Re-envisioned Installation, Community Workshops and New Multi-media Performance: MMMM returns to Seattle

Me crocheting at Dupen Fountain, Seattle Center

Mater Matrix Mother and Medium is back in Seattle!  I’m at the Seattle Center for the next week with artist Paul Margolis, as we re-sculpt and shape the crocheted pieces from the past three years of this project around the embankments of the Dupen Fountain at the Alki Courtyard (just outside Vera Project), opening on April 21st until May 31st.

In process at Dupen Fountain, Seattle Center

Paul installing at Agnes Scott College, Atlanta

As I shake out the dust of 6 months at the Cathedral St. John the Divine, I come across pieces in the large panels made by people I remember in Portland, NYC, Atlanta, Kent, Issaquah and all over Seattle.  New pieces made on the lawn of the Cathedral while I was in NYC are added next to older faded pieces made by kids in White Center.  I’m reinforcing weak spots with new cloth, and seeing a friend’s blue Brooks Brother shirt, donated and cut up, and crocheted by many different people into circular pools.

Crocheting at Cathedral St. John the Divine, NYC

Delridge Library, Seattle

It feels appropriate to circle around the Fountain site, as this project seems to come back to a full circle to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1962 Worlds Fair with the Next Fifty program of 6 months of art installation, lectures, films, and hands-on activities.  Yet in this closing cycle, the community workshops continue this April and May, again pulling in more people to add their voice to moments of community created around busy hands; teaching and learning at the same time, active listening while strangers find connections with each other.

The Dupen Fountain site has also inspired a newly commissioned performance I’m developing in collaboration with some of my favorite Seattle-based multi-media artists; dancer/choreographer Jessica Jobaris, harp poet Monica Schley, vocalist/performance artist Saskia Delores and filmmaker Rodrigo Valenzuela.

Zoe Scofield, 2009 MMMM performance

The inaugural installation in 2009 featured a stunning performance in the woods with visionary dancer/choreographer Zoe Scofield and composer/experimental musician Morgan Henderson.  This new performance begins at the same jumping-off concepts — of the role water plays in the formation of community and how this is both ancient and contemporary – but is radically spinning off in new patterns of direction.  Inspired by the transformational ability of water to slip between three states, by the three stages of life of growth, length and finite end, and the spectrum of effects water has on the human drama from tranquility all the way to devastation, this new multi-media performance will interweave rites of passage into an investigation of the sometimes-contradictory predicament of what it means to be both an individual and a member of a group.

I’m already mesmerized by our early multi-layered soundscapes and movement scores, and am so spurred on by the talented people for whom I’m making a series of wearable sculptures and gowns inspired by Roman-era Alexandria mixed with a bit of glitz.   The performances happen just before twilight on May 5th and 6th, 2012, so mark that on the calendar already and follow @matermatrix on Twitter or on Facebook to get more details as they come.  What you experience will be luminous; I am almost sure of it!

In the meantime, join me at the Seattle Center for the opening of the MMMM installation during The Next Fifty Opening Day Celebration on April 21st, 2012.  I’ll be hosting a Community Crochet event from 1-4 pm in The Armory/Center House at the Westside courtyard in the newly remodeled food court area.   There is just a huge list of activities for kids and adults, workshops, performances and exhibits happening all day from 10am -6pm.  Check out the list HERE.  Drop in and see me for a break from the activity and relax for a bit while adding some crochet stitches to panels that will be added into my installation.  This is totally for beginners with all materials provided, as well as a great place to share what you know if you are an expert crochet.  Help create community one moment at a time.

I’ll also be back at the Seattle Center the next day April 22nd, 2012 for more crocheting for the Earth Day Celebration.  Community Crochet will be from 12-4 pm at the activity tent at Next 50 Plaza (just west of the EMP).  I’ll be there until 2pm, then head into The Armory/Center House to be on a panel discussion about Sustainability in the Arts in Conference Room H until 3:30 pm.  Again, there are a whole host of other presentation and hands-on activities for kids and adults  in The Next 50 Plaza tent happening all day from 11-5, see the list HERE.

And more Community Crochet workshops are set to happen during Northwest Folklife Festival, May 25 – 28 : 1-4pm at the Next Fifty  Activity Tent at Next Fifty Plaza,  just west of the EMP.  All materials provided, but donations of old blue yarns or fabrics are always welcome!

Commissioned by the Office Of Arts and Cultural Affairs and Seattle Public Utilities 1% for Art, as a way to encourage stewardship, and to celebrate and interpret the splendor of Seattle’s urban watersheds, MMMM has brought people together in communities around the country, crocheting recycled materials, adding their voices to the conversation about personal and civic responsibility to heal our relationship to water.

Mater Matrix Mother and Medium community workshops, performances and installation probes how civic communities have always formed around water, and how we as individuals through creative acts, can tap back into the reverence for water our ancestors felt.

