped maneuver the loom into the building. A painter in her own right, Ebyn Moss volunteers – at arts centers, community organizations and non profits. She is a Board member of the Hour Exchange. http://www.hourexchangeportland.org and lives her life adhering to its tenets.
The settling of the foundation of the building during the past 94 years created uneven walls. There was a 1” drop over 50’ making it difficult to determine level. Ebyn was undaunted. She had worked for MacKenzie Childs. Doing what? Stenciling. http://www.mackenzie-childs.com
(Another beshart moment – Bookmark this link https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2014/05/ for more beshart moments.
The word begat is sometimes interpreted as ‘to bring forth.” The stenciled ‘walls’ of Abraham’s tent are intended to remind us that we are all part of the same ‘family.’ http://www.enterthebible.org/blog.aspx?post=2646
Over 3 days, Ebyn stencilled the word ‘begat’ 2000+ times.
Murphy Challenge #3: Colliding Events
Stenciling the word begat on 2 – 50’ x 10’ walls while beautifully appointed young women and their families attend a previously scheduled Bat Mitzvah proved to be challenging – but not insurmountable. And, the work on the new bathrooms continued…
SEVEN: Engaging Press
For years, artists just sent their press releases to the local newspaper. They would include the 5 – W’s and a few photos. Today, vying for the attention of the press requires more than just notifying the newspaper. There are free papers, community papers, magazines, and social media to notify and continually update. Maintaining a presence in the public eye requires time and energy – both in short supply when installing a multi media exhibit.
Sometimes it is a matter of timing. For weeks prior to the exhibit opening, the plight of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants occupied local, national and world news. Amidst the spackling, sanding, stenciling, Press Herald and Portland Magazine reporters appeared with their photographers for an interview and pictures of the exhibit. (And some of my closest photographer friends did the same.)
Murphy Challenge # 4: No there there
We had ‘begats.’ There was no tent; there was no carpet; there were no community weavings. The exhibit was still in process – I had words and ideas but was STILL short on visible objects.
It is easier to talk on the radio where words and ideas ARE the medium. WMPG is a community radio station that broadcasts from a small house located on the campus of the University of Southern Maine (my alma mater.)
I arrived paint spattered, harried and sleep deprived. Chris White is the host of Tuesday Night Talk Radio Club. His interview framed Welcoming the Stranger within the context of the Portland community and the New Mainers. Articulating the thought and history behind my vision clarified for me – and hopefully the listeners – my hopes for the exhibition.
SIX: Creating QRs
For each aspect of the exhibit, there is a sound collage. I combined real life interviews with scripted histories, sound effects, ambient noise, and music to create a kind of sound track — but without pictures.
The sounds of children practicing Hebrew formed the basis of the sound collage for Abraham’s Tent. Laura Boenisch is the principal and director of B’nai Portland, an Independent Hebrew School. With a degree in music education, Laura taught herself to chant Torah tropes so that she could help prepare her son for Bar Mitzvah. https://www.facebook.com/bnai.portland/info?tab=page_info.
We met in the Sanctuary. When I attended synagogue as a young girl, I was excluded from the first floor and relegated to the balcony. Standing at the bimah, Laura chanted the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bema.
FIVE: Supporting History
I almost missed the meeting…I flew out of the Museum covered in paint. In a packed hearing room in Portland’s City Hall, I raised my hand to testify in support of the designation of India Street as a historic district:
(In my neighborhood…) there were those fortunate enough to have grandparents or great aunts and uncles to tell stories of how their families ended up in Portland, Maine.
There might have been photos of family members posed in of local stores and houses and churches and synagogues. There may have been photos taken on holidays, family events – graduations, weddings, funerals. You could take a walk. around the India St. neighborhood – past the old synagogues, St Peter’s, Micucci’s, Amato’s, Abysinnian Church http://www.abyme.org, and North School – and experience history as seen through their eyes and the architecture that was still in existence.
And for those not so fortunate, the buildings, businesses, streets must remain. It is easier to imagine when waves of immigrants settled in what is comparable to the lower East Side of NYC when you can walk by historic structures that greeted those new arrivals. …when you can walk from the docks, along India Street, and experience the immigrant history of Portland.
In that moment, I was focused on immigrants of the past and how their story mirrored the underpinnings of my exhibit. http://portlandlandmarks.org/blog/event/a-neighborhood-in-transition-immigration-and-the-india-street-neighborhood/
FOUR: Retrieving the ‘Carpet’
A 50’ x 8’ ‘Persian carpet’ made of roofing rubber and stenciled with images of seaweed and compass roses requires a 50’ floor on which to design, paint and polyurethane. This 200+ lb. piece of art needs a space in which to reside until delivered to the museum. The Colby College Art Department https://www.colby.edu provided a space in which to work until the carpet was completed. (The room measured only 40’ long so requiring continuous rolling, folding, unrolling.)
