How do we experience change? How do we understand loss? What techniques do we have for digesting these emotions?
I lost my mother 2 years ago and have been struck with how intense the physical experience of loss has been. I actually feel the physical void of her standing next to me or holding my hand. This ache surprised me and invited me to discover how I might fill this void and quench this physical longing.
In the last 30 years Main St. has transformed. Shopkeepers see it as the strip that divides east and west Vancouver, while remaining firmly rooted in the east. They remember it as a working class neighbourhood with practical shops for home repairs, families, fast food and light industrial activities. They have seen many shops close or go upscale and had friends disappear to more affordable boroughs. When I asked them to consider their own future loss, some had a palpable fear attached to rising rents and gentrification while others were nostalgic of their own aging, having grown up on Main Street with their shop.
When we walk down our street and recall the shops that once were and the friends that inhabited them, do these memories move beyond our minds? Do they take up lodging in our bones, in our flesh? Are they part of our muscle memory? I wondered: does the body long for known and well worn places? Does it crave the bodily repetition of opening the door each day, turning on the neon sign, trimming the flowers, closing the till, cutting the fabric, wrapping the bread, pushing the mop – remembering how to move and exist within familiar settings?
I began walking up and down Main St. to get in touch with this sensation. I started conversations with shopkeepers, often attracted to the ones who seemed to embody their own shop. Through conversation, recommendation and intuition I asked shopkeepers to join me in an experiment to see if we might be able to find where history and loss were located in their shops and in their own bodies. For the curious and the willing I would later arrive with a kit of powdered plaster, mixing bowls, gloves and plastic. We always began with a conversation to recall their beginnings on Main St., their impressions of the change in the neighbourhood, stories from over the years and the evolution of themselves with their business. Our conversation would evolve into a tour that investigated their space in search of a corner where history might have built up: a floorboard that remained as an artifact of the past, a door knob that felt like a nexus for it all. We always found a spot despite initial reservations that such a spot existed. Together we would press the liquid plaster encased in plastic into the void. We would encourage it to take up space, so that it could receive its impression, recall its shape, capture its essence, hold the sensation and mark its structure.
It was very important to me that we also found a corresponding spot on their own bodies where loss might live by creating a pair of cast plaster bones, twins which hold onto the architecture of our built environment and of our internal bodily worlds. I see this collection as a kind of museum of loss, where one might employ an emotional anthropologist / archaeologist. Do we build museums/gallery/shrines as a way to preserve that which is lost?
Recalling my original impulse, the phantom physical longing for my mother after her death, these bare artifacts try to manifest the intangible so that we can still hold it in our hands. These stark white artifacts are reaching out for each other…
– Zoe Kreye, April 2015
FutureLoss | Website
This project is a part of grunt’s 30th Anniversary.
Learn more here.