In September 2010 I was invited to Greensboro, North Carolina to complete a months residency in the living museum, Elsewhere. The former thrift store and artists collaborative is the brainchild of owner George Scheer, who inherited the building and it’s mountains of contents from his grandmother (and tenacious hoarder) Sylvia. Instead of clearing out the contents and starting anew, George and a few creative friends decided to keep every last bit in the building. Over the past 10 years George has been joined by hundreds of artists from across the world to help curate the collection in an ever-changing program of residencies, installations, events and exhibitions.
For my own residency I was inspired when I came across members of the team clearing out an uncurated room and at a loss as to what to do with the bits of torn fabric, broken plastic and piles of dust. The main rule of Elsewhere is that nothing original to the collection leaves the building. I decided to tackle this problem as my main residency project.
I designed and made, from objects in the collection, a categorising system called the Curator Creator. The user of the system is charged with choosing a broken, sometimes unidentifiable object and answering a series of weighted questions about it.
The finished machine was opened to the public on ‘First Friday’ and received a great reception from willing curators.
There were 8 categories that each object could be filtered into based on the questions: Unpleasant, Poignant, Happy Memories, Discovery, Acceptance, Fears, Admiration and Disappointment. There was also a 9th category, which was ‘FAIL’. On the night the ‘fails’ were taken upstairs to the Fail Factory (ran by Canadian artist and fellow resident Leslie Kelman) and individually wrapped to in force uniformity and hide them from view.
The purpose of the machine was to rehumanise and revalue these forgotten and discarded objects in the spirit of the ethos of Elsewhere. By allowing individuals to make personal, emotional decisions about the objects, they were recalling memories they might have forgotten and were thinking deeply about how each piece of ‘trash’ related to their own lives. The Curator Curator proved that, regardless of the objects being curated, the very act of curation (no matter how arbitrary) can elicit deep feelings.
If you would like to learn more about elsewhere click HERE
You can see my Diary blog of my time at elsewhere HERE