What do these things have in common? Rachel is working through an installation art project, which in its ‘primitive accumulation’ phase involved canning lots of tomatoes and drying their skins. The following are some incomplete thoughts she’s written pursuant to assembling an actual art work out of her materials. This is a work in progress; she is interested in feedback. Here’s Rachel:
Concepts and Daydreams:
I have 100 jars of tomatoes that I’ve canned. As I’ve been canning (a rather dull process overall) I’ve daydreamed different fictitious scenarios that could result in these 100 jars:
* It’s a science discovery. Archaeologists uncover this stash of primitive food rations and put it on display for the public. Or anthropologists (of the old imperialist regime) discover this tribe of people called “Farmers”. They hypothesize about the tools used, etc. They show video footage of the strange customs. (I watched a documentary about head shrinking Indians of the Amazon that probably prompted this train of thinking.)
* An old woman who obsessively cans to ward off death. (playing with the idea of ritual and superstition)
* A person getting ready for the apocalypse by building and stocking a cold war era type bunker. (This one, and a bit of the one before it are based on my real life experiences with a Holocaust survivor named Helen who I knew as a teen. Helen’s son hired me to “clean” her house, saying that if she couldn’t get her life under control he would put her in a home. I had unique access to Helen’s small, filthy trailer stocked to the ceiling with junk that she just knew would come in handy when the next disaster hit (candles she made out of crayons, stacks of newspaper, magazines, half a room full of sweaters). She also collected animals and strategically left bags of their food around so that if she died they’d have food for a while and not eat her body—something she was really afraid of. Canning 100 jars of tomatoes is something Helen would’ve done if she’d found a good deal on tomatoes. Helen was obsessed with being totally in charge of her world, so to accomplish this she made her world very small—literally the confines of her trailer, which she rarely left. I never did get that house clean.)
* An old woman who copes with her anxieties about death and change by canning everything in her life—including her husband, cat, furniture, clothes, etc. She cans all winter long and by spring has filled her house with jars of household items and sits with them and enjoys how still they are.
These are just the stories I made up while I worked. I’m not sure that any of them go anywhere.
That said, I’m kind of into the idea of treating the cans and the skins as science objects. One thing I have yet to do for the jars is label them. I’ve been putting this off because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted. I could do this in a science format with the latin names and weights of things. I could put the skins in little sample jars and weigh them and label them.
I also think it would be interesting perhaps to make a Helen-type bunker filled with crap. Obsessive amounts of junk. What I’m interested in is nostalgia and how it is a form of controlling our worlds. Helen was extremely nostalgic about her things, no matter how junky they were. There was a reason to every single thing in there.
I’m realizing that it’s not specifically farming that I’m interested in but control, attempts to control our worlds and those in it, and the anxiety that accompanies this desire and inevitable failure. Farming is a tool or language available to me to discuss these concepts because of my background and affection for farming culture.
End Rachel. Readers, any thoughts?