Terraces at the Key Arena, Seattle Center


MMMM in 2012

I am always amazed at how this on-going project seems to come to a moment of closure, and very quickly is pulled to expand in new directions beyond what I even considered!  Mater Matrix Mother and Medium will be headed back this spring from NYC’s Cathedral St. John the Divine and evolving once again as part of the Next 50 program at the Seattle Center, as part of their Sustainable Futures focus area programing.  I’m very thrilled to be a part of the Next 50 and the enormous amount of cultural programing, not just culling from the region’s creative thinkers, but from around the country.  If you don’t already know about it,  “the Next Fifty, (is) six months of events and activities planned in 2012 at Seattle Center that celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the legacy it left to the region, and the opportunities ahead during the next 50 years.”  ‘Events and Activities’ doesn’t begin to sum it up, with this line up of focus areas, it would be hard not to find something to engage with:

Installing MMMM in NYC…

Thank you Flickr!!

Thank you Flickr!!

When I walked into the Cathedral St. John the Divine earlier this September, I was there to install a giant installation for the exhibition “The Value of Water”, and had never been to the site before….quite nerve-wracking and almost a little absurd for an installation that is all about taking on the shape of its environment. And, I wouldn’t be able to install it myself.   I had been using measurements (some of them contradictory) cobbled together by several people, some dark low-res pictures, and a very simplified floor plan to try to create a plan for something that I usually created painstakingly with my own hands on-site to fit the exact shape of things.  Thank the heavens for the hundreds of tourist photos of the Cathedral on Flickr, it was only through pouring over those that I could even begin to grasp what was going on in all the soaring heights and gigantic arches and wings, bays and arches, and arches!

Armed with my little detailed plans, having worked them out with the crocheting in my studio back in Seattle, I was nervous — what if the measurements were wrong…there was no time or space or crocheting to recreate or adjust things as I usually did because the installation was going to be 65 feet off the ground and done by riggers; I couldn’t  just go up and tweak something.  But after a few minutes of talking over the plans with Daniel from Sapsis Rigging, I knew everything was going to be fine.  Like every other art installer/preparator I have ever met, he was nonchalantly unflappable, nothing dramatic….and just said “no problem”.

Once when we had some glitch, he said something like “that’s a little hard, but hard is no big deal” and then went on to talk about some crazy thing they had to do for Sting when he performed at the Cathedral!

It ended up being one of the easier installations I’ve ever put up, and very fun to get to climb up into the little spiraling staircase and tiny corredors the run up inside the Cathedral.  Paul got to do a lot of fun stuff, I am a bit afraid of heights, at least at 65 feet.

little staircase to the balconies, quite dark without the flash...

little staircase to the balconies, quite dark without the flash...

tiny little hallway in the dark...

tiny little hallway in the dark...

Daniel in the Genie, 40 feet up

Daniel in the Genie, 40 feet up

Paul beginning to stretch the crocheting open...

Paul beginning to stretch the crocheting open...

And we even had plenty of time to crank out more crocheted ropes during lunch at the Hungarian Pastry Shop across the street.  When you’re working hard, giant creme puffs count as lunch….

Now…time to go through and edit all the images of the final installation, and the beautiful images of the other work in the show….more to come documenting the MMMM installation in NYC.

And you can still support this project traveling to NYC through my Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to cover some of the shortfalls from time off from work, materials, shipping and travel expenses. Just 8 days left to raise $770 to fund this project, and every $5 helps!  Thank you so much, more images to come!

‘Mater Matrix Mother and Medium’ 2011 Redux!

shot by Ian Lucero for MMMM film

shot by Ian Lucero for MMMM film

My installation ‘Mater Matrix Mother and Medium’ has been dormant for about a year, but is about to return in yet another form, this time winding its way 65 feet above the ground through the massive and dramatic stone canyon of columns of the Gothic Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in NYC, as part of their exhibition and symposium “The Value of Water: Sustaining a Green Planet”, from September 2011 – March 2012.

This might seem a bit of a departure from an installation primarily about engaging in an intimate way with small parcels of the natural landscape.  I usually spend about 100 hours with my husband, artist Paul Margolis, painstakingly and patiently discovering the negative space in and among trees, our faces pressed to bark and knuckles scraping as we reshape, mend and add to the every-changing fiber river, now sometimes reaching 300 feet long.

Installing at Herbert Bayer Earthworks, 2010

Installing at Herbert Bayer Earthworks, 2010

I’ve taken it to Atlanta and to several Northwest locations with 4Culture SITE SPECIFIC program, each time feeling like it’s a new installation and that we have really gotten to know a few trees very well.  This time the installation will be hung by a team of riggers using bucket lifts (that go who knows how high…the Cathedral is 200 feet high!), and will meander among carved stone columns, some as big as 40 feet in diameter. The painstaking process this time took place in my studio, pouring over little pieces of paper that are meant to somehow translate and make me understand two football fields of space.  I unwrapped the crochet panels inside invisible columns taped out on my floor, crocheting about 350 feet of seams together, widening the entire installation so it can have a presence in the massive space.  Have I said massive enough? It is massive, the largest cathedral in the United States.

