Amanda Crary
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Friday, July 01, 2016



(un)making sense




About: This project is an environment for the rearrangement of language. Much like momentary thoughts swirl around in our heads, this space will hold sound: amplifying ephemeral thoughts both sensical and not. By using words and phrases as contextless fragments, new arrangements create new meaning.

Performance: In the center of the industrial gallery space will be a personal pop-up studio. I'm going to be typing stream of consciousness style on a scroll of paper loaded into my Smith-Corona typewriter. The sounds of the keys punching the paper will be audible in the space. Two readers will occupy the space, reciting written words arranged by participants. Throughout the space, several speakers will be looping sounds of writing, typing, and spoken word.

Participation: There will be two interactive pieces that the public can participate in. On one wall of the space, there will be three slender maple shelves holding slips of paper. The paper holds fragments of language, both sensical and not. Beneath the shelves will be a stack of more paper (more fragments). The public is encouraged to handle these cards, rearrange them, switch them out, scramble them up, and edit them - making/unmaking phrases and meaning. To document these changes throughout the duration of the project, the words will be spoken aloud and amplified, adding to the composition of sound. This sound will be live; its made and then its gone. On the opposite side of the space, there will be a pile of words typed on paper. Participants are encouraged to use the provided words and pin them directly to the wall creating poetry/phrases/stories by addition (much like novelty magnetic poetry sets for refrigerators). Throughout the project, this piece will grow in size as words are continually added.


I grew up rural Wisconsin where snowdrifts were magical and my voice was carried by the wind. When I was young my family moved around a lot; with each move, I made myself my own secret space and it was always outside. I'd spend hours exploring creek beds, jumping across bailed hay, and racing through stalks of corn so fast, it left cuts on my skin. I ruled my own world.

In that world, between expeditions, I sat and listened. Around this time, I began to write. I carried notebooks with me everywhere I went. I wrote about dailiness, fear, joy, my sisters, and poems for people I cared about. I wrote for hours beneath the protection of a giant oak tree. No matter where we moved, I always found a spot to write. Writing began to be my home. After I filled up my journal, I placed it in a box. I dug a hole, placed it inside, covered it with dirt, and buried it.


Thinking back, I know now that these moments of writing, freeing my voice, and using language as a tool to navigate the world, were small, slow acts of defiance, or resistance. Even now, I feel it deep within my bones that I'm meant to embrace things, capture them and figure them out on paper, no matter how mundane or trivial. In a world where everyone is yelling at each other, and there's so much hatred, I've decided not to yell. There's power in that, too. My strength doesn't lie within the realm of spectacle, but rather in persistence, tending, care and attention.


My grandfather was a letter carrier. He carried actual hand written letters to people’s mailboxes. In today’s world of emails and paper mail that consists of bills and ads, what a romantic notion it would be to receive a hand written message.

I have been writing letters to people who have passed away. They say things I didn't say, but should've. I've also been writing letters to those who are still here; they say things that I cannot bring myself to say out loud, and things I don't say often enough. Since these letters did not have a destination or a successful act of communication, I ripped them up and turned them into new handmade paper. I then formed these sheets of paper into envelopes: new vessels that can carry a new message. Embedded on the flap is a hidden text: a fragment from the initial letter.

The Letter Project is an interactive memorial sponsored by the Triad Health Project of Greensboro and their fundraising event, Dining For Friends. This year, THP is celebrating 30 years of AIDS funding, support, education, and care.

The Letter Project is a small installation consisting of a wooden table, handmade envelopes, writing utensils and a sound box. This writing station was for those who have lost loved ones to AIDS, and for those who are affected by the disease whether they have it themselves or know someone who does. Throughout the event, the letters, sealed shut, piled up and accumulated speaking to the mass of people who have been affected. Eventually, the letters were placed into a box for safe keeping--and not meant to be read. Instead, writing in this act was a gesture, a catharsis, a prayer, a message not meant for others eyes. Over 700 people in the Greensboro community alone have lost their lives to AIDS; these names were recited softly from hidden speaker in a walnut keepsake box placed on the table. This installation occupied the Association Room at the Weatherspoon Art Museum; as an in-between space, two glass walls allowed the inside to mix with the outside. While a celebratory party happened in the court yard, I set the table in this space as an offering of quietude, peace, remembrance, and healing. A range of people participated; one man stayed and wrote 4 letters while another spoke with teary eyes and offered me a warm hug.

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