Tag Archives: work

Invisible Ink: Homeless | Project Statement

Invisible Ink: Homeless
36” x ~250’, lemon juice and butcher paper, 2018

Dedication
This work is indebted and dedicated to the many people who entrusted their words to my care…guests and residents at the Compass First Presbyterian Shelter in Seattle and the Interfaith Works Overnight Shelter in Olympia, and those passing through the Interfaith Works Community Care Center and the Saturday Warming Center. Thanks also to the staff of these places and others who were generous with their time.

Project Description         

Invisible Ink: Homeless is a process of embodied listening.

I asked homeless members of our community to put their thoughts down in writing. They finished statements such as “When I look at myself I see…,” “I want people to see that I…,” or wrote without a prompt about whatever was on their mind. I was—am—moved by their candor and generosity. They are at the heart of this project.

I carefully transcribed their words in lemon juice (homemade invisible ink) on an uncut scroll of butcher paper, filling hundreds of feet with surprising, blunt, kind, sad, funny, stirring messages. It is a slow, contemplative, tender process of acknowledging and abiding with the truth that there is no difference but a home between me and a homeless person.

When heated up, the words appear. Visitors to the installation are invited to help reveal the words using a household iron. It isn’t just that sugar in the lemon juice caramelizes…browns. It is more profound than that. There is a structural alteration. Citric acid breaks down the pure white fibers of the butcher paper, making it more vulnerable, making it possible to see the invisible.

This process represents the care, effort and vulnerability required to overcome personal and institutional obstacles in order to see and address the needs of community members who live without adequate shelter and who are often silenced and ignored. It is about seeing people as people.

More simply, this is just about taking time to listen to what people have to say.

Artist’s Statement
I like to work with ordinary materials the inherent properties of which inform and reiterate the conceptual underpinnings of a given project. In all my work, I attempt to design processes and constraints that require me to labor longer than my initial inspiration or enthusiasm or outrage hold out. It is only after this something new can happen and I am changed by the work. Collaborating with strangers is unnerving, and writing with lemon juice is arduous: like the effort to see one’s own privilege or to make one’s own vulnerability seen. It is also basic, a little magical, and imperfect. Like human connection.

MacGyver

Lemon juice. Butcher paper. Ironing board. Iron. Reamer. Pyrex measuring cup. Sieve. Candle. Hairdryer. Two cheap paint brushes I must have gotten twenty-five years ago.

I am working with what is at hand. The ordinary materials of of domestic existence. The ordinary magic of homemade invisible ink held up to a candle.

I took the trash out last night and saw something – someone? – moving strangely in the darkness of the sidewalk. I went back in for a flashlight. It was a man with a bike and tarp-covered trailer – the delux rig for so many homeless people here. I held the flashlight for him as he reattached the trailer hitch, which had come undone as he was riding and had nearly flipped him off the bike. The rain and wind were wild. He declined various offers of assistance – to hold the bike, to hold the trailer steady, to get a crescent wrench if it would work better than his Allen wrench. He told me people called him MacGyver because he never had the right tool and always had to make do.

For some things – maybe not fixing bike trailers – there is no right tool. Racism. Misogyny. Heteronormativity. There is only what you have under your sink.

It wasn’t intentional, but now it seems essential – that I use familiar materials…domestic tools…to interrogate the familiar, domestic oppression. This violence is cooked up, tended, mended in the home: in the pantry, in the kitchen. There should be no polish on the surface of this work. No seductive, sealed-up, done-ness.

I said to MacGyver that it must be hard to work with his hands with it so cold. He said, Ya, especially when you’ve only got one. One hand? I said. Ya, he said. Jesus, I said. Are you sure you don’t need help? Ya, he said. It’s been twenty years. I know what I’m doing. I noticed then that he had his coat sleeve pulled down like a mitt over what must have been the end of his arm – is a wrist a wrist when it doesn’t lead to a hand? – which he used to steady the bike. I thought, Marilyn and I have been together twenty years.

It is absurd to compare my near-vestigial organ of race-consciousness to this man’s missing hand. There is no pat analogy in the reality of another person. And I was not made hopeful or inspired by this interaction. By the after-the-fact analysis of what else I could have offered. There is the analogy – to my after-the-fact analysis of how race was the determining factor not in Trump’s election, but in the entire history of American politics.

Flashlight. Lemon juice. Allen wrench. Ironing board. One good hand. Some words.

Hold Up

Plans for reinstallation of TRP must stop. Everything must stop. There is no way–no way–the body refuses–the air refuses–to occupy any space in the ordinary way. The body refuses. The air refuses. It isn’t that TRP is beside the point now that Trump has won. It is that no action can be other than reaction. If I have a space to fill, it must be filled with outrage. Out. Rage.

Rewrite

Spent the last five days sequestered in the Oysterville cottage of a dear and generous friend who fended off the world while I completed a polish of The Warmest Season screenplay. I can feel this story. I can see it perfectly. Sometimes I think it should be a picture book for grownups.

 

Procrastination

While not writing…

PROCRASTINATION from Anne de Marcken on Vimeo.

Though it doesn’t usually feel like it until months later, the time I spend avoiding my desk or avoiding the page is essential. If only I could remember in the moment that procrastination is part of my creative process. Instead, I agonize and judge. Maybe, though, the agony (and judgment) are as essential as the distraction.