Project Description

The project was created in Chelsea, just north of Boston an was a participant of the Institute on the Arts and Civic at Harvard University. Founded by Anna Deavere Smith as a three-year experiment with funds from the Ford Foundation and supported by ART and the DuBois Institute, the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue was dedicated to exploring the role of artists to the social and political issues of their day. Women, traditionally, are responsible for passing on cultural traces through daily tasks of caregiving and caretaking. We had conversations with Boston-area women who had suffered ruptures that interrupted the normal course of their daily lives -- formerly incarcerated, homeless, and refugee women, and survivors of domestic violence. We wanted to find out what had to be adapted, insisted upon or forgotten in these more extreme situations. The museum displayed powerful excerpts from these conversations written directly on the walls, along with objects women loaned us from the “private museums” of their lives. Additionally, we created baskets for display that we called “containers of experience”. The baskets were made with color-Xeroxed photos of women involved in the project, cut and stitched together by groups of us gathered at sewing bees. These baskets addressed how we all “stitch” together the fragments of our experience to make a shape that contains our life. In the back room, there was a videotape playing in an old family console, showing excerpts we made of local people enacting gestures that lived in their physical memory -- gestures they had taken on from women in their family.