One of the things my collaborator requested that we do on
our last day of meeting was to flip the mattress. This sounded
simple enough. We peeled off over a dozen layers of sheets
and mattress pads, meant to protect the mattress. Then she
pulled out two pages and a small post it of diagrams, charting
each direction and orientation the mattress was switched since
it was first purchased in 1997.
I am coming to terms with the fact that the apartment will
not be in the clean and clear state I had imagined at the
completion of the year-long project. Through this intense
collaborative process, I realize in a profound way, something
I knew from the beginning: that the desire for change has
to come from within and cannot be imposed by an external force,
no matter how delicate. In some ways I feel defeated, or rather
deflated, I had such idealistic hopes of making a tangible
positive change in this individual’s physical surroundings
that would carry over into all other areas of her life. The
reality is the over all visual change in the apartment is
minimal but possibly we have both altered by this experience.
My interest in the accumulation project began with a close
individual, an obsessive hoarder, who is emerging from a decade
long depression. I am the only other person who has been inside
of the apartment since she moved in. The apartment is completely
filled, waist-high with accumulation. There are stacks and
piles of everything imaginable: unread New York Times
newspapers dating back to 1997, hundreds of Penny Saver
circulars, yogurt lids, and soda bottle caps. Nothing has
been thrown away in years.
There are several pathways to navigate through the clutter
in her apartment, though you have to move very carefully so
as not to start a landslide. One path goes from the front
door to the only empty chair; another goes past the refrigerator
to the kitchen sink; one path leads through the hallway into
the bedroom to the bed; another forks off to the bathroom.
Despite all of the clutter, she is in fact a minimalist at
heart, only utilizing the bare minimum in the apartment. I
believe she is at point in her life when she can finally let
go of all of this accumulation and move on.
Throughout the duration of the accumulation project (one year),
I will visit this person in her apartment to help clear out
all that she has been accumulating for years. I will collect
some of the items we would otherwise discard and save them
as documents of her accumulation. I will select things that
are most striking by the quantity of the objects or by the
nature of the objects themselves and their visual appeal.
As we work together to empty out her space, I will document
the changing landscape of her apartment through photographs.
The process of sifting through the clutter is like an archeological
excavation: the various layers of debris correspond with different
times in her past. For the two “accumulation project”
exhibitions, I will show both the physical documents of the
accumulation as well as the photographs of the process of
de-accumulation in the apartment. This project is a social
sculpture that involves the interaction between the obsessive
collector and myself to create a positive change in her life
and in her space through emptying the clutter she’s
been accumulating for years.
My project explores the extreme case of accumulation in our
disposable, consumerist society. I understand the impulse
to save, reuse and recycle - however the rate of consumption
of objects of planned obsolescence is significantly faster
than the rate of reusing or creative ideas for reuse.