Yet, it doesn’t feel incongruous with the notion of engaging with something grown rather than built.  Incongruity has been a natural state of this installation from the beginning anyhow, with putting fiber outside in the environment, while fiber is most often seen as something fragile to be treated with white gloves out of the sunlight.  Especially with my newest project ‘Solstenen’ and my fixation on the body turning to living stone — becoming part of the larger cycle of geologic time — having this work supported by massive bits of the earth, carved by skilled hands, is quite nice.  Cathedrals and stone churches have always seemed to me to blend architecture and landscape anyhow because of the very qualities of water the stone retains,  the visceral sense of coming out of the earth, the cool brisk sense of wicking water from the air and ground.

I love what The Reverend Canon Tom Miller has to say about the Cathedral in his essay for Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save our Most Critical Resource. 

The simple answer is that there’s water, water everywhere, as the imagination might fashion it, since none of the stone, wood or glass would exist without the presence and power of water over geological time. As biblical tradition has it, human beings bear the image of their Creator. Perhaps in like manner, all the materials in the Cathedral bear the mark of water, that first element of Creation from which all things were made.

He also make reference to the many wells, springs and underground streams that dot the land the Cathedral is built upon, even pointing out the use of one spring for years as the source of water for the Baptismal Font.  This speaks so directly to why I began this installation in the beginning.   Ancient holy wells have always been centers of community, and then became centers of reverence.  The way that water works, part of one large cycle, there really isn’t a division between something sacred and something not.  Inspired by over and over and over references of the mythology of the sacred quality of water in nearly every culture, I question where it has gone in ours, with water treated as a commodity, valued for its ability to make money, and yet our careless and privileged sense to waste it and spoil it.  MMMM was inspired mostly by the Clooty Well tradition of Celtic regions – bits of cloth are tied to trees around sacred wells after dipping them in the water, to bind intention into action, to heal.   Can we heal our disjointed relationship to the water we are born from?  When I engage with making this work, and asking people to join me, I feel it is a commitment to try.

Clootie well

The intimacy with site that has usually been so important to me as a maker of this site-responsive installation was replaced  by an intimacy with the history of the piece as I slowly went over every section of it, with remembering individual people who helped make this installation by once more working on their bits that began as far back as March 2009.

I have a very good memory for the crocheting, who made what, what fabrics things are made of.   Coming across the  shredded bits of a Brookes Brothers shirt someone gave me who has now become a dear friend was really special.  Without the trees there as I made the piece this time, I seemed to go back over all the time I spent engaging with the people who worked on this and the transformative quality that period of time has had for me.  The beginning process of making MMMM really put me in the flux of my city, going to places and events and sites that where outside of my daily patterns.

I had the opportunity to talk to a huge range of people, many not really interested in art at all just going about their daily lives.  Sometimes awkward, sometimes so wonderfully surprising, being pulled out of my studio private space and talking about ideas with anyone has had a lasting effect on my practice as an artist.  I feel buoyed by all those who stepped towards the ideas I was trying to share, many trying something new, sitting and talking awhile with perfect strangers about whatever seemed to come up.

I’m excited to once more share all of these thousands of thousands of moments recorded in knotted fiber, and add to them.  I don’t know where yet….but a Community Crochet event will pop up in NY while I’m there, the 13th – 26th….stay tuned, or stay connected on my mailing list or twitter or Facebook. 

Meanwhile, in Seattle on Sept. 10th from 2-6pm, I’ll be participating in the giant community art event NEPO 5K, once more asking Seattlites to support this project by literally asking them to help me make the giant support ropes that will hold MMMM up in the Cathedral.  With 40 foot diameter columns I’ll need a heck more rope than I have ever had to make before.  I’ll be in the Korean Pagoda along the route once it gets to Beacon Hill on the I-90 bike trail….just follow everyone else.  Stop in the pagoda, relax a bit and crochet before continuing on your way.  I’ll have some water for you.

Please consider supporting the traveling of this installation through a small donation on Kickstarter: “MMMM community crochet installation heads to NYC”

MMMM River comes down in Atlanta tomorrow….

Bye-bye Agnes Scott College….

Curator Lisa Alembik is a saint for taking down my installation without  me…..

Next, it returns home to Seattle for a little urban installation at Ohge Ltd. Gallery here in Seattle, which I believe opens on January 23rd…..and I just realized I’ll need to make more ropes, oh my!  Watch out for a crochet party coming soon!!

More images from the fun in Atlanta here

The River stays up until Aug. 23rd for the Arts-in-Nature Festival!!

The Nature Consortium … teaching environmental lessons through the creative arts and hands-on conservation projects –

Trying to tie up some loose end in the private life…I have neglected wrapping up on the blog about the performance , the response to the performance, and what will happen in the future with MMMM.  First, it’s run has been extended!  If you have been to Camp Long since July 31st, you will see that it is still up!  I check on it often and make little repairs, and still continue to speak with people about it while I am there.  And tell everyone that it will stay up for the incredible Arts-in-Nature Festival on Aug. 22 – 23rd, 11-9 and 11-6.  I will be doing some sort of crocheting workshop on those days, but don’t have the details yet…I adore Camp Long, every inch of it, and am so excited to see the place transformed into one big art party!  Every cabin filled with sound installations and tons of other stuff!!  Come say farewell to the river!

I’ve got some deadlines over the weekend , and then will get back to my loose ends with this blog…getting pictures up of the performance!