The maintenance staff monitored my progress and occasionally conducted a critique. They were mostly favorable. (Although they did wonder why the room smelled like the ocean. It was the bucket of seaweed I was using to make stencils. I commuted back and forth to Waterville applying the final coat of polyurethane the night before the pick up.
Murphy Challenge #5: Elevator
The rolled carpet was too long to fit in the elevator. 200+ lbs. is very heavy. Two of us could not heft it. We tried. Several times. I set out to find some students. There were none to be found. I returned to find the maintenance women carrying the rolled carpet down 2 flights of stairs to the delivery truck. (I hope you are both reading this. Thank you, again.)
THREE: Installing the Tent
Murphy Challenge #6: No Tentmaker
Although I had received donated yarns, collaborated with volunteer spinners, and engaged citizen weavers, there were only 275 square feet of woven tent panels. The weaving was spearheaded by Jane Herbert https://www.facebook.com/Westbrook-Fiberarts-411482502345348/ However, I needed 500 square feet. (Not to mention, that I had no idea how to make an actual tent.)
What kind of help do you still need?
I need a tent maker.
With a straight face, Melodi responded: I make tents. She had worked as an exhibit tent designer. (Yes – another beshart moment. I told you to bookmark that page.)
A week before the installation, the tent makers began production. Measure, cut, serge, sew. Measure, cut, serge, sew.
When I started kayak lessons 4 years ago, I did not ask my instructor if his mother was a weaver and if he knew the difference between warp and weft. As it turned out, the answer to both questions was ‘Yes.” (I know, I know – beshart.)
I envisioned the ‘tent’ as an ocean – ‘mirroring the movement of waves.’ And Gregg Bolton https://gbolton.smugmug.com was able to translate my idiosyncratic aesthetic into a physical reality. After 12+ hours of balancing on ladders and planks, occasional invectives (mine not his) and of course, donuts, the tent was installed.
TWO: Installing the Journey Loom Weavings
No Murphy Here. –
ONE: Hanging Aprons
Seven women, seven aprons, seven tallit bags, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallit seven genealogies and a series of invented postcards that highlight their efforts on behalf of the immigrants of the 1920’s comprised Sarah’s Generosity
- Set up reception
- Set out guestbook
- Create Artist Binder
- Fold 250 brochures
- Find somewhere to shower
- Comb hair
- Set up sound system
- Check toilet paper in bathrooms
- Prepare Artist Talk
- Hope people come (They did. More than 150 at the opening. 100 at First Friday. And more.)
Murphy Challenge #7: Seriously Hot
Neither Velcro nor double-sided tape adheres to plaster walls when the temperature exceeds 85.
- Re – hang Aprons !!! Use nails.
My ad hoc interviews with a taxi driver from Burundi and an Iraqi prisoner-of-war were intertwined with the story of Bela Gross read by a recent Russian asylum seeker and recorded for play back on the sound system of a Crown Vic cab donated by ASAP Cab. http://www.asaptaxi.net
Exhibit attenders would sit in the cab and listen to their stories. Upon ‘arrival,”they received a receipt with links to the current immigration, asylum, refugee laws and stats.
Exhibit – ING
September 3 – October 25, 2015.
Abraham’s Tent, Sarah’s Generosity, Habeas Corpus QRs are posted on:
Connect – ING
Weaving Workshop – Cheryl Holbert
Reading and Book Signing – I’m New Here http://www.annesibleyobrien.com
World Music – Casco Bay Tummlers http://www.cascobaytummlers.com and Burundi Batimbo Beats
14 days to install; 7 to remove. I realize the world only took 6 days and there was a day of rest at the end – but the resting will have to wait.
For now, there will be tear-filled goodbyes, sanding, spackling and painting, crating and storing of the exhibit, more tear-filled goodbyes and then a 14 hour drive back to Maryland.
There is no way to know if this exhibit will have any lasting impact within the community. But as I prepare to leave, the following editorial appeared written by Arthur Fink: A Real Community Has No Strangers
….Do see this exhibit, ask how we welcome strangers (or don’t) and let yourself be transformed…
..I left the exhibit asking myself, “Who are our ‘strangers’ today? And how can we welcome them with grace, acceptance, dignity and genuine openness?”
…We can open our hearts, connect with those who may appear to be “different” and forge a more inclusive, caring and compassionate community. I hope and pray that we will!
The bathrooms are finally done.